The poetry of Sandy Botha (Stockdale)

I was born in England in 1963 and my Dad took a contract to work in Zambia when I was four. While we were there someone told him that he should go up to Rhodesia for a holiday before returning to England . When we got to Inyanga Dad decided that we would never return to England . He bought a farm and we moved there when I was six.

My brother Graham and I had a childhood in paradise. My sister Alison was born in Umtali and used to try so hard to keep up with all our adventures on the farm. I was a boarder at Chancellor Junior school and can recall so clearly the Jacaranda trees that lined the path from the hostel to the school. I then went to Umtali Girls High and was a boarder at Athlone house. Between Mrs Fox and Drac (Miss Clark) discipline was always a strong point of our education. I met my husband James when I was 14 and he was in the army in Inyanga. I still recall the look of disgust on Mrs Fox's face the first time he came to visit me at school (in the huge army truck that wiped out half of the rockery) I recall so clearly the first mortar attack and the Meikles bomb, convoys and agric alerts as well as the attack on the Montclair hotel. But even with all this going on we had so much freedom and holidays were spent climbing trees, mountains and riding horses.

I left Umtali just after finishing school and moved to Bulawayo where I married James a month after my 19 th birthday. We moved to South Africa later that year. Mom and Alison moved back to England and Graham followed a few years later. Dad remarried and became a Zimbabwean (you could not own land if you held a foreign passport) and sold the farm and bought a larger one. Our daughters Michelle, Natalie and Monique were born on the East Rand near Johannesburg and we moved to Cape Town in 1997. We were very happy there James was running his own Pneumatics company and I had a really good job which I loved but in 2000 we decided that the time had come to leave Africa for good.

We moved to Ireland and are now living in Mullingar near to Dublin . It breaks my heart to see our girls miss South Africa the way we miss Rhodesia . We are trying so hard to make a new life for our family but also accept that we will always long for the beauty of Africa . Dad is still in Zimbabwe and has recently been given back a portion of the farm but who knows how long that will last. Quite a few of the farmers that were given back a part of their farms were forced to move off again within weeks. My greatest regret will always be that our daughters have never seen the country that should have been their home.

Sandy Botha
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© Sandy Botha 2005
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