Mum was besotted with her African Violets saying that theywere food for her soul. She would waft off, at any and every free moment, to her greenhouse at the end of the garden, with her retinue in tow: her little dog “Fizzy” and two cats “Wooz” and “Sammy”, who adored her, and would all make the trip anytime of day, waiting patiently outside for her to finish. Once upon a time, the cats did actually get into the greenhouse, and oh my goodness, what a mess they made of breaking leaves off “Pink Cloud” and the other “Clouds”! Mum promptly had a cat proof door installed.
Mum was always looking for ways to explore and experiment and improve the cultivation of her violets. One of these was to see if she could create a magical mix of soil... and so she looked at all types of manure.
Ms Mather with Wooz
In the 1970's Kenya still had anabundance of wild African elephants as poaching had not taken root yet. Each year we would all climb into the family station wagon (3 adults, 2 children, 2 German Shepherds, 2 hamsters, and 2 tortoises) and we would make the 300+ mile drive to an Arab village, Malindi, on the coast of Kenya, for our annual holiday. The road, a mix of tarmac and dirt tracks in those days, would snake through the middle of the Tsavo National Park and the family would play a game of “spot the elephant”. Sometimes we would count up to 50 foraging in the hills, or even closer: come across a herd in the middle of the road! On this particular trip, Mum wanted to change the game to “spot the elephant pooh”! When a pile was spotted, the car would screech to a halt, and she would jump out, grab her spade and very quickly shovel it into a sack - it was best not to linger in elephant territory!
As I recall, the elephant manure really did not work for violets, since it proved to be “too rich”. However, for we children, it was lots of fun, and we loved the drama of it all. How deeply touched and proud Mum would be to know that she had inspired Francine to write such a wonderful book.