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Книга Джона Джонса (КОИ преподаватель) о Южной Родезии

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Ramzes
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Re: Книга Джона Джонса (КОИ преподаватель) о Южной Родезии

Сообщение Ramzes » 23 янв 2015, 04:19

7235 words 11 pages Times New Roman 11 Pt

THE CONSUL - ARRIVAL

"Go back! Go Back! Don't go on! You'll all be killed."

The early morning train to Lourenço Marques pulled slowly up to the Moçambique border, fresh from Pretoria and as it did so the crowd surged forward and pounded on the sides of the carriages. "Go back! Go back! Don't go on, you'll be killed. Everyone is dead there! Go back!"

The Consul was one of the many faces that stared down from the carriage windows at the upturned faces below. His instructions had been explicit - go in to Lourenço Marques, take up a temporary post there and wait until you can get to Beira, the railhead port further up the coast. For Rhodesia the latter was a strategic position and the presence of a new Consul would give an essential sign of normality and stability.

"Don't go on" one woman yelled up at them, "everyone is leaving as fast as they can!"

*****

Africa of 1975 was in a state of great turmoil, following the precipitate - if not unexpected - withdrawal of Portugal from her four-hundred-year-old, worldwide empire. This momentous happening had its spark the previous year in a different hemisphere, in Lisbon, where the Consul had been present (in a different capacity)when the Prime Minister of Portugal had been escorted politely but firmly into a waiting armoured personnel carrier, from his temporary refuge in the ancient Largo do Carmo in the heart of Lisbon and near the epicentre of the terrible earthquake of 1755. The current political earthquake was mild by comparison, in terms of lives in Lisbon. The Flower Revolution as it came to be called, named after the carnations protruding from the barrels of some of the rifles carried by the soldiers of the short, sharp coup, did not claim the life of Caetano nor the lives of any of his government. In fact the Revolution of 25 April 1975 claimed few lives, but this auspicious beginning of freedom for Portuguese Africa was destined to result in as more lost lives than during the entire Portuguese colonial wars of the last thirty years.

*****

This was the Consul's third attempt to get to Lourenço Marques in the last week, since the first news had come of the disturbances in Beira, Lourenço Marques, Ilha da Moçambique and other places in the now-to-be abandoned Portuguese colony. With the announcement from the Portuguese interim government - the Junta - that Portugal would hand over its former colonies to local guerrillas, without the formality of prior elections, there had been at first stunned non-activity and then panic, mixed with spasmodic, sporadic and ill-directed violence. In Moçambique the first line of communication to suffer was air transport, with the closure of the not-so-numerous airports, followed closely by the few major road routes. The ports were an unknown quantity but the rail route, at least in the remote south from Pretoria to Lourenço Marques, was still open.

As the crowd pressed against the carriages, a small, compact, dark-haired traveller moved up edgewise to the Consul. He had the looks of a Welshman - dark and brooding - and the Consul, himself of remote Welsh ancestry, felt some empathy towards him.

"What do you think?" asked the fellow traveller.

"Not sure - I don't see any road traffic at the border post - no lines of anyone on foot - not sure. Jones is my name - how do you do?".

Reflecting inwardly, somewhat wryly, he was struck by the irony of his own question, caught in the linguistic trappings of their common language - how indeed did the other "do" in the midst of uncertainty! Even in Portuguese the common, banal phrase would have been uninformative - "como esta? - how is it?"

At his response the other seemed taken aback and did not respond for the moment. He seemed to resolve some inner struggle and responded "Very well thank you - Howard Richards,, British Vice-Consul, Beira. How do you do?"

The two envoys surveyed each in silence for a moment. They were both aware of the incongruous situation. Rhodesia was the subject of United Nations sanctions at Britain's behest, and the British Government steadfastly refused to allow its officials have any formal contact with Rhodesian officials. All contact, such as it was, was at a high political level.

"Well, let's see how things are." said Rhodesia to Britain, and they turned their concentration back to the noisy and anxious throng below them.

"Tell me what's happening in LM (meaning Lourenço Marques)" yelled Rhodesia. A dozen voices poured forth tales of shooting and looting, but nothing specific. No first-hand details seemed forthcoming.

Britain shouted out something in Portuguese - he had been in post for two years and felt that he had the advantage. But there he was in error. A few days ago he had been briefed by the British Embassy in Pretoria that the new Rhodesian Consul in Beira was to be "one Jones:" but they had omitted to say that he had been First Secretary in Lisbon for the last three years. Rhodesia heard the innocuous questions well enough and understood their impact, but kept his own counsel. As it happened Britain's questions gained no further useful information.

The train now started to move on down the line towards Lourenço Marques and the two envoys mentally shrugged their shoulders and stared at Africa passing them by. Classical allusions sprang to mind, the most appropriate of which seemed to be "alea jacta est - the die is cast". Neither envoy could perceive themselves calmly getting off the train and returning to Pretoria, to face a polite and frosty debriefing based on what might be happening in Lourenço Marques.

For the Rhodesian the passing countryside was new and interesting - lowland, almost at sea level and semi-tropical, quite different from the grassy plateau of central Rhodesia and from the ordered countryside of Portugal. To the Vice-Consul it was of less interest. It was familiar territory but he was in any case immersed in recollections of a recent personal tragedy - the reason why he had been away from his post when the riots erupted in Moçambique. In this semi-reflective state he was less inclined to stand on his dignity, as Her Britannic Majesty's representative in a little-known seaport stuck on the side of one of the least-developed parts of Africa. He might be in need of a companion who - by training - could be expected to keep his nerve at this time.

There was also the awkward fact that the Rhodesian Consul in Beira was the acknowledged if not accepted leader of the small Consular Corps there. Most of the Corps were honorary consuls in some capacity, being business and shipping company representatives who received exequaturs to look after the interests of such European countries as the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. There were only three career consuls and the Rhodesian had the advantage of being only a few hundred kilometres from the eastern border of Rhodesia itself. Moreover, the daily Rhodesia Railways trains from Umtali, through the good offices of the Rhodesian Consul, could carry some of the comforts which were so often in short supply in Beira - ice cream, top quality beef, fresh vegetables, fresh bread and other goods - all only one day away.

The thoughts of Richards returned to the train. The journey from the South African border until they actually reached the railway station at Lourenço Marques was now uneventful.

If anything, it became less eventful on arrival.

The train approached the outskirts of Lourenço Marques at a snail's pace, clanking and grinding along the rails with an air that seemed to combine bravado with exasperated resignation. On one side, in the middle distance, several columns of smoke were rising and seemed to come from a light industrial area.. The train moved slowly and reluctantly into Lourenço Marques station and then, mainly because the lines now stopped, came noisily to a halt. Most passengers would have been quite happy for the train to keep going, in a tremendous loop, to carry them on to the peaceful harbour of ten years ago. Each carriage now seemed to stop only because of some immovable object ahead and then rebounded and bounced back until the kinetic forces and noises of each individual set of wheels, iron and wood had been satisfied.

