The Big Issue : Edition 470
20 THEBIGISSUE24OCT–6NOV2014 THE SILENCE WOKE me. A deep, black silence that pressed in on me so much I felt the urge to put up my hands and push it away. The African night is a noisy, busy thing – it chimes, rings, whistles and croaks. With a mounting sense of terror I strained my ears and every nerve, trying to pinpoint the presence that so completely silenced the usual, comforting sounds. The hairs on my neck began to rise and, just as I felt I couldn’t stand it anymore, there was a soft noise at my door. A fingernail gently scratching to draw attention, then a whisper. “Memsahib, come quickly...” InasecondIwasoutofbedand pulling a thick sweater over my pyjamas, then struggling into my coat – protection against the cold night of entered my head to switch on the lights. I automatically acted as furtively as my caller, seeking anonymity in the darkness. As I waited for my eyes to adjust to the blackness, again I heard Thomas whisper urgently beside me. “Quickly, Memsahib. We must go.” My hand was clasped firmly and I was led to the side of the house. The next moment we were racing together across the lawn. I was bundled unceremoniously over the hedge, then we were off again across the paddock and into the shelter of the surrounding forest. Here I slumped against a tree, fighting to regain my breath and calm my hammering heart, which surely would be audible for miles around. After a few moments I became aware that we were not alone. A small group of people were squatting quietly around us. the East African Highlands. I grabbed socks and boots, slipped my torch into my pocket, felt my way to the door and stepped into the velvet darkness. I was used to night calls at the dispensary, but this was different. Thomas, my orderly, would normally hurry up the path, light and shadow dancing around him from the storm lantern swinging in his hand. After a quick greeting with the night guard, he would knock on my door, give me a quick run-down of the case, with details of how to find the patient’s home, then go to the surgery to collect my bag and equipment. By the time I was dressed, all would be ready. Tonight was different in every way. I was so overwhelmed by the awful feeling of danger, it had not even Two Doctors In the 1950s, Norah Scott-Norman, a trained midwife, ran a bush hospital in Tanganyika, East Africa – now a part of Tanzania. She lived there for 15 years, bringing new medicine to an ancient culture. One night, those two worlds collided...