Unfortunately we were struggling financially with only one salary coming in, so when moving on, our choice of accommodation was very limited.
We found a tiny cottage in the middle of the bush that was available for renting. It had been gutted by fire and newly restored, but we moved in before the electricity was installed, as we were promised it would only be for a week. It was like camping, but without the tent. After a couple of weeks there, I thought Africa was the loneliest place on earth.
After opening the door one morning to find a rinkhals (black cobra) on the doorstep, I became paranoid about snakes. The children were only allowed to play where I could see clearly around them. When I was indoors cooking on the camping gas plate or hand washing our clothes in the bathtub, the girls had to be indoors with me. We did have a snake-bite kit which I prayed I would never have to use.
The cottage was very isolated, and I had no phone or any means of transport. Michael left home in our car just after six in the morning, and returned home after the children were in bed. It was winter when we moved in, so the land around was hard and dry. The grass surrounding the cottage was brown and crisp – until the inevitable fire. As the flames licked closer to the house, local people we’d never seen before appeared out of the smoke with wet sacks to help us beat the flames down.
For weeks we lived like gypsies, without the promised electricity. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go, so I played with the children and read a lot. We walked the two or three kilometres along a sand farm track to the post box once or twice a week, but it was a long dusty walk in the heat of the day with two very small children.
I was thrilled when I found I was pregnant again because suddenly I had something to look forward to. It also meant we would have to move back to civilisation sometime in the not too distant future.