Not long after we returned from Germany, I started attending a Nursery school by the name of, Parkview Nursery School which was situated in the same suburb as we lived, four blocks higher and across a very dangerous and busy road by the name of Wicklow Avenue. Elizabeth used to walk me to school every morning just after my parents had left for work, my mother who at that time worked for a company that dealt in automotive parts, was given a lift into work by my father who had opened his new office in the concourse of the Johannesburg Station, where a few years later, one of the first casualties of the Liberation war were to die.
I suppose he had chosen the site for his new offices very well as it was in years to come that the significance of a place of death was a simile to what happened to us as a family.
My days at nursery school, were probably some of the happiest days of my life, I am sure most people will agree that those days when the whole universe seems to revolve solely around your needs and wants and that the worst that can happen to you is either the disapproval of your parents, or the punishment that is due for breaking one of the rules of the house. Elizabeth used to pick me up from school every afternoon with Tina, my Cockerspanial, in-tow and tell me some of the interesting stories of her school days in Swaziland where she had been educated. Today I regret that I did not listen closer, as Tina was my pride and joy, also my best friend as she was always beside me and when she was there I never really concentrated on anything but her. We would amble our way down Wicklow Avenue and turn left into Westmeath Road, passing Doctor Froom’s surgery, and as we progressed down Westmeath, we would stop at many of the houses gates where we would speak to the many friends that Elizabeth had.
They were all domestic workers as she was, but Elizabeth was a Zulu and a snob, now that I think about it. After chatting so nicely with her fellow domestics, she would always have some gossip to pass on to me, or to tell that I must not trust so and so as they were either Shangan, Xhosa or even Sotho, always emphasizing that she was of the royal blood of Chaka and that only the Zulus could be trusted. She also learned a lot as to what was happening in the households of our neighbours but as a child I had never heard that servants know all. We would arrive home and she would make Karen and myself lunch, the first lunch was always what my mother had specified the second her wonderful African food, her porridge and stew. I can still taste it after all these years. Then we were allowed to play, and woe betides us if we ventured out of the yard.
Well dear reader I have now introduced you to my immediate family, but I do beg your pardon, I have not introduced myself as yet, rather rude of me I am sure. My name is Sven, and when I was hurtling through my childhood the local servants called me “Witop”, which means white head in Afrikaans, due to the fact that I had hair that was as white as snow. As a child, I was as boisterous as any small boy, but was as Elizabeth put it a “little devil”, I cannot count the number of times I was in trouble, and as I was the older brother, whatever my sister did wrong, I was to blame as I should have known better.
No matter, as punishment in our household, was to be sent to our rooms without dinner, corporal punishment was only used once as far as I remember, but that story comes a little later. So now you know the principle characters in this little drama, but not the undercurrents that flowed beneath the placid surface of a middle class white South African family, living in the sixties, learning the do’s and don’ts of the then Apartheid government.