Right now I’m home-home… in Malawi for a family Christmas. I’m back in my old room, that repository of my childhood and coming-of-age, surrounded by the bric-a-brac of my life pre-London. There are old trophies, posters, bits of poetry and my diaries, including one that I wrote when I was 11. It has details of schoolwork, friendships, fights (girls love a good bust-up) and adventures, mostly on my bike.
But interspersed with updates on my baby brother’s progress (he’s sitting! He’s grown a tooth! He’s walking!) there is a thin sliver of my country’s story. On my list of things to look forward to in 1994 I had multiparty elections at the the top of my list. In passing, I mention an army strike, the President getting seriously ill, conceding the elections, and our first democratically elected president under a multiparty system. It’s all in the background, the backdrop to a breathless account of an 11 year-old’s life. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember the tangible feeling of excitement in the air and the sense that voting was an amazing, transformative, special thing. It’s part of the reason that I always do.