A couple of days ago I picked up a few avocado pears at the grocery shop. There are usually two varieties on sale - one has rough skin that goes nearly black when ripe, the other is elongated with smooth skin and looks like this:

Holding it in my hand, I had an immediate flashback to this place:

This was the last house we lived in before we moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa.  Situated in the leafy suburbs of Harare, it was on (by South African standards) a huge property.  This photo is taken from half-way up the drive at the front.  At the back there was the same size land, which housed a free-standing garage and granny-flat, and enough soil to keep a decent veggie and mealie field going.

As to the avos, we had three trees of this exact variety, bearing what seemed to be year-round.  The dog you see in the pic is Laddie, and we had so many of the things that he'd eat the ripe ones that fell off the tree as snacks.  You can see one of the trees behind the roofline.  Another was outside the back door, providing easy access to the roof via a long curved branch.  That same branch was thick enough for a low swing support.  I still have a scar on my hand where I sat beneath it's shade, carving a piece of soapstone with my pocket knife - that slipped and ended up embedded in my palm.  The third tree is out of picture to the left, up against the property line on the streetfront in a mini forest of other trees.  The shade you see on the lawn was from a gigantic lucky-bean tree, often visited by purple-crested louries.  I treasured their jewel-hue feathers that on rare occasions made it to ground level.

My room was behind the bouganvilla pictured.  It was the first bedroom I got to decorate myself, and had a Japanese theme.  I painted the globe paper light shade with cherry blossoms to match my duvet cover and curtains.  A long parquet-floor passage led from the lounge at right to the parent's room at left.  We'd "skate" down it in our socks, landing on the flokati rug in the lounge.  The rug that had a horrible habit of hiding lost Lego pieces in its pile and popping them into bare feet undersides at unexpected times. 

The lounge window unfortunately attracted its fair share of doves slamming into it.  One hit with such force that it's crop split open and it's last meal of mealie pits fell out.  We had to put it out of its misery...

At the back of the house, we once had a friend-of-a-friend ask to store a wooden tea crate for a few weeks.  When he returned to collect it, he started taking his car apart - and hiding semi-precious tumbled gemstones in every available panel and floor recess for "export"!  What he didn't get was the handgun my dad had discovered when investigating what exactly we were storing, which was thrown into Lake McIlwain (now Lake Chivero) outside Harare.  Dad was taking no chances.

The granny flat beside the garage housed our house/cook/garden boy, a wonderful old true gentleman with pitch black biltong-dry skin by the name of Tobias.  He was our "grandfather", our wise man when we as kids wanted advice, a much loved part of our household who turned sanction-time rations into fantastic meals.  When we moved to South Africa, Tobias cried as we drove away - as did all of us.

Across the road lived one of those spinsters one sometimes finds in Africa.  A rebel as a young woman, she had hitched a ride with soldiers across the desert in the second World War, been to India, travelled Africa, seen America and the Far East.  She had a house full of curiousities and so many fascinating stories to tell over an afternoon cup of tea with her gangly-legged young neighbour.  I think it was her stories that instilled a hankering for seeing the world and boldly adventuring, which I still bear today.

Next to us was an Afrikaans man who loved his boxing.  Every Friday night we'd hear him yelling at the TV to "vat hom!".  He had a stand of bamboo that bordered our property, and made the most wonderful charred-wood-patterned vases from it, one of which ended up travelling south with us. 

A few years after we left, we heard that a nurse had moved into that house.  She did not like trees.  She thought shade was unhealthy and that germs were best burnt by the harsh African sun into submission.  She had the avo trees felled, the giant lucky-bean tree, the ornamental cherries to the side, the mini forest, and the camel foot flowering trees along the drive.

End of an era....