Victoria Falls and Other Things

Existing Posts in the order, under Pre-WW2 . Childish Adventures, A Small Boy’s Introduction To Killing, Life as We Lived It In Livingstone

In the then Northern Rhodesia. On film today it is certainly majestic, but to see the immensity, the rush of water, hear the noise and feel the constant rain of the spray in those simple, uncluttered days, is an unforgettable lifetime’s experience.

The descriptions of The Victoria Falls runs to 11 pages on the Internet; so I will be brief and describe what it was like 76 years ago. There were few visitors then, merely the locals. Both sides of the Zambezi were NorthernRhodesia. Now, when crossing the bridge, built in 1908, one leaves Zambia for Zimbabwe, and the Falls Hotel is in Zimbabwe. Only as a special treat did we eat there, mostly we picnicked in an area where the ‘rain’ – spray thrown up by the force of the fall – was absent. Also in Zimbabwe is the Rain Forest, a treed area growing on the edge of the Falls and mostly soaking wet from the spray The Boiling Pot was where the water from the river fell via the Cateract into the Gorge and with the turbulence and the spray was all the world like a bubbling pot. From the pages of the Internet the area now seems to be highly populated.

Signatures And Antiques Currently there is a plethora of programmes on television spawned by The Antiques Road Show, pandering to our greed and our interest in the past. That short period of the trip to Africa put me in touch with articles and signatures, which in theory would be worth a fortune today. The aspect which I find amusing is that if I interpret correctly, David Attenborough is virtually telling us that saving up things to have for the future is a waste of time because there ain’t no future. A signature I missed out on was that of Jim Mollison. We had the privilege of being in Livingstone when Jim Mollison and his maintenance crew stopped over, on their record breaking run from London to Australia. Needless to say Mollison was entertained at Government House, but the crew stayed with us, with the delightful result I was taken out to the plane next day and even allowed to be seated in the cockpit for one glorious minute. Strangely I remember vividly the fuss, the gathering, small though it was, and the plane, but I think I only remember what the inside of the cockpit was like from films I have seen since, rather than a true recollection, I have no strong visual image of it, unlike I have of the scene itself.

Often we don’t question statements, and take information for granted without looking deeper.. I wrote the above years ago but recently I have realised there must have been a number of advance maintenance crews for Mollison to have his plane serviced, as air travel was in its infancy, the crews must have been travelling over land, so several would be leapfrogging to keep up with Mollison. I have found the information inconclusive as he did fly from London to Australia and set a record but I left Africa in 1930. I therefore believe his visit was exploratory and not the record attempt, but I could be wrong, and frankly it no longer matters. On the journey home we were besieged at every stop by Africans selling the most exquisite articles made of all the natural materials including elephant tusks – some I still have. I also discovered a trunk left by an army officer which contained a tremendous variety of buttons, shoulder badges, regimental names in brass, cap badges and other insignia in mint condition and by the handful – imagine the specialists salivating over that lot, in the garden of some stately home. And then of course I received a cricket ball on board ship from Jardine and didn’t have the wit to have it endorsed. But then it is only recently we have discovered how valuable all the trivia and silly little bits of paper have become.

Learning to swim for a Ticci
My father held a bronze medal for life saving which he had gained in the UK before leaving for Africa and he was keen that I should, at six, become a strong swimmer. He therefore, typically, initiated a novel regime of teaching. I was expected to jump in to the Zambezi River, off the 6 foot diving board and flounder until, at the last minute my father would rescue me and trail me to shallow water. At that time there was a coin, a silver threepenny piece, called a ticci. Each entry from the diving board was rewarded by a ticci at the end of the session. I, like any other boy of that age, with pocket money scarce and a voracious appetite for spending, thought money had little relevance other than gratification. I was therefore almost prepared to drown if need be to gain another ticci, and at times I thought I might as my father seemed so dilatory in saving me. I was terribly innocent of course, instead of appearing to be a slow learner and extending the life of his tips, sheer self-preservation made me learn the dog-paddle within days, by which time the bonanza was over, there was no more need for further bribery If I had saved up all those ticcis, think what they would be worth today

Categorized as Pre-WW2

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