British Empire Article

by Joseph Felix Sweeney
Education Department, Tanganyika

Chapter One: Settling in Pangs
Tales From The African Bush
SS Kenya
Once again, Miika and I were back in Africa after a lapse of a decade. This time it was in East Africa and we did not return alone. Three spirited offspring, Joan, Francis and Paul completed our party.

Eager to see still more of the world and even keener to escape the chilly English weather, I had accepted an appointment as Head of Department and Vice-Principal in Dar-es-Salaam Technical Institute, Tanganyika. Milka, my Slovenian war bride and former Sister in the Yugoslav Red Cross, offered no objections. The children, with itchy feet like their father, were excited at the thought of seeing a new continent.

Vacancy Tanganyika
Dar Es Salaam Harbour
So, in April 1958, the first sight of our new hometown was from the deck of the British- India liner "Kenya". Fascinated, we watched the orange dawn spread quickly over the port and realised just how it lived up to its Arabic name - The Harbour of Peace.

Before we disembarked, the luxury liner provided a sumptuous breakfast. One wag at the next table, no doubt wondering what lay in store for him, commented.

"The last meal before I face the hangman!"

Our family was more optimistic and looked on it all as one stage of a new adventure.

Not long afterwards, we cautiously edged the children down the gangplank onto a tiny craft, bobbing rhythmically up and down. In due course, this flimsy vessel leisurely wound its way to the government jetty. There to welcome us was a representative of the Department of Education, an affable Mr. Gwillym Hailman.

Our mentor led us. on foot, the short distance to the Metropole Hotel. On the way. I questioned him about my new post. He hedged. He fidgeted with his fingers, though at the same time, he did his best to appear jovial. He evaded every question about my duties at the Institute. Instead he kept asking facetious questions about our journey. Once inside the hotel and just as I was signing the register, he abruptly turned about, muttering as he headed for the door, "I'll be back. ..later...with the Chief Technical Education Officer."

When I had almost given up hope, the two showed up. I did my utmost to learn my new role but couldn't receive a straight-forward answer. The Chief, Aubrey Emerson, was even more evasive than Gwillym. However, after repeated quizzing, he blurted out.

"But Mr. Sweeney, you are now in Africa! You can't expect our plans to run like clockwork. Here, everything takes time. I'll be frank. I must tell you that the foundation stone of the Institute hasn't yet been laid and.quite honestly, I don't know what to do with you."

We parted - temporarily.

My disappointment was partially eased by his sworn promises of a positive answer on the morrow. I was to call at the Department at eight o'clock.

I did call and was passed from one section to another but never did receive any indication of what plans were in the air for me. At closing time, at four p.m., I was told to call back the following day. I did so and continued doing so daily until I felt really thwarted.

The others in the family felt disheartened too. Milka hates hotels, much preferring her own domain.

The kids were bored and anxious to get back into a school routine to mingle with their peers.

Early one morning, much to my surprise, Gwillym and Aubrey rushed into the hotel lobby. Their faces beamed.

"You're going to Kongwa, Joe!" shrieked an excited Aubrey.

"Kongwa?" thought I, "I've heard of the place. Something to do with Strachey's Ground Nuts Scheme? That brilliant plan to put Britain on its feet again after World War II. What on earth do they want me to do in an agricultural centre?"

Even as I mused, Aubrey continued,

"There's no shortage of houses there. You won't be cooped up a poky hotel."

It was then I understood what he had vaguely hinted at earlier, namely there was a dire housing shortage in Dar. It seemed the Housing Committee had no intention of allocating a house to any one with a professional title but with no specific job to do.

"But what kind of work will I be doing there?" I chimed in. "I'm no agriculturalist!"

"Oh! It's a wonderful place, this Kongwa," cut in Gwillym, "It's not an agricultural college - it's a boarding school - the best one in the whole of Tanganyika. The old Ground Nuts buildings were all reconverted. You'll have a nice house. The children will be able to attend school as day pupils. Your wife will feel at home as there are lots of married women there with children about the same age as yours. There's a first-class club and it's got an Olympic-size swimming pool. You couldn't ask for anything better. It's a pukka tropical paradise."

As he continued to extoll the virtues of this Garden of Eden, he transferred some of his enthusiasm to me. My imagination went to work and I wanted to reach this Utopia as quickly as possible.

Abruptly I returned to earth. I repeated the question which baffled rne, "But what work am I expected to do? What subjects am I...?"

Gwillym cut in hastily,

"Oh! The Head needs someone to take the Higher Certificate Class in Italian. You've got a background in that language and the Head's desperate."

"How come the situation's become so desperate so suddenly? Who was taking the class and what happened to him?" I asked.

"An Italian missionary - but his order transferred him up north," was the prompt reply.

So. it came about, amid fervent assurances it would only be a temporary assignment, we set off on the 24-hour train and road journey to Kongwa via Mpapwa. Within two or three months at the most, a house and a suitable job would be found in the capital. Such were the sworn declarations of the two bureaucrats.


In looks, Kongwa School resembled no other school I had ever seen and I had seen and been in many in several countries.
Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa School
It consisted of dozens cf structures of different shapes and sizes, scattered over a more or less rectangular area, nearly three miles by one. Most of the Ground Nuts' Scheme buildings within the perimeter had been put to some use. Erstwhile staff houses for childless couples had become small but noisy dormitories. Blocks of flatlets for single folk had been converted into dormitories for the junior school. Offices and houses, with makeshift modifications, became classrooms, workshops and laboratories. Kitchens, pantries, stores and mess rooms remained virtually unaltered from the heydays of the of the Ground Nuts' Scheme. Alas! Those sybaritic times were gone forever. Separation of the sexes was now the order of the day - the boys' mess and dormitories were located at a safe distance from those of the girls so that "n'er the twain would meet", except in the classroom or at scheduled assemblies under the closest supervision.

Tales From The African Bush
Millionaires Row
Staff houses varied from luxurious residences on "Millionaires Row" to termite ridden one roomed dwellings. Yet. just as clothes maketh not the man. so buildings maketh not the school. What counts are the pupils and the staff.

Despite the vigorous claims mooted in Dar that vacant houses were plentiful at Kongwa, we soon learned the truth. There was one, and only one, large enough for our family and it had been empty for several months. Moreover, it lay outside the well-groomed inner perimeter of the school and, consequently, the bush had already set about reclaiming its own. The structure was almost stifled by tall elephant grass, overgrown bushes and dense manyara hedges. From the roadway, only the roof was visible.

The Headmaster, or HM as he was always called, drove us to view the place. The grass from the roadway to the front door had been flattened by the lorry which had delivered the furniture and our baggage. Though the site did look neglected, there was evidence that school staff had been at work. In spite of the fact that he had only received brief warning of our arrival, the bursar had sent the school gardeners to tidy the area. At the rear, they had cleared enough to make it possible to walk from the house to the important out-buildings, the kitchen and the privy. A pathway had also been cleared to the "pipa" - an ingenious contraption to heat bath water.

When we first sighted it, our five-year old Paul shouted.

"Look Daddy! We've got a gun in our garden."

"Don't be so daft!" retorted his six-year old brother, Francis ."That's no gun!"

As we drew closer, we were able to make out a forty-four gallon drum with a length of metal piping protruding, at an angle, from the top. This tube really did look like a mortar barrel. Inlet and outlet taps had been welded into the sides of the drum and the whole apparatus mounted on a sort of brick barbecue. Locally, it was called "pipa". It burned brushwood - kuni. in the local lingo. Amazingly, this device never failed to provide us with all the hot water we needed, at least, when water was available.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa House
Immediately, the HM had shown us our new abode, he deemed it diplomatic to leave us to fend for ourselves. As he slid into his car, he made an official pronouncement,

"Report to me in my office at seven-thirty in the morning."

Then his car disappeared into the bush as it raised a cloud of red dust. We quickly about turned to face the prospect of turning the house into a home.

There was so much to do we just didn't know where to start. The bursar's men had obviously made a cursory sweep of the floors. There remained, however, thick layers of reddish dust on the window sills, inside cupboards and wardrobes and, on the verandah, it was deep enough for a shoe to leave a distinctive depression. Of course by then, on the cardinal-red concrete floors a fresh film was clearly visible.

Milka is a person who can't stand a speck of dust. Yet, the red dust of Kongwa nearly got the better of her. Over the period we lived there, she battled daily, sweeping, cleaning, scrubbing and washing to keep the menace under control.

White shirt and shorts were compulsory day-time clothing for the male staff and white was a conspicuous colour in the school uniform for both girls and boys. Like many other Kongwa housewives. Milka prided herself on the whiteness of her "whites" but suffered a rude awakening on a visit to Dar when she realised her "whites" had a distinct, dirty, ruddy-muddy hue.

Everyone wondered how the dust penetrated into every nook and cranny, even though every known hole was plugged. We soon learned to keep the windows (with cellophane not glass panes) closed. We opened and closed doors as quickly as possible. Milka made pads to block the gaps at the bottom of all doors. These helped to reduce the dust but also impeded the entrance of eager members of Insecta and Reptilia.

However, on this first day we were only conscious of the dust. With the three children lending a hand, we washed out the whole house. Paul and Francis kept us well supplied with buckets of hot water. For them, it was fun, looking for brushwood to keep the fire under the "pipa" alive. They carefully kept checking the water level in the drum to make sure it wouldn't run dry.

Two of the teachers' wives also helped, whilst a third went off to purchase some basic groceries. Then we started unpacking and. by late afternoon, the contents of the crates had been neatly positioned in clean cupboards, drawers, wardrobes and storerooms. The kitchen too was overhauled and lost its derelict look. At least, every square inch had been scrubbed bare.

Twilight in the tropics is short and night drops with little warning. By the time Milka realised it was meal time, the sun was low on the horizon. Hastily she prepared some cold dishes and carried them on a tray from the kitchen. As Francis held the house door open, he let out an unearthly yell.

"Look out! A snake!"

Her foot had just missed it. Joan, Paul and I rushed out.

Even in the semi-darkness, I recognised it as a venomous puff adder, usually very lethargic unless frightened or provoked. This one must have felt no fear because it wriggled ever so slowly towards the pile of brushwood which the two boys had collected. There the reptile quickly blended in with the stunted branches. In that crepuscular gloom, the only sign of its existence was a feeble reflection from its lidless eyes. I had to restrain the boys from dismantling the pile to catch it. This was their first encounter with a snake outside the showcases of a zoo. Alas! They knew little about the lore of the bush.

After the meal, the two boys and myself watched the woodpile, while Milka carried the dirty dishes to the kitchen. As we strained our eyes, we saw the adder slither from its hidyhole to crisscross back over its earlier tracks. Lightning may never strike the same place twice but, strangely, snakes can take a route they have previously traversed. With time we gleaned a wealth of knowledge about snakes, their habits and their unpredictability. They do turn up in the most unexpected places and at the most unlikely times.

That same evening, while Milka was busy in the kitchen. I went out to stoke the 'pipa'. Though almost pitch black, with only a glimmer of red from the embers of the pipa's hearth as a guide, I found all in order and knew we would have sufficient bath water that evening. Much against their will. Paul and Francis had taken their baths before being allowed at table. They both considered baths a waste of time. Threats were used - that is to say, no bath, no food.

As I stepped back, I felt a queer sensation that something was brushing against my shoe. I froze, not because that was the correct thing to do but simply because of fear of the unknown. Funnily, I suspected it was the same puff adder. I recovered quickly, grabbed a stick and lashed out at where I thought the reptile should be. At the same time. I yelled to Milka to bring the axe.

Milka deems it a sin to take the life of any of God's creatures so she just came to see what I was fussing about. Of course, she couldn't see anything in that blackness and, unhusbandlike, I shouted at her in not very endearing terms. I rushed to get the axe myself and groped my way back with only a feeble glimmer from a candle in the kitchen to help me. I caught a glimpse of a very slender snake squirming in great haste but getting nowhere in a hurry. A second later it was out of sight but. nevertheless. I struck with all my might.

The commotion gave a good excuse for the kids to escape from bed. They were quickly around me and firing all sorts of questions. Unsure of what else lurked in the vicinity, I ordered everyone back into the house where, in the flickering candlelight, Paul spotted blood on my leg. "That snake bit you." he said, in a very dogmatic tone.

"It couldn't have. There's no pain." I retorted.

Yet, closer examination revealed two incisions half an inch wide and about the same distance apart. Then our self-confident Paul voiced his opinion again.

"It did bite you, dad. But we'll know for sure in twenty minutes because by then you'll be dead."

At daybreak, still very much alive and full of curiosity, I went to investigate. The others tripped after me. All we found was the head, still joined to some vertebrae, of what had once been a night adder. We reckoned that some hungry hyena had eaten the rear end but had been wise enough to leave the poison bags alone.


After a rushed breakfast. I half ran, half walked the mile and half to the HM's Office for my initiation into the wonders and mysteries of Saint George's School, Kongwa. I was curious, even eager to meet the staff and those students who were to be my proteges.

Before twenty to eight, I was in front of my first class and before the day was out. I was well versed in the duties and responsibilities of a master in an English-type Public School in the heart of Africa.

Evening was well advanced before I made it back home. My better half, as is wont with many wives with over boisterous children, wanted to let off a little steam. She began to give a resume of her day's events - a few minor incidents - she called them.

Early in the day. she discovered that the meat and other foodstuffs, purchased the previous day for us by Pamela Shuttleworth had disappeared from the meatsafe. On closer inspection, she saw the wire mesh had been ripped from it's moorings. I suggested rats were the culprits but she pooh-poohed the idea. Yet. in due course, we became better acquainted with these rodents, learned how strong and wily they were and how their tenacious teeth could wreck havoc with iron mesh and other objects as well.

During the rest of the day, Milka had come across two turbid serpents, one curled up on the corridor carpet and the other on a bedside rug. As it is against her principles to disturb God's creatures, she just went about her chores and left them in peace. When the boys got back from school, God's creatures quickly departed, one through a doorway, the other through an open window. In time, many such visitors found their way inside the home before Milka's mania for open doors and windows was eventually curbed.

Settling in was certainly more exacting and exciting than we had bargained for.

Chapter Two: Oh! To Be A Piper!
The second night passed peacefully enough except for one trifling disruption. A brazen rat ran across Milka's face. Even I, the heaviest of sleepers, woke up, jumped out of bed, grabbed the nearest weapon, a slipper, and chased the intruder around the room. One moment the rat was on the bed. next on the bedside table, a split-second later on the dresser, then back on the bed before leaping to the floor. Though I kept swiping furiously, it was always one move ahead. Undoubtedly, the din should have awakened the dead, yet the children, in nearby rooms, slept on. The African air must have tired them out.

Suddenly, the contest was over. The rat, in its wild dashes, jumped once more on to the dresser, bounded to the top of the wardrobe whence it leapt on to a narrow ledge before abruptly vanishing through a hole in the mosquito gauze. Milka switched off the bedside light and we resumed our slumbers.

One blessing did result from the incident. Milka consented to an anti-rodent campaign. Rodents are a great attraction to snakes. My mind reasoned that if we got rid of the rodents then the snakes would move elsewhere. Thus, two irritating problems would be resolved. Metaphorically speaking, one pill would kill two ills. I suspected that rats, voles and other rodents had their nest in the thick grass and I reckoned if I destroyed the grass, our troubles would be over.

Next morning, Milka hired a gardener cum general factotum. His first task was to cut grass. What he used merited not the name scythe although it was a piece of curved iron, nicknamed 'slasher'. So Petrus spent his inaugural day slashing, hacking then stacking elephant grass.

Saturday was my first day shorn of school chores. The HM was kind enough to exclude my name from the duty masters' roster for my first week-end. Consequently, I was able to help Petrus in his slashing operations, something new for me.

Soon, the novelty wore off. The rhythmic movements became too monotonous so my mind switched to devising other methods, less laborious. The rains were almost over. In fact, it had not rained for several days and the grass was bone-dry. Burning would save time and toil. Still, I was worried. The house and outbuildings were all of wood, impregnated with an inflammable preservative. Consequently, we continued clearing more land until I deemed we had adequate firebreaks.

The grounds, as originally laid out. were roughly triangular in shape and over an acre in size. They were bounded on two sides by earthen roads, barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. The third road, once a main thoroughfare, had been reduced to a narrow bush path and, by then, infrequently used. Nevertheless, I viewed these three clearings as satisfactory gaps to prevent any fires spreading to surrounding bush.

The day was calm with no signs of breeze. Petrus stationed himself at the junction of the two roadways and lit the grass nearby. I waited till the fire caught, then rushed to my own position near the bush path. Initially there was much smoke and few flames. Before long a tiny fieldmouse dashed out and I sensed the plan was going to work. Within seconds, I was overwhelmed by scurrying creatures and beat a hasty retreat to the wider roadway, where I just stood and gaped. Myriads of small rodents rushed from the burning triangle. Even the Pied Piper of Hamelin wouldn't have believed it. As I gaped, three snakes slithered across the track at an astounding speed. The plan was living up to expectations.

The following day, when tidying up, Petrus found the skeletons of those reptiles and rodents too sluggish to escape the holocaust.

Little by little, I was learning something of the mammalian and reptilian vertebrates of East Africa.


Fire-raising I found facile. Yet before an hour was over, I had to learn to fire-fight.

I had forgotten that rising hot air is replaced by cool air. Within minutes I sensed turbulence all around as miniature tornadoes were set in motion. Smoke and flames soon swirled to great heights. Nimbly, the fire jumped across my theoretical firebreaks. Even the evergreen manyara hedges appeared to burn furiously. As I fluttered around trying to douse smaller fires by wildly swinging my slasher, I kept yelling for Petrus. Moments later, he leisurely rolled up. completely unperturbed, unlike myself who was visibly apprehensive as the fire was rapidly spreading through the uncleared bush. I imagined the inferno quickly engulfing the whole of Kongwa and then thought of the dire consequences I would have to face. When I woke with a jolt, I knew I had to get help.

The nearest telephone was in the bursar's house, a few hundred yards away, and the fire was heading that way.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa School
"If he isn't at home, he'll be at school and I can phone him there. He's got a work force at his disposal." I mused.

I rushed ahead of the fire and yelled his name when I reached the verandah. His wife, Ellen, came out to see what all the fuss was about.

"Look! Ellen! Over there! The fire's heading this way. Can you get Ernie to do something?"

Nonchalantly, she stepped inside and signalled me to follow to the phone. Casually, she picked up the receiver, waited for the operator to respond and then asked for Ernie.

"Hello Ernie! Can you send a couple of boys around? Joe's here... says the bush all around is ablaze... he's quite agitated... thinks it'll soon get here."

"OK!" I heard Ernie answer, "I'll send Erasmus."

"Like a cup of tea. Joe?" Ellen asked unexpectedly.

"What!" thought I, "At a time like this? The lass must be barmy!"

"Thanks, Ellen!" I said. "I'll just get back to see how Petrus is coping."

