A Game Apart

A Game Apart


London Evening Standard



Paddy Power

Oakwood Estates


A Game Apart - Prologue

“Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.”
Akan proverb (Benin, Ghana and Togo)

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THE Sangoma is there, in the darkest recess of the dressing room. On his haunches. Huge. Silent. Timeless. He’s been there all night, protecting their honour, confirming their luck. Praying to a God which is both Roman and African. Or neither. He stands wordlessly as the team enters, heads bowed, scared to look at “Mad-Eyes” Dlamini, their highly-strung witchdoctor. Dlamini ignores them all. And makes straight for the Englishman. Without a word, he lifts Charlie’s tee-shirt, muttering, nodding, gyrating… no, vibrating, and it moves the very air around him. The medicine man takes a long fingernail and slowly draws a line across Charlie’s solar plexus. Charlie nearly giggles. Then he looks down and watches, horrified, as a thin line of blood appears where the nail had passed painlessly across his skin. No sign of a knife or a blade… just that thin red line. Reaching back into his huge dark pot, the Sangoma, clad only in an animal skin skirt and a ludicrously bright feathered head-dress, pulls a long ribbon from the bubbling cauldron and ties it around Charlie’s midriff. On the surface of the cauldron, a lady’s expensive finger, complete with wedding band and bright red fingernail, floats next to a small animal skull and a tightly coiled millipede. The Sangoma takes his forefinger and trails putrid liquid across the weeping line of blood on his stomach. Charlie’s vision begins to fail, his stomach cramps, he is teetering on the edge of a crevasse, he hears bird song. Then the team talk begins…

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