April 2017: Zimbabwe March 1993 to December 1993. Letters to friends and family in Ireland and England.

6 months awaiting delivery of our furniture and in particular my computer and it has arrived.  Expat life is lonely but this country differs so much from the hustle and bustle of the City of London it makes sense to use the opportunity to write about it and how best but to write to family and friends.

Life in retrospect – 1993 Zimbabwe
April 8th 2017.  Not edited

                                                                                           18 Cheshire Road

                                                                                            Mount Pleasant

                                                                                                   Harare

                                                                                                Zimbabwe

March 10th, 1993

My dearest Mella, Shane and Conor,

My ‘wordiprocessor’ has arrived safe and sound so now you will no longer be subjected to my appalling writing.    So much for idle time.  Well, almost 6 months to the day, March 1st, Joe collected the customs official and brought her to the bonded warehouse, where they proceeded to remove all electrical items to obtain the serial numbers.  Having done this, he left her back to her office and proceeded to Harare central to have her report approved by yet another official.  All this being a success he arrived here with 18 boxes at about 12.  We are glad to report no breakages.  The stereo works perfectly, the computer – well you can see for yourself, and the modern looking microwave is ensconced in our hideously old fashioned kitchen.  You won’t believe how non-modern it is, particularly viz a viz Hadham Road, Bishops Stortford, Herts.

Today the weather has begun to improve.  We have had so much rain but now people assure me as we approach the Zimbabwean winter, the days will be bright, the skies cloud free with a warm sun, which will give way to cold evenings.  Everything is relative so cold here would probably be warm in Ireland.  We will wait and see.   I am looking forward to no clouds and no rain.

This time next month, we shall be staying with Russell.  The plan is to leave early about 5.00 a.m. to reach Beit Bridge customs at 10.00 a.m.  We hope to spend a night in the Northern Transvaal possibly Pietersburg and then the following day drive on to Jo’burgh, reaching Russell’s circa 2 p.m. on Good Friday.  It should be fun.  The violence in Jo’burgh is serious so one needs to be staying with someone who knows where and where not to go.  I am looking forward to a taste of First World living again.

I am beginning to feel quite removed from those days of living and working in the City.  My life is quite boring now.  Tuesdays and Fridays, I go to French class with all the other ex-pat wives, who have nothing to do.  I am now thinking of taking up horse riding again.  We traveled out of Harare (necessary every few weeks) to Nyanga (Northern Highlands) last weekend.  It wasn’t particularly exciting apart from the fact that we actually went horse riding and Joe and I both enjoyed it so we have now decided to take lessons.  It was strange.  The last time I was on a pony was in Porte under your direction, Shane, when the horse bolted.  Quite surprisingly, it is like riding a bicycle, one never forgets, and trotting just came naturally again.  It is a nice way to see Zimbabwean countryside.  Mum had wanted to go horse riding again when we visited Masvingo but the opportunity never arose.  Next time, it will be a must for her.  Joe played golf both mornings.  He is delighted to have his own clubs out here.  There will be no excuses now for poor handicaps.

Our weekend away was strange.  We went with Sally, Graeme and Sally’s cousin from England, Julie.  Sally’s mother Liz (50 year old with blond dreadlocks) is having an affair with 30 year old David who used to work with Graeme.  Quite unexpectedly, David and Liz arrived to join us for our weekend away.  I am glad they did.  Graeme and Sally were continually arguing while David and Liz were getting on famously.  Liz is not like any ordinary 50 year old, she is young in outlook and apart from a few wrinkles, one would never consider her age.  David is good fun.  Joe used to share Queensgate house with him.  Liz is one of his many girlfriends.  Zimabwe has many unattached women (because of the very high divorce rate) who constantly are in search of single males.  The competition is fierce.  David’s girlfriends range in age from 21 to 50 and last count he seemed to be battling with 5 of them.  I am always teasing him.

Joe has been promised his 2 litre car.  2 weeks was the time limit given March 1st.  I will believe it when I see it.  Meanwhile, the pick-up is handy particularly for trips to Nyanga when one wants to get off the beaten track in search of waterfalls and the like.  On Saturday, we trekked down to the Nyangombe waterfall.  What a change from November.  The water flowed in abundance, the vegetation was rich and luscious.  We encountered no snakes on our journey.  Somehow or another, it just won’t register with me that one needs to exercise care when walking through vegetation as there is a strong possibility of snakes existing in it.  I think along the lines of being in Ireland where we have no cause to fear.  Likewise, one cannot swim in lakes or dams here as they are crawling with crocodiles no less.  All water sports such as water skiing which are perfectly possible here have to pay cognizance to the existence of crocodiles.  Well, I don’t mind about the water skiing as I have no plans in that direction.

Did Conor’s pressie arrive yet?  Hopefully, you like it.  There are cute little booties here – just the type, I know his parents like.

Mella, how is work?  You must find it hard being Mother, wife, and worker.  It sure isn’t an easy task.  You must be so excited about your new home.  You will have such fun selecting your furniture, matching curtains, buying carpets etc. etc.  Will you be decorating a room especially for his Lordship i.e. Conor?  Hopefully you will have your new house by the time I arrive.  Joe and I really enjoyed getting the flat in Hadham Road.  At times I find it strange that we are no longer there and now find ourselves living in rented accommodation. Here we are, a flat in England which was our home, rented to tenants, a house in Dublin lived in by tenants and said landlords being tenants in someone else’s house in Zimbabwe, Africa.  The other night I had a dream, I was back living in Oaklawn, sleeping in my blue bedroom.  Boy was I snug.  I was thinking of getting out of bed and running over to Marie G. for a chat and a cup of coffee and then I woke up.  Shock, horror, nothing was familiar for a moment and then it dawned on me – Yes, I am living in ‘bloody Africa’.  This was only my initial reaction – I am not constantly moaning about living here, just in case you think I am.

Marcy continues to write.  We received two St. Patrick’s Day medals from her.  Likewise, Martha (cleaning lady at Fitzwilliam Square) sent me one too.  It seems to be a big celebration over there now.  Ambrose is now in his final year and is presently job hunting which is far from an easy task in today’s gloomy climate.  Digital will sure make an impact on Galway lifestyles.  Keep a lookout for job prospects for Amby – you never know, you might hear of something worthwhile.

I had a letter from Kate today.  All is well.  She is now living in Eastmoreland Court with another English girl and whatsmore she has no rent to pay.  How can she be so lucky – it is hard to imagine.  I believe she stayed with you for a short while.  I am glad that she has some place nice to stay, poor housing conditions are not good for people.

Well, it is now 5 p.m.  Joe is due home in about 10 minutes, so his useless wife had better get supper ready.  I could get Mary to prepare supper, as most people do, but I want to maintain some semblance of reality in my life and if that involves cooking dinner so be it.  Hope all is well for Orla with her preganncy.  Regards to Una.

Please excuse any spelling mistakes.  The machine refuses to check the document.  Let’s hope, this is not the beginning of trouble.

Lots of love,

Michelle

Letter No 1.



18 Cheshire Road

Mount Pleasant

Harare

Zimbabwe

11th March 1993

My dearest Marcy,

Many thanks for your last letter and the two St. Patrick’s Day badges. My ‘wordiprocessor’ has now arrived safe and sound so you will be spared my appalling writing.

Well, almost 6 months to the day, March 1st, Joe collected the customs official and brought her to the bonded warehouse, where they proceeded to remove all electrical items to obtain the serial numbers. Having done this, he left her back to her office and proceeded to Harare central to have her report approved by yet another official. All this being a success he arrived here with 18 boxes at about 12. We are glad to report no breakages.  The stereo works perfectly, the computer  well you can see for yourself, and the modern looking microwave is ensconced in our hideously old fashioned kitchen. You couldn’t believe how non©modern it is, particularly viz a viz our flat in Hadham Road but I suppose what else can one expect when living in Africa.

The weather has begun to improve. We have had so much rain but now people assure me as we approach the Zimbabwean winter, the days will be bright, the skies cloud free with a warm sun, which will give way to cold evenings. Everything is relative so cold here would probably be warm in Ireland. We will wait and see. I am looking forward to no clouds and no rain. This time next month, we shall be staying with Russell Parker who was at Castleknock College with Shane. He returned to Jo’burgh three years ago and recently came to Harare on business and looked us up. The plan is to leave early about 5.00 a.m. to reach Beit Bridge customs at 10.00 a.m. We hope to spend a night in the Northern Transvaal possibly Pietersburg and then the following day drive on to Jo’burgh, reaching Russell’s circa 2 p.m. on Good Friday. It should be fun. The violence in Jo’burgh is serious so one needs to be staying with someone who knows where and where not to go. I am looking forward to a taste of First World living again. I am beginning to feel quite removed from those days of living and working in the City. My life is quite boring now. Tuesdays and Fridays, I go to French class with all the other expat wives, who have nothing to do.

We traveled out of Harare (necessary every few weeks) to Nyanga last weekend. It wasn’t particularly exciting apart from the fact that we actually went horse riding and Joe and I both enjoyed it so we have now decided to take lessons. It was strange. The last time I was on a pony, it bolted. Quite surprisingly, it is like riding a bicycle, one never forgets, and trotting just came naturally again. It is a nice way to see Zimbabwe countryside. Mum had wanted to go riding while she was here but we never got around to it. Maybe next time. I think she would enjoy it. Joe played golf both mornings. He is delighted to have his own clubs out here. There will be no excuses now for poor handicaps. He is a regular at the Harare South Golf Club each Sunday morning. It is different to Ireland. Each player takes along a caddy boy who is supposed to be the work horse and carry the clubs and he follows the shots. The aim is that no balls are lost. For the princely sum of $8 (80p) these boys queue and wait from the early hours of the morning in the hope that they will be selected as caddy boys. The caddy master co-ordinates who goes with whom. Joe plays with Simon. They play the first 9 holes and retire for a large breakfast circa 9.00 a.m. and then they play the next 9. Julia and I accompanied them one morning but generally we remain in our respective homes and one or other of us prepares lunch.

We still have the pick-up. Joe has been promised his 2 litre car as per his contract but
at this stage I will believe it when I see it. Meanwhile, the pick-up is handy particularly
for trips to Nyanga, when one wants to get off the beaten track in search of waterfalls
and the like. On Saturday, we trekked down to the Nyangombe waterfall. What a change from November? The water flowed in abundance, the vegetation was rich and luscious. We encountered no snakes on our journey. Somehow or another, it just won’t register with me that one needs to exercise care when walking through vegetation as there is a strong possibility of snakes existing in it. I think along the lines of being in Ireland where we have no cause to fear. Likewise, one cannot swim in lakes or dams here as they are crawling with crocodiles no less. All water sports such as water skiing which are perfectly possible here have to pay cognizance to the existence of crocodiles. Well, I don’t mind about the water skiing as I have no plans in that direction.

