Tag Archives: Rhodesia

OLD HABITS


It’s ridiculous, I know, but I just can’t stop myself. They say old habits die hard, and it’s true. I know you’re going to laugh –  feel free. One of my persistent habits is my inability to throw away kitchen foil.  After using it to  cover a cooked dish before putting it into the fridge, I carefully rinse it off, wash it in hot soapy water, rinse again, smooth it out and leave it in the sun to dry, before folding and storing it for re-use. By now you’re shaking your heads and saying: Huh? But WHY ??

I’ll tell you why. For a period of about six years, kitchen foil was unobtainable – it was a luxury, along with kitchen cling-wrap, chocolate, MacIntoshes’s toffees, South African wine, and a massive list of other products that we all used to take for granted. In a word: sanctions. In Rhodesia during the mid-1970’s we had a trade embargo slapped on us by the British Government, and apart from vital commodities like fuel and mechanical spares, the minor items of life were also removed from our grasp. We had to live with fuel rationing, which was calculated to virtually the last drop, and you learnt to plan your driving very carefully so as to accomplish the maximum tasks with the minimum driving around. But we managed. And kitchen foil was a happy memory from easier times. There just wasn’t any, and if you did succeed in obtaining a precious roll, you guarded it with your life and used it sparingly, again and again and again.
During my first years of living in South Africa I remember watching aghast as
South African women cheerfully ripped off generous sheets of foil to double-cover a small plate of food, or double-wrap leftovers.  It was all I could do to stop myself from leaping on them shouting, “Stop! That’s enough – you’re using too much!”  and then on other occasions watch people rip off the foil covering, crumple the foil into a ball and drop it in the trash can … oh, the horror!

Of course, I could label my quirk as THRIFT, which is a good word, we should all be thrifty, eco-conscious citizens, should we not?  I cannot tell you how it cheered me to read an article which revealed that HM Queen Elizabeth keeps string, in a certain desk drawer, thriftily saving it for future parcels. Apparently it was a habit she cultivated during World War II when Britain faced austerities on every level, and as I said at the beginning, old habits die hard.  On the other hand, I do wonder whether her Majesty still wraps her own parcels – somehow I feel there should be a white-gloved footman bearing away the gifts on a silver tray, to be wrapped and parcelled by some lesser minion in a Palace storeroom. Times have changed, even in royal palaces. These days I bung gifts into a padded, ready-to-seal white bag (all sizes available) no string required, and that’s that. But I do still own a monster ball of brand new string.

At one time I did have the instructions for crocheting dishcloths out of string – now that’s  super eco-thrifty – maybe I’ll churn out a few and use up the redundant string? Or maybe not; my To Be Read pile of books is beaming invitingly at me ….

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RECENT READS # 21 ROD – THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY


Lambo Uracco in London

Lambo Uracco in London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lovely cheerful account of a Rock Star’s life – which he frankly acknowledges is pretty good: bags of money, impressive cars (he likes Lambo’s – translation for us plebs = Lamborghini), flocks of beautiful, leggy blondes, mansions in the UK  and Los Angeles, drugs du jour  – he’s quite open about his coke taking – apparently its prevalent in the music industry. His great passion, alongside music, sex and drugs, is FOOTBALL. He and his entire family are absolutely football mad. Rod currently plays for a team in LA, I think they’re called the Expats. Mark you, this man is in his early 60s.

His saving grace is his wry humour throughout the book, particularly a  chapter, yes an entire chapter, related in deadpan detail, on how to create and maintain his famous spiky hairstyle. Several of the Book Club Ladies related how, during the 60s, they would ask their hairdresser to “give us a Rod” and would emerge with the spiky, tousled Rod hairstyle.

The Ladies reminisced about Britain in the 60’s – going to the pubs & clubs, hitch hiking home, late at night, and how safe it was. Alas, no longer.

Living in Rhodesia in the 60s, we didn’t have nearly so much fun in our colonial outpost, being 10 yrs behind the times, although bell bottom trousers, mini skirts and wedge heels had arrived in darkest Africa. In the late 60s there was the escalation of the Bush War, continuing into the early 70s, and we PARTIED. A country at war takes refuge in hectic partying, it’s a well known fact.