The passengers - the few passengers - looked cautiously up and down the platform. There was no-one. No porters, no officials, no crowds, no friendly consular officials to greet them. Just the silence of a sleepy semi-tropical African midafternoon and the rapidly-disappearing memories of the echoes of the noise of the clanking and banging of the train and its jostling appendages.

Rhodesia and Britain collected their few belongings. They had learned to travel light if rapid movement seemed to be in the offing. They walked separately towards the unattended entrance to the station. A brief nod to each other was the end of their acquaintance for the next few weeks, until they met again in Beira. Britain would soon be there - Rhodesia had to wait for Lisbon controlled formalities before taking up his post. Britain walked off to find a telephone and soon made contact with the British Consulate-General. He then politely indicated the telephone to his unacknowledged colleague, who made similar contact. Within a short while two small cars had collected the two travellers, and they moved off into the city, now slowly showing cautious signs of life.

"Welcome to Portuguese Africa" said the Consul-General, "sorry about the lack of welcome. Our instructions are to move about as little as possible for the present. Things are pretty quiet."

It transpired that there had indeed been disturbances and a decision had been made between Foreign Affairs in Salisbury and the Consul-General that people could leave if they wished. The few who felt so inclined had been part of a minor panic and before long a general exodus of expatriates had taken place. However, there had been no major problems. As seen form the train coming in, a few places had been burned by some of the more exuberant mobs, examples of random violence which were a phenomenon now becoming more commonplace in soon-to-be former Portuguese colonies around the world - Timor, Angola, Guinea-Bissau. Here in Lourenço Marques a period of tense expectancy had supplanted the wider anticipation of violence after the distant revolution in Lisbon, six months before.

For the moment the new Consul could settle into life in Lourenço Marques, waiting for permission from Lisbon to move up to Beira. The mundane matters of the Consulate-General could be combined with family news - particularly the well-being of the Menina Number Two, who, with what was to become characteristic thoroughness, had contracted a range of contagious diseases common to children - but not commonly acquired simultaneously.

The Consul had the use of a small official car, mainly used to collect the diplomatic bag from the airport, where normal flights had resumed once again.

On a hot October day Lourenço Marques was now tense for another reason. The longest standing group of insurgents in Moçambique - the FRELIMO party of Samora Machel - had been anointed by the Military Junta in Lisbon as the new rulers in Moçambique. The formalities of elections were to take place at another time. An advance guard of FRELIMO comrades was to arrive that day and the airport would soon be sealed off, to allay the security apprehensions of FRELIMO.

But the diplomatic bag was to arrive shortly before that event.

The Consul drove the small official car to the airport along the wide boulevard leading to the airport. The streets were lined with a seething and jostling throng of the local population, anxious or curious to catch a first glimpse of the new overlords. Apart from the inevitable noises of movement, it was a largely silent crowd and the small car was now the only vehicle travelling along the route. The Police had had no instructions about consular vehicles and officialdom still held sway - anything that appeared to have an official purpose was left strictly alone.

In some ways the Consul felt himself to be the centre of unwanted attention but in others he realised that the crowd had no interest in him at all. He was travelling the wrong way to begin with and their attention was directed towards the airport, not away from it. In any case a lone white man in a small white car was of no particular significance.

A quick stop to deliver one bag and collect another was accomplished with commendable dignity, if without the normal pleasantries and cups of coffee with airport officials. No time to exchange gossip - sometimes refined as "intelligence" in weekly reports. Worried and harassed officials were anxious to deal with this particular transaction as soon as possible. If the Senhor Consul was quick he might be able to leave the airport building before the advance guard of FRELIMO, which was now landing. Unfortunately there were no alternate routes back to the city, but a rapid departure now would obviate the need to be kept at the airport for a considerable period.

A rapid exit took the Consul to the consular car, just as a suspicious police officer was making up his mind what to do about the lone vehicle parked right outside the main doorway. A quick and relieved salute to a familiar person resolved his dilemma and the small car shot out into the boulevard once again.

The crowd was now, if anything, more silent than before. The patience of Africa was upon them and the expectant buzzing, shuffling and jostling which had been noticeable on the inwards journey was now absent. The small consular car proceeded sedately and alone down the densely lined avenue, with almost the only sound being that of the tires on the hot tarmac and the slight tapping noise from an engine which needed a service.

As the Consul reached the end of the long avenue he could hear behind him the first excited stirrings of the crowd and the distant and increasing cries of "Viva". It was time to move faster if still cautiously and to make for the quieter security of the Consulate-General.

"Anything of interest?"

"No, just FRELIMO arriving at the airport".

The next day official clearance from Lisbon arrived and hot and swampy Beira beckoned. Three hundred miles north up the coast and further than most people would like to be from civilisation.

*****

Beira was a place beloved of land-locked Rhodesians, for one reason. It was the closest place of any size to the sea.

A remote speck of the Portuguese Empire on the side of Africa, it had been a Portuguese possession for four hundred years and had made very little progress towards what was civilisation at the beginning of the twentieth century. The enterprise of Cecil John Rhodes had led to the founding of Rhodesia and the need for a link to the sea had resulted in the building of a railroad - Beira blossomed (briefly) for the first time in its long history. It reached its heyday with the holiday visits of ocean-starved Rhodesians and then sprang very briefly into the international spotlight when it seemed that oil might reach rebel Rhodesia from its grandly-named port - in fact little more than a loading and off-loading dock, dredged with increasing difficulty from the sand and silt of the swampy estuary on which it was located.

International pressure denied to Beira the one chance it might have had to develop beyond its ultimate destiny - an isolated and inconvenient way station in the Moçambique Channel. But to rebel Rhodesia, Beira remained a symbol of a Rhodesian presence abroad and for that reason the Consul now found himself taking up post which was not high on the list of sought-after desirable living locations for persons of a cosmopolitan nature.

*****

Beira, only just pre-FRELIMO, was suffering a change of personality. Of little consequence in the Portuguese Empire, it would now become one of the largest centres in the newly independent Moçambique, a place where political patronage could be dispensed. True, it was a long way from Lourenço Marques (which was to become Maputo before long) and there were no roads to speak of leading anywhere but to Rhodesia. But for the time being it had some importance.

For those who were to return to Portugal, to escape the burden of becoming the political scapegoats of failures by FRELIMO to re-engineer this corner of Africa, the coming half-year was but a nightmare to be endured, before arriving in a Portugal marvellously shrunken both in territorial ambitions and in opportunities to absorb the remnants of its former Empire.

Into this atmosphere of hope and despair the Consul now made his way and took up his duties.

