Tag Archives: South Africa

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

27 Apr

This is what the Hub, Tory Boy and I were doing today in 1994, one of the best days of our lives: 

Not eating biscuits: queuing.

Not eating biscuits: queuing.

The first day of polling in the first Free & Fair South African election.

We were living in Alberton in the Transvaal at the time.  We got up early to be at the polling station for seven, when it opened.  We didn’t want to be stuck in queues all day long.  The government had declared a national holiday so that everyone could vote, and it seemed like everyone intended to.

We were first in the queue, but only just.  Not that it did us any good: we were still first in the queue come four o’clock in the afternoon.  There were no ballot papers at the polling station.  The election officials popped out periodically to tell us that they were on the way – in a helicopter now – would be here any minute.  None ever showed up, except on auction sites in the last few years.

In spite of this, and in spite of the news of bombs going off at the airport, the mood of the crowd was, well, joyous.  There was a lot of singing and a lot of braaing (barbecuing): those who came later and knew about the long wait brought their skottels (a portable gas barbecue) and fold-up deck chairs.  The Hub went home to make us some sandwiches and drinks, but I wish we had braaied instead.

Whole families turned out to vote.  We had four-year old Tory Boy with us.  I have another photo of him, sitting glumly on the kerb, unaware that he was participating in a truly momentous event in South African history.  He’s grateful now, of course.

We chatted to everyone around us.  There was a tearful old man who had never believed that he would ever get the chance to cast his vote.  There were Afrikaaners, resigned to the inevitable and taking it gracefully; and many who welcomed it.  I suppose those with strong opposition to the change were at home, planning protests.  People of every race, tribe, ethnicity, colour and political persuasion stood in that queue and waited with great patience for the ballot papers that never arrived.

There were no murmurings or angry voices, but there were a lot of rumours about what was happening in the rest of the country.  We were in a capsule, a moment in time when we were all in this together, all looking toward a happy and prosperous future; each believing that things would be better, fairer, and right.  We were in the mood to party, not fight.

No ballots came.

Because of our tired little boy, we wondered if we should go home and come back next day – the election was intended to be held over two days, but lasted three because of the issue of having nothing on which to cast your vote – but then we heard there was a magical polling station a few miles on which did have ballot papers, and even enough to go round.  We thought it was worth trying because we really did want to cast our vote on a day that would go down in history.  We wanted Tory Boy to be able to say that he was there. 

I don’t remember where either polling station was, except that the first was in a suburb and the other in a huge, unkempt field.  At the second, we joined a slightly smaller queue that we could see was moving, though it didn’t have the atmosphere of the first.    It took three hours but we got inside at last. 

The most bizarre moment of the day for me was when I went into the booth and there was a scruffy little stub of a pencil.  It didn’t seem fitting to cast a vote that would help change the political landscape of a nation, with a tatty bit of lead.  To this day, I’m not certain that I wasn’t expecting quills or expensive fountain pens. 

In the PWV area (Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging) we had a choice of thirteen parties.  As brave as the National Party had been, I couldn’t vote for the architects of Apartheid.  I couldn’t vote for the ANC bunch of terrorists either, no matter how just their cause.  I didn’t think the KISS lot (Keep It Straight and Simple) was taking the whole thing seriously enough; and the Women’s Rights Peace Party was missing the point.  I voted for the Democratic Party.  Helen Suzman was a lone white protest voice in the wilderness of the Apartheid government for many years, so I voted for her party, which I felt had moral conviction.  As the vote was by proportional representation, I helped them to their seven seats.

I discovered a wonderful quote from Helen Suzman, via Wikipedia:

She was once accused by a minister of asking questions in parliament that embarrassed South Africa, to which she replied: “It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa; it is your answers.”

Our tiny piece of history made, we took our exhausted child home, probably collecting a takeaway on the way.  Once he had eaten I put him straight to bed.  We followed soon after.  History is important but it’s the mundane that keeps us going.

Relatives living further out told us they hadn’t bothered to vote on the first day when they saw the queues; they left it to the next day and walked straight in and out.  It seemed most people wanted to vote on the first polling day.  I guess we were not the only people conscious of history on that glorious day.

Poached, by Dr William Fowlds

20 Sep

Warning: the pictures in the video below are distressing.   I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I saw them.  If we don’t help these magnificent animals, they won’t be around for much longer.  We are brutalising them into extinction.

I don’t usually do grim here at The Laughing Housewife, but I saw this story on Sky News and I have to share it.  I have included a short extract but I beg you to read the whole story and watch the accompanying video.

