When I picked up from the bookshelf, ‘Twenty Chickens for a saddle’ I only read its tagline: The story of an African Childhood. I paid the book and left the bookstore in Kingscliff, NSW.
Rode my bike as fast as I could, made a nice cup of coffee and read the whole book in two days. Mind you, this was before I had Noah!
Growing up, my bedtime stories were true stories of my dad’s childhood in Africa, so having a book in my hands of someone else’s childhood in Africa was delightful.
Twenty Chickens for a saddle
Robyn Scott was nearly seven when, in 1987, her parents upped sticks with her younger brother and sister, leaving the gentle, soggy green of New Zealand to return to the place they were raised – Selebi, 150km from the borders of South Africa and Zimbabwe on the eastern edge of Botswana. It was a move entirely in character for her free-spirited parents and it would lead to 13 eccentric, broadly idyllic years remembered now by Scott.
In the shimmering heat, dust and disorder of Selebi there was Ivor with his “wild, laugh-in-the-face-of-danger life” and his gentle, dog-loving wife, Betty; in the developed part of the nearby mining town of Phikwe were Scott’s maternal grandparents, with their sparkling swimming pool, manicured lawns, television and ankle-deep white rugs.
This optimistic, stubborn and clever pair set almost nothing off limits, thrilled with the life that buzzed, hissed or exploded around them, involving their children at every turn.
Robyn, Damien and Lulu (the children) soaked it all in – growing precocious, principled and undaunted by convention, perpetually engaged and endlessly thrilled.
It Felt Real..
The sounds, sights, scents and textures of Botswana tumble from her pages with ease, joining an adventure of a childhood and the colourful, life-filled characters it embraced.
Reading this book, brought back to memory similar stories from my dad’s childhood and sparked again my continuing desire to explore where he grew up, in Dundu, in the northeastern part of Angola bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I’ve been putting off this trip for so long, due to the many warnings against non-essential travel issued by foreign offices and also, painfully, because I am secretly scared of losing my stunning mind pictures in my mind of that country and what it become after war. But I shall take my dad on this adventure