*****

In the midst of great happenings the most mundane of things must continue and so it proved for the Consul. The consular family - wife and two meninas - were accommodated in the most palatial of residences. The former and frugal (rented) residence was now replaced with a (rented) residence the like of which would have been the envy of many an ambassador. A Portuguese resident who had made a colonial fortune had expended a small part of it on a splendid family home but, like most of Africa, could not predict the downfall of Portugal in such a short space of time. A resident consul was the one possibility of saving such a palace from the eyes of the incoming comrades and a return to Portugal for the fortune-maker was an expedient necessity.

Such a palace carried with it the need for a suitable household and the reluctant Consul found that no less than three servants were required to do justice to the new establishment - a cook (who had been cook to a former Governor-General of Moçambique), a gardener and a house servant. It became apparent at a later stage why the cook was a former cook and not a current gubernatorial appendage.

With a family safely cared for, it was then necessary to expand into the normal, wider family of consular and official contacts and the inevitable round of official functions. A saving grace of the relatively small size of Beira was the corresponding small size of the official circuit.

One result of the impending withdrawal of Portugal and Portuguese officials was an exodus of Portuguese nationals to Portugal. All were permitted, at first, to take what they wished, but it soon became apparent that many had a lifetime of wishes to take with them. The docks of Beira were hard-pressed to deal with such a diaspora and before long there were great mound of crates destined for abroad lining the wharfs and jetties.

In the midst of this ordered confusion came the blow that many of the migrants had expected but had hoped to escape. Their goods were to be "inspected" before departure.

In terms of wars and refugees the Portuguese from Beira did not suffer to the same extent as many unfortunate peoples caught up in conflicts not of their own choosing. They did not form part of long lines of refugees, with all they could carry stacked on to wagons, carts and animals, trying their best to escape in the midst of winter and constant harassment from armed attacks. The sight of whole families, old people, mothers, fathers, walking and toddling children, fleeing en masse, was not to be their lot. But what they endured was bad enough.

Over the next few months the Consul then saw the despair to which many of the Portuguese were reduced. As one crate after another was brutally broken into and randomly scattered across the dock front, the small dreams of many of the fleeing were shattered with their household possessions and they reaped a bitter harvest from the adventures of their ancestors of so long ago.

*****

One day a young Portuguese came into the Consulate to say farewell. He was one of the fortunate ones. He had been accepted as a returning Rhodesian resident, and was making his way to the Rhodesian border by car the next morning, a distance of only two hundred kilometres, following more or less the line of rail. One concern he had was that he owned two valuable hunting rifles, but these were dangerous items to be found with in those suspicious times. But he had found a way and he made his farewells and skipped out of the Consulate with joy in his heart at the prospect of a brighter future than he could expect in Beira or in Portugal.

The next day the Consul learnt from his friend Carlos, the still-existing Portuguese Chief of Police, that his visitor was being hunted as a refugee. His crime was not so much owning two rifles as not surrendering them and then applying to export them. The export licence would have been denied of course - unless he knew a friendly official.

What the visitor had done was to strap the rifles under his car and then cover them over. That would have overcome the cursory inspections which took place at that time at the border. Unfortunately he had then taken his car in for a last minute service. When the car was jacked up on the hydraulic hoist and the underside was exposed for all to see, the game was up! The visitor lit out for the border cross-country on foot and abandoned his car and weapons. The rifles finished up in the private collection of the former Chief of Police, to have pride of place in his Lisbon home.

*****

One effect of the constant withdrawal of the Portuguese from Beira was that the stock of imported goods available in the stores and supermarkets dwindled rapidly. There was of course an endless supply of prawns, crabs and delicious seafood but after a while these tended to pall on the palates of the largely European expatriate community. Beef was a commodity not easily available, while such staple items as potatoes were unheard of. The local bread had a good admixture of local grains, was stodgy and unpalatable to the fastidious tastes of the expatriates.

Mrs Consul had firm ideas about what constituted a balanced diet. Local provender was fine up to a point, but the ability of the Rhodesian Consul to supplement from Rhodesia itself - only a short distance away - was not to be ignored. A phone call to the border town of Umtali would result in such delicacies as deep-frozen ice-cream, beef, vegetables and other commodities arriving the next morning on the overnight train, an official perquisite of office not to be ignored. Most of the local honorary vice-consuls and certainly the British Vice-Consul could not take advantage of such a boon - at least not officially. How could they if their governments were doing their best to bring down the Rhodesian government?

But there were ways. Someone who was only an honorary consul could not be expected to spend all his time on such duties and it was quite in order to make friendships outside those duties.

Britain and Rhodesia had re-established contact. Not officially of course. The British government and the United Nations would frown on such a state of affairs. It was akin to the British and German troops fraternising on the Western Front on the first Christmas of the Great War to end all wars. How could they manage if their representatives would not extend the hostilities of their elected rulers (well, at least some of the countries of the United Nations had elected rulers)?

However, could either Rhodesia or Britain help it if they happened to play golf at the same time on the same day on the crab-infested fairways of Beira? And the local Beira Club made all consuls honorary members and it would be unthinkable to refuse the hospitality of the local business community. Talk might then pass on to local problems with such things as food and it happened that the shopping list of the Consul increased to unprecedented levels. The problem of collection of such bounty was easily resolved by chance meetings on the beach or at the Club. In such ways the consular family managed to eke out its daily rations in the diminishing supplies of Beira.

*****

"Senhor Consul, you have a visitor". So spoke the Consulate's Portuguese receptionist.

The Consul went to the door to meet his visitor.

"Reg Price" he introduced himself. "I am from Aerial Sprayers in Salisbury. Each year about now we come down to spray the red locust breeding grounds just upstream. That's part of an international programme for keeping red locusts under control. Since the programme started we have had no locust swarms in this part of Africa. It benefits the whole southern part of the continent."

"That's good, Reg. What can I do for you? Want to talk over lunch?"

"Well, yes, thanks. But after that can you come out to the area with me? There's been a spot of bother with the local political commissar or whatever he is."

Over lunch it became apparent that there was indeed a problem. The FRELIMO official in the area was anxious to keep on the right side of the local villagers (the "povo") and would not give clearance for spraying without their consent. The villagers wanted to have a conference before they would agree to any overflying. It was clear that the villagers would have welcomed some form of immediate benefit for their agreement - not to say of course that there was any suggestion of bribes being required.

"OK, let's go out to the spraying area" said the Consul. "We'll see what can be done".

The journey out to the village was an education in itself. This part of Africa was entirely tropical and low-lying. In the rainy seasons it was almost impassable, with wide swathes of the countryside being under several feet of water. Over the centuries the local inhabitants had learned to cope with the uncertainty of the seasons by building their fragile homes on stilts in the lower areas. The effect was picturesque when the homes were in good order, less so when they were near the end of their useful life. The ride along rutted tracks showed evidence of some recent re-building but also a general feeling of decay and neglect.