The number of rhinos killed in South Africa looks set to exceed last year’s record total.

With just three months left in 2013, the number of rhinos killed is more than 500 and appears almost certain to top 2012’s death toll of 668.

One man doing his fair share [to help] is veterinarian Dr William Fowlds who is the founder of Rhino Lifeline.

Dr Fowlds was the first vet on the scene when three rhinos were attacked by poachers 18 months ago on the Kariega Game Reserve. One was so badly mutilated, he died hours later.

But somehow Dr Fowlds’ prompt work managed to bring the other two back from the brink.

The rangers were traumatised by the sight of these animals with their horns and part of their faces ripped off by the poachers.

Seven billion humans live on this planet: are we all going to stand by while a greedy few exterminate an entire species?  I don’t want to have to explain to my grandchildren that, in this information age, when a group of like-minded people with computers can put enormous pressure on individuals, huge organisations and even governments, I said nothing; I did nothing; I let others worry about it.

This is not someone else’s problem; it is ours, right now.  I urge you to blog about it; tweet about it; talk about it on Facebook; start a petition; lobby your MP, Congressman, political representative.

Don’t let us lose another species because we were too busy watching cute kitties on You Tube.

I’m Nervous

2 Sep
English: South Africa (orthographic projection)

South Africa (orthographic projection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Graph representing how many poems I have in relation to how much time I have to fill…

I had intended to post about London today but I have spent most of it preparing for tomorrow: I am due to give a poetry reading to a lunch club group.

After some discussion with the group leader, I opted for a selection of my South African poems (remember them?) and anecdotes.

What has me nervous is the time I have to take – they want me to entertain them for a whole hour.

Gulp.

Wish me luck!

 

A Horse Meat Of A Different Colour

28 Feb
English: Donkeys on the beach at Scarborough. ...

Donkeys on the beach at Scarborough. Donkey rides are a common feature on British beaches. These donkeys were photographed while they were taking a break and eating from nose bags. Also on the beach is a small amusement park (left) and the lifeboat station (right) http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/192382. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We think we’ve got it bad?

I just read a report in the Mail & Guardian that South Africans are eating ‘beef’ which is really goat, donkey and water buffalo.

Professor Louw Hoffman makes an excellent point:

There’s nothing wrong with eating donkey meat if you like eating donkey meat. It’s not more or less unhealthy than any other species. It boils down to the fact that you want to know what you’re eating.

Although, to be honest, if I’m eating donkey, I don’t think I do want to know what I’m eating.

I found this comment surprising:

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has pointed out that eating unconventional species such as donkey, goat and water buffalo may seem unthinkable to many South Africans but it does not pose an automatic health risk.

What surprised me is that eating unconventional species is ‘unthinkable to many South Africans.’  This in a country which has a wonderful restaurant called The Train (in Midrand), where I have eaten elephant, shark, crocodile, giraffe and warthog.  They also serve water buffalo; but they don’t call it ‘beef’.  They call it ‘water buffalo’.

If you are ever in Midrand, you should visit The Train.  It’s less than R40 a head.  That’s about £3!  Or $4.50.

But be warned: they don’t have  a children’s menu.  Someone ate all the donkeys.

The Next Big Thing? I Wish!

7 Jan
south africa

south africa (Photo credit: rafiq s)

Regular readers know that, while I am always grateful to receive awards, appreciating the compliment and the kind thought, I never act on them.  I consider them well-intentioned chain letters – without the threat of death and disaster if they are not forwarded, but chain letters all the same.

‘You’ve been tagged’ posts are just as bad, as a rule, but I have decided to play along with the latest because it’s about self-promotion, and you all know I’m in favour of that.

Robin Coyle tagged me.  You should visit her blog to read about her book; it sounds fascinating, though she is a little too ready to give away the plot.  We have had words about it.  

The premise is simple: write a blog interview about your book, using the following questions:

*

What is the title of your book?

Apartheid’s All Right If You’re White

*

Where did the idea come from for your book?

I lived in South Africa during and after Apartheid.  It took fifteen years to get the experience out of my system.  I had a lot of poems that I first posted on a now-defunct blog.  Viv nagged me to do something with them.

*

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry.  

I make no apologies.*

Brad Pitt in 2007.

Brad Pitt in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?

Me: Sandra Bullock (I wish) or Julie Walters (realistically)

The Hub: Brad Pitt 

Nelson Mandela: Morgan Freeman (obviously)

Maid: Eve Sisulu (a joke for Madam & Eve readers)

Violent Policeman: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Terrorists: The IRA

Madam & Eve

Madam & Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A book of poetry like South Africa itself: colourful, violent and a little bit crazy.

