GRANDCHILDREN: Milo, Pia, Georgia, Francis, Ella, Finbar, Louis, Johnnie, Mungo, Sam, Emily, Magda, Bruno, Olive, Joe And Minnie
THEY CALL HER: Tigger
COOKING: Peanut Curry + Cardamom Rice
We first went to Uganda when I was 24, with two babies aged 18 months and 8 weeks. My husband Tim had been called up for military service and we discovered that he could do three years in the Colonial Service instead, so off we went.
He worked as part of a team of 3 doctors looking after West Nile District, a place the size of Wales. Every Monday, at the hospital, all the patients in their beds would be wheeled outside so that the wards could be hosed down – there were windows or doors so chickens and all sorts could just wander in. Any chickens caught inside the ward would go into the peanut stew for the patients’ lunch. This was my first encounter with this recipe, which has been part of our family life ever since.
In many parts of Africa they eat versions of this peanut stew. Years later, when we lived in Tanzania, it cropped up again. At first I was very depressed over there as I had little to do and was surrounded by so much poverty. In our district, there was a great scarcity of iodine in the water and many women had goitres which meant they risked giving birth to children with disabilities.
For lack of transport, there were boxes of iodine oil capsules stored in the hospital, and Tim suggested to the authorities that our LandRover could be used to deliver them. So began an incredible adventure that took me to amazing places – villages up mountain passes, across rivers which we had to ford with the capsule boxes on our heads – some really scary driving.
Hospitality is very important, and in each village, sometimes three in a day, we would be fed – often peanut stew - by people who could scarce afford to feed themselves. Spices were sold in the markets in the tiniest plastic bags with just enough of each spice for a single meal. It was all most villagers could afford.
Seeing people who haven’t got any food makes me wild about the way people buy food and then waste it. You learn to treasure food when you see others who don't have enough. Each night, as I snuggled into bed, I would think, 'Why was I born in England with so much, and not here with so little?'
I learnt a lot in Africa –most importantly, respect for the way other people live. In Malawi, there were quite a few beggars in our town. One man we regularly saw wore only half a shirt. I decided to give him some underpants but he wore them on his head, or absolutely anywhere except where they were designed for. Who was I to say where they should be worn?
In many ways Tim dictated what I did with my life but I would not have had it any other way. Without him, I would not have found myself in the Tanzanian mountains dining in the huts of local people, or living on the beautiful shore of the Shire River in Malawi. He changed the course of my life and I happily let him. Throughout our life together he would grow restless and decide to change everything and off we would go. I cannot imagine how I did it but I just held hands with him and ran.