Monday, 7 June 2010


We lived in the bush outside Lusaka. Our turn-off had ten or so households scattered along its three miles and, several times a year in the rainy season, whole chunks of the track would wash away making it impassable. This was despite having had it graded a month before the first deluge which usually came at the beginning of November. The grader would spend a couple of days accentuating the camber and digging out the ditches which, over the previous eight or nine dry months, would have filled up with dust and the encroaching bush.

Paying for the grader was always an issue. It was expensive and none of us was particularly well off. The people whose houses were nearest to the main road would argue that those further down the track should pay proportionately more and there was always at least one householder who refused to pay anything at all. However, when a section of the road disappeared, good neighbourliness prevailed and it was all hands to the pumps, though not literally, of course! Parents and cooks, children and gardeners all armed themselves with shovels and turned out on parade. So far as we children were concerned it was almost as much fun as fighting bush fires which happened several times a year as well.

One year it rained continuously for three days and nights although, judging from the damage caused, it could just as well have been forty. Messengers were despatched (our party line phone didn't work very well even on the rare occasions when the lines weren't down) and everyone congregated at the worst affected spot after breakfast.

One of our more recently arrived neighbours was a missionary called George. He was an Englishman employed by a Canadian society which kept on forgetting to pay him so he was not, on the whole, a happy man. He went around the place doing his very best to do good but, as he could barely afford to feed his own family, he tended to give the rest of God's children fairly short shift. Furthermore, his voice was disproportionately loud for a man who stood at only 5'1" in two pairs of thick wool socks. And he thought he was a born leader.

Despite being by far and away the least experienced road repairer of us all, he automatically assumed command, as of right, and started bossing everyone about. He went stomping off towards my father to give him advice about ditch digging when he stepped in a puddle. The puddle turned out to be a pothole and, unfortunately, the pothole turned out to be 5'2" deep and George disappeared completely. When his head emerged a few seconds afterwards I'm afraid everyone burst out laughing. He was hauled out of the hole and, covered in mud, trudged off home, not to be seen again that day.

In future years, when the road needed repairing, he was always busy taking care of some important aspect or other of the Almighty's affairs and would be unable to help. His goodness was rewarded, I'm pleased to say. Whenever my mother went round to the mission with a chicken or a basket of vegetables, his wife would say, to my mother's extreme annoyance,"Alleluiah! The Lord has provided!"


  1. And I meant to say Tim that this is a lovely story.

  2. Ooh, I'm so excited. You'll get hooked, I'm sure. Lovely post, too, really interesting. Poor old George!