Are we there yet???   A commonly used phase usually used by bored children going on a long journey or somewhere really exciting that they cant wait except in this instance the question was being asked an impatient 50 year old. Me.

365 days have passed and the day we had all been waited for had finally come, 23 July 2010.   Bags packed, check list checked and rechecked, tents, you name we had it, for just in case.

It was to be the start of another great and much anticipated weekend a gathering of people scattered in all corners of England from that very far away beloved country we called home, our beautiful Rhodesia.  An Indaba, a big one and a happy one.  All the Baases and Madams and their picanninies.

After nearly 4 hours of uneventful travelling from the north in Newcastle we finally arrived at Beechwood Park Derby. We tumbled out the car where we had been confined for 4 hours stiff, thirsty but so geared up with excitement it was uncontainable. We were greeted at the entrance gates by these big familiar smiley faces, huge bear hugs that left you winded for a moment and made to feel we were so important (we know we are but it’s good to get that feeling from someone else) and given our A5 brown envelope that contained our tickets for the weekend.

Mother Nature was smiling down on us and the weather was truly gorgeous and so with the sun shinning in the sky, a cool breeze blowing in our faces we set out to find ourselves a  pozzie in a bushy corner, bushy corners are best for the little visits at night.

Wow, we were  here at last and already a steady hum and drum of chatter was echoing around the camp site , tents going up at alarming rates, laughing children, dogs on the loose, the smells of borewy woofing through ones nostrils getting the taste buds going and stomach juices into major hungry mode. We could not get the tent up fast enough.

Tent completed at last to the best of our ability we set to getting the next most essential thing erected; the braai, soon enough the broewy was sizzling away on our braai filling the air with that unique  mouth watering aroma , in no time the bellies were feed and thirsts quenched with the endless supply of medicinal wine and beer. It was only midmorning.

We lost very little time after that hunting down more familiar faces and there were many, 20 metres in fact away from our camp  our last years comrades in arms pitched their tents and soon we were catching up,  it was like last week that we had seen each, we Rhodies are like that.  A very bad influence over each other but one does need this to boost each other along; by 6pm I have it on good authority that we had downed 6 bottles of wine, but not sure who was sober enough in the camp to even pass the rumour around. Sis on them.

Camping has taken been taken to a new level, there were tents and then there were tents!!  Mansions all pegged up neatly and expertly with all the modern cons of today to make ones stay comfortable, in fact five stars.  15” plasma tv’s and laptops, portable cd players, the gazebos fell into the same category, 10ft with drop sides, gauzed  with discreet flaps for privacy.  I realized how humble our camp site was and took a mental note of this and decided next year we would be “One of Them”, the only down side to that is I would have to break this very gently to Barry preferably not whilst he was behind the steering wheel because by upgrading to this A class would mean upgrading the transport, there is only so much a man can take.

Stalls were set up inside the entertainment tents and business seemed brisk, everywhere you could see the familiar Nicknaks, choco logs, chappies bubblegum, biltong clutched in the hands of the severely deprived Rhodies, Books stalls, badges, magazines and other paraphernalia was on display for sale and an array of groceries and the all time favourite biltong and broewy were selling like hot cakes.

A warm evening soon ascended on the camp site and everywhere braais glowed in the dark and huddled around was the familiar sight of pot bellied men, beers in the hand.  Men seem to gravitate more to a braai like moths to a flame more so than to a modern stove.  Have yet to figure that out.

Later that evening we were entertained in the tents by a well known artist who spent a good part of   his childhood growing up in Harare, David Scobie and his lovely partner Brigitte Rodrigues and they carried us back down memory lane with the all familiar Gypsey Girl and other long time favourite songs we Rhodies knew and grew up on.

We were then treated to another series of sing songs by a band “Those Guys” a band that is close to my heart for many a reason, Joe Roberts, Mark Robinson, Richard Lambert- Porter who flew in from Canada with his lovely wife just for this occasion and of course my beloved husband on drums Barry.  Ohhh the memories flowed, bodies swayed to the beat of beautiful sounds, voices belted out songs to the heavens, and the air was filled with nostalgia.

