Natalie Wheatley

Natalie Wheatley flew to Ghana in 1960 to marry a man she hardly knew. Three years later they sailed to India and settled in Mysore State. Michael’s job was to open up a new tobacco growing area to make up for the shortfall caused by Ian Smith’s UDI in Rhodesia.

Hassan was home for six years. Facilities and supplies were non-existent; it was a question of adjusting to life in a small town and coping with four children, endless visitors and wayward servants. Kanarese was the language, and water came from one outside tap. Michael travelled the entire state endlessly.

In 1970 the family moved permanently to the Coromandel Coast of Andhra Pradesh, a hot, dirty place, with flat land and endless views of nothing, stirred by cyclonic storms. The orthodox towns were hundreds of miles from any city and wives had to make their own amusements and were forced to send their children, at five-years old, to boarding schools in the hills, a three-day journey on sooty steam trains.

The company was in the Dark Ages, the management indoctrinated into hard slog without any recreational opportunities except the annual cricket match. In 1978, as the last expatriates, they left the heat and dust, feast and famine and poverty of rural India. The next eight years were spent in London and Sierra Leone, a country beginning to slide the slippery slope into civil war. This is the story of a man who was over-burdened with work, of a woman who kept the family nurtured and cherished under severe difficulties, and of a family that has stayed together.