Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life

Article excerpt

Democratic Republic of Congo It is impossible to predict how a person will behave in a tight spot. I have been in Congo's rain forest with my TV producer Ed Braman. He's a television veteran, a brilliant mind. But he lives in Crouch End and has spent years in offices. I wondered what he'd be like under the African sun. It is hard being with one other person for three weeks incessantly in Congo. It's hot, you're tired, dehydrated and the food's bad. You have to deliver. You must get the pictures. That's particularly stressful when it's dangerous - and our story involved making contact with the Mayi Mayi - murderous rebels led by witchdoctors in the jungle.

On the road Ed held forth on his passions. These include, though not exclusively, Thomas Pynchon, Heidegger, cinema, whisky, vacuum-packed steaks, Florence, cameras, Paul Celan, Prada underwear, cats, card games, Bruce Springsteen, pure maths, Zabar's deli and fountain pens. We were deep in the forest when I saw Ed stumbling around in the arboreal gloom like a man who has run through a laundry line and got a sheet stuck on his head - and I realised I could just leave him there. I had the GPS.

I could slip away. He'd get lost and eventually die.

Ed evidently found me annoying, too. If you go over the rushes you'll be able to hear him hurling abuse at me before and after my pieces to camera. I quietly stored up my bitterness but saw my chance when we walked into a Bambuti pygmy village. 'I will pay the pygmies to kill Ed, ' I determined. But the toothless elder revealed that they had no weapons and lived a life hopelessly lacking in aggression.

I wondered if I could have Ed kidnapped.

I thought of Evelyn Waugh's character in A Handful of Dust, who is held hostage in the Amazon by an illiterate lunatic who forces him to read aloud Charles Dickens daily for the rest of his life. When the Congolese army launched an offensive against rebel militias we travelled towards the frontlines. I daydreamed about Ed being shot or blown up, and the reports I'd file to the insurers.

But Ed was entirely unfazed by battletorn Congo. 'Wazungu!' ('White people!') yelled the mobs of children on the road. Ed said, 'I bet they're saying, "Fancy that, we don't get many Jews around here . . . " ' One morning, we were in the jungle on the cloudy slopes of the Ruwenzoris. Suddenly, figures surrounded us in the greenish darkness. …

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