An Adventure in the Congo (contd) Harmony Hairspray. ‘Fred & Ginge’. Rollerskates.

Part 16

Gertie the gecko was watching me as she made her way to the central light fixture
on the ceiling.
She seemed to be resident in my bedroom for the past couple of weeks.
No idea how she got into the house as the mesh on the inside of the windows kept out most unwanted visitors.
Perhaps she came in from the cellar off the kitchen or in through the front doors which we often kept open.
I was getting the rest of my personal belongings out of my trunk so I could then dispense with it and it could be put in the cellar out of the way.

Right at the very bottom under Henry Hippo, my green furry hippopothamus were my roller skates.

I shrieked with delight, I had forgotten I had even packed them.

They would be perfect for a day like today!

It was unbelievably hot and humid, the sky looked ominous, black clouds were gathering and it was trying to rain.
I wondered if they still fitted me as I excitedly put them on over my shoes.

They did! Awesome!

It took me a couple of seconds to adjust and balance myself, which I did, then I opened my bedroom door.

I had a clear run of corridor and propelled myself slowly at first to where the corridor took a right turn.
The noise they made on the surface of the marble floor was very loud and echoed in the emptiness of the corridor.
Losing my balance slightly as I whirled into the hall.
No one was about so I skated into the lounge.

Did a couple of laps around the room at the back of both sofas which were facing each other.
This was great!
My confidence grew as I got better and better.

Tina rushed in from out of the garden to see what the noise was and chased after me as I did another lap, barking and trying to bite my feet.
I whizzed out through the patio doors and onto the verandah where I came to a fancy stop by doing a circular movement.

Mum and dad followed Tina in from the garden as they could hear her barking.
They arrived just in time to see me disappear sideways, waving at them, down the corridor to the bedrooms, hands on hips with my feel splayed to the side, heels together, gliding like a professional. With Tina’s teeth firmly gripping one of the laces from the skates and barking like a mad dog!


Later that day, mum and dad were busy in the kitchen preparing a nice meal, Dzio was off as it was weekend and I was entertaining myself on one of the reclining chairs.
I was releasing the handle to put me in a horizontal position. The chair had its back to the patio doors which were open.
I mustve released the knob too quickly as the whole chair reclined with a jolt and threw me backwards. Legs in the air, my shoe flew off and jettisoned over my head and through the verandah railings into the garden below!

Whilst retrieving it outside I looked up to one of the lounge windows.
There in the top right corner on the inside of the mesh were two of the biggest spiders in the whole world and they were in our lounge!

How come I hadnt noticed them?!
One was orange and the other was a lime green with spots on and very long legs!
Their bodies were massive, almost an inch in diameter.
I ran inside whilst trying to get my shoe on to tell mum and dad about the deadly spiders.
On hearing my out of breath news they came out of the kitchen to go and inspect this latest invasion.
Tentatively we approached the window and there they were nestled with web around them.
They seemed even bigger up close!

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They were alive, as one of them twitched slightly which made us all jump!

” Do something Roy! ” Mum said in alarm.
Dad didnt want to ‘do’ anything! He just stared at them.
“We cant leave them there!”
” No thats true, we cant” He replied, but still not moving.
Mum disappeared off to her bedroom and came back with the ultimate spider repellent.
A tall blue can of Harmony hairspray!
“Stand back! ” She commanded authoritatively.
We did.
She proceeded to unleash half the contents of the hairspray at arms length towards the unwitting spiders!
They moved slightly as we held our breath waiting for a reaction.
There was none.
Maybe she’d glued them stuck?!

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They decided to keep their eye on them in the meantime but wait for Dzio to come back and he would know what to do.
I didnt want them to be sprayed with hairspray and hoped Dzio could somehow get them in a jar and put them outside. but we certainly werent going to attempt it!
After continued assaults with Harmony over the course of the weekend, Fred and Ginge as I had named them had perhaps gone into hibernation or maybe they were ‘high’ from the fumes as they refused to budge or die as mum had hoped.
Thoughts of spiders soon went out of our minds as night approached and something way more frightening was looming!


There was a lovely unusual breeze coming from the verandah which was so welcome on this uncomfortably hot evening.

” I think its going to rain” Dad announced cheerily.