The school truck or gari as it was called arrived a few minutes later. From the cab emerged Erasmus, a cultured and dignified Mchagga. Following his orders, a dozen workmen eased their way over the tail gate and sides. Unhurriedly, they cut branches from nearby bushes as I watched anxiously, hoping they would get a move on. They didn't. They just ambled towards the blazing bush. Then, with relaxed rhythmic swings, they swatted the flames. Within no time, they had the flaming area encircled and confined the conflagration to the tract already alight. Then they waited until the fire had almost spent itself, with only the odd puff of smoke to be seen, before leaving. As I looked from a distance, I saw the skyline had changed. Our house was now visible.

One thing I did learn was that the locals knew how to live with bush fires. In due course, I found out they never worry until a building is actually threatened!

Over the years, we witnessed many bush fires and, at night, they made a magnificent sight. In the mountains around, the fires would creep upwards at a surprising speed, devouring all before them and, as I watched. I often said to myself.

"What a terrible waste of fine hardwoods and firewood!"

Paul's assessment was somewhat different. He summed up his impressions briefly.

"In Europe, there are all those beautiful fires engines and so few fires. Here, in Africa, all those beautiful fires and so few fire engines."

If only I had been a piper. I need never have started that fire! But then I would never have learned as much as I did!

Chapter Three
More teething troubles lay ahead. In a vivid fashion, we were to learn that all that splatters is not fat!

When we moved into this remote residence of ours, we were unaware that it had been abandoned months earlier mainly because the latrine needed emptying and the Public Works Department (usually shortened to PWD) had been unable to provide this service. The pump of the slurry tanker was out of order.

To be frank, we did notice strange odours when we first moved in. We knew full well that the sights and sounds of Eastern Africa would be unlike those elsewhere and suspected the smells would differ too. After all, we had had experience of unusual and exotic aromas in Northern Africa and in the Middle East and did not think these new ones out of the ordinary.

However, some days later we observed a slow-moving, revolting seepage exuding from a crack in the concrete base of 'our little wooden outhouse'. In addition, we noticed thousands of healthy looking white maggots swarming in and around the ooze.

At the first opportunity, I rushed to the PWD to make a formal request in quintuplicate for urgent action. Under the heading 'Repairs Requested', I wrote 'Immediate Evacuation of the Privy'. As he picked up the forms, the foreman took a casual glance at them.

"Sorry." he began, "the pump on the tanker isn't working but we've got the parts on order. In fact, they've been on order for months. As soon as they come, we'll have the pump fixed. Your house is the first on the waiting list."

"Very well," I muttered, more cheerfully than I really felt, "but have you any idea how long that will be? You've waited months already. Can't you get out a hastener?"

"We've done that... several times. Still, I don't think it will be long... perhaps another week or ten days," was his not very encouraging answer.

The week ended... ten days passed by... and the months even slipped by. The stench did not become any pleasanter. As for the maggots, they grew in size and proliferated in numbers.

Every cloud has a silver lining. At least Milka thought so one morning. As she looked up at a solitary cloud in an otherwise celestial blue sky, she heard a rumbling in the distance. She cast her eyes downward and stared in the direction of the rolling reverberations. The noise grew in intensity and finally a tanker hove in sight. Now, I quote from my wife's version of events.

"When the tanker pulled up, five attendants slithered from the top at the same time as the driver and his mate got down from the cab. Four of the crew grabbed a long flexible hose housed on one side of the chassis and connected it to a similar hose on the other side. They dragged the extended hose to the toilet and, for several minutes, dangled one end over the opening before letting it slide inside. The other end was leisurely connected to the intake of the rebuilt pump. As five workmen stood idly by, with Milka watching from a distance and ail waiting for the pump to go into action, the driver climbed into his cab and started the engine. For what seemed an eternity, nothing happened. However, after several minutes, a grumbling sound like distant thunder was heard. The pump was about to work... and work it did... but. instead of sucking, it blew.

Once the confusion subsided and the toll taken, it was seen {and smelt too) that five attendants, the interior of the latrine, the rear portion of the house including the roof, the outside wall, three windows and one door, as well as a large section of the garden, were blanketed with slurry.

That week, at many coffee parties in Kongwa, the event was the topic of conversation. Our family became the butt of many jokes. Everyone had a good laugh. We deemed it tactful to join in. Yet no amount of chortling could remove all the sickly sludge nor dissipate those pungent odours which lingered on and on. For many weeks, when Mother Nature called, the children and I relied on the school's sanitary system whilst Milka depended on the goodwill of our nearest neighbours.

Fortunately, the short rains were not too long in coming. They cleansed what Milka had been unable to wash and obliterate. The air around became sweeter. Our embarrassment when visitors arrived diminished and we no longer had to proffer poignant excuses. Bush life returned to normal.


Yet, even before the rains arrived, it had dawned on the foreman at PWD that the possibility of ever having the tanker pump function normally was indeed remote. One day, he braved it to the house. No doubt the PWD did not stock gas masks so he held a huge hankie to his nose. He blurted out. half choking, half vomiting.

"Mem... sahib! Don't... know... when... we'll... get... that... pump fixed."

"You should have done it months ago," grumbled a not too happy Milka. who rarely gets ruffled but was by then fed up with the obnoxious odours.

"Let's... get around... to the... other side... of the... house!" he mumbled, hoping that there the stench would not be so overpowering.

In a less disjointed manner, he continued,

"I've got good news for you."

"And what is this good news?" exclaimed Milka.

'The Provincial Engineer has authorised me to build you a new 'choo'," he added, with a glint of a grin on his normally poker face. ('Choo' is the Kiswashili word for toilet and is widely used by Europeans instead of the English word or any of its synonyms.)

"And when will you be starting?" demanded a doubting Milka, who, by then, had realized that time, in Africa, had different connotations to her own.

"Oh! Soon." he promised, "I'll even come myself to show the workers what to do."

Milka buried the news in the back of her mind but a promise is a promise and, against all expectations, the foreman did turn up one morning. Behind him came his retinue. Milka counted some twenty in his labour force. Their tools totalled two picks, three spades and one wheel barrow.

For many days, those poor labourers struggled and strove. Alas! The earth was still bone dry despite the short rains which never penetrated very far - harder and more compact than many concretes. The intense heat also made work even more difficult so our poor pit diggers found the going really tough.

Every afternoon, when I returned home for a brief break, I examined the hole to see how much deeper it was. Though it was always a little less shallow, I knew it would be many a day before it would be deep enough.

On one occasion, as I neared the house, I noticed all the workers rushing headlong towards me and wondered why they were after my blood. After all, I was always courteous towards them and always stopped to chat. However, when the first one just veered past me, I knew I was not their target. The others, too, just shot past as though all the demons from hell were wielding red hot pokers behind them. One mumbled something but I could not make out what he said.

"Oh dear!" I mused, "Whatever can the matter be? Perhaps some potent voodoo has incited them because the only time they ever run is on payday when they head for the Bursar's office and this isn't that day."

Tales From The African Bush
Hooded Cobra
As I neared the house door. I saw the answer. The reason for the stampede was an inky coloured snake, at that moment sneaking up the house steps. Crabbing one of the workmen's spades, I laid the blade lightly about half way along the serpent's back. My attitude towards reptiles had mellowed and I no longer killed them indiscriminately. I preferred to study them. Only those which made it inside the house did I slay.

Even to this very day. I am hazy as to exactly what happened but what did happen did so much too quickly. I have a vague recollection of sighting a bloated snake's head, with two big round lenses, swing around at lightning speed. My mind echoed the Italian words 'Dagli occhiali! Dagli occhiali!' (with spectacles - the Italians name a hooded cobra a viper that wears spectacles). My vision blurred. Without being really aware, I must have pushed my foot down very hard on the spade, splitting the serpent in two. Then automatically. I jerked the spade and thrust it just behind the reptile's head to prevent any more threatening movements. With one hand, I flicked off my spectacles, splattered with a whitish liquid. I saw the tail end of my victim still waltzing around and around. By then the deflated hood was just a jet black band below the actual head. This confirmed that the ophidian creature was indeed a species of hooded cobra, known locally as a boomslang.

Luckily my spectacles had saved me from being blinded yet had not escaped damage themselves. After washing away the whitish spittle, I noticed both lenses were heavily pitted. No doubt, since those faraway days, some innovative researcher will have analysed the salivery secretion of the boomslang and determined it's chemical reaction with spectacle lenses.

Despite this brief interruption, the excavation work continued apace. In due course, the foreman formally declared the long drop deep enough. Work soon began on the new, little wooden house. In time, it too was completed.

Finally, the great day arrived when the brand new "choo" became operational. The aperture of the abandoned "choo" was ceremoniously blocked by concrete whilst the foreman and most of his crew looked on. The seat was carefully battened down; the door was securely fastened by 6 inch nails. No more would guests be welcome there. The maggots no longer had an exit. Yet, in one way we were sad. After all, the old "choo" had provided much mirth and merriment for the folks of Kongwa. The malodour did die down but never really disappeared completely. We were left with a permanent nasal reminder of bygone tribulations.


The engineering exploits of the PWD were not confined solely to the provision of fresh choos. Its staff were water engineers as well. In many parts of Africa, maintaining constant supplies of water causes many headaches. In Kongwa, our supply came from boreholes, sunk some ten miles away on the far side of the village of Sagara. Such snags as pumps breaking down and conduits being cut to provide irrigation for parched plots and drinks for thirsty tribesmen and their equally thirsty cattle kept cropping up with constant frequency. Nevertheless, such trivial incidents did not deter our stalwarts of the PWD. They tackled the problems with gusto and sooner or later our water would flow again. In the meantime, there would be much cursing and grumbling about the hardships by the folk at large who viewed the efforts of cur PWD comrades with utter scorn. In fact, many locals were not too civil to the civil engineers.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa Club Pool
During those periods when no water at all was available, the swimming pool at the club became more popular than usual. It replaced the bathtub at home. Alas, when the water shortage lasted too long, the pool's pump and the sterilization plant were greatly overworked. The water in the pool lost it's bluish tinge and acquired a strong brackish odour. Consequently, when the club members were imbibing quite expensive beer to prevent dehydration, the topic of conversation always centred on when the water supply would be restored.

One exceptionally lengthy period of drought stands out vividly in my mind. It lasted over three weeks. By the beginning of the second week, our good folk at the PWD had procured a water tanker. Of course, rumours flew around that it was the slurry tanker back in service. Be that as it may, this tanker did deliver to every home, to the schools, and to the hospital a fluid. No, it was not slurry even though it did look disgusting.

At home, Milka insisted on having the 'pipa', the bath and all sorts of other containers filled. This supply was supposed to last the two full days until the the tanker could return. As hinted earlier, the liquid was not exactly limpid. It seemed to contain more mud than water. However, when left overnight to settle, it was easy to skim off a clearer fluid suitable for use in the kitchen.

At this point it behoves me to mention that there had been a recent addition to the family - a real bush baby, because she was born in Kongwa Hospital, in the middle of bush country. She was being weaned on a bottle - on a milk one - not like a medical officer we knew - on a whisky bottle. Consequently, Milka needed a steady reserve of boiled and filtered water. When water flow was normal, no problem arose. However, after three weeks of squeezing water out of mud, problems loomed and nerves frayed. The cataclysmic moment was nigh. Not a single drop of water was left in the house; the bath, the pipa, the filter, and every other container in the house were bone dry. To cap everything, because we had not seen the tanker in three days, rumours circulated that day that the piston on the tanker's pump had made its final thrust.

It was nearing time for the baby's evening feed. We heard her stirring in her cot. Her first call was a weak whimper. The next increased in intensity. Within minutes. Milka, the other kids, and I listened helplessly to a crescendo of whines and howls, ail indicating deadly distress. Our older children harkened in silence but we understood how distraught and dehydrated they too felt. Milka pierced me with her eyes, yet uttered not a word I stood up and addressed the inert audience.

"All right! I'll take some bottles and see what I can scrounge."

Whilst I was bustling in the kitchen collecting bottles, strange noises erupted from the surface pipes leading to both the pipa and the bath. Up till then, miracles had never been known in Kongwa. Yet. at that moment, we were witnessing one. From the bathroom tap there dribbled, then sploshed a strange reddish melange. Milka never waited for the mud to settle. She scooped up sufficient to half-fill a pan then rushed to place it on the kuni stove. As soon as the liquid boiled, she mixed the feed then cooled it down with the only coolant we had - our last bottle of beer, which she had poured into another pan. So Katie got her infant food, more reddish than white, but she didn't seem to mind. The wailing ceased and peace reigned once more in the Sweeney household. The PWD had done it again - yet people still moaned and groaned about the petty hardships endured in that geographical centre of Tanganyika.

There were other areas too where the PWD had jobs to do. They provided electrical services and had problems galore. They often had to improvise because they were always so impoverished through lack of funds, yet they tackled these problems with guile and gusto.

As far as our household was concerned, it only enjoyed adequate electrical services during school vacations. During term time, we were always bedevilled by power cuts. Unfortunately, our house was on a different supply cable to those for the hospital and the schools. Understandably, these latter had priority.

Every day, until about half past eight in the evening, we just forgot about electricity. For the fridge, we used paraffin (kerosene); for lighting, we used candles and hurricane lamps. However, once work in the school kitchens and messes ceased, the power drain was sufficiently reduced to provide current to blacked out residences. Three diesel generators did the job but, when one broke down, we gave up hope until half-ten, at which time the clarion called throughout the school dormitories; their lights went out; a wall switch was pulled in the PWD generating station and we and other unfortunates then had light.

Although electrical rates were exorbitant, our bills were never high during term time, yet we paid them promptly, even though we never thought we had had much value for the money. What we saved on electricity, we wasted on candles, hurricane lamps, and kerosene.

Consequently, because of much close work in the dark, my eyes became marred; we invested in a pressure lamp, so I could keep up with my onerous marking and lesson preps.

Alas! as was to be expected and, despite all their valiant efforts, our electrical experts could never prevent all three generators from giving up the ghost at the same time. Then, it was dinner by candle light in all school messes and gloom everywhere else. For the poor cooks cooking a four course meal in dim light was no mean task. No doubt, when candle grease dripped into their pots they fervently hoped it would make the meal more palatable.

As for the pupils, they found power cuts on weekdays were blessings in disguise, for preps had to be cancelled. However, on Saturdays; the big event of the week, film shows, too were cancelled, much to everyone's regret. Of course, for the boys with girlfriends and vice versa, blackouts provided good cover. The chances of being caught cuddling and kissing by the duty teachers were very slight indeed.

Unfortunately, even the hospital suffered when all power failed. On such occasions, I used to feel very sorry for the overworked staff, tackling emergency operations with leaking hurricane lamps and dripping candles, poised precariously over hapless patients.

Such times were reminders that we were certainly on the Dark Continent, yet even in the dark, life in Kongwa had it's lighter side.

Chapter Four: An Honest Society
During those balmy, euphoric days in Kongwa, burglaries and other felonies were virtually unknown. Our house had three outside doors, yet we never had a key for any and it never occurred to us that we should lock up. Though we lost things through thefts, the culprit was not a human but a kleptomaniacal monkey - of it, more later.

On the other hand, one of the school matrons was not so lucky. Late one sultry evening, Kirtsy, as we'll call her, was relaxing in her bathtub after a difficult day's work and a frustrating evening. It had been a hard task to cajole her ebullient charges to bed down for the night. Even though the "lights out" call had reverberated much earlier, the wee devils still had sufficient energy to engage in pillow fights and other acts of wanton. Eventually, her efforts met with success, after which, she staggered back exhausted to her billet.

Soon the warm water was loosening up those taut muscles whilst her overwrought brain was burying the tensions of the day. As she slowly sipped her tranquillising nightcap, she almost fell asleep. Yet even as she dozed, she imagined she heard a strange sound emanating from the adjoining bedroom. She woke up from her comatose state as the noise increased in intensity and took on various tones.

Then, with a sudden jerk, she jumped out of the bath and dashed into the bedroom. Though there was only a glimmer of light, she quickly espied an intruder riling her chest of drawers. His reaction was to bolt for the door; hers was to capture him to teach him an unforgettable lesson.

Kitsy was a strapping six-footer who meant to get her man. For what seemed ages, she chased him round and round the bedroom, leaping over the bed. bumping into and knocking down several pieces of furniture. On one occasion when she skidded on the bedside rug, her prey reached the sitting room with the huntress just a split second behind.

The pursuit continued. Chairs, tables, and book shelves fell like skittles. The room was soon a shambles. At one point, he reached the outside door. As he struggled with the knob, she made a grab to pin his arms. Much to her surprise and disgust, her hands just slithered from the top of his shoulders to below his girth. He had smeared his naked body with a very greasy salve. His sweaty, slippery hand just slid round and round the knob. Suddenly. Kirtsy burst out laughing as the thought flashed through her mind of what interpretation her prude mother would give to seeing her darling daughter, in the nude, making thrusts at a naked man.

This unexpected explosion of hilarity lasted long enough for the aspiring burglar to rush back to the bedroom window and dive back through the hole in the mesh which he had carefully cut some minutes earlier to make his entry. Thus the honour of that honest society was saved that night. The thief didn't steal a thing.


Alas! There was one series of petty felonies which caused perplexing problems - the pilfering of postage stamps. In those days, unfranked stamps, provided there was the minimum quantity, could be sold back to the Post Office and hence they had intrinsic value.

The schoolchildren, whether they agreed or not, were compelled to write weekly letters home. The period set aside for them to do so was immediately after the last church services. The duty master and the duty mistress made certain that the youngsters did. Parents needed weekly assurances that all was well with their progeny.

Several weeks of one semester had slipped by when, within a span of a few days, house masters and mistresses, the Headmistress of the junior school and even the HM himself were inundated with letters, telegrams, and telephone calls. Some parents from the nearest town, Idodoma, even dared to stop by at the school. Something serious was in the wind, for parents were not allowed to visit the school during term time, unless a serous crisis, involving their offspring had arisen. The staff soon concluded that the parents had driven themselves demented simply because they had had no news from their beloved Johnnies and Jennies and so ons since the latter had left home.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa Post Office
Hastily, the HM summoned a meeting. Quickly, he learned that all the little dearies had dutifully written home every Sunday. Wisely, he confirmed that all the envelopes had been correctly stamped and deposited at the Kongwa post office. Tactfully, he sent an emissary to question the local Postmaster. Yet this official was adamant. He swore that he, personally, always bagged the mail and handed the sealed mail bags into the custody of the driver of the first available bus.

So the mystery of the missing mail still remained unsolved. Eventually, after studying all the information he had gleaned, the HM sought help from the Department of Education in Dar and, in turn, they consulted the Head Postmaster. He instituted an investigation but it never uncovered the whereabouts of the missing correspondence. Yet, soon afterwards, parents began receiving the customary letters from their offspring and the mystery disappeared into oblivion. Months later, during the heavy rains, a sewer overflowed and flooded the main tarmac road. During their repair work. PWD staff found a huge inspection chamber and a long section of pipe stuffed with envelopes, all with postage stamps missing. So. even if the letters weren't dirty when they were written, they certainly were when they were found.

