Flashback Friday #7

This post was a diversion from my usual travelogues / photography. It was a rewrite of an older post that barely got looked at about a time in my life when I was young, fearless and extremely naïve. And found myself living in the Apartheid era of South Africa.

Another late night shift at the restaurant where I worked had come to an end. The books were balanced and I was ready to go home when Mike, a waiter I was friendly with, asked me if I’d like to go to Joseph’s place with a couple of other colleagues for a few drinks. Joseph was a barman and a really kind person, often giving me a lift back to my bedsit after my shift as he hated the idea of me walking home on my own in the early hours. Being a newcomer I was more than happy to accept the invitation just so long as I could get a lift home afterwards. No problem.

An hour later we were in Joseph’s tiny, but cosy, kitchen in the southern suburbs sharing a few cans and a pretty decent Malay curry and laughing and chatting and exchanging stories and jokes. The atmosphere changed abruptly when there was a knock at the door. It was 2 am. Mike looked up at Joseph and raised his eyebrows questioningly. Joseph shrugged his shoulders and made his way to the front door. Whilst he was gone Mike told me to keep quiet and let him do any talking. I asked him what was the problem.

The date, 1974, was the problem. The country I was living in was the problem. The fact that Mike and I were ‘white’ was the problem. The fact that Joseph was a ‘Cape Coloured’ was the problem. The fact that we were in a designated ‘coloured’ part of Cape Town was the problem and visiting a house that by law Mike and I were not allowed to be in was the problem.

What would have happened to me had that knock at the door belonged to the security police I will never know. Thankfully it was a neighbour who had seen the lights on and who wanted to join the party.

No problem.

This post is a contribution to Fandango’s Flashback Friday. Have you got a post you wrote in the past on this particular day? The world might be glad to see it – either for the first time – or again if they’re long-time loyal readers.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

34 thoughts on “Flashback Friday #7”

  1. I was holding my breath while Joseph went to answer the door as I already guessed at the reasons for the atmosphere of fear. I didn’t have your South African experience, but I look back to when I was a very naive teenager, taking chances by hitch-hiking all over Europe, catching the late-night bus home in London from jazz clubs and parties and walking from bus-stops to my flat at 3.00 am. I survived, but it’s no thanks to my prescience: it was sheer luck.

  2. A very different time for that country indeed. I remember going on protest marches outside South Africa House in London. Hard to believe that it was still going on in such relatively modern times.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

  3. Was für eine Geschichte. Das kann man sich heute kaum noch vorstellen. Glücklicherweise ist euch nichts passiert…

  4. I’m originally from Apartheid South Africa. I was also young and didn’t understand but my parents brought us up to respect everyone. We only interacted with our “servants” and had a very close relationship with them. Loved when my parents left us in their care for the evening where they would make us the traditional Mealie Pap and stew. I was sad when we left. My father tried to locate them after we had settled in America but to no avail. They are still thought of fondly.

    1. It was a very different way of life and I agree that many people of all colour respected each other. It is a beautiful country.

  5. So what was the likely outcome had you been ‘caught’, Jude? I always imagined the coloured people would be in more trouble than whites but it was such a cock-eyed system! People seem to be able to justify anything to themselves when it suits.

    1. It didn’t seem so at the time. I used to walk home after my shift ended at 12 or 1 am without even thinking about how dangerous that was.

  6. The innocence and naive outlook back then would take you on so many adventures Jude, the blog is a great place to revisit those times. Thanks for sharing

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