I remember eating mangoes before I knew what an apple was,
I remember eating duck,guinea fowl, wild pig,groundnuts,fresh pineapples,goat, goat's milk,coconuts,tinned condensed milk.
I remember sleeping under nets on the veranda. I remember locusts, grasshoppers and spiders bigger than my hands. I remember looking in shoes, clothes,bedclothes to check for scorpions.
I remember glowing eyes on the road ahead as some creature would stand transfixed in the landrover's headlights.
I remember bougainvillea growing at every house we went to.
I remember a world where the horizon was always in the distance.
I remember huge great termite stacks and I remember mud huts with grass roofs and white washed villas with verandas.
I remember my dolls bed made from wood with a mattress and bedclothes that my mother had made for it and the sorrow I felt at being made to give it away when we Ďcame homeí.
I remember snake charmers and witch doctors.
I remember the crowds and noise of the markets where I would buy cheap toys and the fantastic scent of a glorious,wonderful,country where I felt entirely at home.
Digging to China
Do not ask me why I was aiming for China as I was already in a pretty exotic location already. Why dig to China when you are living in Africa? I guess to a small child anywhere you are living is a rather boring tedious place to be so anywhere else will seem to be exciting. It possibly might have been more troubling if I had been aiming for Swindon or Manchester but to be honest I had not heard of them but I did know about China.
Anyway here I was digging. I went about it pretty methodically as I recall. I found a nice out of the way place behind a tree and out of sight of the house so I would not be interrupted by nosy grownups as they always seemed to have an inclination to interfere just when things got interesting especially if it involved getting dirty in any way. Though thinking back as an adult I guess the dirt encrusted hands were probably a give away at the time. I also took a long route round to get to my chosen spot taking a different way each time. I knew it would take a long time and I was prepared for this so I patiently stopped when called for meals, washes, clothes changing and bedtime trying not to mind too much at yet another example of adult interference.
On the fourth morning I found that my hole had become a very cool, shady invitation to a snake. Having had the fact that Africa was full of very dangerous and poisonous creatures and that I was to tell them EVERY time I saw any such creature being very heavily reinforced by both my parents I confessed my sin of digging to my father. The reaction I got from him surprised me enormously. Instead of being told off and punished I was very heavily praised before he rushed off to get the house servants organised. Within a very short time there was a plan to clear all the vegetation from around the house and a huge wide ring of brush was set alight around the house to clear a large space around the house and to deter any other snakes. I do not know what happened to the snake in my particular hole as I was shooed away as things became interesting. Typical of grown ups to keep the really interesting things to themselves I thought. I also had to promise never to dig another hole. I did not have the heart to tell them that Iíd already decided not to bother. I had found something better.
I had a new pet called George.
George was a fantastic pet. I didnít have to cage him as he never went very far away although he did take some finding when I had to leave him for those intervals that my mother was insistently fanatical about. I did not need baths, washes or to brush my teeth with the horrible toothpaste cakes that tasted so disgusting. I can still remember that flavour to this day. Brushing you teeth with something that tastes like Germolene tends to hang in the memory for forty odd years.
Anyway George was beautiful. He had hands that were opposable and very good for holding onto branches and a lovely curly tail. His eyes were wonderful and he could look in all directions, even in opposite directions. However the most wonderful fact about him was that he could change colour to suit what ever he was sitting on at the time. This was magical to me. I thought he was something really special. When I discovered that he ate insects I was entranced by the way he caught them with his enormously long tongue. I could not see where he managed to put such a long tongue.
I managed to keep George a secret for a very long time before my mother very meanly spied on me. I was very upset and frightened for George, as I didnít think my mother would like me to have such a pet and things would have gone badly if my father hadnít happened to be home that day. Thanks to my father, George and I survived as friends and I learned what a chameleon was. I have always yearned to have a chameleon again but wonít because they need such specialised care and have to be incarcerated for their own care and protection that I will not have one. I remember the freedom that George enjoyed and I couldnít do that to another chameleon.
However through my daughter (it must be hereditary) I was caring for an African Land Snail. Unfortunately I never came across one of these when I was a child. Another very beautiful gentle creature.Sadly Terrence has passed on after 4 years in the family and again we are without a family pet.
The saddest memory that I can rembember as a child was going to visit some people who were aquaintances of my parents.We were led out to the back of the house to meet the family 'pet'.It was a cheetah with a thick,heavy chain around it's neck.I hated to see such a creature treated like that because I'd seen cheetahs in the wild and I knew they were glorious,wonderfully fast creatures.It looked miserable,bored and totally undignified.I've never forgotten that poor animal.Even my dog had more freedom than that poor creature and we had to worry about rabies for him.