I spent my days in pre-school and primary school in Zambia. I had a friend in primary school who had severe scoliosis and poliomyelitis. She had a brace around her chin and neck, it extended down her back and clipped around her hips. She wore a metal leg brace from her thigh to her ankle on the one leg and orthopedic shoes. She walked with the aid of crutches. My heart went out to her and I felt her pain and loneliness. We were best friends and she swam very well indeed. In fact she had developed the broad swimmer’s shoulders. It was amazing to watch her swim, as she had no use of her legs and all the work was in her upper body and arms. She loved music and the swings at school. I lost contact with her, as I had left for high school and was three thousand miles away from her. We moved town and I could not trace her. Sometimes I wonder if people are put in one’s path for a season as well as for a reason. I lost contact with many friends because of relocating, nevertheless, I kept in contact with a penfriend from Dorset in the UK, in fact right until I had children. It was wonderful to receive letters from her in the post, we had no email then!
There was great excitement in the home and I could not understand why, I was six years old when I was told I was going to England on a ship. I had very little imagination at that age of what I was about to encounter. We boarded the ship, Athlone Castle from South Africa to Southampton. The voyage took two weeks. We left in winter and arrived in Southampton, – it felt like winter there too, although it was mid-summer. The Athlone Castle, was one of the fleet of Union Castle Line. It’s maiden voyage was 1936 and it’s last voyage was 1965. We were on the last voyage. The ship was scrapped.
My family were to take three months long leave, in those days it was paid for by the company they worked for. I was so sea sick, it was no fun. The tossing winter waves made me very nauseas and it was hard to keep my food down. I was car sick as well. The most part of the aquatic journey was fun.
We travelled to Wales, Scotland and many places in England. I loved the little narrow country roads that we travelled on and they were the main roads. We often saw wild Shetland Ponies grazing on the grass just off the road-side. We had a lot of pictures of this vacation, many of them were lost for some reason through the years. My favourite pictures were of the beautiful Shetlands. Their flowing manes and legs were full of long hair and a tail to set any lady hoping for pretty long hair as they had. We stayed at many a bed and breakfast as we travelled all over the country. Some of them were on quaint and very green farms, teaming with sheep and cattle and not forgetting pigs. On one particular farm, I learned to love porridge and scones.
photo: on a B & B farm north of UK
It was really cold most days and it seemed to rain a lot. So many, many memories of that holiday are still very vivid in my mind, as if though it was a few months ago. I did not enjoy going to the castles all over the country, as they had age old time clinging to every cold stone wall. They were heavily clad in either enormous paintings or arsenal of weaponry from ancient wars that seemed dreadful to me. I was able to learn a lot of history in later years, as I had the visual aid imprinted in my brain.
I had never seen enormous shops, ancient buildings, toy shops, they were alien to me. I was so thankful to have a teddy bear, which I still have today. We went on rides in the childrens’ play parks, such as the carousel, cars and trains, this was an experience I had never had nor seen before. Ice cream cones, candy floss, popcorn and sweets were luxuries I never had.
Fortunately growing up in Zambia, taught me the simple things in life and I was gloriously happy with playing with sand and making little gardens. A very favourite time on the farms, was to get as many flowers as our little hands could clutch and in a serious and excited mode, we designed little gardens in the sand, carefully pouring water to wet the soil and refresh the flowers. With intense expectation, we waited for the joyful comments from people on the farm.
Of course lots of excitement again, when the farmer decided to build a swimming pool with bricks and cement. A small one, but – no one noticed, the simple pleasure of jumping in and out, running around the edges of the pool, was so different an adventure from climbing the squeeky wooden ladder into the water reservoir. We had swimming races and endless competitions who could make the biggest splash. Not forgetting to mention, the boisterous farm dog, who would give us a major challenge! She slept with us, waking me now and again with her loud staccato snoring and chasing ‘lions’ in her sweet dreams. She was a Staffordshire Terrier and one afternoon, while visiting, she had surprised the living day-lights out of me, when I found her giving birth to a litter of puppies. What a beautiful sight, perfect nature taking its course. With eager hearts, carefully and gently with the pups’ mom’s approval, we were able to curl our little fingers around their tiny warm bodies and cuddle the little precious bundles of joy.
Arithmetic or maths, was not my strong point and in fact was a dread. Homework review was an exercise I could have rather lived without. I was shouted at, yelled at and told I was so stupid and simple. All kinds of unkind words came tumbling down on my nervous soul, crushing any little or possible enthusiasm. I was firmly disliked and disappointing! This picture says more than a thousand words and yes, enough! My scholastic days were torture.
photo: after an intense session of homework, I felt a spectacle.
photo: a kiddies paper book ~ my wooly Teddy in London
photo: ‘Athlone Castle’ Bing.com
to be continued … to Part III