In an earlier post (2:31) I talked about how more and more we had begun making relationships with local people and one of those people was a lady called Mrs Doomaleen (the spelling of her name may not be right) who became a trusted and regular childminder for us. Initially Mrs Doomaleen would look after the children for short spells (a morning or an afternoon) if we needed her to but then later (on three or four occasions) she cared for them for whole days to give us both a really good break. A couple of those breaks were outings with the Naval Wives Club and a couple were with friends but certainly at least three of them were trips over to Morocco.
(1976 Bland Line Ferry, a boat to Morocco)
The first time we visited Morocco was with friends and (if my memory serves me right) we took a boat to Tangier with Sandy and Penny. I’d visited Africa in the past on several occasions and sadly they were all negative experiences; in Sierra Leone I was beaten up and robbed, in South Africa during apartheid I was seriously at risk needing a police escort to safety and in Mombasa I was very much hassled so Africa wasn’t a place I had a desperate need to revisit. However, Carol hadn’t travelled very much and had a deep desire to go; in fairness to her the culture of Morocco (dress, food, smells, traditions) has remained a great love to her (although on every trip my antenna were up for danger and I never fully relaxed).
If I have one anecdote that still makes me smile it must be the one when we were all sitting in a cafe and I asked the waiter for a packet of cigarettes. ‘One moment Sir’ he said and then shot out of the cafe ran into the desert and over the horizon. As we all looked at each other agog – before laughing out loud – I eventually managed to mumble ‘Something I said?’.
Eventually about half an hour later we saw an image reappear on the horizon getting bigger as it came running toward us; it was our waiter and in his hand was a packet of cigarettes. Heaven only knows where he’d been to get them (Rabat?) but clearly they were not easy to buy, in fact it appears it would have been easier for me to buy any drug you could mention than a packet of cigarettes – and a sight cheaper. The cigarettes were so expensive in Morocco that on future visits I took loads to barter with tradesmen and sellers.
For Carol, though, this first visit was very magical and I loved that and was thrilled that she could take away great memories. The day had all the ingredients of a fantastic tourist trip including camel rides, the King’s Palace, the Kasbah (with thankfully no negative experiences) but it also had an amazingly special memory (for Carol) which even I struggled to believe.
Right in the middle of the Kasbah, in a very thin back alley we were all trying to push our way through the crowds when someone shouted to Carol ‘I know you’. Astonished we all looked to see who had said it and saw a local man in traditional dress sitting in his tiny shop; elaborating he said he recognised Carol from a visit he had made to Wales selling rugs once at a Trade Fair. Immediately Carol confirmed that as a teenager she worked in the Bay Hotel in Goodwick which hosted the event; the man said he recognised Carol by her very unique steel blue eyes. I think that sealed Carols love of Morocco and (in some ways) gave me faith back in people of the African continent.