Not long afterwards, a chastened postal official left Kongwa for a "Destination Unknown"!


In those days, so engrossed were we in day-to-day problems, we did not appreciate our good fortune in living in an environment almost free from misdemeanours. If we ignore the rodents, mentioned earlier, our only troublesome thief was a dastard, little monkey.

Tales From The African Bush
Junior Boarding Houses
My first encounter with this varmint was shortly after our arrival in Utopia when I went to see the Headmistress to seek admission to the junior school for Francis and Paul. Dressed in formal daytime dress, that is to say, white, open-necked shirt, white shorts, white stockings and black shoes, I reached the imposing steps leading to the residence of Pearl, the said Headmistress. Hers was the end flatlet of a long terrace. The other flatlets had been converted into dormitories for the vivacious junior school boys who needed to be kept under constant surveillance by an exceptionally active senior member of staff.

When I reached the bottom step. Pearl was seated on the uppermost while her imitative monkey was lounging nearby. To fully absorb the mise-en-scene, I mounted the steps ever so slowly and as I neared the top, I courteously greeted the future mentor of my two sons and introduced myself.

However, the monkey must have felt neglected because I hadn't greeted it so decided to introduce itself. With one huge bound, he caught me by surprise, clasping me in an iron grip around the waist. Then, whether it was the excitement of meeting a character like myself or just fear of the unknown, I know not and never shall. The erstwhile docile creature suddenly ejected the food it had ingested plus what it had digested not to mention the liquid it had imbibed over my clean, new clothes. A very embarrassed Pearl straightaway pointed to her flatlet door, "The bathroom's just up that next flight of stairs."

There, I carried out remedial ablutions before scurrying home to soak in a clean, warm bath, into which I poured a half-bottle of strong Dettol. When I climbed out. I cast in the stained, contaminated whites and added, for special measure, a packet of sweet-smelling soap flakes.

Many months elapsed ere I met again that mammal of the Primates. Now, I can no longer recall nor have any desire to do so the many endearing names that Pearl gave it because I called it by other names that were not so delightful.

Much to my dismay, it became a neighbour of ours. It came to pass that a new lady teacher arrived for the junior school, whereupon Pearl loudly announced to all and sundry that she had had enough of living in close proximity to a bunch of boisterous boys and being on duty 24 hours a day. So she decided her flatlet would go to the newcomer and she would move into the house especially reconditioned for the new teacher. This house just happened to be the nearest to our own. Of course, the mammal moved in with her.

Alas! when it was not tied up. it spent more time, around, on top and inside our house than it did with its owner. It was agile, spirited and cunning. In addition, it was uncouth. Rarely, could an outside door be opened before the vile beast bounced from nowhere and wrought havoc in our home, grabbing anything within its reach, then dropping it before snatching something else. Helplessly, we tried to coax it to surrender its booty but always in vain. Instead, it would vault from one piece of furniture to another, leaving devastation in its wake. Yet Milka frowned on me whenever I threw at it the bric-a-brac it had just broken.

"Leave the poor little thing alone!" she would squeal then deftly she would open a window or a door as the devil slyly disappeared, still clutching a stolen treasure. All the while, the arrogant animal would defiantly scream vicious clucking sounds of sheer contempt.

On occasions it managed to get into the bedroom where our bush baby lay in her cot. There the brazen beast would jump up and down on top of the baby and evade all efforts to capture it. On one memorable occasion, before it got into the bedroom with a tomato, it managed to get into the kitchen just as Petrus was bringing in the kuni. Within a split-second, it discovered a basket of tomatoes but when Milka ordered it out, it refused to leave. Instead, It picked up one tomato after another and spat them in Milka's face. I think it was this incident that caused Milka to cease to look on the fiend through rose-coloured spectacles.

One Christmas day, we had a number of guests to lunch. During the post-dessert, period when coffee and liqueurs were being served, the imp put in an appearance. Within seconds, cups and glasses were strewn across the floor. A dozen hands lashed out to grab the menace. For once, Milka raised no objection. I grabbed the nearest weapon. It just happened to be Francis' Christmas present - a cricket bat. I dashed outside, guessing correctly that it would escape by the nearest window. As it leaped from the sill to the roof, I lashed out. Though I caught the tip of its tail, it never whimpered. The bat shattered and it was Francis who whimpered.

For months we endured this nerve-racking affliction. Milka never wanted me to complain to Pearl but, of course I did. Afterwards, she kept it chained up most of the time and we enjoyed a measure of peace. Yet, every once in a while, her cook would untie its chain and the havoc would begin again.

Eventually Pearl was posted elsewhere but when she departed, unbeknown to anyone, she callously left the imp chained up. We guessed when we heard its howls for food. Naturally, Milka took pity on him and induced me to take over a bowl of food, no doubt, expecting me to become more acquainted with and more tolerant of the beast. In due course, it began to look upon me with less scorn. Sometimes, I unchained him and allowed him to play nearby.

After a few weeks, he suddenly began to fret and took to hiding underneath the eaves, completely ignoring his food. Then, one day, Denys, a fellow master, and myself tried to cajole him to come down and eat. He refused. So we borrowed ladders and torches and climbed up to peer. There he lay amid his loot. Old Fagan's storehouse never held as much. I recognised many of our own lost possessions and certain items from Pearl's lounge. Yet, there was much more besides. When I examined the electric wiring, I just shuddered. It had all been uprooted from its anchors and chewed up in dozens of places. How the imp had not been electrocuted or the house burnt down remain mysteries to this day.

Denys and I discussed our prankster's future and decided he might be better off with his own kind even though we had heard monkeys in the wild do not take kindly to those tainted by human contact. With an especially dainty delicacy we enticed him down and on to the back seat of my car. Denys kept the chain sufficiently shortened so he couldn't interfere with my driving. Then we headed for a monkey colony we knew near Mpapwa. Once there, he refused to budge. We had to drag him out by the chain. When we released him. he just sat down by the road. The fellow members of his race suddenly stopped chattering and, from their perches, they stared mockingly at the shivering scallywag. He looked so forlorn and miserable that even Denys and I were touched. I could have sworn tears were rolling down his cheeks.

Nevertheless, we climbed back into the car. I switched on the engine, engaged first gear and slowly moved off, still eyeing that doleful countenance through the mirror. Then abruptly, with an Olympic type leap, he was on the car roof.

"Oh! Denys!" I muttered, "If he's still on top when we get back, we'll have to find him a home."

However, we had forgotten the car windows were open. In that almost perpetual hot weather, no one ever bothered to close car windows. With a fleeting double somersault, our active athlete was back on the rear seat.

"Look Round! Joe!" yelled Denys.

When I did so, I saw the insolent pest sitting like a little angel and I wondered what he was thinking. No doubt, it was, "I've done it again. They'll never get the better of me."

When we got back to our house, there were visitors. An early Kongwa resident had dropped in to see Milka. She had brought her younger children with her and when they spotted the monkey, they were ever so thrilled. The rogue too seemed revitalised, whereupon Denys whispered in my ear,

"I think we've found a home for the blighter."

Then he began praising the animal, emphasising what a charming companion he would make for the youngsters. They, in turn, were all for taking him home with them but their mother had other ideas.

"I won't tolerate him in the house." she Insisted because she had already heard many strange stories about the brute. The kids plagued her, beseeched her and promised faithfully to take good care of him. The eldest of the group, over the voices of the others, declared, "I'll take responsibility for him. He'll be no bother at all to you."

After what seemed an age. Hilary relented to the extent that she blurted out, "All right! I'll see what your dad has to say."

After tea, they departed. The kids seemed quite elated. They were certain they could convince Daddy.

Denys and I then sat down for a beer. After all, it was nearly sundowner time. As we sipped, we heard a car coming. Hubert, the Daddy, was all alone in it and immediately joined us for a beer. Denys and I did our best to persuade him the monkey would turn over a new leaf once it was in a household with so many children to amuse him.

"The kids are sure to keep him out of mischief." Denys and I declaimed in unison.

Although not fully persuaded, he did take the beast away. Denys and I felt much more relaxed and treated ourselves to another beer.

Two morning later, in the staff room, we heard the epilogue from Hubert. The evening before, Fatima. the ayah, was bathing the younger children, one after the other. Just when she thought she had finished, someone jumped into the bath. Instinctively, she started soaping the torso. Suddenly, she took a look and screamed in terror. It was our little imp. Immediately, she dropped everything and ran into the kitchen, where, in a shock-ridden voice, she squeaked, "Nakwenda sasahivi! Sipendi kurudi hapapapa, memsahib! ("I'm quitting straight away. I don't want to come back here. Memsahib!")

Then, she dashed through the door and headed home.

Naturally, Hilary was distraught. Fatima had been a good ayah and Hilary was loath to lose her. She sent one of the kids to school to find Daddy and when he arrived she told her tale of woe.

"That monkey's got to go. Fatima's coming back. I just can't manage without her."

Without stopping to reply, Hubert headed for the bathroom. He caught and chained the culprit as it floundered in the tub. Without much ado, he cast the outcast into the boot of his car and set off on the road to Mpapwa. On reaching the monkey colony, he first closed all the car windows and then dragged a very reluctant and subdued animal out of the boot. Next, he undid the chain and quickly jumped back into his seat. Without even one backward glance, he drove straight home.

That was the last we learned of our impish thief.

Fatima took up once more her ministerial duties. Peace reigned again in the home of Hubert and Hilary. The Sweeneys never again lost any possessions and the Society in Kongwa returned to its former state of being honest.

Chapter Five: Teaching Is More Than An Art
Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa Senior School Block
Merely because no mention has yet been made of teaching, it does not imply the educational well-being of the school children was reduced to a minor role. On the contrary, it was of paramount importance.

Many staff members were loaded with heavy time-tables and new arrivals had to prove their mettle before earning any of the teaching plums. Qualifications counted for less than length of service in the school. Consequently, newcomers were encumbered with the more difficult subjects, often outside the scope of their specialisations. This meant more time spent in lesson preparations and marking. However, such experience certainly improved a teacher's adroitness. He or she soon became a Jack-of-all-Trades.

In many ways, I was more fortunate than some of my colleagues. My first lesson every morning was teaching Italian literature for two hours. It was always very pleasurable. The class was the smallest I had ever known - only three Italians, conversant with the spoken language but weak in the written, simply because all their schooling had been in English. Moreover, because of a shortage of classrooms, my class was held in the main staff room where there was a constant supply of coffee to slake our thirsts, parched through continuous talking. After all, I was a great believer in the Socratic method.

Fifteen months later, there were the Cambridge external examinations, after which, there were to be no more congenial Italian classes for me. just because there were no more students for that subject. Furthermore, there were no signs of my returning to Dar to the post to which I had originally been appointed. In any event, the HM was pressing the Department in Dar to allow me to stay, even though I did not relish being saddled with subjects I knew little about. It would have meant too much time needed for preps and marking.

However, luck was on my side. Before the new term started, Percy, the Senior Master, came to see me. He was preparing the new time-tables. Very apologetically, he enquired, "Joe! Would you like to help me out?"

"Certainly, if I can." I answered.

Percy was a charming and jovial gentleman and I would have hated to cause him any problems.

"Would you take the P. E. (Physical Education) for the boys?"

I hesitated. Outwardly. I displayed reluctance. Inwardly. I knew it would reduce my marking load. Mentally, I skimmed through all the P. E. lessons I had had at school and in the Army. I wondered whether I could cope with a subject I had not been trained to teach. Finally, I decided to risk it.

"All right, Percy," I said, "if it will ease your burden."

"Oh! Joe! I am so relieved. I honestly couldn't see who else could take it."

Between then and the return of the schoolchildren I soaked in every book I could lay hands on about the teaching of P. E., knowing full well that Kongwa School had no gymnasium facilities. All classes were conducted out of doors, just like my early Army days. In the event, my lessons must have succeeded because no school boy died of overexertion nor did I collapse of a heart attack, just like a young Army recruit in a squad I was training nearly did when I was conducting drill with the squad wearing gas masks.

The new term also brought sad tidings for the staff. A full-scale Inspection was to be conducted. In those days, 19th Century impressions of inspectors as petty tyrants bent on intimidating teachers still prevailed. So, one bright day, from the weather's point of view, but gloomy from the staff's, the mighty team arrived from Dar. It included all the Section Heads from the Department of Education. The inspectors strutted into classrooms and demanded exercise books, registers, records and schemes of work, lesson preps and all the other paraphernalia which teachers have to keep. The demeanour of these invaders even put the pupils off inspections and so the latter sided with their teachers. They didn't put a foot wrong and did everything impeccably.

At the start of one lesson, two team members turned up at my classroom door. To their great surprise, the room was so overcrowded that there was no space even for them to stand. Hence, they contented themselves by just poking their heads through the windows to watch what transpired inside. It happened to be a French lesson. During the time they watched, no one in the classroom uttered a word other than in French. Afterwards, no member of the team came again to any of my classes, not even to a P. E. display. No doubt, if any had. I would have made them fall in with the pupils and take an active part.

Thus, in the final report not a detrimental word was printed against me. However, that report was never circulated in toto. Instead, teachers were given excerpts in which there were references to themselves. Later, in the staff room, a teacher would sometimes read out titbits about himself or herself and a titter would then run around the company.

One morning, someone announced a new Sports Master should be recruited from overseas. The reason was the then Sports Master was too old and should be given a more academic timetable. As an aside, I mention all sports duties were shared out between all teachers and the Sports Master took no P. E. lessons at all.

In due course, that term came to a cheerful end. As the next term approached, Percy began preparing his time-tables. Certain that I would acquiesce, he came confidently up to me and said ever so softly.

"All right, Joe, for P. E. next term?" "Sorry! Old chap! You must have read the full report. Nothing doing." I declaimed, putting on a serious air.

His head drooped. He looked downhearted. I felt ashamed I had upset him so.

Next time we met. he posed a similar question twice, only to receive the same answers though I would really have preferred to say 'Yes".

Eventually, he blurted out,

"But the HM says you've got to take the P. E.. Joe."

I was still adamant,

"Sorry, Percy, I can't. Surely the HM has read the report as well. That's his job."

"You've got to do it, Joe! You can't defy the HM. He'll report you to Dar."

'You know quite well, Percy, I would if I could."

"I just don't understand. You did it last term."

"I know but it was different then."

"What's different about it? . . . and, just how does the report fit in?"

To calm him. I repeated briefly what I heard about the report.

"We need a new Sports Master, don't we? The one we have is too old, isn't he?"

Then I added with as much emphasis as I could, "And, I am four months older than him!"

Percy conceded the point.

So it was pride that made me renounce the P. E. classes. In their place. I got other subjects involving much more preparation and lots of marking.

In addition to Italian and French, I taught, at one time or another, Mathematics, Geography, Commerce an on one occasion, though with little musical background, Music. Nevertheless, we had our compensations - free periods and coffee and tea breaks. We laughed and made light of our problems.

Teaching duties were not the only calls upon our time. Some of us were called upon to do duty master or mistress. However, as only five masters were available for this task because the others could not be spared, this meant duty every fifth day and every fifth week-end and even more frequently if someone was sick.

Though the tasks were numerous, they were rarely onerous. Doing duty master meant being at school one hour earlier to supervise breakfast. I enjoyed the dawn stroll to the Mess. It was invigorating. The duty also meant returning home late, after night prep. For the first few months, before I bought a car, it meant trudging home in the dark, with only a feeble light from a hand torch to light up the pathway. At first. I tried short-cuts and often stumbled into a donga (a ditch). I soon learned the longer route took less time and there was less chance of unfortunate encounters with unpleasant fauna.

School breakfasts were reminiscent of early army days. The schoolboys lined up, for inspection, in order of houses. If one boy rushed up late, still making last-minute adjustments to his dress, he received a caution. Being improperly dressed was a crime just as in the British Army. If one was really late, after the others had filled inside, then he lost privileges, perhaps no cinema on the following Saturday.

After breakfast, it was on parade again, when all male teaching staff were included too. The orders of the day were then read out. This was followed by a formal dismissal which signified heading directly to the first class of the day.

Three hours of schooling made everyone eager for a break. A light snack was provided for the ravenous schoolboys. The masters enjoyed these interludes by sipping tea or coffee. rumourmongering, joke telling and leg pulling. However, when morale was low, the enjoyment was reduced to moaning and groaning.

After break, it was more chalk and talk until one-twenty. Then, the staff, including matrons, paraded in front of the schoolboys, for lunch was not merely a meal, it was a duty. House-masters and their assistants sat at tables with their house perfects and senior pupils. Other teachers and matrons headed the other tables. At my own table, I soon learned each pupil was a lively character in his own right. Each had a vast repertoire of intriguing yarns and was well versed in the Lore of the Bush. I certainly learned much from them.

One youth in particular possessed a mysterious magnetism over reptiles. Once lunch-time formalities were over, a few minutes were provided for relaxation. Often, he would produce, from his pockets, various species of snakes, pointing out distinctive features about each one. By the time the HM called everyone to attention to say thanksgiving grace, everyone at my table was better informed about herpetoid creatures.

Later, when Kongwa School was closing down for good, farewell parties filled the last few days. At the house party I attended, our snake charmer put on a polished performance. To various tunes on his flute, he had trained his snakes to carry out captivating stunts. His grand finale centred on six snakes, lodged inside his gullet with only their heads protruding from his mouth. There they swayed in harmony as others, on the floor, danced and writhed to the rhythmic movements of his hands.


Staff in boarding schools can rarely relax. As in any huge organisation, such as an army, age old methods are applied to exercise control over large numbers of humans.

"Keep them busy! Never give them a moment's respite! Wear them out!"

The underlying theory is once the underdogs are completely exhausted, they will have no energy left to cause trouble. Such practices were adopted in Kongwa.

Six hours of lessons in the morning kept the schoolboys out of mischief and sapped their energy. However, to restore energy for further debilitating activities, they were given a heavy lunch, so heavy in fact they had to have a compulsory one hour's siesta to sleep it off. This hour, incidentally, gave me the chance to rush home for a quick bath and a change of clothing.

On three days of the week, there were "activities" at half-past three. They lasted one hour. The one I supervised was tennis and I often had the opportunity to play myself, either as a partner or as an opponent.

On the remaining two week-days, at the same hour, there was "early prep" - preparation as the staff called it - persecution, according to the school-children.

English tea, from four-thirty until five, restored some of the energy expended. Then, for those not already suitably attired, it was a quick change into the appropriate sports outfit. From five until six every weekday it was sports for everyone, though genuine excuses, with suitable written evidence from a matron or a doctor, were accepted. Irrefutable evidence, such as a limb in plaster, detention in sick bay or in hospital, was deemed admissible. All other pretexts were dubbed malingering.

Soccer, rugby, cricket, baseball and American football were played in season. My preferences were soccer and cricket. The others were anathema to me as I was ignorant of their rules. However, in time, when I learned to referee them, they became more meaningful.