Mary and Benson are behaving well. Benson’s wife reappeared on Monday looking for her children. She abandoned them with him over a month ago now. He arranged for his Father’s second wife to rear them Mount Darwin, a rural area, about 100 km outside Harare. It is quite normal here for workers to have children who are reared by the grandparents while the parents are left free to work in the City. They seem to prefer to have their children reared out of Harare. Mary, the housemaid has “only two daughters”, her words. They live with her husband’s parents some 300 miles away from Harare. She goes to see them each month but has no desire as such to live with her husband and rear the children as a family. It is hard to understand but appears to be quite normal here. She is Catholic and is quite involved with the Church but its teachings seem to have to coincide with her
interpretation. One minute she tells you how important her Church is and in the next
breath, without batting an eyelid, she will explain that she had an abortion at 4 months rather than go through with an unwanted pregnancy. The Church sure have to close their eyes to a lot over here. So much for converting the native.

Hopefully Ambrose will find a job soon. He should have no problems as he is such a
presentable, charming man. I have written to Shane to ask him to keep a listen out  you never know, he may hear of a job coming up somewhere along the line. Did Michael and Kate enjoy their trip to Dublin? I am sure Michael now feels as if he was never away on holidays. I can’t imagine getting up so early in the morning. I have become such a lazy being, I who always got up at 6.00 a.m., now struggle out of the bed at about 9.00 a.m i.e. apart from the two mornings I go to French classes.

Mum’s little miniature dog, Puffie, died. She came home from her calls to find him dead. She loved that little dog so I am sure she must have been really upset. This time last year, her little cat was killed by a car. What was worse was that she saw her being killed. Now all that are left are the two sister corgis, Freddie and Gracie. Just like old times.

Any word from Eileen. I hope she is well. I realise she must be so upset over the death
of little Teresa. Eileen was particularly fond of her.

Notice I use every scrap of the paper. In Africa, one becomes very conscious of waste.
Everything one would previously consider useless, has an underlying value here,
particularly if one takes into account, the indigenous and their poverty. I who never
retained anything, have become a hoarder. Scarcities arise here so one must think ahead. Apparently scarcities in the past have included toilet rolls, sugar etc. Sugar is an important commodity here. You ask an indigenous person, how many spoons of sugar and they invariably reply something like “4 and half”. With Benson, the gardener, Mary the housemaid, and given that we used to have a guard at night (but no longer), we were going through a phenomenal amount of sugar each week.

At times, this hoarding makes me think fondly of Irene. I spent a lot of time with her before she left for the IOM. I used to be fascinated by all her hoarding. She used to say it was because of the ‘War’. I had no understanding but now I am here, I understand better, why some older people save things for the rainy day. It was such a pity Irene died. Marcy, she was great fun and loved young people. I miss her a lot. She entered our lives when Dad died and was a good friend to us, particularly me. Christmas Eve 1992 was the second anniversary of her death. I had promised to visit her in the IOM but never really had the time because of work and living in England, how I regret now that I never made the time. She must have suffered a lot in the end, as she became so confused as a result of the brain tumour. If she were in Dublin, maybe those closest to her would have noticed and have been able to prevent the sad outcome. Well, time to say bye, bye.

Love to all.

Michelle and Joe

Letter No 2



                                                                                           18 Cheshire Road

                                                                                            Mount Pleasant

                                                                                                   Harare

                                                                                                Zimbabwe

 

 

18th March 1993

Dearest Shane, Mella and Conor

Many thanks for the letter dated 8th March.  I am glad to hear that all is well and that the little fellow (“Porky Pup”) is well again.  Trust you to come up with such a derogatory name for him, Shane.  Let’s hope it does not stick.

Mella – off to Portugal with Una and Orla.  Sounds really nice.  Have you been there before?  Joe and I went on holidays to the Algarve in 1985 and we really enjoyed it.  We hired a car for two days and traveled off into the mountains.  It will be nice for Orla to get the break as she must be quite pregnant by now.  Is she due August?  Conor will have his first “first cousin”.   It is great that you two manage to get out every week and that Madeline babysits.  It is important not to get too bogged down by Junior.

Lucky you, mortgage rates are down again.  It looks like you will have missed the worst of it.  I see where the house which sold for over £500,000 in Ailesbury Road in 1989, has now been sold for £370,000.  Is this Sorcha’s?  The Times says that it is the bigger properties which are suffering – there must be some good value in the market place now.  When is your house completed?  You must be so excited now as the time approaches.  It will be fun buying all the furniture – for you anyway Mella, as Shane will be watching resources being diverted from savings to purchases.

I had a long letter from Mum today.  She writes regularly and all letters are full of news.  Apparently, the girls (corgis) did not mourn the demise of Puffie (miniature terrier).  It sounds as if they are quite delighted to have the extra attention directed towards them.  What’s more the “leaking bladder” problem is now at an end.  I always did maintain that he was responsible.  He set the pace and they just followed.

Well, did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Over here, talk about a big occasion, there must be a lot of Irish people here.  All the top hotels had parties for St. Patrick’s Day.  We are off to the Harare South Club (rather colonial type place) on Saturday night to the Mashonaland Irish St. Patrick’s Day.  Black tie affair, so yet again I have hired a suit for Joe.  It should be fun – a crowd from Sisks have a table there.  The Harare Club recently held a function to which President Mugabe was invited.  There was great controversy as Cecil Rhodes’ portrait still holds pride of place there.  They claim this was inadvertent, somehow or another I am not so sure.

Joe spoke to Russell today.  We plan to drive down on the Thursday of the Easter weekend, stay overnight at St. Pietersburg and then be with Russell for midday Friday.  He is busy sorting out an itinerary.  Joe wants to see the famous “Sun City” and “Loss City”.  They are supposed to be out of this world.  What else is planned, I don’t know.  Hopefully, we will meet Mr. Parker senior, and I can do some serious matchmaking – (One Mother for sale!!!!!!).

All is well with Mary and Benson – no further hassle.  Marcy had sent me St. Patrick’s Day badges and Mary put her eye on them.  I gave them to her and so proudly she went to her Church which was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, sporting a green skirt that I gave her and her badge.  She was chuffed.  Benson has acquired himself a new girlfriend.  His wife turned up last week but she was given short shrift and Joe was informed the following day, that he had given her an ultimatum (either she loved him or she didn’t and if she did not, it was okay he would get a new wife).  Well, she must have given him his answer because this weekend, he spent with his new girlfriend, no doubt soon to be new wife.  The African male is unbelievable, despite the raw poverty, they still manage to have a lot of wives, children and girlfriends.  It sure is a different culture to ours.

Alliance Francaise is going well.  Most of the people there are ex-pats like myself.  Most of their husbands work with the Aid Agencies or the UN.  They travel continually from country to country and don’t seem to mind the changes.  Jean has lived in the US, Italy, Bangladesh (2 yrs which she hated), she has been in Zimbabwe for one year and is now moving to Namibia.  They are priveleged.  They are paid in hard currency, they drive the best cars because they are imported free of tax into the country.  Whenever you see a decent car, it sports a “CD” or “TCE” plate, otherwise the cars are mostly outdated models, many years old.  One couldn’t have MOT tests in this country because I am sure none of the run of the mill cars would ever pass them.

Well, Joe needs to use this machine.  I hope to get him to take me out to coffee later, so I better be nice.  We go to this little place known as the “Italian Bakery” and they do the best cappuccino in town.  Trust the Italians to find a niche.  It is rather small but attracts a large number of people, young/old, rich/not so rich – no doubt you will visit it many times while you are here (if I have anything to do with it).  My other haunt for cappuccino is the Sheraton Hotel, a touch of the real world in the midst of everything that represents the Third world.

Give Conor a big hug.  Glad you got the dungarees – I thought they were quite cute.  Has he grown out of his levis yet, Mella?  It looks like we will be visiting Tallaght again to get the next size up.

Take care all of you.  I think a lot about you and miss you very much.

Give Marie G. my love.  Tell her I will write shortly.

Lots of love,

Michelle

Letter No 3



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare

March 22nd, 1993
Dear Maureen & Elinor,

Many thanks for your St. Patrick’s Day card. No problems if you overlap slightly with Shane, Mella and Conor. We are really looking forward to having you. Sorry about June but from what I hear August is one of the better months to visit as it is spring time and all the Jacaranda trees are coming into bloom and it is good for game viewing.  When I arrived in November the Jacaranda trees were shedding their leaves but even so they made the city look rather beautiful.

No doubt Mum has filled you in on what Zimbabwe is like. It sure is different. It is really like stepping back in time some 30 years, if not more. At times, I find myself horrified by just how backward things are but inspite of this, it is a great opportunity to see another country and how it works.

The African race of people are very friendly. They have so very little, yet they are always happy. They chat continually. In the shops, on the streets, in the restaurants. If you want to ask something, you must do the interrupting. I noticed 4 African  Dominican nuns the other day and having been educated by the Dominicans, seldom saw them as a happy bunch of nuns, however these 4 were laughing and joking purely having fun.

The Catholic clergy have a great time here. ‘Civies’, alcohol and fun; being just a few of their pursuits. I don’t know about you but I always felt sorry for the missionaries but I now have completely reappraised the situation.  They have found a captive audience here among the Africans. They are held in reverence. There have been a few scandals recently involving Catholic priests and as it happens, Mary (housemaid) came to me this morning to tell me about their priest. He was arrested on Friday, something to do with pornographic literature. What really bothered me was the fact that the Catholic Bishop came on Sunday to their church to outline the problem to them. From what she says, they were told, that he was not guilty, he was possessed by the devil and had lost his power of self control as a result. It was hoped that the Authorities would fine him rather than send him to jail and if that be the case, then his parishioners i.e. the congregation would no doubt contribute ample to pay the fine. I was horrified. I said nothing to Mary because it is her Church but this is scandalous – what do you think? These people are so poor  why should they contribute to pay his fine for his mistake. The bit about the Devil possessing him is a bit much to take.

Sisks have a cottage up in Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands and we will try and avail of it when you are over. It is so beautiful up there. It is some 2,300 m. above sea level which means that although we are so close to the equator, because of the height, one can avail of a cooler climate. Harare is 1600 m. above sea level, being higher than any mountain range in the British Isles, hence the climate is quite temperate here. However, when you travel down South towards Bulawayo (Low veld), it becomes very hot indeed. The difference in the landscape between the Eastern Highlands and Bulawayo is amazing. The Highlands are luscious whereas Bulawayo is more desert
like. Hopefully, we will get to see all these places. One can hire chalets from the National Park’s Authority very reasonably here. A lodge, with internal bathroom, fully equipped and services and two bedrooms costs $60per night i.e. £6. The Zim$ weakens daily which is bad for us being paid local currency but absolutely great for visitors. 18 months ago, they tell me you received Zim$4.50 to the Stg£, now it is Zim$9.70. (By the way you are best getting travelers cheques in US$).

