The Last of The “Great White” Hunters.

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It is now that with trepidation I introduce you to Grandfather McGee, my grandfather on my mother’s side, her adoptive father. Avery McGee is what his name was, as an accomplished liar as you would ever have the pleasure to meet. The difference between an amateur liar and the truly accomplished is not in the lies per se, but in the ability to remember them so well that if questioned years later, they are repeated word for word.

Avery was not only an accomplished liar, but had been a major womaniser all his life and at the age of sixty odd had not changed his ways, the woman had remained the same age as in his youth or had become younger, only he had aged. Avery, I refuse to call him Grandfather, lived in a town by the name of Komatipoort and was the barman for the Komatipoort motel.

In his day he had been quite the adventurer, running away to sea at age twelve, fighting in as many wars as he was able, making vast fortunes and giving them away to indulge in wine women and song. When he applied his mind he was a successful businessman.

The reason that my Granny divorced him was not because of his womanising, but because he just disappeared one bright morning. This was in the middle of World War two, at the time he had a very successful car dealership in Durban and one morning had left for work as normal and never returned. Granny was beside herself, and the police were brought in to find his body, it turned out that on his way to work he had decided he was bored with selling automobiles and enlisted into the army to go and fight in the war. It never crossed his mind that he should notify anyone. Once it was established he was not dead, a manager was found to run the business until the end of the war, but when Avery did not return Granny sold the business for a large profit and moved my mother to Johannesburg for health reasons, mainly my mother’s asthma.

Granny being the pioneering spirit that she was had all her and mother’s belongings sent by train to Johannesburg and proceeded to drive from Durban to her new home. In the early nineteen fifties the road was not very pleasant and there were many men who would not have even attempted the journey.

Granny did not divorce Avery even then, and waited for his home coming, assuming that he was still busy in Europe helping with the reconstruction and that she would hear from him sooner if not later. Avery having left the European theatre of war had proceeded to join in the Colonialist uprisings in Africa, fighting on both sides if truth be told and being rather well paid for it no doubt.

After a few years he decided that Granny must have divorced him by now, proceeded to remarry in Kenya and proceeded to have the son he had always wanted, Teddy. Fortunately, for him that is, his new wife died a few years later, either from Malaria or some other disease, before it was discovered that he was in a polygamous relationship. Granny only divorced him when he returned to South Africa with Teddy in tow.

I do not think the reason was because of his marriage, but rather that Teddy was a constant reminder of what she could not give him, an heir of his own blood. Avery went away with Teddy and they lived a life as ‘Great White Hunters’ all over Africa, only returning to the Republic when their services were not wanted by the strife torn region. Teddy was never given a formal education, and it was when he finally married Magda, that he, due to her influence, managed to obtain a matric.

Now you know a little of Avery’s history. I will now tell of his special talent in creating “Children of The Grave”

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Losing a Bit Of A Finger, Having It Scrubbed Back

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It was about this time that Birgitte, my father’s sister paid us a visit, she was a year or two younger than my mother, and was far more emancipated, she smoked and drank alcohol as well as listening to the latest hits on her portable record player. She stayed with us for about six months, working at my father’s company for pocket money. She took over Granny’s room and had a never ending supply of male friends calling to take her out.

One afternoon when my mother was in a rather bad mood, she introduced my mother, who had asthma and had never smoked, even though my father did and like a chimney consuming packets of Springboks by the gross, to the dubious pleasure of tobacco and wine. Mother was to smoke until she died, and I think used wine, which she consumed in later life by the five litre box, to drown all the disappointments she had suffered in her life.

While Birgitte was there, my father took my mother on a trip to Switzerland for a holiday away from us children. I once overheard her say that when they visited one of the snow covered peaks she had the distinct feeling that he was going to push her off. As he obviously did not, we will take it as a little barb aimed at him after her divorce.

Birgitte was left alone at home, suddenly with four children to look after, if it had not been for Hubby, I am sure we would have driven her to suicide. As it was, she had lost her sense of humour by the first week, and her calm devil may care demeanour by the second. Somewhere between the two events she lost her patience with me one evening while putting me to bed, I kept getting up to fetch something or the other from my wardrobe. It seems that I did it once too often, when she went ballistic, she slammed the wardrobe doors and I was not fast enough to remove my fingers from harm’s way.

The closing doors sliced off the top of my right hand’s index finger, the tip attached by a small slither of flesh. One thing that I have noticed is that of all wounds the hands bleed the most. Birgitte panicked and wrapped my finger up with Elastoplast making sure that the tip was once again attached and held in place by the sticky plaster.