At six, as soon as the last whistles blew, there was a stampede to the billets. Everyone wanted to be first under the shower. Those in the greatest hurry were the boys from the middle school as they had to get back to their classrooms to put in one hour of "prep" before dinner and, for that meal, they had to be clean, immaculately dressed and inspected by their matron. It was woe betide those with tidemarks or dishevelled dress.

Dinner for the duty master was a must. Likewise, for his wife, unless she had a justifiable explanation.

As a rule, that was the last formal duty of his day unless he had a senior prep to supervise. As expected, many schoolboys were worn out by bed-time and just flopped down, on their beds. Yet others still had energy left to indulge in pranks and so gave their matrons nervous headaches. It is easy to understand how staff were close to collapse ere they made it home.

However, Saturdays were different, at least there were no classes and no preps. The school usually hosted matches between its many proficient teams and visitors, who often came from faraway places. In season, there were soccer, rugby and cricket matches. Afterwards, the visitors would be regally entertained. A lavish high-tea was always served. If they did not have to return home that evening, then an excellent dinner was also provided. Later, there would be the film show which was invariably followed by a formal dance at the club. This gave the single ladies the chance to wear their evening dresses and satisfy their yearning to meet single males. Thus, in the afternoons, the visitors pitted their wits and their strength against the schoolboys; at night, against the opposite sex.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa Film Screen
For the schoolchildren, Saturday evening was the real time to relax after a day spent on the sports fields. It was film time. Not only did the whole school assemble for the performance but so did the indigenous population from far and wide, even though they had to stand. There was only sufficient seating accommodation for the school. A fatigue party carried chairs from the boys' mess and from all the nearby classrooms. The local Wagogo chattered and laughed and frequently drowned out the sound track. Their hilarity peaked when films were interrupted by breaks or by power cuts because they often found these more amusing than the film. Saturday evening was their highlight of the week.

When the film finally ended and the cheering died down, the Duty Master had to find a fatigue party to return the chairs. Many of the boys were more interested in slipping away to steal kisses from their girl friends than in humping chairs. Ultimately, the chairs would be back in their rightful place; the film equipment back in store; the throngs would disperse to melt into the night and the central area of the school would assume its normal late night atmosphere.

Then came the most trying part of what otherwise had been an easy day for the Duty Personnel. They had to thwart courting couples from Linking up again to dart into dark nooks and crannies for additional farewell kisses and caresses. However, once the couples were separated and seen on their way to their respective billets, duty teachers breathed a sigh of relief. It was then the moment to unwind, perhaps at home or at the club.

Sunday was the day when the school children enjoyed the greatest freedom. The only compulsory activities were church parades and letter writing and these were over by noon. Lunch was voluntary but few ever forewent their food. Many, however, just gobbled it down in their eagerness to rejoin their boy or girl friends. On Sunday this was permitted, provided they stayed within the main school area and within sight of the duty teachers.

The area was bounded on one side by a wide, straight roadway which separated it from the girls' terrain. On the other side, a circuitous road separated it from the boys' terrain. Alas! there was one anomaly. The rugby pitch was within the territory deemed to belong to the girls but, obviously, boys were allowed there when matches were played.

However, the school rules had never laid down whether the pitch was within bounds on Sundays when boys could legally go courting. In the wet season, this was unimportant because nearly everyone stayed under cover and under supervision. On the other hand, in fine weather, duty teachers patrolled the classroom area. Occasionally, they would cross the road to the rugby pitch to watch couples who deliberately strolled in a dignified manner and, consequently, were never checked. Nevertheless, teachers knew full well the high grass around the pitch perimeter harboured many courting couples. When the law-enforcers approached too closely, the grass would rustle and all that could be seen were backs rushing deeper into the undergrowth.

During the duty teachers' return to the main area, ambling lovebirds would greet them most politely with,

"Good Afternoon, Sir! Good Afternoon, Miss!"

Yet the glints in their eyes seemed to say, 'You'll never catch us. You're not agile enough. We're much too slick for you!"

So, it was teaching, sports, pastime activities and supervisory duties that kept teachers out of mischief. Of course, there were other exertions too, but. of them, more later.


School terms were long yet lively. Staff and pupils were in close contact for two five-month periods each year. It says much to the credit of both groups that life was harmonious. Yet, at times, relations became strained and tensions between individuals did arise. A half-term holiday was always arranged to relieve tensions but gave little solace to the pupils. It only meant the loss of one day in the classroom and a slight variation of routine. For the staff, it meant devising ingenious means to keep the pupils busy yet happy.

Tales From The African Bush
Kiboriani Hills
One event, enjoyed by all. was also a test of stamina. Exempt were the infirm and staff designated for essential duties. Everyone else had to climb Kiboriani. the highest of the nearest mountain range. The outing took almost a complete day. The climb and the heat exhausted the children and almost killed the old fogies on the staff.

Immediately after breakfast a roll call was carried out. Then, everyone collected a packed lunch. Dickie, the youngest, the healthiest, and most active member of the staff, took the lead, with about five hundred followers in single file. Other members of staff took up predetermined, strategic positions along the line. Naturally, this was to ensure no cunning pupil slinked off early back to his billet. It also ensured no lovesick couples deviated from the track to cause problems for the school some nine months later. Two colleagues and myself took up the rearguard to prevent malingerers from dropping out and to render first aid in case of need. In the event, we never caught any would-be escapers and never needed to use our first aid skills.

Tales From The African Bush
Kiboriani View
Sufficient noise was made by all to deter any marauding beasts from venturing from their lairs and so everyone made it to the summit.

From that summit, we could see on the valley floor, a cluster of buildings which we knew was the Mission of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). The descent was by a steep and very tortuous route.

When the rearguard neared the bottom, the vanguard and most of the others were well on their way back to school. From a distance, Mr. Beasley, the kind-hearted Missionary in charge, hailed our small group. We veered towards the manse and stepped up on to the verandah. There to greet us were three ice-cold glasses of amber ale. The good Samaritan did not want to see us dying of dehydration.

After this brief interlude, we resumed our march and reached the school just as the final roll call was being taken. The purpose of the outing had been achieved. No pupil was feeling over energetic and the staff were more footsore and weary than any of the pupils. No one suffered from insomnia that night - not even in the Sweeney household where all five members did climb Kiboriani. Moreover, Mirabile Dictu, no problems arose in St. George's School, Kongwa, nine months later.

Life for staff and pupils may have been arduous but never dull.

Teaching isn't only an art, it's learning many other skills as well.

Chapter Six: Religious Mania
There was no religious freedom from the schoolchildren's point of view. Church Parade was compulsory. The kids thought it just another method of keeping them out of mischief for a couple of hours. The more militant claimed that forcing them to worship was more punitory than anything imposed by the Spanish Inquisition.

Some of the wiser youngsters, when they first registered at the school, gave their religion as Brahmanic, Buddhist. Jansenist, Jew, Muslim or Monophysite in the hope they would avoid all ecclesiastical connections. They had been primed by their elder siblings who, themselves, had tried to avoid religious parades by claiming they were atheists, animists, pagans, pantheists, polytheists or plain humanists. Alas! nothing worked. They were all dubbed Church of England. Even the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Church were arbitrarily converted to the Anglican Cult.

In fact, only one other religion was tolerated, Roman Catholicism, and many pupils opted for that creed even though their parents were of other persuasions. This was not a question of faith, just of pragmatism. For one thing, the church was close and did not involve an arduous hill climb. Secondly, there was no parade. The service started thirty minutes before breakfast and pupils went directly from their billets. If the Mass was too brief, they dallied on their way back to make certain they would miss the breakfast parade. Then they would enter the Mess, arrogantly approach the duty master and adulatorily apologise for being late, knowing full well he could not retaliate. He dared not offend the powerful Church of Rome. A third, more potent reason was the brevity of the service which gave them no time for boredom but extra free time after breakfast, until the Church of England followers returned for letter-writing.

An added attraction to espouse the Catholic Cult was the privilege of missing two lessons on those designated Holy Days of Obligation. Two days before such Feasts, there was always a queue outside the HM's office because so many wanted to have their religion changed in his register. Alas! The HM did not believe in miraculous conversions and never altered his register. "You're C of E" he would bellow, "and C of E you'll always be."

On the other hand, the Anglicans had to stay close to the Parade Ground until ten o'clock, at which precise moment the roll call was taken. Only those in the sick bay or in hospital were exempt. Then, in column of route, they marched up the hill, like the Grand Old Duke of York's men.

The church was perched on a crest, almost five thousand feet above sea-level. Its official name was Sahanga; its unofficial name given by the pupils was Calvary.

Once the lengthy service was over, the seniors were free and immediately paired off to disappear down devious routes.

However, for the younger ones, it was straight back to the classrooms for letter-writing. Whether they so wanted or not, they composed delightful letters to their darling parents. To ensure they did so, the envelopes were handed over unsealed to their respective House Masters or Mistresses. So, until lunch-time, mischief was averted in the junior and middle schools.

In many lands over millennia, there have been Wars of Religion. In Kongwa, we had them too - not really belligerent, in fact, just friendly clashes.

When the Anglicans fell in for church parade, many Catholic adherents would be loafing close by wearing haughty sneers as if to say, "I'm one up on you. Jack! I don't have to go on silly church parades and I can do what I like till you get back!"

Of course, they didn't dare voice their thoughts, otherwise the duty personnel would have heard and then meted out regulatory punishment. Meekly, the Anglicans accepted these taunts though, inwardly, would have loved to break rank to retaliate.

At this point, whenever I was on duty, I would snigger surreptitiously. I would think of an anecdote about Campione d'ltalia, an Italian enclave in Switzerland, which, in my younger days. I knew quite well.

Italian and Swiss children often play together down by the Lake of Lugano. The former are all Catholics, whilst, amongst the latter, are many Protestants.

One stifling summer day, a group was loafing on the shore. Some kids even defied the stern warnings of their parents never to venture into those treacherous waters. They had even dared to take off their footwear to cool their overheated feet.

All of a sudden, one youngster, with a brain wave, yelled, "Come on! Let's take all our clothes off and sit in the water. Then we can splash each other and feel much fresher."

The idea quickly caught on and articles of clothing were soon flying in all directions. Then, out of the blue, came an unnatural, unearthly shriek, as a tiny girl stared in terror at an equally tiny boy, "Mama mia! Mama mia! I never knew there was such a difference between Catholics and Protestants!"

Far away from Lake Lugano, in Kongwa, there were also religious dissimilarities, at least in the places of worship. Here, the C of E edifice was sturdily built in impressive granite. It also boasted solid doors and high, stained-glass windows. Sited on a monticule, it dominated the plain below and was visible from afar. On the other hand, the RC chapel was a small, dismal shanty that had already provided termites with many billions of meals. Its cellophane-covered windows wouldn't even close. One wag suggested it would collapse if ever the wind blew really hard. Furthermore, the Anglicans had ornate vases for their pretty flowers, whilst the Romans were content to camouflage empty beer bottles to hold their wild bush blooms.

One Saturday evening a very proud RC padre showed up with some very attractive vases, bequeathed by some rich, benign, urban dweller. Deftly, he rearranged the flower display and returned the beer bottles to the sacristy. Then, he stood back to admire his handiwork and, with a sigh of approval, he went on his way.

"That's much better than the Anglicans can do!" he muttered to himself.

Next morning, he noticed, much to his surprise, his wonderful flower display had been rearranged in the old beer bottles. Turning to his altar attendant, he asked, in a very docile tone. "John! Whatever's happened to the vases?"

They're locked up in the sacristy cupboards, Bwana Padre!"

"But! Whatever for?"

"Padre! If I had left them on the altar they would have been either broken or stolen!" was John's frank reply and the poor Padre couldn't answer that one. So the exterior and the Interior of the chapel remained inferior to that of the Anglican Sanctuary.

One historic event for the Catholics took place when we were there. The Bishop journeyed from afar to confirm those who had finally committed themselves. It was a very ceremonious occasion with many colourful trappings.

A very tense congregation awaited the Bishop's entrance. Finally he arrived, attired in brilliant purple and sporting sparkling regalia. He conducted the confirmation rites with due pomp and ceremony. When the service was over, the crowds cheered and cheered and eventually dispersed. The school children went to their respective messes to enjoy a succulent breakfast specially prepared by the school.

On the following Sunday the regular padre returned to say Mass. In those days, the priest had his back turned towards the congregation for most of the service. On the first two occasions when he faced his flock, everything was normal. However, on the third turn, he just couldn't believe his eyes. There, at the back, stood the bishop in full regalia, complete with mitre.

"The old so-and-so, he's spying on me!" the aged priest muttered to himself, "I wonder what he's after?"

As he stood there agape, the congregation stood in awe and a deathly hush fell over the assembly. Suddenly, one parishioner dared to turn around to see what had transfixed the clergyman. Others followed suit. Then, unexpectedly, a whisper from a Cockney schoolboy shattered the silence.

"Oh! Gorblimy! It's only Mary, the village seamstress, showing off her latest wares."

On that remark, a titter ran round the audience. The priest jolted out of his reverie, roared "Dominus vobiscum" (The Lord be with you), gyrated on one heel to face the altar and then resumed his sacerdotal duties.

It appeared Mary had been so entranced by the Bishop's rig-out that she made one for herself.

So, even if there was a lack of religious fervour, there was never a lack of mania.

Chapter Seven: Motoring - Kongwa Style
Not every member of staff owned a car. Some lived so close to their work it would have been an impossibility to drive there. Many took their meals in messes and therefore had no need for transport to shop for food. Hence, a car was not a must for many. On the other hand, most married men needed transport to reach the village to purchase the necessities of life.

At times, I would have found a car a boon but, for many months, our family used Shank's pony. Usually, we didn't mind because the exercise kept us fit. I always set out for school long before the sun scorched the earth. Yet sometimes, especially during tropical storms or when the heat was overpowering, walking could be irksome.

Saturday was shopping day unless I was on week-end duty. The village dukas (more correctly, 'maduka') were almost four miles away. Although I tried to get Milka to go alone, her usual reply was. "I get enough exercise doing all the household chores without any extra, such as carrying all those heavy groceries on my own."

"What about taking the kids along?"

"No! They aren't strong enough."

Reluctantly, I would follow her, lagging behind in the faint hope some kind-hearted motorist would stop to give her a lift. Sometimes, that happened and I would rush up and jump in alongside.

Eventually, after many months, we made the momentous decision a car was a must before we became too emaciated. According to the old hands, the best place to buy second-hand cars was Dar. For us, a new one was out of the question.

Tales From The African Bush
Standard Vanguard
So, Dickie and I sought the necessary permissions to travel there. We set off after duty one Friday. Dickie drove all night and we reached Dar early next morning. This really did not give us much time to investigate the market as all the formalities had to be completed before 12 noon, at which hour government offices closed. In the event I did purchase a Standard Vanguard, which at that time was a very popular car and, funnily, we did manage to get some offices to stay open a few extra minutes. Thus, we completed all the formalities by one o'clock. After a quick lunch, we escaped from the Sybaritic temptations of the City and set off, along the dirty and dusty roads, back to our homes in the Bush.

Naturally, a car opened up new horizons for the Sweeneys as we were no longer confined to Kongwa. Frankly, there were not many inspiring places to visit but occasionally when we all had some free time, we imitated other Kongwaites by driving through the "units" of the ill-fated Ground Nuts Scheme in search of game. Our intention was to photograph elephants, not to shoot game. Though we often caught up with fresh spore, we never beheld a herd. We had to be content with all the tales told by others of the huge herds they had encountered.

Fathers of some of the schoolchildren were big game hunters. At half-term, when visiting rights were accorded parents who applied, several hunters brought their licences and guns to indulge in their favourite sport. I recall talking to one. just before he set off to hunt a bull elephant. Though a recognised expert, he failed with his first shot to fell his target. His quarry didn't give him the chance to fire a second and two pupils of mine were thus made fatherless.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa Shopping Centre
The nearest town of renown, some fifty miles away, was Idodoma. the Provincial Capital. Many nick-named it the Mini-Metropolis because it could brag of two dozen or so madukas compared to Kongwa's paltry few. The ladies of Kongwa. when talking to Milka, often depicted the town as a shopper's paradise. Naturally. Milka had to see it.

For logical reasons, we had to obtain permission from the Head Master to leave the school area. So, one Saturday when not on duty, he sanctioned our excursion. Personally I was not very enthusiastic. I had seen Idodoma several times when on escort duty and had not been impressed. In the event, Milka soon realised the shops in the main street were not in the same category as those in the rue de Rivoli. Her shopping spree was brief and we soon adjourned to the Railway Hotel, renowned for its sumptuous dishes. In particular, its Saturday curries attracted clientele from far and wide. Alas! as the shopping had depleted our funds, we had to content ourselves with one cold beer for me and soft drinks for the others. Still, we were able to enjoy the delightful odours of curries waiting from the dining room before returning to our Utopia in the Bush.

Over the years, we visited our Provincial Capital whenever we desperately needed something unavailable in Kongwa. Usually, we dawdled until noon-time to enjoy those exquisite curry lunches.

Once, during the long school vacation, we took Francis to the optician there because he desperately needed spectacles before the new term began. The day was torrid; the roads dusty and the trip promised to be very uncomfortable.

Apart from fuel, we carried sandwiches, two thermos flasks of boiled water for the baby's bottle, two more filled with coffee, several bottles of drinking water, a jerry can of water for the radiator, patches for punctures, tools for minor repairs and lots of other odds and ends to make up our emergency supplies.

Whilst still within the boundaries of Kongwa township, we overtook the PWD grader. Its primitive sweeper, enormous thorn bushes, were still being attached to its tail end. After that we never saw another vehicle until we were inside Idodoma.

After the optician had completed his work, we stopped at two shops before heading back home. At one, I bought more vulcanising patches as I had already used some from the existing box. We expected to be back home well before lunch time.

With no traffic on the road, we covered more than half the journey In record time. Then, quite unexpectedly, a front tyre blew out. The car slithered on the sandy road and shuddered to a stop. With help from Francis and Paul, the spare wheel soon replaced its perforated mate. Though we hadn't intended stopping for coffee, this untimely halt with its subsequent sweating created a thirst. The boys slaked theirs with water as Milka poured me out three coffees in quick succession.

We set off again, yet ere I moved into top gear, another tyre went "Pop-ooo-ouffe". This time the wheel change took longer and involved jacks, tyre levers, clamps and hot patches. In oppressive heat, it meant more loss of body fluids and our supply of beverages decreased. As the crepuscular shadows fell, we were still four miles from home. All solid and liquid supplies were finished. Even the water for the radiator had been drunk. The three older kids looked gaunt. The baby howled for food. The normally phlegmatic Milka was just about to scream. With no patches left, I eyed the twentieth puncture of the day. By mid-afternoon, I had resorted to silently cursing and continued doing so. I invoked damnation on the PWD and its crazy method of sweeping the roads. I stared at the collection of thorns, tougher than contractors" nails, I had extracted from the tyres. Then I stared along the dead-straight track, first towards Idodoma then towards Kongwa. I weighed up the pros and cons of driving on-the-rim or staying put until something came along. I swore again but this time not too silently. As I did so. Francis yelled, "Dad! There's something coming."