Understatement of the year!

There was an almighty ‘Crack!!’ followed by a blinding flash and the heavens opened!

What an awesome sight it was. We watched the storm from the patio. Multiple streaks of forked lightening on the horizon and shafts of rain coming from various black clouds as it fell over the valley.
The thunder was staggeringly loud and quite frightening but exciting at the same time.
The rain was lashing down now as the storm was approaching us. The wind was getting up and mum and dad decided to close the patio doors as it was really quite strong.
The flashes became more frequent and we waited for the ensuing bang which came immediately.
The storm was nearly overhead.
The trees beyond the garden were bending over with the force of the wind and being pummelled by the torrent of rain that was now hammering down.
The patio doors flew open in a huge gust and dad ran to shut them. They would not stay shut!
The intensity of what seemed like hurricane was amazing.
Dad leaned against the doors but they pushed him back as the storm tried to get in.
He pushed a chair up against the door.
The wind blew even harder and again the doors blew open and the chair was
forced away.
One four seater sofa and two chairs later dad had barricaded the patio doors and we even sat on them to stop the force from opening the doors!
It worked.
We sat out the remainder of this powerful event and watched from the windows in awe.
It was tremendously exciting.

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Ma Campagne
The Jungle

Time: Now

Dear Lindsay

Sorry not writed for a bit. Thanks for Bubbly gum for cristmus.
The new house is a gigantic palace and lounge is size of cricket pitch. Not kiddin!
We got two dedly poisonous spiders called Fred and Ginge, mum bin spraying them
with hairspray, they not ded yet.
I’m awesome at roller skating and pracktice alot.
We almost died in an amazin’ tornado other night, nearly took roof off house!
Getting a cat soon. Mum said.
Got a pet lizard called Gertie, she’s like really tame and eats from my hand.
Got to go, got to have a bath. Borin!


An Adventure in the Congo (contd) ‘Ma Campagne’ The football pitch! A storm brewing.

Part 15

Finally the furniture had arrived!
It had come in a shipping container which had then been unloaded and taken by van to our brand new and final house.
The area was called Ma Campagne and was a little further out of Kinshasa than the previous place we were in.
The house had just been finished being built. It was surrounded by a few other houses but at some distance away.
The road leading to the property was a definite sandy dirt track this time full of troughs and potholes.
It would be finished at a later time.


( A similar house)
Dad took it steadily on the drive down to the house. It stood in an elevated position with stunning panoramic views over the land heading towards Kinshasa.
In an evening time amongst the lights in the distance, the runway lights at the airport would also be clearly seen.
The immediate landscape beyond the walls of the garden was given over to bush rather than rolling hills.
It was still a beautiful view.
The grounds of this house were very extensive but mainly uncultivated and consisted of soil and rubble yet again.
Wrought iron railings adorned the tops of the walls at the front and huge metal gates provided entrance.
The house was set back and lower to the level of the road and there was a brick block drive which led down hill which swept up to the front entrance and then carried on down to a garage area underneath the main building.
It was staggeringly huge!
About 10-15 steps and an ornate balustrade led up to large white double doors with arched glass inserts.
All the floors were marble and the place echoed. The hall was square and spacious.
To the right a door led into the kitchen and utility and access to the cellar and garage. Adjacent to that was a door to the dining room.
To the left was a guest bathroom and door to the bedrooms, five of them and four bathrooms.
We had a bathroom each, how incredibly bizarre!

Straight ahead were double doors which led into the biggest lounge I had ever seen!
It was as a big as a netball court!
At a guess it was near to 35-40 foot long from left to right and two huge windows with bars on the outside and there was mesh inside when you opened them so as to not let insects in.


To the right of the lounge were large patio doors which led onto a square covered and railed verandah with the fabulous views over the valley.
Mum was ecstatic! We were all a little in awe of the place.
Mum and dad were inspecting their furniture that they had chosen from the uk which was all beautifully in situe even down to wardrobes in the bedrooms.
The dining room had an imposing and very regal rosewood table on two elegant pedastals with clawed feet and eight chairs, two of which had arm rests and were positioned at either end.
There was such a shine on it that you could see your face in it. I knew this because I had bent low over it to check myself out.
On one wall was a long cabinet in rosewood which had a thick marble slab on top. Resting on the top was a silver tray with silver coffee pot, sugar basin, tongues and cream jug.

