KIT HESKETH-HARVEY ENTERTAINER AND WRITER Lives with his wife and two children in a rambling Georgian house in a Norfolk village in a Georgian house in Cornwall
Sunday 26 March 1995
ESSENTIAL LOCAL AMENITIES: The paddle steamer that chugs round the lake delivering mail and supplies. A seaplane - handy for nipping over to Lilongwe airport, should I ever need the world outside. Friendly Africans to catch fish in the lake and provide wonderful fruits - guava, pawpaw, papaya and mango.
CHARACTER AND CONSTRUCTION: A colonial house, like "Tara" in Gone With the Wind, but more ramshackle. Built of brick, it would have three storeys, hard wood floors and a thatched roof.
PERIOD AND HISTORICAL ASSOCIATIONS: Like my childhood home, it would have been built as a summer retreat for Europeans living in Nyasaland in the late 19th century.
BATHROOMS: I'd need a supply of purified drinking water, but I wouldn't need a bathroom. The lake is freshwater, and so hot that it's like a bath. In the forest there are little waterfalls with secret chambers behind which I could put my sponge-bag while I had a shower. Loos are almost more trouble than they're worth because they tend to be hiding-places for hideous spiders and God knows what, so maybe I would just go with a shovel to the vegetable patch.
RECEPTION ROOMS: One huge one on the first floor. It would have a polished floor so I could dance, a big fireplace for the rainy season and billowing curtains leading out to the verandah.
ESSENTIAL KITCHEN FEATURES: The Nyasaland Cookery Book. All wives of district commissioners were given this book, and my mother's battered copy is something I treasure. It's hilarious. Ovens were incredibly primitive, and the book tells you to throw a piece of paper into them. If it doesn't discolour it's alright for meringues; if it goes yellow it's alright for sponges; if it goes brown it's alright for roasts; if it catches fire, your oven is too hot!
DECORATIVE STYLE: African rugs and musical instruments dotted around. I like to paint and would hang my own daubs on the walls. I'd furnish with rattan armchairs with big calico cushions, and extended chaise longues for sunning myself. The beds would be extremely comfortable. Most of us spend about a third of our lives in bed - I slightly more, I'm afraid - so it's worth having a good one.
LUXURIES: A piano. When I was a child we had a piano lined with 112 tons of galvanized steel to make it termite-proof. I'd need some sort of sonic mosquito zapper, and somebody to fight off crocodiles and snakes. It would be reassuring to have the ayah who looked after me when I was little. She was a wonderful lady. Regularly drunk, she had no front teeth but saved my life after a snake bite by biting me with her remaining teeth and sucking out the poison.
SPECIAL OUTBUILDINGS: Without making it look like an A-frame chalet park, I'd like four guest houses in the rainforest.
VIEW FROM THE WINDOWS: Verdant rainforest, white sandy beaches, fishing boats on the lake and African children diving off the rocks. At night the sky would turn pink with flamingoes coming in to roost. I would have a rifle permanently set up in case anyone dreamed of using a jet ski.
GARDEN: With the best garden in the world on my doorstep, I wouldn't need one of my own.
NEIGHBOURS: None, apart from the Africans in the fishing villages. The sound of singing, or a calabash orchestra, is the nicest in the world. There would be no stereos, as there is no electricity.
MOTTO OVER THE DOOR: If there were one, it would very quickly be eaten by termites.
WHAT IT WOULD COST: Jeremy Wagner, of Malawi Protea Hotels, says Kit should expect to pay £45,000-£50,000 for his dream home. Many holiday homes on the shores of Lake Malawi are company-owned and do not often come up for sale. There are also restrictions on the purchase of such properties by foreigners.
INTERVIEW BY ROSANNA GREENSTREET
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