The local FRELIMO Commissar was there to greet them and seemed friendly and anxious to please. he was a recent party appointment, but not heavily-indoctrinated with dogma and slogans. However, the representatives of the villagers were less responsive and it became clear very quickly that little would be accomplished on this visit.

The problem soon became apparent. In the past the local villagers had simply been told that spraying would take place at certain times. No attempts had been made to explain the wider problems of this region to them and the absence of locusts was something that most of them now took for granted. There were not many who remembered the huge swarms of locusts that were once part of the local scene, but those that did remember remembered also that locusts were good food and provided a variation to the local staple diets, which were in themselves sadly uninteresting. Another factor was that a new kind of power - of authority - had been given to the villagers. For centuries and well before the coming of the Portuguese to Africa, villagers had possessed little power, but now they were being consulted on matters of great importance and this required time and deliberation. No immediate decisions could be made.

For that day and some days afterwards the Commissar, the pilot, the Consul and a Ministry of Agriculture official talked patiently and long with the villagers and then with interested groups from villages close by. To no avail.

"Tell me Senhor Andrade", said the Consul at one stage to the Ministry official, "do the villagers understand that if locusts are allowed to breed uncontrolled once again, that this will have a devastating effect on their crops? And on the crops of countries all around them?"

"You have to understand, Senhor Consul, that these things are not of immediate concern to the villagers. It is also FRELIMO policy that the people - the "povo" - should be involved in such matters. It is a process of education, of dynamisation."

"What if the locusts start to breed again? Who will provide the food."

"You know the answer to that, Senhor Consul. The United Nations will provide for the people and if they do not, someone else will. There will be outside aid now that Moçambique is to be independent. The povo know it and FRELIMO knows it. I know it"

And that, for 1975, was the extent of spraying in the Beira area.

*****

The Consul was considering with some care the arrival of the month of June of 1975. This was marked as the time for the formal takeover of Moçambique by FRELIMO. Instructions from Rhodesia were clear - continue as normal. The Consul regarded this as advice to himself but not necessarily to his family. Certain precautions were necessary and it seemed a good idea for Mrs Consul and the two meninas to take a short holiday in Rhodesia. This might, of course, give some food for thought to those who thought normality included an entire family living happily together, but there it was.

The Consul was mindful of the history of the Belgian withdrawal from the Congo in 1960. The vision of the panic-stricken flight of entire families was one he would never forget. He did not expect such a thing to happen in Beira but Africa was unpredictable and a volatile situation could arise very quickly. He remembered the story of Prime Minister to-be Patrice Lumumba addressing the adoring crowds and talking of the way to achieve democracy by non-violent means. The ecstatic crowd was so impressed by his rousing speech that they rioted, killing twelve people.

A fleeing family was not to be considered. A single fugitive, self-reliant and unencumbered, was acceptable.

A short while ago the Consul had taken delivery of a new vehicle in Beira. The local dealer had proved a good salesman. No-one else could now export a new car from Moçambique and if anyone could it would be someone with consular immunity - provided such immunity was exercised before a new FRELIMO government came into power, as who could know what the new rules would be?

"Meninas!", said the Consul to his family.

When all three, Mrs Consul, Menina Number One and Menina Number Two were addressed in this manner it was known that a matter of family importance was to be discussed. Having their undivided attention now, the Consul gave notice of a grand expedition for the next day. The new car was to be taken for a drive up to the border, in convoy with the existing car, all resplendent with bright red consular numbers on white number plates. After a day in Rhodesia, the Consul would return to Beira in one car and the family would travel on to Salisbury for a short holiday in the other car.

The two meninas of course, were not told that the intention was to test the atmosphere at the border, to see if the new car would be permitted out of Moçambique. If it was, the new car would travel to Salisbury and the old one would return to Beira. If the new car could not leave Moçambique, the three meninas would still proceed but the means would be decided at the time. All the ifs would be resolved tomorrow, at the behest of the Portuguese god - si deus quiser (if god willed it!).

When the time came to leave Beira the next day the convoy set out in good spirits. The new car had been dubbed Newcar by the meninas, while the faithful car of Lisbon was Carro de Lisboa. It was a bright sunny day with a holiday spirit in the air.

There were some dangers on the road. During the day, provided travellers kept moving, there was little likelihood of any problems. But some travellers had fallen foul of wandering gangs of troublemakers - not yet bandits, but not far from it. FRELIMO was not to have a trouble-free takeover of Moçambique, as a rival party, RENAMO, disputed the right of FRELIMO to sovereignty. That dispute was not to be settled this millennium.

The first sign of a problem was after a comfort stop by the roadside. A picnic atmosphere had prevailed with tea, cold drinks, biscuits and sandwiches. But now Newcar refused to move at all, or to show any signs of life. The emergency plan had been that if trouble arose then one car would head for the border alone, with all passengers. The abandoned vehicle would have to take its chances if left alone on the road. There was no expectation that such a vehicle would still be whole when the sun rose again. However, the day was young and the border was only sixty kilometres away. There was time to do a little trouble shooting. A passing police car - the only car seen on the journey so far - stopped to assist and it was found that the new battery had been loose. A problem quickly fixed.

"You should not delay, Senhor Consul" said the police officer, with some anxiety. "There have been some gangs around - you would not want to be alone on the road at night". By now it was mid afternoon - no apparent cause for alarm.

"Why should we hurry Daddy?" was the collective cry from the meninas. To them life was still one great adventure. The great events sweeping Africa were given a perspective appropriate to two small girls - second place after anything else.

"Your holiday starts once we cross the border" said Mrs Consul, herding them into Newcar.

Newcar started immediately and the Consul heaved a sigh of relief. He saw it moving off ahead and then climbed into Carro de Lisboa - not so old but not as new as the new car.

Carro de Lisboa refused to start. The battery was strong but produced no response from the engine. The Consul had only the limited knowledge of someone who regards a car as a means of getting from one place to another. He jumped out of the car and waved at the fast-receding Newcar. The meninas waved back and then the car went round a bend in the road, heading for the border.

The Consul looked around him. It was late afternoon and a beautiful winter's day in tropical Africa. The sun shone and the myriad sounds of the bush came to his ears. This was the time of day when the predatory animals of the bush were slowly awakening from the morning kills and considering their options for the coming night. Night fell quickly in the tropics - one moment it was daylight - then a brief twilight - then night.

A lone cyclist came pedalling past. The rider looked at the vehicle at the side of the road and at the Consul, without stopping or offering any greeting. What he did do was to put on a spurt and to take a small, dusty side road, which led up into the dense growth in that particular part of the country. The last the Consul saw of him was a furiously pedalling figure, white shirt flying, as he bounced along the track. It was not a reassuring sight.

