Jonah and Rosa

When my father was working on the pipeline in northern Iraq near the Little Zab river we had a lady named Rosa who came to work for us to do the general housework. I remember my father telling me she was a Jonahite – one of the followers of Jonah.

Many people know the story of Jonah and the whale, although the Bible never said it was a whale just a big fish. The story goes that God sent Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh because they were such a wicked city and if they repented God would not punish them. The old city of Nineveh is now the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

I have searched for reference of these people off and on over the years but it was only a few days ago that I found it. The people of Nineveh were Assyrians and there are still some modern day Assyrians descended from the very people Jonah spoke to and who followed his teachings and later became christians. Their story is quite interesting read about them and how they have been persecuted Assyrian christians

Rosa was a very quiet lady and every year she produced a child, usually a boy. She liked to name her children after the men for whom she worked and informed my father that the next boy would be called Tudor, his first name. My father was horrified, he did not see that she was hoping to please him, rather that there would be a little boy running around Iraq labeled with a good old fashioned Welsh name. Luckily for Dad she had a girl she called Katy after my Mother.

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Radishes, Scorpions and Hats

“It’s been calculated that a scorpion has a metabolism equivalent to a growing radish root,”
Dr. Polis

Scientists have learned that scorpions possess such a sluggish metabolism to allow them to survive in extremely harsh conditions of heat and cold on virtually no food or water. They can live for more than a year without eating, and they are covered with a slick of wax that seals in water. Even in urinating or defecating, they conserve water, releasing nothing but a powder of waste products.

Everything about the scorpion turns out to be extended in time. They take up to seven years to mature, and they gestate their young for up to a year and a half, a pregnancy rivaled only by the elephant. More surprising still, scorpion mothers have something like a mammalian placenta, which nourishes their young internally, another feature unique among invertebrates. The offspring are born live, and then crawl onto their mother’s back for another two to six weeks of external development.
By Natalie Anger, New York Times

When my father was supervising the oil pipeline in Kirkuk, Iraq his driver would pick him up when it was still dark and cool, returning about 11am for lunch and siesta and returning in the evening when it was cool again.

He would always leave his hat on the chair by the front door to grab as he left. One morning he was rushing out and grabbed his hat and it was almost on his head before he saw a scorpion in it. Thankfully he shook it out and killed it before it killed him. He was completely bald I doubt he could have survived a sting. It was customary to shake everything, shoes, clothes etc before putting them on because of creepy crawlies but sometimes one forgot.


My father remarried in 1957 and took his bride to live with him in Kirkuk, Iraq, where he worked on the oil pipeline. I would visit them on my school holidays and I remember one incident which amused us.

My stepmother was lining the kitchen drawers with newspaper, largely because you couldn’t get anything else, and while she was busily occupied our houseboy Abdul, came over to see what she was doing.

“What is that in the paper, MemSahib” he said, pointing to the pictures of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones’s wedding.

My mother explained “The sister of our Queen Elizabeth is getting married”.

Abdul looked awed and said “How much did this man pay for her”.

“Nothing”, said my mother “men don’t pay for their wives in England”. I think she realized her mistake at this point.

Abdul looked shocked and stepping back and looking down his nose at my mother said “Didn’t Sahib pay for you?” Mum shook her head regretfully.

“I do not work for a cheap woman” declared Abdul, and putting down his dishcloth he marched out of our home never to be seen again.

School Vacations in Iraq

When I was a child I attended boarding school in England, and my vacations were spent in Iraq where my father was an engineer with the Iraq Petroleum Company, working on the oil pipeline based in Kirkuk. My mother had died when I turned four, so when I visited my father I had to have someone to look after me while he was at work.

Nuri was the man my Father chose, and he became my friend, overseer, playmate and guardian for the hours my Father was away. Generally the men who worked on the pipeline would leave about 4am and work until about 10am while it was still relatively cool, and come home for lunch and an afternoon siesta, leaving again in the evening when it was cooler to check the jobsite.

Nuri would see to my meals, take me swimming at the club house pool and buy us lunch and then we went to the afternoon cartoons that were shown in the local cinema.

I had a swing in the backyard and I remember worrying about all the little lizards that were everywhere, I was scared to get off it, in case the big mother came around the corner. I thought the geckos were crocodiles. I would sit there until Nuri came and got me.

I wonder what has happened to Nuri now, is he still alive, of course he would probably be in his 80’s now. There is a good chance he is dead I suppose.