African Ways by Valerie Poore
This is the story of a young woman’s first encounters with rural South Africa. Coming from the all-mod-cons society of Britain at the beginning of the 1980’s, the author is literally transplanted to a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in what is now Kwazulu Natal.
Once there, she finds her feet in the ways of Africa
with the help of a charming, elderly Dutch couple,
an appealing but wily African farm hand, his practical and motherly daughter and a wise and fascinating neighbour who has a fund of local knowledge.
These are tales of a different kind of life, which
include living without electricity, hand-milking cows, drought, veld fires and mad-cap adventures into the unknown.
They are stories told with deep affection and respect, and above all a liberal dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.
This was one of my holiday reads. Although I mainly read fiction I like to read books about people who have changed their lifestyles and done something different. Val Poore certainly ticked all the boxes when in 1981 she moved from England to South Africa with her husband and two young children the youngest only three months old. Her husband didn't have a job and they hadn't arranged anywhere to stay but as long as Val had sunshine she knew something would turn up. It did turn up in the shape of Ouma Ellens an elderly Dutch woman who had advertised a cottage for rent on her farm.
Val's descriptions of the people she met are wonderful, I loved Innocent,the waiter at the hotel she stayed at on arrival in Durban. He would give them a menu then tell them what they were going to eat and make it sound like their choice. Gwen, Kheswa, Bongi, May and Jacob are all colourful characters that Val shared her African adventure with. They are all included in the many stories in the book.
With no electricity, the water running dry and milk coming straight from the cow (which Val had to learn to milk) life was never dull. Adapting to a life so different from the one she has left behind isn't easy but I think Val would say it was worth it as she gained so much more from her life in Africa than she thought possible.
There are many laughs in this book,Val is definitely good at writing comedy. I laughed at a drunken Kheswa scaring away a "bad man" near the cottage that turned out to be a scarecrow Val had made that day.
The episode when during one of their many barbeques her husband Bill goes outside to relieve himself and thinks he has been watched by a leopard,when you find out the real story you will be laughing too.
While reading this book I felt I was walking the African Plains as Val drew me into the picture she painted,
"Africa has an hypnotic,spicy,aroma that catches your breath. If a smell can have a colour,then the smell of Africa is terracotta- like the hue of it's warm, dry, vibrantly red-brown earth."
I became familiar with everyone in this book and shed tears when Val and her family eventually left Africa after three years. I missed hearing their stories and didn't want this book to end.
Val is now happily settled in her barge in Rotterdam but I think she left a little bit of her heart in her African Ways.
You can catch up with Val on her blog Watery Ways where she blogs about her barging life with news about all her books. Val is one of the most supportive bloggers I have come into contact with. She is always tweeting and sharing posts from other people on her facebook page, so Val this one's for you. I hope we meet in person one day.
Tweet Val @valleypee
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