Away in the distance I spotted a cloud of dust. As it drew closer my hopes soared. The driver stopped. I knew him well. Alas! He had no patches or so he said. I suggested he lend me his spare wheel as he also had a Vanguard.

"I daren't risk it, Joe. I might need it myself. I'll come back in the morning if you don't make it home tonight."

Then he sped away into the gloom, leaving a trail of dust to blind us.

We waited. The sun sank below the horizon. The whimpering of the baby began again. I knew I had to drive on. It was a tedious, bumpy trip but eventually the Vanguard jolted into our driveway.

The baby received the first attentions. The other three reduced our reserves of boiled and filtered water. Milka had her usual panacea - a cup of strong coffee whilst I restored my fluid content with several pots of tea. Soon our tempers mollified and life looked less bleak.

Such setbacks never deterred us from exploiting the pleasures of motoring in the Bush. To do so a motorist had to keep his car in running order. As the nearest garage was much too far away, the car owner had to maintain his own vehicle or persuade a friend to do it for him. For a female owner, with her subtle charms, it was easy to coax a male devotee to do the necessary, with the car, I mean, not with its owner.

Road conditions wrought havoc with shock absorbers, tie-rod ends, mountings and many other vital parts. These had to be replaced frequently, otherwise the vehicle died an early death. No hoists were available but there were pits. For instance, there was a very busy one at the Health Training School. Occasionally, I got to use it for lending a hand to one of the staff with his transport problems. St. George's School had first-class facilities but these were booked for months ahead. Luckily, I found an isolated and abandoned pit, whose existence was known only to the few who made routine use of it. We pooled our knowledge and helped each other so that, with time, we became semi-experts.

In other areas too, helping one another was just the thing to do. New arrivals were always given help to settle into the new environment. I well recall a new Music teacher, nick-named Pip, who often came to me for help or advice. In time he bought a car, a Vanguard of course, and expected me to maintain it. I did my utmost to stimulate in him an interest in what I was doing whenever I worked on his car. However, his usual comment was, "Don't panic, Joe! I understand. I'll know what to do next time."

Alas! He never seemed to learn as he came to me with every petty problem. Finally. I decided he should learn the basics to avoid being benighted in the Bush. Next time he came I refused to do the donkey work. I explained everything he should do. making explanatory drawings and diagrams and laying out all the tools he would need. All the while, he kept nodding his head and repeating, "Yes. Joe! I'm following."

When all was ready, I waited for him to begin but for minutes nothing happened. Pip seemed completely mesmerised by the fascinating array in front of him.

Suddenly, Milka emerged from the kitchen to go into the house. Pip yelled to her, "Hi! Milka! Will you give me your recipe for meringue pies? I've got guests coming this evening."

I abandoned hope of his ever learning about cars and did the job myself.

Tales From The African Bush
The Duka
Those days in Kongwa were long before the fuel crises of the seventies so we had no problem in filling up. In the village were two maduka with pumps and underground storage tanks. It was routine for everyone to fill up when they did their shopping. There was also a duka near the school. Its clientele were mainly those who had no vehicle and only needed minor items. After the collapse of the Ground Nuts Scheme, business declined so the enterprising owner decided to recapture business by selling petrol. He took to syphoning it from forty-four gallon drums by means of a simple hand-pump. He was by nature a very cheerful bloke, unlike his compatriots in the village and managed to make a living. He even sold petrol to those who didn't have time to drive to the village.

One afternoon, I was driving along what was normally a deserted road when I spotted the doctor's car by the side of the road. In front, was Bob Mullen's car. Bob was peering inside the engine compartment of Gerry's Ford Zephyr and fiddling with this and fiddling with that while Gerry sat in the driver's seat pressing the starter.

As is wont, I stopped to help. Within minutes, I traced the problem. There was water in the carburettor.

"Nonsense! Joe. I've just filled the tank."

"Just feel for yourself! That's water."

"Begorahh! You're right. Joe! Let's get down to that Duka Wallah and give him heck."

All three of us climbed into my Vanguard and we headed for the duka. I stopped near the drums and we all jumped out. I pulled out the hand-pump. Bob and Gerry tilted the drum. The poor duka owner rushed over and looked askance at our antics. Sure enough, we found water underneath a thin layer of petrol. We looked sternly at the duka wallah but uttered not a word. "No! No! Bwana!" he screamed, "Me! Vely honest man!"

As all four of us stood puzzling over the problem. It began to rain. Huge drops cascaded and then bounced upon the drums. We heard some plop as they went straight down the plug hole. We knew we had our answer. The owner learned a lesson and built a primitive shed to shelter those precious drums. Furthermore, to compensate Gerry for having to drain and clean his tank the duka owner filled Gerry's tank up twice for free.


At times, I mentioned the popularity of Vanguards. Funnily, another popular make was the Rolls Royce even though many people would think such a luxurious vehicle would be a misfit in the Bush. On the contrary, there were several enthusiastic owners who had developed a flair for ferreting out long abandoned Rolls. With loving care, they resuscitated the wrecks to their pristine state.

Tales From The African Bush
Rolls Royce in Africa
The proudest owner was an elderly gentleman who lived and worked on the ranch lands outside the township. In his youth, he had served an apprenticeship with the makers of Rolls Royce and consequently, was a perfectionist. In his opinion, the Rolls was the "Goddess of the Road". He had located his latest acquisition in Dar where it had lain derelict since the First World War. He bought it for a pittance and had it transported to his workshop. For more than a year, he spent all his spare moments dismantling, cleaning or replacing all parts before finally reassembling the limousine. Many new parts he manufactured himself; some parts he obtained from Rolls Royce enthusiasts' clubs in many countries of the World; others he was able to purchase from the Rolls Royce Spare Parts Division. The erstwhile jalopy then looked factory new.

Whenever he came into Kongwa, a crowd, mainly of youngsters but with a sprinkling of elders would gather near his pride and joy. He used to delight in putting it in top gear, regulating the throttle and then stepping outside to walk alongside, whilst the crowd kept in step with him. "That!" he would proudly proclaim, time and time again, "is what I would call a properly tuned Rolls Royce engine! You'll never get anything as perfect anywhere In the World."

Another Rolls wasn't really a Rolls - sounds Irish, doesn't it? In fact, it was classified a Bentley as it was being built when Rolls took over the Bentley Works.

One Rolls Royce admirer had gone to Europe with the fixed intention of buying a Rolls. During his search, he sighted this Bentley lying forsaken on a desolate farm. He fell in love with it at first sight, bought it on spec and had it shipped out to Dar, whence it was pick-a-backed to Kongwa.

The delighted buyer reached Kongwa long before his purchase and then rarely stopped bragging of how it had won first prize at the 1937 "Concours d'Elegance" in Paris. Consequently, a huge crowd, agog with excitement, gathered to greet its arrival but when they saw its dilapidated state, their faces drooped. It certainly didn't look like a winner.

"It's the biggest lemon I've ever seen." One wag did exclaim.

Another jocular soul soon nick-named it. "Mademoiselle from Armentieres" and then sang the well-known lyric.

Very few appreciated that the "Old Girl" had been laid up during the war years and forgotten and neglected afterwards. Nevertheless, once her innards were cleaned out, she proved there was lots of life left In that poor Old Girl.

Many months later, after much hard work and very skilled grafting. Mademoiselle was rejuvenated and ready to compete in any "Concours d'Elegance" in any country of this World. The erstwhile scoffers ate their words and the owner had the last laugh.

There was no dearth of ambitious Rolls Royce enthusiasts who spent as much time as possible seeking out derelicts with the aim of restoring them. Rolls Royce Clubs and the Spare Parts Division always helped out. Machinist friends of zealots often made parts, unprocurable elsewhere. Many dedicated fans hoped to complete their restoration projects. Alas! That was not to be. The Kongwa that we knew ended abruptly. Its motoring days were over.

Yet, perhaps one day. some enterprising explorer will visit the area. Maybe he will unearth a glorious though antiquated Rolls, still awaiting beauty treatment.

For those who were there, motoring at Kongwa could be frustrating yet it was fun.

Chapter Eight: Vacationing Kongwa Style
No matter how much the pupils enjoyed Kongwalese life, school terms inevitably came to an end. From the staff's point of view, all looked forward to the few weeks of separation from their charges.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa Station
The last days of term were always hectic. A sense of haste and urgency hovered everywhere. Though the staff would have loved to say their fond farewells immediately the last class was over, they had to wait. The school had to formally hand over its proteges to the latters' legal guardians. That meant pupils were escorted to the rail or bus station or disembarkation point nearest to their homes. However, those from Williamson's Diamond Mines flew from Kongwa's once animated airport in the Mines' trustworthy aircraft.

Tales From The African Bush
Air Transport
At departure times. East African Railways and Harbour buses drew up near the Parade Ground. They filled up with eager pupils already lined up and then departed with military precision, either singly or, when warranted, in convoy. Yet, because of complicated schedules, the complete evacuation of the school took two days. Thereafter, in daylight hours, Kongwa virtually became a ghost town. At night, as was wont, wild life roamed at will.

Although many teachers detested escort duties, many impecunious married teachers found them a godsend, by providing wonderful opportunities to see faraway places and to meet some incredible characters.

Tales From The African Bush
Kongwa School Special
Dar-es-Salaam seemed to attract the more affluent, usually single teachers and matrons. In fact, there was always a stampede to volunteer for that duty and behind the scenes, there was much bargaining and bantering before the escort team was finally selected. Those selected usually stayed in Dar until it was time for the return escort. For them, the Sybaritic Capital was a veritable Paradise compared to Spartan Kongwa.

Whilst I was at Kongwa. I was never excused and never avoided escort duty and did every one. except that to Dar. I remained aloof from the rush for that task, knowing full well that I would be taking up residence there some day. I felt it was incumbent of me to see and learn as much as I could about the rest of Tanganyika. Each escort duty broadened my knowledge and generated a medley of fascinating tales to tell. However, here I will restrict myself to one.

The route to Kigoma, some five hundred miles away, was straight forward. The first leg was by bus to Idodoma, In tandem with those heading for Lake Victoria and beyond. The next leg was by train to Tabora, the junction of two lines. There, much to the delight of hundreds of spectators, carriages were shunted to and fro to make up two trains. One left for Mwanza, on Lake Victoria; the other for Kigoma, on Lake Tanganyika.

On my first trip to Kigoma, the parents of my charges were waiting impatiently when the train drew, ever so leisurely, into the station. At the same time, passengers leaned out of the windows and doorways hailing those whom they knew amongst the huge crowds on the platform. The hubbub was incessant; the excitement Intoxicating. Yet. my charges were relatively subdued and remained in the background. Perhaps they feared paternal wrath because of poor examination results.

When we alighted, each one introduced me, with ceremonial dignity, to his or her parents. Of course, I had to talk awhile about the progress or regression of their offspring, after which, I took my farewell. The reunited families headed homewards whilst I was abandoned to my own devices at the platform gate.

During the tedious journey, the train had chugged, huffed and puffed through brush, savannah and boulder-strewn terrain. The normally exuberant school children displayed the patience of Job. They whiled away the hours playing cards or other sedentary games. Only rarely did any of them remonstrate with the prefects who were adept at supervising and made sure the escort's duties were minimal.

Only on certain straight and level sections of the track did the train ever exceed 15 miles per hour. Every so often, even at night, it stopped at an isolated wayside halt. Here, pupils were allowed to step down from their coaches to stretch their cramped and sleepy limbs. These stops usually lasted twenty minutes, though those at bigger centres lasted much longer. When the train was ready to move off, the officious railway officials waved flags or lanterns and blew their whistles relentlessly. The locomotive then blew a proud hiss, jerked, then slithered backwards before spurting forward with a sudden lunge. By this time, the prefects and the escort staff had coerced their charges to clamber up into the train and settle again into their allocated seats.

Apart from overseeing at every standstill and, when necessary, formally handing over proteges at intermediary stops, escorts were not overburdened. Every once in a while, they patrolled the corridors to ensure nothing untoward occurred. At night, in between the many stops, they could drowse in their comfortable bunks. During the daylight hours, they spent much of the time in the restaurant car, monitoring the pupils' meals.

On this, my first trip to Kigoma, the train controller, a jovial yet dignified gentleman, named Harry, had met me on an earlier escort trip and greeted me this time as an old-time friend. When the pupils had all been fed. the restaurant car was locked and Harry joined the escorts for a lively chinwag over a refreshing beer.

On arrival in Kigoma about nine on the fifth morning after Harry left home, it was his custom to book into the Station hotel to indulge in the sleep of the just until time for the return trip to Dar. On this particular occasion, a very drowsy Harry was most disconcerted that I should be left to roam the sultry and dusty streets until evening.

"Joe!" he whimpered, "I'm just too tired to take you to the only place of interest of appeal to you - that famous tree at Ujiji where Stanley met up with Livingstone."

"Oh! Don't worry about me, Harry. I always find something of interest to keep me occupied. I know you're dead beat and need to sleep."

Just then, a veteran World War II jeep, pulled up in the station yard, with brakes ascreeching. The driver was a Sechellois, nicknamed Jo-Jo. Harry knew him well. I had met him once before, on the day of our arrival in Dar.

"Jo-Jo!" Harry yelled, "What are you up to today?"

Jo-Jo immediately bounced up to us.

"Sorry! Harry! I've got lots and lots to do today."

"Come on! What about taking Joe to Ujiji? Show him the tree! Call at the Mission! Have a coffee there and then bring him back to the station."

"All right! Harry! But I cant stay. Honestly! I must get straight back to the station."

In the wake of the ever active Jo-Jo, I Jumped into his aging jalopy even as he rammed it into first gear. With a violent jolt, we took off and sped madly through the small town area before he accelerated even more violently on the open dirt road. Although I held on as tightly as I could, I was tossed in all directions. It was in those days well before seat belts had even been heard of.

Tales From The African Bush
Ujiji Plaque
Behind the steering wheel, Jo-Jo transformed himself into a demon. The thought crossed my mind that he fancied himself as the sure winner of an East African Safari. We made Ujiji in record time. There, the Jeep skidded and slithered in the sandy soil when Jo-Jo braked to a sudden standstill. We were only two yards from the historic tree and I was still gripping with all my might the framework of his jeep, to avoid flying headlong over the bonnet.

"Go on. Monsieur Jo!" goaded Jo-Jo in his rapid patois. That's the tree! Read what It says on the plaque!"

Yet he hardly gave me time to read the inscription outlining Stanley's historic encounter, before shrieking, "Come on! Monsieur Jo! I'll introduce you to the abbot."

I crossed over to the Mission entrance, where Jo-Jo was standing. With a powerful lunge, he pushed open the heavy gate, rushed up to the main door which he pounded with all his might. Of course he never waited for any response before barging in. A split second later, the abbot dashed into the room through an inside door, undoubtedly wondering what disaster had just burst in. He lost his look of frantic alarm once he realised the cause of the commotion. Instead, he took on a suspicious expression, wondering what Jo-Jo was up to this time.

"Bonjour! Mon Reverend!" (Good Morning, Reverend!) said Jo-Jo, in a formal yet deferential tone, "Laissez-moi vous presenter un autre Joseph!" (Allow me to introduce another Joseph.")

As soon as the hand shakes were over, Jo-Jo smote me several times on the shoulder, in his customary friendly manner. Then, in the loudest whisper I had ever heard, he announced.

"Ne t'inquiete pas, Monsieur Joseph. (Don't panic!) II te ramenera a la gare. (He'll drive you back to the station.) Moi! Je m'en vais. (I'm off.) A la prochaine! (Till next time.)

Abruptly, but with military precision, he about turned then bolted through the door even faster than when he came in.

By then, the abbot had regained his sang-froid.

"Prenez place. Monsieur! (Please take a seat. Sir.) Vous allez prendre quelque chose? (You'll have something to drink?) Puis, vous allez me raconter un peu de vous-meme. (Then you can tell me something about yourself.)"

At first, I thought I hadn't heard him correctly. It was far too early in the day to have a drink.

"Si vous insistez. Mom Pere. j'en prendrai avec vous." (If you insist. I'll have one with you.) Then I watched with intense curiosity, as he stretched up to a small panelled door which seemed to open miraculously. He reached inside and withdrew a bottle of Cointreau. A nearby panel wheeled open just as mysteriously. From its nook, he first withdrew a majestic corkscrew, then the tiniest glass I have ever seen. It could hardly have held a thimbleful. I gazed in wonder as he withdrew the cork with an elegant sweep. Next, with an imperious, measured movement, he filled the glass right up to the brim and, with a decorous swoop of his arm, he handed the glass to me. Delicately, I took hold of it and waited, expecting him to fill one for himself. Instead, he just sat down opposite me.

"Excusez-moi! S'il vous plait, continuez!" (Pardon me! Please continue.)

I began a brief resume of my life. Yet, all the while, I felt so foolish, afraid the funny phial-sized glass would tilt and spill, for I always gesticulate when I talk. After some minutes, he motioned with his hand and I assumed he meant me to drink. To hide my embarrassment, I mumbled, "Et vous . . . Mon Pere?" (What about you. Father?)

He uttered not a word but merely eyed me and slightly raised his head. I complied. I sipped as slowly as I could, yet it was over ever so quickly. That glass didn't hold a lot.

"Encore?" (Another'?) he enquired, rather unexpectedly.

"Mais non! Merci!" (No thanks.) I sputtered.

He just ignored my reply and reached up to another panel, which also seemed to open supernaturally. From it dark recesses, he extracted a bottle of 'Mille Fiori', a mellifluous liqueur from Italy. Again his corkscrew went to work. Another midget glass, masterfully removed from the cupboard, was filled with the golden nectar and passed over to me. Once more, I sat in discomfort, deeming it impolite to drink alone. After a long pause. I took up my interrupted tale. Hardly had I begun before the abbot flashed his wrist across his eyes, looked at his watch and interposed, "Pardon! Monsieur! II faut nous depecher! (We'll have to hurry.) Je voudrais vous montrer l'eglise." (I would like to show you our church.)

I drained the phial of its droplets but let them swish around to whet the taste buds before I swallowed. Then I jumped up to follow my guide.

We made a hurried tour of the very impressive place of worship, with the abbot explaining briefly the story behind each item of special interest. Then he took me back to the reception room, where he enjoined me to wait before going on his way.

There I waited, a little tense, wondering the while what lay in store. I did not have long to wait. An energetic individual, in navy blue overalls, zipped in. Unceremoniously, he introduced himself as Padre Paul. Next, he swung around and whipped a bottle of Cognac from another panelled niche, whisked out the cork, filled another phial and presented It to me. With a rapid downward movement of his thumb, he indicated I down the liquid without unnecessary ado. "Allons-y, Monsieur Jo!" (Let's go.)