We have not yet stayed in one of these chalets but everyone says, it is most enjoyable. They are to be found in all the scenic spots. These National Parks are where one goes game viewing and again August is a good time for this. October to March is the rainy season during which time there is luscious growth, this means it is not so easy to game spot. Having said this, we did spot game during Mum’s visit. We have seen Giraffes, one black rhino and its baby, plenty of monkeys, impala, wildebeest and gazelles. As yet we have not seen any elephants but I believe if one crosses over to Botswana to Chobe National Park, that is where you will spot the real game (lions, cheetahs, elephants). Chobe is about 70 km from Victoria Falls. It may not be a good time of year to view the Falls, they are spectacular during the rainy season but by all accounts are most disappointing during the dry season. You will have seen Mum’s photos, no doubt. We can make up our minds about a trip when you are over.

Joe and I are off to Jo’burgh for Easter. Russell Parker who was at school with Shane is now living there and as it happened came to Harare on business and looked us up. I am looking forward to seeing some first world living again. Harare is great but it is most definitely a third world country.

Elinor – horse riding is a popular past-time here. Maureen if you haven’t been up on a horse and you get a chance to ride Elinor’s, do. Joe and I hope to take a few lessons and we have found this lovely riding place which permits you to take out their horses for $25 per hour (£2.50) along very beautiful scenic countryside. We are both novices re. horses but it is a nice way to see the countryside here. When we were up in Nyanga a few weeks ago, we went out riding horses provided by the hotel. It was funny as Joe has never trotted and certain people in the party were experienced horse people which meant that when they trotted all horses trotted and it is not the most comfortable when you don’t know how to trot.

Well, it is time for me to say goodbye for now. Looking forward to your
visit but will fill you in when I see you in May.

Love

Michelle and Joe

Letter No 5



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare

24th March 1993

Dear Janet, Richard and Andrew (almost 1 year old)

A quick letter so that I can enclose it with Andrew’s card. Hopefully by now he will have received his presie. He looks a real little “bruiser” as they would say in Dublin so hopefully it fits him. I have no concept about size at the best of times but as far as children are concerned, well I am a novice, having no first hand experience. What are the plans for the birthday, is it party time at the Zoo for all his little friends? Think of absent friends, who would really love to be around for his first birthday.  I hope you like the card  my brief was get something African and with a sense of humour. I don’t know why Joe doesn’t do his own selecting  why does he trust me??? (Something to do with been an idle, kept woman, no
doubt!!!!).

On my usual weekly trip to the library I noted that you have had some pretty nasty weather over there particularly around Washington/New Jersey/New York.
Were you affected? Did you get snowed in so that Richard had no work to go to. Sounds exciting if that was the case © I am sure Andrew would enjoy having Dad around during the day as opposed to just evenings and weekends. Nothing exciting on the weather front here. Rain (wet season as it was) is abating at long last. One never considers the summer as being synonymous with rain, well here it is, inspite of what the Govt. tell the aid agencies. I find it hard to believe that there was a drought in 1992 based on all the rain we have had since November 1992 to now. In between the rain, however weather is fine, so its summer clothes all the time. As you approach your summer, we now approach our winter. Seems so odd really. I still haven’t adapted and refer to the up and coming summer!!!!

Barclays sure are making some bad press of late, Richard. What losses? Hope the rationalisation programme is not too severe. Next year can only be better. The Imry investment on which they lost all the money was the deal that Frank worked on which lost considerable money for The Prudential. As it happened he managed to sell the Pru’s share onto Barclays. He did you no favours!!! Imry represented the most money ever lost on one deal by the Pru-Bache.   His saving grace was that he sold it on.

Joe is having his first golf lesson this evening. He has been playing every Sunday since he arrived but he needs some lessons. I accompanied him last Sunday afternoon on 9 holes as his usual partner Simon is studying for exams. I didn’t play, I just watched. Harare is different. You go to the Club, you pay the caddy master and you get yourself an African caddy boy. These boys queue from the early hours of the morning in the hope of caddying for a player. They are paid Zim $10 for the 18 holes – hard to imagine. They carry your clubs and watch where the balls land. Well, on Sunday, Joe’s caddy boy was named “Tomato”.  The names here are so funny  Loveness,  Lovemore, Clever, to name but a few. Tomato is about the weirdest. Can you imagine saying  I’ll have No. 5 club, Tomato?

Life is so different to back in the civilised world. Everything is labour intensive so one must get used to having a myriad of people to assist you, their efficiency is irrelevant. It doesn’t work like that  it is jobs for the people. What would take you
2 hours to do back in England takes some 8 hours here. I have now got used to Mary spending an entire day (6 am to 5 pm) doing the daily chores in the house,
chores which would take you or I, just a couple of hours. It’s different ªyou cannot change the system, you just accept it and them. Really, I have come to think of Mary (housemaid) and Benson (gardener) as children, and it is working quite well.  One has to be careful about what one writes in letters as they are sometimes
opened and censored. It is a very controlled society here. My aunt wrote today. Apparently my last letter to her was opened.

As you can see  I have my “wordiprocessor” and what’s more it is working. 6 months to the day, on March 1st, our shipment arrived and the good news is that nothing was broken, despite all the horror stories we had been hearing from people. It was such a novelty opening the boxes and re-discovering our belongings. The stereo has hardly been off since it arrived. Some decent music at last. On the subject of music, would you believe it, but they are still on records here, CD’s have scarcely been invented. Everyone plays records. There are plenty authentic record shops to be found all over Harare. We are really back in the 1970’s here.

Shane, Mella and Conor arrive July 26th. I can hardly believe that they have made the commitment to come and have everything booked already. I hope to go home in May for 6 weeks, at which time medication will be reviewed. It is not going to be very nice as the reductions must be controlled and monitored so let’s hope it works out okay. It will make a change if they reduce it, I tire very easily, need to sleep a lot, and have side effects including extremely poor concentration spans. It is a strain particularly when you are meeting people who do not know what the situation is. Short periods of time is all I can have with people otherwise I get too tense and come under strain. Joe is very attentive but it is not easy for him. Coupled to this there can be no intake of alcohol and foods like, cheese, oxo
cubes, etc. cannot be eaten. If someone asks us to dinner, I have to give them a list, not ideal when you are meeting people for the first time.
Enough about this boring topic!

Well, Joe is back from golf now, full of enthusiasm to put into practice his newly acquired knowledge. As it happens, I had intended to have dinner ready (my domain) but time just slipped by and guess what, he is now in the kitchen preparing supper. I have not yet got to the stage of trusting Mary to cook dinner, somehow or another, it just doesn’t appeal to me. After all, I don’t want to be totally useless when I leave Africa. Cooking I know was never my strong point but practice makes perfect or so they say.

Well, I will finish now. Note how I have used ever inch of paper. Well, in
these parts, one becomes very conscious of waste. By necessity, one becomes
a hoarder of things and even I have given into the habit.

Give Andrew a big hug from an absent, unknown friend.

Michelle

Letter No 4



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare

24th March 1993

Dear Marion,

Thank you for your letter dated 28th September 1992 and sorry for the delay in replying. In fact, we today received your postcard so it sounds as if you have managed to get away from the office for another short break, I am glad.  The wedding seems to have gone very well indeed and the finery and style was displayed by all. Do send us a photo? Did Margot and family attend the wedding after all. I presume they did if they went to all the trouble of coming back to Ireland from the US for it.

It was really sad to hear that Kate Coffey is no longer around but at least to die in one’s sleep is a rather nice way to go. You will all miss her as you were great friends.

Has Nuala’s husband recovered? She must have got quite a shock and as for the children they would be really upset about it. Is he living in Dublin or is he still abroad, I cannot remember. How is Nuala? Tell her we are asking for her. Did she come over for Chris’s wedding.

Marion, yes Joe did receive the watch and many thanks. I hadn’t realised that he asked you to send him one. How much was it and we will send you the money? It is a nice watch. Every since I took his watch for repair i.e. a winder was required and they put an aluminum winder on a gold watch, he won’t wear his watch!!!!!!

We plan to buy some Shona sculpture for Chris and Deirdre or there is another  alternative of leather luggage. What do you think? You know the sculpture pieces. We have located an artist by the name of Mutasa and he has been commissioned by Prince Charles to do some works. All I can say about Shona sculpture is that it is personal. At first it tends not to appeal to one but then as you become accustomed to the piece you begin to like it. The stones out of which the sculpting is done can be serpentine (green, brown, black), opal, verdite, each of which is highly polished. I like them personally and have gathered quite a few pieces to date. Mind you they are small. There was an exhibition of Shona sculpture in Kilmainham Hospital recently  did you get to see it? Mum and Marie Grogan needless to say found their way
there.

Well what have I been doing? The answer is quite a lot. As I am not allowed to work here I have decided to do some charity work instead. I have joined Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret at Mashambanzou and go there on Tuesday’s and Friday’s to assist them with their administrative needs. It is very interesting work and completely different to anything I have done in the past. The Norwegian Aid Agency, Norad, provided them with a brand new computer.  It has Wordperfect 6 as a word-processing package,
which will enable me to be up-to-date when I return to the workplace next year, as it is the latest version.

Mashambanzou was established by Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret in 1989. The funds for the buildings were provided by Norad. Two vehicles were provided by other Aid Agencies and it was Mashambanzou that Princess Diana visited on her recent tour of Zimbabwe. Sr. Margaret takes care of the patients. Sr. Noreen is responsible for co-ordinating a team to educate people about safe sex etc. These are remarkable nuns, they deal with the reality and do not bow and scrape to Rome. They identify the needs at grass roots level and and then act accordingly. At present they have five beds. The latest admission is a 17 year old girl who is dying. They have set up a co-operative and
women with the virus are encouraged to come to work there. The presently have 35 women. They do piece work, nothing too hard and for this they are fed and receive small remuneration. They contribute out of their meager wages to the burial fund which as you can imagine has numerous demands made on it. The week before last, one family lost one daughter on the Monday and another  daughter on the Friday. It is common for several people to die of the virus in the same family. The statistics are horrendous. They are working on figures of 1 in 5 at present in Zimbabwe and 1 in 3 in Ghana. The numbers are doubling every 10 months. They have a nursery school for 20 children, all of whom have the virus. These are the children of those working in the
co-operative. The little one’s are so cute but their lot in life is so very sad.

Barbara Mercer and I have decided that we will give a party each month for the children so our task is to raise funds. We started last week and approached the President and Vice President of the Mashonaland Irish Association. The MIA were having their usual fancy dress Halloween party on Saturday so we persuaded them to allow us have a raffle. We made $720 which will go a long way in giving a party for these little children. It was great to get the funds and the nuns are delighted with our plan. The next thing we must do is organize the party which we plan to do today.

