Jane Wilson-Howarth

 

50 Camels and She's Yours

 
 
50_camels_and_shes_yours01_lrg
Publisher: Vicarious
Author: Stephanie Green, Sally Haiselden, Françoise Hivernel, Seeta Siriwardena, Jane Wilson-Howarth
Page count: 310
RRP: £8.99 / £3.99
ISBN: 9781788763295
An anthology of travellers' tales from five continents by five very different women is published in paperback and as an e-book. Available for kindle and as a standard paperback

Travel comes with challenges as well as delights, and travelling women can face some special issues. The five of us, whose writing has come together in this anthology, have found various means of diffusing awkward situations, and turning tensions around so we enjoy the moment. For Seeta Siriwardena in Egypt it was the kindness of strangers that helped her. When Sally Haiselden was cycling back home (to Cambridgeshire) from work (in Khartoum) she pedalled with a small cache of rocks stashed in the little basket on her handlebars, ammunition in case of attack by cycle-hating dogs: her dog rocks. For Stephanie Green and Jane Wilson-Howarth, when Asian linguistics caused bewilderment, laugher was the great bridge-builder while in Africa Françoise Hivernel’s contemplations on her inner journeys led to her greater understanding of what it is to be human.
 

 

For more than 13 years, five well-travelled women have been meeting to discuss their writing. Being travellers, gathering has been intermittent but we have tried to meet once a month to share food and views about current events then read aloud our pieces of prose, discuss them and encourage one another.
Between us we have lived and worked in and visited a large part of all five continents. Two of us have come to live in Britain so bring a new perspective to their adoptive motherland. We pause, we look, we listen, we chat and compare and aspire to gain an understanding of our destinations. Between us we speak Amharic, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, French, German, Japanese, Nepali, Sinhalese, Swahili and a smattering of Acholi, Urdu and Waray. We are unashamed eaves-droppers and people-watchers; we have written about more than 30 countries.
Although we are very different characters, ages and professions and our styles of writing contrast one with another, we are kindred spirits – inquisitive and in need of new challenges – women who take professional risks and strike out to explore new cultures, and novel regions. We have all travelled alone. Some tales hark back 40 years while others – like Jane’s medical work with Syrian refugees last autumn – are bang up to date.
Stephanie and Sally’s warm self-deprecating writing closely observes the bewildering array of situations they find themselves in.
Françoise’ lyrical prose focuses on the inner dimension of her actual journeys while evoking the atmosphere of the desert and home fires.
Seeta writes wisely about racism and how India looks to a Sri Lankan and as Jane travels to wild and remote places she discusses patients, family and other wildlife.
This anthology is aimed at travellers of all styles: arm-chair, wishful thinkers and adventurers alike. It is particularly aimed at people who think, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that!’ Come with us and be inspired by the extraordinary journeys of five ordinary women: two medical doctors, a teacher, an accountant and a psychoanalyst. And here we all are from left to right: Seeta, Stephanie, Françoise, Jane and Sally.

 

You Don't Have to Go Far to Travel (but it helps)
Sally Haiselden

In fact you only need to go as far as the end of your street to enter a new world, see a new culture. St Philip’s on Mill Road on a Saturday evening during winter. Liam arrived before me with his large, black holdall and had staked his claim to a corner of the floor. I was busy rolling out mats, sleeping bags and liners for the other guests. Liam may have chosen a quiet corner but it did not help him get to sleep. I kept him company until 2 a.m. He could not lie down because his stomach hurt too much so we sat up and shared easy silences, me talking of my travels, he sometimes commenting whilst he sandpapered the yellow nicotine stains off his fingertips. After a while he reached into the pocket of his blue anorak and brought out a tin. Taking the lid off revealed an orderly grooming set. He exchanged his sandpaper for a finer grade. By the end of my shift he had finished both hands.
 

