Rhodesian Reminscinces

When I[1] was a child, growing up in Rhodesia I used to go in for tennis in a big way. My family lived in a sprawling one storey house, flat but vast, spread out into the garden surrounded by our tobacco plantation. We had servants. Two of them: an older couple named Julius and Mary. They were good people and worked very hard indeed for us, and we children played with their grand children on the weekends and during school holidays. I’ll never forget teaching little Tatemba how to come to the net and play a backhand volley. The six year-old caught on quickly, and could have been a very good player indeed. I myself was only ten when I passed on what our personal coach, Mr. Kingston, had taught me. Tatemba proved to be a very able partner for me when I wished to work on my ground strokes or finetune my lobs.

It was always hot. Or, that’s how I remember it. Mother and Father would remain indoors much of the day, answering correspondence, reading the daily newspaper and weekly pictorials, drinking tea from a fine china tea pot, and occasionally receiving guests for luncheon. Guests for luncheon always arrived at 11:30am, and the meal was served by Mary at precisely 12:15. The early lunch hour allowed Father to attend his club in the afternoon, where open bridge was held at 2:10. The time for bridge never varied at the Gymkhana Club. Young Mrs. Vogler would have been so disappointed if daddy ever stood her up. For she was his partner, and bridge partners never let their counterpart down, as Father told Mother on more than one occasion. Mother asked searching questions about this partnership. She wondered whether the pair of them played at more than just cards. People also played tombola at the club, so you could see where Mother’s question came from.

In the late afternoons Mother would garden. Her garden was beautiful. She would put on her gloves, her gloves came all the way to her elbow, and place a wide brimmed hat on her head, and take her secateurs outside into the slowly spreading shadows. Hannibal always followed. He was Mr. Sisoko’s son – Mr. Sisoko was the local grain trader, whose office was always immaculate – and he assisted Mother of an afternoon, as she attended to her little patch. Hannibal carried a large deep basket for Mother to place cut flowers in for later drying, and he was also ready to do any cutting, digging, or dragging that needed to be done. Mother was always grateful for Hannibal’s assistance. Often Hannibal would need to remove his shirt, when it was very hot and Mother wanted him to work very hard. After work, they would go around to a small barn where seedlings grew and flowers were dried. When Mother returned to the house from there, she often wore a dreamy smile. She loved the garden. She loved to spend time in it.

I don’t recall when my parents grew apart. I was at school in Geneva for much of each year, and one year I returned home to find that Father no longer lived with us. Hannibal Sisoko was by then our farm manager, and so we saw a lot more of him around the house. He was a nice man.

[1] Names, events and all other details in this have been changed. In fact, it’s fictional.

Published in: on May 5, 2010 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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