Mary has been giving me endless problems so I can now report she is no longer with us. I was so slow to ask her to leave as I am conscious of the poverty of these people and how their meager wages must sustain them in the basic necessities of life. However, she continually was cheeky and uncooperative. Last Saturday week, I came home to find my portable phone removed from the study at one end of the house and lying on my crumpled bed. I asked Mary had she removed it and she said “no”. She was such a liar despite all the times I told her I preferred the truth. She repeatedly denied that she had put the phone on the bed and then went so far as to suggest someone had entered the house and done so. I let it go but then last Saturday we received a letter in the post to say that Mary Tokwe had sold our TV for $350, my purple jumper and two pairs of “high socks” to this woman who had been to the police who confirmed that she could come and collect same. That was it. Joe told her she was to leave and I must confess it is a relief not having her sullen,cheeky personality around the house.

At first I resolved that I would have no maid but everyone says that it would be crazy in Africa doing all the washing by hand oneself and the other laborious chores like polishing the parquet floors. This morning I capitulated and have arranged for Patrick’s wife to come in two days per week to do the heavy work. I will pay her by the day. She is younger and seems very nice. Patrick is a very hard worker and we have had no problems with him since he arrived so let’s up the staff problems are now at an end.

It looks like I managed to get booked on our flights for Christmas. The plan is we will travel on Christmas Day (cheaper fare at $6,050) and arrive in London on the 26th. Hopefully there will be some Apex fares available from London to Dublin. Joe will stay until the 28th January and I will stay on until the 21st February. It will be a five week break for Joe who needs it as he has taken only 4 days out of the 20 days holiday allotted in his first year with Sisk’s. POSB needless to say is still not complete but Christmas looks a realistic time for its completion. It looks super  such a high standard for Africa really. Joe is under considerable pressure these days as it nears completion and there are many sackings given the propensity of the indigenous to sleep and skiving during working hours.

Well, give my love to all

Michelle and Joe

Letter No 5



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare

 

25th March 1993

Dearest Mary, Pat and twins.

How are you all keeping? Hopefully well. You must be beginning to feel quite tired by now Mary as the due date approaches. Make sure you take care of yourself and get all the rest you need. I know it is not that easy particularly when you have to work but all the same once you are home, let Pat spoil you rotten.

We need to exchange places really (don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish to be carrying twins) but my existing lifestyle would be very suitable to bringing up twins. You could do with it at the moment whereas I don’t really need it. Why is life so strange? Here Joe and I are in Africa, without ever having considered such a possibility and what’s more we are adapting very nicely to it. It is an easy life in some ways for people. Everything is extremely labour intensive, so it is the norm to have a live in maid, and a gardener,
some people have several. One does not worry about housework, cooking, gardening etc., the emphasis is purely social. You have a dinner party, even if you do the preparations, all the cleaning up is done by the maid. It is like it was in England and Ireland at the turn of the century. What’s more it works, everyone is happy. I suppose what it is all about is having a purpose. No matter what it is you do, once there is a purpose to it, that is what is important. Sometimes, I look at Mary and Benson, their wages equate to £20 per month each, yet they are proud to have these jobs, they are so much better off than their poorer unemployed counterparts out on the rural settlements. If they left their jobs in the morning, there are many only to glad to take their places. It is quite strange to us from the society we come from.

Joe, I think loves it here. Me on the otherhand, I like it but yearn some first world living standards. It is all very well but Zimbabwe is most definitely a third world country. Ireland is so far ahead of it, we really have nothing to complain about at home. Simple things indicate the difference. You can only buy fruit and vegetables which are in season so this means when oranges are available, there are no apples to be found and vice versa. It is virtually impossible to make a fresh fruit salad. You would think with the climate here, this could not be the case, well it is.  I can vouch for it. Scarcities are prevalent, one month you might be able to get sugar, the next month, none is available. Apparently, scarcities are not as bad as last year. You find yourself becoming a hoarder, everything has a potential future use. I find myself keeping jam jars/coffee jars etc. for the “inevitable, just in case”.

Mary, will your Mum come over to stay with you, after the babies are born? You are going to need some assistance. It is hard to know whether it is better for the young couple to adapt themselves to their new family situation, without help. Can you imagine you to have a ready made family, all over and done with in one fell swoop.

I have photos of Conor. He is getting bigger by the day. Shane now calls him “Porky”, let’s hope the name doesn’t stick. Mella is off to Portugal with her two sisters in May. She will be taking Conor with her so Shane claims that he will catch up on his sleepless nights. Their house is due for completion around May/June time. It will be nice to get their own home together. They aren’t moving out of the area, they will be living in
Carpenterstown. Mella’s sister, Orla and her husband Joe, have also bought a house in Castleknock, so there are plenty of babysitters to be found. Orla is expecting her first baby in August so Conor will have his first “firstcousin”. Nice for them all to have such a close family network, I suppose that is the advantage of coming from a large family.

Are things brightening up on the UK horizon yet? Recessions, why do we have to have them? Things are not looking so good on the Irish front presently. The whole Aer Lingus thing is quite scarey. It seems only like yesterday when it was hailed as such a success story, with its return to profitability.  Now look at it. As for GPA – well, that appears to be something else.

My mother is a regular correspondent as is her sister Marcy. For years, they never got on and we had no communication with my Mother’s only family member. When I was ill, Marcy continually wrote each week and phoned and through that they became friends again and it has continued. Apparently, Mum and Shane are traveling to Limerick to see her on the 28th of this month. I am so pleased, it is such a pity not to get on with one’s brother or sister. I am glad that they are once again close, even if they have missed out on some 35 years in between.

Well, I hope this finds you well. My thoughts are with you both a lot of the time. Take good care. Remember if things appear to be against you at present, one sure thing is that the tide will turn, it always does and invariably for the better. We know we have seen both sides of the coin in the past 16 months.

Lots of love,

Shelley & Joe.

Letter No 6



 

 

18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare

25th March 1993

Dear Janet,

Not having heard from you I am now slightly suspicious that you never received my letter at Christmas. Letters from here can be censored by the Authorities so anything is possible. Rather than lose contact with you, I have decided to sit down a type you another letter to see how things are.

You are lucky, you are to be spared my illegible scrawl. As you can see my ‘wordiprocessor’ arrived intact and in full working order on March 1st with the remainder of the shipment. The shipment was due for arrival in October but the red tape resulted it in it arriving at our house on March 1st. It left the UK on August 29th – so much for an efficient service. I am sure at the turn of the century, when the pioneers discovered Rhodesia, their shipments took a shorter length of time to arrive. Here we are 100 years later and no real improvements.

Well, how is your job. By now you must be well settled in and in command of everything. Have you heard from Sally? I wonder did she change job as her stop gap from Prudential-Bache sounded far from ideal. I read recently that things were beginning to pick up in the City again is this true or just optimistic newspapers?

Will you visit? I hope so. You would really enjoy this experience and Joe and I would be more than delighted to have you visit. Look out for some cheap fares. Some of the cheaper routes are via Lusaka, Zambia and Lisbon on Air Tap. It is seldom one gets to step back and time, and Zimbabwe is just that. There is a relaxed approach to life and women in ways are quite “spoilt”. When I came here first and a man said this to me, I was insulted and considered him a chauvinist. In those days I was smarting about losing my identity but now the relaxed approach seems to have transcended me and in ways he was possibly right.

I have joined the Alliance Francaise to meet more people like myself who are unable to work because no permits are granted and who have hours to fill in with trivial pursuits. It is an interesting mix of people. Zimbabwe being a third world country attracts its fair share of aid agencies from the first world countries. In order to ensure that the aid gets to the source, these aid agencies such as SADC, UN, etc. send overseas their own personnel to administer the distribution. It is a nice opportunity and there are plenty of benefits. Because they are aid agencies, their employees are paid in US$, they import the more luxurious makes of car tax free, and they have large houses rented for them in Harare. It is a cushy job to be in or so it seems. They have status in the community. Their cars are the most modern and sport plates with initials “CD” and “TCE”. In the past I was naive enough to think people who engaged in such missions in the third world lived like the third world people they were sent to assist.

Work for Joe is fine. Despite being paid Zim$ and the rampant inflation impact, it is possible as an expat to have a pleasant lifestyle here. He has taken to playing golf, we propose to take up horse riding and every few weeks we travel out of Harare and stay in a hotel in a scenic area. All quite possible on one income here. For Easter we will drive to Jo’burgh to stay with a friend of my brother’s from school days. He came to Harare on business and looked us up. The World is a small place really  from Ireland to Africa.

The last I heard of Lesley she was working at Laura Ashley just 5 minutes walk from her flat. There was a possibility of a permanent position but failing that she hoped to get to work for Kerry Packer again in May. He takes a suite of offices in the Savoy and Leslie spent the summer months working for him in 1992. She said it was exhausting but exciting. Apart from Lesley the only other person I have news of, strange enough, is Elaine. She is adoring motherhood and they are trying for another baby. Jamie has some kidney complaint but nothing too serious. 1991/1992 may have been our bad year but it was Elaine’s lucky year. She was made redundant from Pru-Bache and got a permanent job within a week, then she became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy son and to top it all in October she won £5,000 in some competition. Not bad going. She has started an Open University course also.

My life by comparison must be rather boring. No housework to do because Mary the housemaid comes in daily. We have a nice garden but there is no work to be done there as Benson, the live-in gardener deals with that. I hear you say what does she do? I hate being asked the question because I must confess to doing not a lot. I haven’t even successfully kept on top of letter writing. The answer is I read quite a lot. However the medication I am on has rather numerous side effects some of which include poor concentration so the intake is minimal. My law notes arrived out on March 1, I had thought of tinkering about with study but it is a bit late in day for an exam in June. There is always next year or never. Are you studying again? I feel it is such a tragedy that you didn’t carry on but I understand the feeling of not being able to go any further (Stop, the bus I want to get off feeling). When you get that feeling that’s it, you must give it credence. There is always the future if something is not possible in the present.

I had a card from Terry Marshall at Christmas giving me the low down on who was now where. Apparently, Frank is the father of a baby son and in September 1992, he too parted company with Prudential Insurance Corporation (PIC) and joined Shearson Lehman in Broadgate. Apparently business is going well for Gervase McCabe and David van der Woude. As for Trelawny, according to Terry he is now working for Wimpey (I am not sure if it is the restaurant chain or the builders). I can’t really imagine Trelawny in either. No news on Buxton. The only Buxton who features these days is Andrew Buxton, Mark’s first cousin, who is sustaining considerable flack for the mismanagement of Barclays.

