Ice-cream and Church, Divine Intervention?

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The second thing I remember is that after a few months, we were dropped of at the church, and picked up after the ten o’clock service, the idea being that we would attend Sunday school and then the main service, which would allow my mother to watch my father play tennis in the morning. He played for one of Pirates Club league teams and  felt that one of my mother’s duties was to be there to cheer him on and bask in his reflected glory. 

It definitely suited me, I am not sure of Karen though. You see, because we were attending the main service, we were both given an envelope, kindly supplied by the church for the offering plate that contained fifty cents. The reason that I was happy with this arrangement is because Basil’s shop was exactly one block away, across the street that backed onto the church, passed the police station and small petrol station, a walk of no more than a hundred and fifty meters. 

So while Karen attended the one and a half hour service and diligently placed her envelope in the offering plate, I diligently attended Basil’s world of a child’s Paradise, attending to the important business of selecting fifty cents worth of sweets and snacks. This arrangement went on for a few months, then disaster struck. One Sunday tennis was canceled, therefore my parents arrived long before the service ended and decided to join the service. Being rather sharp individuals, they noticed I was not with Karen, so as they say in the classics “I was well and truly BUSTED”.

I was summoned to the pastors office and interrogated by my parents and the pastor as to how long this had been going on, lectured about how stealing was against the teaching of God and that stealing from God was somehow so much worse. I was definitely going to the place of fire and brimstone for all Eternity. Somehow religion seemed to lose its appeal after that, I do not now why. Maybe the fact that I was already relegated to hell, with no chance of redemption had something to do with it. 

Lastly, my only positive recollection of formal religion; the making of Ice-cream. I have mentioned that the pastor was an American, so on what I can only surmise was the forth of July, he held an American fair where all the foods were American. There were hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, home-made lemonade, hamburgers and a large Texan barbecue, as well as home-made ice-cream. The church had supplied four ice-cream making churns, consisting of two major parts an outside wooden barrel with an internal steel barrel which had a stirring paddle attached to the top. The steel barrel was filled with cream and inserted into the outer wooden barrel, then ice was packed around the inner barrel and large quantities of salt was sprinkled over the ice. 

Then the miracle happened. I was allowed to turn the handle that stirred the cream. After all eternity and inordinate amounts of ice and salt, the stirring was halted. When the lid was removed we were invited to take a portion of the contents in a paper cup. I had never tasted ice-cream so Divine nor have I since. Maybe the setting had something to do with it as after all the ice-cream was made on holy ground or maybe I have never had the opportunity of eating really home made ice-cream again. 

So ends the Easter Sunday school lesson for today, may all religions go forward in peace and harmony, may they all fulfil the scripture’s promise of the Brotherhood of man.

Lots of hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

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Of Church and Other Disasters.

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Sunday in our household was a strange affair, Granny always left for the eight o’clock service at the Anglican Church, my father left for the Pirates Tennis Club and it was left to my mother to take us to Sunday school at the new Lutheran Church near Zoo Lake. The Pastor of the Lutheran church was an American and so naturally was his family. I think that my mother attended the main service while we attended the Sunday school classes, but there are three things that I mainly remember from the very few years that we attended church.

The first is that the pastor had a very beautiful daughter, and she was always very friendly. I do not remember her name, but she was one of the “grown-ups’ that attempted to guide our young and impressionable minds along the paths of Christian indoctrination, resplendent with its fire and brimstone for the sinners that we were undoubtedly to become. In the unlikely event that we sinners, by some miracle, were to be counted among  the few saints that would attain the Kingdom of Heaven, the glory of Paradise and everlasting life.

There is something that I have never understood about the necessity of explaining everlasting life to very young children, for two reasons, the first being that they have no comprehension of death, and the other that they themselves have no idea at all of eternity. Eternity to a young child is the length of time that it takes from the time they look forward to something and the actual time that they get what they want. Instant gratification, being a child’s idea of Paradise.

The whole concept of God to a young mind is also incomprehensible, I remember most of my friends at the church thinking that God lived inside the alter, and the idea that he watched us all the time frightening, not in a good way as to stop us from committing all those sins that we had no idea what they really were, but more like the “ Bogey Man” someone that could do us more harm than good. Of all the sins that were forbidden, I think that the only ones we understood were to love our mothers and fathers, not lie and do not steal. All the other ones were for the “Grown-ups” and anyway we noticed that they tended to lie to us a lot as most parents do, calling them “white lies” and thinking that children do not catch them out.

