Kathy Martin’s life story (12)
By Kathy Martin…
My life story continues
The Philips Domestic Appliances factory closed 15th April 1999 and as it was the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (15th April 1912) we held a Titanic themed fancy dress party.
It was a wonderful occasion, with many employees and guests dressing up in appropriate costumes, Sasha and I hired our dresses from our local theatre, The Stables. The photo shows one of the glasses we had engraved to give to all our guests.
We decided to “blow” my redundancy money on an incredible three week holiday to Zimbabwe, aka Rhodesia, to show Sasha and her boyfriend, Jon, where Sasha was born.
On 9th September 1999, we all flew to Harare, with Alistair’s mother, May, she stayed with her daughter Sheila Brookes-Ball (now a widow) in Harare. We were reunited with Karen (Alistair’s niece) and met her husband Mike Boshoff and their new baby daughter Micayla.
Our trip around Zimbabwe in brief: We hired a 4×4 and drove from Harare to Kariba, across the lake on the ferry, spent two nights in Victoria Falls, two nights at The Hide, a wildlife camp in Hwange game reserve, continued south to Bulawayo before completing the circle and driving north to Harare.
After leaving May, in Harare, with Sheila we left for our fabulous tour.
Our first stop was at Mana Pools where the water was an incredible blue, apparently due to the high copper content in the rocks.
Whilst climbing the escarpment, we stopped for a better look and Alistair, who was a fervent eco-warrior, was horrified as he leant on a rubbish bin, and watched the bin tip over and the entire contents cascade down the hillside!
At Kariba, we boarded the ferry and spent the night steaming across the lake.
We stayed on the deck and watched the incredible starlit sky, there being no light pollution to ruin the display of stars overhead. Over the course of the night watched the movement of the galaxies and saw several shooting stars!
On arrival at the western end of Lake Kariba, Deka, it was a short drive to Victoria Falls where we spent a couple of nights.
Drove Sasha and Jon around showing them our ground floor flat etc; the bunker had been converted into a swimming pool.
The falls themselves were very low, as it was just before the rains, which start in October. However, this did allow us to fly in a helicopter over the whole length, approximately one mile.
Continuing our journey we spent two nights at a very plush campsite called The Hide, in the Hwange Game Reserve.
The so‑called tents had concrete floors, mosquito nets and wonderful views, from our verandahs, over their water hole. Also, we were walked across, escorted by an armed guard, to protect us from lions etc, to their hide close to the water’s edge, where we spent three hours, or so, watching zebras, giraffe, various type of antelope, warthog etc coming to drink.
Watching the giraffe splay their long gangly legs so they could get down to the water was an amazing sight.
On an evening game drive, we managed to see several animal including elephants, lions, wildebeasts (gnu) and Jon was very clever and spotted a rhino before any of the rest of us!
This stay at The Hide, for me, was the highlight of our trip and could have spent far more time.
Next stop was Bulawayo, where Alistair and I had met in 1975, 24 years previously. We were astounded to find very few changes, including the airport still had the same Avis desk, where I had worked and the check-in flight desks. Sasha constantly had to keep reminding me that as she had been fourteen months old, when we had left in August 1978, that “No mother, I do not remember”!
Stopped at a roadside market and Alistair bought himself the bargain of the trip! A Kudu skin hat for the huge price of 75 pence! (bearing in mind the £ was worth 60 Zimbabwean dollars!)
We went to see Cecil Rhodes Grave in the Matopos Hills, on the outskirts of Bulawayo
Continuing around, we went to Fort Zimbabwe, but unfortunately it was drizzling and misty so couldn’t show Sasha and Jon the incredible cliff-top building
Sasha and Jon were delighted to buy a carved giraffe, which came up to just above Sasha’s waist! The weather turned very cool, so Sasha and I treated ourselves to cosy animal patterned tops, still wear mine!
Sasha and Jon had only been able to get two weeks off work, so they returned to UK, leaving Alistair and I to spend our final week taking various day trips around the Salisbury/Harare area visiting old haunts. The exchange rate was very much in our favour.
One lunch time we returned to The Kentucky, hotel where we used to walk our dog Streak and after a two course meal with drinks, we paid with our Visa credit card and it cost just under £7!
This trip really had been the trip of a lifetime and convinced us both that returning to Zimbabwe to live was NOT an option for our future.
- We were both very disappointed to see the deterioration in life.
- White beggars on the streets was an eye-opener!
- Sheila living with her garden surrounded by a high wall, with razor-wire atop and electric gates, was not a life we wanted!
When we returned from Zimbabwe, I obtained a temporary position with the Hastings & Rother NHS Trust (based at St. Anne’s House) as PA to Human Resources Director, but left to go to Judges Postcards for more money, however, that job was not what I was led to believe it would be, so it was with relief, when had to leave to care for my sick father. Went back as a temp (mornings only) to Hastings & Rother NHS Trust.
My father deteriorated, he had Parkinson’s disease, after I was unable to cope at home any more with him, he was put in a Nursing Home. Remained with the Hastings & Rother NHS Trust, but moved to Westwood House as full-time Medical Secretary to Dr Malik, Consultant Psychiatrist/Clinical Director.
Eventually, we decided we’d had enough of UK and moved to Cyprus! We both stopped working on 10th March 2006, definitely one of the best days of our lives.