Originally I'd intended to visit gorilla country but, for various reasons, didn't want it to be Rwanda, so Uganda became the next obvious choice, not least because my travel agent husband had once visited it on a fam trip (freebie hotel inspection vacation). His group never got to see any apes - even though the game guides 'know' where they are in theory, they're sometimes too elusive to find on foot, but he came back full of the lovely riverine wildernesses they visited. As I wanted to address subsistence poaching at this stage, I therefore transplanted my Zambian encounter to Murchison Falls National Park on the Nile, between Lake Victoria and Lake Albert on its way to South Sudan, and had Sophie and her safari-mates stay in luxurious eco tree-lodge accommodation.

The reason for this decision again goes back into martial history because, with the aftermath of Idi Amin's dominion in Uganda, the hungry surviving population went back to living off the land and the National Park is only just recovering its former bounty of savannah and riverine species. Rhinos disappeared altogether there from 1983, but were re-introduced in 2005, and they are having some success with white rhino in a sanctuary in the southern ranges of the park. Also the Victoria Nile offers one of the last habitats for Shoebill Storks, a bird that we saw on the Zambezi swamps, not so far from Vic Falls, so it would have been entirely possible for Sophie to have spotted the gigantic waterbirds busily fishing from her luxury tree lodge room.

Nature is capable of recovery you see, despite every foul thing that human beings may throw at it, so Sophie's Uganda is a motif for the possibility of healing terrible wounds, whether they're of the body, the mind, or the heart.

Excerpt from The Season of the Year
‘You realise this is the worst timing ever?’ Luey reluctantly stopping kissing Sophie, but drew her even closer into his arms.
She sighed contentedly and moved her lips close to his ear, trickling her fingers through his wavy dark hair and speaking in a breathless murmur. ‘Hmmm! I’m an albatross I’m afraid.’
‘A what?!’ His laugh was so sexy! Like a teddy bear’s growl.
‘Thought you were supposed to be the wildlife expert...’ she teased.
He silenced her with another long lingering kiss and then cuddled her into him and gazed out across the starlit lake, resting his chin on top of her head. ‘I know what an albatross is, you minx. Just never met one with such a nice beak before! Nice everything...’ He trailed his tongue lazily down her neck and she sighed with pleasure and then answered him properly.
‘Bird of ill-omen. A bad luck booby!’
‘Nothing wrong with your boobies either - and boobys aren’t the same species as albatrosses. What are you on about woman? I thought it was only unlucky to kill an albatross - they’re lovely birds.’
‘Just that my romances always turn out jinxed.’
‘Huh! I’m an albatross as well then! We’ll just have to hope we cancel out each other’s bad luck, won’t we? Two wrongs make a right, kinda style?’
‘Perhaps we should just go for it then? I have a nice big bed...’
Oh no! She’d blown it she thought, as he gently reached up and unlinked her arms from around his neck and took a step backwards from her. He was still hanging onto her hands though and he smiled lazily at her, stopping her groan of despair with another soft kiss on the lips. The full moon was coming up and he drew her around beside him to look out over the water.
‘The rabbit in the moon.’25  He spoke softly and let go of one hand, only to put his arm around her waist and pull her close to him again. She relaxed into him and laughed without having to ask him to explain. ‘Nothing would give me more pleasure Sophie, believe me. It’s just... I don’t want to rush this? You’re so lovely and I’m already there, y’know? Ordinarily I’d have hauled you off to bed as soon as we’d got through dinner - before that even, but...’
His turn to sigh as he looked down into those mesmerising sea-blue eyes. A finger stroked a tendril of silky fair hair away from her face and he kissed her softly on the forehead. Another shiver of arousal went through her body and she nestled into his shoulder and breathed into his ear.
‘Well then...?’
He moaned with frustration and put his hands gently, but firmly, on both shoulders and pushed her back slowly so he could look her in the face. ‘Will you please let me play the gent here a moment,  Sophie? See, Uncle Harry read me the riot act before dinner - about how you’d had such a rough time before, and starting a new job after this and all?’ His dark eyes searched hers anxiously, screaming out his desire, but trying to get across how much he wanted this to mean something more than a turbo-charged encounter for both of them. ‘So there’s that, and after this morning and seeing how you looked when I asked about... you know. This is probably coming out all wrong, but... I haven’t had this strong an attraction to anyone for ages - years even. I’ve got some baggage too, babe and I don’t want to rush in and take things that should be cherished and...’
He stopped abruptly as he caught the glint of tears when Sophie squeezed her eyes tight shut and buried her face in his chest. His heart lurched as he felt the wetness and her warm breath above his bush-shirt lapels and his voice sounded thick and fused with a sorrowful passion.
‘Oh nooooo... Please, Sophie... sweetheart! I just want this to be special, so, can we go slow, for now? I want you so much, but...’
Her shoulders were quivering and he heard a muffled sob. Again his head dipped to kiss her hair then, all of a sudden, the world shifted and, before he knew what was happening, her wet lips fastened on his and the heat enveloped them. All the words flew away for what must have been hours, surely, until they heard a leopard’s cough away in the distance and the world crashed back as they both tensed and pulled away from each other.
‘We’d better go back, Soph. Sorry. You’re right - we’re both albatrosses! But then that means we’re made for each other, doesn’t it?’ He forced a smile onto his face when she nodded compliantly and squeezed his hand gently.

25 - The rabbit in the moon - the ‘Man in the Moon’ looks like a rabbit down in the southern tropics

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