Real Wishing Chair stories

Retro reader John C Fowler shares the second part of his childhood memories of living in Zambia in Africa, where his family moved to from Shiregreen in the 1970s.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 12:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 12:40 pm
The famous Victoria Falls in Zambia

Dad's furnace bricklaying skills were put to good use in the Mufulira Copper Belt's local mine.

He oversaw the work of local bricklayers and they showed their appreciation by presenting him with an award.

John and Andrea Fowler and friends in Zambia

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On a memorable visit to the mine, we drove around one of the cooling towers.

It seemed huge to me and I was impressed to see it "raining" inside as the steam was condensing.

Meanwhile, mum took care of home and shopping duties, aided by one or two local domestic helps.

There was a "mine school" nearby, as we called it, which Andrea and I attended.

John C Fowler, his mum and sister Andrea in the lounge of their first home in Zambia

Next to it was a large complex of outdoor swimming and paddling pools with a lawned area dotted with trees where we could rest before and after going into the water.

Dad also took us to a golf club. He would play with the grown-ups and we would explore.  

Around our school buildings were small water channels that, in season, would be full of tadpoles: another of my joys!

There were small predatory insects called ant lions. I used to keep one in a partly sand-filled crisp packet in my school desk so that I could play with it at break times.

John C Fowler and sister Andrea in the garden of their first home in Zambia

I would place a pile of sand in one of my hands and put the ant lion on top of it. He would burrow down until he reached my palm: a very tickly situation!

You could see their funnel-shaped traps in the sand in many places. An unsuspecting insect would fall in and be captured.

My sister and I both developed a love for Enid Blyton's Wishing Chair books in Zambia. In them, siblings Molly and Peter would go on exciting adventures to exotic lands in an old wooden chair that grew wings on its legs.

These books could have been based on us!