Our cousins Beverly, Karen, Raymond and Margaret Cale lived in Westville. We thought they were rich and we loved visiting them in their big house in Renown Road. Their pool was the big attraction before we got ours. It was another world for us. Uncle Wally was a drummer and he gigged with Wilf in his Dixieland band. There was a free flow of alcohol in their house and their parties were slightly wilder than ours. When the adults were happier than usual we would go into the bedrooms to play.
Their granny, Mrs Buckley had funny big, square teeth that clicked and moved when she spoke. She always had a cigarette in her hand and she smelt funny. Val had to regularly tell us to “Stop staring! It’s rude”. Well rude or not when Val wasn’t around, Mrs Buckley had us all right there in her face.
There was a big fire in the field next door to their house and I was terrified. I had heard from the Schwegmanns that the world was going to end in fire and that I would be going to hell when I died. I thought that was it. It was huge and it was hot. I went hysterical and when I realised that I couldn’t save myself, my family or the world, I sat in their pool and cried.
I wouldn’t even light a match in case I started the end of world. From our front veranda where my grandfather Papa stayed, we could see the oil refinery on the Bluff. The flame that burned all day and all night was a constant source of anxiety for me. I would sit on Papa’s bed and look at it out of the window. He told me over and over again that it could never reach our house, but I never believed him. It was over 15 kilometres away but I would sit at that window and watch and wait for it to consume the world.
Fear wasn’t a stranger to me. I feared Dave jumping out at me in the passage, and I feared that Peter would die. I feared the Zulus and the white men that may drive past me and pull me into their car. I feared fire, hell and the end of the world. I was also scared of dying and I was reminded of that possibility every night when we said our prayers.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take,
God bless Mommy,
God bless Daddy,
God bless everyone I love AAAAAAmmmmmmmennnn.”
Dave started to add “and God bless the Zulu boys” which made us all giggle. Soon after that, our family prayers stopped. Dad felt we were being sacrilegious. Nothing was sacred with David the clown there.