I’m retired now. Taught high school English for 20 years, mainly in South Africa, then moved to the primary school where I taught 9–11 year olds for 10 years.
I loved my teaching; it gave me a great sense of achievement, of doing something worthwhile, moulding the lives of young people.
Now, other than the usual domestic chores and the intense pleasure of watching my granddaughter grow and develop, I am involved in the local church, in Prison Fellowship (helping run Restorative Justice workshops in the local prison), kayaking and planning my next motorcycle journey.
I suppose my love of adventure travel started when, at the age of 12, my dad took my brother and me on a walk from Durban to Lourenco Marques in Mozambique, a distance of 375 miles. We travelled rough, slept on the side of the road under the stars and had a great time.
Two years later the three of us travelled again – this time by bicycle from Durban to Beira in Mozambique, 1200 miles. On these trips, my dad kept a very brief diary and last year I decided to publish the account of both these trips, using his diary and my memories of the trips.
Realising just how much those journeys meant to me, I was determined to do something similar for my children. So, when my son, Gareth, left primary school I took him on a motorcycle trip around the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. That was a great trip although it was pretty wet and muddy. Gareth, although only 11, rode a borrowed XR200 laden with luggage and fuel while I rode my KLE200. I’ve got some photographs of this trip on my website www.lawrencebransby.co.uk, if you’re interested.
When my daughter, Jemma, completed primary school I took her on a horse ride across the Lesotho mountains. It took us four days and we slept in a tent on the way.
During this time I took a bunch of my pupils riding motorbikes up Thaba Ntlanyana, the highest mountain in Southern Africa after Mt Kilimanjaro. This was a first motorcycle ascent and it was filmed for SATV.
My wife, Glynis, and I bought out first 4X4 – a Series 3 Land Rover diesel pick-up – just before we married. We went on honeymoon into the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. Thereafter we made numerous trips into Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho by 4X4, often taking some pupils along with us (as well as our kids, Gareth and Jemma).
While I was teaching at Ixopo High School in the Natal Midlands, I started to write teenage novels. My first novel, "Down Street", looked at a young White lad falling in love with a Coloured girl – very much frowned upon in Apartheid South Africa. I got a note from my editor after she had just finished reading it – she wrote, “This is dynamite!” It won the MER Literary Prize for Youth Literature.
I went on to publish 6 teenage novels, most of which won literary awards and two were nominated as South Africa’s Teenage Novel of the Year. Two of my books reflected my involvement with my teenage students and the hostels they lived in ("Down Street", "Homeward Bound"), "Outside the Walls" looks at the issue of racism and squatters (we had squatters living in their shacks along a disused railway line just below our house and we were burgled fairly often); I wrote "The Geek in Shining Armour" for my daughter – it looks at a brief relationship between a young girl and an older boy and explores the issue of the pressure put on young girls to start a sexual relationship before they are ready. "Remember the Whales" is a sweet story about moles and encourages young people to stand up for their rights even if the odds against them seem insurmountable; finally "A Mountaintop Experience" draws in my love of Lesotho. The novel traces the escape into the mountains of a young girl trapped in a run-down flat in Durban with an uncaring mother and a worldly-wise older sister.
When we finally decided to leave South Africa and emigrate to the UK, I decided to do something I had always wanted to do: ride across Africa. Gareth was now 17 and I asked him if he wanted to join me. He did. We bought and prepared two old XT500s and did the trip. I kept a diary and have published it on Amazon: "Trans-Africa by Motorcycle: A Father’s Diary".
Much later, when Gareth was 30 (and still interested in motorbikes) we travelled together to Russia – it was Gareth’s first Russian trip and my third. I wrote about these in my book: "Venture into Russia – Three Motorcycle Journeys", published on Amazon. Between my Russian journeys, I did a solo trip to Albania. Then, in 2013, Gareth and I did another motorcycle trip together, this time to Morocco. We had an incredible time and I wrote about it in my book "There are No Fat People in Morocco".
In between my travelling and teaching, I have kept up my involvement in kayaking – white-water, sea, surf and long-distance river trips. Kayak surfing gives me the greatest buzz but now, living in Manchester, it’s somewhat difficult to find any waves.
Finally, I have written three adult novels. My first, "A Matter of Conscience", explores the theme of conscientious objection in South Africa. During Apartheid, all White males had to complete a year’s National Service after leaving school where we were taught how to defend the Mother Country from Blacks and Communists. If any young lad was stupid (or brave0 enough to refuse to do their National Service, the law allowed the state to jail them for up to 6 years. I did a lot of research, interviewed a lot of people, spend a day in a prison just outside Durban where I interviewed prisoners and then set out the write the book. It took me five years to complete. I submitted it to a number of publishers and it was accepted by a South African publisher as well as Andre Deutsch in the UK. I was ecstatic! Then it all fell apart. Andre Deutsch’s paperback section didn’t feel the book would make enough money and pulled out. The hardback section followed and then the South African publisher didn’t want to go it alone. That was that. It’s next on my list to publish on Amazon and should be out early in 2014. Then I wrote "Life-Blood – Earth-Blood" which I feel is my best book. This is now published on Amazon. Finally I wrote "Second Sailor, Other Son" which I will publish once "A Matter of Conscience" is complete.