The year was 1956. I knew something was horribly wrong that night, when Ahmadu dropped the soup! Normally exquisitely self-possessed, immaculately groomed, and imperturbable, our man-servant and friend was disheveled, the color of cement, and shaking like a leaf with acute anxiety and palpable fear. Our little family—myself, Kay, and our imperious eighteen-month-old daughter, known… Continue reading Gagara Yasin
EVERY YEAR, about October/November a cattle tax of one-shilling-a-head was levied on every bull, steer, cow or calf throughout all the cattle-holding provinces of Northern Nigeria. This was in accordance with the principle that in order to establish sovereignty of the Crown, every adult in the territory had to pay an appropriate yearly tax to… Continue reading JANGALI, 1947
One of the enduring memes (if we had had such a word to describe them at the time) of my childhood would have been my Dad's invocation of the "gremlin in the petrol tank." He was prone to bring it up in any situation where something unexpected happened and a thing that was supposed to… Continue reading Happy Birthday, Dad: The “Gremlin in the Petrol Tank” Edition
My father was a remarkable man. Over the course of his long life, he met very few men whose will was stronger than his own. Here’s the story of one of them: Shortly after World War II, Dad was ordered to the ancient Northern Nigerian city of Sokoto to serve as the Assistant District Officer (that… Continue reading Occasional Quote of the Day: “O day and night but this is wondrous strange!”
The events recounted below are true, and took place in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria, in the Summer of 1947. The author was a young, newly arrived, civil servant in the British Colonial Service, recently separated from active duty in Italy and North Africa as a Major in the British Army. The gentleman in the photo to… Continue reading The King’s Shilling: One Colonial Officer’s Experience with West-African Slavery
I was very lucky for my first 54 years to find myself in the orbit of a man who lived life with more zeal than anyone I’ve ever known. Those of you who’ve read some of my posts will probably guess I’m speaking of my Dad, and you’re right! Please bear with me while I… Continue reading Carpe Diem: A Zeal For Life!
“American football is a bit like World War I–only without the trenches.” My Dad always attributed that quote, which I learned as a small child, to Winston Churchill. (Well, it sounds like something Churchill might have said, doesn’t it?) Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to trace it since, so at the advanced age of 65… Continue reading American Football, Churchill, and Gagara Yasin
The events related here took place a little over seventy years ago. They tell the story of a man and his horse. Together. Alone in the bush. The man, very ill. And afraid. The horse, very tired. He was probably afraid, too. And they tell the story of the extraordinarily brave woman who saved them both.… Continue reading A Man, A Horse, and a Missionary Woman