Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Interview With Val of Monkeys On The Roof

If you have not yet had the privilege, let me introduce you to Val, of Monkeys On The Roof.  Val publishes her blog from Botswana and the title of said blog is something that actually happens to her - having monkeys on her roof, lions in her courtyard, elephants at a nearby watering hole!  Hard to imagine a setting more exotic than that!  Val has an lovely way with words and gives you a felt sense of what it is like to be in the presence of the awe-inspiring creatures that visit her home and environs.  Val's varied talents include photography, art, and of course, writing.  To enjoy a taste of life in Africa with Val, click on the link provided at the end of this interview.  Val will invite you in for a cuppa and you can enjoy monkeys on the roof, and curious lion cubs peeking in her windows!  I always find myself lusting after her life when I visit her world.  Let's get to know a bit more about Val now:

Val, could you give us a brief overview are who you are, where you live, and current interests or preoccupations? 

I have lived with a highly talented artist for the past twenty five years or so; we live in Botswana but also have a place in the Selati Game Reserve in n/e south africa; we travel between the two depending on seasons, and requirements. interests photography, art, wildlife, writing, travel, friends, books - not necessarily in that order ...

Would you tell us a few things about yourself that you view as strengths?

 I love the earth and the natural world and everything in it. My parents started me on that path and i am deeply thankful for that; I am pretty adaptable i think, which makes travelling easier. I like to avoid broad generalisations about people and take everyone i meet on their own merit ;

How about one weakness?

ok just one then - stubbornness - which makes me press on with things that should have been abandoned long ago

Are you a photographer, writer or painter by profession - or all of the above?

At one stage I was working as a freelance travel writer, then I went into partnership with a friend in a small art gallery in Chobe, Botswana. This was such a steep learning curve that the travel writing fell into disrepair. Whenever i can i splodge away at very amateur watercolours - i love landscapes and the translucence of water colour as a medium.

Have you always lived in Africa?'

no, i was born in Canada, but my parents were English and the family moved back to UK two years after i was born. i lived there until my early twenties when i followed my heart to Africa.

What three things would you like us to know about Botswana?

Botswana's people are generally friendly and calm, they tend to avoid confrontation and aggression, thus were recognised as leading peacekeeping forces with the UN in Africa;

the Okavango Delta in Botswana is the worlds only inland delta - a water wonderland viewed from land or air supporting a wealth of biodiversity beyond the limits of imagination- please lets look after it;

Botswana diamonds are the mainstay of the economy and they are LEGAL - not blood diamonds - IF you are buying diamonds please make sure they come from Botswana!

You seem to live in the middle of a wildlife preserve, with many exotic visitors beyond the monkeys on your roof. This provides you with jaw-dropping photographic opportunities, but I wonder if you have ever felt endangered by your amazing 'visitors'?

 its fabulous and exciting when the lions are around the house, but we have to be aware and listen to the sounds and signs around us that would alert us to their presence. Birds or animals that give alarm calls for instance. Its surprisingly easy to get used to their presence and to relax your guard so sometimes we have to remind ourselves and sometimes the lions remind us that they are the predators and we are possible prey!

What misperceptions about Africa have you noticed are commonplace among non-Africans?

i find that the race issue is over-simplified to a black and white situation with stereo-typed lifestyles; whereas in my view Africa is completely complex with people of all racial groups coming from diverse tribal or cultural groups, many of which overlap and share a common outlook.
Sometimes, when i see a rural village in a remote area, where a family group are living in a fully traditional way - I wonder if we have any right to impose our western values and lifestyles on intact cultures, and who - all things considered - is the rich or the poor one?

Can you recommend a couple of African writers/books we should know about?

there are so many, but recently i loved reading Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott about her life growing up in eastern Botswana - it gives some great insights and character sketches!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

feeling a bit low on achievements right now so hard to say;

What quality do you value most in your friends?   loyalty, humour and depth

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

assuming you are not talking about cosmetic surgery, because i wouldn't know where to start with that, one thing I would change about myself would be improved self-discipline!

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?   abstinence/self denial (you see the problem?)

Which living person do you most admire?

right now, my friend who is bravely fighting a terminal disease, and despite the ravages of her physical deterioration and pain, is keeping her spirit strong - plus her family who are with her and caring for her at this emotional time

I'm sorry to hear about your friend.  There is much to learn from the courage and dignity of many with terminal illness.      Is there a historical figure, or a figure from literature, you identify with?

