Returning To Hell, But Meeting An Angel.

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On the trip back we arrived in Nelspruit just before sunrise and with a wait of approximately three hours before we could connect with the Local to Barberton. At that time of the morning Nelspruit was still in dreamland and as there was no adult supervision a lot of the older kids disappeared and returned just before the train’s departure smelling of alcohol, where they obtained it I was never to find out.

The rest of the kids waited for the station’s kiosk to open at around seven where I was introduced by a small blond girl to the delights of sardines and sweetened condensed milk on Marie biscuits. From that moment on we were always together when we were allowed into town every Saturday, suffering the usual taunts of being boyfriend and girlfriend chanted by our peers in the student body, we were just friends she also being English speaking and the only one of her class in the hostel.

As the previous year my memory is very scratchy when it comes to names. She is the person that showed me the statue of ‘Jock’, famed in literature as Jock of the Bushveld; she showed it to me because I had told her that the thing I missed most from home was my dog Tina. So the first thing that we did every Saturday was to visit Jock and I would ask him to pass on my love to Tina and to tell her that I was OK. A dog that had its own statue had to be very special, not so? So I was sure he would pass on the messages.

During those Saturday visits we would attend the matinee together, as there was only one cinema in Barberton and it always showed its latest offerings for a fortnight, we visited the cinema every second week. One of the more memorable films was ‘Gone with The Wind’ the first film that I ever cried in, not because at that age I appreciated the classic nature of the movie, nor because it was the longest movie I had ever seen, but due to the attention of a wasp.

We were sitting in the back row of the cinema, where all the kids sat, when I felt what I thought was a fly making its way along my neck, so I naturally swatted it with my hand. The pain was excruciating and been a boy even if only ten I tried to be a man and not cry, I failed in the attempt and tears were still streaming down my cheeks when the movie ended, she thought it was sweet and offered me her lace hankie to mop up the tears. For once in my life I was a real rooinek as the swelling took days to subside and the boys that noticed the tears never let me forget that I had cried like a girl at the movies.

She was one of the better things that happened that term, besides rugby the other was the Gym teacher volunteering to teach me how to defend myself as he had noticed that I was beaten more regularly than the other children. He tried to convince me to learn to hold my tongue and when that seemed impossible he told me he would tell me when I was ready to defend myself and should show the same ineptitude until that time. His reason being if they saw me getting progressively better at defending myself they would just use more of them to get the job done, instead of just one on one.

Lots of HUGS and more,

PEGGY-Sven

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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

Two-Teeth The Intrepid Builder

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In the New Year I returned to Limberlost and Karen was enrolled at the Convent of Mercy Parktown West to start her formal education. As Karen’s school was on the same route as our father’s, it was his duty to drop her at school if he was in the country, if not Granny passed by our house on those occasions and did the honours as it was impossible for my mother to do both as Limberlost was in the other direction.

That second year of school was not nearly as enjoyable as the first. I had lost my angel of a teacher and the new one was the school Headmistress and far colder and a lot stricter. I still had the occasional afternoon with my angel when mother was running late; thank the Lord for small mercies. Besides the fact that I had lost my grade one teacher, nothing of any note was really different at Limberlost, the only event that stands out in my memory was the distribution of a fake gold coin that was distributed by the government to commemorate five years as a Republic, whatever that meant, the reason it stands out is that the convent to which Karen attended was not on the list of recipient schools so she was very jealous that I had received one and she had not. 

The arrival of “Two Teeth” into our lives was a revelation to say the least. Two Teeth’s real name was Julius, and he was the native builder that my father employed to renovate our house. Julius received his nickname because he was missing his two front teeth, ironic in a way. Julius and Hubby were not what anyone could call the best of friends even though they were both black. My parents put it down to tribalism, I think it was more the fact that Hubby was clean, sophisticated, well-educated and most of all a snob. Julius on the other hand was dirty, smelly, prone to lying, illiterate, uneducated and an alcoholic. Julius was to spend the next five years building onto the house and surrounding buildings as well as demolishing his numerous mistakes. 

It was impossible for us children not to like Julius, he was always laughing and there was nothing he would not do for his young “master and miss’s”. Two Teeth’s first job was to remove the front hedge that bordered on the road and build a six foot wall as a replacement. We were the first family on Westmeath road to have a wall on the road frontage of our house, in years to come South African families were to surround there properties with high walls topped with electric fences turning their homes not into castles but into prisons that they could escape to instead of from, for protection. 

The wall that my father had built was not of that variety as he never continued the wall up the sides of the property, leaving the hedges in place to demarcate the boundaries of the property, so as a security measure it was totally inadequate. I think he had the wall built to make the house look more imposing from the street and to let the neighbours know that he was somehow better than them. 

The wall went up surprisingly quickly for Two Teeth, with the minimum of demolition for mistakes taking place. The front gate was an imposing iron structure with a cattle grid placed under the gate. What purpose the cattle grid served was never explained, but it was responsible for almost crushing my foot. 

The cattle grid was only about thirty centimetres wide, with bars fairly wide apart, so it was patently useless except for decoration. The only thing that it stopped from leaving the property was tennis sized balls. Not long after the grid had been installed, Karen dropped her favourite doll into the cavity below the grid, and as Two Teeth had already left for the day she begged me to get her doll out, as the doll would get sick if left out in the night air. 

Only a girl will understand this logic as dolls are objects, not living things, but she was crying and the one thing that I could not tolerate as a child was my sister crying. So as her strong big brother, also her knight in shining armour, I lifted the one end of the grate. It was very heavy for a seven year old and then I made the fatal mistake, instead of allowing Karen to retrieve her doll, I persuaded her to hold the grid while I rescued her doll. Big mistake!  

As soon as I transferred the weight to her, she dropped it, right onto my foot. I was reduced to serious tears, but we did retrieve the doll as I had to lift the grate off my foot and she did what I should have allowed in the first place. I was sent to my room for one day without food as punishment for damaging my foot, but it was worth it seeing the gratefulness in Karen’s face

Lots of Hugs and more

Peggy-Sven