Well, Janet, I have rambled on enough. If you get a chance, drop a few lines. Please think of visiting, we would love to have you. Once here, everything is considerably cheap. It is an experience and one well worth experiencing. Mum visited at Christmas and we did a whistle stop tour of Zimbabwe, staying in Bulawayo in the South, Eastern Highlands in the North East, and Victoria Falls. The Falls are spectacular – I can see why it is one of the seven wonders of the world. Nothing I have ever seen has been
quite so significant. It helped that it was the rainy season. The best time of year to visit is September/October time. From November to March, although summer, it is the wet season, so their can be a lot of rain.

It is now 8.10 p.m. and days I stay in all day I like to go out at night for a coffee at the Italian Bakery. They serve a very nice Cappuccino and if you feel greedy, you can have a nice cake or ice-cream to go with it. As I have put on weight, it is just the coffee for me tonight.

By the way, if I never said thank you for all your support and encouragement
last year, I really appreciate it.

Lots of love,

Michelle and Joe

Letter No 6



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe

April 15th 1993

Dear Noel, Tessie, and Noetah

It was great to receive your recent letter and hear that all is well for you over in the UK.  The recession must surely be approaching its end at this stage so let’s hope there are no more casualties on the employment side.  A good friend of mine had a similar experience to ours of January 1992 and when they arrived back from their holiday in Ireland at Christmas, there was a letter in the post for her hsuband making him redundant.  Luckily, she has a good job so the impact was not too drastic.  However she found out she is expecting twins in July so all one can do is hope that Pat finds something suitable in the meantime.

It must be so unpleasant for you at present in England with the bombing campaign by the IRA. It is such a pity that these criminals cannot be caught and sentenced to long terms in prison. It is so unfair on all those Irish people who have no alternative but to work in England. What I so much object to about the IRA’s campaign is that they indiscriminately kill those who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let’s hope they are caught and there is an end to this terrorist violence.

Shane is keeping well. Conor seems to be a thriving little boy who at 6 months fits into clothes for children aged one year and over. He will be a well traveled little boy as Mella is taking him to Portugal in May with her sisters and he comes to Zimbabwe on July 26th. It is nice when parents are young and energetic!!! I can’t imagine being able to do likewise. Mella is a good correspondent. She starts the letter and leaves a line or two at the end which Shane fills in. Mum was out with Marie last week. They went for
coffee at the Swan Centre. Apparently Marie is having all kinds of work done at Lavarna Grove. She is having double glazed windows installed. That will make it nice and cosy for her.

The news still appears dismal in the building industry in England. No light yet at the end of the tunnel. Harare, Zimbabwe is the beneficiary of much aid from the IMF and World Bank which means that there are large developments being built here at present. Joe’s present contract is a 17 storey office block for the Post Office Savings Bank, it is due for completion in August. Then the plan is that he will move to Eastgate (beside Meikles hotel http://www.meikles.com) which is to be the largest office/retail development in Zimbabwe. It is a joint venture between Costain http://www.constructionnews.co.uk/…/contractors/costain and John Sisk Pvt. http://www.zimbabweyp.com › Harare › General business Ltd. It started about 2 months ago but initial management is being dealt with by the Costain part of the venture. However, it is hard to see that the momentum in the building industry here will be sustained. Funds from the IMF and World Bank will not last forever and will have to be repaid so we envisage that at the end of two years, work will have substantially dried up here so it will be back to the UK in time for the next boom,
hopefully.

John Sisk are very well established in Zimbabwe, they are one of the four largest contractors so have a large percentage of the work released here. They are now looking to Mozambique. The war of 15 years is now ended and apparently vast quantities of funds are to be invested by the IMF and World Bank to rebuild this war torn country. I read recently that there are some 2 million landmines yet to be exploded. There are no schools in existence and the infrastructure is completely destroyed. Apparently it was a rather beautiful country when occupied by the Portuguese. It borders Zimbabwe but unlike Zimbabwe which is landlocked, it has the benefit of the Indian Ocean.  It was a great holiday resort for those from SA in past times. They are now trying to re-capture this holiday market. Sisk’s are seeking work there.  I only hope Joe is not sent there as I believe it is quite horrific but who
knows!!!

Easter is now over and Joe and I have made it back from South Africa. It was a mammoth venture, traveling some 750 miles (or 12 hours traveling time) each way to Johannesburg. All went well except for our car cut out in “No Man’s Land” i.e. between the Zimbabwean and South African border. It was quite scary, particularly as it was just before Beit Bridge which is patrolled by South African soldiers (only young lads with machine guns). The signs all said “No Stopping” and there we were in a car which refused to move in any direction. We waited for 20 minutes, the engine cooled down and we set off again. The journey was arduous for the car which when the petrol tank became too hot began to splutter curtailing our speed to an average of only 80 km
per hour.

It was great to get to see South Africa. Joe and I had wanted to go to South Africa for our honeymoon, some 10 years ago and here we are 10 years later living in Africa
with the bonus of being able to drive there. It is a very different country to Zimbabwe which is distinctly third world. Johannesburg is an enormous city based very much along American lines rather than English. There are many restaurants, large shopping malls, large industrial areas containing the usual corporate leaders of industry. It was not at all as I had imagined.  As I said, it is in ways it is similar to New York rather than London.Central Jo’burg is really a “No Go” area for whites now. The violence is a major problem and many sectarian shootings occur daily. All South Africans have access to arms and it is not uncommon for a car containing white people to be stopped by another holding black people who proceed to shoot them with their AK47 rifles. Whilst driving, particularly at night, it is so important to remain alert, and it is accepted practice for people to drive through red traffic lights having checked that the coast is clear. Apparently, according to Russell (our host), the violence was bad over the last few weeks. The subversives had targeted restaurants frequented by the whites and would just machine gun all in sight.

Chris Hani, leader of the Communist party and a shining light in South African terms was shot dead over the weekend by a white Polish man claiming to represent an extreme conservative party. Nelson Mandela called for calm but people feel uncertain as to what will happen in response to this killing. In Capetown, two white men were burned to death in their cars by angry blacks. Most expect considerable reprisals to follow around the time of the funeral. For all that South Africa has so much to offer i.e.  financially and in consumer terms, but it is a place where I would not choose to live. The uncertainty and volatility of the political environment is frightening. The blacks look on the whites as capitalists, they sport tee shirts with slogans “I’ll be the boss in the New South Africa”, i.e. a South Africa without whites. You notice the difference between those in SA and Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe they are considerably more friendly and accepting of their white compatriots but then there are only 200,000 remaining in a population of 11 million and although these 200,000 hold a considerable portion of the wealth, it is gradually being divested to their black counterparts via governmental policies. In South Africa, there is no doubt but that whites still continue to suppress the blacks but the ANC is gaining support and no doubt it will follow along Zimbabwean lines. It must be an absolute nightmare for those white people who live there with no option to leave.
Russell is lucky, he has an Irish passport. For people in these countries having access to an Irish passport by virtue of having one Irish grandparent is worth so much. You see, Ireland to the rescue again. Other countries are not so generous. We have met several people here who although have never been to Ireland, have located the loophole and hold a second secret passport.

Well, time to sign off. Will write again

Michelle

Letter No 7




31st May 1993

Dear Rose,

You have been on my mind recently. I have not heard from you and am wondering did you ever receive my letter? I have discovered recently that postage out of here can be a problem in that it never makes it to its correct destination. I am sure Alan has a similar experience in Nigeria.

How are you? Any chance of you visiting en route to India? We would love to have you and I think you would enjoy the holiday here. Christopher is welcome to come with you as we have plenty of space.

Joe phoned you recently just to say “Hello” and Alan was there as it happened. How does he like Nigeria? Will he be there for much longer? Is there any sign of an improvement in the UK which would enable us to all return to keep you company again, Rose? You are the “scout”.

Africa – what can I say. Most definitely Third World but then it is fast developing particularly here in Zimbabwe. There are many Architects, Engineers, Surveyors etc. here who are in a similar position to us i.e. casualities of the UK recession and eking out a reasonably nice existence in the interim. They are gaining work experience albeit of a somewhat different nature to that which they would get in the UK. Here everything is labour intensive.

Joe is working on an office development for the Post Office Savings Bank which is supposed to be the largest development under construction presently in Harare. It is 17 storey’s high and has some 365 “petite” little African workers dressed in red boiler suits performing all the construction work. The City has numerous buildings in varying stages of construction presently underway.   Sisk’s and Costains have just started a development known as Eastgate, which is supposed to be the largest in Sub Sahara Africa. It consists of three levels of underground parking, 2 levels of shops and thereafter a few levels of offices. The plan is that Joe will move to this contract in September when POSB is complete, as the Sisk representative. It is potentially a four year contract which causes me some apprehension as I do not wish to live here for the next 4 to 5 years. It is nice for maybe a year or so but Rose I am not cut out to be the ex pat wife who is not entitled to work.

But then I cannot complain. Joe like Alan has found work and going by what I read from the UK papers and the news received from friends still in the UK, things in the construction game have not improved, if anything they are worse. As they used to say at home “Beggars can’t be Choosers”. Harare is intimate in ways. You meet somebody one day and invariably you will by chance bump into them a few days later. I suppose we mix in quite small circles as such and being expat means you fall into that category.

I will be home on June 5th until July 17th. If you feel like a trip to Ireland, you are welcome. Alan mentioned that you are temping. Do you enjoy it or would you prefer to get permanent work? I suppose with Christopher and school holidays, it makes it quite difficult. What are your plans for this summer;  will you visit Alan in Nigeria? It would be nice for you to get the chance to see where Alan is living and to meet his new friends.  No amount of conversations, letter writing etc. can really impact in the same way actually going there and seeing what it is all about. I found this to be the case when I arrived in Zimbabwe. Despite Joe’s letters and phone calls, I never visualized exactly what it was like. It was such a culture shock really.

The City Harare is one of such contrast, from rich to poor. The shops areso out moded. I still have not managed to buy myself any item of clothing here and I doubt if I will. I suspect I will arrive back in England or Ireland and there will have to be a blitz of purchasing. Mind you this blitz would relate to my permanent return as there is no need to have any good clothes here in the interim as there is no occasion to wear them. Cotton skirts and old cotton blouses are all I have worn for the past 9 months. I have a wardrobe full of London work clothes which have not had occasion for
an airing.

Shane, Mella and Conor are visiting us on July 26th for 3 weeks. It should be fun. I am presently trying to organize some type of itinerary. Zimbabwe is a rather large country, they say three times the size of England, and the distances between each of the tourist locations is immense. I am apprehensive about all the driving and how a 9 month old child will cope. One cannot come to Zimbabwe without going to see Victoria Falls. When Mum came at Christmas we flew there but it is expensive costing US$120 for the flight alone and the hotel on top amounts to another US$35 per night if you are a Zimbabwean resident or US$90 per night if you are from overseas. That is the thing about Zimbabwe, internal holidays for residents are cheap but once they have guests from overseas, they are supposed to settle their accounts in US$ and the rate which applies to them is three times that of the resident. Their tourism slogan is “High Cost  High Quality” but this policy makes it a rather expensive tourist destination.