He made up his mind to head for the border on foot. Carro de Lisboa, the veteran of three year's hard traffic in Lisbon, would have to take its chances. The car was locked with some regret by the Consul, who then looked along the wide highway in the direction of safety and civilisation. He noticed something now about the road. The usual practice in these troubled times was to move as rapidly as possible along the Moçambique roads, but now he was actually standing on the road and he could see that there were signs of the coming neglect which seemed to epitomise independent Africa. The hard road surface was still in relatively good condition - a few potholes, but nothing out of the ordinary for that road. But the edges had not been maintained. He saw with some alarm that on one steep bank a deep rut was in fact a long hole, where the undersurface had been scoured out by the tropical rains and the apparently solid surface of the road hung in midair for a considerable distance and on a shelf of nearly half a metre in depth. A move onto the innocently solid surface would have resulted in a rapid descent - moving at any speed, a vehicle could not expect to survive on that surface.

There was now but an hour before nightfall. And then in the distance he saw a vehicle travelling fast from the direction of the border. It was Newcar, travelling at an indecent pace. And Newcar seemed intent on coming to a screaming halt, in a spray of gravel and red sand, precisely on the verge of the patch of road which seemed incapable of bearing the weight of anything bigger than an unaccompanied bicycle.

The Consul leapt on to the patch of incipient subsidence and did his best imitation of the batman waving an incoming aircraft onto the deck of an aircraft-carrier - hand positioned to one side and waving in a disciplined and methodical manner. Newcar kept coming.- at a much more sedate pace - and nosed right up to him in a playful manner. Mrs Consul leaned out of the car window and smiled cheerfully at him.

"Playing nicely are you?" she said, nevertheless relieved to see him apparently unharmed, if not in possession of all of his faculties.

"Thank you. Just leave the car there and come and look at this", he said.

Mrs Consul peered anxiously at the sky. "We should get moving", she said, "it's getting late. I found out that the border post closes at sundown and shuts up shop completely. Apparently there was an attack on the border post yesterday so they all scoot off home as soon as possible".

Nevertheless she came forward to look at the indicated spot and jumped back hastily. "Is it safe?"

"No … ", and as he said that and stepped forward, the tired ground gave way and he had to scramble for safety, somewhat imperilling his consular dignity, as well as the skin on his hands.

The ground continued to subside slowly, leaving a raw red mark on the hillside and leaving an even wider expanse of road hanging over the edge of Africa. Clods of red earth slithered down the short incline and came to rest about five feet below the road. Africa reclaiming itself from the invaders.

Speechless the consular pair hurried towards Carro de Lisboa. Mrs Consul, with great foresight, had brought with her a ball of thick, raffia-type shopping string. Not quite the thing for towing, but beggars couldn't be choosers she said. She had deposited the meninas on the Rhodesian side and decided there was enough daylight to return at least this far. She wasn't sure what she would have done if there had been no car and no Consul, but Rhodesian Consular wives are a resourceful lot!

The trip back was a compromise between speed and the shortcomings of the raffia. Trebled, it gave an illusion of a reasonable distance between the two cars but held out no promise of staying together. They set off with nerves as stretched as the shopping twine. Just as they left, the cyclist of earlier in the afternoon, his white shirt still flapping from his exertions, appeared from the side of the road, accompanied by two more Moçambicans. The new arrivals watched in disbelief as the two cars swayed past, held in tandem by the almost invisible twine. They waved energetically and held up their hands to indicate that the travellers should stop but although the drivers saw the gestures they were in no mood to stop. The sun was too low.

*****

If the fleeing couple had stopped, their faith in the ultimate goodness of human nature might have been restored. Much earlier the cyclist had seen and appreciated the need for haste for the same reasons as the Consul - a traveller by the side of the road stood little chance at night at that time, in that part of the country. But just beyond the hill was a small village and he had persuaded two villagers to come and help push and pull the stranded car the short distance to salvation. They could only wonder at the strange sight of the two cars drawing off into the distance, connected by such a slender lifeline. They had brought a much more useful length of rope with them.

*****

As the sun reached the horizon, the two cars arrived at the top of the shallow slope leading down to the border post. The first lights of the little group of buildings were already twinkling in the dusk.

Beyond the Moçambique border post there was a further short slope leading (fortuitously) downhill to the Rhodesian border post. Even more fortuitously the police officer of earlier in the day was at the Moçambique post and he had ensured that the nervous border post officials did not close up early and head for fortified security.

The two cars now could coast down to the border post and as they did so the maltreated shopping twine finally and tiredly parted.

"Senhor Consul - good evening - please pass - you have your car papers? - no need for other formalities - what a tragedy about the car - good luck - good evening Senhora - we hope the meninas are well? - please pass! - does the injured car need a small push down the slope? - good night"

The formalities passed in a blur and the doors of the border post were closed before the drivers were back in their respective cars. Newcar shot ahead to liaise with the Rhodesian border post while Carro de Lisboa, assisted only by the force of gravity, trundled peacefully down the gentle slope and across the border, to come to rest neatly in the first parking space available in Rhodesia. Carro de Lisboa had finally and irrevocably left Portuguese soil, a few weeks before the Mocambican corner of the Portuguese Empire followed in turn.

Repairs were easy to carry out in Umtali that evening but would have been impossible on the road. It was relatively simple. The butterfly distributor had broken and needed replacement. Without it the distributor arm whizzed around uselessly, unable to raise any spark.

The next day the Consul was back in Beira after a leisurely flight by Air Rhodesia. The three meninas were to return after a month, with Moçambique now an international member of the world community.
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Re: Книга Джона Джонса (КОИ преподаватель) о Южной Родезии

Сообщение Ramzes » 23 янв 2015, 04:19

4872 words 8 pages Times New Roman 11 Pt

THE CONSUL - DEPARTURE


The return to Beira alone occasioned a change in the life of the Consulate. Independence was still a few days away and plans needed to be made. Transport was taken care of through the loan of a small car and there was some security in the anonymity afforded by the absence of the red and white consular number plates.

There was a possibility of course that the official position of Consul would disappear and with it the protection of the international conventions that made it possible to operate in such corners of the world. A fatalistic view had to be taken of such possibilities, but other plans could be made. Travel routes out of Beira could be planned, unencumbered by a family. Air travel was unlikely in an emergency but there was sea and land. A reserve infantry officer could manage to find a way overland on foot if no vehicles were available and there was always the sea. Beira might be a small port but it had been thriving recently and many shipping lines still called there. Contacts amongst the shipping fraternity meant that a berth on a ship was possible, if one could get to the docks!

In the meantime the appearance of normality must continue. Visits by media representatives elicited no more useful comments than "The Rhodesian government wishes the new government of Mocambique well". No comments on the future of the Consulate were forthcoming.

