Everyone turned to look at the sobbing child in astonishment. She was clutching onto the railings as though her life depended on it, tears streaming down her cheeks, her cloud of blond curls lit golden in the sharp highveldt sunlight. ‘Poor brownie bear,’ she repeated piteously. "No Mummy, no Daddy, no Tessie, no Janie…poor, poor brownie bear."
Her father scooped her up and hugged her tight to him. By this time the dark-haired, freckled faced toddler who had been standing next to her was bawling as loudly as she was. As a graceful woman crouched down to comfort the second child, a crowd, drawn by the rising duet of distressed sobbing, had gathered around the bear enclosure at Johannesburg Zoo.
Our parents never took us to a zoo again. The only large animals we ever saw from then on in were those roaming free across the wild African savannah.
My sister Janie - muse, mentor and best friend in all the world - has a birthday today. She is 18 months younger than me, but I look to her for advice and guidance because she has always been far less volatile and impulsive than I am – and considerably more wise. But she still cries for brownie bears – both the human and animal variety!
Janie and friends in Lamu
Janie is one of those exceptionally annoying people who are blessed not only with beauty, but brains and talent in abundance as well. She’d been published by the age of five, for goodness sake! It may only have been in our prep school magazine, but that didn’t make it any less impressive. Here, for your edification and delight, is the extract:
“When I grow up I want to sit at home in a big chair and knit socks and make babies.”
Whether it was because, even at that age, we’d already travelled a great deal with my parents and she just wanted the stability of home, or that it really was her ultimate ambition, we’ll never know. She most definitely has never sat at home and knitted socks – far from it. The girl is an out and out adventurer and explorer. As for babies, she has one lovely daughter, a son-in-law she adores and two of the most deliciously delightful grandsons you could ever imagine.
Janie and Jemma with the Ellies - then
Grandsons Wizz and Alex - now
Together, Janie and I have conquered the world. If I were to recount all our adventures together here, it would become a book – so we’ll leave that for another day.
Another birthday - another country
Safari kitchen - Janie calm, Tessa in a tizz
Suffice it to say that she is a truly excellent cook - her dinner parties are legend - and a gardener who can transform a patch of red African earth into an Arcadian paradise. Irritating, eh? And believe it or not, she is also great mechanic on top of all her other attributes, and the fact that our old Landie made it from the very tip of Africa, across that vast continent to our destination at the foot of the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda in our epic expedition a few years ago is testament to her skills.
Mechanic in Malawi
Landie running smoothly - Zimbabwe
Jay in her studio
Janie has promised to tell us about her adventures in pottery here on this blog one day soon, so do keep an eye out for that post because I know you’ll enjoy the trip.
Your lovely tribute to your sister makes me want to go hug mine now...
(we also share the same birthday - June 12 is such a wonderful day!)
What a sister and what an adventure!
I think growing up in Africa must make people extra brave.
And how talented she is.
Aw! You guys are such a beautiful family. Your sister is a Gemini - Cool! Happy Birthday to your beautiful sister!!!
Oh, beautiful... the whole post. I loved it!! What a lovely tribute. :D
What an incredibly beautiful woman and I don't only mean to the eye. Her spirit, it's grand. Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday to your sister.
What a wonderful story with completely gorgeous photos ...
Thank you for being a fascinating addition to my life.
does your sister remember these wonderful stories? when my sister and i get together, we don't always remember the same stories...but always end up laughing! sisters ARE special!
what a lovely sister you have and what a talented family you all are-
plus being such adventurers.
She will be touched by your tribute...
Tessa... you are very blessed :-)
& we are blessed that you are sharing with us.
ps awesome photos
I'm joining your sisterhood. I'm running and running and running, and swimming and leaping, and soon I'll be there.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a sister you love.
happy birthday Janie! cant wait to hear the pottery stories. Tessa, a wonderful tribute to sisterhood - and two such very talented sisters too! thank you x
Tell your sister Happy Birthday from me. She seems to be quite a unique and talented person, but then again, it runs in the family, doesn't it? Both of you must be awfully proud of each other. You're a wonderful set of women. I wish I had a sister who was more like me, I miss that. You're very lucky.
