Friday, 10 January 2014

Journeys

An entry to Sepia Saturday
Using old images as prompts for new reflections
My unexpected discovery in book was a purchase in a second hand book shop.  The book had a very small printed last name on the frontispiece, Quemby,
and that same small writing appeared on the back of the two photographs left inside. No need to guess where we are in the world here with pyramid looming in the background. I love the white walled tyres of the car, not to mention those two toned shoes.  On the reverse of the card it says - "Welcome", Vi, Jean, Siabhra, Driver. There is even a date 2.3.51 but the era might have been guessed from the immaculate white gloved hands, although Vi is more free-wheeling.  I'm not sure if our party is arriving or departing but here they are on the ultimate tourist experience-
We are treated  to camels and the sphinx in the background plus an extra member of the party. The driver must be waiting by the car as only the guide appears on a donkey, the photo says on the back "L to R Cliff, Vi, Jean, Siabhra - 'Welcome' 2.3.51"  I wonder if Cliff is the photographer of the first photo and the owner of the book or is there another person behind the camera. I'll never know, at least I can make an educated guess from the name Siabhra that she may be Irish. These photographs were perfectly placed in a book as I found them in next to a map
of  Laurens van der Post's journey down Africa by plane (and that is where they remain).  He disliked this mode of transport, no wonder, he'd set off from what was then called Heath Row Aerodrome, landing at different refuelling points, to eventually arrive at Chileka aerodrome 7,000 miles and 72 hours later and says he was "pleased to have done flying for some months at least".  The book, 'Venture into the Interior', was published in 1952, one year after our unknown travellers appear in the photographs.  I wonder if they were planning another trip?  I don't think any side of my family had travelled this far at this time, unless they were in the uniform of the navy or the army.
Which is how the publisher shows Lauren Van der Post who had left England in 1940 as a soldier behind enemy lines in Abyssinia, then the western desert to Syria and the Transjordan frontier, ultimately through the Dutch East Indies where he walked into a Japanese trap and spent several years in a prisoner of war camp. I remember picking up this "Venture to the Interior" (his first travel book) in the shop because I'd read his novel "Flamingo Feather" (first published in 1955) which had remained lodged in my head.  Rationing was still in place when Van der Post journeyed from England in May 1949, on instruction from the government, to Nyasaland (modern day Malawi) to look at two tracks of land that had not been accurately mapped. One was a rugged mountain mass and the other a large plateau.  The reason was the British government was worried about production of food and Van der Post was going to have a close look at the area on foot.  He travelled light and only took a few clothes and sealing wax.  Why sealing wax? Because it was the only thing he thought he would not be able to buy in Africa.  I haven't used sealing wax for about 45 years but remember using it to seal bags going to the Ministry of Defence, there is something very satisfying about dripping wax, but Van der Post was going to use it to seal samples he hoped to collect in Nyasaland.  

11 comments:

La Nightingail said...

Interesting they bought the book & placed their pictures in it AFTER they'd taken the trip. It could have been for reminiscing or, as you mentioned, perhaps in view of another trip? And yes, the 50's meant wearing nice white gloves & spectator pumps - although spectator pumps are still in style today. Just not the gloves.

Wendy said...

I'd say this week's prompt was custom-designed just for you.

Postcardy said...

The photos are excellent and you found them in the ideal place.

mrsnesbitt said...

The stuff films are made out of! Fascinating!

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Things that I'd never dreamed happened in my lifetime...though I may have met a few folks who also rode those camels...and I certainly wore the white gloves! Very good post!

Kristin said...

That would be (and probably has been) a nice opening for a mystery - 2nd hand book with photographs.

Karen S. said...

Absolutely a mystery for sure, how enjoyable this was. A marvelous fit for our theme.

Bob Scotney said...

I can boast of a book by Laurens Van Der Post (The Lost World of the Kalahari from 1958) with photos inside - but the photos are part of the book. Yours make your book so much more interesting. Do white wall tyres still exist?

Little Nell said...

I’ve only read tantalising snippets of his writings before, but will look out for more now!

Little Nell said...

I’ve only read tantalising snippets of his writings before, but will look out for more now!

Boobook said...

Quemby is an unusual name I would have thought. Combined with 'Siabhra' it should ring a bell with someone. Great that you rescued both the book and the photos.