Tuesday, December 7, 2010

55. Enter Helen, blue eyed and fair haired

Typically Father, he not only banned Jeni and me from the house, he also forbade Mother to see us, which was pretty ridiculous. I needed someone to help me with transport. I could not take Jeni and Juliea to the doctor or the shops on the back of my scooter. I made an afternoon medical appointment for Jeni so that mother could slip away while father had his afternoon nap. Apart from being thoroughly traumatised, exhausted and depressed, the doctor pronounced Jeni free from any physical problems and the baby fine. I thought a good morale booster would be a visit to the hairdresser so, leaving Jeni at the salon, Juliea and I rode up the escalator in the department store and I saw, at the next level on a baby changer, packets of terry towelling nappies. I took two packets because Jules did not have enough, and soon there would be the baby to cater for. As I walked to the cash desk to pay for them I suddenly remembered a “sitting” I had some months ago just after I arrived. There were some very gifted mediums in Bulawayo at that time and my sister and I “did the rounds”. This particular medium had said to me, “Oh, dear! Your daughter’s marriage is going to end”. I said that did not surprise me. Then she said, “She is pregnant and she will have a blue eyed, fair haired baby girl. I see you buying nappies.” I was dismayed at the thought of another child, but said I was hardly likely to buy nappies to send to her, I was more likely to send her the money to buy them herself. And, here I was, buying two packets of nappies. Time would tell if she was right about the baby.

We spent a month in the caravan, and two months house sitting. Since Tom had repaid the deposit on the cottage to the money lender, and the tenants had been paying the cost of the bond every month, the bond had now to be transferred to me. I truly don’t remember how, because in Rhodesia women could not open bank accounts, or hold a bond, without their husband’s permission, and my salary was not really big enough to repay a bond, but we desperately needed somewhere to live. Good old Founders Building Society and Barclays Bank came up trumps, and I was able to give the tenants notice. The Cottage needed painting, so I would stop there for a couple of hours every night on my way home from work, and again at weekends, to paint and clean. My sister Jane, always great in an emergency, lent us furniture, a cooker and a fridge. Mother ordered some cane chairs from Malawi and we moved in about two months before the baby was due. I was still rushing round on my Honda, but we desperately needed a car and I bought an old Ford Anglia. Tom continued to send dollars whenever he could get them, and I think His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Sulman al Khalifah, the Ruler of Bahrain, was responsible for some of it.

The cottage comprised three large bedrooms, a large living room, kitchen, bathroom, large veranda, and a neglected swimming pool. Also in the garden stood the servant’s quarters. It all sounds very grand, but it was sparse indeed and as we could not afford to repair and maintain the swimming pool it was filled in and we sold the pump and motor.

Jeni went into labour, and into the Mater Dei hospital, where Juliea had been born only eighteen months earlier and, lo and behold Helen, a blue eyed, fair haired baby girl was delivered.

Jeni had to work as soon as the baby was born, and arrangements were made for both the children to spend the week days at St. Joseph’s Children’s home which, at that time, was superb. They did not usually take babies as young as two weeks, but for us they made an exception. I would deliver the babes on my way to work and collect them just after five o’clock, all bathed and clean ready for bed. The young girls training there to become children’s nurses were wonderful, but Jules found everything very bewildering because she had rarely left the flat in Johannesburg and had not played with other children before. I was very concerned when the child came home with nasty bite marks on her arm, and asked the nurses how this was allowed to happen. It transpired that the poor little mite was biting herself.

The most highly paid job Jeni was offered was as a computer operator, back with the Railway Company, working night shifts, which meant that she saw very little of the babies during the week. My mother wanted so much to help us, she loved the babies, but our meetings were brief and under cover.

Tom was still serving in Bahrain when our 27th Wedding Anniversary came round. Somehow he managed to get an indulgence (free) flight on an RAF training aircraft which was going pretty well round the world, landing in Johannesburg where I went to meet him, and we stayed there for three days. He flew in a Dakota, very uncomfortable and extremely noisy. I think he spent something like six days flying in order to spend three days with me at the Holiday Inn. With him he brought a beautiful Noritake tea service, dinner service and a canteen of cutlery, bought in Singapore, which he somehow managed to get off the RAF aircraft, across the airport to a shipping agent, and from there up to Bulawayo. We talked well into the night about Jeni and the girls and what could be done. Firstly, there were huge problems surrounding applying for a divorce in Rhodesia without which, and full custody, we could not take the children to England. And even if we could, where would we take them? They would not be allowed to live in married quarters with us and, the truth was, I did not want to return to England and the transient life of an Air Force wife. Twenty seven years of packing and unpacking, ducking and diving at the whim of the Service was enough. I wanted a more settled life, I wanted a family.

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