However, when staying with residents who provide your accommodation, everything thereafter is cheap. To eat out in one of the better restaurants here in Harare will amount to Zim$10 for two with drinks. You can go to the carvery in the Sheraton and eat as much as you like for the paltry sum of Zim$4.50 per head for dinner. Meat is of excellent quality particularly steak and beef. It is extremely reasonable by UK standards but then this prime cattle country. We tend to go away at least one weekend a month. It is possible here as the hotels out of Harare are very reasonable indeed. At
Easter we went to visit a friend in Johannesburg, SA. It is not so pleasant there. It was nice to experience some First World living from the point of view of shops, housing etc. but one was constantly conscious of a political situation which was on the boil. One had to be aware at all times that it was a city with one of the highest crime rates in the world. One would wonder what the eventual outcome will be for such a country.

Rose – what are property prices like around the area? Any stabilization or to be optimistic, any up-turn? The letting of the flat has gone well so far. The money is paid into our account each month on time so we have been lucky as far as the letting is concerned. The lease is due to expire at the end of August and I am unsure whether the tenants will remain on. If they don’t, Bowdens say they envisage no problem in re-letting it. However, Rose if they do move out, would you mind viewing the flat for us and giving us an honest opinion as to what may need to be done repair wise or otherwise. I know Bowdens are supposed to act as our representatives but I would feel
happier for your independent view, as you know us. Closer to the time, Joe will phone you, that is if it is okay by you.

Well, Rose, I’ll say bye for now.  Hopefully we will get to meet up when I go
home. Regards to Alan from both Joe and myself. Note that there is hardly
any space left on the paper, this is because being in Africa I have become
quite conscious of waste and try to use everything sparingly.

Michelle

Letter No 8



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Plesant, Harare, Zimbabwe


6th September 1993

Dearest Shane, Mella and Conor,

Time for me to resume my letter writing.  It was great to hear from you the other night and to hear all the news.  Poor little Conor – his first stitch.  I suspect he is proving to be a little more active than the docile creatures on mother’s backs over in this part of the world.  Have you explained to him the kind of existence he could have had if born over here!!!!!  I have refrained from upsetting the native children after that day in Regina Coeli.  Mind you they look so cute and docile – “good little children”.

Mella – it was such a pity you could not have come to Zimbabwe.  With the benefit of hindsight you would not have been subject to any malarial risk but I suppose one must be careful.  There is always 1994 and hopefully you can visit then and maybe get in a trip to South Africa as well.  Africa is an experience and I think you would really enjoy it.  Maureen and Elinor really enjoyed it.  It sounds conceited for me to be so confident about their enjoyment but conceit must give way to fact and the fact is they had a lovely time.  Maureen had great energy and where I would be embarrassed to avail of a photo opportunity she would hop out of the car and ask the Africans to pose and give them a few cents for their trouble.  Her photos should be interesting.  We stopped at quite a few rural settlements and as  happened to us en route to Regina Coeli, children came from every direction in the hope of gaining a few cents.  They so love getting their photos taken and provide a wide range of poses for the camera.

We flew to Victoria Falls.  I went to the travel agent and asked for the cheapest two day package only to end up staying in the Elephant Hills in the lap of luxury.  What a magnificent hotel to stay in?  Elinor in particular enjoyed it and it was great to see a young person so enthusiastic about everything the hotel had to offer.  The deal was good.  Including flights, transfers, hotel accommodation (dinner bed and breakfast) for two nights, champagne cruise on the Zambezi (where we saw an elephant and hippos), a trip to the crocodile farm, a tour of the Falls, a rural African village and the African Dance Spectacular at Victoria Falls Hotel, the total cost was $1,810.  I had hoped we could stay in one of the cheaper hotels but they were all booked out.  There were many more tourists around when I visited the second time.  Next year Mella you will be able to experience the delights of the Falls for yourself.

Send Orla and Joe my congratulations.  A baby girl, Conor’s first “first cousin”.  He will be able to take care of her.  Mella – your parents must be delighted to have a little grand-daughter also.  How are things with your pregnancy?  Hopefully you have no morning sickness or discomfort.  It must be great being on job share.  It will make such a difference to you as I imagine full-time work with small children is too hard.  Did you like the goodies Shane brought back from Zimbabwe – I hope so.  The Verdite Head was really good value Shane.  I have been visiting the galleries recently and talking to the various Gallery owners and artists.  I asked about purchasing pieces on the side of the road and if it was possible to get a real bargain.  Apparently it is rare but possible.

What happens is that the galleries buy direct from the artists but on some occasions the artists sell direct to the market stalls, particularly where the piece may not be quite up to the standard required by the gallery.  Joe and I spent Saturday visiting all the various Shona Sculpture Galleries – it was most interesting and we bought two pieces for our own collection.  We went to a place called Nyati which is a Gallery owned by David Mutasa.  He and his three sons produce various Shona Sculpture.  He has been commissioned by Prince Charles for certain pieces of Sculpture.  You know how I like to meet and know the artist from whom I buy works so I have added another artist to my collection.  On the subject of artists – as soon as you move to your new home, please take Conor’s painting from Rosepark so that you have it for him.

Paul and Joanne are home at present getting ready for their wedding next Saturday.  They were so excited.  Can you liaise with Mum re. tablets and getting them to Paul at his home.  (Details:  Parents – Vincent and Margret Carty, — Tymonville Drive, Tymonville Estate, Tallaght, Dublin 24).  They return to Zimbabwe on 21st September.

Mary is causing endless problems these days.  Things got so made that on Saturday I just had to reprimand her.  I don’t know what she is playing at.  Maybe she wants me to dismiss her so that I pay her off.  I have given consistent warnings over the last two weeks so if there is no improvement I may just pay her off and revert to doing my own chores on a daily basis and get someone to do the more laborious hand-washing and ironing say twice a week.  Patrick is working out fine.  He is young, enthusiastic, friendly and eager.  His young bride of four months visits each Saturday staying overnight.  Joe and I both feel that we should relent and give our permission for his wife to stay with him.  She is looking for work and it is expensive for them with her living in another part of the city.

Saturday, Theo (you never met him Shane but he is the African Student Engineer who worked for Joe during his vacation) came to dinner.  He was supposed to bring his girlfriend but as it happened her parents stipulated that she had to come home from work.  Theo asked me to leave her home which I did and what a culture shock.  I visited a township called Glenora and what a difference to anything I have ever seen.  Later when I told some white people where I had been, they could not believe it.  It just is not safe to visit such a place but I explained I had an indigenous person with me so I felt rather safe.  Can you imagine Russell in a similar situation?  It was a real shanty town with people milling around all over the place, children everywhere, fires on the side of the road where people live, cars with no lights, smog that made it impossible to see more than a couple of yards ahead.  I dropped the girl at her “shack” and what amazed me was how she could be so well presented, spoken etc. out of such humble origins.  Their life is so very different.  Her commute to work takes up to 60 minutes in those ET’s (emergency taxis).  Life is just so different – the real divide between the two cultures exists in this city and yet I never previously witnessed the true divide.

Have you paid the maintenance re. Wellington House yet.  Mum and I have £200 in the Wellington House account so if you let me know the shortfall I can pay it in to the account and you can ask Mum to do likewise so that you can write a cheque to be drawn on the account.  The cheque book is in the bottom drawer in the desk in the study at Rosepark.  Circa 25th of the month Mr. Moran should be re-commencing his standing order re. rent.  I attach letter re-introducing standing order drawn on account dividing income between the three of us.  Fill in your account details and Mums.  (Check with her which account she wants her share paid into).

Michelle

Letter No 9



29th September 1993

Dearest Mella, Shane and Conor,

Have you moved? I tried phoning last night to wish Conor a Happy Birthday. I am sorry about the dull present but I will make it up to him at Christmas. So how was the Birthday Party. Did his latest cousin Ashling come and how does he accept her. Conor sounds a little rascal. Did he fit himself into the washing machine or did he give it up as a bad job in favour of something else? Have Orla and Joe moved into their new home yet?

Shane  thank you for leaving the drugs to Paul’s home. I think you caused some consternation as Paul had forgotten in all the excitement that he had promised to make a delivery. His Dad got over anxious when you mentioned “drugs”, thinking that it was some risky business you were asking him son to engage in!!!!

Russell phoned the other night. It now looks like December when he plans to visit Victoria Falls. He had lost our phone numbers and eventually left a message at Sisk head office in order to renew the contact. Everything is great both on the romance side and with life in general. His Dad is back from Ireland, full of ideas and enthusiasm. He is now looking at buying property in the Algarve so as Russell says  we may all meet up there.  Russell’s little niece is already earning money. At four months she featured in a magazine and received 1,000 rand for the photo so tell Conor he must go to work immediately after all he too is a handsome little boy with a rather cute smile. Russell’s niece must be rather pretty to be on the advertising circuit already.

I am now stepping up the horse riding to twice a week. I am getting rather fit but alas am still putting on weight. This has focused my attention on a gym so I am thinking of adding an expedition twice a week to the gym to my weekly routine. I must do something or else I will not be able to fit into any of my clothes when I return to the normality of First World living which at this rate is no more than one year away now!!! POSB has passed its deadline of end of September and now it is supposed to finish at the end of October so hopefully this will become a reality for Joe as he is under considerable pressure on all sides at the moment. I must admit it is looking well, particularly now that the scaffolding is beginning to come down. When it is finished it will be great. Within the next couple of weeks he will be organising his completion party which should be fun.

Social life here has been hectic since you left. We seem to have very little time to ourselves and the time we have is spent reading and catching up on letter writing etc. Last Sunday was the Mashonaland Irish Club Family Day which was hosted by Paraic and Helen Connolly in their garden. It is held by them each year and about 100 people come for lunch, drinks, games, tennis and swimming. It went well. We went to Paul Goyns one Sunday for lunch and he had invented this game, a race track for 6 horses and two large dice. Joe was assigned to copy Paul’s invention and needless to say what he came up with was absolutely super and provided much entertainment at the Mashonaland Irish Association. Everyone was impressed with it. The track was the size of a table tennis table, the lanes were done in strips of formica and then 6 pieces of wood represented the horses. The dice were made out of large chunks of polystyrene, the first one thrown represented the horse and the second  was equal to the number of laps the horse progressed. It was real fun and minor bets were taken. Towards the end of the evening as the drink took hold of the various people it was decided that whoever came last had to jump into the pool and as it happened it was Joe so in he went. Then the 67 year old Raph Keegan (ex. Blackrock College) decided to race his 27 year old girlfriend’s father (ex. Terenure College) so in they both jumped fully clad. It was so funny to see them racing up and down the pool fully dressed. Raph is Chairman of the MIA and would you believe it he was at school with both Padraic English and Tom Carroll – what a small world it is?