He led me to the Carpentry Shop, of which he was very proud. Painstakingly, he showed me intricate and delicate carvings and other artistic wooden trinkets made by his students, before returning me to the visitors' room to await the next item on the agenda.

By one p.m., I had been shown schools, a seminary, a clinic, a hospital, a farm and an orchard. Of course, I had seen several more bottles surreptitiously appearing and had swallowed medicinal doses of rare liquids I never knew existed. Nevertheless, I had a greater appreciation of the devotion and industry of those who ran that mission.

On my return from the last tour, the abbot was awaiting me. He stood up. I thanked him most profusely for such an interesting morning. At this point, I deemed it appropriate to ask for a lift.

"Mais non, Monsieur! (No Sir!) Nous allons prendre le dejeuner." (We're having lunch.)

He led me to the refectory where about fifty diners, in diverse working attire, stood silently to attention awaiting our entry.

The abbot said 'Grace'. We all sat down. Everything we ate was produced in the mission and was very palatable indeed, though the wine we drank was produced in another mission. I listened to the sound of cutlery as it met the crockery and every so often I heard the tinkling of glasses. Everyone seemed to be concentrating on the meal and there was no chitchat. Once the abbot recited the thanksgiving prayer, the others formed a sort of guard of honour leading to the exit. I followed the superior but had to stop to shake hands with everyone. Each one, in turn, with deference yet with dignity, thanked me in his native tongue for visiting the mission.

During the drive to Kigoma, I ventured to ask the abbot the reason for the unexpected profusion of thanks.

"C'est moi qui dois etre reconnaissant. (It's I who should be thankful.) Votre hospitalite etait epouvantable." (Your hospitality was overwhelming.)

"Mais non, Monsieur! Pas du tout!" (Not at all.)

Then he explained how their diet was so plain and monotonous and how meat and other delicacies were restricted to certain days and to special occasions. Such an occasion is when they have special visitors. Furthermore, as a treat, a glass of vintage wine is served to everyone.

By then, I felt bold enough to ask the other question that plagued me. I was anxious to know why I had been offered such a wide range of aperitifs so early in the day. He answered thus and I translate,

"We cannot open a bottle unless the first glass is offered to a visitor. . . and believe me! You're the first outsider to set foot in here in four long months. Et Mon Dieu! We were bone dry!"

Naturally, I expressed my thanks later in a more tangible form. I sent a bottle of a befitting beverage at the first opportunity.


In addition to mandatory escort duties, I was sometimes given tasks, during school vacations, not usually associated with teaching. For instance, when the bursar went on overseas leave, I had to do his job. I also sat on several Tender Boards convened in the District Officer's Office.

On one occasion, I combined escort duty with paternal duties. I took our three children to Bukoba, on the western shores of Lake Victoria. It was nearing the time of the birth of our fourth child and Milka insisted I take the others with me so she could enjoy some peace, quietness and rest, in view of complications associated with the pregnancy and an outbreak of poliomyelitis.

As it happened, I had a friend, a certain Dennis Butchart, who was teaching at a Secondary School near Bukoba. We had taught in the same Technical Educational Establishment in England and had joined the Colonial Education Service at the same time. I wrote to him and explained the situation, knowing full well that his answer would be much more than positive. As an aside, and nearly forty years later, we still keep in touch with the Butcharts and often see them even though we are several thousands of miles apart.

Joan, Francis and Paul enjoyed themselves and shared several new experiences Including accompanying their father who accompanied Dennis on school inspections. Although his school may have been on holiday, Dennis, like all Colonial Officers, could be required to perform other duties and on this occasion, was so required. Everyone in the Service was only entitled to what was known as annual local leave, though many in the educational field were able to enjoy the full school holidays as they were never called upon for other duties.

When the Butcharts' two children returned, on vacation from boarding school, our three had a wonderful time roaming and ferreting in the bush with Muriel and Billy. Of course, all five had known each other in England.

They also acquired a taste for fried grasshoppers, a palatable antipasto, very popular in that region and served with a sundowner.

Agricultural Officer, Tanganyika 1955-65
SS Usoga at Bukoba
When the time came to leave, the Butcharts came on board the steamer to say 'Adieu!", as did all the parents of all the schoolchildren I was to escort to Kongwa. Seeing the steamer off was a big event in Bukoba and the whole town came to the pier to wave and shout.

A few days after our return, in fact it was the school's Annual Sports Day when all teaching staff were on duty, our bush baby decided to put in her appearance. Milka was also at the sports, but only as a spectator, when the labour pains began. Although she only had a learner's licence, she came to me, asked for the keys of the Vanguard and drove herself to hospital to arrive there just in time for the birth.

Less than a year after the birth, our whole family took their first local leave. We piled Into our aging Vanguard and set off on a tour of Northern Tanganyika and Kenya. Not being able to afford luxury hotels, we stayed In rest houses which varied from very comfortable brick buildings, with every convenience, to mud and wattle shelters. Of course, the latter did provide some protection from the elements during bothersome tropical storms and from the inquisitive wild life that roamed around at night.

During daylight, we sighted on the plains, plateaux, craters or in marshes big game; such as elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, lion, giraffe, hippopotamus, leopard, cheetah and crocodiles and smaller game; such as impala. kudu, common duiker, zebra, blue wildebeest, reedbuck, bushbuck. waterbuck, gazelle, blue and vervet monkeys and baboons. In addition, we spotted many birds, some rare. We saw pelicans, flamingos, sacred ibis, francolins, guinea fowl, sandgrouse, bustards, duck and quail. We also encountered the scavengers, wild hunting dogs, hyenas, and winged ones, the vultures, which often hovered overhead. In one place, we got bogged down in the mud. After jacking up the car and stacking grass and bushes under the wheels, I was just about ready to try to move off when Milka came up and whispered in my ear, "Look over there!"

When I looked over the fairly high grass, a lioness surrounded by her cubs, stood up not six yards away. I shouted at Milka and the kids, "Get back into the car!"

Fortunately, the wheels gripped and we made it back on to a hard track.

On several occasions, we caught spellbound views of Mounts Kilimanjaro and Kenya. We also spent five days in an excellent, yet inexpensive. Government Hostel (which was as good as any motel) near Nairobi and were thus able to visit the many places of interest in that Capital. Furthermore, In the many villages where we stopped, we met colourful, courteous and contented people who considered us very atypical travellers and often showed their kindness by bringing us little gifts.

On the return drive, a main leaf of a rear spring shattered when we were miles from any inhabited area. Fortunately, I carried a spare and two jacks which are needed to carry out the change. We had to unload the car to make it lighter and left only Milka and the baby inside because of the broiling sun. After several hours of perspiring work, we got the car again in running order and set off for home which we reached without further mechanical problems. Vacationing for Kongwa people could certainly be fascinating and educational yet, invariably, provided many unpredictable experiences.

Chapter Nine: The 1957 Diet of Worms Not That of 1531
One very agreeable aspect of doing duty master was the euphoria experienced as soon as he formally dismissed his charges from the dining room after the evening meal. It was usually his last chore of the day, after which he could relax. He could linger over a cup of coffee, and even smoke if he so desired. He could also enjoy an interesting conversation in congenial company as, often, there were visitors from the outside world and they bore tidings of events abroad.

The duty master's wife was also expected to be there. Milka did not mind. For her, it was a pleasant change from her housewife's chores and it gave her the opportunity to meet people.

Of course, there were the usual regulars who preferred to pay a modest sum for their meals rather than face the prospects of cooking on their own.

Friday was usually my duty day. I enjoyed the dinner duty because I was under no stress.

Boy's Mess Kongwa
Boy's Mess
There was no marking nor lesson preps to be done for the next day, simply because on Saturdays, there were no formal classes. Many times those Friday evenings developed Into festive occasions. An anniversary or a birthday provided an excuse for someone to bring along a bottle of wine. Not only did it aid digestion, but it lubricated the diners' vocal chords.

One such Friday coincided with the birthday of Millicent, the ever-cheerful cateress. She laid on a very special menu to be served after the schoolboys had departed. It also included some excellent mellow wine. We diners too bore gifts and in addition, more equally mellow wine. Consequently, the mellifluous liquid flowed more copiously than was wont and the tongues wagged more animatedly. It promised to be a "grand evening".

Entrees were served and we dawdled over them until the schoolboys had finished their meal. Then I brought the Mess to attention and we all said the thanksgiving grace. After this, I uttered the customary words which the boys keenly awaited, "Good Night! Boys! You are now dismissed!"

Then they all filed out in military fashion. We others were then left to allow the gastric juices to flow freely and to conjure up what the subsequent courses would be.

Once the boys were well clear of the Mess, the meal continued; first, a savoury soup, followed by sumptuous steaks surrounded by succulent vegetables, all duly washed down by provocative wines. Delicious, exotic tropical fruits rounded off a delectable repast.

By then, all the larynxes were well oiled. As we lingered over coffee, the amusing anecdotes increased and outbursts of laughter echoed through that vast, vaulted room. Exactly how the subject cropped up I do not know but, suddenly, my normally taciturn spouse held everyone's attention. She was relating how Gerry, the Principal of the Health Training School, had stopped by on his way home. He greeted Milka curtly instead of in his usual courteous manner, mumbled inaudibly, then hurried into the kitchen. A surprised Milka followed. There, he grabbed a carving knife and dashed back into the house. As Milka had not understood his murmuring, she felt amazed and apprehensive. Her surprise redoubled when he rushed along the corridor and wrenched open the fridge door. He gathered up all the meat and rushed back into the kitchen. Milka continued to follow him, though still in a state of bewilderment. Gerry laid the meat on the block and began cutting it up.

As he hacked away, he found time to explain his unorthodox actions. He told of how a trainee health inspector made an instructional visit to the abattoir at the neighbouring experimental cattle ranch. There his keen interest was aroused when he noticed an alien carcass, not from the ranch's own healthy breed. Whilst the butcher was carving it up, the trainee examined it more closely. His training told him it was riddled with tape worm cysts. On his return to the Training School, he reported his observations to his Principal. Gerry then decided to go home to check his own wife's purchases. As his route passed our house, he decided to stop to do a good deed for that day.

At this juncture Milka paused. The deathly hush lingered over the table. Everyone was well aware that the ranch supplied prime beef to the hospital, to the schools and to the families from miles around. Tension was building up around the table. I read on everybody's face, except Milka's, the same thoughts that were passing through my mind.

"Good Lord! Those delicious steaks! Was mine cooked well enough?"

Personally, when in the tropics. I always insist on well sizzled meat. Milka always stressed I was too faddy and it was a sin to serve me cinders. She always liked hers rare. Though this evening I had requested very well cooked, I had been served medium rare. I vow that what the others ate was almost raw.

Suddenly, the silence was shattered. A dozen voices screamed at Milka.

"Why in Hell's name didn't you warn us beforehand? Milly would have put on something else!"

Many were the other remarks, none exactly laudatory, shouted at my better half. Yet all the yelling did not disturb the phlegmatic Milka. When the clamour ceased, she calmly said. "When Gerry left, I never gave it another thought until tonight when the meal was nearly over and then it was too late to put you off your food."

Gerry did find many cysts, put all the meat into the kuni stove and said to Milka, "As soon as Petrus appears, get him to light the stove and ensure it gets red hot!"

To the best of my knowledge, only one individual became a victim, though there could have been many more. Alas! He, Geordie was his name, a land surveyor by profession, spent much of his life in the wilderness, surviving off the land. Yet. "Greedy" Geordie was not content with one worm. He had two. Besides, they were cannibalistic and ate long sections of each other. Especially sad was they almost caused the demise of poor Geordie. because the multitude of drugs he digested failed to dislodge his visitors. Eventually, he was evacuated to Europe for extraspecial treatment, which did the trick. Months later, when he recovered. Geordie returned to his base in Kongwa and resumed his vagabond life.

Nevertheless, there was one consolation. He was not one of the invitees to Milly's birthday party. Otherwise, I'm sure he would have wrought vengeance on Milka. In that event, I would have become a widower.

Chapter Ten: Hedonism - Kongwalese Style
The club was the focal point for regular residents seeking pleasurable activities. Sadly, boarders at the school were not deemed to be bone-fide residents but outcasts, denied club facilities, except under certain conditions. Consequently, they organised their own hedonistic pursuits within their own closed community. After all, boys will be boys and girls will be girls!

Kongwa Club Pool
Kongwa Club Pool
Kongwa's social centre boasted the finest swimming amenities outside the Capital. Its lush, shaded refreshment areas and the cool, soothing water of its pools possessed a magic appeal, especially on hot, arid days. Of course, all that depended on the PWD water supplies. In particular, the children loved to while away the hours in the pools' refreshing depths. However, unaccompanied minors were pariahs within the club's precincts. Consequently, as soon as school finished for the day scholars, their mothers were pestered to take them to their Shangri-la. Naturally, these children swore faithfully to carry our their school assignments immediately after they got back home. Some did; many did not. These latter then had to face the wrath of their teachers the next day.

Kongwa Club Pool
Swimming Lessons
The school had an agreement with the club to use the pools on certain week-day mornings so swimming became a subject on the curriculum and boarders were able to get away from boring classes. One substantial benefit ensued. All pupils became accomplished swimmers and divers. In fact, later, many displayed their prowess in several countries around the globe.

Menfolk headed towards the club once their working day was over. The staff of the Health Training School had a distinct penchant for billiards and snooker. Every day, they raced each other to book the one and only table. On the other hand, the masters of St. George's School were rarely off duty before six o'clock so opportunities to frequent the club were restricted. Consequently, they never became as proficient in billiards as their counterparts from the other school and didn't bear signs of a misspent middle age.

For many, the sundowner became an ingrained ritual. On some off-duty days, I was able to Join Milka and the kids there so I could not only enjoy an IPA (Indian Pale Ale) but could give them a lift home. On week days, the crowd dispersed early so by six-thirty the club would be almost deserted. After all, most wives had to serve the evening meal before it became too dark. They also had to get their offspring into bed for a full night's rest, ready to face the hazards of school next day.

At week ends, the club was very animated. Members from a huge catchment area flocked there. Some played tennis, billiards or snooker, others swam. Still others, overtaxed by a week of hard work, seemed quite content to relax at the bar.

On Saturday mornings, Milka and I often left our own children for a long session in the pool, knowing that someone would act as guardian when we went off shopping to the village.

On one occasion, when we went to collect them, we saw them sipping soft drinks at a poolside table. We also noticed a score of empty bottles and wondered how they had bought them, knowing full well their pocket money would never stretch that far. We questioned them. Their replies were defensive as they rolled out the names of chums who had treated them. Shortly afterwards, we noticed them buying drinks for their pals. As we glanced around, we became aware that all the youngsters were spending lavishly on food and drinks. We wondered what was the source of the sudden affluence.

However, after quizzing several parents, we learned the money had been honestly obtained. It transpired that a jovial miner from a mica mine in a distant mountain was the Good Samaritan. That morning, long before opening time, he arrived at the club with several bags of coins which he tipped into the larger pool. When the youngsters arrived, they began diving and vying with one another to gather the spoils. All the while, the miner watched and derived immense satisfaction just looking at the expressions of elation on the faces of the kids and listening to the screams of delight as their individual piles of coins grew bigger and bigger. Once all the coins were recovered, the kids, by then feeling quite independent, started spending money without having to beg from their parents.

Thereafter, once a month, the miner repeated his generous act. Children crowded the precincts of the pool long before the official opening time. Then one day the news broke. The miner was suffering from a terminal disease and as he hadn't long to live, he wanted to dispose of his savings by giving pleasure to others. Shortly afterwards, he left to seek medical treatment overseas. Alas! We heard from him no more.

Although there was a wicket near the pool where children could buy their wares, they were banned from the interior of the club. Many children rebelled against these restrictions and once in a while would demand of their parents a change of activity. Often, they would ask to go looking for game on the "Units". These were sections of land, each one mile square, stretching as far as the horizon over a vast plain. Though originally bush, this enormous area had been cleared during the Goundnuts era. Several roads, though reduced to tracks by then, constructed during that same period, were passable during the dry season. Others had just disappeared, devoured by Mother Nature.

The Sweeneys sometimes followed this custom of driving around the units in the hope of seeing wild animals in their natural habitat. Often two or three families would travel in convoy to avoid being benighted should a vehicle break down on those unmaintained by-roads. As a rule, we took along picnic baskets. For the kids, a snack in a clearing was more appetising than a formal meal at home.

Many times we saw fresh spoor, yet never sighted any of the bigger game. Sometimes, on our return, we learned that a lion or a leopard had been prowling in the township. Indeed, on one occasion, we learned that a hungry lioness had lingered long and inquisitively near our kitchen door. Two visitors from afar, awaiting our return, had been confined to their vehicle while the beast did its snooping. It would appear that when we went into the wilds, the animals came to town!

Perhaps once every few months, in our eagerness to see game, we would follow one track as far as Zoissa, where Masai and Wagogo countries converged.

Invariably on our way there, we would stop at a spot with the sobriquet "Rat's Hole". At the height of its glory it was an imposing palace, the residence of the General-Manager of the Ground Nuts Scheme. Rumour had it that every stone, quarried in Wales, had been air-lifted by the RAF. Likewise, the intricate wrought iron work, adorning the former terraces and gardens, had also made an arduous air trip.

When we went there, most of the original edifice was in ruins and obscured by overgrowth. Hardly a single window or door could readily be identified as uncontrolled plants sprouted everywhere, even through cracks in the concrete floor. As we gazed at it. we guessed it was the biggest White Elephant in all Tanganyika.

As we drove through those areas where the elephant grass towered over the shrubs, we often spotted flocks of vultures hovering above their tantalising carrion and wondered what unfortunate creature lay dying down below. Sometimes we stopped to listen to death agonies and, though very tempted, we never went too far inside to investigate in depth. We waited until the cries died away and then watched as the rapacious birds dived down to feast, knowing that in short while only a few bones would be left as mementos of the incident.

Many folk at Kongwa were not content with spotting game but preferred to hunt. They had acquired a taste for venison and bird flesh. They would track down and shoot any member of the cervine or caprine family, for many species of deer and antelope roamed the plains. Jagers, with their shotguns at the ready, went after "kanga", a wildfowl, reputedly a real delicacy. 'We need a change from beef!" they loudly proclaimed.

Shortly after our arrival, one enthusiastic hunter took our family with him on a "shoot". Though not passionate lovers of the sport, we were keen to see the "units", about which we heard so much. Kanga were plentiful so every once in a while, our hunter stopped the car and got out. "Don't make a sound!" he would whisper as he placed his forefinger over his mouth.

Then he would crawl after a covey of kanga, seemingly unaware of his presence because they continued pecking as they flitted here and there. Once, he got as close as three yards from a bird. With his first blast, the pellets flew in all directions but none hit his target, which slowly turned to glare at our fowler and then just waddled away.

For a long time, we kept stopping to allow our stalker to repeat his performance before moving on. In time, even the kids lost interest in watching his techniques and wanted to return home.

