As a huge fan of Valerie Poore’s books about life living on a canal boat in Holland, I knew I had to read about Val’s earlier life living in the Natal region of South Africa.
Her and her husband, along with two very young children had made the decision to live in Africa and were fortunate enough to rent a cottage in an idyllic rural area of the country.
They have no electricity but use oil lamps and listen to the radio and read books for entertainment. It’s a simple life but an enviable one. They don’t really fit in with the local Tennis Club types so just use the clubs library and avoid the social gatherings of the elite set of white settler society.
With the author’s journalistic style of writing, her experiences, sights and sounds of living in the country are described in such a vivid way that I felt as though I was there. The changing weather from dramatic thunderstorms and near tornado misses to severe drought where every drop of water is precious and must be used sparingly.
Valerie writes about the local customs of the Zulu people who lived in the area and how the ‘bush telegraph’ system of communication is used to convey news or warnings about possible burglars in the area. This period was during the time of apartheid that wasn’t as visible or stringently adhered to as in other parts of South Africa but white privilege is still apparent so readers can take into account the circumstances and the book can be enjoyed as a snapshot of historical travel writing for those interested in the continent of Africa.
The whole book is a series of anecdotes about the time but didn’t feel like it as the story flowed freely from one part to the next.
I’m pleased to learn that there is another book continuing the story and I look forward to reading it.
About The author
Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.
Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.
She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way.