If you were having coffee with me, we would be hanging out with avid reader, writer, photography enthusiast Kate Chambers who is always blessing the Timeline with Kodak moments snapped from travels. When she is not reading she is a friend to readers, helping get out books to readers young and old but especially the young…
B: Coffee or Tea?
KC: Coffee from the Eastern Highlands. It’s made by Tanganda. Black, no sugar.
B: What are your favourite seasons by country and aesthetics?
KC: I love the rainy season here in Zimbabwe, especially around Christmas time. And September, when the mulberries are ripe. Growing up in eastern England we had a yellow forsythia bush near our front gate. It flowered in April, and meant Easter school holidays were around the corner
B: You take a lot of random photographs or are they? What’s the story behind the images you snap
KC: I started posting pictures to Twitter in 2015. We were based in Manicaland for much of the time then, and travelled in and outside the province fairly regularly. I was fascinated by the roadside and growth point stores I saw on our travels whether in Chimanimani, Nyanga or on the road to Masvingo. I’d snap pictures of them and post to Twitter as often as I could. These days I don’t travel quite as often within Zimbabwe but whenever I do I try to take pictures of the stores. They are landmarks, and they hold so many stories. And books. I always post pictures of books.
B: Any particular image you would like to highlight and why it stands out?
KC: That’s hard. But probably one of my pictures of stores that lie on the Mutare to Masvingo road. This is one of my favourite highways – and seeing those stores reminds me of good journeys with my children in the back of the car. Even if they did moan because I kept winding down my window.
B: lets say you are reading a book and discover its not… to put it kindly your cup of tea, do you stop reading it and postpone for a later date or soldier on to the end?
KC: After I have read the first two pages of a book, I always turn to the last chapter anyway, particularly if its fiction. If I am intrigued by the ending I will turn back to the beginning and read the book. If I don’t like the ending I won’t read any further. I may have missed out on some great reads doing this. But generally it works.
B: Monogamist or serial book reader?
KC: I read several books at the same time. Some of them are books I’ve read before. I’m currently reading again Love Like Salt which is written by the mother of a child with cystic fibrosis who lived for seven years in France (where I also lived for a while). But I’m also dipping into a book about herbs which was published in 1946 and which I bought from Alois at Avondale Market last weekend because my little girl is fascinated by the idea that people for a long time have used herbs for medicinal purposes and I wanted to be able to select paragraphs for her. And I’ve just finished reading Rutendo Gwatidzo’s Born To Fight which was published in June this year and which I’m going to be buying more copies of for local libraries thanks to a donation from WERI.
B: Growing up did your parents read to you and or make you read or you discovered books by yourself…
KC: Yes, my father read Rupert The Bear to me and my mother read to me and my sisters on car journeys. I was in hospital for a while as a child and there were books then.. My parents read a lot: they always had books next to their beds. That’s an important thing for a child to see: a parent who reads.
B: You read to your kids, what do you read to them?
KC: OK, so a small clarification here. I used to read books and stories often to my son who is now a teenager. This was partly because he refused to read stories to himself: he would only read Car magazines, Popular Mechanics and what he called ‘fact books’. These days he’ll agree to read autobiographies of entrepreneurs. My husband reads to our daughter, who’s now 8, while I have always made up stories for her. This is mostly because if I make up the story I get to say how long or short it is. Happily she enjoys reading on her own and with her friends.
B: I understand you help out in a couple of books in the community initiatives, if you can highlight some of them and how one wanting to help out can do so?
KC: Yes, I’ve been running a books network getting reading books and magazines into different kinds of libraries here for the last nine years. They’re always libraries or clubs or individuals that have asked me for books directly or indirectly. I find out what age-groups thd books are for, and what kind of books are needed. For example Curran Musada runs a library club in Chipinge and often needs books about nature and conservation. Elvis Ndebele runs a library club in Tsholotsho and asks for books and stationery for primary school age children, health-related reading materials for women at clinics and on other subjects like baking and farming. There are many other projects and people supported.
And yes please, I’m always looking for books and recent issues of magazines. One incredibly kind book lover here put me in touch with Harare International School which had several boxes of books to donate very recently. There are also regular donors from overseas: a woman who I’ve never met has been sending books from Hawaii for the last nine years!
More Zimbabweans than I can count have helped in so many ways over the years: books, transport, logistics and connections. One of the best things has been getting to speak to Zimbabweans living all over the world: I had a great conversation about the network with a Zimbabwean banker and podcaster in the US on a recent Friday afternoon when I was in a taxi on my way to pick up books on Enterprise Road!
You can reach me via @kpczim on Twitter or Instagram.
B: Avid book readers are known to shift from reading to become writers, you write?
KC: My father had his PhD thesis on the bookshelf in the living room in Lincolnshire. It had a burgundy cover and was something to do with Industrial Chemistry. To us children, it was ‘Dad’s book’. So yes, finally finishing my book is a goal of mine. I have a children’s book that’s two-thirds done.
B: If you were president of the whole world what book would you make mandatory for everyone to read once?
KC: That’s a hard one. Books mean different things to different people at different times in their lives. I was reached out to recently on Instagram by a Zimbabwean living outside the country who spoke of being orphaned but reading a book at age 14 – a book I hadn’t heard of – that gave her the strength and motivation to study and succeed, which she has done in so many ways. I am inspired by stories like this. Books have great power.
B: Thank you for your time Kate, pretending this where broadcasted live and the world was watching whom would you be giving shout outs to?
KC: My husband, who puts up with me reading most of his new books first and who by example taught me to read bird books. My Auntie Joan, who when I was little looked out historical novels for the bookworm that I was. And Jax, for her courage and the way she cares and her frequent challenges to me and many others.