Saturday, 9 April 2016

Another life change - a new job and then promotion!

The five years that I spent working at the surgery were very happy and enjoyable;  however, I decided to bring this to an end as a result of an offer of a job by the manager of one of the local veterinary drug companies. The Farmers Co-op had a very large veterinary department and the drug company wanted a representative working there. It was a great opportunity for a new challenge and I was finally employed late in 1977 by both organisations on a 50/50 shared basis, the Co-op paying my salary and the drug company taking a commission on the sales.
Myself taken at my folks home in Ruwa. 1976.  This was my all time favourite  evening dress with an African bead work decoration, the latter still in my possession!
This change of job meant, of course, that I had to move out of the surgery flat and I was on the search for somewhere else to live. The cottage out at Brackenhurst with my folks was still an option, but I really wanted something in Salisbury and closer to work. I finally found a delightful single storey two bedroom town house with its own small garden, for rent in the suburb of Greendale, not very far from the Co-op  There was also a car port and an outdoor enclosed area, which was suitable for my cats. By that time, their number had risen to three! A highly bred female lynx point, a non-registered male seal point and lastly to join the family was a Persian colour point.

No 3 Rosena Park, Greendale.  The front overlooking the garden...

 the back with car port....

and the garden, with its typical southern African planting.

Work at the Co-op proved to be great fun and I made many very good friends among the farming community, who did most of their shopping there. At the end of my first year, the manager of the veterinary department retired and I was offered the job! However, this would mean that I would have to become wholly a Co-op employee and the drug company arrangement would fall away. I went into the situation very carefully and decided that I would be better off employed by the Co-op, but the work load would increase by quite a lot. Not only would I be in charge of the veterinary side of the Co-op, but also the agricultural chemicals and fertilisers used for soil treatment by the farmers. Unfortunately, the major increase in the range of products I had to deal with meant I spent a lot of time with administration in the office and so missed much of the personal over-the-counter contact I had had with the customers.

By this time, I was doing very little riding other than at the weekends when I would go out to my folks, but Saturday afternoons were still spent helping at the race course, both with my Dad and the staff at Borrowdale Stud, with whom I had kept in touch with throughout. My life had pretty much developed into a set routine and the next couple of years were fairly undramatic.
Mum and I leading in Merrylegs with jockey Jimmy Anderson to the winner's enclosure at Borrowdale Park. 1977

As above on a different day.  Note the skirt change in length and the white boots of that era!!

Borrowdale Park race course stands in 1977.

My godmother and I at the Kariba dam wall on one of her several visits to Rhodesia.

My Life Before Charente to be continued :-) 


The section of my life story during our overland trip is published on Kindle if you should be interested:-

Monday, 8 February 2016

1973 - A New Beginning

The most important thing on my mind after Neil and I decided that we could not live together, was that I had to find a job! The daily journey to Marandellas abattoir, where I had been working, was long and impractical, with no chance of a lift from Dad, who was still working in Salisbury, which was in the opposite direction! If I got a job in Salisbury, we could share the trip and avoid the expense of two cars in constant use. I spoke to Dr Abrey, a vet for whom we had worked in Raffingora and he offered me a job as receptionist at his  practice in Salisbury. His partnership with two other vets, Dr Wright and Dr Sugden, was extremely busy and I found that I was spending, (much to my delight), a lot of time helping in the theatre with operations. My laboratory knowledge from the days with Dr Condy came in very useful and soon I was doing a lot of the laboratory work as well!

The veterinary surgery.  This photo must have been taken in winter (the dry season in Rhodesia) as in summer, the grass would have been green!

After six months I was asked if I would like to move in and live at the surgery, and I would then also be on call for any night visits as well. I jumped at the idea, so  two rooms, which had originally been a rest room and kitchen for the staff, were converted into a bedsitter for me, complete with shower and toilet. Outside, I was told I could put up some metal fencing to form an enclosure for my cat and Rocky, my great dane. Mum and Dad helped me with all the work, and we planted grass and made a small garden.  I had a large kennel that I could put the cats into if necessary, and soon after, with a litter of kittens on the way, the kennel solved a number of issues.   It was very comfy living for me and I soon settled into a routine with work literally on the door step!
The fence we put up, with a fast growing creeper that gave me some privacy.

