Story postcard – debating elegance (1)

Simi tries to ignore Katania, and begins to eat her pancakes. She slices into the pile. It bounces, soft and yellow, with maple syrup oozing darkly between the layers. She loads her forkfuls carefully, securing each with bacon.

She is in savoury heaven, until Katania touches her lightly on her arm. She looks around, and meets the green eyes.

“So tricky, don’t you think? How do you tell these young girls that this kind of thing isn’t the end of the world?”

Reluctantly Simi puts down her knife and fork and clears her throat. Just as she is about to say something, a shadow falls over the table.

“May I get you ladies some more coffee?”

Simi, relieved, smiles up at Tonderai. “Perfect. Strong and black please!”

 “Of course,” says Tonderai, smiling.

“A cappuccino for me,” says Katania, not bothering to look up.

Simi watches Tonderai walk away for as long as she dares, then turns back to Katania.

“The thing is,” Katania says, “there’s not enough sophistication here. You know what I mean? Elegance. People who decorate space.”

“Decorate space?” Simi raises an eyebrow.

“Who exude presence. Are you following?” asks Katania, eyes stalking off to inspect other guests. She waves a hand despairingly towards a clump of hot birdwalkers who’ve gathered to admire the view. “See what I mean? T-shirts and shorts, at a resort? In the Eastern Highlands? This is not Kariba.”

They look happy. Confident. Nothing looks better than that, Simi thinks. “What’s Kariba?” she asks.

Katania sighs. “Never mind. Anyway, I don’t know why I even expect you to understand.”

Annoyance ripples over Simi. “It’s a wedding, not a beauty contest.”

Katania swats the comment away. “Oh please. Anyone can make an effort. Add a little elegance to the world. All the time. Look at me. And I’ve just met that priest – Father Norman. Down in the pouring dust of that tea factory, he looked elegant.”

Simi suddenly feels naked without her eyelashes. “Is this the priest you’ve found to take the service?”

“He’s perfect. Tall. Clean. No t-shirt. He’s going to look brilliant in the photographs. The forever photographs … well, maybe not every photograph judging by this lot. But you know what I mean? He’ll be right there in the middle of it, like a god.”

“A bit above his pay grade,” Simi mutters.

Katania takes no notice. “I know we don’t really need a priest, but I want him just for the way he looks. Don’t know why Jen’s bothered about us knowing him. Priests and weddings are like plumbers and leaks.”

Simi chokes. She dabs her mouth with a napkin.

“Katania, weddings are supposed to be about what’s in here.” She places her hand on her chest. “Not all the bling. Anyway look at this place. This is the earth. These are proper people. Earth people. We might not …” Simi stops.

Oh my, listen to me. Green Queen. These are not my streets. I don’t even know them. Earth people? Like I’m from another planet.

“That’s my point,” says Katania, eyes flashing. “My daughter does not belong here.”

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Story postcard – sunshine and shadows (2)

“Just have to hope it’ll get better, not worse, hey. Oh great. There’s Tim. Excuse us ladies, I need to catch him.” Hansie, plate of food in one hand, makes his way back through the tables towards the dining room, where Tim is herding the last walkers in to collect their breakfast.

Simi, pleased with her choice of pancakes and bacon, sits down. As she does so she hears a voice calling across the grass behind her, a voice she recognises as Katania’s.

“Oh there you are. At last. Such a stressful morning.”

“Oh. Hi,” says Jen, watching her mother warily. “Why so stressful?”

As Katania pulls out the chair at the head of the table, Simi looks at the pair of them, one soft as a pillow, the other, tall and thin as a knife.

“Good morning. No breakfast?” Simi asks.

“No. I never have breakfast.” Katania’s eyes dismiss Simi and focus on her daughter. “Your uncle can’t come. Some storm or something. Got half a message first thing. Can’t tell you how furious I am. Mick knows this is your big day …”

“But why?” Jen’s eyes are wide green with worry. “Why can’t he come? Is Uncle Mick okay?”

Katania waves one hand dismissively. “Oh, he’s fine. He’s not ill or anything. Just doesn’t want to get stuck here. Says he needs to be with his colleagues in Beira because of the storm. It’s so annoying.”

Storm, Simi wonders. She feels uneasy, unsure whether to leave the table, or stay trapped in the family drama.

“Just as long as he’s okay,” Jen says softly.

“Oh he’s fine. Anyway, it looked like it was all going to be a disaster, but then I had a brainwave. Thought there must be a local priest, and turns out there is. I’ve met him. He’s perfect. Problem solved.” Katania leans back, shaking her hair down the back of the chair.

“What?” asks Jen. “Who? We don’t even need a priest. Are you really sure Uncle Mick can’t come?”

“I am,” says Katania, straightening up again.

“Can’t a friend do it?”

“Who Jen? Do be sensible. I’ve been through everyone here. There’s no-one. Trust me. This priest will be perfect. Such presence.”

“What’s his name?”

“Father Norman.”

Jen pushes her bowl of fruit away and gets to her feet.

“I’m going to find Hansie.”

“Okay,” says Katania, waving a bangled wrist towards her daughter, “I’ll wait for you here.”