*

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will be sending it to several publishers but I will self-publish if necessary.  So yes, it will be self-published.

*

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Twenty-two years.

*

PHILIP LARKIN

PHILIP LARKIN (Photo credit: summonedbyfells)

What other books would you compare this story to?

I don’t know of any.  Unless you count any poem Philip Larkin wrote about his parents.

*

Who or what inspired you to write the book?

My sanity.

*

*

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s not really poetry.

*

The rules of the tag require me to name five more people who might be The Next Big Thing.  I have opted for bloggers who have or should have a book in the works.

Please feel free to ignore the tag; I won’t be offended.

*

On Poo

13 Sep
Cow Pat

Cow Pat (Photo credit: b3ardman)

I wouldn’t say the tone is particularly high around here, but I’m going to lower it to about as low as I can go without swearing, nudity or hairy armpits.

You know I am currently editing my South Africa poetry collection and I intend to publish it as an ebook.  The editing is going well and I will soon have to start thinking about the technical aspect of the operation.

No, that’s not where the poo comes in, but I am sweating at the thought of it.

Actually, that is where the poo comes in: as I am a complete novice at epublishing and will have to learn from the bottom up, I thought it might be a good idea to have a trial run with a small collection of poems that I wrote for fun and don’t mind giving away for free because I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind would pay for them.

I may have mentioned that I have written a collection of poems about poo (you see, dear readers: a literature degree is never wasted); the collection is small and manageable, unlike the South Africa poems, and I think people might enjoy the lighter side of excrement.

I have the following titles in mind:

  • On Poo
  • Feces Theses
  • NO.2 Cycle
  • The Lighter Side of Excrement (that one came to me when I typed the previous paragraph)
  • Turd Words
  • On Poo Corner
  • Crap Poems
  • The Allure of Ordure
  • Poop Poems
  • Manure Musings

I would like – with some trepidation, I must confess – to invite you to suggest further titles: vulgarity is acceptable; levity is encouraged; rudeness is not.

Please leave your suggestions in the comment box.  Once I have a few, I will put a poll in the field (watch where you step…).

An interesting aside:

While researching the correct spelling of faeces (the English, naturally; but I went with the American for the visual rhyme), I came across a fascinating site which tells you how things should look; and why they look like they look if they don’t look good: http://www.faeces.org.uk/

Wrinkle your nose all you want – like death and gaining weight, we all think about it.

Or is that just me?

True Lies

21 Jul

I told only one lie yesterday.

19 of my twenty statements in yesterday’s post were true.  Well done, Grannymar!  If you are amenable, your questions will be in the mail.

Here’s a run down:

  1. I once discussed unemployment with a Goon. TRUE.  The Hub and I went to see Spike Milligan’s First Farewell Tour of South Africa in 1986 and the Hub dragged me backstage afterwards, autograph hunting.  Because he took so long to persuade me, we were last in the queue.  Spike was with his wife and in an expansive mood.  We talked for about thirty minutes on all kinds of topics, but unemployment is the one I remember.  He signed my programme with a drawing of an eye, because I told him my name was spelled, ‘Tilly with an i.’
  2. My second toe on each foot is longer than my big toe. TRUE.  I am a freak.  
  3. My name translated into Greek is Hyperbole. LIE.  But it feels like it should be true.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m good at exaggerating.
  4. Despite being only 5′ small, I had a brief modelling career in my teens.  TRUE.  It started at a school fashion show but the model who trained us did such a good job, she got us some work: at two nightclubs and a garden centre.  I’ll rustle up some photos for you as proof.
  5. I have been tear-gassed. TRUE, when I was pregnant with Tory Boy (which explains a lot about Tory Boy).  I was working in the centre of Joburg the day it was announced that Nelson Mandela would be released, amongst other things.  There was a spontaneous outpouring of joy/excitement/fear and buildings tipped their employees out onto the streets.  No one told the police we were well-behaved, and they gassed us.  Fortunately, I was big and slow because of the baby so I only caught a whiff of it, being at the back of the crowd.