Whimsy, my lynx point on the left, and Sooty my chocolate point in the centre, with their kittens. 

Rocky, my great dane, taking care not to step on the tiny kittens!

Inside my little flat, bed under the window, sitting area and dining at the end from which the photo is taken. Further behind that was a small kitchen.
Apologies for the photo quality, but it was taken with a Brownie box camera, all I owned!

I thoroughly enjoyed my job, living on the premises and I found many of the night calls  very interesting. Generally, the vet on duty would take these calls and if he thought it necessary for the animal to be admitted, he would phone me and I would assess the animal when it arrived at the surgery. I reported back by phone to the vet, who would prescribe the treatment I was to give where the ailment was not severe. However, for serious cases where immediate professional treatment could not be delayed until the following day, the vet would come in, and I would help with the work. Other than car accidents or giving birth, most cases were able to last through to the following day, thus saving many trips for the vets into the surgery at night.

I would have dearly loved to have taken up animal nursing in a serious way, but Dr Wright looked into the procedure for me, and discovered that at the time, the only place I could train was in England and that was out of the question! Nowadays, there are many universities where one can gain the qualification, and one would certainly have to be qualified today to do the job I was then doing, not only because of liability and insurance issues.
Matius, one of the surgery workers earning some extra money weeding my little garden!  To the far right of the path there were orchids under cover, and on the far left, beyond the bird bath, was  a small fish pond.

My Mum on the left with my father and my godmother, who was visiting from the UK.  They were watching the fish in the pond.  Beyond them are the large windows from the two operating rooms.  How lucky it was, and thanks to me, they had a much improved view!

My godmother who was so delighted to get to meet Ian Smith, the Rhodesian prime minister at the time. A very proud moment for her!

During this period, I still went to the race track a couple of mornings a week to keep up my riding, and of course I always had time off on Saturday afternoon, when our weekly horse racing was held. On most Sundays, I spent the day out at my parents' smallholding at Ruwa, but by arrangement with the vet practice, I stayed home at nights, so that I was in a position to take any emergency calls.

Early in 1976, Rocky, who was by then 13 years old, an excellent age for  that breed, came down with leukaemia. Dr Wright did all he could for him and I am sure his life was extended by several months, but finally his age and the leukaemia took its hold, so before he suffered too badly he was put to sleep. It was a huge loss for me as he had been my constant companion over the last 12 and a half years.

My Life Before Charente to be continued :-) 


The section of my life story during our overland trip is published on Kindle if you should be interested:-

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Moving house twice and things not working out quite as planned.

In 1970, our neighbours Neville and Wendy moved on to a bigger farm nearby, so we then moved into their house, which had more room. This however turned out to be for a pretty short period, as towards the end of 1971, my father-in-law bought a horse stud, combined with a dairy farm at Marandellas. This decision was made especially with Neil in mind to run it. We therefore left the farm at Raffingora to take up residence in Marandellas, 50 miles (80 km) to the south-east of Salisbury.
All our furniture spread over the garden waiting for loading.

Finally all was loaded on the farm truck.  It just fitted!!  Luckily we had good weather.

As far as I remember, we had a driver for the truck.  Neil drove a van  full of suitcases with his two dogs, and  I drove the car, also full of suitcases and Rocky, my Great Dane.

Our new home at Marandellas. with the guys unloading the truck. Who knew that I would be blogging 45 years later and that diamond format photos are not easy to work with!!

Neil took out his trainer’s license for horse racing soon after arrival in Marandellas, and looked after the Stud and the race horses. Meanwhile, I became the ‘dairy farmer’. When I could, I used to ride work on the horses, but the dairy was time consuming and its hours mostly clashed with the times when the horses were being exercised.

Not long after arriving at Marandellas, I acquired a part-time job as receptionist at the Marandellas abbatoir. The part-time status somehow increased to become full-time , so my days became very full seeing to the dairy in the early mornings and evenings, and then doing the receptionist job all day!

In 1972 my parents left their Borrowdale home where Dad trained his horses. They bought a smallholding of 20 acres with a house and small cottage called Brackenhurst at Ruwa. My father built stables and accommodation for the stable lads, and everyone, plus horses, moved lock stock and barrel. Ruwa was halfway  between Marandellas and Salisbury so it was very convenient for us to pop in and see them. 
Mum and Dad at their new home in Ruwa, Mum with Fredricka the basset and my Dad with a rescue dog, Bernie, that never really did settle into family life!