The same ladies agreed we all love Rod Stewart, we’ve loved him since the 1960s, and we continue to love him 40 years on – the man’s practically indestructible, when you consider how his music still sells, and in Christmas 2012 there was a TV special Rod Stewart’s Christmas  and there he was in a natty tartan jacket (he loves tartan, proud of his Scottish heritage) warbling away with the great and famous.

The book has great photos and tons of fascinating anecdotes. I bet you didn’t know he’s a model train fan? He built vast layout/rail network in his Los Angeles home, necessitating the removal of interior walls so that the track could extend across the width of the building. Nice to be a Rock Star, hey?

And in closing I must confess I want his marvellous pounding anthem  Rhythm of my Heart to be played at my memorial. I don’t want a funeral, but I do want a gathering, and they’re all going to have to listen to Rod.

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A COUPLE OF THE OLDEST BOOK IN MY BOOKCASE


Books

Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Yesterday I enlisted the help of my char to tackle an annual task – moving the bookcase in my bedroom and vacuuming the carpet. We do a chain-relay routine where she gets down to the bottom shelf, which I cannot do, grabs a handful of books, passes them up to me, and I stack them in wobbly piles on the bed, until the shelves are empty. We then move the bookcase away from the wall, cluck over the thick layer of dust, and she wields the vacuum. I was relieved not to find any tiny mouse skeletons because that’s where Chocolat’s mice find shelter when they escape momentarily. The tiny spaces a mouse can squeeze into always amazes me.
When I’ve cleaned the shelves, and dusted the books, we then restack the shelves. I take the opportunity to weed out unwanted books (yes, there are such items, but not many) and this year I hesitated over The Mottled Lizard by Elspeth Huxley; it’s a charming account of a childhood spent in Kenya, but oh dear! The spine is torn, the pages have browned to a deep caramel colour, the cover is limp, and creased. The two giraffe have faded to a greenish-blue, it’s a sorry sight. There’s a price on the cover: 5/-. Five shillings! Can you imagine that? Inside the cover on the facing page is rubber-stamped: Rhod Price 6/-. I suppose the import charges to Rhodesia from Britain warranted the surcharge. Underneath that is another rubber stamp image, in pale red, barely legible: Carlton Exchange, Bulawayo. I have no memory of the Carlton Book Exchange, but I must have know about it, and probably used it. My eldest daughter, who remembers everything Bulawayo related, will be able to fill in the gaps for me.
The book was published by the Four Square publishing company in 1965. Although the book looks like a relic from the Boer War, it’s not actually that old.
Perhaps another contender for the title in this bookcase is one of my favourite books The Sunshine Settlers by Crosbie Garstin. The first page informs us that this edition is a Facsimile Reprint, issued by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo 1971, of the 1935 edition. It has been slightly amended by addition of black and white line drawings by Daphne James. I remember my Dad owning a copy of the original 1935 version, which I read as a child, and loved. The book was burnt when my Mum’s house burnt down in the early 1960’s – house fires ravage family memorabilia; you can buy a new stove, you can replace your clothes, but books, letters, photos are irreplaceable. Ditto the handsome brass box, with a tortoise shell pattern engraved on the lid, and ditto the two brass urns, with elegant tall necks, decorated with an engraved pattern of curlicues and flowers, all the way from Persia, a gift from Uncle Bill who worked in the oil industry, a million years ago when the country was called Persia. Oh well …
So when the Books of Rhodesia copy came out, I pounced on it with glee, and have read, and re-read it happily over the years. It describes pioneering life in Rhodesia in the early years, just prior to the First World War. My Dad came out to Rhodesia in the late 1920’s, and life on the farms hadn’t changed that much in the intervening twenty years. Life was just as hot, dry, dusty and challenging as it had ever been, but viewed through Crosbie Garstin’s twinkling Irish eyes it was all a splendid adventure. Try and read it if you can find a copy; sorry, but I’m not lending you mine!

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