"One more go, Joe! and then we'll get back home."

At his next stop, he managed to get within five feet of a kanga before pulling the trigger. The poor fowl just didn't stand a chance. Proudly, he picked it up and placed it in the boot. During the return trip, he turned round to Milka and officiously announced.

'You have that kanga! It will make a pleasant change from beef."

When we did get home, he still insisted and dumped it on the kitchen table. Naturally, it was so weighted down that cleaning it would have been quite a feat. Into the dust bin it did go and some hungry hyenas had a leaden meal that night.

There were other diversions too. We were invited occasionally to "ngoma" (dances) and "baraza" (more formal functions) in nearby villages. No matter what type of ceremony, there was always much feasting, dancing and drinking. The Wagago were so healthy that they never seemed to t Ire. They chanted, danced and sweated non-stop for as long as three whole days. On the other hand, the Wazungu (Europeans) endured only a hour or two before returning home.

One rite which always intrigued me was the performance of the ostrich man. Bedecked in feathers, he would dance interminably before eventually slithering slowly to the ground. Once supine, his acolytes covered him with soil. I always gazed intensely to check whether any chicanery was at work whilst a colleague continually estimated the depth of the soil. The entombed playactor lay buried for what seemed eons before being disinterred. Then he rose, shook off the remainder of the soil and resumed his rhythmic prance, leaving us still guessing how he obtained air while completely covered by the heavy earth.

School plays, sports days and prize days provided further deviations from routine. Perhaps the most outlandish form of entertainment was the formal dinner party. Persons in close contact during duty hours often invited one another to dinner. The hostess would spend hours and hours planning and preparing a sumptuous banquet. Then, at the appointed hour the guests would arrive; ladies in elegant evening gowns; gents in sombre evening suits. Greetings and conversations were very ceremonious just as if everyone was meeting for the first time. However, once the aperatifs went to work, talking became less stinted. Of course, when the meal was served, it was always 'dinner by candlelight', power-cuts or not.

The conversations always centred on local issues. As in all closed communities, minor events become magnified beyond reason. Trivial titbits on Kongwa gossip held people spellbound whilst the problems of the outside world were of no import at all. Yet, sometimes, when the wine set the tongues awagging many tales, some nostalgic, many humorous, brought memories back of past lives in countries far away.

Thus, Hedonism in Kongwa was practised in a variety of ways.

Chapter Eleven: The Rodent Round Up
Earlier I described initial efforts to reduce the rodent population. Unfortunately, those endeavours were only partially successful. Survivors of the holocaust took up residence within the kitchen and its adjoining storerooms. Every morning when Milka entered the cook house, there was always evidence of forced entry into the meat safe and devastation elsewhere. Every day she repaired the mesh. No doubt, a refrigerator would have eased the problem. However, the one we ordered through the local duka took ages to arrive. Until it did so, we made use of the meat safe to store some foodstuffs; others we stored in covered pans until the rats learned to turn them over. The safest places we soon discovered were big biscuit tins but we never had enough.

One day, the usual patient Milka was at the end of her tether so I decided I had to take action. That evening, as soon as the electricity came on, I stealthily entered the cookhouse. I was armed with a panga, a useful local weapon, shaped like a scimitar. I flicked the light on. The floor teemed with rats. I struck over and over again and chopped up five. The others scuttled hither and thither with several finding shelter behind the corrugated sheeting protecting the wooden wall from the kuni stove. I banged the metal with all my might. Some rushed out but were much too quick for me because I only felled one. The others jumped all over the place in a seemingly senseless rush but all escaped through a gap in the mosquito gauze into an adjoining storeroom.

The following evening I did a repeat but I only killed three. Most had already hidden in the hideout behind the sheeting even before I touched the light switch. This time only one was sufficiently confused by my banging to venture out. yet he was too quick for me. The third evening I tried again but, by the time the lights were on, all my intended victims were safely behind the stove and no amount of banging could dislodge them. I gave up and only tried the same stratagem once in a while but with very limited success.

One day I mentioned the problem to Bob, a tutor at the Health Training School- "Why in heaven's name didn't you tell me before? I could have done something."

"I thought it was a FWD shauri (matter) and I don't like asking them for anything. I prefer to tackle problems myself."

"I just can't understand you, Joe. All the same, I'll bring some trainees this Saturday. It'll be a good experience for them."

He kept his word and his squad set up, in the kitchen, pantry and storerooms, about fifty huge traps, baited with chunks of meat provided by Milka and treated with strychnine by the trainees.

On Sunday, the rat catchers returned to count their score. There were 37 defunct rats with corpses enormous and faces distorted. One catcher measured one victim. The tail was sixteen inches long; the body just slightly less.

The rodent round up solved the problem, at least for then. Later we did get some additional help to keep the pests at bay.

The same Bob had a cat. The cat was expecting. The father was a wild Tom. No doubt he was taken into the bush by its former owner when the Groundnuts Scheme collapsed and the owner moved to greener pastures. The mother-to-be was the darling of Bob's family. When the litter arrived, each kitten was given a name beginning with Ginger - Ginger Ale, Ginger Bread, Ginger Cordial, Ginger Nut, Ginger Pop. Ginger Snap and the Benjamin was named Ginger Beer.

Bob's children wanted to keep all seven but the parents said "Certainly not!" In the event, it was easy to find homes for six of them but difficult to find anyone to take the seventh. Time and time again, Bob and his wife, Hilda, begged Milka to take him.

"He'll be a great pet for your kids" they kept insisting, "and he'll keep those rats and mice away."

Eventually a worn down Milka relented and we became owners of Ginger Beer to keep the rodent population under control and to provide a plaything for the boys.

He was not only a rat and reptile exterminator, he became a pace maker for Francis and Paul. They used to chase this half-wild animal up trees, round bushes and through thin hedges. Naturally, they found it much too long to call him by his full name so he became just plain Ginger who revelled in the fun.

One day when all three were entertaining each other, a parade of Wagogo youngsters, with elders, not only in the van but also in the rear, were marching slowly and silently along a nearby, meandering bush path. All were attired in formal tribal dress for an initiation ceremony. Suddenly, the stillness was shattered by awe-inspiring screams. The solemn company broke up and everyone scattered in all directions as fast as legs could carry them.

In Kiswahili, understood by most Wagogo, there is a special verb for "to kill for food". Its imperative is "chinja", pronounced like "Ginger". The poor youngsters, on hearing Francis and Paul calling their pet, were quite convinced they would soon be killed and eaten up.


Although officially banned from the dining room at meal times. Ginger would often sneak in. If Milka saw him she grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him outside. Invariably, the cunning cat would find its way back as it was well aware that one of the kids would find an excuse to open the door leading to the kitchen. Then it would lie beside anyone's feet but Milka's.

Often he would sneak along to me for titbits. He informed me of his presence by placing his front paws on my knee and rubbing his muzzle against my leg. He stopped only when I surreptitiously slipped him some food. In time, Milka became aware of his craftiness and abandoned hope of training him to stay outside at meal times. Soon, he became bolder and bolder and, after scrounging from the children he would jump up on my knees, climb up an arm and sit on my shoulders until he received some reward. Then he would Jump down and start his rounds again.

After Ginger had been with us several months. I developed painful, blister-like sores, sometimes on the knees, at other times on the arms. These pestiferous ulcers would persist for three weeks or more and always caused a high fever. They looked like cantharides blisters yet I could never recall brushing any Spanish flies from my skin. They were always very excruciating but would eventually disappear only to return mysteriously a few weeks later.

On one occasion, they appeared ail over my chest. This time the throbbing was more Intense and my body temperature rose to 105 degrees Fahrenheit After a week of insomnious nights, I thought it wise to go to see the "Doc". Over a long period, Gerry tried different remedies but to no avail. Invariably after three weeks, the sores disappeared of their own volition. Gerry was perplexed.

Over many months the cycle was repeated. No one else in the family was affected. Gerry remained bewildered but doggedly refused to give up the pursuit of an answer.

Then one morning, at break-time. I received a message that Gerry wanted to see me immediately I was free. However, it was early evening before I found time to visit his office. He was still busy dealing with the paper work which had accumulated while he was in class. So I took a seat and waited. When he finished with one pile, he looked up.

"Joe!" he announced, 'You've got cat scratch fever!"

"Don't be daft! Gerry!" I retorted. "Whose leg are you trying to pull?"

"Honestly. Joe! I'm quite serious. Just read this!"

He passed over a World Health Organisation publication. The heading on the open page hit my eyes. It was "Cat Scratch Fever".

'You know, Joe?" blurted out an excited Gerry, "For months and months I've been puzzling over those ulcers. You and Bob are the only ones I've ever known who get them. Then a strange thing happened this morning as I was opening and scanning the mail. This pamphlet dropped on the floor. When I picked it up I spotted the title on the opened page. It intrigued me so I read the article. It explained how most felines in the tropical bush collect bacteria under their claws which can then, however strange it may seem, transmit diseases to allergic humans without ever breaking the skin. I know Ginger Beer and his mother roam the bush. I put two and two together and guessed this was the thing to which you and Bob are allergic."

From then onwards. Bob and I strived to keep our pets away from any bare skin. Alas! It wasn't always possible for. every once in a while, the sores returned but, at least, we knew the cause. We realised also that was the price both Bob and I paid for our rodent and vertebrate exterminators.

Chapter Twelve: Sounds From The Bush
Life, during term time, was always so strenuous that, by bedtime, we were always ready for sleep. Insomnia in our and most other families was unknown. We completely ignored the chirping of cicadas, the croaking ot toads and the roars, the snores, the moans, the groans and the chattering of multitudes of other nocturnal creatures and quickly fell asleep. Only occasionally did the sounds approach close enough to disturb us. Of course, we often heard the hyenas, though their so-called laughs sounded more like lamentations. Invariably, they roamed in packs and their principal targets were the swill bins outside the school and hospital cookhouses. Their secondary objectives were the rubbish receptacles outside private residences. As long as the school was in session, these carrion-feeding carnivores enjoyed a substantial diet. After gorging themselves at the school and at the hospital, the more gluttonous foragers would set out singly or in pairs to scour the residential areas. As a rule, when they called on us. they stayed in the kitchen area and rarely approached our sleeping quarters to disturb us. However, sometimes they had difficulty removing the empty dustbin lid so they bumped the bin about the garden making enough din to wake up the dead and us. As soon as we realised the cause, we just turned over and went back to sleep.

Once, some stopped outside our bedroom window and didn't want to leave. They howled like poor souls paying their penalty in Hell. I got out of bed. looked out of the window and counted three. I was concerned that their walling might awaken the children though the latter did sleep on. Francis, however, must have been slightly aroused for we heard a thud and thought he might have fallen off the bed. Milka and I rushed in to find him, not on the floor but with his head stuck halfway through the distempered wall panelling behind his bed. We pulled him out and dragged his bed towards the centre of the room. Fortunately, his head did not penetrate the outside panel to provide a hungry hyena with a tasty titbit.

Next morning, on closer inspection, we discovered large sections of the walls and celling had been devoured by voracious ants. What remained were merely thin films of pigmental distemper. Naturally, my first task that morning was to contact our friends, the PWD.

During school vacations, not only did the pupils evacuate Kongwa but as many staff as could afford to do so did so too. As a result, there was a dearth of plunder for the ravenous hyenas. They found nothing at the school and very little at the hospital. Consequently, they began to roam in rapacious packs, became more daring and extended their area of search.

One brilliant moonlight night as I sat reading in the living room, I heard the dustbin being knocked about. I knew there was no food in it because we had learned to burn all the scraps in the kuni stove and that there would only be the occasional tin. Of course, I knew the pack was going to be unlucky but did not predict their reactions. The scavengers lingered on and skirmished in the garden. Drawn by curiosity, I went out on to the verandah to investigate. I watched as several hyenas jumped up and down on the back of one of their number, each one snapping at the nape of its neck. Though the victim fought back, the battle did not last long. The prey, which was probably the oldest of the pack, finally fell and as it lay helpless, the others, (and I counted twelve) started eating it alive. Several minutes elapsed as I watched in fascination before I realised how foolhardy I was. Then I quickly moved back inside the house to avoid being the next titbit on their menu.

The following morning, when I examined the scene of the action, the reddish, sandy soil was all churned up. Yet. there was not a morsel of flesh nor a single bone. Thus it was that I learned that hyenas are cannibalistic gluttons.

As a rule, hyenas waited till nightfall before descending from their mountain lairs. However, on one occasion during school vacation time, I know this rule was broken. Just before twilight, a young Mgogo mother was walking along the wide tarmac road not far from the Post Office. Her new-born baby, wrapped in a huge shawl, was strung across her back. Her three year old daughter was clinging to her mother's skirt. Then, without warning, a rabid, spotted hyena sneaked up from behind and snatched the girl away. The agonising screams of the captured child and those of her terrified mother were all in vain. The hyena just hopped into the bush with its human prey.

During our sojourn in Kongwa several of our friends and acquaintances lost their pet dogs to hyenas. Many, many were the nights when we heard the yelps of poor doggies gripped in the jaws of that voracious predator, the hyena. The yelps always faded to feeble whimpers before finally dying away. Then we knew that another pet would wag its tail no more.

Years later, when we lived in Dar, we too, lost a first class watch dog. Barney was his name. We were on leave in Europe at the time. When we first heard the news. Milka and I suspected a hyena. However, on our return. Our housewarmers and doggie sitters told us that the culprit must have been an aged lion on the prowl. Alas! We never learned the truth but we did know that Africa can certainly generate mysteries in addition to a medley of strange sounds.

Chapter Thirteen: Language Learning
When In Rome, do as the Romans do but, when in Africa, learn the local language.

About a mile from where we lived there resided an Italian family. As Milka can speak that language, she became on friendly terms with Rosina, la signora whose English was very limited and whose Kiswahili was even more so.

Rosina had a young baby whom she bathed several times a day because of the torrid climate. She also had a general factotum, Horatio. His duties were to stoke the kuni stove and keep an eye on the odd cooking pot to ensure it did not boil over. One day, Rosina decided on gnocchi for lunch. She dutifully peeled the potatoes, placed them In a pan. covered them with water and then posed the pan on the cool side of the stove. Turning to Horatio, she asked him to move the pan to the hot plate at exactly twelve noon. She did know sufficient Kiswahili to say "saa sita".

Next, she returned to the house to finish her many chores, the last of which before returning to the kitchen was to bath and feed the baby. She timed her return for exactly twenty past twelve expecting to find the potatoes cooked. To her surprise, she found a different pan on the hot plate. On looking closer, her eyes almost popped out of her head. Sticking out of the bubbling water were her husband's Sunday shoes, with the pan lid precariously poised on the heels. Sadly, Rosina had said "viatu" (shoes) instead of "viazi" (potatoes).


Milka, too, sometimes had language problems. The day after reaching Kongwa, several vendors of eggs and chickens called at the house hoping to sell their produce. The Kiswahili word for egg (in the singular) is "yai". The Serbo-Croat word is "jaje" (well known by Milka). There is only a slight difference in pronunciation. To make use of word association, I had Milka repeat "yai" several times.

The following morning, as I dashed through the door on my way to school, I almost collided with an elderly gentleman. I slithered to a stop and jerked my head sideways. Lined up near a manyara hedge were six luscious, elegant, well-dressed young ladies. I could hardly believe my eyes. Breathlessly. I blurted out the customary greetings but hardly waited for the traditional replies. I slowed down my speech and politely said, "Very well. Good Sir. what brings you here?"

"Bwana!" he solemnly began. "Yesterday, Memsahib ask for six ayahs."

I thrust my head back through the dining room door and yelled at Milka who was busy doing Joan's plaits.

"What in Hell's name do you want ayahs for?

"Oh!" she shouted back, "Just put them in a pan of water. Keep the ones that sink. Give back the ones that float."

My patience could stand it no longer.

"Come out and sort this one out for yourself. I've got to get to work."

So that was Milka's first lesson in Kiswahili. At least, she learned the difference between a nursemaid (ayah) and an egg.


Sahani is a Kiswahili word from Arabic. It has many connotations based on the adjective flat. It can mean a disc, a plate, a frying pan, a tray, in fact, it can mean almost anything which is round and flat.

One newly-arrived teacher was very keen on learning the language. She was also keen on having orange juice brought, every morning, to her bed before getting out of it. Therefore, she ordered her house boy, Augustine, to bring a glass of the juice daily, at dawn, and place it on her bedside table.

For several weeks, she spent all her spare time studying the language. When she deemed she knew enough, she decided it was time to train Augustine to bring the glass of juice on a tray. Carefully, she explained as best as she could. Unfortunately, Augustine's Kiswahili was restricted. He was Mgogo. Nevertheless, he was eager to please and indicated in sign language that he understood her wishes. Next morning he did bring in the orange juice. The glass was in one hand; the frying pan in the other.

There are many other instances of confusion caused by difficulties in communicating. Having lived in many lands, it pays, I do believe, to learn the language of the county where one resides.

Chapter Fourteen: The Rainy Season
Rain depresses me. Experts reckon that over 16 million tons of it fail to earth every second. I reckon that Kongwa had an inordinate share during the rainy season, enough anyway to demoralise me. On the other hand, the short rains were almost tolerable. Nevertheless, I admit that the parched soil clamoured for relief. I understand that cultivators need water for their crops. All the same, the long rains seemed to last too long for me.

Nature always gave us adequate warning of the onset of the cloud bursts. For many days beforehand, there was an incredible increase in insect activity, both inside and outside our abode. never fathomed out why. It may have been the sudden change in atmospheric pressure or the increased positive ionisation which urged the insects' delicate mechanisms to seek shelter. Albeit, they swarmed and, by dusk, the swarms had multiplied a million fold. When electric power was available, we switched on outside lights and watched thousands of flying varieties dash blindly against the lamp bulbs to an untimely death. Soon, the lamps were so covered with corpses that only few light beams could filter through and we had to go outside to brush the lamps clean. This stratagem did, at least, reduce the numbers of pests that penetrated into the house.

Each evening brought a different brand. Kiswahili possesses specific words for the more common insects, such as the bee, the wasp and the mosquito. The others are just grouped under the generic name of "dudu" (plural, madudu). On the other hand, expatriates invented nicknames for several distinctive types. One kind used to curl up at the slightest touch and assume the appearance of a peanut. Hence, they were named "karanga". Another gained the nickname of stink bug, though its stench was much more pungent than the North American varieties. One dainty specimen was labelled a sausage fly, simply because its slender body resembled a mini-sausage.

To reduce the invading forces, we plugged every known means of entry into the house. We avoided opening outside doors unless absolutely necessary and then only for a few fleeting seconds. Yet, amazingly, hordes of insects made it inside. They covered the furniture; blanketed the floor and crawled or flew into every nook and cranny. Next morning. Milka always had a busy time sweeping them outside.

