After a lovely afternoon swimming at the Embassy pool with Martine, her mum, Odette had dropped me home.
We’d had the best time ever as Terry, Martines dad had bought us a huge blow-up black tyre to use in the pool.
We took it in turns and held the tyre as high as we could over the water and each dived through it. Then Odette would throw coins in and Martine and I would compete to see who could find them first. We were very agile and becoming very good at swimming and diving.
Mum had not long come back from christmas shopping in Kinshasa.
She took a great deal of care to hide all the presents she had bought, which she never wrapped till the last minute.
It was my job to find them all!
I dont quite know why I would spoil the element of surprise for myself but I had to find them.
It was probably an added stress for mum because my birthday was two days before christmas as well. But never once did I receive a birthday gift wrapped in christmas paper as you might expect.
So I was very lucky in that respect.
I had a huge collection of cuddly toys, I wasnt into dolls much. Over the years dad had travelled alot to different countries on business. He was usually away a long time and on his return would bring me another toy. It made up for him being away so long.
In stealth mode, I’d gone on the hunt one afternoon.
I’d found a strange looking stuffed ‘something-or-other’ in the back of mums wardrobe, obviously for me.
It was about 2 foot tall with stitched clothing on in gawdy colours. It wasnt flexible, bendy or remotely cuddly.
I didnt know what it was!
Choice of gifts and toys was a lottery here and mum struggled to find things that we would like. There certainly werent many toys to choose from in the stores but she did her best.
They didnt go a bundle on christmas decorations either and what she could get was extremely tacky.
We were having christmas at mum and dads friends house, Kath and Norman and they had brought decorations from home and a fake tree.
When we werent visiting friends or entertaining at home we would often relax and play cards.
On this particular evening we were all sat around the dining room table.
Games would range from Solo, Whist, a couple of games that dad had made up and ‘Cheat’, which I loved.
Wearing not much clothing as it was hot, it was difficult to hide cards that I would normally stash up my jumper or in my sleeve.
We’d finished a round and I left the table to go to the bathroom.
I came back to fresh drinks on the table of coke which was very welcome on this hot evening.
“By the way” I announced, quite matter-of-factly.
“There’s a snake in the bath!”
There was a mass exodus and great noise as chairs scraped back on the tiled floor as mum, dad and Louise ran to see the bathroom and peered tentatively round the door. They were not totally sure if I was joking or not.
Having become practically a native here by now. The wild life ceased to shock me and I was blase to it.
It still fascinated me but shock factor was not an issue for me.
There sure enough in the bath when I had entered the room was a slim 3 foot long green snake!
Luckily for dad, Antoine was still finishing up in the kitchen and he called him to help with the Boa Constrictor.
He laughed heartily and informed dad it was just a grass snake, calmly picked it up, held it up close for mums inspection which horrified her, which made him laugh more.
He took it outside and placed it at the bottom of the garden as far away from the house as possible where it could slither off to where it came from.
” Who’s deal is it? I asked impatiently.
Living with insects was par for the course and I suffered tremendously from mosquito bites and had always had an allergic reaction to being stung by anything, even at home. Night time was terrible and they seemed to enjoy feasting off me.
But by far the worst, weirdest, most horrid thing happened to mum.
She developed this strange lump on her chest, it looked like a large boil and when she pressed it, maggoty worm like things came out!
Apparently this type of thing happened when clothing fell off the washing line onto the earth. A little creature would get onto your clothes, lay eggs and when you wore them the eggs would burrow into your skin and then hatch!
It was called the Tumbu fly.
Needless to say, after a visit to the doctors mum had the lump treated and it cleared up straight away.