Liberian Letters 4

By Merran Fraenkel

September 29th 1958.

[Peter had by now booked his passage to follow Merran to Liberia.]

I am trying to arrange a barrel of palm wine pending your arrival.  The cane juice is already laid on.

The rain is still bucketing down. It’s a horrible feeling. Everything gets so damp. At first I didn’t like the air conditioned room [in the house Merran was caretaking] but now I find it’s a great blessing… because air conditioning also dries the air. Therefore one can keep clothes and books and things without having them go too mouldy.

[In October ’58 Peter flew out to Monrovia. Merran and Peter were married there “by the laws of God and the Republic of Liberia”, Mr. Justice Pierre performing the ceremony. Later the British ambassador explained that Liberian law permitted polygamy so their marriage might not be recognised in U.K. They then went through a second marriage at the embassy six weeks later.

[The charming Mr Judge Pierre was among ‘big shots’shot on Monrovia beach during the coup that brought down the Americo-Liberian regime some years later.]

Peter returned to UK after two months to continue job-hunting.]

January 4th 1959.

Your departure has worked wonders because people come around to comfort the poor deserted wife and I get lots of field background out of them.

Dixon has just appeared with small Bofor who is now helping him to pump water, to say “He says if you see banana, call him and he will eat it.” This seemed such an original way of asking that I gave them a banana each.

I have been getting a few sidelights on Natt. [a neighbour with a bad reputation]   Apparently housebreaking is his line. He comes visiting to get the lie of the land and breaks in at night. He’s had numerous spells in jail…. Nobody has suggested, however, that he might have been our thief (some money had been missing) and I think it sounds most unlikely. With the distrust that the locals have, he’d have little chance of getting in unseen….

In fact, on our very first night at New Krutown we had been woken by this same Bobo Natt banging on our window: “Missus Fraenkel, You mustn’t leave your window open. Many rogues about!” The following day other neighbours explained: ”If anything went missing from your house, he would immediately be blamed. He says he only operates outside Krutown”.