While on our bus tour, we got brief glimpses of the UNO village complex which houses several departments of the United Nations and the St Francis Assisi Church. I just wanted to backtrack on that a little to show you the pictures of some of the stained glass windows in the Votive Church we’d seen earlier (stained glass windows must be one of the most beautiful sights ever, especially when the sun shines through them). And also a picture of this amazing contraption, which I guess they must use for cleaning the windows or getting up anywhere high? It has a lot more charm than the modern cherry-picker.
The next morning we walked into the central museum complex area as I wanted to take pics of the guys selling tickets for the various musical concerts. They were all dressed in period costume. To my surprise, they seemed a little reluctant to have their photos taken, but I persevered and there was nowhere for them to hide anyway!
Of course, we all know that princesses fall in love all the time but when Princess Elizabeth did, it was not at all popular. He was a Prince of course, but he didn’t have a kingdom or even a princedom anymore and his family was a bit strange as well.
It was a big problem in those days, marrying other royals, they were all foreign!
The one Princess Elizabeth chose looked very handsome but had a decidedly dodgy family. His father had lost his throne and was no longer the King of Greece, all his sisters had married Germans and his mother was in a home for the insane.
But, on the other hand, he had lived in England and spoke the local lingo with a posh accent so maybe he would be OK.
In a blaze of publicity and a welcome respite from the drudgery of post-war life, the two married on 20th November 1947 in Westminster Abbey.
Now, this is something not many people know. Westminster is NOT an Abbey, though it is built on the site of an old abbey. It’s NOT even a cathedral. Its proper name is the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster. It’s the traditional venue for royal coronations and weddings, having the status of a Church of England, ‘Royal Peculiar’ – a church responsible directly to the sovereign.
THE NATURAL BREAK (A polite way of saying that here is where I talk about my books)
Each month I write a new chapter to the Amie backstories, featuring mostly her elder sister Samantha and Ben whom she first meets as her cameraman in Togodo.
Sam is an idiot and constantly getting into one scrape after another on her first trip abroad, while Ben is psyching himself in his rural village to become a man. This is a teaser from the first chapter and you can download the next 14 chapters for free from my monthly newsletter.
This is the link to click on. http://eepurl.com/c-GqWr
Battered and bruised, Amie sat shivering alone in the small prison cell. How had this happened? Where had it all gone wrong? She thought back to where she had come from, anything to take her mind off waiting for the next appalling meal to be shoved through the flap at the bottom of the door. It was always the same, a heap of maize meal porridge, a watery stew in which floated the odd suspect morsel of meat surrounded by pulpy vegetables. The only drink they’d offered her was water and she wasn’t too sure that was clean. Despite her revulsion, when her stomach began to rumble after the first couple of days, she could sense her strength beginning to ebb, and she devoured the food and drank every last drop.
How long had she been there? Days, weeks? If only she’d thought to scratch on the wall to mark the passing of time, but it was too late now.
She took in her surroundings. One lumpy, stained, foam mattress on the bare concrete floor, a bucket in the corner that was emptied only once a day, a window securely barred, too high for her to reach and look out. She could hear the everyday sounds from the nearby market, but no one knew she was there; no one was going to come and rescue her. She lived with the ever-present worry that at any moment she would hear footsteps echoing down the corridor outside coming to drag her outside to go and answer more questions.
All she had left were thoughts and memories of her former life in a warm and loving family thousands of miles away in England. She smiled as she remembered the times she and her sister had discussed their future lives, it had seemed so easy, so predictable, so planned and precise, so ordinary. She could see it so clearly as if it was yesterday.
“Amie, I need your help with my homework,” said Samantha, flinging open the door to her sister’s bedroom.
“Not again! If you didn’t spend so much time mooning over Gerry, you’d get twice as much done. And how am I supposed to help? You’re two years above me!”
Samantha ignored the comment and threw herself onto the bed. “It’s all right for you, it’s all too easy, you’ll romp through your exams.”
“Only because I work hard, and concentrate in class. I know what I want to do and where I’m going. I have it all planned out.” Amie sounded smug.
Her elder sister sighed. “I guess I’ll go the teaching route, it’ll fit in better with being a housewife and a mother. Though,” she added, “I have no intention of getting tied down too early. I want to travel and see the world first.”
Seven thousand miles further south sat another young person thinking about his future, a future which could not be more different to the one Amie faced. He scuffed his bare, black toes in the dust making swirling patterns, only to obliterate them and begin again. He hated to admit it: he was frightened. It was bad enough for the other boys, but he was the son of his father who was brother to the chief. They would expect more of him, he would possibly be the first one and he would not dare flinch, nor cry out however bad the pain was. He shuddered just to think about it. It was made even worse knowing that he was the youngest in the age regiment, and on his shoulders rested the standing of his family in the tribe.
Like the dust particles he was stirring, thoughts circled around Ben’s head. He was torn, halfway between the old world and the new. He was now part of the modern Africa. He lived in a house with a bathroom, hot and cold water flowed from the taps, and he slept in his own bed. He attended the best school in Apatu, run mostly by the local British expats who showed him pictures and videos of places on the other side of the world. He watched in awe as pictures of spaceships rocketed skywards, saw men walking on the moon, and listened as they explained how satellites orbited the earth too far above them to be seen. In many respects, he was receiving a similar education to Amie, but that is where the similarity ended.
He was familiar with the village where his family sent him for the holidays. When he was very small it was fun to throw off his shoes, run barefoot across the savannah and bathe naked in the shallow river. He’d follow his father’s cattle for long days under the blazing sun, occasionally screaming and chasing away the odd hyena or wild dog that came too close. He’d wave his long stick and jump up and down without getting too close. To his relief, not once did the predators come any nearer, but slunk off with their tails between their legs.
In his earlier years, he’d enjoyed the company of the other boys close in age, as they ran free as birds, ducking and diving under the lower hanging branches of the smaller thorn trees. They spent hours poking long sticks into the tall, red termite mounds, throwing stones at the weaver birds’ nests to bring them crashing down to the ground, much to the frustration of the males who shrieked with fury. Hours of hard work patiently weaving the strands of dry, yellow grass into the tightly knit balls precariously fixed to the very end of the thorn branches, lost because of the fecklessness of some nasty little boys running wild. He’d competed in the informal running races, mock fighting with sticks against the others, and sitting breathlessly at the feet of the local storyteller. The old man had told tales of past heroic deeds by members of their tribe, stories of how the majestic African animals lived on the plains and the legacy of the ancestral spirits who guarded the tribes-folk from beyond the grave.
Till next week, take care.