In the Beginning

To reveal a lady’s age would be vulgar so I shall leave this detail to you. The length of time we have found ourselves walking on this earth is, in my experience, seldom an indicator of anything of merit. All I would say is that I have been awfully busy since my mother gave birth to me in Mzuzu, Malawi where she met my father.

 I was born in a convent hospital and this is the sister who delivered me. I do adore this photograph in its peaceful innocent way; a   newly born babe with not a care in the world. We all resembled this image once although invariably without recollection of the occasion. 

Looking back now I appreciate the bravery it must have taken to leave Derbyshire in the late 1960s and fly off to deepest darkest Africa. To a country no one had heard of, Malawi, in the centre of the continent. The majority of the land mass of the country, formerly known as Nyasaland, is a large freshwater lake. When we were older my brother and I had tropical fresh water fish and I always liked to think that some of them had come from Lake Malawi.

My mother had gone to Malawi as a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) volunteer to teach children on a mission in the north of the country. Here she and my father, who was working for the government, met and subsequently married. My brother and I grew up in Malawi until we returned to the UK in 1976. 30 July 1976 to  be precise. The year of the drought I seem to remember. 

This picture is of my mother with one of the sisters from the convent where I was born. To me the photograph is representative of a particular time. A time of simplicity somehow, when volunteering was the right thing to do and in countries like Malawi an individual could make a difference on a small scale. Educating children and improving their life chances. But the ones whose lives were improved were the ones who often left the country. As an adult I ponder the impact of the British Empire and when you look at those countries now one can but wonder who gained from this endeavour. I am neither being naieve nor flippant so please do not take offence.

And so ladies, readers, this is where the contemporary spinster began her life. And this insight may contextualise some of my observations and musings. Should reading this have provoked a question please feel free to ask and I shall, in due course, respond (should I wish to of course…).

As always in sophistication


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