Potholes, Pigs and Paradise is the title of A Chiddingstone Memoir by Edwina Hall, a book I read recently thanks to Penny, Edwina’s daughter, whom I met on a visit to Tanzania and who sent me a copy. The book is self-published and has the flaws of a self-published book but that aside, it was a fascinating read providing an insight into life as a farmer in post-World War 2 Britain. But what does the book have to do with Africa, other than that I met the author’s daughter in Africa?
Well, to be honest, not much. But, whilst reading it, I did find my mind wondering back to the Post-World War 1 Soldier Settler Scheme which turned out to be less successful than expected. Reading about the difficulties the Hall’s faced, especially with John having lost a leg, gave some insight into why the scheme in Africa would have failed. And in particular, the Disabled Soldier Settler Scheme. It was challenging enough for people on home territory to farm, let alone in a foreign country which was harsh and unforgiving and where people lived further away from each other than in England. Settler farming was a regular attempt by Britain to deal with unemployment on the island and was still an issue in Kenya in 1967 according to Hansard.
As with the Hall’s, over the years there were some new to farming who were successful in their adventures in Africa. Others invested huge amounts of money, whilst others had to turn to alternative initiatives as they could not afford to return home. Again, in common with the Hall’s, the open spaces, the sense of achievement and relationship developed with the land seemed to characterise the settlers in Africa too – whether or not they stayed farming.
Having covered a self-made (and real for some) paradise, what about the potholes and pigs? South Africans will regularly complain about the potholes in their roads and it’s not unusual today to see bits of tree, tyre with emergency tape (or not) and other items propped up in strange places along the road to indicate where perilous holes might exist. Sand or dirt roads by nature have potholes helping to slow drivers down naturally or provide the basis for a harrowing ride at speed! More positively, there are the beautiful Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a natural phenomenon
And pigs, well one of my favourite Kiswahili words is kitimoto. This is for three reasons, one is that it refers to pork, my favourite meat, two, its secret market, and thirdly, it’s the nickname for the warthog, one of my favourite animals. Finally, the name just conjurs up the imagine of little kittens running around as though they have boundless energy…
Thanks to Penny for the opportunity to discover a different side of British life and I hope some blog readers might be tempted to obtain a copy of the book for a trip down memory-lane.