Whilst the adults did what they do best, drink, mingle and make merry in the tents the children some 1000 meters away were keeping each other company around the camp fires in a group, children are blessed with this amazing ability to make friends instantly and they were in good company.  I talk about children as Robyn had brought a friend along for the trip, she had never camped before and braaied the way we do. I checked up on them often but knew in my heart they were safe and no harm would be come them and they too had a thoroughly good evening, staying up much later then usual with no mums and dads chasing them for bed.

Meanwhile back behind the scenes in the tents a make shift kitchen was doing a thriving business feeding the masses with an endless stream of hot food, keeping the stomachs lined whilst large quantities of alcohol was being consumed. Blotting paper!We rolled into our tents at some ungodly hour in the morning weary, boozed to the hilt but happy.

Saturday brought another lovely sunny day, the birds serenaded us from the tree tops, a cool breeze greeted our weary bodies and again it was braais for breakfast.  In no time the aromas of eggs, onions borewy, bacon and strong coffee began to filter through the camp site.  For some however in the rather delicate state of mind this proved too much. Evidence lay about on the grass as one had to negotiate the non existence paths with a bit of hop scotch when trying to get to the ablution blocks. Rather challenging to say the least.

Some folks were a real sorry sight to behold, wobbly legs headaches of note, shaky hands tussled hair dos, day old growth around the chins.  Only the pet dogs seem to be full of boundless energy and must have thought heck, no walks today what’s up?  Oddly enough these little canine friends were extremely well behaved off their leashes.  Mid morning saw another load of our friends arrive and this time join us in our camp site and tent. Natter, natter natter, the jaws never stopped. Great stuff!!

An unusual form of baptism took place in the small fishing ponds.  A self appointed John the Baptist had decided upon himself to cleanse the evil of his two parishioners “Rhodie” style in the holy waters of Beechwood Park Pond by means of a forklift, the cradle hoisted high above ground level.  John the Baptist gleefully steered them to the waters edge and then unceremoniously lowered and tipped them into the holy waters. Seconds before they were cleansed however they realised that whilst they might come out of this ordeal rejuvenated their modern cons in their pockets would pay the price and a frantic attempt to rescue cell phones, cameras and car keys was made, these delicate items miraculously landed safely on the banks much to the delight of all who came to witness the Baptism.

Saturday night was fancy dress and loads took the time and effort to partake, there were many “servants” running around and this took me back somewhat to my own from home and I found myself wondering with sadness of their plight and realizing just how spoilt I had been.  I said a silent prayer for them, one I know is no longer on this earth, may he rest in peace but his family are still around.  To think that I had entrusted my most precious procession to their care whilst partying away, my daughter Robyn and they in turn treated her like a queen. I do miss them.  I realised what gems I had and had to give up.

Sweet music filled our ears again with David, Brigitte and “Those Guys” and credit must be given to the old boys, they had not played together for 20 years and they played really well.  Just like old times maybe a little slower given the fact they have approached the tender “ 50’s” age group where the memory has a little slip and  services on the body take place more frequently, bit like a MOT. In all honestly they were fantastic…

Again the kids camped around the fires and did their own thing whilst the adults kept the entertainment tents up, booze flowing and singing and dancing to the gods till sadly the licence drew the night to a close.  We fumbled our way back to base at another ungodly hour and flopped into bed, happy, merry and aching.  What a night. Amazingly our built in compasses navigated us all safely back to our tents despite the huge quantities of alcohol consumed and we did not end up sharing a tent with a stranger.

Sunday morning arrived all too soon, and a tinge of sadness filled the air. Time to pack and head home.  Time to say our goodbyes till next time.

I think time has been good to us, time has allowed us to reflect on our past, make us realise just how privileged we were being raised in that beautiful country Rhodesia, with good grounding from parents and schools that drummed respect into us, something to pass onto the next generation.

All too soon the tents were  down, the cars packed, not quite the same way as the journey up, for some unknown reason we can never pack the same way twice and we had less given the fact we had drank  and eaten everything.  A clear unlittered space with flattened grass where we had spent 72 happy glorious hours was all that remained.

With all our goodbyes said mingled with a few tears and long hugs we headed home North. Tired but our hearts rejuvenated.

Count down to 2011.

On closing this would never had taken place but for the hard dedicated workings of the committee of the Rhodesian Pioneers Club and their staff who masterminded the event.  To them a big thank- you for your relentless and outstanding work.

See you next year.

God bless you all and God bless Rhodesia.