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.

Christmas in a Warm Climate

My first Christmas in the southern hemisphere took place in 1973 when I arrived in  Cape Town after journeying overland from London via India then a ship from Mumbai to the port of Durban. Arriving in South Africa instead of Australia, which was where my destination was meant to be, was a bit of a shock. Having to pay for a ticket by boat out of the country was another shock and left me with very little money.

In South Africa, Christmas is in summer of course. Arriving in Cape Town after several days of hitch-hiking and seeing decorations including snowmen, Christmas trees and robins decorating the city was somewhat strange. Blue skies and sunshine with snowmen felt at odds. It was the strangest of times as I have explained before, in that I was working at a hotel in the city in the florist department, making table posies and helping with the suite decorations. I was staying with my travelling companion’s family until Christmas Eve when it was decided that I didn’t ‘fit’ and was told to leave.

My first Christmas in a warm climate was spent working in the hotel and then returning to the youth hostel where I had been lucky enough to find a bed. And on arriving back at the hostel I was invited to share the Christmas dinner that had been created by other ‘inmates’. It was not the best of days until then, as I was feeling very homesick, but I was made welcome and introduced to some lovely people, including a couple of New Zealand girls that I was able to spend time with in the coming month.

On that particular Christmas there were no presents, no turkey or Christmas pudding or even carol singing and no friends or family. So I am no stranger to an unusual Christmas such as many of us are facing this year.

Bottlebrush

But there were other Christmases in the sun as I remained in South Africa for many more years. Usually Christmas Day was spent on the beach, having a braai (barbeque) at home with friends or cold meats and salads (at the in laws in the Eastern Cape where it was even hotter). We still had a fir tree and decorations. And once I even cooked a full English Christmas dinner, but it was hot work!

But Christmas in a warm climate never really ever felt like Christmas.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #128 |So this is Christmas

Travel Photo #2

Dutch Reformed Church – Franschhoek, South Africa

Su Leslie (aka Zimmerbitch) invited me to join her and other bloggers posting a travel photo a day for ten days. The deal is I also invite someone else each day to join in, and ping-back to my post. But as several bloggers I know are already busy with the challenge I am going to resort to inviting “anyone who feels like joining in”

No Problem

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 we were 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.

~wander.essence~ Prose

The Kindness of Strangers

It was mid-December 1973. I was finally in Cape Town, South Africa after travelling with a South African/New Zealand friend for three months overland from the UK to India and then by ship to Durban . Unfortunately on arrival in South Africa the rules for entering the country had changed – when I set off all you needed was a sufficient amount of money, £100 – now though I was made to pay for a ticket out of the country and as I had arrived by ship the ticket had to be by ship. The cheapest option was from Durban back to Mombasa – it took practically all my money and I truly hoped that I never had to use it! I had no idea what I would do if I was to find myself alone in Kenya!

Table Mountain

Arriving in the Mother City I was invited to stay with my friend’s family in the southern suburbs. Due to my financial crisis I had to get work quickly and I managed to get a temporary job in the city at the lovely pink coloured historic hotel, the Mount Nelson, doing flower arrangements of all things. No-one can say I was not adaptable. As it was almost Christmas we were very busy with table arrangements and huge floral displays for the suites and public areas. It was hard work with an early start and a long day, but quite enjoyable and the best part was walking to and from the railway station along Adderley Street and through the Company Gardens where cheeky squirrels ran around chasing you for peanuts.

Christmas Eve arrived and I was looking forward to spending my first Christmas away from home and in the southern hemisphere. The sight of robins and snow were rather incongruous in the summer heat. My friend’s family came from Norwegian origins so this was the night for their main dinner and celebrations. It would be very different from my own experiences. I had even spent some of my wages on a dress for the event as all I had with me were jeans and tee-shirts.

It was very different alright, but not quite in the way I had imagined. On arriving back at the house in the suburbs after work in the early evening I was met by my friend’s mother with my rucksack in hand. She told me I was not welcome in her house any more as she had friends and family coming to dinner that evening and I was too ‘common’ and didn’t have the ‘right’ clothes to wear.

I was stunned! I knew that she wasn’t very keen on me and was a bit of a class snob, but the rest of the family were lovely and I had spent a couple of free days on the beach and in the mountains with her other children. It wasn’t even as though I was in a relationship with her precious boy, we were good friends, but had no plans in taking it any further. But I could see from the look on her face that it was no good arguing with her. Christmas Eve and homeless was not what I had in mind! My travelling friend, took me to a youth hostel in Muizenberg on the False Bay coastline where fortunately they had a vacancy. He dropped me off then left, looking somewhat shamefaced, as he had to return to his family dinner. Thinking of the hospitality my own family had shown him in England, I felt quite sad and rather home-sick. I turned in early as I still had to go to work the next day.

Beach Huts
Beach Huts, Muizenberg, False Bay

I returned to the hostel on Christmas Day at around 6 p.m. to find the other hostelers sitting around having Christmas dinner together. They were all talking and laughing, wearing silly paper hats, being happy and having a good time. I tried to sneak past them to the dorm without being noticed as I was still feeling a bit raw, but the manager caught sight of me and insisted that I joined them, even though I hadn’t contributed financially to the meal. Quickly room was made for another seat and food hurriedly dished out onto a plate. Silly hat was found and a glass of red wine poured. For the next couple of hours I was welcomed into the fold and a normal Christmas resumed.

I thank those strangers for their kindness.

~wander.essence~ | Prose