Magazine article The Spectator

Basic Instinct

Magazine article The Spectator

Basic Instinct

Article excerpt

At Larmer Tree Festival last weekend, I reckon my kids must have blown upwards of £25 each on rubbish, including: a bubble-blowing sword; a frog hairband; five pots of bubble refill; five spray cans of blue, purple or yellow hair colour; two spiky balls; a rave-style personal fan with flashing lights; a pendant with a curved dagger; and a pentacle. And that's not counting all the expensive glasses of home-made lemonade and fiver-a-throw ethnic dishes I bought for them and they didn't finish.

Did this lavish expenditure make them any happier? Of course not. The more money I gave them, the more they wheedled and whined. Next year, I think I may be forced to skip lovely Larmer Tree (and all my posho Wiltshire friends with their yurts and class As and delightful well-mannered children) and take the family to southern Ethiopia instead. Down there, the kids know how to make their own entertainment. They chant, they scoop sand out of the bottom of nearly-dried-up wells, they jump up and down in unison -- and they all look miles more content for it than any child I've ever seen in the West.

Explorer Bruce Parry clearly thought the same thing when he went to visit the Nyangatom people for his new series of Tribe (BBC2, Sunday). He'd chosen them, telegenically but bravely, because one of the tribes he'd stayed with last time round had accused the Nyangatom (or Boma -- 'the smelly ones' -- as their local nickname has it) of being vicious, evil, child-murdering, thieving savages and he wanted to find out whether it was justified.

In some ways it was. The Nyangatom are probably more aggressive and better armed than any tribe in the area, and still talk with rapture of the great day in 1986 when their people massacred 600 of their enemies, including small children. But then, as Parry discovered, they don't have much option.

Surrounded by rivals who hate them and want to steal their land and cattle, the Nyangatom have a lot in common with Israel: if they don't play hardball, they die.

The Nyangatom offered ex-Royal Marine Parry possibly his best ever Tr ib e moment when, as part of his initiation ceremony, he was forced to spear a cow to death. He did so very cleanly and impressively but I'll bet there were still viewer complaints. Fine to show young men with AK47s working themselves into a killing frenzy, but harming a live animal on TV --monstrous.

Parry, as ever, is a joy: relentlessly upbeat in the most gruelling of circumstances and game for anything, be it politely spitting cow's blood into his hosts' faces or allowing his sunburnt back to be flayed in a playful stick fight. …

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