Anyway, the reason I remember the beautiful young pastors daughter is because at the end of one Sunday’s indoctrination sessions she was standing with her father outside the classrooms chatting to all the parents that were fetching their offspring, when I walked up to the young lady and told her she was the sexiest girl that I had ever seen. I had picked up the word sexy from my father as that was the way he described any beautiful woman, so I thought that the word sexy was the highest compliment that could be given to a girl.

I was not prepared for firstly the shocked silence, then the nervous giggles and finally the mocking laughter. My mother marched over and berated me in front of the whole congregation and kept demanding that I apologise to the Pastor’s daughter, I found it strange that I had to apologise for saying that the girl was beautiful, as she surely was, as I felt if I did I was saying that in fact she was ugly. It was many years later that I realised that the only thing that I had done wrong was that the church was an inappropriate place to call someone sexy because today I realise she was both beautiful and sexy.

Hugs and much more,

Peggy-Sven

Saturday Cinema and Lost Stores

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The really great thing about having Granny live with us was the fact that every Saturday morning she would take us to the matinee at the local cinema. In those days before television, all movies on a Saturday morning were children’s fare. We spent many a Saturday morning losing ourselves in the magic of Walt Disney, and other assorted classics. We flew with “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,Bedknob and Broomsticks, lived in the fantasy world of The Gnome Mobile, were enthralled by Hello Dolly and many more” those were really the highlights of our weekend. 

We were always given our pocket money on Saturday morning during the normal tea time ritual, and moneys were deducted for bad behavior or disobedience’s that had taken place during the proceeding week. Those were the days that a children’s cinema ticket cost the amazing amount of five cents, and for ten cents you would get a large box of popcorn and a cold-drink. After the movies we would walk down to Basil’s Cafe, and buy our weeks supply of sweets, and then Granny would escort us to the N.B.S. Building society to deposit what was left. 

We always felt so special when they entered our deposits and stamped our little savings book. Neither of our parents ever accompanied us to the movies, Saturday was mothers shopping day, and she would shop for the weeks groceries from the independently owned run shops in the Parkview shopping center. Money only changed hands at the end of the month, and all purchases were written into little books. Butcher, Baker, Haberdashery, Green grocer, Fishmonger and general dealer all delivered at no extra cost. 

Milk and orange juice were delivered every morning by NCD dairy. We had a special milk box on the landing before the steps to the scullery at the back of the house where we placed the milk and juice bottles with the relevant coupons inside the respective bottles before we went to bed each evening. That was one of our chores. My earliest recollections are of the milkman delivering from a horse driven cart, but the horse was replaced by an electric cart not many years into my childhood. Today milk delivery is unheard of, and no supermarket will run a tab for their clients, the same supermarkets that promised lower prices and did not deliver in all meanings of the word, pushed the local trader out of business, and left the general population with no choice but to buy from them with what always seems like identically inflated prices. 

Not to accuse the supermarket chains in South Africa of price fixing, Heaven forbid. I cannot in any way blame the large supermarkets, only the people of South Africa who for a few cents less, turned their backs on the local grocer and forced them into the pages of history. There seems to be a revival of the convenience store, but they charge a premium, a much larger premium than the local grocer of old but without the service and trust that they held out to the public and were rebuffed. 

Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Fun in The Snow as A Family

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Granny had a little Fiat motor car, and worked half day for the S.C.C.S.A. more commonly called The Sports Car Club of South Africa, as an accountant. Every afternoon just after we had arrived back from school, we would hear Granny’s little car hurtling up Westmeath sounding like a Singer sewing machine. Granny, you see, only used fist and fourth gear in her car, so you could identify her driving from some way off. She would bustle into the kitchen via the back door, we never seemed to use the main entrance to the house, rush through the kitchen, right into the passage, up the corridor into her room and emerge about fifteen minutes later in her house coat and slippers.

