Returning to Maun, Botswana, alone, I again took up my duties as construction surveyor for Basil Read Construction. We were awarded the contract for Maun Development, Phase Two, most of which was a sewage system for part of the town; mostly government housing. It included two pump stations, four lift stations, 25km entrenched sewer lines as well as maturation ponds, all of which was a new experience for me, and most interesting. One pump station was almost in the riverbed and was submerged by its own weight by excavating beneath the circular wall. The floor was only cast when it had reached the correct depth. Paul Walker was in charge of such structures.
Basil Read Construction, as subcontractors to Grinaker Construction, who were extending the Maun Airport runway, had to do the 2000m x 30m bitumen surfacing. I was surveying the hardstanding. A passing pilot said he was about to fetch clients from Delta Camp and had a spare seat – would I like to come along? I left my dumpy-level right there and climbed aboard for a chance to see the Delta from the air. Needless to say, the views of the bush and islands and herds of game were indescribably beautiful and I grabbed every chance I could to repeat the experience.
Folk who became good friends were Yorkshireman, Derek Copeland, a mechanic, and his Irish wife, Ros. They had lost their farm in the Congo and moved briefly into Zimbabwe before coming to Maun. Civil engineer, Ivan Pretto, who came to us there in January, was joined by his wife Tessa at the end of April 1993. The latter couple remain in touch until today. Vince MacAskill and his new wife, Magda, came to stay with me until they could find a place of their own. It was Vince who, you will remember, had been mugged after his stag party.
Late 1992, we had been taken by our neighbours, Sheila and Cecil Riggs, to the Boteti River, near the Ngamiland eastern border at Malalamabedi, when the river was still running. There were still lagoons and pools along its length before it disappeared into the Kalahari sands. They were applying for a plot there, and suggested that we do the same. We made several trips, towing my boat trailer, spending a night and fishing. It was idyllic and a dream we hoped to make reality. While Sheila was away, I took the local chief to the plot that I surveyed and marked out, whereupon he gave me a letter of approval to take to the Tawana Land Board, the body in charge of all land distribution for the province.
After numerous meetings with board officials and the supplying of documents for the application under the name of Redwood Holdings, my shelf company, we were informed that it would be considered. Non-Resident individuals, as we were, would not be able to obtain property in Botswana, but a company could do so. After several inquiries as to the progress, and the passage of a couple of years, by which time there was a serious drought on, and the Boteti had dried up except for a few deeper pools, we were informed that all property applications for plots on the Boteti were frozen due to the lack of water…
After three months, Sheila returned with her son Nicholas Simkin, to continue his rehabilitation. She had arrived at his bedside after he was just emerging for a week in a coma, paralysed on his left side from the head injury due to his motorbike accident. Refusing to accept his paralysis, she demanded that he move his left hand. It twitched. She threatened him with who knows what unless he moved his left foot. It twitched. The doctors were saying that it would be six months before he walked again, but she had him walking in half the time. She bought a paddle-ski to get him to regain his balance and made him use it more and more each day until he could wobble his way across a shallow lagoon. Lazarus would also have snatched up his bed and run like hell if Sheila had been there.