    Joburg city

    Joburg city (Photo credit: srippon)

  6. My feet have grown by two sizes since I turned eighteen.  TRUE.  The year I was twenty; and when I was pregnant with the monster who became Spud.
  7. I once accidentally used the word ‘drawer’ instead of ‘draw’ in a poem and I still blush about it.  TRUE, though it pains me to say it.  A friend pointed it out, around 1998.  I’m getting warm just thinking about it.
  8. I used to have a gun licence and a driving licence.  TRUE.  When I lived in South Africa I owned a gun and drove.  Not looking for trouble, you understand; that was the way of life out there.  I don’t drive now.
  9. I have an A Level in Law.  TRUE.  Before taking my degree, I went to college to get some study experience.  I also have A Levels in English and History.
  10. Several years ago I discovered that I am actually two inches taller than I thought I was.  Absolutely TRUE.  I freaked out: you have an idea of your identity and to discover that you are not what you think you are is disorienting.
  11. I once cooked Christmas dinner for twenty-two people.  TRUE.  All relatives.  By the time I dished up the last plate (mine), the first lot had finished eating.
  12. I am entitled to hold two passports.  TRUE.  I have South African citizenship as well as British.
  13. I have never voted Labour.  TRUE.  I would have done at eighteen but by the time  a British election coincided with my residence in the UK, I had swung to the right.
  14. The world première of my one-act play, Glug, was held at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.  TRUE, though world première is stretching it a bit.  I was at school.  I wrote Glug.  There had been a playwriting course for older pupils that had been so successful, it was decided to stage the resulting plays at the Everyman and use students to perform.  Unknown to me, my drama teacher gave it to two other pupils to use as an audition piece.  The man auditioning liked it so much, he included it in the evening.  Three times; three interpretations.
  15. I once appeared on Channel 4′s now defunct Big Breakfast.  TRUE.  With my family, for a week.  We were their last real Family of the Week (Lisa Scott-Lee from Steps and her brothers were the last FotW, but celebrities don’t count).  I must blog about it someday.

    Channel 4 in umbrellas

    Channel 4 in umbrellas (Photo credit: davysims)

  16. As a teenager I seriously considered joining the Young Socialists. TRUE.  I was passionate about politics in my teens and went the usual left-to-right route.  I met some of the other YS, however, and they were a little bit scary.  I’ve never been one for violently overthrowing a government.
  17. A poem of mine was turned into a work of art and displayed in an art gallery.  TRUE.  Stockport Art Gallery ran a poetry competition; the winners had their work turned into conceptual art.  Great fun!  I wanted to buy the original but the gallery wouldn’t sell, so Tory Boy and the Hub arranged a facsimile.  I’ll re-post the story next week.
  18. I once appeared in a student film despite refusing to read from the script during the audition.  TRUE.  My A Level English tutor was also the Media Studies tutor and he asked us to audition for parts in a student film.  I was to audition for the part of The Angry Mother of an anorexic girl.  I did my piece (from Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge) and sat to read blind from the script.  I took one look and said, ‘Oh, no!  I’m sorry; I can’t blaspheme.’  Andrew said he had prepared his students for over-actors, under-actors, difficult actors, drunk, high or crazy actors; but it had never occurred to him to prepare them for an actor who refused to read the script!  Despite this blip, I appeared in the (non-speaking) role of The Producer.
  19. The Hub once phoned me during an attempted coup so that I could hear the helicopter gunships flying overhead.  TRUE.  He was in Zambia and Kenneth Kaunda had raised the price of maize – the staple diet – so high, there was an attempt to overthrow him.  The Hub was in his hotel room and held the phone out of the window so I could hear the military firing on the people.  He’s thoughtful like that.
  20. I once took a bomb threat call at my place of work and caused a whole shopping mall to be evacuated in what turned out to be a hoax.  TRUE.  I was working in the office at Woolworths Balfour Park in Joburg when the call came in.  The whole mall was evacuated.  It happened a lot in the Eighties in South Africa.

So now you know: you can trust me.  95% of the time.

Hop on over to Six Word Saturday and see if they have honest people there.

*

Booking The Trend

13 Jul
Books

Books (Photo credit: henry…)

I have neglected you all this week.  I’m sorry.  I never call; I never write comments…it’s as if I’ve been busy with something other than blogging.

Ridiculous, I know.  But true.

I have been working on…I blush to admit it…I don’t know quite how to say it – if I say it, it has to be true and I have to do something with it other than work on it and talk about working on it and not read other blogs or answer comments because I’m working on it…

I have written a book.

There!  I said it!  Now I have to do something with it.

I am doing something with it.  This week, I have been working on my first re-draft.  I’m a thirteenth or fourteenth re-draft before I’m satisfied kinda girl, so it may take a while.  Each morning, when I should be visiting you and replying to you, I have been editing me.

