Thursday, 16 February 2012

Aden: Random Memories 16: Pot Pourri

Now for Aden small bits and pieces which don’t come under a bigger heading.
My father got to know a lot of people. Unlike me he did pretty well at social gatherings. Consequently, somebody he knew got me onto the flight deck of a BOAC VC10, while it was parked at Khormaksar airport. I thought the plane so vast and so modern and so swish in comparison to Aden Airways and their grotty old propeller things like their Dakotas. Now I love many old planes as much as the new.
Making my own airplanes
Talking of aircraft, my mother used to buy bottles of drink, orange squash I think it was, which were contained in a grey cardboard sleeve. One of my many childhood games was to reshape the sleeve, add wings and a tail and fly them. Naturally this consisted of me making engine noises and zooming the planes around. I wouldn’t be surprised if that included running around the room. I pity our neighbours underneath. To them, I offer a belated and heartfelt apology.
Food and drink
Although our diet was not much short of standard British fare, we did have some exotic foods bought at local markets. One day at such a market (I have no idea exactly where) my mother bought water melon. I think it was only a wedge, but it could have been whole. The red of the flesh and green of the skin made a strong contrast, and the jet black seeds made the flesh look like an oversized ladybird. The taste was delicious.
My mother always boiled the water. She let it cool and chilled it in the fridge for us to drink. Imagine, her life was based around looking after my father and I (and later my brother too), washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, mending clothes. So many women of her generation sacrificed their lives to the family. We were spoiled rotten and never knew at the time how lucky we were.
Food mixer
My mother loved to bake. Fresh Victoria sponges for tea are a childhood memory. My mother discovered there were modern gadgets called food mixers and she bought a Braun which lasted a very long time. It was used a lot both in Aden and after we came back to Britain. Things were built to last in those days! 
It was used not only for those Victoria sponges, but also for stodgier fare like Yorkshire puddings, but above all else, pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (a tradition I still observe even now, the only day of the year I knock back nothing but buttery fried batter sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice before rolling them up). 

With a Song in my Heart
Sunday lunchtime in those days was a ritual. One day the ritual changed slightly. The BBC had developed technology well enough to attempt live broadcasts with far flung posts of the Empire beyond Germany. So it was one hot sunny Sunday lunchtime, as the strains of With a Song in my heart played by André Kostalanetz and his Orchestra Family Favourites became Three Way Family Favourites with Aden as the extra hub. If I remember correctly the technology didn’t stand up to the full onslaught of the Aden sun, so we had to be content with recorded bits from London for a while. Nobody asked for a record for me or anybody I knew, and despite this major let down, it was good to know people back home were wanting to say something special to some of us over there. And all of us were there, pleased we weren’t forgotten or ignored. By remembering a handful of us in Aden, it felt like we were all remembered.
The harbour
Aden’s harbour was an exciting place, the tourists came and went, famous ships like the Canberra and Oriana anchored there, as well as the inevitable warships. We had a submarine arrive once and that was a highlight. At night the harbour was a beautiful sight with the ships lit up. 
There were also tragical events, a ship caught fire and burned and burned. We watched it from the shore. It was a desperate sight. What finally happened I can’t recall, I simply remember the blaze seemingly unquenchable. 
Although burning ships were not an everyday sight, flamingos were. On the causeway from Aden to Sheikh Othman the flamingos generally stood in the shallows on one leg. If one was really lucky, they might take wing.
I only have one clear memory of Sheikh Othman as an oasis of calm away from the hubbub of Aden proper. I think we had to take malaria tablets before going there as well. Other than that the memory is fuzzy.
Then there were the salt pans and the windmills. The salt pans seemed to stretch for miles and the windmills nearly always were motionless, waiting for a breath of air or an Arab Don Quixote to disturb their slumber.
A small memory of my childhood, from the back seat of a Fiat, before I nodded off to sleep. I have often found it very easy to sleep when travelling.
© 2012 Gwailo54

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