How does a widowed, sixty-two-year-old ‘madam’ to servants in Africa end up becoming a servant to madams (and masters) in England?
Upstairs and Downstairs is author, Angela Howe’s hilarious, quirky, sad and compassionate journal of her four-year journey from her small, predictable life in a South African village, into the world of servitude, becoming a carer to the English gentry – a world of Zimmer frames, wheelchairs and commodes – juxtaposed with visits back to her homeland, Zimbabwe, to care for her ailing mother, while briefly becoming ‘madam’ again to Benson, her mother’s faithful manservant.
Following her angst-filled departure from South Africa, Angela takes the reader with her on her adventure to England, recounting her training in Gloucestershire, followed by her first assignment, and baptism of fire, to pernickety Madam and Master in Suffolk. She moves on to demanding little Lady D in Windsor, demented Vera in Cirencester, horsey Maud in Gloucestershire, caustic Gladys in Warwickshire and finally, blind-and-deaf Sir R and brain-damaged Lady M in Hampshire. We accompany Angela into their homes and lives, as she recounts with humour and perception the frustrations, challenges and intermittent joys, of old age and immobility.
In between her caring assignments, during her frequent visits to her homeland, she describes with sadness and frustration the deteriorating conditions of her birthplace. After finally laying her mother to rest, she returns to England to care once more for Gladys and then Sir R before they, together with Benson, ‘go gentle into that good night’.
What does her future hold?
About the Author
Angela Howe was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and after completing university in South Africa, worked as an Art teacher and Colour Consultant, before re-locating to South Africa with her late husband and three children. After finding herself suddenly widowed at the age of forty-five, she returned to work. After several years as a medical receptionist, she embarked on a career as a carer to the English gentry.
Upstairs and Downstairs is her debut work.