The cabinet glass inserts in the doors and behind was mums dinner service all neatly stacked and displayed.
Looking rather grand on top of the table were two silver candleabras.
In one corner was what mum called a hostess trolley, it was like a cabinet with hotplates in it for keeping food hot when you had guests.

Mum and dad were very pleased with their choice but it wasn’t to my taste, but then I didn’t know what my taste was really. It all seemed a bit over the top for me and I felt anxious about sitting at the table in case it got scratched.
On the football pitch was a large low coffee table, two black leather four seater sofas, I didnt know they made sofas this huge! To complete the set were two velvet reclining chairs which of course i couldnt wait to test out!
There was a fireplace at the left hand end of the room and a rug infront of it.

On further inspection on the rest of the house, the beds were all in place with bedding on that mum had bought and wardrobes were up and ready to use.
I was still puzzling about all these bathrooms and why there was so many, none of them were ‘ensuite’, they were all just off the corridor in the bedroom wing.
Tina was having so much fun, running from room to room following us around the house as we explored it.
My belongings had also arrived in a small trunk, toys, games and my books, I loved my books.
It was so nice to be able to place them in my bedroom to make it feel a little like home. Although it wasn’t really. I missed carpet, I wasn’t fond of tiled floors.
Louise’s record player had arrived too, we could have music! I had my own records which I had collected and couldnt wait to put them on full blast!

In each bedroom was an air conditioning unit on the wall under the window, bliss! We would put these on about half an hour before bed so atleast sleep would be bearable and not too hot.
We gained some new staff here, the cook was called Dzio.
He was very tall and slim and had facial markings that I’d seen before. He also had something curious about his teeth. The two front teeth had been filed to form an upside down ‘V’ which fascinated me and I would stare at him quite a bit in the early days.
He was very friendly, mum liked him straight away and I had no doubt that she would ferret out all the information about his family members and his life before too long.
He didnt speak english but mum had grown in confidence with her ‘pidgeon french’ and they got on incredibly well.
He was the best chef of all and his banana fritters were to die for!
The night watchman or the ‘Sentinel’ as they are known was another kettle of fish!!
It was the rainy season and the weather was even more humid than normal and it wouldnt be long before we would experience the storm of the century!


An Adventure in the Congo (contd) Who shot the snake?! Doing the Funky Chicken! The Disco.

Part 14

Christmas came and went and was pretty much a non event. Friends and family sent gifts from home which was lovely but it just wasn’t the same. We made the best of it that we could.
One of the highlights during this time was a visit to a colleague of dads. It was a party and a barbecue at which alot of our friends were also attending.
He lived in a smallish detached bungalow in well established and secluded grounds.
The garden was awash with colour from beautiful plants and shrubs, a large lawned area and a fair selection of large trees. The bungalow had double doors as the entrance which were wide open for this occasion.
A member of his staff was in the garden at the barbecue cooking an array of food, the smells were delicious and mixed with the familiar smell of burning charcoal.
Drinks were flowing and there was a large punch bowl full of floating fruit.
Music was blaring from inside the house and some people were already dancing on the marble floor.
It was noisy, people were laughing and generally having a good time.
John, the host of the party wanted to show us something on our arrival and led us down the garden to one of his large trees.
There draped over one of the branches was the largest snake I had ever seen in my life!
Or what was left of it!

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The outer scaly skin of what wouldve been a huge snake was all that remained. Its body probably measured about a foot in circumference!
I stood there with my mouth open.
Why was its outer skin just left, what had happened to all its insides?
John relayed the story to us that it had come in his garden and was believed to be venomous and one of his staff shot it with a gun!
I was a little horrified and upset by this but maybe its the only thing that couldve happened to ensure everyones safety.
What happened later was the snake was put over a tree branch, I have no idea why but maybe this might explain it. Over the following day or two, ants and other creatures had completely devoured the internal body of the snake! Natures way of dealing with things. So it seemed John’s member of staff knew what he was doing by leaving it in the tree.
Inside the house Martine and I were studying a series of boxed framed pictures on the walls. Inside these displays were real life butterflies. About 6 to a box depending on the sizes.
They were the most beautiful butterflies I had ever seen! None of which I had ever come across in England. The colours were spectacular, shades of emerald green turquoise, purples and yellows. Some with long fancy shaped tail bits on their wings.
They were fixed to the boards with a pin through their body. This I didnt like at all but they were already dead so all I could do was admire them.
I pondered not on how John had caught them or what happened next, I pushed it out of my mind.
Regardless of that Martine and I were in awe and fascinated by them and their beauty.


