Hilda and Nora's Suite
Hilda: Wherever she found herself, there was much intrigue around Hilda’s life, for it was anything but conventional. Luckily, Harry and Emily paid no mind to convention and knew just the place for their new friends to settle… Continue reading Hilda’s story
Nora: Try as they might, Nora’s family never did quite understand her. And though her early years were difficult, she would go on to meet Hilda, and then Harry and Emily, who filled her life with friendship and fun… Continue reading Nora’s story
It was probably a deep need for companionship that drove Hilda into the comforting arms of Nora. She had inherited the family farm and had grown to love the life it gave her. Unfortunately, though, it simply was not that productive, being just outside the rich loamy soils of the famous southern Rhodesia tobacco belt.
Hilda had tried to grow cut flowers for the small southern African markets, but it was hard work, for very little reward, and eventually, it was easier to rent most of the farm to the Miekle family. The Miekles had made their fortune from a hotel and the first chain of grocery stores in what was to become Salisbury and much later Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
With this steady rental 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. The garden was typical of a homestead of its kind, with great Msasa 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 to coral and small shells from the rock pools of the Mozambique coast, which they then dried and used to create ornate artworks. It was there, on the small island of Ilha de Mozambique, that their fortuitous meeting with Harry and Emily took place. The couple was taking a well-earned break from the intense heat of central Africa. They had traveled down the coast from the port of Dar es Salaam, and past Lake Malawi, finally arriving at the original capital of the area; Ilha 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 approaching them and starting up a delightful exchange, Emily managed to persuade the two to join Harry and her for dinner. It was the start of a great friendship, through which the odd couple eventually moved into Harry and Emily’s lodge on the banks of the Bitou River to oversee the smooth running of the hotel and its kitchens.
Nora was, and always remained, a bit of a mystery to most people. It was rumored that her strange ways were the product of a failed arranged marriage to a tobacco farmer from the Penhalonga District of Southern Rhodesia. Her family realized early on that she did not have the same interests as other girls, yet they struggled to know quite how to handle this fact. Nora did not really like attending the local dance hall. It was there that most of the young ladies in her English village would eventually meet their husbands, many 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 – she was paired up and married off according to her family’s wishes. Not for a moment did anybody in the small village suspect that a man was not what Nora sought, though her well-intentioned family wanted only her happiness. Nor, at that point did it occur to Nora that her desires were somewhat different. But the day she laid eyes on Hilda, the owner of the big house on the hill, she felt something strange come over her.
Not long after, Nora’s husband became ill, and after his brief illness and subsequent death, Nora moved into a small cottage – at the bottom of the garden, below the big house. She began visiting Hilda most evenings and the two chose a life that few could understand. It was never talked about at the club – after all, discretion was very much a part of life in the small town of Mutari. But nevertheless, their love grew with every passing day on that funny farm with its frangipani-lined driveway.