Our departure from La Rochelle meant saying 'Au revoir' to many old friends - as is the case in any upheaval.
It also meant, unfortunately, saying a permanent 'Goodbye' to three friends who had been a part of my life for a cumulative 54 years. When the apple cart gets upset, you sometimes lose a few apples. These are the three special friends I won't see again. . .
First of all, Shupa the cat. (The word 'shupa' means an annoyance or a bother in the Shona language).
Those folk who visited La Rochelle (Hotel!!) while I was there will have come across Shupa. She wandered into the hotel one day - and stayed. Of impeccable taste (obviously!), Shupa had a rib that stuck out at 90 degrees, an injury I guessed was a result of getting caught up in a farm 'take-over'. Whatever the case, she had lived with people before, because she simply settled in as though she had been there all her life, and no-one ever claimed her. Her rib never bothered her, and was just simply part of her.
At the auction to sell the hotel belongings, one of the Buyers told me that his children had fallen in love with the cat, and asked if he could have her. Because we were obligated to leave the hotel by the end of January and had no solid plans for our future, and because I didn't simply want to abandon Shupa in an empty building when we left, I agreed. He took her home that night.
Here then, is Shupa - a cat of rare distinction, sitting on a barstool in the pub at La Rochelle. My constant companion through many days and nights at work. And a bloody pest at feeding time!
The other character whom visitors to La Rochelle would have come across was Blackie - the three-legged dog.
Blackie had come to us as a puppy, and while still a young dog he had run away into the bush, following another dog we had at the time - Pepper. Unfortunately Blackie was caught in a wire snare, and we could not find him. He managed to bite his way free after a week, but the wire had cut right down to the bone, and the meat from his hip downwards was all rotten. The vet cut his leg off, and he lived happily with us for another 12 years.
When we left La Rochelle, we had to choose between taking the children - or the dogs - with us.
It was a tough choice indeed.
After much soul-searching, we decided we would take the children, and so I left the dogs with Jannie Martin to look after for a couple of months. Unfortunately Blackie passed away a couple of weeks after we had left, and we never saw him again. So this is 'farewell' to Blackie - a fine and noble dog, who was a constant companion to our years at La Rochelle. . .
Those of you who know me well (or, indeed, those who have read my book) will know that Scotch has been an integral part of my life for the best part of 30 years. He first appeared when I was a student at the Hotel School in Bulawayo, and he proceeded to follow me around the country - to Vic Falls, Hwange, Nyanga, Harare, and finally Penhalonga.
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Scotch retired from work about 2 and half years ago, but because he did not have a meaningful pension, I continued paying him a monthly retainer. He would go home for 6 months, and return to stay at La Rochelle, where he had a room in the Staff Quarters. He would come and eat at the Staff Canteen until he was strong enough to go home again.
Because we had to leave by the end of January, and because he had only arrived at the start of December, I arranged for Clemence the chef to accompany him home. His home area (what we Zimbos call 'kumusha'), is actually in Mozambique. The journey is long and hard, and necessitated finding shelter and a place to sleep at huts along the way on 2 nights. This time the stress of travelling must have been too much for him, because we got word that he had passed away 2 days after reaching his home.
On the eve of our departure from La Rochelle, I took some photos of Scotch - he had come with an old umbrella innards as a walking stick to say goodbye, but unfortunately I also said 'goodbye' to my camera in the move as it underwent an 'alternative ownership program'. I lost those pictures.
So here is Scotch - who watched me grow from a dribbling and mumbling student at the Bar counter in our Hotel School Mess, to a father of three fine young ladies. A good and faithful man, this photo was taken about a year ago.
Travel well, old friend, wherever you are.
So I lost 3 parts of my life during the course of our move. Thank you for helping me to say 'goodbye' to them.
And yesterday . . . I had 3 new friends come into my life.
It is amazing how the Circle of Life keeps turning. These new friends may not be with me for long, but they are certainly here, and certainly taking a great deal of my attention. So please now help me welcome my new friends - who arrived yesterday.
More of them in the next Blog.
Have a great day!