Our attention strayed to Johns daughter.
She was about 18 and had been in charge of the music.
She had just changed the record to a very lively number and then proceeded to take control of the dance floor.
We watched her and giggled behind our hands as she started dancing. I can only describe it as soom kind of deranged headless chicken routine!
She mustve been on the punch.
We were hysterical.
Luckily she was unaware that we were laughing.
Martine and I copied her dance moves spectacularly well but with added exaggeration for effect.
We attracted some glances from fellow guests who looked on with amusement as they could see that we were mimicking her.


New Years Eve there was a big party at the Okapi Hotel some miles away. It was a big swanky place with a pool and on the lower ground floor there was a night club and discotheque.

For some reason I was allowed to go.

Chaperoned by Louise. It was only the young people going, mum and dad weren’t attending nor any of the other parents.
I wore my best dress that grandma had made for me, it was gypsy style with a white blouse under the main bodice and laced up front. I felt amazing and very grown up.
Louise looked very glam with her furry eyelashes, hair styled to perfection and wearing a short stripey number.

Kin H.Okapi (delcampe1)Kin H.Okapi'85 (gosset.katembo)
Dad took us in the car to pick up Dominique from her house.
Two other girls were also in the car, daughters of some friends.
Odette, Martine and Dominique came out of the house to meet us as we pulled up in the drive.
I was very excited but also very sad and felt quite guilty that I was going to this place.
Martine was not allowed to come.
Even a gap of 12 to 18 months makes all the difference I suppose when youre young and her mum didnt want her to go.
I was devastated for her. Dominique got in the car and we all waved as we drove away.
She never once displayed her sadness or disappointment that she wasn’t coming with us.

Instead she waved back excitedly back, shouting that she hoped we all had a good time, as dad’s tail lights of the car disappeared out of the drive and headed into the night.

An Adventure in the Congo (contd) The Boa constrictor! Xmas shopping. Flesh-eating maggots!

Part 13

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.

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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.
I wasn’t.
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.

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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.


An Adventure in the Congo (contd) Attempted murder! ‘Y’ Fronts and Ninjas!

Part 12
It was heading towards christmas time and the temperatures were insane!
100 plus in the shade and high humidity levels.
Apparently it was summertime in Africa. People would write from home with tales about the weather and how cold it was, whilst we were baking and using air conditioning units in our bedrooms at night to keep cool.
I wondered what christmas would be like here, would we have a tree and how would it feel to celebrate without frost or even snow outside to add to the atmosphere. We had no chimney for Santa to climb down and bars at our windows, how would he get in, this worried me.


I was pretending to be invisible one day as mum and dad had guests.
I found these occasions very tedious and preferred to blend into the background and not be involved. They would acknowledge me sometimes and then all eyes would be on me, I didnt like this being quite a shy girl.
When people would arrive dad used to make me speak and show off my french, especially if they were Belgians.
I hated it and had to say “Enchante” , pleased to meet you, and then shake their hands.
They would ask me about school which was my least favourite topic of conversation. I would just lie and say “C’est bien , merci beaucoup”

I escaped to inside a den that I had made underneath the diningroom table.
I’d taken some double sheets from the laundry room and draped them over the table, turned the chairs to face outwards giving me lots of space. Big Ted was sat on one of the cushions with a biscuit infront of him. A peg was holding my drapes closed. I’d taken all of the cushions from the sofa much to mums annoyance.
Double doors were open to the lounge area so I could hear everything going on but I didnt pay much attention as the talk was usually about work and was mega boring.


That is until they started talking about something in particular!

