Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 9.1

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.

Knight after Knight. Chapter nine, part one.

As Kanene and Max had done years before, the three of us took the commercial flight from Dar-es-Salaam to Songea in the southwest of the country. There we picked up the 4×4, 5-berth camper that Lindy’s travel safari expert had hired for us. Though larger than any of us was used to driving, it offered enough space inside for us to live in harmony for a week or so, having two separate, discrete sleeping areas – one for me and one for Max and Kanene – and all the equipment and conveniences we would need. It was actually smaller in all dimensions than the delivery trucks that regularly plied these tracks, and both Max and I realised in quite short order that Kanene was more than up to the job of handling the beast. She had said on the flight that she would probably leave the driving to Max and me, as her experience of driving on un-metalled roads was limited to her little Suzuki Jimmy. However, as soon as she took a stint at the wheel it became obvious that she was significantly more comfortable than either of us and we were happy to sit back and enjoy the view. Thus Kanene became our designated driver. The fact that her knowledge of Swahili was infinitely greater than ours combined allowed her to follow all the road signs and directions without needing to ask anyone to translate them.

Naturally enough, Kanene drove first to the orphanage, only to find that the building had been repurposed as a district hospital. The hospital administrator told us that the number of orphans in the immediate area was reducing and the facility had moved to a new, smaller building a few miles from its original site. The Nchimbis had retired and passed the running of the place to a new generation. Interestingly, the current principal is a young man who had spent his childhood in the orphanage and had, through his own hard work and that of the teaching staff, secured a scholarship that culminated in his achieving his PhD. His doctoral thesis was based on the running of a large children’s unit like an orphanage. Though smaller than the buildings it replaced, the orphanage is actually going from strength to strength, and the outcomes for its children, achieved by following the methods proposed in his paper, are held up as an example in the sector.

After discussion with the hospital administrator, who was a second-cousin of the new principal, we agreed that a visit to the new orphanage, although it would be instructive and enjoyable for us, would be of no benefit to the orphanage or, particularly, to the children. The administrator agreed to pass our details to her cousin and to let him know that our services are available at no cost to him beyond our reasonable expenses.

The hospital grounds extended down to the lake, and we spent our first night in the camper on the beach, looking out over the eastern shore of Lake Malawi. Kanene insisted on building and lighting an open fire on the beach and cooking on it in the traditional way. She prepared ugali with a vegetable preparation that was too thick to be a soup, but too thin to be a stew or casserole. It was spicier than Max or I were accustomed to eating, but when taken with the ugali it worked well. We then opened a bottle of chilled beer each and toasted the sun as it set behind the Mafinga Hills.

“I can’t do too much of this sort of thing,” I said, downing the last of my beer as the last vestiges of the sunset cast a deep and darkening red glow over the lake in front of us, “it makes me miss Sophie too much and I’m afraid I’ll start blubbering again.”

“If that’s what you need to do, Hannice,” Max said, “blubber away. Neither of us will think any the less of you; you should know that.”

“I know. It’s just that; well, I know I should not feel bad about missing Sophie; I know that as long as I think about her, no matter how painful it is, she’ll still be in my life, but it hurts. No matter how much or what I do to fill my life, I still feel so empty.”

Kanene stretched over and took my hand. “It is good that you have these feelings. It is right that you should have them. What sort of man would you be if you could just deal with the loss of the love of your life like the loss of your phone or something? We know and understand how hard this is for you and we are here to help you through it. Perhaps we should set aside one evening here to watch the sun go down and to talk about our memories of Sophie. We’ll probably all end up crying, but that’s a good thing. Expressing your feelings amongst friends who understand and sympathise with your position, yes, and empathise too, is a good thing. It’s a positive thing, therapeutic and healing. It will help you, I promise. I will gather some lavender for your room; it will help you to sleep. And you should take a little coconut oil every day, too. All these things will aid natural sleep, and sleep is very important for the formation, consolidation and regulation of memories.”

I looked at Max. “Kanene’s right, you know,” she said, “but I think you know that already, don’t you?”

I did know. Kanene’s position as shaman might have been honorary, in that she didn’t follow any of the rituals and the like, but she most certainly had the wisdom, the perception and the empathic and psychological skills of her post. I was lucky to have two people like Max and Kanene to help me through this time. I knew that as much as I knew anything. It still hurt, though. And I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep since she died. Not without medication, anyway. If, as Kanene said, lavender and coconut oil would facilitate natural sleep, I was certainly game to try it. I told her so, whereupon she wandered off, coming back about ten minutes later with an armful of lavender which she took into the camper. Quite where she had gathered it I didn’t know, I certainly didn’t recall seeing any lavender on the way to the beach.




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