A Burning Issue
This is the tale of a baby, a book and a candle. The setting is the Sudan, the baby is our first-born, two-month-old Natasha, and the book is a great twentieth-century Italian novel. As for the candle . . . One may as well begin with the baby. Natasha Su-ming Sakina Plowright was born on 22 February 1966 in Omdurman, a stone’s throw from the Mahdi’s tomb, to my wife Poh Sim and me. She weighed 8lbs 6oz and was bright blue. Her nearest neighbour in the nun-run hospital was a Greek grocer’s baby weighing in at over 10lbs. We carried ours home in triumph and a Moses basket to our eccentric, edge-of-desert house, set in a garden full of mongooses.