I sort of wrote it two years ago, on my short-lived blog about living in South Africa during and after Apartheid; some of it was written before that, over many years.  It is in part a collection of poems (stop yawning at the back), but also a memoir (wake up, the rest of you).  I lived during an exciting period of history and it left me well-balanced and not a stress head and if you believe that, you haven’t been reading this blog for long.  The book is a catharsis.  Should be fun!

I intend to go down the e-publishing route because, if I’m honest, I can’t imagine a publisher wanting to buy it; why would they?  Apartheid is long dead and there’s no money in poetry.

However, I have this story in me that wants to be told.

I know many of you don’t read poetry, but I will share one you might enjoy; it may or may not make it into the final draft, but it will give you a flavour of the book’s tone.  Background: in 1994, just before the first free and fair South African election, a new flag was unveiled:

The Old Flag

Flag of South Africa, used between 1928 and 19...

Flag of South Africa, used between 1928 and 1994 known as the Oranje-Blanje-Blou. From the xrmap flag collection 2.9, with modifications by Denelson83. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The New Flag

Flag of South Africa

Flag of South Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*

Let’s Hear It For The Bunting

*

Orange and

green must

no more

be seen.

What a

drag.

Raise your

cup as

they run

up our

new

Y-fronts

flag.

*

*

*

For the boxer generation – these are y-fronts:

Y fronts

Y fronts (Photo credit: stringberd)

H Is For ‘Harry’

30 Apr

Harry was my Dad.  His name wasn’t Harry; it was George.  His middle name was Harry; everyone called him Harry.  I never knew why, if his name was George, everyone called him Harry.  His father’s name was Harry, but no one called his father George.

The Bailey Brothers in It’s A Wonderful Life were George and Harry Bailey.  My Dad wasn’t like either of them: no Buildings & Loan to dip into (too working class); no war hero (too young; and he was excused National Service because of a perforated ear drum).  He was more like Uncle Billy Bailey – sweet and well-meaning, but a bit dopey. 

Actually, he wasn’t even sweet: he was too acerbic for that.  When he felt guests had stayed too long, he told them so.  Always in a joke, so he’d laugh them out the door, with my mother saying in an hysterical aside to us kids, ‘They think he’s joking but he means it’, frantic that no one should be offended.  As far as I know, they never were.

My Dad liked to laugh and eat chocolates.  He used to steal from the sweet drawer Mum kept for the grandchildren and more than once she would say, ‘Let’s see what Grandma’s got for you here’ and find herself with an empty drawer and a skriking toddler.  In the end, she had to give him his own drawer.

My Dad loved the Wild West: movies, books, history, country and western music.  Because of my Dad’s love of C&W, I was probably the first child in the UK to know what a lady mule skinner is.

He had a double album of The Grand Ole Opry with a piece of the original curtain attached.  I expected to inherit it and I was furious when he came back to the UK and left his C&W albums in South Africa. 

It’s because of my Dad and his love for all things western that I know, if I am ever caught in a desert in a thunderstorm, to lie down flat on the ground.  Otherwise I will be the tallest point and the lightning will be gunning for me.  I read that in a Louis L’Amour novel, loaned to me by my Dad.

When we emigrated to South Africa in 1982, we had no money (one of the reasons for emigrating in the first place).  Dad was working for Sasol, a huge corporation that turned coal into petrol.  To help our miniscule grocery budget, my father the usually honest would come off shift with a toilet roll taken from the men’s loos.  One day, he heard from a colleague that the company was cracking down on staff pilfering – stationery, equipment, and so on – and he went home in a panic and he and Mum spent an entire night ripping up a hundred half-used toilet rolls and flushing them down the toilet.  What really made me laugh was that it was unmarked paper; and I doubt the company could have come in to the house asking to see it, anyway.  The price of a guilty conscience, I guess: a huge water bill.

He used to keep us kids up on school nights, playing cards.  Avoiding Mum, usually.  They were unhappily married for over thirty years.  One Christmas Eve, before letting them in the house I had to warn them to behave i.e. not have an almighty ding-dong and ruin Christmas for everyone as usual.  For the first twenty years of my life with the Hub, the minute we had a row I was leaving him, because I’m not ending up like my Mum and Dad!