Though we learned to recognise and name many, we never learned to name them all. We could recognise different types of beetles, scorpions and spiders. Scorpions possessed an amazing early warning system to advise them of impending rain and sought cover a few days beforehand. Well do I recall one evening, when Milka had been delayed in preparing the evening meal because the kuni stove had been cantankerous. The kids and I were impatient. Francis and Paul took turns opening the dining room door to see whether the food tray was arriving. At one point, Paul screamed.

'There's a scorpion getting in!"

I grabbed a locally-made shillelagh and tapped the would-be intruder. Soon, several varieties of scorpions headed for the door. Paul went for the panga. He and I took up positions by the doorposts, picking off the stingers as they tried to enter. Before the meal finally appeared, our score was over eighty black, light brown and pink specimens. The latter were the most distrusted because their sting was considered more painful than the bites of many snakes. From personal experience, I can vouch that their venom causes several hours of excruciating pain.

That experience taught me to keep the Sabbath holy. At week-ends, I used to clear up my backlog of marking. One Sunday morning, I went into the staff room to drop off sets of books already marked and to collect more. Just as I placed my hands underneath a pile, my brain went suddenly numb. A split second later when I came to , I saw the books strewn all over the floor but could not understand what had happened. Almost simultaneously, I felt an unbearable pain stretching from my finger tips well into my shoulders. I stood paralysed but immediately recovered when I spotted a pink scorpion scuttling from underneath my scattered books. Naturally, I could not resist crushing it with my foot.

All ideas of marking were cast aside. Just gathering up the books and putting them back on their shelf was ordeal enough. I made it to my car and headed to the hospital, hoping the duty doctor would know of an antidote. He was a stand-in, new to Africa. He injected my whole hand with local anaesthetics and exhorted me to come back should the sting not lose its strength. I went home though I found no relief. I spent three hours pacing up and down the garden, gripping tightly the afflicted arm and holding it high into the air. I could not eat my lunch nor could I do anything constructive to take my mind off the pain.

The family thought I was just putting on a show. Eventually. I went back to see the doctor. He gave me a number of tablets with instructions to take them as soon as I got home and then to go to bed. I did so but could not stay in bed. I got up and resumed my pacing up and down the garden. The kids still made fun of me and pestered me to take them for a swim. I acquiesced. When we reached the club, the first person I met was the doctor. He stared aghast, jerked his head, stared again and blurted out.

"What the devil are you doing here, Joe? I gave you sufficient morphia to knock you out for twenty-four hours."


Once the rains started, there was nothing we could do except alter our habits. School life continued more or less as usual. As it wasn't cricket to play cricket, the soccer and rugger seasons kicked off. The Saturday night movie was sometimes cancelled; sometimes the site where it was shown was almost washed away. Few people ventured outside the township area and only if it was a must. Roads became quagmires. Dry streams and river beds became raging torrents. The roads to Idodoma and to Mpapwa as well as the main one to Dar were often impassable. Consequently, we spent more time indoors. Yet, in day time, once a storm was over, the sun would come out and the red, muddy roads soon became baked, cracked, corrugated and rutted.

However, sheltering indoors was not always pleasant. The roof leaked in many places and the furniture had to be moved around to avoid getting wet. Milka placed pails, pots and pans to collect the drippings. These containers had to be constantly monitored and emptied before overflowing. In some sections of the walls, where the outer planks were not strong enough to withstand the pressure, the rain managed to seep through.

Some rain water we saved. At week-ends, I would boil, filter and bottle it. Thus I built up a supply of fairly pure water for the car battery and the radiator and for less foresighted colleagues.

At bedtime we usually ignored the pounding on the roof and slid into bed. One night though brought an unexpected surprise. A terrifying boom rent the air and shook the house. Milka tapped me on the shoulder and whispered.

"What's that? Joe!"

"Don't know," I mumbled then struggled out of bed. As I put my feet upon the floor, I felt shivers running up my legs. I waded to the corridor, switched on the light and looked. Already small articles were floating towards the living room. I looked at what should have been an outside door. The main panel, made of very thick plywood, lay in the corridor where the rain and wind had thrown it. The gaping hole was large enough for a hyena, a lion or a leopard cub to enter. Milka and I dragged the biggest wardrobe we had to block the void. Next morning, I glued and nailed the panel back in place whilst Milka cleared up the mess. Alas! When the next storm broke, the panel caved in again.

Unfortunately, the P. W. D. could not provide a replacement door so the wardrobe became a permanent feature of the corridor where it stood on sentry duty with its back against the doorway.


Tales From The African Bush
Road to Kongwa
Driving in the rain could be nightmarish. I avoided doing so unless absolutely necessary.

Any vehicle would slither and dither on the wet, soft earth and would often get mired in the mud. Most Kongwarites avoided long distance travel during the rainy season. However, duty sometimes made travel a must. On the several occasions when I had to cross the Pinaar Heights, en route from Idodoma to Arusha, it always rained. The mud was deep and I always saw long lines of bogged down vehicles. Luckily, I always found willing hands to push and heave the vehicle I was driving or was being driven in through the worst sections. Fortunately, I always arrived at my destination, albeit delayed and caked with mud.

Now, I think you will understand why rain depresses me.

Chapter Fifteen: More Creatures of God
I am definitely no biologist. Nevertheless, I have learned a little about life in Africa and even acquired a little knowledge about zoology. Elsewhere I have mentioned encounters with herpetoids, rodents, carnivores and insects. Life in many forms certainly proliferates where the climate's sultry and sultry it is in many parts of Africa.

Milka contended that I am cruel to God's creatures and that, whenever one espies me. it will attack with whatever weapon it possesses. I deny I am cruel. I never strike first yet I feel I have suffered more than my fair share of these creatures' reaction to fear. I have been assailed by beaks, claws, fangs, hooves, stings, teeth and tails, not to mention other offensive weapons that God has provided for his proteges.

My experiences with African bees were always very painful yet I was never aggressive towards them. They were much too nimble for me and very, very belligerent. Even nowadays, a strain of these African aggressors attracts the headlines and, every once in a while, we see a TV programme, on the American Continent, about their bellicosity. Some imports escaped from a Brazilian laboratory and migrated North. By in, inter and cross breeding they have increased and multiplied. Some offspring are more vicious than their progenitors. Swarms cause casualties as they move from one locality to another. As I write, they have specimens causing problems in Texas. Yet, long before those bees made the acquaintance of the New World, I made their acquaintance in the Old. Where the bees stung, there was I.

Tales From The African Bush
In those distant days in Tanganyika, the local press and radio sometimes reported human deaths induced by bee stings. In fact, one Italian acquaintance of ours failed to survive the onslaught of a colony of bees in the main street of Idodoma nor did five Wagogo. I must be lucky; I've survived many.

Though unrequested and unwanted, we even had our own hive. Its location was unusual, concealed behind the horizontal planks that formed part of the outer wall behind the house. Its occupants selected an area alongside the door most frequently used, the one leading from the dining area to the kitchen. It was the very one through which I was wont to dash out on my way to school.

For many weeks after the hive was established, I was left unmolested. Then, one morning, an aggressive individual alighted on my thumb and left its sting to play havoc with my nervous system. For a month, my hand and arm were twice their normal size. The overstretched skin caused discolouration and incessant aching. At school, the pupils watched my comic antics as I tried writing on the board, though not one proffered any caustic comments. Perhaps they thought the grimaces on my face were meant to threaten them.

On another occasion a small colony of bees settled on my hair. Maybe the hair oil I used tickled their sense of smell. In due course, some flew away after leaving their visiting cards. Others continued hovering overhead. On this occasion the poison was not as devastating as before. Possibly, I was acquiring an immunity or. more likely, my thick hair prevented the stings from penetrating profoundly. The following days brought more irritating trade marks on my skin. Finally, Milka tactfully suggested,

"Why not use another door, Joe?"

The idea, of course, had occurred to me. However, I was loathe to capitulate to these insignificant insects. Nevertheless, I did adopt her suggestion and changed my entering and exiting habits.

The other family members escaped unscathed though they always used the most popular door. On the other hand. Petrus, our general factotum, was not immune. Once he went a little too close to the hive and was completely out of action for many days. At least he never showed up for work. The day he returned, Milka. no doubt alarmed that a single bee sting could keep Petrus away from work for so long, deliberately turned to me and said.

"Joe! Isn't it about time you did something about those bees?"

So, next time I met Bob, I broached the subject. He was very sympathetic. Like me. he was prone to unprovoked attacks by God's darling creatures, including bees.

"Why didn't you mention this before?" He asked in a chiding tone. Then he continued in his customary jovial tone.

"No problem at all, Joe. We'll be there next Saturday."

As we expected, the following Saturday morning, he and his squad, all suitably attired, with thick leather gauntlets, bulky waders, and beekeeper's headgear arrived, bearing much paraphernalia for the coming battle. From a safe distance. I watched the action. First, they set off smoke bombs to lull the bees into a stupor. Then they pried away planks, leaving only studs and wall plates, until the hive was fully exposed. It was huge and stretched from ground to roof and from the doorpost to the end wall. The catchers collected and shared the honey. They even offered some to me. I accepted it but was loathe to even taste It. Subconsciously, I must have felt an antipathy towards its producers. The group left, leaving me to wash and then soak the planks in insect repellent before nailing them back in place. I was elated that it wasn't someone else nailing my coffin.

No longer did I have to make detours. I used my favourite door. Then, incredibly the bees returned and constructed a hive exactly where the old one had been. Prudently, I went back to making detours.


Though I have made many references to herpetoid and ophidian creatures, there was one snake that really intrigued me. Every day, over an eighteen month period, when I was returning home after lunch duty. I turned a sharp corner close to our house. Without fail, there was a snake with its head and upper body protruding upright from a hole in the middle of the road. When the car was exactly four yards away, the reptile would push its head upwards another two inches then swiftly slide down into its den. No matter whether I accelerated or slowed down, the snake always waited until the car was four yards away before disappearing. It never gave me a chance to Identify its species. I only knew its colour and that was battleship grey.

Then one afternoon when I turned that corner, the snake that had cocked and snooted at me for so long was ten yards from its hole. I reluctantly but rapidly revved the engine and ran over it as it slithered towards its hide-out. I reversed and ran over it again. I got out and found it still very much alive. Even then I did not recognise its species so could not tell whether it was venomous or not. I picked up a piece of brushwood and tapped it on the head. One of the school boys whose hobby was taxidermy prepared the skin for me. Now. somewhere in that luggage that went astray in some alien land rest the remains of a reptile which I should have reared as a pet.

Snakes have always intrigued me. possibly because their behaviour is often unpredictable. One of the strangest sights I ever did see was outside the schoolboys' mess. It was during the holidays when Kongwa looked such a desolate place. Nevertheless the school authorities never allowed the bush to take over, otherwise the whole area would have been overrun by reptiles. The gardeners kept the grass and all the hedges neat arid trim. One day I was driving ever so slowly past the mess and could easily see over the low hedge. I espied a mass of snakes, all intertwined with heads swaying horizontally, bodies almost upright and balanced on their tails. They pranced up and down, weaved in and out and whirled round and round in a vertical movement much like a dust devil in the desert. I stopped the car then sat and watched with ever increasing amazement. I tried to count them but gave up when I got to eighteen as their movements had become too rapid and too intense for my eyes. The frenzied reptiles were totally oblivious to my presence. Finally, one dropped down exhausted, then another until eventually all lay supine on the ground. It was not until later that I realised the significance of this astounding performance. Quite simply, they were answering nature's call to ensure their species did not become extinct.


It had become an ingrained habit of mine to polish my shoes each evening and to place them just outside the bathroom door ready for a quick getaway the following morning. Routinely, I would slip my shoes on without ever even glancing at them. However, one morning I did look. Inside one shoe, curled up comfortably and asleep was a baby, female puff adder. I carried the shoe into the kitchen, upturned it on the stove and hit its former occupant sharply on the head. Though I had already learned a lot about this species. I still examined its fangs and its poison bags. The venom teeth of one so young could have penetrated a full inch into someone's flesh. Even its spare fangs were fully developed. When this type of adder bites, its fangs often break off and remain in the punctures. Yet, within minutes, the spares are in place and ready for action. Each poison bag. according to the experts, contains sufficient venom to kill several humans. However, this particular baby never used its assets. They and it found their final resting place in the biology laboratory at school.

Tales From The African Bush
Snake Charmers
In East Africa, I have been told there are nineteen species of puff adder. Eighteen give birth to live young. The mother finds a convenient spot above ground, usually the branch of a tree, where the newly born can be dropped without harming the mother. A usual litter is about twenty. Consequently I deduced that a number of baby adders were inside or near the house and I earnestly hoped that none would find its way inside our baby's cot.

Over the years I have known of people being bitten by puff adders but few have survived. One who did was an Italian lady who lived close to Kongwa Hospital. As a rule, adders strike the foot or the lower part of the leg when taken by surprise. However, Signora Rosa's bite was in an unusual part of her anatomy. Mother Nature had called her to the choo late one dusky evening. In the gloom, when she sat down, she did not notice the adder already nestling on the throne. From inside the house. Signor Rosa heard his wife's frantic screams and dashed out, torch in one hand, panga in the other. Quickly he lashed out, slayed the attacker and rushed it and his wife over the road to the hospital. The staff like to see a serpent's head in order to decide the best serum to use.

For more than a week, it was touch and go for poor Signora Rosa and it was more than two weeks before she could sit down in comfort. From then onwards, she never made any nocturnal visits to an unlit, outside choo.

God's creatures certainly helped to make life in the Bush more interesting.

The Last Chapter - The Demise of Schools at Kongwa
Nineteen-fifty-eight was a year of Increased impetus towards independence for Tanganyika.

Even though Julius Nyerere founded TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) on July 7th, 1954 with the aim of gaining representation in Government for Africans, the first elections to the National Assembly were not held until 1958. As Kongwa was an isolated and closed community, we knew little about political developments. We had work to do and were preoccupied with it.

Tales From The African Bush
Iringa School Construction
Nevertheless, we learned, in due course, that the powers that be had concluded that the Government of an Independent Tanganyika would not bestow special educational favours on Europeans. Consequently, Saint-George's School, Kongwa had to close down. However, to prevent an exodus of Europeans needed to provide continuity in Government and in the Economy after Independence, a new school was built at Iringa. It was to be privately funded and was named Saint-Michael's and Saint-George's. The pupils at Kongwa were to be transferred there in January 1959 and the staff were given the option of doing likewise. No-one accepted. Colonial Pension rights were not transferable.

As for the Health Training School, the staff and trainees were to be transferred, also in January 1959, to new buildings at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Dar-es-Salaam.

Tales From The African Bush
Sir Edward Twining
By mid-June of 1958, we became aware that Independence was rapidly approaching. One indication was that Sir Edward Twining made his farewell tour of outlying stations of his governordom prior to his being replaced by Sir Richard Turnbull. The latter was to be the last Governor before Independence and the first Governor-General of an Independent Tanganyika. The day set for Sir Edward's visit was declared a school holiday. Consequently, the Sweeneys, other residents of Kongwa and crowds of villagers from the surrounding area gathered at the airstrip to await the touch-down of his plane. Once on terra firma, the Governor shook hands with dozens of folk. He even chatted to our bush-baby, Kathleen, and signed Joan's autograph book. When the villagers started their enthusiastic welcome. Sir Edward joined in the dancing and felt quite at home.

By November, the staff of both schools really realised that Life at Kongwa was coming to a close. Examinations had to be prepared and conducted, papers marked, results promulgated, reports written and so on and so forth. In addition, there was more red-tape work, including a multitude of inventories, to be carried out within a very cramped period of time. There was little respite. Once the examinations were over, the pupils were able to relax and to enjoy sports galore and other activities, including farewell house parties. Naturally, the staff had to organise and supervise these events. In addition, they had many other jobs to do. including packing not only school equipment but also their own possessions. Those who had to go on home leave were especially pressed for time.

On the penultimate day of term, the first contingent of pupils and escorts climbed aboard the East African Railways and Harbours "buses amid the cheers from the remaining pupils and staff. The following day saw the departure of the last 'bus. with myself on board as escort. Once I handed over my charges to their parents, I rushed back to Kongwa by the first available means.

Over the previous few weeks, Milka had been packing all but the bare essentials because, on my return, there was little time to finalise our departure arrangements. We had hired a lorry from Sahib Harman, a genial duka owner in the township, to transport our chattels-personal to the PWD storehouse in Dar. As we knew our crates would not even half-fill the vehicle, we agreed to transport the household effects of a very hard-working, but bankrupt and impoverished Italian farmer who was moving to the Capital to find paid employment. Of course, we all helped to load the lorry. Then we stood to attention as it moved off in haste to be quickly enveloped in dust which soon hid it from sight.

That night we camped out in our old home. Next morning, I ran the females of the family to Mpapwa to catch the train to Dar. I saw Milka. Joan and the bush-baby ensconced into their compartment before hastening back to Kongwa. There, Francis, Paul and I loaded, into the Vanguard, almost all our odds and ends left in the house. The boys climbed into the front seat beside me and we set off from an almost deserted Kongwa across the plains on our way to Dar.

On our arrival there, I registered in the New Africa (Neue Afrika) Hotel, unloaded what luggage we were to take aboard the "Braemar Castle", bathed, dined and went to bed.

Tales From The African Bush
SS Braemar Castle
At noon next day. I drove to the Railway Station to await the arrival of the females to take them to the hotel. Later, I drove to the charming suburb of Oyster Bay to the new home of the former chemistry teacher at Kongwa, Harry Sirnms. He had arrived in Dar a few days earlier. By pre-arrangement, I was to leave the Vanguard near his driveway. I jacked up the car. placed it on blocks and prepared it for storage during the rainy season. That included draining the fully charged battery. As an aside, I should mention that Harry filled the battery with fresh battery acid the day before our return, restored the car to the state it was in when I drove it into the driveway, delicately pressed the starter to be immediately comforted by the gentle purr of the engine.

It was an early reveille next morning. As we looked out over the Haven of Peace, we saw the Braemar Castle tied up at the brand new Princess Margaret Quay. We embarked at the appointed hour, just before she was scheduled to leave. Alas! a dockers' strike meant she couldn't be loaded. Before the strike was finally settled, our bush baby and several other passengers succumbed to heat stroke. Though the outside temperature was a mere 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the broiling sun heated up the ship's hull to a temperature that was overpowering for many passengers. Our bush-baby soon suffered from severe convulsions. Fortunately, the Sweeneys had their own physician on board. Gerry, the Principle of the Health Training School, and his family were fellow passengers. So the bush-baby survived.

The voyage to Europe and the return via the Cape with a third son merits another book.

The Kongwa as we knew it had died. Long live Dar-es-Salaam and the many other places in Africa which have subsequently provided happy homes for the Sweeney clan which, in accordance with a reputed godly edict, increased and multiplied to the tune of nine.

Colonial Map
Map of Dar Es Salaam, 1958
Colonial Map
Map of Dar Es Salaam and Region
Colony Profile
Further Reading
The Slope of Kongwa Hill: A Boy's Tale of Africa
by Anthony R. Edwards


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