It was about eight days later that my parents arrived home with presents for all, bought by my mother I suspect, but given from both. Birgitte had not replaced the dressing from the night that it had happened and the plaster was beginning to have a rather curious smell. It took only a day or two for my father to notice the smell whenever I was near him, so finally he called me over and removed the sticky plaster.

The finger had begun to putrefy, so he dragged me off to the bathroom and under water so hot that it burned, proceeded to scrub with a nail brush all the decayed flesh away. As I still have the use of that finger and all there is to show of the incident is a line that runs from under the nail half way around the finger, I should be grateful

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Saving Kittens From A Fate Worse Than Death

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As I had few friends at school, or should I say none, as my fellow students were all girls, no one included me into their little tight knit groups and the older girls spoilt me at the breaks by buying me sweets and treats but none off them wanted me to be included when they spoke about the things that were important in their lives. I became a loner, but never lonely, I was quite happy to entertain myself or read.

My love for reading I surmise stems from that year of spending a lot of time in the library during breaks alone with my nose in some Enid Blyton mystery. By the time I had finished standard one I had completed ‘The famous Five’, ‘The Secret Seven’ series and had started on ‘The Hardy Boys’.

I was never invited to spend afternoons at fellow students’ homes, nor was I invited to any birthday parties that year. So with Karen out visiting friends and only Kirsten at home, I found other ways to keep myself busy. I had discovered the back alley. Parkview was a fairly modern and well planned suburb, and to prevent litter and overflowing dustbins ruining the streets of the neighbourhood, the back of every property faced onto a service road that the dustbin trucks could pass down and collect the waste from the homes without messing up the streets.

I discovered that another form of life inhabited the back alleys, as they were called, cats, which was rather a fortunate thing as the cats were probably the reason that the suburb was not infested with rats, as you can imagine all these households generated an enormous amount of waste and a fair amount would have been discarded food and vegetable peels, The perfect breeding ground for vermin of all sorts. So it was not surprising that they were also overrun with cats, as the garbage would have attracted their natural prey.

I was not aware of these dynamics as a child, but I was aware that a lot of the kittens were killed by the neighbourhood dogs. It became my mission in life to save these kittens from certain death.

Two Teeth had completed the back wall by this time and was busy with the construction of the double garage at the top of the driveway with the rear wall of the garage being a part of that completed wall. So Tina and I would sneak under the hedge of our next door neighbour and under his hedge that separated his back yard from the alley. Then we would start searching behind the numerous bins to find the kittens.

Tina never threatened the kittens; if anything he was the one to discover them. Once found they would be smuggled two by two into my bedroom wardrobe where they would be fed little saucers of milk and scraps from the table.

That was until I was caught doing it and all the kittens were handed over to the SPCA, but I was never able to stop, so once a week the SPCA would collect all the kittens that I had rescued from the alley. I was only allowed to keep one, Smoky, a cantankerous tom who did not tolerate anyone touching him except me. Smoky scratched Kirsten about the time I went to boarding school and when I returned he was gone, I was told that he had run away, I suspect he was another collection by the SPCA.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Learning A Male Trait Early, Deafness

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Monday brought Dr. Amoils into my life, an ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Mengele’s to me. The first thing that they had to do was drain the muck out of the ear, this was done by placing a probe deep into the ear and vacuuming the bloody muck out which was caught in a glass jar. If any representative of a tyrannical regime is reading this and has run out of ideas of how to torture dissidents to extract confessions, try this procedure, your victims will sign whatever you want after only one session. It is also non-invasive and leaves no tell-tale signs of physical abuse.

I would rather have remained deaf than to have to go through that procedure again, but it was to be repeated twice a day for a week, until it was clean enough to attempt surgery to rebuild the Mastoid bone and reconstruct the tiny little bones needed for hearing by the strange names of Stirrup, Anvil and Hammer.

Fortunately the Cochlea was undamaged and Dr. Mengele’s was sure that he would be able to restore, if not all my hearing at least a large portion of it. With that prognosis the operation was scheduled and I was duly prepped and wheeled into the really scary operating theatre. There I was transferred to the ice-cold stainless steel operating table, surrounded by people swathed in lime green robes with their faces hidden behind bandits’ masks.

No one had prepared me for this truly terrifying scene. One of the attendants injected me with something and the whole scene dissolved into a dark mist in the beat of a heart. How long the operation lasted I do not know, but it was dark when I regained consciousness in a cold dim lighted room strapped to a gurney. To wake up alone in semi darkness is really terrifying to a child, far worse than staring at anything tangible, though life threatening. For many years after that experience I was afraid of the dark.