She would then attend to our lunch, gone were the days where Hubby was able to feed us. Lunch consisted of sandwiches, a glass of milk and a fruit. That was her idea of a balanced lunch for growing children, then we were shooed outdoors where we were expected to play quietly, another of her ways, children should of course be seen and not heard, or if heard, quietly and outside. 

Granny would then spend the rest of the afternoon baking, she would turn out the most delicious chocolate cakes, Swiss-rolls, meringues and all sorts of biscuits and crunchy snacks, so that even though we were given what she considered a healthy lunch, we were spoilt with all sorts of home made sweets and cakes. The fact that we were so active climbing the peach and plum trees, as well as running almost non stop, playing games such as cowboys and crooks as well as cops and robbers (Karen always being the bad guy)  is the reason that we never became obese.

The only thing that we used to fight about in those far of times was who got to lick the batter bowl, and who got the icing bowl. Looking back, those years were very similar to what we would later see on American television shows of the ideal family. The world’s idea of the nuclear family, the father out making the bacon (in our case laying the bacon) and mother keeping home like a good wife (in our case mother working and keeping office for father for free), “Granny will be replacing mother for the next couple of years as the good housewife”. These and other worries had not as yet registered into our sweet but selfish childish minds, so we played, ate, laughed and occasionally cried with the total abandon of the truly innocent. How all that was to change in a few years.

I think it was that year that it snowed in Johannesburg, but I might have my years a little mixed up, but no matter, the recollection of a four year old or younger does not remember dates that well, but as I remember it, it was the first winter snow for many a year. Father was unusually home that particular day, we kids were bundled up in jerseys and jackets and for the only time that I can remember we played as a family. We threw snowballs, built snowmen, in my father’s case a snow-woman, anatomically correct in all details. Somewhere in the boxes of photographs that were stored in my mother’s flat, before her untimely death, there is a picture of that perfect day.

We tumbled in the snow and behaved all four of us, as innocent children. It was never to happen again, but what a wonderful day that was. It was bedlam with my Mother snapping pictures with her small Kodak instamatic, dad chasing us kids with a giant snowball, and Tina trying to get involved in this brief but poignant moment of family madness and fun. 

Granny cooked a roast, and we had hot mulled wine for the first time in our young lives. I must point out at this time that we very seldom had alcohol in our house as my father very seldom imbibed of either the grape or of malt. For all his faults, alcohol was not one of them. He is the only man that I have ever known that has requested a glass of milk in a bar. Only later in life was he partial to a small whisky to help thin his blood. I remember going to bed that night feeling loved and cared for, my heart swelling with the pride that I felt for my wonderful father, so big, strong and wise, an unbreakable anchor in my young life. He would be the rock that I would be able to build my young life on. How wrong can one be?

Hugs and much more,

Peggy-Sven

Non Racial Tea Party?

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As far as I can remember it was a very pleasant stay, as I was treated like royalty by all the nurses, most of them commenting on my exceptionally blond hair and blue eyes. The best thing that came out of that little incident, was that I was not able to eat solid foods for about a month and that I had lost my voice so that I spent about two weeks in bed. I was naturally fussed over by Hubs in the morning and Granny in the afternoon. Also I was waited on hand and foot, my every wish immediately attended to. Ice-cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner with Jelly and chocolate milk drinks in-between, children’s nirvana. It was also the event that started me questioning whether my father really loved me, as he was the only member of the family that never visited me in the hospital, the excuse given by my mother was that he was tied up at work.

In later years I was to realise that the real reason that he had no time to visit me was the fact that he had made an engagement with his current mistress and had used work as an excuse to stay away that evening. This was not be the last time, not by many miles of heartache. As inevitably happens I was eventually able to resume my young life and was sent back to the salt mines of education, naps, playtime, milk in tiny little bottles and sandwiches as well as at first the sympathy of the teachers and then the normal routine of hearing how I should be more like my sister. So ended the episode of my first major brush with death, rather funny in retrospect but it was something my Mother never forgot.

As everyone will have realized Granny moved in while I was indisposed, and what an effect her presence had on our little protected environment. The first thing that changed was the morning ritual, after Hubs had given Karen and myself our tea, she would then take Granny her tea and the two of them would sit and gossip until just before my parents tea was due. I can still see the two of them, Hubby sitting on the dressing table stool, Granny’s high back chairs being far to good for a native, Granny sitting up against her pillows with her bed jacket on and the hair-net over her purple rinsed hair. Sitting with their heads almost touching as Granny passed on what time Horst had arrived home, what arguments, if any, had taken place, and what Granny thought of the whole situation?

