Tag Archives: Mauritius

Travels With My Hub

19 Jul

The Writer’s Island prompt this week is ‘reunion’. The poetry part of my brain has ceased to function so I thought instead I would tell you about the Hub’s trip to the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. It was about 1993 when he was working as a salesman for Henred Fruehauf, selling articulated trailers.

They didn't look quite like this when he sold them...

When he first got the job I thought he was selling those little Venter trailers that cars pull; he was quite insulted – particularly as he had been there two years before I realised my mistake.  



He was on a three-week trip taking in Mauritius, Madagascar and Reunion. Before you get all jealous, he had it hard (so he tells me): three weeks away from his wonderful wife and first-born child – and six weeks of me not talking to him because he was away so long. One year he was away for a total of twenty-seven weeks; he wasn’t fighting a war so I didn’t see the need.


Mauritius might be a wonderful holiday destination but it’s not a great place to be on your own, on business: soppy honeymooners do not want a lonely businessman attaching himself to them. He said it was the only place he never enjoyed visiting, apart from the evening he got up on stage and sang Wonderful Tonight with a live Philippino band.


Madagascar was beautiful but incredibly poor. He left his hotel one morning and passed an old lady with a wooden box on which she had three tomatoes to sell. She sat there all day in the heat and when he came back in the evening, she was still there with her three tomatoes; nobody had the money to buy them. The food was so bad in Madagascar that for the only time while away on business he lost weight instead of gaining it; but at least he had the money to buy food: he saw children so hungry they were licking cellophane wrappers from dustbins. He saw many naked children; the lucky ones had old adult shirts and/or pants. He gave away his change every day, which was riches to them, but he came back from that trip and held three-year old Tory Boy and cried for the ones he couldn’t help.


Even so, he says it is the most beautiful country he’s been to and he would love to go back some day.


I put that story into a poem for my South Africa collection:


A Trip To Madagascar 

A naked child
licks cellophane,
sitting atop a
rubbish heap.
A businessman observes
him, returns
home to his
cherished son,
and weeps.


There was hunger in South Africa, too:


Dustbin Day 

The man raids my
wheelie bin,
burrows deep.
Climbs inside. 
Nervous, I watch from
behind burglar bars,
locked security gates.

Gold shows in his hands:
a tub of mouldy stew,
more compost than food.
He eats it.  I am shamed.

Resolution: no more squandered food.
Dilemma: no waste, no treasure.
Solution: freeze left-overs ‘til bin day;
maybe I could add some buttered bread;
a piece of fruit…wrap it in clean plastic.

Pleased with my charity,
it is fifteen years before
I understand that I
failed him that day:
Government changed;
the starving remained.
I left South Africa;
he raids someone else’s bin.


Of course, not everyone went hungry in those days (a braai is Afrikaans for barbecue):


After the Braai 

We supplied the meat and drink,
salads, mash, bread rolls and
desserts, for as many as twenty
guests, and sometimes more.
I never served mealie pap,
though some ex-pats liked it:
I never learned to make it.

The best part of a braai was
next day’s leftovers and chips:
rib-eye, pork chops, t-bones,
sausages, fillet steak, chicken,
porterhouse – diced and
cooked in a red wine sauce;
a portion of slap chips and
salad on the side.  These
days, I would add some rice,
but I didn’t like rice back then; pity.

We snacked on cold meat for
several days after a braai.
The children preferred it to
sweets and chips (we say
‘crisps’ now).  Food was
inexpensive, plentiful and
of excellent quality.  For
some of us, at least.  We
never knew we had it so good
until after we gave it up.


His final stop was in the French-speaking island of Réunion. He was a seasoned traveller by the time of this trip so he had checked and knew that he could expect to pay 20 Francs for a trip from the airport to the hotel. He arrived at night and he asked the taxi driver the fare: ‘Twenty Francs’ was the reply.  Fine.  Halfway up a quiet hill – or possibly a mountain – the taxi driver said, ‘Twenty Francs for you and twenty Francs for your luggage.’ When the Hub protested that he wasn’t paying that, the driver shrugged (so far from France yet still so Gallic) and said, ‘Fine. I’ll drop you off now and you can walk to your hotel.’ Figuring that it was Henred Fruehauf’s money and it wasn’t a battle he could win, the Hub agreed.


