I started married life in Northern Uganda in 1951, as the wife of a District
Commissioner, on the Sudan border. We had been posted to the remote "out station"
of Moyo on our honeymoon which was to be a wonderful three year experience.
Our house was a large one with the roof thatched with 25 tons of papyrus, elaborately
woven into rolls. We had no electricity or running water so the prisoners from the nearby
gaol carried our water in containers on their heads and filled up the tanks. Life on an out
station was wonderful with a constant stream of visitors from all nationalities.
Shortly after arriving, my husband's wedding present to me was due on the Nile
paddle steamer. The road from the port was like a river bed with an escarpment gradient.
No tarmac or piano transport lorry! We collected old motor tyres for the piano crate to sit
on and it duly arrived safely at our house. Pianos had never been seen or heard in the
Northern Province before ours arrived. The locals roared with laughter on hearing it
being played! It remained in the house for our three year posting, after which I decided
to send it back to Nairobi for an overhaul whilst we went home on leave to the UK. This is when disaster struck. On being loaded from the lighter on to the steamer it was
dropped into the Nile! People, animals and even cars had ended up in the water but never
a beautiful Ibach Grand! It sank in its crate into the thick mud and remained there under
water, so no chance of even playing the Water Music on this instrument ever again.
Luckily it was insured and later replaced.
Life was full of adventure in Moyo and one day a baby buffalo was brought to the
house, as his mother had been killed for raiding the village crops. We named him Blitzen
as we already had a dachshund called Donna. The two of them would tear around the
garden like thunder and lightning. We employed a buffalo boy to cut fodder for him and
they would go for walks together. When he first arrived it was milk he needed so we got
large debbies (debe: a four gallon tin container used originally for petrol, kerosene etc...) of milk powder which helped him grow into a large frisky adult and a
great attraction for our guests. One day the Governor's wife paid a visit and Blitzen
disgraced himself by chasing her, with her only escape being a flying leap onto the
verandah much to the embarrassment of all and sundry!
Blitzen survived for two years, when we promised to hand him over to Carr Hartley's
Game Sanctuary in Kenya when we went home on leave. Sadly this never happened as
he was shot by a visiting Game Ranger. Blitzen, in his usual boisterous and friendly
manner, had spotted the Ranger's wife making her way to the loo at the rear of the
Rest House. She took one look at him and fled, bolting the door behind her. He of course
lay down outside and waited for her to emerge! When her husband returned he was so
irate that he shot Blitzen... a sad ending for a delightful creature.
I was very interested in cooking and although I only had a paraffin Valor Perfection
stove with two burners, I loved the challenge of baking. Our cook had a small Dover
stove which he stoked with wood. Another visit from the Governor and his entourage
meant a special lunch was the order of the day. Our cook was always delighted to look at
the coloured photos in the Good Housekeeping cookery books and together we planned
the lunch. Meat was hard to come by with beasts killed spasmodically in the village but
on this occasion I managed to procure some ox kidneys so the main course was to be
kidneys in a red wine sauce.
It was early in my married life and entertaining the Governor in primitive
surroundings was somewhat nerve-racking. However all went well until the first course
was cleared away. The house-boy came and whispered in my ear that cook needed to see
me. All the guests heard the news. Disaster - the dish of kidneys had cracked and now
lay in a heap in the ashes under the stove. As it was being taken out of the oven it broke
and ashes, wine, meat and glass were all mixed together. No chance of a dash to the local
takeaway or supermarket (a hundred miles to the nearest European station with the Nile
in between) so a worried hostess saw her lovely red wine sauce gradually seeping over
the cement floor! "Waste not want not" was my motto so at top speed I helped poor cook
pick out all the kidney pieces and wash them free of ashes. Soup from the previous
night's dinner was hastily reheated. Lea and Perrins added, and hey presto we had a
replacement. I was congratulated by the Governor's wife for having "a little something in
the fridge" and my reputation as a hostess remained intact!