During my first year as a student in London, precisely in December 1963, I had been invited by a pen friend, Bessie, to spend the Christmas with her, her husband, mother, and daughter in their farm in Coventry. I found my hostess and her husband very good and friendly and was thoroughly enjoying my stay. The old woman was very friendly too. It was a cold Christmas day and the proverbial turkey was on the table with other palatable food items. We were sitting round the table and Bessie was carving up the turkey.

On the black and white television set, the news was about to be read on that eventful afternoon that I would never forget. It began with this shocking piece. Several English missionaries, white of course, had been killed and eaten in the Congo. There was deafening silence. You can imagine how embarrassed I was, a black man, sitting round a dining table and carving turkey with white people while back in my home continent my fellow blacks were carving up white missionaries. I would have loved the floor to open up and swallow me. But it did not. I tried to cover my embarrassment by laughing.

Bessie asked in shock, `Peter, why are you laughing?’

My thoughtless reply was, `Well, here we are carving up turkey for Christmas and there those people in the Congo are carving up missionaries!’

Silence descended for a while. Then Bessie, bless her, changed the topic. But whatever small talk that followed during the meal and indeed the rest of the day was flat.

The next morning the old woman, Bessie’s mother, said to me, `Peter, I could have sworn I heard somebody moving around the house at night.’

My hostess, bright as ever, cut in. She said, `Peter, mum is asking whether you were looking around the house for somebody to eat.’

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