The day of independence saw the Consul seated in splendid isolation at the long dining table in his residence. Antonio, sober for a brief while, dressed in white, elegantly served the evening meal of Rhodesian beef, Mozambican salads and Portuguese Mateus Rosé wine. The strains of the slow movement of Beethoven's Triple Concerto blended with the sounds of celebrations in the street below. But while the one was soothing to the ears and senses of the Consul, the other was strident, triumphant and unrestrained. No doubt Beethoven, with his egalitarian views and principles, would have approved of the Consul playing his music on such an occasion. He might have preferred his own Song of Joy or the whole of the Ninth Symphony, but since the Republic of Rhodesia had chosen the main theme from those works as the background for its own national anthem, perhaps the Triple Concerto was a wiser choice.

*****

A small flurry of activity was caused by the departure of the Consul's Portuguese secretary. She had been a conspicuous figure amongst the ladies of Beira in the heyday of the Consulate. She was the wife of a prominent businessman, who had now returned to Lisbon to re-establish himself. His wife was in no hurry to leave for a while but as Independence approached she became more nervous and jumpy. And then one weekend she went up to Rhodesia and remained there. The Consul was sorry to see her go. She had been a source of endless gossip about the happenings in Beira, but in fact the work of the Consulate was gradually being reduced to a holding operation and the small residual volume was of little consequence.

Her departure gave rise to another unlooked for event

A few days after her sudden decampment a nephew of hers came to see the Consul.

"Good morning Senhor Consul. Are you well?"

"Good morning Senhor Figuereido, thank you, and you?"

And so they exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes. Eventually it became apparent that the nephew had something to say but wished to do so out of sight and sound of the consulate staff. And so they walked out into the main square of the town and at a pavement cafe ordered coffee and bagasso - the local ardent spirit.

"Tell me, Senhor Consul, are you on good terms with Carlos, the Chief of Police?"

The Consul assured him that relations were very good. Carlos had spent a previous weekend with the consular family and they had gone up the coast together to collect shellfish, which they brought back and had for the evening meal. Yes, relations were good.

"Perhaps the Senhor Consul might like to look under the main counter at the Consulate on his return. The aunt, entirely unintentionally it should be understood, had left something there. The Senhor Consul might then like to have a talk with Carlos"

The visitor took his departure with considerable protestations about the good intentions of his aunt. This left the Consul with little time to reach his office, before it was shut for the long afternoon lunch break and siesta. The expatriate secretary of the Consulate, a Rhodesian but resident as the daughter of a local businessman, had already locked the office by the time he arrived. It was the custom of the Consul to return home for lunch with his family at this time and, as sometimes happened, his keys were at home. The unlocking and locking had been done that day by the secretary. He would have to contain himself in patience until later in the afternoon.

The Consul returned home for a leisurely lunch and with his own keys was able to enter the Consulate once again. But now there was a busy throng to attend to. Returning residents and hopeful immigrants to deal with. Copies of certificates to certify. Phone calls to make and receive. He was relieved when the day was over and he could close the Consulate to the public. The matter of the counter should now be attended to.

At first he found nothing of interest under the counter. Then he remembered that the counter had a small sliding panel, which led to a small compartment. It was not a secret compartment, as the Consulate was well served with a good safe. But it did have something in it. There was a small cardboard box, very heavy, about fifteen inches long and wrapped in a striped red and white glass cloth.

It contained a revolver, with forty rounds of ammunition.

A revolver, moreover, which had no papers to accompany it, and which was not an official part of the inventory of the Consulate.

For some while the Consul was speechless. It would have been useless to find out why the gun had been left there, but it did constitute an immediate danger. He could not afford to have it found there, in the interests of the safety of the Consulate, of his family and of himself. The greatest advantage he could maintain in his position under the present circumstances lay in being above suspicion - a concealed weapon could only jeopardise that position.

Several possibilities came to mind. One was to send the offending items to Rhodesia in the next diplomatic bag. The diplomatic bag was still accorded the normal privileges and was taken by his own hand each week to the airport, to be placed in the hands of the captain of the Air Rhodesia flight. But the safety of the bag could change at any time and to place a heavy weapon in the usually very small bag might well jeopardise the safety of the captain, the flight and the aircraft. Such a risk could not be contemplated. What if he were to drop the bag in full view of the wide range of officials at the airport - Portuguese and FRELIMO?

Another possibility would be to try and dispose of the weapon by dropping it somewhere or throwing it in the river. The Consul thought immediately of the plight of the hapless character in the Jerome K Jerome classic, Three Men in a Boat - trying to dispose of a large, smelly cheese - no matter how hard he tried he could not get rid of the cheese!

Eventually the Consul decided that the Figeureido option might well be the best course of action.

"Good Morning Carlos. Lunch? Hotel de Beira?"

"Today? Si, Senhor Consul. Hotel de Beira. Is there some problem? No? Until then"

Carlos by now had become accustomed to the brisk and direct Northern European habits of the Consul. Things were dealt with at once and not left to mature and undergo reconsideration Siestas were not a time for relaxation but for catching up with unfinished business. Such an attitude might produce results but what did one then do with the time that had been saved?

Lunch could still be an elegant affair in Beira, depending on the facility of the hotel in obtaining or supplementing the resources, which were still in Beira or, within reach from Lourenço Marques. There was time for the two diners to select wines, order the meal and relax in the convivial atmosphere of colonial Portugal. Frescoes with the exploits of the discoverers of the time of Henry the Navigator adorned the walls, interspersed with the blue and white tiles - the azulejos of old Portugal. The Consul and the Police Chief both realised, in a sudden and rare flash of mutual prescience, that no matter what the future history of Moçambique might be, the influence of Portugal would always be there, to colour the habits and customs of the people and to add to the store of artefacts which would survive this revolution until another came along.

"Tell me Carlos, what do you do about things that Portuguese citizens leave behind when they go? For example what do they do with, speaking hypothetically of course, with, let us say, perhaps rifles? Or other weapons?"

The Consul knew that the matter was a delicate one, but he also knew that Carlos, in his official position, had considerable protection from the Portuguese government in his present position. He knew that Carlos was trusted by FRELIMO and why not? Carlos had nothing to gain by sabotaging the hand-over to FRELIMO. He knew from past conversations that Carlos had taken possession of stray items of weaponry and by now had a useful collection, which would be safely transported to Portugal in due course.

"Perhaps we have some business to transact at the Consulate, Senhor Consul, perhaps later this evening? You are working late then? Very good. This hotel still serves an excellent meal, don't you think?"

And so the meal passed in thoughtful contemplation and with gentle reminisces which they shared of Lisbon and of Portugal.

That evening the last embarrassing memento of the departed Portuguese secretary-cum-factotum had been consigned to the care of the obliging official, who added another artefact and story to his collection of artefacts and stories of his time in Beira.


*****

Not long afterwards, the consular family was reunited and the four settled down to an interim period which was now quite different for the Consul but which had the same semblance of normality for Mrs Consul and the two meninas. The previous tempo of life could resume for them, but amongst a diminishing population of acquaintances.