I have told this story before but it’s worth repeating:  I remember one particular row that went on for months.  Every Sunday we had a traditional roast dinner and my Dad  – who loved his food and particularly his roast dinners, so he might have just been spoiling for a fight – complained that he was sick of roasts every Sunday and why couldn’t we have something else?  Mum never said a word but took his plate away and scraped it into the bin, and cooked him bacon and egg there and then.  Next Sunday we had a roast dinner, as usual…except for Dad, who was served bacon and egg without a word from Mum.  And the next; and the next; and the next Sunday after that…for six solid months, until Dad finally caved first and asked in his best little boy voice if he could please have a roast like the rest of us this Sunday?  Without a word from Mum, he got one.

Dad never complained about his meals again.

My Dad was narky and didn’t suffer fools gladly; intelligent and daft by turns; childish often; adored his three children, always.  He wasn’t perfect but it doesn’t matter: I loved him; he was my Dad.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

22 Apr

Late again with my response.  This is a terrible habit I have acquired.  In my defence, I never miss a plane.  Not that I ever go anywhere (except to France and Spain in the last six months, and possibly to Germany in the future, if I can find a cheap enough ticket).

I thought I would take you on a different journey today: a trip down memory lane; a journey from the past to the future; from wrong to right.

I lifted and edited this from my now defunct South Africa blog.  It’s not amusing, but I hope you enjoy it.

Here is Tory Boy, just turned four:

27 April, 1994, the day on which this was taken, was one of the best days of my life.  It was the first day of the first free and fair elections in South Africa.

We were living in Alberton in the Transvaal at the time.  We got up early to be at the polling station for seven, when it opened.  We didn’t want to be stuck in queues all day long.  The government had declared a national holiday so that everyone could vote, and it seemed like everyone intended to do just that.  Whole families turned out to vote.  We had four-year old Tory Boy with us.

We were first in the queue, but only just.  Not that it did us any good: we were still first in the queue come four o’clock in the afternoon.  There were no ballot papers at the polling station.  The election officials popped out periodically to tell us that they were on the way – in a helicopter now – would be here any minute.  None ever showed up, except on auction sites in the last few years.

In spite of this, and in spite of the news of bombs going off at Jan Smuts Airport, the mood of the crowd was joyous.  There was a lot of singing and a lot of braaing [barbecuing]: those who came later and knew about the long wait brought their skottels [portable gas barbecue] and fold-up deck chairs.  The Hub went home to make us some sandwiches and drinks.  We needed them.

We chatted to everyone around us.  There was a tearful old man who had never believed that he would ever get the chance to cast his vote.  There were Afrikaaners, resigned to the inevitable and taking it gracefully; and many more who welcomed it.  I suppose those with strong opposition to the change were elsewhere, protesting.  People of every race, tribe, ethnicity, colour and political persuasion stood in that queue and waited with great patience for the ballot papers that never arrived.

There were no murmurings or angry voices, but there were a lot of rumours about what was happening in the rest of the country.  We were in a capsule, a moment in time when we were all in this together, all looking toward a happy and prosperous future; each believing that things would be better, fairer, and right.  We were in the mood to party, not fight.

No ballots came.

Because of our tired little boy, we wondered if we should go home and come back next day – the election was intended to be held over two days, but lasted three because of the problem of having nothing on which to cast your vote – but then we heard there was a magical polling station a few miles on which did have ballot papers, and even – whisper it – enough to go round.  We thought it was worth trying because we really did want to cast our vote on a day that would go down in history.  We wanted Tory Boy to be able to say that he was there.

I don’t remember where either polling station was, except that the first was in a suburb and the other in a huge, unkempt field.  At the second, we joined a slightly smaller queue that we could see was moving, though it didn’t have the atmosphere of the first.    It took three hours but we got inside at last.

The most bizarre moment of the day for me was when I went into the booth and there was a scruffy little stub of a pencil.  It didn’t seem fitting to cast a vote that would help change the political landscape of a nation, with a tatty bit of lead.  To this day, I’m not certain that I wasn’t expecting quills or expensive fountain pens.

In the PWV area (Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging) we had a choice of thirteen parties.  As brave as the National Party had been, I couldn’t vote for the architects of Apartheid.  I couldn’t vote for the ANC bunch of terrorists either, no matter how just their cause.  I didn’t think the KISS lot (Keep It Straight and Simple) was taking the whole thing seriously enough; and the Women’s Rights Peace Party was missing the point. 

I voted for the Democratic Party.  Helen Suzman was a lone white protest voice in the wilderness of the Apartheid government for many years, so I voted for her party, which I felt had moral conviction.  As the vote was by proportional representation, I helped them to their seven seats.

