You can see ROZ’S ROUTE here. Each dot links to the blog from that day. Likely to arrive 3rd October, latest position 43.6 miles to go.
Today is the day that my mother arrives on the island of Mauritius to meet me, so it seemed a good time to tell you a bit more about this remarkable woman who, believe me, has done many more interesting things in her life than give birth to me and my sister. Of course, as Mum is also my shore manager and poster-of-blogs, she will get to see this before you do – so I had better be careful what I write, or I may later find that she has exercised her editorial rights!
My mother was born Rita Adriana Cullingworth, in Cape Town, South Africa, on 22nd January 1939 (I hope she won’t mind me giving away her age). Her parents were English-speaking South Africans (rather than Afrikaaners) and already had a son, Richard. Her father worked as an engineer for South African Railways, and enjoyed making things with his hands. He also enjoyed the great outdoors, and combined these two loves by building a caravan (he was a founder member of the South African Caravan Club) and a boat so he could explore the African wilderness with his young family.
When Rita was thirteen years old, tragedy struck. Her mother went into hospital for a routine hysterectomy, but after the operation she developed a blood clot that led to a thrombosis and she died. Today a simple blood-thinning agent, like aspirin, would probably have been administered post-op and she would have lived. Rita left school, having matriculated, at the age of sixteen, managing the household while working at the South African Institute For Medical Research as a laboratory technician in a small Cancer Research unit.
That year she also began training as a lay preacher, qualifying in 1958. She had felt her calling to be a deaconess early in life, and in 1960 she took her commitment to the next level by enrolling at the deaconess college in Ilkley, Yorkshire, England. It was there that she first met Hamer Savage, when she was preaching at a local chapel that he attended. He didn’t let a couple of minor obstacles get in his way – like the fact that he was ten years older than she, and that Methodist deaconesses were not allowed to marry – and wooed her for the remainder of her time at the college.
Between the two college years at Ilkley, she and two friends toured through eight countries in Europe by car, camping, and visiting deaconess institutions (mainly nursing orders in Europe) in France, Germany, Denmark and Holland.
She returned to South Africa to work on a mission out in the remote African bush, where there was a boarding school for 500 African teenage boys and girls, and a first–class training hospital for nurses. She and Hamer continued a correspondence for a while, but after a couple of years she wrote to say she couldn’t see much point in continuing to write. He promptly wrote back asking her to marry him.
This presented Rita with a quandary. She hadn’t even seen this man in two years – how could she decide if she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him? And was she willing to give up her vocation to preach? She prayed for a sign.
A kindly man at her church noticed that Rita was looking preoccupied, and asked what was wrong. She explained about the Englishman. The man offered to pay her passage to England so that she could see Hamer again and make up her mind. Rita had received her sign. She took a train to Lourenco Marques, boarded a plane to fly to Holland, then another to reach Manchester. In England Rita rediscovered why she had been attracted to Hamer, and the following year they were married on the mission in Africa. The scratchy old video of their wedding shows a joyous multicultural celebration, with Africans dancing and singing around a rather bewildered-looking, pale-skinned Yorkshireman.
Hamer had also decided to commit his life to ministry, and Rita found herself abruptly transplanted from the African bush to a dingy flat in Manchester while he completed his course at theological college. It was in that dingy flat that I was conceived – although we shall quickly draw a veil over that bit. I was born during Dad’s first posting, in Crewe, Cheshire, a northern town known chiefly as a major railway junction. My younger sister followed exactly 17 months later.
All went along pretty normally for the next 34 years or so. The Deaconess Order had changed its ruling on marriage, so Rita continued her work on ministry alongside my father. I grew up, got a job, married, settled down. Mum and Dad retired, and looked forward to the prospect of becoming grandparents. And then it all turned upside down. In the space of a few short years, I quit my job and left my husband, Dad had a stroke and died, and Mum found herself press-ganged into becoming shore manager to an ocean rower. And the rest you know.
Meanwhile, when not working for me, Rita does voluntary work for OPAL (Older People’s Action in the Locality), a registered charity which supports over 60’s in the area where she lives, helping them to live happy, healthy lives in their own homes. Rita helps with administration in the office for two sessions each week.
There is a theory that in each lifetime you get exactly the parents you need in order to learn what needs to be learned in that lifetime. That smacks rather too much of destiny for my liking – you know I prefer to believe in free will. But if this theory were true, I must have done something seriously good in a previous lifetime to deserve my Mum in this one. She may not always agree with what I do, but she always supports me, lovingly and unconditionally.
It must be one of the hardest things in the world to allow your child to go their own way, make their own mistakes, face down their own demons – when all you want to do is protect them. But Mum seems to understand the wisdom of “if you love them, set them free” – for which I am eternally grateful. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then I suppose the proof of the child-raising must be in the resulting adult (free will notwithstanding). So I will let you draw your own conclusions as to whether my mother did a good job!
Quote for the day: “A mother’s love liberates.” (Maya Angelou)
Sponsored Miles: Thanks today go to: Terry Jones, Kenny Runnerduck, Mohammed Yassiph, Wolfgang Stehr, Gina Alzate, David Martin, Nancy Smith, Sid Gray, S C Jordan; also to Kenny Runnderduck, Rich and Jolly King, Aunti Julie West and David Nicely who chose higher numbers.