Opposite Brackenhurst, across the farm road, was another trainer with a sand training track. Dad was offered full use of it for his own horses and that suited him very well. The agreement was that Dad would keep the track in working condition and he would have free use of it. I think that he really enjoyed his trips out on the tractor each day, levelling off the track after use; a very stress free exercise! 

In 1973 Neil and I were finding living together was not easy and in July we sadly got divorced and I moved into the cottage at Brackenhurst. Our lawyer commented that he wished all divorces were as easy as ours; we simply agreed on everything! Unfortunately, although we were good friends and still remain so, marriage together was obviously not for us. Three years that I have no regrets over, but it was time to start life anew.

My Life Before Charente to be continued :-) 


The section of my life story during our overland trip is published on Kindle if you should be interested:-

Friday, 23 October 2015

Settling down to married life and farming at Chimbada Farm in Raffingora. 1970.

Farming at Raffingora was something entirely new to me; our main crop was cotton, which involved quite long and hard work during the picking season. It had to be continually watched and treated for unwanted insects and disease;  the spray plane came in regularly! When we were picking, all the staff and their families, children included, were busy during all daylight hours and they were paid according to weight picked. Pickers were also shared, being moved around between neighbouring farms to keep up with the work required, hoping that everyone's crop did not need picking quite at the same time!
Neil checking the cotton; behind him, his means of transport around the farm!

Crop spraying.  Note the guy with the marker!  Not at all healthy for him, I imagine! I am sure today with GPS navigation this would not be necessary.

Cotton barns.

Baled and off for sale.

In winter, we grew wheat.  Not as time consuming as cotton, but also a lot of work keeping an eye on growth and potential problems. 
Checking the wheat.

The combine harvester at work.

As for the farm house, I loved it! It was small with only two bedrooms, but it suited us well. We had no electricity and this took some getting used to. Water was heated outside the back door in a huge drum,  with a log fire built in underneath it. We had a young black guy who came in and cleaned the house for us; another of his jobs was to see that the fire never went out under the water drum! We had an elderly wood stove in the kitchen which was always kept burning; the only time it ever went out was in the height of summer, when I could not stand the heat any more! For those times, we bought a couple of small gas burners for cooking the essentials. Sadly I never took any photos of the inside of the house. (I was not a blogger in those days!)

The only photo I have of the house is this misty looking picture of the front door with Neil sitting on the wall and his brother and fiancée, who were visiting, standing.

Next door to us was the main house on the farm, where lived friends Wendy and Neville. They had arrived a couple of years before us. They had electricity, so we occasionally had the chance to catch up on world news on their TV! Wendy strangely enough had also been at Arundel school, though being a year older was one class ahead of me. It was good, though, to have someone I knew close at hand and she had two lovely children whom she schooled on the farm. She also had a passion for gardening, so we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy her terraced garden which led down to the Hunyani river. 

Wendy's garden looking down at the river, in a tranquil state in the dry season when this was taken.

Rocky my Great Dane in the garden looking after a lamb that we were bottle feeding; they became very attached to each other!   We had a small herd of sheep and this poor lamb lost its mother giving birth.  In the background is Neil's German shepherd Pandora. 

The source of the Hunyani river is at Marandellas; it gets progressively wider until it reaches the town of Sinoia (close to our farm) and from there it crosses into Mozambique where it becomes the Pahame river, eventually joining up with the mighty Zambezi, the fourth largest river in Africa. When the Hunyani was in flood, we could not get off the farm by way of  the bridge near Sinoia, so we bought a small motor boat, in which we used to cross the river.

The river in flood, full of mud, covering the bottom of Wendy's garden. That mud acted as good top soil when the water level went down again!

Creeping up the garden getting ever closer to the house.  It never quite made it past the final step to cause a problem in the house!  