I like the fact that British history is full of strong independent and capable women

How do you play?    is facebook really a time waster?   i quite like it

How do you attend to your spiritual needs?

i am supremely fortunate to live in a vibrant natural area;  i fill up my batteries from the natural energies around me;  I love reiki, and some time back received the reiki attunements, although i don't practice it enough, it has still helped me enormously in many ways.  I read a lot of books and where possible talk to like minded and or inspirational friends.

Is there one thing you wish you had learned or discovered earlier in your life?

I always wanted to travel - couldn't wait to learn to drive, and dreamt of far off places; not because i didn't love where i was but the romance and adventure of distant shores had a heady appeal. What I didn't know then was that the curse of the perpetual traveller is to always yearn for places and people loved and left along the way. But i am not sure whether, had i known this, anything would have changed

What do you still want to learn?

as much as possible!  I need to improve my Setswana language, photography, writing and painting skills; I'd like to learn more about bees, and all things natural in the world, and how to live with them.

How do you make your life meaningful?

 i like to think everything we do creatively together or separately, helps to publicise the preciousness and vulnerability of our natural resources. If people find their roots in the earths community of species, we may start to honour our surroundings and ourselves again.

Its also impossible to live in Africa and not become involved in community upliftment projects, so I do that wherever i can too. This year some of my bloggy pals helped fund raise to build a new schoolroom at a remote rural school in mozambique whose one classroom had been blown away in a cyclone two years ago.

What is your greatest fear?

i am afraid of time running out before i have done what i have to do

What sustains you through difficult times?  feeling loved - if i do at the time

What two or three pieces of advice would you give to a young person just starting out?

 trust yourself and listen to your inner voice; do something you love to do and the rest will fall into place

What brought you to blogging?

Miranda from The Times of Miranda blogspot;  i stumbled onto her blog somehow and loved it;  Miranda is the daughter of my great friend forever, Pam of Spiny Marshmallow blogspot.  I started blogging as a writing exercise to try to remove a blockage, but quickly realised that blogging is so much more than that.

What keeps you blogging?

I love the comments people leave on my (sporadic) blog posts, such wonderful positive feedback and its so great to share some of the amazing sights and experiences with such a fabulous community of creative and generous blogosphere friends.

What have you learned from the experience of blogging?

that stories about the lions are the most popular :)  no really though - reading all these wonderful blogs has opened my eyes to how life is in far away corners of this gorgeous planet;  how,despite the difference in our cultures or immediate environments, we are all so much the same.

Monkeys On The Roof seems to be a journal about your life in Botswana which includes some incredible photographs. Do you have other places where you showcase your photographs and/or paintings?

i am working on this at the moment - looking at the north face of a mountainous backlog of digital images that need to be sorted and edited and put into some usable format.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers of your blog?  i can wiggle my ears!

What is your favorite word?

i love words; i love the sound of words often more than the meanings, and try to remember to use that when writing. I think 'monkey' is a fun word don't you?

Monkey IS funny; aardvark is a word that always makes me giggle too!  What is your least favorite word?

i think 'blog' is such an ugly word for something that displays so much beauty and gives so much fun to so many.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?   a gorgeous landscape

What turns you off?   bigotry

What sound or noise do you love?

I love the racket made by frogs on the night after the first big rain; sometimes we drive to the waterhole and just listen; its a raucous symphony of sound that fills up your whole head. Its so jubilant and celebratory too.

What sound or noise do you hate?   the sound of chalk scraping on a blackboard

What question have I neglected to ask that would have given readers more insight into who you are? what's my favourite colour?

What is the answer to that question?    rainbow

Your blog offers us a rainbow in terms of the variety of sights and adventures we may experience vicariously there.  Thank you so much for this glimpse into your amazing life, Val.

To visit Val at Monkeys On The Roof, click here.


  1. This was a fabulous and inspiring interview, Bonnie! I just loved it. A peek into an exotic world from an obviously talented and remarkable person, sensitive to the people, friends, animals and landscapes around her. I paid a visit to Val's blog recently and really liked it.

  2. After reading this interview, I just visited Val's blog for the first time. So many treats to explore. I won't go on and on about how much I liked it. The day you posted my interview, I likened your blog to a Spanish tertulia; if you keep up this great series of interviews, I'll end up comparing it to one big "love in".

    Val: it's great to me you here and on your blog. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and loved your answer to the question on your favorite sound.

  3. wow. great shots...i feel i live a little bit of a tame life now...the community uplifment porjects sound like a great way to give back...nice interview...

  4. Thanks for such a wonderful interview, Bonnie and Val! As a lover of animals and the rest of the natural world, I'm quite sure that I am going to enjoy Val's blog. I've taken a quick peak and it looks fascinating. How wonderful for us to be able to follow the life of someone living in Botswana!