I discovered a wonderful quote from Helen Suzman, via Wikipedia:

She was once accused by a minister of asking questions in parliament that embarrassed South Africa, to which she replied: “It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa; it is your answers.”

Our tiny piece of history made, we took our exhausted child home, probably collecting a takeaway on the way.  Once he had eaten I put him straight to bed.  We followed soon after.  History is important but it’s the mundane that keeps us going.

Relatives living further out told us they hadn’t bothered to vote on the first day when they saw the queues; they left it to the next day and walked straight in and out.  It seemed most of the country wanted to vote on the twenty-seventh.  I guess we were not the only people conscious of our tiny place in history on that glorious day.

Photo found here.

Feel The Burn

2 Feb

The comments on yesterday’s post seemed more concerned with my sunburn than my ugly glasses.  I hadn’t noticed the sunburn so I took another look at the photo.  I don’t think it is sunburn; I’m sure I would have remembered because I’m careful about being out in the sun i.e. I never am, if I can help it; and I always cover up.

My reluctance to be outside stems from my first year in South Africa.  I had a day at the Vaal River, and I came back looking like a tomato sauce flavoured gingerbread man.  As a child, I went golden brown in the sun; at nineteen, I looked like someone had peeled the flesh from my body and toasted it.  I spent four days in bed, imitating Leonardo Da Vinci’s illustration and begging for death. 

My mother tried to help, advising me to take baths as hot as I could stand, because that was a sure way to kill sunburn – heat my body even more.  There may even have been a point during my delirium when mother dear slathered me in butter.  I’m surprised I wasn’t hospitalised.  An interesting sidebar: did you know that old wives’ tales won’t necessarily make you better and may, in fact, prolong your agony, no matter how well-intentioned your bonkers mother may be?  Lucky for her I didn’t feel the need to step on a crack and break her back.

I never went out in the sun again without hat, lotion and a skin covering of some sort.  I think my pink arms in the photo are caused by the sun shining through the overhead canopy, under which, you will note, I am carefully sitting, legs pointedly in the shade.  Look at my legs: they give milk a bad name.  At this point I had been living in South Africa for about five years, and I look like I just stepped off the boat.  I was in South Africa for fourteen years altogether, and I never once had a tan.

Check the woman to my right: she is also pink, especially her hair.

I thank you all for your concern; it is much appreciated.  Once again, I can only apologise for the glasses.  Now there’s something that should have burned.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hope

1 Feb

This is me with Alfred, a work colleague of the Hub’s and our good friend, in South Africa, around 1987/8. 

It was taken at a works’ day out: local businesses would have a day competing in tournaments such as volleyball, football, that sort of thing.  I always watched.  Sport is not for me.  The massive braai (barbecue) afterwards always was, though.

Alfred left South Africa to see the world sometime after this photo was taken (obviously).  We lost touch.  I hope I see him again someday.

And I hope my glasses never come back into fashion.

When Did Stockport Go Tropical?

19 Jan

First it was the loose cobra, then the kidnapped alligator and anaconda…now, Stockport has a wild cat on the roam.  Not a missing tabby or a feral kitten – ‘a large ‘mountain lion’ type animal’, seen in a local resident’s garden.  Read it here.

Experts dismiss it as a ‘melanistic savannah’.  No, I don’t know what that is, either, so I looked it up (hooray for free speech on the internet!).  Wikipedia tells me it:

 is a medium-sized African wild cat. DNA studies have shown that the serval is closely related to the African golden cat and the caracal.

I’m no wiser.  I guess free speech is overrated.

Here’s a picture of a serval from junglecats.com (quoting the source – better practice than just linking the picture to the original website: dull reading, but I hope it will keep me out of a yankee jail):

Doesn’t look meaner than any other cat, does it? 

I am reminded of my favourite cat quote.  I’ve shared it before, but cats have nine lives, and so do their quotes:

Cats were once worshipped as gods.  Cats have never forgotten this.

Wild cats on the loose in Stockport…I guess I should have stayed in South Africa; it’s probably safer there.  We emigrated from England to South Africa in 1982: first my Dad and younger brother; Mum and I followed six months later.  Mum was on the phone to Younger Brother just after he arrived:

Mum: So what’s it like?

YB: [Joking] Great!  I’m just watching the lions stroll down the street.

Mum: [Screams] [Incoherent babble about getting out of there now!] [Faints]

I could have that conversation with her today, from Widnes to Stockport, and it would be the same in its essentials.

Or maybe it would be me with the [Screams] [Incoherent babble] [Faints]: Mum’s been dead four years.

