We had only been in Johannesburg about a month when we had a really frightening experience. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and a Salvation Army band was playing carols outside some shops. We stood at the edge of the big crowd to listen, as I can never pass by a brass band playing Christmas carols. I bent down to lift Catherine up to see, but she had disappeared.
With my heart hammering, I tried calling her but my voice didn’t seem to work properly and the small sounds I made were drowned by the band and the crowd. I started pushing my way between people, calling and asking, but nobody could see a small blonde child. Where could she be? How would I ever find her in this strange alien country? As I was approaching a state of hysterics, an elderly man came out of a shop carrying our lost child. I could have hugged him.
It was not our best December. I couldn’t get my head around Christmas in the sun, and I tried to create a traditional English Christmas, which just did not work. The other people in our block of flats seemed to be doing their own thing, and were either on holiday, visiting family or sitting indoors with their curtains drawn.
On Christmas Eve, while the turkey was cooking, I took the children outside to the pool, which was deserted. Michael was staying at the office for drinks, so I didn’t expect him home till late. When he did get home, he went straight to bed, where he stayed for twenty four hours, being unused to both the alcohol and the altitude. So the two little girls and I sat with our cheap cracker hats and roast turkey dinner, singing ‘Away in a manger’ to each other.