A New Addition and Road Trips From Hell

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In the year that Onus died there was an addition to our family. Kirsten my youngest true sister made her appearance on the world stage on the 26 March 1964, delivered by Caesarian section, as we all were, at the Princess Nursing Home. A very aptly named institution in her case as she has always thought that she is one, a princess that is. Life at home changed very little except for the usual disruptions a new baby brings. Disruption of the normal sleep patterns and added delivery of Stork napkin services that delivered and collected twice a week were minor compared to the narcissistic tendencies of all newborns. 

Karen shared her room with the new addition and somehow managed to sleep through the night squalls and feeds. I must confess as a five year old, babies were not exactly my scene as the hippies used to say, but she was a never ending fascination for Karen. This resulted in the selfish fact that my playmate was not always available to play with, as she had been for the whole of my life. Therefore it would not be unfair to say that I harbored feelings of resentment towards the new pride and joy of both my mother and my sister. That probably explains why I have never been as close to Kirsten as I have always been to Karen, but that is only half the story as you will perceive further on in this tale. 

1964 carried us forward as the ocean carries driftwood relentlessly to some as yet unknown destination; I am sure that there were tempests, storms, hurts, disappointments and punishments, but none that made any impression on my life or should I rather say no remembered impressions. Karen and I continued to attend nursery school together and besides enthusing about her baby sister she remained the dedicated little scholar that she was to be until her final school year. 

December in our household is remembered for two momentous occasions, the first was the great exodus to Durban and the other the Christmas tradition, even though for the rest of the year religion was not necessary in fashion. Let’s first tackle the great exodus of somewhat of biblical proportions. Every year in the second week of December we as a family were all bundled into the car with my father packing the suitcases in the boot, including Hubby’s multi-coloured bag with the rope handles. I think the bag was made of some sort of sisal but it was commonly seen carried by the natives of the day. 

You see back in those days the average white family went on holiday with the servant in tow so that the inconvenience of cleaning, babysitting  and general home duties would not fall suddenly to the mother. Every year we were booked into the same holiday apartment, I think it was booked on the same day that we finished our yearly holiday. Back in the early sixties the wonderful road that traverses Van Reneen’s Pass, had not as yet been built, or was not as yet completed I am not sure, so the road of choice, was via Standerton. 

The only member of the family that did not accompany us on this great trek was Tina, my wonderful dog. She was looked after by our next door neighbours, the wonderful couple, the Monks. The scullery door was left open so that she would have a sheltered place to sleep and the interconnecting kitchen door was kept locked. Her food was taken over to her by the Monks via a gate in the hedge that separated our respective properties. Crime was not a major thing in those days so the house had no burglar alarm nor burglar bars surrounding the windows, the dairy was notified of our departure and milk deliveries were suspended for the duration of our holiday. 

Once the car was loaded, we were all warned to go to the toilet before the journey commenced. Believe me when I say you went to the toilet whether you needed to or not as will be seen later. After all bladders had been emptied, the family squeezed into the car and we were off. Father noted the time as he locked the gates, which was invariably four o’clock in the morning. His optimum time was six hours of driving with one stop for breakfast in Ladysmith. No other stops were entertained, not even for car sickness as was the case one year with Karen. 

That year when Karen was sick all over my mother we did not stop even for mother to change her blouse, be that as it may. As we left so early, the first part of the journey for us kids was not at all stressful, as we were mostly tired because of the excitement of the night before, so we slept until we reached Ladysmith and the stop for breakfast, which was inevitably at around seven. We always stopped at the same restaurant in Ladysmith, with unvarying regularity, never trying a new venue even though there were many other places to eat. Until of course the road over Van Reneen’s Pass was completed then we stopped at the Wigwam Motel just before Van Reneen’s.

We also always had the same food, my father ordering for all of us to save time. Then it was back to the car and the rush to complete the journey. When I say that my father ordered for all of us that is a very true statement, but of course not all of us were sitting at the same table to eat. Hubby had to remain in the car as according to Apartheid rules natives were not allowed to eat in a designated white establishment. That was my first real experience of what has been called “Petty Apartheid”, there was not a restaurant allocated to natives in the predominantly, or should I say exclusively white town of Ladysmith. 

Even today I find that strange that no entrepreneur saw the chance to make money out of the hundreds of servants that accompanied their employers every holiday. Anyway approximately three hours later we would arrive at South Beach Durban, where my father would park the car facing the sea so Hubby could admire the ocean and we would all troupe into the little soda shop located just off the beach. There we all had double thick chocolate malts, and the one for Hubby was placed in a separate paper cup, which was half the size of the ones served in the glass vases, but cost the same. If we had made the time that my father had set himself he would be in a great mood and we often played games example matches, if on the other hand we had not, he would set us his favourite pastime of setting us math’s problems. Not enjoyable when he was in a bad mood and you got the answers wrong.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

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