 

"Tea is being readied over the wood fire and we gratefully gulped the three traditional small cups. Partaking in an ageless ritual, we drink the first cup which is said to be bitter as life is, the second as sweet as love is and the third one as exquisite as death. What a mind-liberating philosophy that tradition is!" 
Françoise Hivernel

"... what you really need to be a development worker: an inquisitiveness, a humility, an understanding of solving problems in small steps and of going out there every day, willing to learn about where you are and to do no harm through your actions, words and what you are perceived to represent. Corruption, dependency and false hope are just around the corner otherwise.
If you are a reflective, respectful, development worker, you do ponder all of this during the quiet, solitary evenings."
Sally Haiselden

"Local languages mingle and mix across the Indo-Nepali border. The Nepali language predominates in the hills because it is easier to understand when shouted across valleys but Hindi is more useful in the Plains as more people understand it because of the popularity of movies made in Mumbai. The Nepali spoken in the lowlands is full of Hindi words, or words from ‘tribal’ dialects so it can be a struggle knowing even what language people are speaking. Nepali can appear imprecise too. Now never means immediately and the word for flower, phul, is also the word for egg. When one wants hens’ eggs you have to specify this, or you risk buying a bunch of flowers by mistake.
I asked someone in the market - I thought - to sell me six chicken’s eggs (kukhura ko phul).
She started to snigger. ‘Buy what, memsahib?’ She’d heard ‘dogs’ eggs’ (kukur ko phul) and exploded with merriment as dogs’ eggs could only be testicles. A little later, I was given an anatomy lesson. She pointed out a male dog and underneath his eggs and banana. Patiently she explained that this was the equipment he used to impregnate bitches. She thought me a complete idiot. After that any mention of bananas caused hilarity too – this is slang for penis. Then oranges are a euphemism for breasts and anyone called a radish is stupid. I began to feel insecure when talking about food in case I inadvertently insulted someone or made some unintended sexual proposition."
Jane Wilson-Howarth

"‘Come and see Mama,’ said Rosemarie. She walked ahead of me into the house.
I hesitated and she stopped and looked back at me. ‘You don’t want to, do you?’
‘Yes,’ I lied. ‘I’d like to see Mama.’
I shouldn’t have been concerned about viewing the body of Mama, in life she was a kind and caring lady who made me welcome and fed me at every opportunity. In death it was unlikely that she would do me any harm.
I followed Rosemarie into the house where the white coffin, lined in white silk and decorated with white silk flounces, was lying in state on the dining table. Around it a mass of white gardenias gave off a sweet and heady smell.
Mama lay in her white silk bed looking peaceful and serene yet absent.  Her nails had been painted, her lips were pink and she wore blue eye shadow, her hair had been crimped.  In life practical Mama had been make-up free and plainly dressed, in death she looked like the chief bridesmaid at the wedding.
The dress she wore had been bought for the occasion. It was probably the most expensive dress she had ever possessed. The white frills framed her neck and wrists and there was a lace inset in the tight bodice.  I wanted to utter appropriate words of comfort to Rosemarie and to her sister Ruby, who was sitting by the coffin, but when I looked down at Mama in all her finery the only phrase that came to mind was, ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead in that.’"
Stephanie Green

"The park was well tended, with lovely borders of flowers of varying colours, and huge acacia trees giving shade. The children ran towards the swings and as they did so a large Afrikaner walked towards them and motioned them to a corner, separated by a steel chain from the rest of the park. It could be equated to a room 15ft by 15ft: the corner reserved for the Blacks and Coloured was one tenth the size of that room with no swings or frames and only a bench.
The adults sat on the bench, while the park keeper stood with his back to them, with a large whip in his hand. He would frequently lash the whip perhaps at imaginary miscreants who invaded his mind.
Mala’s five-year-old little girl cried every time he did this. He clearly didn’t want them there, so they got up and wandered towards the town looking for a place to have a cup of tea. Almost all the restaurants were reserved for Whites only. The family were about to give up, but finally saw a place where two Asian men were serving and went up to the front door of this restaurant. The men spoke in a language they did not understand and gesticulated to the side of the café, to the back door.
The door was framed by a row of long nails, and from each nail there hung a tin mug of dubious cleanliness. The man gestured to them to take a mug and to stand in the queue in front of him for tea.
They could not stomach it, and kept repeating that we fed our dogs at home on similar plates and mugs. And what an insult this was."
Seeta Siriwardena

Reviews

  • Unbelievable stories told effortlessly. An impressive venture
    SR


  • A psychotherapist, an accountant, a teacher and two doctors write about their very different experiences and insights of travel in five continents. The prose is well-observed, funny, poignant, perceptive and thought-provoking.
    JM


  • Where to buy

    The paperback book is available from the authors or from Feedaread and both the physical book and the e-book are also for sale on amazon by clicking here 50 Camels on amazon.