Reading Iain Dale’s Greatest Experiences, made me think of my own, with the exception of the first, these experiences are in the order I remembered them not importance. However, unlike Iain I will not talk about when or where I popped my cherry – I am a lady.
1 – My first time in London – I first visited London (my favorite city in the world) with my family as a child during a school summer holidays. I loved daily going to the park, eating different foods and adored soft ice cream cones with flakes. I enjoyed the Zoo, the funfair but most of all I was enchanted by the number of green open spaces. I honestly think it was then that I permanently feel in love with London.
2 – First time in US – Ten or eleven years after my first visit to London. My dad surprised me with a ticket to the States to visit with my cousins. I arrived in Chicago (my second favorite city in the world) and took a connection to Indianapolis, Indiana. Outside the airport I got my first shock, the streets were huge, the cars were long and everybody was very happy and super friendly. We stopped to pick up a few things and I had my second shock that day, I saw my first gallon of milk and of orange juice. Surprise number three came the following day at the movies – popcorn came in a bucket and Coke in half a gallon.
3- The Grand Canyon – as much as I read about it and saw photos of the Grand Canyon nothing prepared me to its majesty, it was breath taking to see the real thing.
4 – Visiting the Pyramids in Egypt and going inside before it was banned – I still can’t get my head around how they were built that long ago.
5- Getting my firearm licence in the US and shooting my first gun – at a gun range. I can hunt, but I enjoy target shooting more. My preferred handgun is a 38 special Smith & Wesson.
6 – Becoming the first female to own a gun and apply for a gun licence in Sudan. That was in 1984 and I still hold that record by the way. However, a year later I was put under house arrest for six weeks; my charge was a woman daring to request a firearm licence.
7 – The Golden Horn is the first social enterprise in Sudan and to date is my proudest achievement. My mother and I went into partnership to realise a vision of creating and running a sustained farm where farmers and workers are partners and where profits were reinvested in improving and expanding the business. We succeeded, and despite, objections and obstacles, our vision of improving the indigenous cow (via artificial insemination) and creating a family friendly work environment, were achieved. Now that vision is the blueprint for many successful farming businesses in Sudan.
8 – Getting married was wonderful; a traditionalist at heart, getting married was number three on my life goals. As a young girl I dreamt of first getting a great education, and then become my own business owner (always wanted to be my own boss) and number three was getting married.
9 – Becoming a mother, was my absolute best experience (I know most parents say that) but being a mother taught me absolute love, patience, listening, and putting someone else before me. Although my family wasn’t wealthy, I never wanted for anything, love, attention, or stuff. So to be selfless was not always second nature. Parenthood taught me instinctively to put my children first.
10- Getting divorced, even though I never thought it would ever happen to me, and most definitely was not a life goal. It nonetheless was a necessary detour on my perfectly planed journey. At times it was sad, confusing and even frightening and I consider myself to be a very independent and strong woman, however, like marriage and parenthood, divorce was full of surprises and valuable life lessons.
11 – Immigrating to the UK, I grow up in a political household. My father was a political figure and after his government was over thrown, life in Sudan became impossible, especially as it became difficult to trust even family members. I left Khartoum seven month pregnant with my youngest, and a toddler plus very little personal possessions. I did for my girls.
12 – Getting my British citizenship nine years after immigrating to the UK. That was and still remains one of my proudest moments. It was in 2000 so there was no funfair, a ceremony or a test. To celebrate my Britishness the following day I went to my local Conservative Association and became a bona fide card carrying Tory – up to then I used to just leaflet and occasionally canvass but not vote in general elections.
13 – Adopting Budweiser Sweetface Idris- Yousif (Buddy). In 2002 after a short holiday with the girls and the longest time in my live (1991 -2002) without a dog, we decided to get a dog and opted to adopt rather than getting a new puppy. Buddy is a Battersea rescue, and for 12 years he gave us lots of joy, cheek, and unconditional love. He passed away on Monday November 10, 2014 at the age of 14/15 (vets could not agree on an age).
14 – Meeting George and Barbra Bush at an official reception in Khartoum when George Bush was Vice President to Roland Reagan.
15 – Meeting King Hussein of Jordan.
16 – Meeting President Anwar Sadat of Egypt – who is also a distant relative of my mother’s.
17 – Dinner with Sir John Major, at an association dinner, I sat on his immediate left. My father was a very calm and gentle man; the only person who can beat him is Sir John Major. The former Prime Minister is also the most engaging and caring politician I had the pleasure of dinning with.
18 – Flying in a private jet from Khartoum to Geneva to see my baby sister in Lausanne for a long weekend – first class? What first class?
19 – Flying Concord to JFK – twice
20 –Diving a Mustang convertible down PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) – the sun, the gentle breeze and the sheer exhilaration of it all.