I phoned Rose the other night. She sounds as if she is in real turmoil. Alan is still in Nigeria but it looks as if she has resolved to finally leave him. She spent a month in India with her mother but unfortunately much as she would like to return home, it is not possible so her decision must be to separate from Alan and continue to rear Christopher in England. She has along term temporary assignment in Cambridge. She says she will phone at Christmas to let me know where she is living. Poor Rose, she is such a lovely person. It must be really hard for her at the moment. It is not aneasy decision to make.

Marcy sounds great. She is back from her annual holidays in Lahinch. Guess what but she too has a camcorder and spent her holiday touring and photographing old haunts. Ambrose starts his job in London at the beginning of October so I gave her Geraldine’s address and phone number so that he too can make contact. Geraldine is a great correspondent. She is presently holidaying in Umbria, a walking holiday, but returns to work at the beginning of October. She met up with her sister Mary in Ireland at the beginning of September. Marcella Marie has returned to England, the possibility of work at the appropriate salary not being available in Ireland. Apparently Nuala is resigned to the fact that Marcella may never be coming home as such and she will visit her in England more often. It must be hard for them given the amount of time, energy and money they have invested in Porte over the last few years. It would be great if some opportunity presented itself for Marcella but I suppose reality comes into it. Marcella is involved in the Corporate Law end of things in England and I can’t imagine much opportunity for this specialism in Clare. She is as well earning the money in England and commuting from London to Ennis. Afterall if she got a job in Dublin she would still face a minimum three/four hour commute each weekend.

I have rejoined the Alliance on Monday and Thursday mornings which means I have an activity on most days of the week. On alternative days I arrange for people to come to lunch (and lunch hours are protracted affairs here) so as you can see I may have no “work, work” but at least I am keeping out and about. I feel much better these days and realize that my progress had slipped previously.

Mary is causing endless problems so I have now presented her with two letters. Employment procedure is quite protected here. I have explained a further warning means I will be terminating her employment. The other day I had laid the table for a lunch party and when I went to check over the table, Mary had duly scattered everything – it looked as if a herd of wild children had left their mark. This is just an example of what I have to put up with these days. You cannot correct the African. Instead of trying to improve, they take it as a slight and then do everything to frustrate you. Our problem with Mary rests with telling her she should not have stayed in the wash house. When she leaves I will revert to doing my own housework and if there is anything too arduous I will ask Patrick’s wife to come in and do it and pay her for the task in question. I am not getting caught up with Labour Legislation again.

Well, I must say bye for now. Hope I haven’t bored you too much.

Michelle (Shelley) and Joe

Letter No 10



24th November 1993

Dear Sue,

Many thanks for your letter of 18th August and sorry for this long delay in replying. There surely can be no excuses given the writer is a lady of leisure with nothing important to do other than be a boring expat wife here in Zimbabwe. Despite this my time just disappears and my best intentions are left to one side. You are being spared my awful writing as my famous Pru-Bache wordprocessor survived the trip to Harare. Can you believe it? I sure can’t. It is marvellous to have it here as it makes administration of personal items so much easier.

You mention about visiting. Presently it is summer and the rainy season and given that I arrived this time last year and experienced the rainy season there I would not advocate traveling at this time of year. It is hot, humid, cloudy and generally quite unpleasant with massive electric lightening storms. Winter time is April to August and this is a joy. The days are warm and the evenings cool. It is sheer contrast so one feels the drop in temperature. Having said this, it is unlikely that you will notice the change coming from the English climate, this is only for those of us who become softened to the Zimbabwe climate. In winter, the skies are bright blue and cloudless, the poinsettia trees are a beautiful display of red to contrast with the blue, and general the vegetation is lush. If you travel to the Victoria Falls, there is an abundance of water after the rainy season and if you decide to visit Lake Kariba, one of the largest man made lakes in the world, the temperatures which are 40+ degrees these days, are in the bearable 20 degrees in winter.

Shane my brother, came in July, mid winter, but he loved it. It can be cold in Harare as it is 1600 m above sea level i.e. higher than any mountain range in the UK but once you travel down to the low veld which comprise the tourist sites then it is considerably warmer and pleasant for people coming from the UK. We will be home at Christmas and plan to spend one week in the UK in January so we will show you the photos and try and entice you to visit.

I am glad to hear that both Katharine and Matthew are making progress. They
are great young people so I expect nothing less. Give them my love. If Katharine is doing her world tour then maybe she will stop off in Harare en route. She is welcome to do so.

It is great that Gloria is working near you, at least you can both meet for lunch. Has her new boyfriend who seems to have acquired the African bug returned to Africa or is he still in London? If so, to what part and does she plan to go there to. Advise her to take a holiday first as it is extremely different in Africa. Give her my regards when you next see her.

Lesley is working permanently for the MD of Laura Ashley. She is within 10 minutes walking distance from her flat and they have paid her subscription
to the gym in the Hilton Hotel in Chelsea Harbour. It sounds ideal. She plans to visit in 1994 so I am looking forward to seeing her then. Jenny Parker has had a baby boy and Terry Marshall likewise has had a baby boy. It seems to be the year for little boys.

Exercise – you ask am I doing much? Well, you know my resistance to such pursuits but alas Africa dictates that I must become fit. I keep putting on weight despite many efforts to lose it so I can only conclude that it is the more sedentary life I now lead which causes the weight gain. I have taken up horse riding twice a week and two weeks ago I started at the local gym, two mornings per week. Luckily the horse riding, which we took up in June, had limbered me up somewhat in preparation for the gym.

The flat became vacant on the 1st September and the management agents had tenants in the same day which was really great. There was no increase in rent but at least the place was not vacant. The agents charge £96 per month to manage it but at least we have no problems with the tenants so that makes it worthit. Next September is the end of Joe’s contract so we don’t know what options exist then. Hopefully, the week in London in January will enable us to assess how things are progressing in his field of work and maybe he will be able to establish some contacts re. returning to work in the UK next year.

Well what else have I been doing? The answer is quite a lot. As I am not permitted to work here, I have decided to do some charity work and have joined Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret at Mashambanzou and go there on Tuesday’s and Friday’s to assist them with their administrative needs. It is very interesting work and completely different to anything I have done in the past. The Norwegian Aid Agency, Norad, provided them with a brand new computer. What’s more, it has Wordperfect 6 as a wordprocessing package, which will enable me to be up-to-date when I return to the workplace next year, as it is the latest version.

Mashambanzou mashambanzou.blogspot.com was established by Sr. Noreen Nolan and Sr. Margaret McAllen and others in 1989. The funds for the buildings were provided by Norad. Two vehicles were provided by other Aid Agencies and it was Mashambanzou that Princess Diana visited on her recent tour of Zimbabwe. As you know she is very involved in the Aids cause. Sr. Margaret takes care of the patients. Sr. Noreen is responsible for co-ordinating a team to educate people about safe sex etc. These are remarkable nuns, they deal with the reality and do not bow and scrape to Rome. They identify the needs at grass roots level and then act accordingly.  At present they have five beds. The latest admission is a 17 year old girl who is dying. They have set up a co-operative and women with the virus are encouraged to come to work there. The presently have 35 women. They do piece work, nothing too hard and for this they are fed and receive small remuneration. They  contribute out of their meager wages to the burial fund which as you can imagine has numerous demands made on it. The week before last, one family lost one daughter on the Monday and another on the Friday.  It is common for several people to die of the virus in the same family. The statistics are horrendous. They are working on figures of 1 in 5 at present in Zimbabwe and 1 in 3 in Ghana. The numbers are doubling every 10 months.  They have a nursery school for 20 children, all of whom have the virus.  These are the children of those working in the co-operative. The little one’s are so cute but their lot in life is so very sad.

Barbara Mercer and I have decided that we will give a party each month for
the children so our task is to raise funds. We started last week and approached the President and Vice President of the Mashonaland Irish Association. The MIA were having their usual fancy dress Halloween party on Saturday so we persuaded them to allow us have a raffle. We made Zim$720 which will go a long way in giving a party for these little children. It was great to get the funds and the nuns are delighted with our plan. The next thing we must do is organize the party which we plan to do today.

So Sue, I hope this letter finds you well. It was great to hear you on the
phone that morning we phoned. Give our love to Katherine and Matthew and
we look forward to seeing you all in January.

Love,

Michelle and Joe.

Letter No 11



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare

4th November 1993

Dear Lesley

Many thanks for your letter and lovely birthday card which I received in time for my birthday. At my stage of life, I should either start dropping years or just not remembering that I am getting older. It is not fair – why do we have to age!!! So you are off on holidays again. This letter will await you on your return. I hope you enjoy yourself in Vienna with your Mum. I am sure she needs the holiday as the last few years must not have been too easy for her. It is good that she is getting the opportunity to go back to work,one is a lot better off active than inactive. Retirement does not appeal to me, mind you at present I am experiencing a sort off early enforced retirement. What stupid laws apply in this country? The men get the work permits but their wives’ are not entitled to same. Even if I had something
useful to offer like being a nurse, they are unlikely to grant a work permit. Whatsmore if you flout the law and it is found out, their answer is to ask both the husband and wife to leave the country virtually with immediate effect. You might even have to spend a few hours in jail which is a prospect I would not relish.

One member of John Sisk personnel received a letter from Immigration on the 13th October asking him to sign a form and leave the country by October 15th. He had to stop working immediately. He managed to get three weeks leeway on application to enable him to appeal. He has worked here on TEP’s for 6 years, he lectures in the local polytechnic and wants to take up permanent residence so how he could become the target of such unrealistic demands from the Immigration Department, I do not know. I would hate to live here for an extended period of time as the insecurity would get to me.

It sounds from your letter that the recession/depression still rages in England. It seems to be the same old story, you start working for one person and end up working for two for the same remuneration. Whatsmore no overtime particularly when you were used to it is a drawback. Mind you it must be nice to finish at 5 p.m. and have no real commute to work. You say you have joined the gym, well wait for it, so have I.

Since I came to Africa, I keep putting on more and more weight and since I was sick I really am unfit so the combination of both these factors has spurned me on to do something about it. I go horse riding twice a week and try to make it to the gym twice also. I love the horse riding and we are now at the stage of jumping. Joe goes riding once a week and he too really enjoys it. It is a nice past-time here in Africa as rides out on the veld are particularly enjoyable. It is a great way to see game in its natural habitat. When you visit we will take you to Lynne for a few lessons and then we will go out on a few hacks. Excuse the presumption that you don’t ride but it never came up in our many conversations.

I have booked flights for Christmas. We leave Christmas Day (cheap fare) and arrive in London the following day. Joe will be home until 28th January and I plan to stay until 21st February. We intend to go to London for a week sometime in January so we will meet up again and then we can discuss your plans for your visit to Zimbabwe.  It is presently summer and the oppressive rainy season. I hate it because of the humidity, rain, thunder and lightening. From April, it is winter but to my mind it is the nicest time of year here. We had a phone call from Richard and Janet in the US on my birthday.  Janet is expecting her second and they plan to visit in March before Andrew is two years old and subject to full fare. They are checking out the health implications and then they will confirm their dates.

