Offsprings’ Observations of Outpost

I write overlooking a garden I’m trying to pretend I won’t miss in the cool grey, before sun-up. I have not dared to venture out to see how the cow is yet. The vet came yesterday – a slick young African who drives a sky-blue VW beetle. ‘ECF’, he pronounced, tick-borne East Coast Fever. We’ll be lucky if we save her, despite the shots the vet administered. I’m trying not to think about how sad her calf will be if she dies; I’m trying not to think how it’ll holler when it cannot find its mother.

Instead I am focusing on packing. And moving. And the future.

Yesterday I collected the photographs I took in Outpost and showed them to the children who observed them quietly. Is that they house, they asked, scrutinizing pictures of what at present looks overgrown and unkempt. Yes, I said, that’s the Bishop’s house, that’s where we’re going to live.

The Bishop’s house, squawked Amelia in alarm.


What? We have to live with the Bishop?

What’s a Bishop, Hat interjected?

No, no, no I said, we’re only renting it from the Bishop.

What?! We’re going to push him out of his own home Amelia squawks again. (Er, excuse me, how did sudden change of tune manifest itself; we’ve gone from ‘I’m not living with him’ to ‘poor, poor man’ in less than zero to 60).

No Amelia, we’re not pushing him out of his home. He is charging us three times over the odds for the privilege of living in it.

Hattie, ever conciliatory Hattie, says quickly, ‘Is that the kitchen, mum?’

Yes, that’s the kitchen I say. And, I add, it’s nice and big and airy.

‘Oh good’, says Hat, ‘I am pleased; you’ve always wanted a big kitchen’.

I have. Partly because mine is hot and dark. But mostly because I have conned my family for years into believing that my poor culinary skills are the result of where I cook. And not how I cook. Poor Hat; she’s going to be bitterly disappointed when she discovers that despite dimensions of new kitchen, nothing much is going to change.

The children are quiet as I put the photos away. Then Amelia says firmly, ‘well I think it all looks lovely’. I don’t know if that’s because she really believes it or just because she’s relieved she’s not going to have to share her home with a Bishop. But it doesn’t matter, I’m really grateful that she said it.


3 Responses to “Offsprings’ Observations of Outpost”

  1. Rob Says:

    Good luck with the move. We once moved to an “outpost”. A small town in Northern Zambia. Originally we were told we could have the old governors or DCs house (which was a crumbling red brick relic of a bygone era, right at the top of the hill and thus out of range of the town water pumps). Instead, after some negotiations with the local council, we were offered the magistrate’s house, which was half way up the hill. Where was the magistrate? Apparently he drove into the Chambeshi River in a drunken stupor one late night. Oh! We then had to get local Mr Beekeeper to remove a huge nest of honey bees from the chimney. The guy seemed to get some sadistic pleasure in all the bee stings he acquired whilst smoking them out, without any safety gear. Once that was done, said house was ready for renovation. However, wife and son of Mr Magistrate RIP then arrived to re-occupy the property. Apparently that is customary in many places, and civil servants and their families try and remain occupants of the state’s house until they get their rightful pension etc benefits. We did eventually move in and spent a few happy months there… I was younger then though!

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Hi Rob, That is so funny. But so awful too. A perfect example of Africa living. Yup. You need to be young to live here. Or stark staring mad. Or perhaps you just end up staying because you have grown too old and too eccentric to go anywhere else?

  3. Carolyn Says:

    Awww, you have lovely children. That’s sweet, what they said.

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