Back-up plans are a good thing. Plan B. Plan C. All flexible.
Partly as a foundation for getting work and residence permits that would be independent of Basil Read if the time of parting ever came, and partly for tying down long term property acquirement, I bought a shelf company, Redwood Holdings, from the local office of Price Waterhouse.
The request for a plot on the Botete River was eventually refused due to the river drying up and this applied to all new applications there. My friend Robert Riggs already had a property on the river. Here and there scattered along the length of the river were other farms and plots, all leasehold, held by citizens, including Willie Phillips, Brian Bridges, Simon Paul and his partner Joyce Wilmot, and others.
I applied for another plot; this on the Thamalakane River, below the part of Maun known as Sexaxa. After years of appeal to the Tawana Landboard, a 50x50m plot on a narrow tongue of forest in the floodplain was eventually awarded to Redwood.
In the meanwhile I started a second hand goods shop, one of my many dreams. It first occupied a 3mx4m space in the Boseja industrial area, and run by our friend Ros Copeland whose husband Derek was a Basil Read mechanic. The site was not a good one, being pretty isolated from customer traffic. Moving to a shop owned by and adjacent to Maun Butchery and Bakery near the main Maun Mall was a great improvement.
I approached Carl Anderson, an ex-Rhodesian lawyer who had come to Maun to start a practice, to compile a pawnbroker document, which he did on 24th April, 1994. Redwood was his very first customer.
When I left Basil Read Construction, Sheila and I had to firstly find other accommodation. Peter Thornycroft, the owner of a successful water source company, Water Africa, had a plot on the river in Sexaxa with a three-room prefab building on it. He would provide the material for fencing and a watertank if we would erect them. It would be rent free for a year, as we would be renovation the building and developing the plot. Thereafter we would pay rent. We lived there from 1995 to 2000, before moving to our own home, built on the isolated Redwood plot, two kilometres away..
The second hand shop barely held its own just to pay the staff. In the meanwhile, I did little survey jobs for two local architects, Albert Welfing (Agora) and Jens Kuhn. As site agent. I did survey and supervision for Altina Construction at Rainbow West Shell garage and Customs houses in Moeti Ward, among other small works. I did a 50km road survey with Gaborone surveyor, Dave Baker, at Pandamatenga. I supervised works for Dave Hartley of Okavango Explorations, both with an office extension in Maun and a lodge at Seolo Farm. Here we met and were befriended by the delightful management couple, Jock and Pauline Pirie.
Old friendships strengthened and new ones blossomed. I tried to live up to a reputation of reliability, knowing that it is money in the bank. Unfortunately, there was still no time to pursue my first love – writing. And that’s definitely not money in the bank!
Sheila was asked to teach Art at Matshwane Primary School, which also helped our survival. The school had, at the time, just moved to the vacated premises of the Korean Daewoo Construction site offices when they completed their contracts and left town. Piles of dog bones were found behind what had been the kitchen, giving strength to the rumour that Maun strays, and some missing pets, had found their way there.