Can you believe it but on 16th November I will be in Africa one year? The time has passed quickly but then that goes hand in hand with getting older.

Well  what else have I been doing? The answer is quite a lot. I have decided to offer my humble services to two nuns who work with women and children infected with the Aids virus. Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret have a drop-in centre at Mashambanzou and I go there on Tuesday’s and Friday’s to assist them with their administrative needs. It is very interesting work and completely different to anything I have done in the past. The Norwegian Aid Agency, Norad, provided them with a brand new computer. What’s more, it has Wordperfect 6 as a wordprocessing package, which will enable me to be up©toªdate when I return to the workplace next year. I presume Wordperfect 6 is
the latest version back in the metropolis of London!!!!!

Mashambanzou was established by Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret in 1989. The funds for the buildings were provided by Norad. Two vehicles were provided by other Aid Agencies and it was Mashambanzou that Princess Diana visited on her recent tour of Zimbabwe. Sr. Margaret takes care of the patients. Sr. Noreen is responsible for co-ordinating a team to educate people about safe sex etc. These are remarkable nuns, they deal with the reality and do not bow and scrape to Rome. They identify the needs at grass roots level and then act accordingly.

At present they have five beds. The latest admission is a 17 year old girl who is dying. They have set up a co-operative and women with the virus are encouraged to come to work there. The presently have 35 women. They do piece work, nothing too hard and for this they are fed and receive small remuneration. They contribute out of their meager wages to the burial fund which as you can imagine has numerous demands made on it. The week before last, one family lost one daughter on the Monday and
another on the Friday. It is common for several people to die of the virus in the same family. The statistics are horrendous. They are working onfigures of 1 in 5 at present in Zimbabwe and 1 in 3 in Ghana. The numbers are doubling every 10 months. They have a nursery school for 20 children, all of whom have the virus. These are the children of those working in the co-operative. The little one’s are so cute but their lot in life is so very sad.

Barbara Mercer and I have decided that we will give a party each month for the children so our task is to raise funds. We started last week and approached the President and Vice President of the Mashonaland Irish Association. The MIA were having their usual fancy dress Halloween party on Saturday so we persuaded them to allow us have a raffle. We made $720 which will go a long way in giving a party for these little children. It was great to get the funds and the nuns are delighted with our plan. The next thing we must do is organize the party which we plan to do today.

I hope things aren’t too chaotic in UCH for Kay. I am sure she is glad to have her MSc. Can you imagine a hospital such as UCH making 500 staff redundant. Things must be very bad in the health services.

Well, it is time for me to say bye for now. Will see you in the New Year. I hope you enjoyed Vienna, you well traveled person. Give my regards to Kay, David and Debbie. By the way we tried phoning you from Joe’s office one morning but you were out. Joe did not leave a message – typical!!!! Who knows if we get the opportunity again we may make contact with you.

Love,

 

Michelle

Letter No 15



18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare Ph 303121

4th November 1993

 

Dear Maureen and Elinor,

It was great to receive your letters particularly given your chaotic schedule. It is always the same when you return from holidays, you are just so busy catching up. How I envy you with the dishwasher? If only I could have a dishwasher and washing machine, life without staff would be so much easier!!!!! I have had endless problems with Mary so much so that I eventually decided I could take it no more and she no longer works here as from last Saturday.

Patrick is a gem. He works so very hard on a continual basis and you can see his massive efforts in the beautiful garden he has created. I have asked Gertrude to come in two days a week and she started this morning. What a change it is to have a smiling face about the place. Mary really was so sulky and sullen. As soon as I left the house she would play up. Friends arrived for afternoon tea one day and when I went to find her she was fast asleep on my clean clothes which she had removed from the line. Then the Saturday before last, I came home to find the portable phone sitting on my
bed and the bed all rumpled (she evidently had been making calls and lying on the bed). When I asked her about removing the phone from the study she denied it and went so far as to say that someone i.e. Patrick had come into the house during break time and moved the phone from the study to the bedroom. Then to cap it all, last Saturday I received a letter in the post to say that Mary Tokwe had sold our television for $350, a pair of “high socks” and a purple cardigan to this woman and that she was coming to collect her purchases. That was it – Joe said no more and we asked her to leave with immediate effect. It makes life easier not having her cheeky, sullen being
about the house. Let’s hope we are not taken before the Labour Court and
asked to re-employ her.  (April 2017:  I read this a feel ashamed. I was not understanding or showed no compassion).

As soon as you give me your brother’s measurements I will go to Tessa and ask her to knit him a jumper. Her range is becoming quite extensive these days. For the summer months she has gone into crochet work and one of her creations is a crocheted body stocking with flowing sleeves. It really looks nice particularly for a young person. She spent 6 weeks in the UK and has returned brim full of ideas. Everyone I take to meet her ends up purchasing something and the other day she offered to give me a children’s jumper free. Needless to say, I said “no”. I am just happy to have a source of presents which are presentable. It is great that your jumpers washed up well. As yet I have to take Joe to see the jumpers and buy one for myself. I have asked her if I can take some samples at Christmas and she is agreeable.

Did Mum give the bedspread to Dr. McGarry? What did she think of it? I don’t think the crocheted table cloths survive too many washings, they begin to look quite tatty and I believe it is the quality of the cotton they use. I have been looking for some cotton (which seems in short supply at present) so that I can get Gertrude to produce some items for Christmas presents. I have found a young indigenous artist. The tobacco people BAT sponsor an art workshop in old Harare and I have visited there on several occasions recently. The artists attached to the workshop receive classes and exhibit
at the National Gallery among other places. I have found this excellent young artist who does lovely pencil sketches for a mere $60 (£6) for a large one. Shane sent me a nice photo of himself and Conor so I am going to ask Tania Chiota to recreate it in pencil for me. I hope it turns out well. Some of their stone sculpture is interesting also. They are also involved in creating works of art out of scrap metal. It was so funny – I brought your good friend Paul Carty there last Saturday. He spotted a scrap metal bird and decided he was having it. He bargained, the deal was done and then the seller lost his confidence about the price and decided to take it back from Paul – you can imagine the Mr. Paul Carty you so well got to know. He didn’t want to give it back. He was just like a child with a toy. I have promised to take him back there next Saturday to meet the creator, Maxwell and then he can strike his own deal.

Paul and Joanne are fine. We went to them for supper last night, it was impromptu. Joanne and I have taken to riding twice a week now and we go to the gym also. If you are talking to Dr. Maguire  tell him I really feel well these days, much more like my old self. I will no doubt see him in January for a chat. Tell him I don’t write to him directly as I know the grapevine system via my Mum and yourself is most effective and I don’t wish to bore him with letters of how good/bad I am.

Well  what else have I been doing? The answer is quite a lot. I have at long last made contact with Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret in Waterfalls and go to Mashambanzou Tuesday’s and Friday’s to assist them with their administrative needs. It is very interesting work and completely different to anything I have done in the past. The Norwegian Aid Agency, Norad, provided them with a brand new computer. What’s more, it has Wordperfect 6 as a wordprocessing package, which will enable me to be up-to-date when I return to the workplace next year, as it is the latest version.

Mashambanzou was established by Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret in 1989. The funds for the buildings were provided by Norad. Two vehicles were provided by other Aid Agencies and it was Mashambanzou that Princess Diana visited on her recent tour of Zimbabwe. Sr. Margaret takes care of the patients. Sr. Noreen is responsible for co-ordinating a team to educate people about safe sex etc. These are remarkable nuns, they deal with the reality and do not bow and scrape to Rome. They identify the needs at grass roots level and then act accordingly. At present they have five beds. The latest admissionis a 17 year old girl who is dying. They have set up a co-operative and women with the virus are encouraged to come to work there. The presently have 35 women. They do piece work, nothing too hard and for this they are fed and receive small remuneration. They contribute out of their meagre wages to the burial fund which as you can imagine has numerous demands made on it. The week before last, one family lost one daughter on the Monday and another daughter on the Friday. It is common for several people to die of the virus in the same family. The statistics are horrendous. They are working on figures of 1 in 5 at present in Zimbabwe and 1 in 3 in Ghana. The numbers are doubling every 10 months. They have a nursery school for 20 children, all of whom have the virus. These are the children of those working in the
co-operative. The little one’s are so cute but their lot in life is so very sad.

Barbara Mercer and I have decided that we will give a party each month for the children so our task is to raise funds. We started last week and approached the President and Vice President of the Mashonaland Irish Association. The MIA were having their usual fancy dress Halloween party on Saturday so we persuaded them to allow us have a raffle. We made $720 (£72) which will go a long way in giving a party for these little children. It was great to get the funds and the nuns are delighted with our plan. The next thing we must do is organize the party which we plan to do today.

The UN are giving a party on Saturday for these two over-worked nuns so we have been invited and what’s more I have wangled an invitation for Paul and Joanne who I feel would be a good contact for the nuns. Well, it is time for me to finish. Looking forward to seeing you both at Xmas and of course, Patch.

Love

Michelle and Joe



About michelleclarke2015

Life event that changes all: Horse riding accident in Zimbabwe in 1993, a fractured skull et al including bipolar anxiety, chronic fatigue …. co-morbidities (Nietzche 'He who has the reason why can deal with any how' details my health history from 1993 to date). 17th 2017 August operation for breast cancer (no indications just an appointment came from BreastCheck through the Post). Trinity College Dublin Business Economics and Social Studies (but no degree) 1997-2003; UCD 1997/1998 night classes) essays, projects, writings. Trinity Horizon Programme 1997/98 (Centre for Women Studies Trinity College Dublin/St. Patrick's Foundation (Professor McKeon) EU Horizon funded: research study of 15 women (I was one of this group and it became the cornerstone of my journey to now 2017) over 9 mth period diagnosed with depression and their reintegration into society, with special emphasis on work, arts, further education; Notes from time at Trinity Horizon Project 1997/98; Articles written for Irishhealth.com 2003/2004; St Patricks Foundation monthly lecture notes for a specific period in time; Selection of Poetry including poems written by people I know; Quotations 1998-2017; other writings mainly with theme of social justice under the heading Citizen Journalism Ireland. Letters written to friends about life in Zimbabwe; Family history including Michael Comyn KC, my grandfather, my grandmother's family, the O'Donnellan ffrench Blake-Forsters; Moral wrong: An acrimonious divorce but the real injustice was the Catholic Church granting an annulment – you can read it and make your own judgment, I have mine. Topics I have written about include annual Brain Awareness week, Mashonaland Irish Associataion in Zimbabwe, Suicide (a life sentence to those left behind); Nostalgia: Tara Hill, Co. Meath.
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