Both my parents were standing waiting for me when I was finally wheeled to the ward where I was to spend the next couple of weeks; they were a very comforting sight.

The next morning Dr. Mengele’s continued with his torture and even after I was discharged, I was subjected to the torture three times a week. About a month later I was back, to have the right ear seen to, it was not nearly as dramatic, as they had caught the problem in its early stages and it did not require the same radical treatment. Today I am very thankful to Dr. Amoils for the miracle that he performed and the immense patience that he displayed in dealing with a screaming eight year old. Without his professional skills and dedication I would today be stone deaf.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

The Sounds of silence and Other Mishaps

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It was about this time that I started to lose my hearing, but it was a very gradual thing, so I thought that everybody became a little deaf as they grew older, one could not expect to hear like a child all one’s life. My lack of hearing was only noticed by my parents in a rather dramatic incident.

We children still spent a half hour with my parents during their morning tea the only difference was I was now trusted to actually pour the tea for them. The tea-tray was always placed on my father’s bedside table and I would then proceed to pour the tea for them. One morning I was pouring tea when my father asked me a question which I did not hear, he asked it again slightly louder which I also did not hear, thinking that I was ignoring him he suddenly shouted the question which frightened me, and as I turned to face him, still pouring the tea in rather a hurry, I managed to drench his middle with scalding tea.

To say that I was not very popular, or that my shares had crashed would be like saying the atomic bomb was just a large firecracker. After everything eventually calmed down, he called me closer, and started to speak to me in his normal voice, all I heard was a sort of low rumbling buzzing. Finally when he spoke a lot louder, but not shouting I heard him.

I had never struggled to hear in class as teachers tend to project their words and speak a lot louder in class than they do in normal conversation, so the fact that I was going deaf was never detected before this episode. I had also been plagued by earaches on a regular basis from about a year after my tonsils were removed and even though I had visited the local doctor, we were told that earache was a normal childhood problem. As it turned out, in my case it was a little more serious.

When I was a child, in the days before universal medical aids, people were not able to see a specialist without a General Practitioner’s referral. It was also the days when doctors made house calls and were not in medicine for the money, but rather for the desire to genuinely help people.

I was taken to the doctor that afternoon, and the specialist that I was referred to only had an opening a few weeks later, as my condition at the time was not life threatening the appointment was confirmed. Unfortunately the earache became progressively worse over the next few days and by Saturday I was in excruciating pain, as it was a Saturday and the doctor was busy in his surgery for the morning he promised to pop-round in the afternoon to see what he could do to help me.

As a doctor’s visit was rather an important occasion I was bathed, my bed freshly made up and my room cleaned so that it resembled a scrubbed hospital ward and I was put to bed to await the arrival of the doctor. This little charade took place just before every doctor’s visit.

By that time I was in so much pain that I did not care what was happening around me. In actual fact it felt as if my left ear was about to explode, I remember it felt as if something was filling my ear with molten lava, forcing more and more lava into a very confined space. Finally about lunch time the volcano erupted, as I was unable to lie on the side that hurt, I was curled on my right side in a foetal position. The force of the rupture sprayed blood and pus onto the ceiling, finally the pain was gone and I fell into a sweat soaked sleep.

The strange thing was the absolute quiet when I awoke to see the doctor leaning over my bed, I could see his lips moving but no sound penetrated my consciousness; it was like a silent movie in colour.

When I lifted my head off the pillow sound filtered through my right ear, and I was able to hear the good doctor telling my mother that I had to be taken to a hospital, my father was still at work, so my mother made all the arrangements and drove me to the hospital where I was admitted, given some tablets and basically slept until Monday morning.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Chasing Demons Out of THE DEVIL’S Spawn

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As any parent will know, it is almost impossible to enrol a child in a so called good school if that child has been expelled from one of similar aspirations, especially one branded a bully and unruly. That was the dilemma that  my parents were faced with. They tried all the boys only schools in Johannesburg, and I am sure even schools in other provinces, with the same result, I was a pariah and would not be welcome in any school where young gentlemen were groomed to benefit society as a whole.

I was to be punished for one rash moment for the rest of my life even if it could be argued that I was in fact defending myself from a notorious bully. Finally in desperation they inquired if the Roman Catholic Convent where my sister attended school would be prepared as a gesture of Christian mercy to attempt to reform this child of the Devil and show him the path to salvation.