Spam Fritters

6 Jan
Spam fritters and chips

Image via Wikipedia

I’m still out of blogging ideas, so here’s a tidied-up re-blog from 2009:

 

Don’t you hate those awful cold-calling companies? They have the temerity to call at dinner time and then make you wait before they speak to you. Old ladies are frightened by them and young ladies irritated. Whenever I hear that pause, I hang up; so be warned: if you phone me and don’t start speaking the second I answer, then you have wasted your money and you’ll have to call back, talking all the time.

Spud knows how the Hub and I feel about such calls and has suggested that we have some fun with them, thus turning a negative into a positive, like his father always says. One night as we were eating the inevitable call came, wanting us to buy a house, a phone, a spare cat…

Caller: Hello, can I speak to the phone owner?

Hub: I don’t have a phone.

Caller: … …

Hub: Hello?

Caller: Can I please speak to the phone owner?

Hub: I don’t have one. [Relenting] I only have a mobile. Where are you calling from?

Caller: Talk Talk.

Hub: I remember them! From the Eighties! [Sings] Talk talk! All youdotome is talk talk!

Caller: … …

Hub: [Still singing, and enjoying it]

Caller: Umm, are you a singer?

Hub: [Modestly] Not any more.

Caller: You’re very good. [The Hub chooses to hear this as the truth and not flattery]

Hub: Thank you. I used to be in a band called Hub & the Termites; have you heard of us?

Caller: [Embarrassed] No, I’m sorry.

Hub: I thought you would have; we had a little colony following us.

Caller: … …

Hub: Where are you calling from?

Caller: Talk Talk.

Hub: Not your company; what country?

Caller: South Africa.

Hub: [Delighted] No kidding! [Breaks into excited and extended Afrikaans chatter. Lots of sighing at the other end while she waits to start her spiel.] We’re in Alberton!

Caller: Alberton?

Hub: Yes, just south of Jo’burg.

Caller: [Is utterly confused because she's in a call centre in South Africa, selling phones to Brits in the UK, and doesn't understand how she got through to a local number] Umm. I’m sorry; I must have the wrong number. Thank you for your time. Goodbye.

Hub, Spud, Me: [Hysterical laughter and rolling around]

.

The best thing is, she will never be quite sure if she was the victim of a prank, because what are the odds of calling England and getting a broad Mancunian who speaks fluent Afrikaans and knows Jo’burg so well?

A favourite one of mine was when someone called, trying to sell us new windows, and the Hub told them we didn’t need them because we live in a cave. A stunned silence is worth a thousand words.

Then there was the time the Hub called my Dad, used a fake accent and asked to speak to Miss Wall.

Dad: Sorry, there’s no-one of that name here.

Hub: Mrs Wall?

Dad: Nope, no Mrs Wall.

Hub: How about Mr Wall?

Dad: No [Patient but grinding his teeth], I’m sorry, there’s no Mr Wall.

Hub: Are there any walls there?

Dad: No.

Hub: Then how does your roof stay on?

.

The Hub is a minx.

There’s Always A Silver Lining

14 Sep
Vuvuzela Day

Image via Wikipedia

Remember last year’s World Cup and the demon vuvuzelas?  Like a million bored bees hammering on your window?  My Mum used to make the same noise as a child – well, not so much child, as nineteen year old mother.  When she wanted something and Nan had said ‘no’ (she was a nineteen year old mother living at home and children respected their parents in ye olden dayes), she would shuffle along behind Nan, not quite touching her, and say, Nnnnnnn-nnnnnn-nnnnn-nnnnnnn-nnnnn-nnnnnn-nnnnnn-nnnnn until Nan got fed up and gave in.

But that’s beside the point.  My point is, every time we sat down to watch  a game, we all wanted to beat vuvuzela blowers about the head and other places with the sharp end of their instruments.  Because they are the most annoying things on the planet; and I say that as the mother of two sons.

But I read a happy story today, sort of: vuvuzela noise saved three lives in Soweto.  From the Johannesburg Star:

A Soweto family believe the sound of vuvuzelas blown by their neighbours saved them from death when their house caught alight. [...] Johanna Matswi, 59, said she was asleep with her daughter Thelma, 21, and her three-month-old baby at about 5am yesterday when they were awoken by the sound of blaring vuvuzelas, loud screams and the crackling sound of fire.

It wasn’t all good news: the neighbours blew the vuvuzelas because the emergency services didn’t respond.  Hooray for football fans.

For another good news story, visit Mangetout today.

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