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Fiona Jamieson



Fiona Jamieson

Born in Cape Town, South Africa to British parents, Jamieson has spent the last 10 years living in the UK and is currently working on a number of different writing projects, as well as working as a freelance copywriter and technical author.


 Raggedy Horses

The metal beast snorted clouds of steam from its steel grill then gave one final defiant belch as the engine spluttered and died. My mother coasted the car to the roadside and pulled up the brake.
“We’ll just have to wait till she cools!” she sighed.

We were alone on a dirt road in the middle of the African veldt while a symphony of spurts and creaks continued to emanate from under the bonnet of our road-weary, 1950’s Plymouth.

“Old girl hates hills!” said my mother.

“If there is even the hint of a hill anywhere here,” said my father, waving a derisive hand at the surrounding flatness, “I would like you to point it out to me – then I might agree!” He tapped the dashboard impatiently.

“Delayed reaction,” grinned my mother defensively, “from coming up the coastal pass!”

I got out of the car. The thick heat of midday wrapped about me. There was a great stillness in these vast empty spaces - as if a silken cloak had dropped on all the earth and time itself was persuaded to slumber.

I wandered down the road, scuffing the dirt with my plastic sandals as I went. Some of the stones got between the gaps and crept between my toes so I sat down on a rock and shook them out. The rock felt hot even through the fabric of my dress.

The heat was pervasive, the only shade being cast by my slight form and the truculent car that now stood steaming gently on the roadside.

I walked a little further, watching my shadow follow beside me as I went. How small it looked! I was 12, absorbing life, discovering the many mysteries in this wonderland of Africa. We were on our way to the Amatole Mountains of the Eastern Province of South Africa, heading for a small place called The Hogsback perched high on a mountain ridge in the far distance.

A green abundance filled with magical fairy dells and cascading waterfalls awaited us at journey’s end, but all around me was an arid wasteland.

Here was desiccation, a constant cruel glare, and an endless vista of heat-distorted horizons. There you could turn a corner in the forest to discover grass that smelled of lemons and jewelled flowers glowing in the shadows. But to get there we first had to cross this flat plain that stretched almost to the very edges of the earth.

I studied the grass verge. We called it ‘grass’ but there was little of the colour green in its pale, gold, blades. An ant was negotiating its way through the roadside gravel. Where was it going I wondered? To the ant the small undulations in the sand and the occasional tufts of yellow grass were mighty hills and massive jungles to overcome. I watched it in idle fascination for some minutes.

“Feeee!” my mother called, “Lets get along now, the car’s cooled down enough!”

We set off once more across the veldt, like the little ants we were, crossing our own particular patch of gravel.

“Looks like there’s no one ahead of us,” my mother said, with some relief. It was a tough job driving in someone’s dust cloud. It blinded the driver, and the dust made breathing difficult for anyone inside the car. I used to soak my hanky in eau de cologne and hold it to my nose, but I could still smell the red dust through it. It drifted into my very soul and dried it out, like the parched veldt outside.

We continued our crossing of the plain, leaving nothing but disturbed dust behind. After our passing the dust settled back into the stillness of the land, erasing any memory of our presence from others who might follow.

I gazed at the countryside that rolled along with us. There was so much loneliness here. Forgotten by time, untouched by the living, the distant haze of the Amatole Mountains drifting like a mirage forever receding from us, we were mere observers against the great canvas of the universe.

Finally, at last we began to climb, gradually. And the mountains were closer.  The air was cooler too, and the heat waves faded.



“Can we stop?”

“What for?”

“My legs hurt!”

“Well it’s probably a good idea to let the engine cool a bit before we begin the climb up the pass. Five minutes then!”

Above us I could just make out the road as it zigzagged up the side of the mountain. My mother brought the car to a stop and turned off the engine. I turned to open the car door.

Where there had been only dead land and silence, before me was a seething carnival of life, brimming, overflowing, turbulent, and effervescent. Little pink-bellied hands fluttered like frantic butterflies against the glass of the car windows. A gaggle of raggedy children, sparsely dressed, some a little dirty, were hopping about in a frenzy of excitement, swarming around the car. They had come out of nowhere for we had seen no sign of life before we stopped.

Each one held out something in their little hands and chanted “You have missy, you have!” as they thrust their offerings at us.

My mother chuckled with delight. “Do look at these!” she said “Aren’t they just wonderful?” She reached out and took one of the objects from a short but particularly enthusiastic young supplicant.

“Heavens, don’t encourage them! We’ll have them all in the car in a moment.” My father looked slightly bewildered by the sudden explosion of life that surrounded us.

“Oh, but do look at what they made!” said my mother, placing the little object carefully on the palm of her hand.

It was a small clay horse with an expression of quizzical good humour on its face, its grass mane standing stiff across its back like the ridges of the mountains above us, and a short stubby tail made of the same dried grass stuck out at right angles from its rump. It was a treasure most rare.

And so they all were, those little raggedy horses. We looked at each one. Some were fat, some were thin, some were painted, some were carved with strange designs, but all were masterpieces without exception.

There was little of wealth or luxury in the vast empty land about us. Here were none of the things I took for granted like running water, schooling, electric light. Nature still ruled with absolute power. Yet these little children had fashioned magical creations with the simple tools they found aroundthem. The river mud, the grass, their tiny hands.

They did not create their horses to be better than their friends, nor for wealth or fame. They made them not because they were told to but because they wanted to. They made them because they could. They made them because it gave them joy. And they made them from what nature gives us all freely - earth, water and sunlight.

I learned much from that raggedy herd. These days I make my own raggedy horses, though I make them from words, ideas and memories and not from red African river clay. Whenever I am troubled that my efforts may not be good enough in the great arena of creative art, I see those little faces, those magical little horses, and I keep on writing.

Each man’s vision is unique and of value. The measure is not in what others think of what we make but in the pleasure we gain from sharing that simple godlike act of creation.

We create because we can.

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