One of the english guests who lived on site mentioned the word ‘burglary’!
I stuck my head out from behind my curtains and clutched them under my chin.
She went on to say that they’d had a spate of burglaries on site and the residents there were getting extremely concerned over security.
I listened intently as she went on to describe that the homes had literally been cleared out! Furniture, clothes, rugs, personal belongings, absolutely everything was taken!
Not your normal types of theft. This was pre-planned and suitable transport arranged to get all the stuff out.
This obviously happened when the properties were empty of occupants.
She was saying that most of the houses targeted didnt have dogs and the ones that did were left alone.
In general the Congolese dont like dogs and are scared of them.
It was a worrying problem and the ex pats were extremely terrified.
What they were talking about was quite alarming but I knew we would be ok because we had ‘White Fang.’ No one came near us when Tina was about and the locals would give us a wide berth.
Nevertheless, the following day dad came home from work brandishing a Machete, looking quite pleased with himself.

Mum was a little horrified but dad informed her,

” Its going under the bed Patsy!”

And thats where it would remain, just in case!


After shopping for food in town, mum and I came back to the house, we’d decided not to go to the market as it was just too hot, so we came back early.
Antoine wasn’t home and would come later but Francois, the dodgy ‘houseboy’, who was home, was no where to be seen!
I was on my way to my bedroom to get something when I heard snoring noises coming from the spare room!
And there he was curled up on the spare single bed, sounding like a train, sleeping. Blissfully unaware that he’d been rumbled.
For quite some time mum had been unhappy with his presence in the house, there was just something about him that you couldnt put your finger on. Things had gone missing, items of my clothing and other things.
Mum deliberately left the small amount of jewelry that she had displayed in an obvious way on a table in her bedroom, rather than tucked away out of sight.
So she knew it was there and so did he.
We knew that Antoine wasnt responsible for the things going missing as he was only around at mealtimes and never had cause to go through the corridor to the bedrooms.
She didnt shout at Francois, he just got up, apologised profusely mumbling something about it would never happen again but mum knew she would to talk to dad about it later.


The back dirt patch was in the process of being cleared of rubble and several men were thereĀ attending to it.
Dad was at work, I was highjumping on the front and mum was in the house getting ready for us to go out.
All of a sudden there was loud shouting and screaming coming from the back!

I’d never seen mum fly before!

She came out on the verandah with her hair brush in her hand to see what this incredible rumpus was about.
Four men were trying to hit Francois on the head with bricks!

She flew!

One minute she was there the next she was in the garden amongst the rubble!

I’d never seen her move so fast.


She threw herself into the fight with no thought for her safety and proceeded to swear and yell at these men who were trying to murder Francois.
One of the men was trying to stop the fight and help.
Mum was whacking each of them on the head with her hairbrush like she was holding some deadly weapon!
Although it was scary at the time, afterwards it was probably one of the funniest things I’d seen!
She was like a mad woman trying to help the dodgy ‘houseboy’ from his attackers.
They eventually gave up the assault and she pushed them and told them to leave the property.
Strangely they did what they were told and left but were still shaking their fists at Francois. Whilst eyeing ‘madame’ with her weapon!
We never did find out what he had done to cause these men to react like this but it was the straw that broke the camels back and his work contract with us was terminated.

She actually saved his life but in hindsight it was a dangerous thing to intervene in.
Of course we dined on that episode for several weeks too!


Not long after this event. We were all sound asleep in our beds.
Except for Tina, who slept in mum and dads bedroom or mine depending what she felt like.
She was barking ferociously and excitedly at the same time, wagging her tail.
She actually wasnt the best guard dog in the world and loved everyone, even strangers.
But she did bark.
Dad leapt out of bed grabbed his Machete from under the bed and went to see what Tina was getting upset about.
Tina had actually heard someone attempting to break into the house from one of the external verandah doors but the noise she had made had stopped them in their tracks and they had fled.
But not before dad had caught sight of them through the window.
A lucky escape, for them.

Not that dad would have used the weapon, it was more for show. But he was certainly a funny sight in his knobbly knees and Y fronts wielding his Machete like Bruce Lee!


An Adventure in the Congo(contd) The big move! Digging with spoons. ” You rang mi’lady?!”

