Here in the garden in the wonderful, transient, Rhodesian, lateafternoon light, the welcome was warm. Robin was tall, angular, blueeyed, fair-haired, ever so slightly stooped. His story was an interesting one. Before becoming a Colonial Officer, he had joined the British Army Rifle Brigade, been commissioned, had been sent to Palestine where he had commanded a mixed force of British, Arab Legion, Mauritian Pioneers and Arab Police in Jerusalem during the strife there in 1947-8. It must have been unpleasantly exciting. He had joined the Colonial Office in 1947 and
had already two three-year tours of duty under his belt when I arrived. He had his weaknesses and foibles like the rest of us. He could be stubborn, sometimes imperiously, and was decisive to the point of getting himself into trouble, as past events and future ones were to show. Yet, on the whole, he was the best of a good bunch of DC bosses I encountered and, when his service was over, he wrote African Sunset, one of the best books on colonial Africa. Beyond his adventurous career, his was also a story of high romance. Returning on a Peninsular and Oriental liner from British leave after a lonely and difficult tour of duty, he met and swept off her feet, Veronica Vail, a young member of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet troupe which was travelling to an engagement in South Africa, carrying her off to the wilds of the African bush where she continued to look, in face and hairstyle, lightness and litheness of body, and style of dress, every inch a former ballerina. The change must have been difficult for her, particularly the absence of intelligent or lively women friends. All of the three junior officers were bachelors and she often used to ask plaintively: ‘Why do none of you young men want to marry?’ The story of the colonial wife, I think, still remains to be told. When Robin and Veronica’s beautiful twin girls were born, they were named Lydia and Oriana after the P & O liners of the same names, and a pretty picture they now made, running playfully around the DC’s garden.