Granny was the only person that was definitely racist in our household, but in her defense she was born in 1900 and it was not that she hated the blacks, or treated them badly, they just needed to know their place as she put it. Hubby was the exception to her rule, it was not that Hubby was not a black, but that she was “Her” black and therefore was accepted, not as a friend per se, but as a scandal partner. Hubby was to Granny an honorable member of the family, and I really believe that Hubby loved the old dragon with all her heart.

Whenever Granny got excited or agitated she would push her hair up with the fingers, of both her hands, through the hair-net and Hubby would open her eyes so wide that she almost resembled the man in the fairy tales that had saucers for eyes. They would sit there sipping their tea out of Granny’s bone china cups, furtively whispering back and forth, though the high back chairs were to good for a native, Granny felt that as a member of the family and I think also the fact that Hubs washed all the dishes, it was fitting that Hubs should have tea with Her Royal Highness out of bone china. If it was all right for the queen of England to entertain natives out of bone china it was all right with my Granny. Otherwise the morning ritual stayed the same except that father was there less and less often.

 

Hugs and more,

 

Peggy-Sven

My First Brush With Death

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It was about this time that Granny moved in with us for the first time. The house that we lived in at 22 Westmeath, had three real bedrooms, and the previous owners had build a sort of play room onto the back of the house with a passage between Karen’s bedroom and mine. It was also the year when my mother started working for my father, or should I say started her slave position as she was never paid.

Just before Granny moved in, the room had to be painted and spruced up for her. So my mother was excused from her unpaid position to paint and make sure that the place was ready to accept the rather prim and proper lady that my granny was. What I did not know at the time, was that Granny had given my father the money to buy 22 Westmeath, and that she had called it a wedding present to the two newly-weds  although she had insisted that the money be paid back over twenty years. The reason that she was moving in was so that my mother would not be left alone as often as she had been as his business was growing and that he would be spending more and more time away from home. With what I know today, there was very little “Work” involved, unless seduction of every woman that wore a skirt/trousers is considered work.

As could be expected my mother painted the whole place by herself and naturally had thinners to clean her paint brushes. We children were not allowed to go into the newly painted room, and my mother kept the door closed but not locked, which was in her mind enough as we were too small to open doors at that time. What she did not realise, is that if I lifted Karen and worked as a team we were more than capable of opening any door.

So it came to pass that one afternoon, just after we had arrived home from school and mother was busy having a cup of tea with hubs in the lounge, I think also listening to some radio play on Springbok Radio. Karen and I sneaked into the newly painted room. What you the reader may not remember, is that back in the sixties plastic was something new and was not the packaging of choice. Dangerous chemicals like thinners were sold not in supermarkets in bright labelled plastic bottles, but from your local hardware store, that were not at all like the ones of today. They were more of a general dealer’s store where you would buy all hardware as today, including paints but you could also buy things like fireworks, bicycles, bicycle tubes and tires, mouse traps poison, and a hundred other items that are now sold in specialist stores.

Thinners was sold either in twenty gallon metal barrels or decanted into the glass cool-drink bottles that the customer brought along. My mother had taken a 7-UP bottle to the hardware store for her thinners, and naturally had left it just inside the door near her cleaned brushes. Being only four years old, the only thing that I saw was a cool-drink bottle filled with cool-drink, I did not know the distinctive smell of thinners, so naturally as I was thirsty I drank the bottle of 7-Up as I recognised the bottle as my father’s favourite soft drink. We as children were not allowed sugary drinks; we were only allowed milk and Oros orange cordial.

You can imagine what happened to me a few minutes after I had consumed the rather strange tasting drink. I could not breath and I had the most horrendous stomach cramps, Karen went rushing through to the lounge, yelling that I was dying, she was rather melodramatic in those days and as one of our pets had died only a few days before, death, was very  fresh in her mind. Mind you I probably would have died of poisoning if my mother had not been there, so maybe she was not being so melodramatic after all.

