Kathy Martin’s life story (7)
By Kathy Martin…
My life story continues
On the evening on June 22 1977, felt the first twinges and so Alistair took me to the Lady Chancellor Maternity Hospital, Salisbury, however, the midwife told me it was “false labour”, Alistair went home. Spent an uncomfortable night and the staff removed my bell, as apparently, I was ringing it too much and discovered I have a very low pain threshold!
The next day, Alistair came and we played cards most of the morning, whilst I had the odd twinge! He went home at lunchtime, having been told that it would be some time before anything would happen. In the afternoon, got up and went for a walk around the ward, went to the loo and thought I had spent a penny, but apparently it was my waters breaking! Felt very uncomfortable and made a hell of a fuss with the only member of staff around, a cleaner, who brought the midwife who told me to stop making such a noise. I swore at her and said “My f***ing baby is coming!” She had a look and suddenly took me seriously!
Whisked into the labour room and Alistair arrived just in time to help me! I used lots of strong language and told him that I was NEVER going to do this again! At 19:25, 23rd June 1977, our baby was born and, of course, the first question we asked was “girl or boy” and told we had a beautiful little girl! Held Sasha in my arms and we both checked her fingers and toes and noticed that she had hair on the edge of her ears and down her back, apparently quite a common feature!
Also, she had a small birthmark on the top of her outer left arm. My blood pressure had risen quite a lot, so she was taken away from me and was offered a cup of tea, the nurse was surprised when I asked for black coffee instead! Kept downstairs overnight and the next day was taken back up to the maternity wing. Unfortunately, they were doing renovations and so was in a room with a lady who had lost her baby (normally, we would have been separated), which made it difficult.
Sasha needed encouragement to breast feed and the nurse would flick her feet to keep her awake! She would also say “the right one’s chocolate and the left one’s strawberry”!
Apparently, May was very upset with Alistair when he told her that Sasha “looked like a monkey!” However, the hair soon rubbed away and our beautiful baby emerged! Stayed in the hospital for the obligatory six days, the food was awful and I existed on the fruit that Alistair brought me in! Sasha weighed 6lbs 3oz at birth, but managed to lose 30lbs during that stay!
Sasha took her first flight when she was seven days old, we were given a certificate by the Captain to commemorate the occasion, but with all our moves over the years it has disappeared! We had a very good African girl who helped us out with the washing and cleaning etc. All the clothes Sasha wore had to be ironed, as there were some horrible flies that laid their eggs in damp clothes and if they weren’t ironed would have hatched out and the maggots would have “eaten” their way into Sasha’s skin, which doesn’t bear thinking about!
She took to breast feeding very well, but, unfortunately, the milk flowed very well and so she gulped in loads of air, as a consequence had appalling colic for the first three months of her life. I could really understand why babies get beaten, I found myself once (and once only) get very close to throwing her against the wall, when she wouldn’t stop screaming, a very frightening experience!
Our two cats had settled well in Victoria Falls, so much so that Sheba got herself pregnant and we had a litter of about five kittens (we managed to home them all), but her last one was breach birth, which gave us some tricky moments, as we struggled to get it out!
We decided to get them both “done”, all this time we had thought Kanga was a boy, but the vet phoned me to say that before he sterilised Kanga, did we know “he” was pregnant! Needless to say he aborted the kittens and Kanga was sterilised!
When Sasha was about three months old, the Avis manager (Robert) came up from Salisbury and asked if I would be interested in running the Vic Falls branch for them, as the Avis girl was leaving for South Africa. Stated my terms, namely that Sasha would accompany me to the airport and that Avis would cover the cost of hiring a nanny to look after her during the flight arrival times (only four a day). He agreed, so I went back to work.
We had to drive in convoy out to the airport (about 15 miles out of the village) and so was taught how to fire a submachine gun and a pistol, just in case! Was told that if the convoy was attacked, I had to shoot Sasha and then myself, luckily I was never in that situation, as am sure I couldn’t have done it.
Streak was very protective of Sasha, not that I ever did this, but felt I could have left her anywhere with Streak tied to her pram and NO ONE would have got close to her! When we came back from our monthly visits to Salisbury, Streak would ignore us and check that Sasha was in her pram, only then would Streak welcome us!
The three Air Rhodesia single guys, who had the flat above us were brilliant at looking after Streak, Sheba and Kanga for us on those weekends away and also, once or twice, babysat for us.
We were not fantastically rich, but had enough and once a month or so would go to the Casino Hotel, with our limit of $10. Sometimes we had a great evening and came away with winnings and other nights we didn’t last very long! On our final visit to the Casino, before we left for good, we went to lose and won loads! Consequently, the next day we went round all the tourist shops and bought up touristy place mats, etc as we couldn’t take the money out with us.
We had a couple of scary moments when the “enemy” sent mortar shells over the Zambezi from Zambia, into Victoria Falls.
On one occasion, Alistair was working and had taken a passenger’s missing luggage to his hotel (The Victoria Falls Hotel) and was having a drink in the bar when the mortaring began. He realised I would be terrified and so, instead of going to the cellar with the other hotel guests, he ran out to the car and drove the short distance back to our flat, with mortars and tracer bullets flying around him!
In the meantime, I was petrified and had gone to the bedroom and got the submachine gun (which, very luckily for Alistair I forgot to release the safety catch). I stood in the sitting room, facing the front door and literally “turned to stone”, when Alistair came running in, pressed the trigger, but thank goodness for dumb blondes and their inefficiency at remembering the safety catch! Alistair had to slap my face to “wake me up” and we got Sasha and hid in the back bedroom, with a mattress over the window.
Air Rhodesia decided to put a bunker in the garden. There was another occasion, shortly after it was built, when we had to use it and we stayed for what seemed like hours, Alistair had to run back to the building to turn off the main switch, as all the lights were blaring out! Eventually, the mortaring and tracer bullets stopped and we were able to go back to the flat.
The next day, we booked a call to Mummy and Daddy (in the 1970s you had to go through the operator, no direct dialling) and once the call came through that following night, we reassured them that we were okay, they had not heard anything about the attack on their news!