We would leave our car on the farm on the opposite bank, where the owners allowed us to build a car port. Motor boating sounds like lots of fun, but crossing a fast flowing river, carrying a couple of weeks' groceries was not easy, as the bank on the opposite was quite high, and of course muddy in the summer rainy season. We used to shop in Salisbury (now Harare), which was about 80 miles from the farm, so we only went there once a fortnight.  To add to this, there was always the chance of meeting up with a crocodile, of which there were several in that area, but thankfully there were no hippos. I remember one night we had spent the evening in Raffingora, on the opposite side of the river, with neighbours and their young son from the next door farm.  A good meal, a few drinks and a game of darts had everyone a bit revved up! Returning home, rocking the boat seemed good fun until the son went overboard. A few minutes of panic and he was back in the boat, but it certainly sobered us all up very quickly. 

My Mum and Dad arriving for a visit. It was a shorter drive to arrive via the farm opposite us on the river, than to take the long drive around by the bridge (if it was in use!).

Our carport on the opposite side of the river after a massive hail storm. Luckily for us the car was on our side of the river in the garage that night!

During this period, we both carried on with a little falconry, in which I had sound training from John Condy and which I have spoken about earlier in this blog.   I am with a Little Banded Goshawk and Neil is with a Lizard Buzzard.

My Life Before Charente to be continued :-) 


The section of my life story during our overland trip is published on Kindle if you should be interested:-

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Goodbye to my show jumping days, getting married and a move to Raffingora.

On 31st December, 1967, Neil's 21st birthday, we got engaged, with no further dates in mind at that time for getting married.  He was busy working at the farm in Beatrice, 50km away from Salisbury and I loved my job and the horses, which were all stabled with my Dad.

Engagement 31 Dec 1967

In 1968, my star horse Kubla Khan started contracting colic quite badly and regularly, so I was hardly able to ride him at all! We finally sent him out to the farm with Neil, where we turned him out in the paddock, hoping that the rest would bring on a recovery. Unfortunately, after what looked like some good progress, the colic returned and getting a vet to go to see him out at Beatrice was not a practical option. We therefore brought him back to my Dad's home at Borrowdale, Salisbury. It was eventually agreed by our own vet, and from a second opinion, that there had to be an internal problem and the only answer was to put him out of his misery. It took me some time before I could agree to this and when I finally did, I took him to the Vet Research Laboratory where my boss Dr John Condy finally put him to sleep and did a post-mortem. The right decision thankfully had been made; we discovered that he had a badly ulcerated intestine, which the vets suspected was due to a massive dose of worms probably when he was younger. I was utterly heartbroken that such a brilliant horse should end his days this way, but I can only say that we did at least find an explanation for the persistent colic. If the post-mortem had produced a negative result I don’t think I could have ever lived with myself.
Kubla Kahn.

As I was then pretty much without a show jumping horse, I managed to find and buy a 16.2 hands high 5 year old gelding called Chervil during 1968. He had only raced a couple of times and both times had ended up at the back of the field! This meant that I had to go back to the very beginning again and spend much time on schooling and training him as a jumper. Chervil made his debut in the low grades in 1969, showing lots of promise, but he did not have the enthusiasm that I was accustomed to from Kubla Khan and I felt this partnership would mean a slow rise back to the higher grades! 

At the beginning of 1969, Neil moved from the farm at Beatrice to work for one of the local vets, who owned a farm at Raffingora, 140km north of Salisbury. As this was much further away than Beatrice, to see him on the odd weekend was not nearly so easy for me.  We decided now that it was time to finally get married. This of course meant two major changes for me, in that I had to leave my job with Dr Condy, and my riding days became somewhat numbered, being so far from Salisbury, where equestrian activities were centred.
20 Sept 1969
Neil and Diane

Myself with my two bridesmaids.

The Bruss and the Beak families
Don Beak, Georgia Bruss, Neil, Diane, Les Bruss, Dulcie Beak.


Meanwhile, Chervil had been improving all the time, though slowly, but of course my time was limited for schooling and for entering shows even more so. In 1971, one of the young riders that had just gone into adult classes made me an offer for the horse. As he was by then, all I had, I turned it down. They were obviously very keen and kept phoning me. After talking it over with Dad and Neil, I put a price on Chervil that I considered to be outrageous, so I hoped then that they would not bother me any more. The next thing I knew was that I had a cheque in my hand and no horse in the stable! Chervil in fact did very little after I sold him and I never did get to see him in the higher grades as I had expected which was quite disappointing. Maybe the sale was definitely in our best interests!!

My Life Before Charente to be continued :-) 


The section of my life story during our overland trip is published on Kindle if you should be interested:-