Jen makes her way back through the breakfast tables, while Simi, reluctant to abandon her pancakes, scans the tables hoping she might be able to attract a stray birdwatcher looking for a perch. But she has no luck, for the last of them flutters past, excitedly seeking out friends. Simi sighs and picks up her knife and fork.

Better just eat quickly.

“So tricky,” Katania says, taking off her dark glasses and puting them down on the table. She leans back, eyes closed, tipping her chin as high as it will go. Then she runs her fingers through her hair, sunshine flicking off it, as she traces her scalp down to the base of her neck.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Story postcard – sunshine and shadows (1)

The breeze lifts Simi from sleep. It plays through her room, teasing her mosquito net. She lies still and watches it billow around her, as her half-awake mind drifts like a ship without moorings, laughter and shouts splashing against its sides.

Slowly she starts to listen a little harder, and then suddenly, she draws the threads together with a snap.

The birdwalk!

She sits up and swings her feet to the floor, lifting the mosquito net over her head with one hand, while picking up her mobile with the other. The time is 9.30. She shrieks. Softly.

In minutes she is showered, and changed, and the curtains are open. Sunlight soaks across the room, so bright it feels like the middle of the day, and so far off the six o’clock start she’d planned that she feels completely disoriented. She steps outside, locks the door, slips the key into the blue-green of her kaftan, and then takes the short flight of steps up to the swimming-pool.

“Hi Simi, did you sleep well?” Eyes still adjusting to the light, Simi sees Jen, half-wrapped in a towel, standing by the edge of the pool.

“Too well. I’ve only just woken up, and I was supposed to go on that birdwalk.”

“Good morning,” calls Hansie. He is still in the pool, and raises a hand in greeting.

“Hello,” Simi replies.

“Don’t worry about the birdwalk. Nobody will mind about that,” says Jen. “We haven’t eaten yet either, so if you don’t mind waiting a few seconds, we’ll come and show you where everything is.” She reaches for another towel, then sweeps her hair to one side to dry it more easily.

“Are the birdwalkers all back?” Simi asks.

“Not all of them. And they are still serving breakfast. I had a quick look, before coming out here to check Hansie wouldn’t drown.”

Hansie laughs, and pulls himself out of the pool, water splashing off him like rivers from a mountain.

“Come. Let’s go and get something to eat. I’m starving.”

“Okay.” Jen puts the towel down, and pulls a t-shirt over her head, her long hair damp across its shoulders.

Simi follows them up on to the verandah, where she sees Tonderai clearing plates. He comes towards them, his tray loaded.

“Good morning,” he says. “I hope you’ve slept well.”

“Good morning,” Simi replies. “Very well.”

“Hi Tonderai. Hope there’s still some breakfast hey,” says Hansie.

“For sure. Plenty, plenty in the dining-room. Some walkers still coming. You must serve yourselves.”

“Thanks,” says Jen. “We’ll go and grab something, and then sit in the sun.”

Food collected, they find a table out beyond the bar, with a view of the golf course below. Along its river-edge, under the trees, they see a few stragglers from the walk making their way towards the lodge.

“They’ll be hot,” said Jen. “Glad I went for a swim instead. But we’d better enjoy the heat. Usually means it’s about to change when it goes sticky like this.”

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Preparations for the imagined wedding continue

Simi: a Londoner, who happens to be staying at the resort while the wedding is on

Rudd: the young manager of the resort

Katania: the mother of the bride

Jen and Hansie: the soon-to-be-married couple

Setting: Zimbabwe

Rudd remembered the priest saying he was from Southwark Cathedral in London. Out for a couple of months. Father … or was it Reverend Norman? He looked at Katania. Surely a London priest would do?

“There is a visiting priest who might be able to help,” he said slowly.

Her fingers stopped their drumming.

“A priest? They are already married you know. This is more celebration than service.”

“Well, he’s over from London,” he paused, “… unless you want Simi?

“Simi?” Katania spun the name around her tongue. “Simi. The lady in those kaftans? I do not want her. A kaftan? Leading the service? Can you imagine the photographs? No. Not her. Who is this priest?”

“He’s called Norman. I’ve only met him once. Not for long. Looks a tidy sort of guy. Long sleeves. In his sixties. ”

“Long sleeves? What do you mean?”

“Well he’s different. City type.”

“Hmm. Just as long as he doesn’t ruin the day. This is a wedding. Like launching a brand. You understand? Part of Jen’s forever portfolio. Any chance you can find this priest?”

“Well, I could try …”

“That’s good. Let’s do that,” said Katania standing up.

“Do what?” asked Rudd getting to his feet.

“Find this priest.”


“Yes. Where is he?”

“Right now?”

“Yes. I want to meet him.”

Rudd realised he was doomed, or, as his grandmother used to say, about to be the egg in somebody else’s pancake.

“Well, I saw him at the tea factory about this time of day, two days ago. I suppose he could be there again.”

“Oh that’s very close. Let’s go.”

“I don’t …I didn’t mean …”


“Well … I just came to see the birdwalkers off. I’ve still got to …” He rubbed a hand across his unshaven chin, and then up through his hair.

“Oh. This won’t take long. You can sort yourself out later.”


“No buts Rudd. We’re paying for this remember.” Katania began to walk away. “I’ll fetch my sunglasses, and be out front in two minutes.”

 “Sure …” said Rudd slowly, as she willowed into the distance.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023