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  You are @ HomeAdults A day in my life

A day in my life

Source: Adults

Author: Rhona Aitken

Title: The restful evening

Imagine it! A beautiful tropical evening, palm trees at the bottom of the garden with
lemons and avocados growing an arm’s length away. Banks of golden alamanda and ebullient canna lilies flaunting their carmine colours down the drive. A light breeze rustling the creepers twining around the pillars of the porch, and moon-flowers starting to unwind their scent-filled petals as the cool of evening fell. Cicadas starting their evening song - peaceful - lovely. Utterly relaxing.

That is how it was in Nigeria one evening in the 1950s. to us. We were, at that stage in life - one Colonial policeman, his wife (me), three children and a new baby. That evening I could hear the children’s laughter filtering down the stairs as they admired our Siamese cat’s new family, comfortably ensconced in a lower dressing-table drawer, where their beautiful Mother had insisted they should be born. We had planned on a quiet, restful evening. The only thing we would have to attend to was the arrival very soon of my husband’s boss, (The Commissioner of Police) and his wife with their little three-year-old daughter, Anne. Tim and Anne were going to a ‘black-tie’ affair at Government House and we were baby-sitting. It has to be said that Anne was not the easiest of little people, but she knew us well and trouble was not anticipated. Tim was a great stickler for detail and liked life to be orderly. Little Anne had to be fed, watered and bedded on time. They were good friends. But - he was the Commissioner, so we were on our best behavior. They would arrive soon.

Then the phone rang. Gordon answered it, to be told of big trouble in an out-lying town that had to be looked into. He was to go immediately and would probably be away for a day or two. In a great flurry of activity the car was packed with camp beds and various provisions and mosquito nets; within the hour both Gordon and Asanga, our Steward, had dashed off into the night. Policeman’s wives get used to this sort of thing, so I was fairly philosophical as I waved them off. Our Gordon Setter went and sulked under the dining-room table as he always did if the car went off without him. I could hear his grumpy breathing. Our parrot sat snoozing on his little tree. At this time of the day he had a habit of talking to himself. Not copying us, which he did all too well, but gentle parrot-talk.
That was the only sound. A few minutes later I heard foot-steps crunching down the drive, and in walked Mike. A new and very young policeman who had frequent bouts of feeling lonely and hungry, so often walked in for a chat and – he hoped – supper. James, aged seven, was tired of playing with kittens, and bored with supper, so was delighted to see who’d arrived, and dashed upstairs to get his new Meccano set. The girls were about to tackle their bread and marmite.

Suddenly there was a cry. The kitchen door burst open and, in floods of tears, Emmanuel, our small house-boy came running through holding our Siamese cat, who looked alarmingly floppy.
Emmanuel, about twelve, was Asanga’s nephew. According to James he was “ a whizz with a catapult”. His job in life was to keep our wood-hungry Dover stove running, and, if the spirit moved him, – do a little school-work on the side. “She be dead Ma! She be dead. The Beeg snake come and she try to kill it, but it bite her!”
Poor little Emanuel was devastated. He adored the cat and spent many hours playing with her. Bamboo was obviously in a bad way, a visit to the Vet was essential
but of-course, Gordon had the car. I phoned my always-helpful next-door neighbour, Harold, who said he’d be around in ten minutes. Mike said he’d keep an eye on the children.

Marion, the baby, was starting to tell me she was hungry, and proceeded to get noisier by the minute. At that moment a car drew up and out jumped Evelyn, returning a book. I explained the situation to her and being a good friend she immediately said.
“I’ll stay and feed Marion for you. Don’t worry.”

Then another car arrived and in swept Tim and Mary in full evening regalia, followed by a somewhat petulant Anne. They gazed at the scene with considerable misgiving. Evelyn was clutching a howling baby. James and Mike were in a corner where I’m sorry to say James had just stuck a screw-driver into Mike’s ear and he was in considerable pain. Emanuel was still shedding noisy tears over our unconscious cat, and I could hear her seven kittens screaming for food upstairs. Susan and Lianne were having a bad-tempered sisterly squabble over who had spilt the orange-juice, which had landed mostly on the dog, and with a screech of brakes Harold drove up to take me to the Vet.

I grabbed Anne, whose bottom lip looked mutinous, told her alarmed parents that everything was alright really and please to go and enjoy their evening. They exchanged
dubious glances and backed into their car with nervous smiles. I rushed Anne upstairs and put her in the spare cot, dashed down again, grabbed Bamboo and ran to Harold’s car. Off we went before anything else went wrong. Meantime Evelyn asked the distraught Emanuel where baby’s feeding bottles were. He did his best, but had no idea of anything else to do with the feeding of babies so didn’t know that I made double-strength mixtures and then watered it down with hot water. Mike was clutching his ear in a lot of pain.

When I got back the baby had been sick. The dog had sprayed the room with sticky orange-juice. The parrot was cross he hadn’t been put to bed and was making loud ‘cross-parrot’ noises. Emanuel took one look poor Bamboo, now draped, completely unconscious over my arm, and started crying ‘Aiyi - aiyi!’. The usually pristine cat was now covered in the gentian violet that had been rapidly and untidely thrust down her poor little throat. Her tongue, now deep purple, hung out and her eyes were wide open. not a pretty sight. I tried to convince Emmanuel that ‘She be one fine cat now’ but he howled with unabated relish. Evelyn tottered off to her car. I put the cat in the drawer with her kittens, who were soon feasting off their colourful mother and acquiring mauve coats in the process. The children finally went to bed. The parrot was deposited in his night quarters. Poor Mike had staggered home nursing his painful ear. Suddenly all was quiet. I felt slightly limp.

Next day the Master of the house and Asanga came home.
I got a kiss from my dearly beloved. “Had a nice quiet time darling?
There really was no answer.

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