*****

The Consul decided to maintain his position as if there had been a normal change of government. Official visits were paid punctiliously. Cards were dropped at the residence of the new Governor of Beira and his hand was shaken in congratulations. The new Governor had looked slightly bemused but had had no instructions about consular representatives. The British Vice-Consul had been keeping a low profile but decided to follow in the footsteps of his unacknowledged colleague. The last consignment of Rhodesian beef had been demolished in the process of discussions on the advisability of doing nothing and doing something. The problem with doing nothing was that it might be difficult to make contact if some problem needed to be resolved with officialdom.

Another problem was that some of the new appointments might have appeared incongruous to an outside observer. A new chief of immigration might well be a nineteen year old former terrorist, still clad in the accoutrements of his former calling, complete with ragged, sleeveless shirt and a bandolier of AK ammunition across one shoulder.

Beira was a remote outpost, and possibly was not the best place to live in Africa, even in what passed for the tropical African version of winter. But for former guerrillas it had probably been the centre of their world, and in all likelihood would continue to be such.

*****

An isolated barracks on the outskirts on Beira was probably not a good place to pay a social call on a recently victorious band of guerrillas, particularly if the visit was made by a white man.

The Consul might have been regarded by some as incongruously dressed for the occasion. He wore a light grey suit, polished black shoes (now acquiring a coat of red dust), a blue and white striped shirt and - perhaps the most incongruous of all - the regimental tie of a military unit which had taken part in not a few skirmishes against this same band of guerrillas. But on this occasion, the guerrillas were no longer guerrillas; they were the representatives of the new government. The leader of this group was to be the new chief of police in Beira.

The meeting had been sought by the Consul himself. He was possessed of some experience in international affairs, if not at high level, but always held a firm belief that if something was destined to happen, if it was within his capacity to do so, it should be at a time and place of his own choosing. There might have been some doubt in other minds that this was in fact a suitable time and place. Not everyone would have chosen such a time and place, but of course they were not the chosen representative of the Rhodesian government of that time.

"Good morning Senhor Consul" said Carlos, the outgoing Chief of Police. He was now in Beira in an advisory role, taking the new chief-designate through the intricacies of holding office without the benefit of a formal education. Carlos understood the motives of the Consul in seeking this formal interview, although he might have kept a lower profile himself. "May I present Pedro da Costa Gombo, who will succeed me this year?"

Gombo was seated behind a makeshift table. He was flanked by compatriots who were dressed as he was - cut-down army camouflage, without the impediment of sleeves and with the obligatory AK47 prominently displayed. He received without comment the neat square of white card, carefully turned down at the corner to indicate that the card had been presented personally. He understood the purpose if not the words on the card. He rose and presented his compatriots who each made little bows of acknowledgment.

The Senhor Consul was invited to sit and take a tumbler of tepid cola. A short conversation followed and Carlos then indicated that it was in order to withdraw. The Consul offered to be of service in his official capacity, which caused a small frown of concentration to cross the brow of the incoming officials. It was all too much for one day but they would all remember the tall estrangeiro and would accord him the respect, which Carlos indicated was his due.

Carlos and the Consul drove back to Beira together and headed immediately for the refuge of the Beira Club. In the Club a signed and framed sepia portrait of Cecil John Rhodes looked down on them, impassively. The Consul wondered if Rhodes might have acknowledged that the inspiration for today's visit had come from the visit of Rhodes himself into the lion's den of the Matabele, over eighty years before. The Consul dismissed the idea as fanciful and pretentious.

The Beira Club was replete with mementoes of the past. Above the main bar were signed photos, military plaques and African curios. One photograph showed an Australian pilot standing smiling on a jetty by the side of a seaplane. He was one of the early aviation pioneers to pass through Beira on the route north. He had even signed the photograph, with a name redolent of Cornwall - Nankivell.

The Beira Club itself, while a splendid example of an old colonial building, did not offer an inspiring view from the wide side windows. The sluggish and muddy Pungwe River flowed past at full tide but left glistening black mud banks at low tide. The huge pilings that held the building above the mud, on the slopes of the river, were themselves not a pretty sight. But at night, the Club came into its own. The tropical moon then shone across seemingly magical stretches of water and the myriad sounds of Africa were musical and soothing. The white-coated stewards with their cheerful, smiling faces belied the sometimes-savage realities of Africa and the war and the changes to come could be put on one side, to wait for the sun and reality.

The Beira Club was not to survive much longer. About six months later the portrait of Rhodes was delivered to the Consul - now a former Consul - by one of the last office-holders of the Beira Club. The portrait had been salvaged from the steady descent into oblivion of the Club.

*****

Once the initial excitement of the hand over had taken place, Beira could resume its slow pace of life. There were occasional reminders that the revolution had come. On occasions spontaneous groups of activists set themselves up to search cars at each street corner. What they were looking for no one ever knew and there was some doubt that the searchers knew what they wanted. It was surmised that they in fact wanted to show that independence had arrived and that they should mark this in some way. Motor traffic took to crossing at side streets and very little was carried in the cars. Searches became more desultory and eventually stopped altogether, probably for lack of purpose.

One significant change was noticed at the Consular residence. On first arrival, nearly six months before, the weekly passing of the garbage clearance truck was a noisy and periodic background to the sights and sounds of Beira. The truck could be heard in the middle distance on a quiet evening, stopping with a screech of brakes outside each house, followed by the rattle and thump of the metal bins and the tinny clank of the bins as they hit the ground after being emptied. As the next months progressed, the stopping noises became less frequent as the occupants left the residences along the leafy avenue of the exclusive suburb. Shortly before the final departure the garbage truck could be heard stopping just once before it reached the Residence and not at all once it had passed. The quietness of an abandoned village was close upon them.

One local Beira resident and his wife - good friends - were posted to the ancient colonial capital of Lourenço Marques - now named Maputo after a small river. Maputo had the advantage of being still the capital of the new Moçambique and of being very close to the amenities of South Africa. A short drive to the border, which the Consul had reached by train nearly a year ago, and a holiday could be taken, away from the revolutionary atmosphere, which now marked the next phase of Africa’s independence -freedom from white control in any form -, or least the illusion of it. The friends had a few problems, one being the urge to take some of their treasured belongings out of Moçambique, to be deposited in safety against the time, the inevitable time, when a move out of Moçambique became imperative. They were permitted one trip out of Moçambique each month - more frequent exits would lose them their residential status and their company would face the thankless task of finding someone else willing to live in Maputo. They devised a way of taking small items out each time, secreted within the floor mountings of their little VW Beetle. On one occasion they succeeded in taking out some of their valuable antiques and they heaved a sigh of relief on arriving at their Johannesburg home. They returned to Maputo after a few days of rest and recreation only to find when they got back that they had forgotten to remove the items from their car - they had smuggled them out and back in again! They did not have the nerve to try again and took a chance on the rules being less stringent when they eventually left, eighteen months later.

