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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A Ducktails Signature Erased.

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After my parents dropped me off at the school for the second term, it was made known to me that it was to be the last time that I was driven to school, and that I was to be catching the train back home and would from then on use the train for all journeys to and from the school. Reason being that my parents had obtained a divorce during that first term while I was enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the Barberton hostel.

My parents’ divorce turned out to be rather news worthy, it appeared in the main body of the Sunday Times, and every person in Barberton was scandalized. It turns out that my mother named something like seventy two other women in her divorce summons, including most of my mother’s so called friends and the mothers of a fair amount of my friends. One thing that Barberton most definitely was, and that was a very conservative God fearing town and the thought of a white man having so many concubines was more than a scandal, it was definitely the work of the devil.

I had become an instant celebrity in the town, wherever I went people pointed and whispered under their breaths, it would have been funny if it had not made the bulling at the hostel worse. It seems that people had passed the sins of the father onto the son. A lot of my friends at school started to avoid me, fortunately my friends at the hostel at least had no option but to stand at my side for the safety in numbers theory. Also their parents were not there to force them to stay away from the devil’s child.

In the last weeks of the school term I was told by the house master, who had at that stage not warmed to me due to rugby, that my hair was too long and that on the next Saturday visit to town I must have my hair cut. There was only one problem, I had already spent all my pocket money and if it was not cut by sundown I would be punished, when I informed him of this small problem I was told he did not care where I got the money from, for all he cared I could beg, borrow or steal it. As my friends had also run out of money and that I had learned about stealing the previous year, begging was the only way that I had the chance of getting the money. It turned out I was not at all a good beggar, so as I was unable to afford a haircut, it wasn’t cut.

I must take this opportunity to point out that my hair was not that long, just over my ears and collar and I was going home in a matter of days where my mother would arrange for my hair to be cut. That Saturday, I went to town as was usual to escape the hostel and spent time with ‘Ticky’ the Clown’ a dwarf who claimed to have been the original ‘Ticky’ The Clown at Boswell Wilkie circus, whether that was true or not did not matter to us, he made us laugh and that was what I needed that Saturday to take my mind of the caning that was sure to follow having not had my hair cut.

When I returned to the hostel that evening, sure enough the house master was waiting for me, he had decided to make an example out of this ‘rooinek’s’ devil child. He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the bathroom calling for some of the older boys to fetch a chair, a pair of scissors and a safety razor. He then proceeded to cut all my hair off and shaved my head until I was absolutely bald. Not a very wise thing to do to a very fair skinned child especially in Barberton where the sun beats ruthlessly down and cloudy days are far and few between.

By the end of Sunday I was in the hostel sanatorium with sunstroke. 

Till next time, lots of hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven