Today, I’d like you to give a warm welcome to Ann Patras. Ann will be sharing an excerpt from her book, Into Africa: With 3 Kids, 13 Crates, and a Husband. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued already, so take it away, Ann!
Hi, everybody! I am thrilled to bits to be here today and really hope you enjoy reading a little about my crazy life in Africa so long ago. Feel free to ask any questions, which I will do my best to answer.
I was getting rather neurotic about sounds in the night ever since our experience with the guard trying to get into the kitchen. Several nights I had woken up thinking I’d heard noises only to find nothing of consequence.
This night I woke up with a start, just after midnight.
Although I had been sound asleep an inner voice said something dramatic had awakened me. A familiar noise, in fact. When we first moved into McFrazier Crescent, and Vicki and Leon were slightly smaller, they were unable to open the back door from outside because the handle was too high for them to reach. They got into the habit of thumping it, or bashing it with their bums when they wanted to come in.
As I delved into my subconscious I was sure the noise that suddenly woke me had sounded just like that.
I lay in bed hardly daring to breath and prayed that Ziggy didn’t start to snore and ‘get in the way of’ my auditory scrutiny. This may sound stupid, but I have found that when I try to listen to some distinct noise I need to keep my eyes open. I listened for quite a while but my eyes began to close and I could feel myself drifting back to sleep.
Fortunately, just before I drifted off I heard another abnormal sound. That perked me up again and I returned to my vigilant audial focus.
The noise I heard sounded a bit like rustling and then it dawned on me. With Hollins not being at work for the past couple of days, the rubbish bin in the kitchen hadn’t been emptied since Saturday. It was full of papers and cardboard rubbish that I’d made the kids clear up from their bedrooms, as well as other rubbish.
Obviously the puppy was ferreting about in the bin. I imagined the mess which could be made by all this stuff being scattered across the kitchen floor. The little sod.
As I lay there wondering whether or not I could be bothered to go and kick his arse and put him outside, I heard an odd sounding clunk and decided that I had perhaps better go and investigate.
As I reached the bedroom door I could still hear rustling. Rather a lot of rustling for such a small dog, in fact. Now I was a little worried.
Ziggy was the last one to bed, so I wasn’t sure if he had closed the door which connects the bedroom passage to the living area. What if it was open and it wasn’t the dog making the noise?
Snapping myself out of this state of mind I slowly and carefully opened the bedroom door and peeked around it. Thankfully the passage door was shut. I crept out of the bedroom and took three paces to the door where I stood listening again.
I could still hear ‘sounds’ but then heard what seemed like walking noises. And to be honest, it did not sound like a walking dog.
By this time my heart was beginning to pound somewhat. I heard Cokey whine, like he does when he wants to be let out at night. He continued to whine. But it was rather early for his ‘wee break’. So what was he whining about?
This clearly warranted some further investigation, but I was very reluctant to open that passage door. Then I had a brainwave.
There were no lights on in the bedroom corridors so I could walk down to the far end, by Vicki’s bedroom, and peer through the window which looks out onto the back yard. From there I should be able to see across to the back door (you remember – it was that ‘back door bashing sound’ that woke me) or see if any intruders were in evidence in the yard.
I began to creep down the passage.
When I was but a stripling, my leg joints used to click and creak if I tried to creep around quietly. It must be something to do with tension because sod my luck if they suddenly didn’t start up now!
So I clicked and creaked my way along the passageway and turned right into the section where Vicki’s bedroom was, taking me to the rear, yard-facing window.
Crouched and moving forward I ducked below the level of the window.
Very, very slowly I turned and eased myself until I could peer through the glass. There was no sign of anyone in the yard. Phew, relief. I stood up and let my gaze drift towards the rear wall. I thought it was my imagination at first, but when I moved to the furthest section of the window I could clearly see the back of the house.
My heart came into my mouth and my stomach disappeared somewhere down into my ankles. The back door was open!
At that point I nearly sh*t myself.
My knees went weak, I started to shake, and I stopped breathing.
It was only as I stood resolutely taking deep breaths and trying to calm myself that I looked down and realised I was standing there stark naked. In my single-minded determination to play amateur sleuth I had forgotten to put on any clothes.
Between me and the relative safety of my bedroom was a considerable expanse of corridor, which led up to an unlocked door (there was no key for it), on the other side of which there was an unknown quantity of burglars.
I was terrified.
When Ann and Ziggy Patras uproot from England in 1980 and head off with their three young children to live and work in deepest Africa, they have no idea what they are letting themselves in for. While prepared for sunshine and storms 13o south of the equator, the Patras family are ill-equipped for much else.
Interspersed with snippets from Ann’s letters home, this crazy story describes encounters ranging from lizards to lions, servants to shopping shortages, and cockroaches to curfews.
Author Ann Patras
Ann Patras was born and raised in Burton upon Trent in the English Midlands a long time ago. She had a lot of interaction with people, initially through her family’s busy corner grocery shop, then her parents’ popular pub and later through her own varied careers. She started her working life as a junior legal secretary and ended it as a gallery curator with a variety of other stuff between, including a spell as police reservist on a horse!
She married Ziggy in 1974, raised three kids and countless dogs. After taking on a two-year contract to work in Zambia in 1980, they ended up living in Africa for thirty one years. They now live in Andalusia, Spain, where Ann has plenty of time to write about their many crazy experiences. She has already completed the first three books of her Africa Series, covering their lives in Zambia, and is about to delve into their antics in South Africa.
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