*****

A formal dinner at the residence marked the beginning of the end of the formal round of entertainment in Beira. There were soon too few to invite and most entertainment was now carried out at the Beira Club by the fast diminishing band of expatriates.

*****

Soon the Consul made the decision to send the three meninas back to Rhodesia. There were dark rumblings from Head Office about forfeiture of marriage allowances at foreign postings and a reduction of entertainment expenses. However, these were half-hearted remonstrances. The private belongings of the consular family were packed at a leisurely pace and the three meninas went through a round of cautious goodbyes - in truth there were now not many friends to say goodbye to.

A moving truck came to take all the family possessions, leaving the Consul to preside over a household full of official furniture and fittings - quite enough for one man alone in a palace.

"Collect all your things meninas, we're off to the airport"

The Consul saw his family safely on to the Air Rhodesia flight and waved goodbye from the tarmac as the aircraft turned to taxi down to the end of the runway.

"Is your family going on holiday, Senhor Consul?” asked one of the new FRELIMO officials in the airport lounge.

"Something like that", he responded.

He arrived back at the Consulate to find a note from Head Office to telephone. He had been given one week by FRELIMO to leave Beira.

*****

Unencumbered by family matters the question of withdrawal could now be dealt with speedily.

"Morning Carlos. Lunch? Hotel de Beira?"

"Si, Senhor Consul. Now? Hotel de Beira? Of course"

Some surprise at the unusually short notice, but no other manifestation of any other agendas. Presumably he knew of nothing unusual.

The days of glory of the Hotel de Beira were now truly past. The frescoes of the discoverers were still there as were the blue and white tiles. But the menu now offered very little beyond the basic necessities of life. But the basic necessities in Beira still included good Portuguese wine, to alleviate the hardships of a reduced menu.

"Good day Carlos. You are well?"

"Si, Senhor Consul. You have news for me?"

"Yes. I have one week to leave Beira. My time is finished here. I saw my family off today and the Senhora sends her best regards, as do the meninas. And so - one week".

The conversation that followed included the acceptance that the event was not unexpected. The practical matter of how the withdrawal was to be done had to be considered. The consular effects and furniture. The destruction of documents. The departure itself. So much to arrange in one week. In the end the departure took ten days to arrange.

The parting words of the erstwhile Chief of Police were: "Senhor Consul. Don't worry, you will not be molested. And if you have any visitors let me know"

*****

Closing a Consulate proved to be a long and tiresome process. To close the doors was easy and it was a simple matter to arrange for a local company to take all the furniture from the Consulate and the Residence into storage. But the consulate itself contained a mountain of paper, with records going back twenty years.

A telephone call to Rhodesia solved the problem to some extent.

"Destroy it all. There is nothing of special interest there. Mostly receipts, old passport records - all with copies here. If you find anything useful, put it in the last diplomatic bag on Friday. Send all the passport blanks"

There was no prospect of destroying all the paperwork in the Consulate itself. There was no shredder and no incinerator. All the records were loaded into the car of a friendly colleague and taken to the Residence, where a frenzy of destruction could take place. It soon became apparent that destroying large amounts of paper was far from easy.

"Senhor Consul, I have put all these papers into the fire (a large drum) but they don't burn!"

"Stir them around a bit. Hmm. Damn. Stir them again. Keep doing it."

Half a day later the mound of paper seemed just as large as before. The most efficient way of burning the material seems to be to tear off a few pages at a time and let them burn, then add small amounts only. It was a cross and tired group that ended the day with about half the task done.

During the day two FRELIMO officials had paid a visit. Very politely they had shown their credentials and asked if they could enter the Residence. The fine line between consular privilege and notice given to leave the country was one the Consul did not wish to debate and the visitors were invited in for tea and cake, while the burning continued in the small laundry courtyard.

Antonio came in several times to serve refreshments and glared malevolently at the visitors.

"Don't mind Antonio", said the Consul to the visitors. "He is leaving to live with his family up the coast at Ilha da Moçambique. He wants to leave soon. He is anxious not to be delayed too long"

The visitors in fact had come only to enquire about the Residence as they understood from Senhor Captain Carlos that his Excellency the Senhor Consul might be leaving Beira soon to take up another post. Suitable accommodation for party officials needed to be found and this residence might be suitable. It would not be necessary to examine the Residence as the Senhor Captain had said this was not necessary. This was only a courtesy call. And they hoped the Senhor Consul would enjoy the rest of his stay in Beira.

*****

On week later the Consul stood at the departure exit at the airport at Beira, ready to take his departure. Carlos was on hand to ensure that the formalities were smooth and accompanied him to the aircraft.

"Goodbye Senhor Consul" he said. "Perhaps we will meet in Lisbon, is it not so? In the meantime thank you for a very interesting time - and some very good souvenirs! Souvenirs always bring back memories, do they not? Adeus"

As the aircraft climbed up above the muddy estuary and the scattered buildings of Beira, the Consul sat with the aircraft captain to take a last look. There were the swampy fields where the locusts were re-generating. There were the docks, with the line of small freighters, one of which had been the back-up for a hurried exit from Beira. Lastly he could see the long avenue with the former Residence standing in stately white splendour, with only one small vehicle making its lonely way along the deserted streets.

"Coming back soon?" asked the pilot.

Not if I can help it"

"Oh? Really?"

"I'll tell you more once we're in the air"

"Really? Right. By the way the Police chap, Carlos, gave me this to give to you. Damn heavy!" And he indicated a smallish brown parcel on the floor of the cockpit.

The Consul jumped in his seat. He thought "Surely not!"

The parcel was indeed very heavy, and not very large.

"Perhaps I should wait until we get to Salisbury", he said, in some haste.

*****

"Welcome back John. Got everything? What's that you have there? By God, it's heavy. You smuggling out gold?"

"Quiet! It was given to me when I left. I haven't seen inside. I hope it's not what I think it is. Do I have to go through Customs?"

"Customs? What are you talking about? We go through the VIP lounge. All foreign affairs officials do, you know that"

Inside the VIP lounge, waiting for the small amount of luggage he had brought, the ex-Consul sat with his unwelcome parcel and opened it.

It was about fifteen inches long and contained the heavy, cast-iron coat-of-arms of the Rhodesian Consulate.

The thick enamel paint drew out all the well-known features of the arms, in bright heraldic colours. Made by the Prisons Service, it had adorned the Consulate in Beira for the last twenty years. It had been on an inaccessible face of the building in the town centre and taking it down would have drawn unwelcome attention to the activities of the Consulate. So it had been left to take its chances as yet another relic of the pre-Independence past, together with the giant frescoes of the early Portuguese navigators and the old forts from Ilha da Moçambique to Maputo.

There was a note.

"Senhor Consul. A memento of Moçambique which I am sure you will treasure. Perhaps it will remind you and your family of your friend, Carlos. With a great embrace of friendship!"
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