Below are a number of photos of the African farm on which I lived during the early 1980's and where my children started life. It was the most beautiful place I have ever had the fortune to live, and I still miss it. But first, I have added a couple of the reviews (only the good ones, of course) and an extract from the first chapter of the book can be found below the photos.
1. From Best Book Buys:
"Valerie Poore is my kind of person, we have a lot in common. I loved her book, not only because I know the mountains and valleys where she lived, I have been to the Byrne Vally many times, and I also know Richmond, and Valerie, the grass roots people have not changed, despite the upheavals in the last twenty years.
I loved her descriptions of the different characters and the feeling of peace and quiet comes over loud and clear. It made me very homesick, so vivid were the pictures she drew with her words. I would highly recommend this book if you want to know what the real, rural African people are like, so very different from those in the cities.
Please write another book about Africa!"
2. From an Amazon Reader
"I really enjoyed this Memoir, the first written by Valerie Poore - (happy to say there are more Memoirs by this author). Just loved the easy to read & interesting way the Author writes. I am bias - as I seek-out travel memoirs - enjoy being able to 'travel with' folks who have lived in other parts of the World - Africa is one of those places I find interesting. This Memoir has humour, interest and a love of 'local people' - which I really appreciate. This is just one little sentence that has stuck in my mind….. "Looking back through the anecdotes and stories written - the focus of the attention has been on the affection we developed for the people who lived on and around the farm"….. I'd recommend having a look at the 'look inside' available on amazon - if you enjoy travel/moving abroad Memoirs then I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did."
Extract from African Ways
When people talk about African time, there really is truth in what they say. If you think about it, the Spaniards have their siesta, and the French their two to three hour lunch breaks, but in Africa where it’s really hot, there is no such acknowledgement of the sapping power of the midday sun.
To compensate, however, there is a different time scale to life which means that everything is done at half pace to conserve the energy necessary for drinking, partying and having fun later on at the local shebeen, an informal and definitely unlicensed type of pub. Very sensible under the circumstances.
We didn’t really understand African time when we arrived in South Africa, but by the time we’d got to ‘Maritzburg, we had at least learnt that we needn’t expect our requests for service to receive the prompt and rather frenetic response we had become used to in England. That was fine. It was very hot, and we could quite understand why people should want to take life at a marginally more leisurely pace than we were accustomed to. We were therefore quite unprepared for the ministrations of the awesome Innocent the Great.
Innocent was our waiter in the restaurant that night, but he should have been on stage. He was brilliant, and quite without equal. Despite being lively, though, he managed to maintain an unflappable cool quite worthy of the most practiced ‘African timer’.
We only discovered later on that many South African mothers give their children European names, but instead of choosing traditional or even Christian names, they simply find words they like and use those. As many South Africans are devoted Christians, words such as ‘virtue’, and ‘honesty’ are very popular. ‘Innocent’ didn’t really suit our man given the suggestions of a life spent on the entertainment circuit, but it wasn’t a name one would forget!
His skill was in the way he managed all the tables simultaneously, not only delivering plates of food but laying new covers, clearing dirty dishes and providing drinks with what appeared to be a seamless vaudeville act.
The restaurant at the hotel was a rather stately high walled room, cooled by great swishing ceiling fans and soft air from the tall casement windows. Its air of subdued grace was further enhanced by the beige figured silk that covered the walls and the starched white cloths on the dark gleaming tables.
There were only a few of us eating that night, but conversation was totally suspended as all of us, the children included, watched the performance of Innocent the Great with baited breath. In fact we were waiting for something to go wrong and dreaded the possible damage to our elegant surroundings, but quite astonishingly, it didn’t.
What he did was worthy of an award, given his size and shape. Innocent was extremely tall with skin the colour of polished chestnuts and a lanky frame supported by enormous feet.
Unexpectedly adroit, he weaved between the chairs and deftly frisbeed both clean and full plates on to precise spots on the tables, while removing dirty ones before they landed. How he managed to co-ordinate these activities without so much as a chink of contact, let alone any breakages must have been the result of years of dedicated training. I tried to imagine the crockery cost of his early practice sessions.
Nevertheless, when we applauded one particularly brilliant manoeuvre, we were treated to a withering glare which we had to presume was because we’d transgressed his ideas of what was dignified. Because dignified he was. Very.
Innocent was also the master of the dining room. He decided what we were going to eat, which happened to be quite contrary to our own ideas.
The ordering went something like this:
Innocent: And what does Madaam like to eat?
Me: Well, I’d like the fish please, Innocent.
Innocent: Oh no, Madaam, the fish not good today, I will order the Chicken for Madaam, and now you Sair?
Bill: I’d like a T-bone steak, medium rare, please
Innocent: Ah, bad choice, Sair, the chef, he not cook T-bone enough, you have the fillet. Much better. For the childrenn, I get the fish sticks and chips. And you will have a bowl of salad for your health. Thank you Sair, Madam.
And without giving us time to protest, off he went to arrange our meals. It was our first experience of eating out in South Africa, but it was a good indication of what was to come in a country where people eat with the same enthusiasm as they do everything else.
The chicken, when it arrived, was a complete small bird, roasted to perfection, and served with small crunchy roast potatoes and sweet caramelised carrots. Bill’s steak covered his entire plate and was tender to the cut, while the children’s fish sticks were full, fluffy and flaky. The salad was crisp, slick with dressing and full of feta cheese, crunchy peppers and croutons. Both the wine and beer were South African and excellent.
Innocent presided over our meal with the care of one who had a stake in our well-being, which of course he did, but his attention was such that we had no reservations about tipping him more than the customary ten percent. The resulting grin we received was like a shaft of sunlight and we realised we’d been privileged to witness a rare event: the smile of Innocent the Great.