Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Grandma I Never Knew Part 4: In Africa

[There are countless people that contribute to this blog. For the information contained in this I would like to specifically thank Uncle Glyn and his wife Auntie Norma, my Auntie Wendy, my Dad and my Great Aunt Ruth.]
Iris and her son Merthyn at their house in Umtali, Southern Rhodesia.
Iris and Idris started their life in Africa together, living in a suburb of Salisbury named Hatfield. Later, sometime in the 1950’s they moved to Rainbow Ranch in Inyanga, this is in the eastern highlands of Southern Rhodesia. They were only here briefly however and later that year the family moved to Umtali where Idris would eventually build a house that they all enjoyed for quite some time. Before it was finished they had already moved three times, just in Umtali itself.

The house was designed by Idris, based on the home they had in Birmingham, England before they first moved to Africa. It cost around 3,500 British pounds which was borrowed from the Central African Building Society, or CABS for short. Idris did the labor himself. It had three bedrooms, was two storeys tall and contained one and a half bathrooms. In Africa when they had bathrooms they separated the bath from the toilet.
The front room of the house at 4 Taylor Avenue. Looking out into the yard as the cat eyes the pet Budgerigar.

They had servants that did all of the house work while they were in the house on Taylor Avenue. Iris concerned herself mostly with her garden and her work at the local library. As her eldest son remembers; “She had a green thumb and could grow anything.” So she did; especially flowers and particularly roses. One of the trees which grew was a Frangipangi1 when this bloomed it is described as having the “most amazing white flowers.”

The Assemblies of God South Africa planted a church at their house in Taylor Street and Idris was one of the elders. It was pastored by Don Normand. The first ever service of the church occurred in this house on a Sunday morning and a proud Iris watched as the pastor asked her son Glyndwr to lead communion. In Communion it is customary to serve the bread first, followed by the wine. This is based in the passage of 1 Corinthians 11 from the Bible. Iris pride turned to horror as Glyn served the emblems the wrong way around.

There were other incidents during their time in Africa. They used to own a 1941 Plymouth and on one occasion Iris ended up driving it into the large wooden posts that held up the car port. No one was injured and fortunately her husband and pastor were able to re paint and fix it up so that it could be used by their daughter Wendy at a later date.

Iris was a woman who loved life and if her children wished to get away with something there was no doubt in their mind that they had to ask their mother and not their father. When the movie “The Dam Busters” was released Glyn wanted to go see it. He knew that to his Dad, cinemas were off limits. So he asked Iris. She gave him some money to see the movie but it remained a secret kept between the two of them for quite some time. It was only years later that Glyn heard the many occasions that Iris would sneak out of the house to dance when she was young.

Working in the Umtali library Iris would find herself reading often. She would bring book after book home to continue one of her favourite past times. Her children were surrounded with them. No doubt Iris would sit down to reading while drinking that quintessential English drink, Tea. She loved tea and once, when asked by the doctor to count how many cups she had a day Iris stopped the count at thirty six! On doctors2 orders this was reduced to no more than six!


1: The scientific name for this plant is a Plumeria.

2: There were health reasons behind this order

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