He said the part that really made him mad was when he arrived at the hotel and the driver told him he was off shift and suggested they go to a little bar he knew. I can’t print his reply because this is a family blog.


He found theRéunions anti-English – détente has only been around a hundred years or so and it obviously had not reached the colonies* at that point. Whenever he spoke English the Réunions were rude and unhelpful. But he’s bilingual, and cunning: he would first speak in Afrikaans and when they couldn’t understand him, he asked if they spoke English, and they were most accommodating because they thought he wasn’t English. It’s the one country he never wants to go back to.


*I have just discovered it is not a colony at all, but a bit of France.  That explains everything….              




Walking The Crab

5 Jan

The dog seemed to be losing his fur

I had a horrible day yesterday.  I inadvertently made a mistake in December that only came to light yesterday.  I won’t bore you with the details but I was a mess of snot and tears for a couple of hours.  Fortunately, my knight on a white charger and his trusty sidekick, Rum & Rummer, came to my rescue and sorted it all.  The Rum Hub refused to let me fall apart and came up with a solution and a box of tissues and the Rummer Tory Boy implemented it.   It was nothing that a good family and a strong cup of Earl Grey couldn’t settle, but it knocked me for six.  Life is like that sometimes, I find; but you have to deal with it and move on. 

Moving on, it’s snowing again.  It’s snowing so bad that Spud only got halfway to school when  he had to turn around and come home again.  He catches two buses and the one that goes up the A6 was cancelled.  There was a huge accident and the road was closed, as was his school, but only after he had already left home this morning.  There were no buses coming back this way so he had to walk home and it took him an hour.  The snow it was snowing and has been since seven last night; it is almost calf deep.  Spud tells me I am a wise woman because his friend was in flimsy shoes and tights whereas I had made Spud wear a pair of trainers and carry his school shoes.  He was also in fur hat, coat, and thick gloves over his uniform.  His friend had only her blazer.  I don’t know about ‘wise’ so much as ‘fussy and over-protective’, but he was glad of it for once.  When he got home I had dry clothes warming on the radiator and hot chocolate and hot, buttered toast ready for him.  There are some advantages to being a stay-at-home Mum. 

I have mentioned before that the dog is not a morning person but that’s before you throw snow into the equation.  He adores snow.  I adore walking in it when it is fresh and deep and dark outside.  For just that reason I walked to the bus stop with Spud this morning at 7:45 and on to buy the paper, then I took Toby out for his constitutional.  There is nowhere that is not white: it is glorious.  At eight in the morning the sky is beginning to lighten but the street lights are still on so there is a warm, orange glow to the world.  I gave the excited dog a good run on the park but I didn’t realise that the snow would cling to him quite so fiercely.  Each leg and his underbelly looked like they had their own little bunch of haemorrhoids and were just as tenacious as the real thing.  Toby stood patiently for half an hour while I tried various removal methods, including squashing, sliding, squeezing, slipping, snipping, rubbing and the hairdryer.  He was shivering so much after that time that I had to simply wrap him in a towel and two blankets and let him melt in his basket.  Once he had dissolved I gave him a good rub and he rewarded me by eating half my toast. 

So here I am, wrapped in four layers and sunglasses from the snow glare shining through the window.  It is still snowing at 11:21 a.m. and the nation has ground to a halt.  We are fortunate in that we went into Stockport yesterday instead of today so our bills are all paid.  There was one period when I was sitting tittylipped alone in the car and I thought I’m not having this so I started to sing.  Nothing cheers me up like incredulous passers-by staring in at the strange woman singing to herself in an old Citroen.  I heartily recommend it as an antidote to self-pity.  Something else you might try is counting your blessings; which brings me to today’s photo: it was taken by the Hub on one his trips to Madagscar or Mauritius or Mozambique (I know it had a coastline and began with an ‘M’, and he’s been to all three of those countries).  These cheerful boys had nothing and no hope of ever getting anything, so they looked around and adopted a crab as a pet for the day.  If you look at how they are dressed, they are comparatively wealthy compared to some of the children the Hub saw over the years – he once saw a naked child licking cellophane from a dustbin in Madagascar.  I have posted this photo to remind me that my family is safe; we have heating; food; running water and electricity; we are rich in everything that matters; and no problem is so great that it cannot be temporarily ameliorated by walking the crab.

Have a happy day!


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