Part 11
The new house we had moved to was in a district called Parc Embise on the outskirts of Kinshasa away from all the concrete, smells, heat and mayhem.
It was basically a village, slightly more rural but fairly well established.
The villages didnt necessarily have anything pretty about them, a few amenities and a scattering of ramshackle houses dotted about, that was about it.
Mum and dad never shopped locally even though there were vegetable and fruit stalls and the odd shop here and there. I think dad thought it was safer to shop in town.
Not far away there was a football ground of sorts and once a week it would become incredibly noisy and african music would blare out from loud speakers and alot of singing and drinking would go on.

Here and there were mud huts and houses built out of breeze block with corrugated tin roofs. Whatever they could find to build their house with they would use it.
Poverty on the outside of Kinshasa was even more evident.
Families would live outside their dwellings during the day for the most part.
Children would play, partially clothed on their dirt patch of a yard.

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They never wore shoes I noticed.
They would cook outside and wash their clothes in makeshift buckets and racks to scrub them on.
Their house at night was used for sleeping in.
Chickens would wander about and goats were often tethered.
The houses were at the side of the road or set back under the shade of a tree if there was one. There were no gates or boundaries as such to divide the land up and they seemed to be able to set up home wherever they chose. There didnt appear to be any rules.

Often times the men would sit by the road displaying their wares, making things to sell if they were able to.
Whilst the women would be seen doing all the heavy work, like carrying water buckets or huge sacks on their head from the market. There were lots of children per family and in most cases grandparents would live-in too.
I dont know where there all slept, as their mud shacks and tin huts were very small.
The differences between how I lived and how they lived affected me and I used to ponder about it alot.
Our bungalow was down a widish dirt track, a proper road really but they hadnt gotten around to tarmacking it. There were other houses a short distance either side.
When cars and lorries drove past it would kick up a real dust storm if we’d not had much rain for a while.

The house was massive, I mean humongous!!!

It had about four foot high walls with railings sitting on top and a wide entrance with large metal front gates which we kept open during the day.
It was brand new practically, pristine white with a covered verandah which went half way around the house! The front and one side.
The windows all had ornate cast iron bars on them.
There was garden at the front, actually it wasnt a garden it was dusty earth with a few measely plants below the verandah and a medium sized pile of dirt and rubble out the back!
A couple of steps led up to the front of the building and double doors opened into a largish square entrance hall which had dining table and chairs in it. How odd I thought.


(This is our actual first house, picturing mum and I, Tina in the foreground)

The house was furnished, not particularly nicely but we had so much more space to move around in now compared to the claustrophobia of the flat in town.
Four medium sized bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen. The fourth bedroom was a spare and was where Francois our ‘houseboy’ did the laundary and ironing.
This would be our first encounter with the staff that we had to take on!!!

It took no time at all to unpack and have our personal items around us and our clothes put away.
Tina enjoyed being able to run about outside and never strayed through the gates, choosing to stay close to the house to guard her family.

Dad was closer to the factory here and no longer needed Sylvain to drive him. He probably went to work for another family connected to the company.
Lots of families chose to live on site with the amenities there but mum and dad wanted to experience a more natural environment.

We had two staff at this house, Francois and Antoine.
Antoine was the cook.
Francois wasnt that much taller than me and I eyed him suspiciously. He was always smiling but in a very shifty looking manner. He was probably in his middle twenties.
I felt there was something not quite right about him and he made me feel unneasy.

Neither of them spoke english but that wasnt a problem now. Mum could make herself understood, though heaven knows how!
With her hand gesturing and ‘pidgeon’ french, the odd word here and there, the rest would be in english spoken with the weirdest french accent!
She somehow thought she would be better understood if she spoke in this strange way.
It worked!
Mum was always understood and not only that, would come to learn all about their
families, extended family, how many children they had, their names, what their wives did, how many wives they had, their shoe sizes and inside leg measurements! You name it!
It was a standing joke, we dont know how she did it!

Antoine was a decent enough cook and mum welcomed it, she didnt like cooking much anyway.
He was friendly but quietish, a nice personality and a gentle sense of humour, he’d come to need it, with me around!
We settled into a nice routine and got used to our new surroundings. We would have more ex pat visitors as we had so much more space.
My high jump stands had arrived and had been made beautifully by some one at the factory, I was so thrilled. We put them on the front dirt patch as the back garden was very uneven and still like a building site.
It caused much amusement from the african ladies who glided past the front of the house with their bowls on head.
To see this gangly white girl running and leaping over a bamboo cane, scissor style. They would stop and watch me.
Wow an audience, i need to do well now!