Even today, I cannot fathom the reasons that a school dedicated entirely to the education of young white ladies would have even considered the option of taking me under their wing, let alone allow me to attend the school, but they welcomed the challenge with open arms. That is how it came to pass that I was duly enrolled as the only male student in the school under the condition that I was only welcome until the end of standard two, where other arrangements would then have to be made. I think the nuns had the idea that boys below the age of ten would not be capable of corrupting their young charges.

Karen and I were once again attending the same school, therefore once again there was scope for comparison. I do not think that I was held in the same esteem that Karen was. Life for me at the convent was not as bad as a lot of people would think being the only boy and very young had its advantages. Instead of being bullied, I was adopted as the matric girls’ mascot and spoilt rotten by these women not quite yet adults.

I have read extensively since then, that all women have the instinct to be a mother, I have also read that motherhood is a learned condition and that not all females of the species have the ability to be a mother. My experience in that year sides with the former opinion, as there was not a young women who did not go out of her way to spoil me.

My teacher for the remainder of the year was a nun by the name of Sister Attractor, I am not sure of the spelling, but that is how I remember her name sounded. She was a saint on earth, from the moment that I entered her classroom, I was treated as though her only mission in life was to protect and nurture me.

One of the very first things she gave me was a plastic rosary and a plastic Crucifixion, telling me to pray for forgiveness every night. I do not remember ever praying to have that particular incident forgiven, but the Crucifix was attached to my wall until it was lost in the move to Durban. She was also one of those exceptional teachers that made learning fun. I think by the end of the year she had decided that I could not possibly be that terrible child that almost killed a fellow student and that there was definitely a very strong case for mistaken identity. I am sure she never considered that it was her inspirational presence that made me behave as though butter would not melt in my mouth while I was in her care.

Never let it be said that the Church does not work in mysterious ways.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Expulsion and Classic Cricket Strokes

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I was not to be a student at St. Peter’s for long, in actual fact just one term, the reasons are as follows. Remember the bully that extorted money from us young and defenceless standard ones, well he was the reason that I was expelled from the school. The reason was that I was branded a bully and an unruly child. It happened like this:-

One morning I had somehow forgotten to join the line to hand over my protection money, and also managed to avoid the gentleman during school hours. It happened to be cricket practice that afternoon and that is where he caught up with me. He stormed up, almost breathing out fire and demanded his money, which I had already spent at the tuck shop during one of the breaks, there was no way that I could comply with his demands.

He started to threaten me with death, or worse, I was not sure of what was worse than death, but I found out later that death would have been preferable to the stigma of expulsion.

The thing that he had not factored into his calculations was the undeniable fact that I was standing in front of him with a cricket bat in my hands and he was so to say unarmed. When he tried to punch me, I stepped back and executed a classic cross bat shot to his head. Maybe I should have been satisfied with that shot, that would have at least brought me four runs if I had been at the crease, but I followed it up with a straight drive to his face when he hit the ground. It was a classic stroke, shattering his jaw, removing a few teeth and crushing his nose, not to mention that I had already cracked his skull with my first shot.

Well the teachers were called, the bully was removed to hospital, I was marched to the Headmasters office where I was confined and locked in the Headmaster’s toilet. My parents were summoned to appear in front of the judge and to remove the prisoner from the school grounds and to never return.

I was never asked my side of the story as the boy that I had taken out, so to speak, was from one of the most prominent families in Johannesburg and his parents had donated wheelbarrows of cash to the school. My parents lived in fear for the next couple of weeks, waiting for the boy’s parents to sue them, or worse that the boy might die. I do not think there was any chance of him dying, but there was a very real chance that they would be sued.

I do not know how the real story came out, but we received a phone call from the Headmaster and a meeting was arranged for my parents, the boy’s parents, the Headmaster and I, at the home of the boy’s parents. I was not present during the discussions, but the gist of the settlement was that I had to go through to the boy and apologise, we would not be sued and I was definitely not welcome back at the school.

That was my first lesson in the power of money. Over the years the lesson was reaffirmed time and time again, people with vast fortunes are not subject to the same laws that govern the less well off.

There was a case not that long after my expulsion of a Cape Town, millionaire who had killed his wife with a statue, had lied to the police as to the cause of death, and when found guilty had not been hanged as was the usual sentence for a murderer in those days. He was given a few years in prison where he was allowed all the things necessary to run his business from prison including daily visits from his secretary. Well so much for my education at St. Peter’s Preparatory School for Boys. In South Africa today under the new dispensation, that protection has been extended to the so called struggle hero’s.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven