It was probably the deep need for companionship that drove Hilda into the comforting arms of Nora. She had inherited the farm and grown to love the life it gave her, although not that productive, being just outside the rich loamy soils of the famous southern Rhodesia tobacco belt. They had tried to grow cut flowers for the small southern African markets, but eventually it was easier to rent most of the farm to the Miekle family, who had made their fortune from the first chain of grocery stores and a hotel in what was to become Salisbury and much later Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
With this income Hilda was able to maintain her simple lifestyle, and a small staff: Peter, the slightly made boiler boy; Douse, the handyman; and Tenala, who took care of the lush farm garden, typical to a homestead of its kind with great Masasa trees, climbing delicious monsters that raced as fast as they could to the canopy above, and all sorts of tree orchids, with their beautiful blooms hanging down.
Nora and Hilda loved to travel, and collect! The pair, along with their dogs, would gather everything from strange tree pods and corral, to small fish from the rock pools of the Mozambique coast, which they then promptly dried and used to create ornate artworks. It was here on the small island of ill de Mozambique, that their fortuitous meeting with Harry and Emily took place. The couple where taking a well-earned break from the intense heat of central Africa. They had travelled down the coast from the port of Dar es Salaam, and past Lake Malawi, finally arriving at the original capital of the area; I’ll de Mozambique, a small island with a causeway to the mainland.
It was Emily who first spotted the odd pair in their full-length bathing suits and enormous sun hats, small fishing nets in hand, frolicking in the rock pools at low tide.
After a delightful encounter, Emily invited them to join Harry and her for dinner, thus starting a great friendship, ending up with the odd couple eventually moving into their lodge on the banks of the Bitou River to oversee the smooth running of the hotel and its kitchens.
Nora always remained a bit of a mystery to most people, but it was rumored she was the product of a failed arraigned marriage to a tobacco farmer from the Penhalonga District of Southern Rhodesia. Her family realised early on that she was not like other girls. Nora did not really like attending the local dance hall, where the young ladies in her English village would eventually meet their husbands, most of whom spent their working lives mining in the nearby coal pits.
Something clearly had to be done to find her a spouse, and so it was settled. Not for a moment did anybody in the small village suspect that it was maybe not a man that Nora sought. Nor at that point did it occur to Nora that she might be a bit different… until the day she laid eyes on Hilda, the owner of the big house on the hill.
After Nora’s husband’s brief illness and subsequent death, she moved into the small cottage at the bottom of the garden, below the big house, and began visiting Hilda most evenings. It was never talked about at the club, and discretion was very much apart of life in the small town of Mutari, nevertheless their love grew with every passing on that funny farm with its Frangipani-lined driveway.