One afternoon I was practising and getting all hot and bothered, so I took a break and went over to see what a small group of ladies were doing just outside the front gates.
They were sat on the ground digging with spoons!

What on earth were they doing, i had to go spy on them!
I peered around the gate. They spotted me and smiled, so it felt safe to go towards them.
One of them beckoned to me to come and get a closer look.
She rattled away in Lingala and then I saw what she was trying explain to me.
I was horrifed!
She was digging for huge white coloured grubs, like the fattest caterpillars youd ever seen!
She was finding them with her spoon and placing them in a little wicker basket.
She saw the look of horror and disgust on my face which seemed to be funny to her because she cackled and enjoyed a joke with the other ladies.
She gestured her hand to her mouth and I then knew instantly why she was looking for them.
She was going to eat them.
Not on my watch I thought!

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I made some excuse in french that I needed to go help mum, smiled at her and ran into the house to go tell everyone. I felt sick!


We all sat down to dinner each night at the dining table set up in the hall and Antoine usually cooked up a storm and his food was very nice.
It was a dark wood table and chairs with green velvet seats, i thought it was very old fashioned and didnt like it much.
Dinner times never really interested me I would rather be off doing something than sitting for hours eating and talking.
Except that is of course when you have a special gadget on the floor by the head chair!

I was the first one to notice it one day.
It was during lunch on one of our first days at the new house that I discovered it.
It kind of blended into the tiled floor but it was clearly visible to me.

I stuck my foot on it and to my delight I heard a bell ring in the kitchen!

What fun!

A bell to summon Antoine from the kitchen!

Antoine came out of the kitchen teatowel over his shoulder smiling at mum.

“Oui Madame…?”

Mum was very embarrassed. Never would she dream of ringing a bell to call someone to attend to her.
I was hysterical, it was the funniest moment ever.
She apologised, laughed in a self conscious way, pointed to the floor, gestured at me that I had found this bell and shook her head as if to say that she hadnt meant to call him and i had just pressed it out of curiosity.
He laughed with her and said words to the effect that it was “ok Madame” and went back to the kitchen.
Our plates had been cleared after the meal, I finished my drink and excused myself from the table but my foot mustve accidentally trodden on the bell push as I left the table.
Oh dear I’m so clumsy!

I ran out of the room shrieking and giggling! Just in time to hear Antoine come back into the dining area.
“Oui Madame..?”


Paranormal activity, Poltergeist?

Paranormal activity, Poltergeist?
One morning my daughter came downstairs in a bit of a panic.
She explained that she had left her mobile phone by her bed before going to sleep.
(not good I know!) But anyway, she said that when she woke up her phone
was no longer on the table and it was actually in her bed under the covers!
The screen had cracked, there were in excess of 90 missed calls from an unknown number
but worst of all it was covered in some kind of white-ish transparent sticky gunk substance,
like something out of Ghostbusters!
This was not the only paranormal occurrence in this house. Myself and my daughter could
blow lightbulbs almost at will to the point it was a joke.
Two entities took over my body on two separate occasions resulting in my calling on the skills and experience of an 80 year old exorcist to get rid of them.
One man who attached himself to me, had hung himself off one of the beams in the house and that resulted in me experiencing severe neck pain.
The other was a young woman who was involved in a love triangle and she committed suicide after a broken heart.
The house was on a geopathic stress grid, criss-crossing Ley lines which was practically Ghost highway heaven! We also discovered a portal in the cellar where they were coming in from.
We had a Priest Hole behind the chimney breast in the master bedroom but accessing it to have a look inside wouldve meant ripping out the wall. So we never did. Dont know if the man who hung himself could have hidden himself at one point inside this hideaway.
At the exact time of the exorcism, my two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Weimaraner went absolutely crazy barking up at the ceiling.
But probably the weirdest episode was the mobile phone. A ghost trying to physically manifest? Hence the ectoplasm….who knows.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has similar or equally weird goings-on.