Mother at that time did not drive, and panicked a little, crying that I was dying just like Karen, she had Hubs carrying me as she ran to the telephone and phoned our house doctor, who was not available as doctors in those days treated their patients at home and not in their surgeries. As is the case today where they make appointments and are invariably thirty minutes to an hour late for each and every appointment, as though their patient’s time is worth nothing and only the doctor is a busy person.

Fortunately the doctors nurse was in and she told my mother to make me vomit and to try and get milk down me so as to neutralise the effects of the thinners. That done, to get me to a hospital as soon as possible. Hubs took me through to the bathroom, where she proceeded to put her fingers down my throat, where in her words, “blood mixed with thinners gushed all over the toilet seat and covered half the floor of the bathroom”. My mother meantime was trying to get hold of my father so that he could rush home and transport me to the Children’s hospital in Braamfontein, unfortunately he was not in his office, and my mother was only able to get hold of Daphne, a friend that lived in the same road as us, who at the time did not have a license but at least could drive.

Years after mother always related that she was not sure whether she was more afraid of me dying or all of us dying in some rather gruesome car wreck. Needless to say they managed to get to the hospital without any further incident. That was to be my first visit to a hospital as an in patient, there were a few further visits in my future, but this was the shortest, only one night away from home.

Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Love in the Morning?

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My mother was the most wonderful women that ever lived, before that fatal year when her world fell apart. I cannot remember her ever raising her voice to us children, or to anyone else for that matter. After a long day at work, she would come home, spend time with us children, and prepare the evening meal, which was always a dish that she hoped would please my father, she was seldom right, and then we would wait for His Royal Highness’s arrival before we were allowed to eat. If he had not deigned to grace us with his presence by seven, we children were allowed to eat in the kitchen, and then it was off to bed for us. 

A bedtime story, prayers and to sleep. If she waited for his lordship to appear before she finally ate, I cannot tell you. In truth there was only one thing that my mother disliked, and that was Tina sleeping in bed with me, and she always made sure that Tina was in the scullery when she switched of my light after kissing me and wishing me sweet dreams. What she did not seem to know is that when Hubby opened the scullery door to go to her room after washing up the dinner plates, Tina escaped the scullery, and went directly to my bedroom window. There she would whine, and I would remove the bottom two plates of glass from the Louvre window and she would hop inside and jump into bed with me. She always snuggled right down to my feet. When I awoke in the morning her head was always next to mine on the pillow. 

Fortunately for me, Hubby never took her back door key with her when she retired for the evening, and always knocked on my window at about five am, with the words “Wennie” please open for me darling”, to this day I still wake up at that hour, I would then put on my dressing gown, call Tina and open for Hubs. That is why my mother never found out about Tina sleeping with me, or maybe she allowed me to think so. 

Then the morning ritual would begin, Hubs would make tea first for me, always with a biscuit or a piece of toast. While I was enjoying my tea she would prepare lunch for my mother, take Karen her tea in bed, and then start cleaning the kitchen. At six, tea was taken through to our parents room, and we would then be allowed to spend half an hour lying on their bed talking with our father and generally being made to answer math’s questions that my father threw at us. 

Simple addition and multiplication, he maintained that the most important thing in life was to be able to do math’s. At six-thirty he would get out of bed, always naked and go to the bathroom, to do the three s’s. Nudity in our house was a given, and therefore nudity has never been a problem in my life. The thing that I remember with absolute love is when my father used to sing while shaving. He had the most beautiful tenor voice, and used to sing extracts of Caruso’s operas. He had such a beautiful and strong voice that on many a morning our next door neighbors used to congregate at our front gate just to listen to his beautiful voice. 

Those are the times that I loved my father the most. Then the show of love was all over, we had to wash, brush our teeth and get dressed for school, Hubs would then walk us to school. 

Thinking back, as we got older, the morning routine changed as he was not always there in the mornings, we were told that he had to work late, or that he was in Durban or some such place making money for us. My childhood was not unhappy, it was filled with love by my mother, granny, Karen and Hubs, but it seems that looking back it was devoid of the male love that dominates so many peoples recollections of their childhood or the nursery stories where the father is the most influential character.

Lots of Hugs and more

Peggy-Sven