  5. I've been aware of Val's blog but haven't really visited much. so many wonderful blogs and so little time! I guess now I will have to squeeze in another. What an exciting life, to be immersed in the immediacy of nature. Lions and monkeys and elephants. On my!

  6. Thanks, Bonnie, for finding Val and featuring her interview here. I've re-found Val when she saw me on Facebook and we reconnected. We have to be open to all possibilities and inspirational people out there. Val helps us see a world we hardly ever see. Thank you both, ladies.

  7. Bonnie, thank you for this fine introduction to Val and her blog. I will go check her out after this.

    Val, it feels good to meet you, so far away, and know that we get our inner sustenance from Nature, in such different environments. It sounds as though you are extremely involved with many aspects of living there, and it is a real treat to meet you.

    Bonnie, I hope you're getting time for you!

  8. Fascinating and charming, you have found some real gems to interview. The photos are wonderful. Glad to get to know you better Val.

  9. What an amazing post. Beautiful interview. Cheers from Cottage Country !
    No monkeys, lots of deer.

  10. It was wonderful to get to know Val, and all of your other interviewees, a little better. Great series.

  11. Ever since you first mentioned Val's blog I have loved her posts. Its both an exotic experience but authentic too and I admire and appreciate her love of living there. Fascinating interview, thanks Val, thanks Bonnie.

  12. Thanks for all your very kind comments - and Bonnie for a really fun series which I am hugely honoured to be included in!

    As ever my dodgy internet often makes leaving comments a zen test in patience - and sometimes i wonder if i have sent you, Bonnie, a million copies of the same comment :)

    Anyhow, its great to meet you all, and I will be off to visit all of you - some for the second time (or more).

    I am very happy to try and answer any of your questions too.

    Bonnie you are awesome! love you all xxxV

  13. Val is one of my friends (I've been fortunate enough to visit her and the Monkeys On The Roof at Selati) and Val is the one that got me into blogging - thanks Val.

    She was also one of my biggest supporters for my recent solo adventure and the blog it spawned.

    This is a great interview with Val


  14. Hi Bonnie, I'm also a Botswana blogger and lucky enough to know Val personally, and to have very recently visited the Roof itself! Your interesting questions definitely draw out the essence of a special person...

  15. Love the interview! Loved learning more about Val and her life in this fabulous country. Thanks!

  16. SW - i am so glad you enjoyed the interview and thanks for leaving comments on the Roof too. I am thrilled to have found your blog!

    Lorenzo - i really enjoyed your Spanish view from your blog. Wondering if you have big post rain frog parties there too?

    Brian - no way - I dont think you have time for a tame life from the looks of your blog!!

    George - wonderful to meet you and thanks for taking an interest in Monkeys on the Roof. Animals keep us sane - they have a big job to do!

    Ellen - ya, there are so many wonderful blogs and sometimes one has to back away and get on with the business of life :)

    Lakeviewer - great to find you on FB as well :)

  17. Ruth - great to meet you too. I find it a constant source of amazement how the blogosphere allows us insights into such diverse and fascinating lives. Thanks for visiting The Roof too :)

    Butternut Squash - I have also loved this interview series - fascinating. Thanks for commenting on mine.

    Jean - i didnt realise that Moon River, as in the song, was a real place!
    greetings to the deer - I hope they are not on your roof though - except maybe at Christmas??

    Nancy - thank you :)

    Vicky - you are very kind thanks - its hard not to love and appreciate this amazing place and all its wierd inhabitants :)

    Cloudia - hello Wakiki! I shall pay you a visit asap

    Janet - thanks for commenting here; its so great that you are blogging too and adventuring!! love it x

    Karen - aw thanks man x

    Lauri - thanks and congrats on all your recent literary successes!! wow

    Bonnie - thank you again for this fantastic opportunity to spill the beans, and meet all these fine new people all over the place. Again you have spread the inspiration and fun xxV

  18. Thanks Bonnie and Val for this fascinating picture. The monkey blog does wonders for my african roots, and I appreciate that very much.

  19. Val: You are SO welcome. It was a delight to collaborate with you on this.

  20. Oh, Val seems like such a delightful lady!!! Thank you, Bonnie...I will have to pay her blog a visit now!!! These interviews are terrific!! Love, Janine XO

  21. Wow - Val sounds like such an interesting woman and what a life she leads! I thing I would be a little nervous with lions roaming around outside my home!

  22. Bonnie..
    Thank you for enhancing my life once again..
    I will visit Val, and no doubt be as intrigued and blessed as I was in this interview.


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