End of First Term and A Train to Paradise. (Or a Broken Home)

Train Journey

Eventually the term came to an end and the blissful day arrived when it was time to pack our belongings into our trunks and head of home. I had a lot less to pack when I left than I had when I arrived, but fortunately I still had about seventy-five percent of my school uniform intact. I had arrived with six of everything, shirts, trousers, safari-suits and two pairs of shoes, sandals and all sports equipment as needed. It was to become a sad fact of life, that at every end of term I had less and less to pack even though my locker was always locked.

Our trunks were labelled and sent to the station, then we were lined up as usual, girls separate and marched to the railway station, this was strange since there was no supervision on the actual train. Once there we boarded the local-coal fired train to Nelspruit from where we would connect with the mainline train to Johannesburg. There were students that had made this journey before, so it was not hard to find the train and find our respective cabins as the numbers were printed on the tickets, including a food voucher and a bedding voucher.

The train travelled through the night stopping at every station on the way, dropping off and collecting different passengers as well as milk, as it was known as the “Milk Train” and arrived at Johannesburg station just after sunrise.

My mother was waiting for me on the platform alone, which was strange as my father’s office was just above our heads in the stations concourse and he was not with her. Mother at first did not spot me, waiting for my trunk to be unloaded, mainly because she was looking for my very white hair, and as I now was as bald as cue ball she did not recognize me in the crowd.

She was starting to panic that I had missed the train or knowing her perchance to the dramatic, had been killed or kidnapped, when I materialized in front of her. She took one look at me and burst into tears muttering about my beautiful hair been gone, she looked really shocked.

It was something she was never able to get over, her son sheared like a Marino sheep.

The holiday naturally flew past, especially because I was spoilt rotten, all my favourite foods were dished up, Hubby running around making sure that I wanted for nothing and the other children asking me all sorts of questions of what boarding school was like and being very sympathetic to my situation.

Playing with my friends on the street and not being bullied all the time was wonderful, but my mother was very cool towards little John, as his mother was one of the women that my mother had named, my own mother was guilty of the same crime as the residents of Barberton, visiting the sins of the parent onto the child.

Little John’s parents were busy with a divorce of their own due to the revelation that his mother was one of my father’s mistresses. Granny had also moved back into her room and the house was filled with the aroma of her baking every day that I was home. I was naturally teased by everyone about being bald, but big John decided he liked it and shaved his own head that brought an end to the teasing, as nobody would dare tease him, his temper was always bubbling just beneath the surface and he was the biggest of the friends, the eldest too.

Before I knew it I was back on the train and heading for the dubious pleasures of Barberton. My father did not visit me during that holiday. Nor was the divorce a favoured topic of conversation in our house, so I had no idea where he was living or what he was up to.

Lots of Hugs and more,

PEGGY-Sven

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Bus Ride To Hospital and Other Inconsequential Stupidity

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St. Peter’s was a revelation to me in the fact that they had large sports fields, and we were expected to participate in at least one organised sport. The choice was extensive, soccer, cricket, rugby, swimming, tennis, athletics and various others. As some sports are seasonal, most students participated in at least two organised sports during the year. 

The sport I chose for the first term of the year was cricket, so my mother took me shopping to buy all the required paraphernalia required to be a professional cricketer. Practice was twice a week after lessons had finished for the day, I stand to correction, but I think they were on a Tuesday and Thursday. On those days when I did not have practice, I left for home straight after lessons. I would catch the bus to Rosebank, change buses, catching the city bus disembark in Parktown and walk down to Jan Smuts avenue to connect with the bus going to Parkview. 

Granny by this time had divorced Robert, and had moved into a small flatlet that had been built above a double Garage in Roscommon road in Parkview, about three blocks away from our house. If I hurried to catch the Parkview bus, I would be on time to catch a lift with Granny as she headed home. She would never wait for me if I dawdled, but always picked me up if I was waiting for the bus. 

There were two advantages in getting a lift and not catching the bus, the first was that I saved the bus money, and the other was I spent the afternoon with Granny and was given all sorts of treats over afternoon tea. So you see it was to my advantage if I did not miss that lift. The city bus always stopped at the bus stop at the entrance to Sherborne road, which incidentally was the road that I walked down, or ran down if I thought I was late for Granny, to catch the connecting bus home. 

The City council decided one day to move the Sherborne bus stop about a hundred meters passed the entrance to Sherborne road in what I presume was a safety measure, for a bus stopped directly in front of an intersection tends to block the road behind and the intersection itself. What they failed to do was let their passengers in on the change. 

Johannesburg at that time had double decker trolley buses, and we children always sat on the top deck above the driver, so that we could see our stop coming up and to frustrate the driver below by placing our feet over the sort of periscope that was situated so that he could monitor the behaviour of the upstairs passengers. There were also two exits from the bus, one at the front passed the driver, and one at the rear, a sort of spiral staircase ending about a meter before the exit that did not have doors. 

When you saw your stop approaching, you rang the bell and preceded to one of these exits, my preference was the back one where you could run down the stairs, jump catch hold of the pole and swing yourself off the bus. So came the day when I saw my stop ahead, rang the bell and ran down the rear staircase, I had done this so often that it was a game to arrive at the bottom of the stairs just before the bus stopped, jump, grab the pole and swing to the ground just as the bus was almost stationary. 

Not knowing that the bus still had a hundred meters to go, I launched myself at the pole, but the bus did not slow, and in panic I missed the pole and landed in the busy road, tumbling bum over head behind the bus. How I was not run over is just one of those small miracles. 

The next conscious recollection I have is of an ambulance attendant moving me onto a stretcher. Fortunately my mother, in her wisdom had printed not only my name on the flap of my school case but also emergency telephone numbers and contact details. So when I arrived at the hospital she was already waiting for me. The scrapes and wounds were quickly cleaned and bandaged as well as the large swelling on my head; I was then released into my mother’s care and taken home. 

I returned to school the conquering Hero, but was from then on fetched from Rosebank every afternoon as if I was a baby again, and that I would be stupid enough to attempt the foolish stunt after what had happened. I suppose all mothers will understand and sympathize with mine and all sons with me.

Lots of 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