She is so beautiful and so talented. Happy birthday to her and best wishes for the continued happy sisterhood :)
It looks like beauty, brains, artistic ability, a sense of adventure, and most of all, kindness and love, run in this family.
Joy to Jay on her day!
tessa, what a beautiful tribute!
such a beautiful family....I loved the photos and soaking up the warmth of the place!
thank you for blessing me this morning~
This post was both beautiful and thrilling. I would have loved that trip you took to Uganda. I have two sisters - it is such a special bond. I look forward to hearing your sister's adventures in pottery. Such talent and beauty!
Wow Tessa! Aren't you glad such a wonderfully talented woman is your sister? I mean - I'd hate to have her as an adversary! :) You are both truly blessed! And it's so nice to see Wizzy well again! I was thinking about him the other day.
Happy Birthday Janie.
Janie is beautiful and so talented and so gorgeous and so incredible and looks amazingly wonderful just like her big sister.
I love this tribute and the pictures Tessa.
Everything and all the stories about Janie are incredible. Oh and I nearly forgot those most gorgeous little grandsons. Wow.
What a full life.
I want you guys to write a book.
I can't wait to read her post on sculpture.
Tessa your beloved sister is fantastic.
Love Renee xoxo
What a wonderful tribute! And happy birthday, Jane!
Sisters, what a gift. And how dear that you are so close. What adventures you share. Also a gift.
I wish her happy birthday!
hahaha tessa, you surprised me! i smiled when i saw your answers on my blog.
what a tribute to your sister. it makes me want to know more about your parents...and about your upbringing.
sat. night i was at a fundraiser for swaiziland, called 'young heroes'. i met a woman who runs an inner city gallery here in mass. specializing in african art.
happy janie. i'm falling in love with your sister....
First things first. Did I mention that I missed you lots? Every now and then I would stick my head in to see if there was anyone home. Just came back from a day out with the family and read your little sojourn in Turkey with gusto, especially because there was a delicius recipe involved.
Then, now this post about your sister's birthday. Happy birthday to her! And I, for one, am looking forward to that promised (it was a promise, wasn't it?) joint literary venture.
Many thanks, enjoyed the photos, the commentary and the ambience.
Greetings from London.
Talent seems to run in your family.
A well written and delightful story of the love of one sister for the other.
Happy Birthday to your lucky sister.
What stunning ladies you both are!
She sounds like a lovely, wonderful soul. I'm not surprised she's your sister ;)
Birthday Blessings Janie!
Lovely tribute. It's wonderful that you have such a good relationship with your sister. Great adventures!
What a sweet tribute to your sister! i very much enjoyed the series of pics...your sis is gorgeous and..oh my... she's a great mechanic too along with all these talents?
...not fair..not fair..
Tessa, i also wanted to thank you for your lovely comment which really cheered me up.
I'll certainly visit you again (i love the fact that Africa is your beloved country)
Happy birthday to your sis !
beauty through and through...
What a beautiful post and tribute, Tessa. I loved your writing about your sister, and the photographs of her, and you, and Africa. It all seems so exotic and adventurous.
Your sister sounds like a treasure, and I feel she's lucky to have you, too.
If your sister wrote about you, I`m sure her tribute would sound much like yours for her. You both are lovely and wonderful! Hugs from Angela
Okay, that's something I can't do, type. So here goes again...It's just a short trip to NYC to celebrate my birthday with my Gemini twin sister. Then I shall be back. Again, your family stories out of Africa sound as interesting as Karen Blixen's if not better. A book, perhaps a movie, you already both look like A-stars actresses.
Tessa very hard news to hear. Bella's dear husband died on Saturday, I wanted to let you know as I know you are a friend of hers.
Love Renee xoxo
Wow, she sounds and looks amazing! What a woman!!
Nothing less than Janie would work as your sister and best friend. Bravo to you both!
Beautiful post. That artistic gene runs strongly through your family.
And finally (thanks to your comment) I know who bought my image of the Qantas 737 with Aboriginal art on its fuselage!
Thank you, very humbly.
This is a wonderful tribute. It looks like you two had many amazing adventures together, growing up in Africa must mean loads of incredible adventures.
I always wanted a sister. I have two brothers instead! Great as they are, they're not quite the same thing.
I can't get over you and your sister. You are both incredible.
I love the picture of the vase in the end.
Tessa I am so sorry for Bella too. Very sorry.
Lets send her and her children all our love and prayers today.
Love Renee xoxo
A lovely tribute to your sister, and her work is stunning. Also the photo of the little girl in Turkey is wonderful.
I wish to goodness I'd had a sister. Congratulations on your talented and beautiful one!
Oh my! There is a book waiting to be written by/about two most fabulous sisters! What an interesting life- great genes, your parents must be amazing as well. I would buy that book- I would buy many and give them to all of my family and friends!
Oh, I love the old pictures. I had to google Lamu.
I think I am going to like your story.
What a fantastic tribute to your sister. And since you are sisters, methinks you have qualities that will compliment your sister's too!
Over from authorblog - congratulations on being a POTD winner. Well deserved.
WOW! Thank you all SO much for the birthday wishes for Janie...she is just totally thrilled to bits and pieces by your lovely, generous and heartwarming responses. You all absolutely made her day ultra special...and mine too. Thank you.
Creativity obviously runs in the family - great post, Tessa. xxx
lucky are the ones who have sisters. sisters are he best friends any one get. lots of wishes to your sister on her birthday
Hi, Tessa! welcome to my blog, and thank You for your lovely words.
I very much enjoyed my visit to you as well.xx♥
oh! and Happy Birthday to Jane and please tell her that her ceramics are great! :D
How could I have missed this magnificent post?! Thanks to David's POTD I'm here now, soaking up your family's beauty and wonderful art.
Happy birthday to your lovely sister and a huge panEuropean/African hug to you, my darling friend Tessa.
A wonderful tribute to your sister and congratulations on POTD!
PS. I celebrated my birthday last week..I'm a Gemini like your sister!
A lovely birthday blogpost for Janie. I really enjoyed the pics and the sisterly stories!
In catch up mode here, I loved the Gozleme post and recipe too! sounds like you had such a fantastic holiday.. x
Wow! What a great post and tribute to your sister-and how beautiful the the of you were and are. I am here through your Post of the Day award from David at author blog [I got a mention] which you most deservedly won.
Wow, what a beautiful post! Happy birthday to your sister! Blessings! Oh, and congrats on the Post of the Day Award from authorblog!
What an awesome post, I really enjoyed it and congrats on POTD!
Talent and beauty runs in the family! Happy Birthday girl!!!!! Wishing you the best birthday ever!
okay, here i am again because i can't stop looking at these photos. i can see your class, dignity, and extended hands in each one. you are both beautiful.
i'm sending you an email!
this brought a lump to my throat (other than the lump that is there already)...what an amazing post, and what clear unadulterated love. awesome. and happy b day sis, and i would love to buy one of her ceramic pieces...is she here or in africa? e mail me email@example.com and we have to meet one day, do you ever come up to london? or down to london from hampshire?
that was incredible tessa. i'm sorry i don't have the words to say something more right now, i am so tired of resting, i just had to start reading(but with half a brain)
but i really really loved this,
happy belated birthday Janie. you two are completly amazing.
thank you for sharing.
There's not much left to say except, "beautiful." I can't look at those pictures without thinking that I must actually be looking at still frames from a movie reel.
I'm sure your life seems perfectly "normal" to you, but it seems utterly amazing to me.
It's so very wonderful that there are such lovely people as you and your Janie in the world.
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