Val Poore, the woman who can write a whole chapter about the weather, and make it interesting....
I adored the first African Ways book, about the three years in the early 1980s when Val and her family lived on a farm up a mountain in South Africa; in this she describes the time as possibly the happiest time in her life, and the book reflects its magic. Now, the family have moved down the mountain to the small town of Byrne, where they can enjoy such luxuries as electricity. And snakes. Don't forget the snakes. There was me thinking how much I wanted to live there, until I read about them.
When Val's children go to school, she is faced, for the first time, with apartheid; segregation is still in place. Aside from this, there are daily reminders about how hard life can be for the natives of South Africa at this time. She doesn't write about it by way of 'raising awareness', or anything so ghastly, though; it's all very matter of fact, just her observations. This book does not pretend to be a political or sociological comment, but maybe because it doesn't, it kind of is, in the best possible way. I definitely got the feeling, though, of, as Val says, the calm before the storm of the early-mid 1980s.
Aside from this, I loved the reminders of the pre-internet life that has disappeared; her amazement at the wonder of fax machines, and the discovery of cheap LPs in her favourite shop (under 25s: ask your mum). When I read about the mountain dwellers being cleared from the land, I felt so sad. I feel nostalgic for that time on Val's behalf, and I've hardly even seen pictures of it. One of the reasons I love her books is that it is so clear that she cares more about people, experiences, living in the moment and simple joys than materialism and conforming to society's 'norms'; there aren't many of us about, at our age!
I'd definitely recommend this book if you're a dog person; I am massively not, but there is much animal stuff that will make the lovers of our four-legged friends smile.
Val deals with upheavals in her personal life in that far away country with two small children to care for, but by 1987, what with the 'gathering storm' of racial and political unrest, she decides it is time to go back to the UK. Can she return to 'normal' English life? You'll have to read this, and all her other books, to find out!
I absolutely loved this book, a sequel to the author's first African adventures. This time, in spite of a series of difficult situations in her life, Val brings her world to life with her usual wit and charm. What shines through the pages for me is her love of the country, her children and the numerous animals in the family. What an amazingly resilient and courageous woman she is. The book is set before the real troubles in South Africa changed her rather idyllic world. How lucky she was to have lived there during such a time and to have so many good memories to share with us. If you like memoirs I recommend any of Val Poore's books, for a gentle journey that is entertaining and makes the reader want to see the places that she writes about for themselves.
I have to say I loved this book and it was interesting to learn ‘what happened next’ after Val and her family moved away from the mountain farm in KwaZulu Natal, not too far away, in Byrne When signing the papers to buy the cottage, much to her surprise she is also offered a job, so it’s all a big change in her life. Although she misses her friends from the farm Val settles in and makes the most of life in Byrne. After a short time there, changing circumstances mean a move to Richmond. As ever it’s so beautifully described and with such affection that you can feel her love of Africa and the people she meets and places she sees.
I particularly loved her anecdotes about her animals, the unforgettable Mitten the kitten snake slayer supreme, Foggy, Buster and Cindy and more. They made me gasp in surprise, laugh out loud and cry when tragedy struck. She has a marvellous ability to make you feel as if you are sitting in the room with her, enjoying a cup of coffee and listening to these wonderful stories. I think I may have even have had white knuckles reading about the famous ‘cannonball run’ which she and her daughters so loved. I particularly liked the way she captured the Scottish accent of her friend and neighbour Doris Browne. I could hear her speak!
I have to admire Val’s ability to face up to whatever is thrown her way and to adapt and make the best of her situation. Having to move to Richmond and take up another new job and having to singlehandedly support her daughters must have been hard. However she was helped by the redoubtable Peggy and by Dlamini, he of the amazing language and accounting skills. Her daughters also kept her on her toes, especially with their breaking and entering skills. You will have to read the book to find out more. Unfortunately, it was a difficult time as the political landscape was changing too bringing violence and upheaval to her beloved Africa. It was heartbreaking to learn about people being forced to leave their land. Another move is on the agenda, this time back to England to spend time with her family. Will it prove to be a good move?
This is a wonderful, if bittersweet, memoir of this period in her life. If you enjoy superb descriptions and gentle humour then read this book. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
I first read African Ways which was very good. It was so interesting to discover a part of 1980’s Africa which was had remained unchanged since the 1940’s. Then I read this sequel to find out what happened next. It was ok, but there was a lot of repetition of material and the events from the 3 years covered by first book, which was annoying, as I had already read about them. This was made worse by the fact that there was not much at all about her increasingly troubled relationship with her husband (or much about her two girls) which was the elephant in the room, in both this book and the previous one. It felt as if she was withholding an important part of what really happened.
Val Poore takes us on another warm adventure of her South African years in the mid-80’s. Her family moves from the peace of the farm to Byrne and ultimately on the Richmond. Every word makes us feel the vibrations of everyday life on the countryside from the antics of using an antiquated phone to the break – down of old cars as she courageously transports her girls to place to place. I could see the shopping sprees in the local village at Speedway and visualize the Zulu mothers balancing their sleeping child along with their groceries on top of their heads. I could feel Val’s anxiousness as she interviewed for her first full-time job in Richmond after becoming a single parent and I felt her embarrassment when her little girls decided to break and enter into a locked-away room to explore the landlady’s secret treasures. There are so many astonishing pieces to this sequel to African Ways yet as in life, all good things must come to an end. There were signs that this cycle of peace was about to change and Val and her family read the warnings and moved on while they were still filled with many precious memories of South Africa!
Author Valerie Poore is never the hero of her own memoirs, which is one reason they are delightful to read. “African Ways Again” continues where her “African Ways” memoir left off and opens a fascinating window into South Africa. The colorful word pictures and entertaining stories need no photos for illustration; they paint every nuance of South African life from peace and harmony to the devastating upheavals and violence of the late 1980s. Upheaval buckled Valerie Poore’s life, too, but it neither defeated, nor defined her. She handled each new crisis as a victor, not a victim. A lamb from the veterinarian’s office sharing the loo with office workers? A Dalmatian demanding to drive the vehicle? Gentle humor keeps the fascinating memoir moving.
I love all of Val's books. I've read all her Watery Ways books, and was curious about her life before she moved to the Netherlands. Well, African Ways filled in a lot of the gaps, and now we get a sequel to continue her African adventure. Life has moved on, away from the farm where she and her family spent their first few years. As the children are growing up they move to a small town which has a lot of the conveniences we take for granted - plentiful running water and electricity - which they didn't have on the farm. But the drawback is moving away from the close friends they had made there. This is a delightful book, I really love Val's writing style, and you can imagine the life she describes so well. I'm hoping that we will get to share another slice of Val's life very soon. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Africa, and anyone who really enjoys a good, well written story.