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.


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?


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 (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.


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