'A sense of humour lends you poise, it gives you balance and it helps you to bend without breaking'

(HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda)

Menory Lane - departure

There are many childhood stories which could be related, but each will have to find its own place and time in this particular 'publication'.  In terms of shelling out the mini autobiography which seems to have begun all of its own bidding, the school years have now been outlined.

Remember, that until landing at Henley (home) and Claydon (school), life had been a bit mobile for the MacLeans.  Father was working his way up the engineering ranks - all within the same company - and had become something of a weekend dad.  To keep schooling and childhood stable, meant his larger and more distant projects required his absence during the weekdays.  Economy of travel and all that.

There came the time, inevitably, when overseas contracts loomed.  When I turned 16 Nigeria was offered to him.  

This was important.  It meant I had to make decisions.  Did I remain in UK and continue education, or take the opportunity to accompany my parents to a far off land?  Mum held one view (education), I held another (adventure!!!) and dad sat on the fence.

There was not just myself involved of course.  The two sisters still of legal school age had to be placed into boarding school.  An establishment in Edinburgh was the choice and mum's elder sister became their legal guardian.  Mac3 was barely started school and neither of the parents could bear the thought of him in boarding school yet.  So home-schooling was decided upon.  It was this which swung the pendulum my way.  I could help in his classes.  At least, that was the plan.

So it was that in September of 1975, Mac1 and Mac2 were delivered to their new arrangements and the rest of the clan took to the skies, headed for Benin City, Nigeria.

This tale will be picked up again in a couple of weeks (there are happenings afoot which you will see as they develop...tease...).  However, there are a few things which I must mention because, whilst at the time they were passed off as minor incidents, actually had a profound effect on my life.

First; being active at school and particularly loving hockey and gymnastics, it was a source of disappointment to me that I had a terribly painful left knee.  Other parts too, but that in particular.  It got strapped.  It got iced.  It got rubbed.  I got told it was anything from psychosomatic to 'growing pains'. That latter, to any who know me, is a source of much mirth.  I stopped growing at age 10.  The pain set in when I was 12.

Then there were the jabs.  I was diagnosed with allergic asthma after being tested with 21 different substances (skin scratch tests).  I was allergic to 18 of them.  The worst was... house dust.  Poor mother.  Already a clean freak this nearly ended her.

There was an experimental desensitisation regime being trialed at the cottage hospital and the doctor put me forward for that.  Three years.  Three years of weekly, then monthly then two at 6 months apart.  The asthma did improve.  But is it wrong of me to point out that the knee pain began around the middle of all that? Not to mention that my left bicep has looked twice as fat as the right ever since due to all that sticking.

Follow this up with the jabs for going to Africa.  Cholera, Hepatitis, Typhoid and Yellow Fever; the last being more of a 'scrape' and I still bear the nasty scar.  We were told it was like getting the childhood vaccinations.  Nothing in them to worry us.

Two days later I went down with a "mild case of Typhoid". This was the point at which I decided not to trust doctors.

Trouble was, we were forced to take anti-malaria tablets daily.  My protests were over-ruled.  I wanted to be there?  Then follow the rules...


  1. Curiouser and curiouser, all threads of the story.

  2. Still with all the problems was it fun, at 16 I would have loved to travel half way round the world and spend a few years is such a different place now it's all to much effort and I'm too lazy.

  3. My dad was a weekend dad for a few years. He had decided to join the army at the ripe old age of 35+ and that meant school. We lived up North, school was down South. When he finally finished school, he was sent to another school, down South. And when he finally finished that, he was sent even further South! He was only home at the weekends for about two years. For me it was completely natural. I don't think I really missed him either, it was just the way it was!

    The only jab scars I have are the 'smallpox' ones we got in the early 70's. Me and my brother were the last few generations to actually get that shot! Well, those actually, since I have three!

  4. Until this Tuesday, I thought that my mother, who was packed off to boarding school aged five, was the youngest ex-boarder I had met. Then I attended her cousin Peggy's funeral and learned that Peggy had actually been a boarder from the age of four, due to her father taking a job in India.
    Cheers, Gail.


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