Dad’s jazz collection kept growing and so did his knowledge and influence in the world of jazz. He had one of the biggest, oldest jazz collections in the world. People loved his radio programmes “Artistry in Rhythm” and “Jazz Journal” and he became known as “South Africa’s Jazz King”. He got lots of letters from Jazz fans all over the world and won a trip to England on the “100,000 TO GO” quiz show. The topic was JAZZ of course. He knew the ins and outs of jazz. The Quiz Master had to scramble for other questions when the puritan jazz man refused to answer certain questions, stating “That is NOT a jazz question”. Well, he won a trip for two, to the land of his birth. It was his first trip home in 20 years.
His sister and her family visited us once. It was a culture shock for all of us. They were so different. We were used to my dad’s accent and we didn’t consider him to be a foreigner. Our cousins were pink and soft; REALLY soft. They were 18 and 16 and very slim and their hands were kind of floppy. When they arrived at 28 Rolleston Place, the whole neighbourhood came out to see them. They were watched from the swings, see-saw, the slide, the trees and a few lace curtains were slightly open. My aunt asked her eldest son to help her with her suitcase and in his very sing-songy, high voice he said, “Oh cum on muvver.” They were ok after a while and I think I may have even fallen in love with the younger one. He looked like one of the Beatles. His name was Peter and his brother was David. Very original of my dad and his sister I thought.
They had an unusual way of kissing. It was always on the side of our cheeks but their lips never touched any part of our faces. South Africans kissed on the lips so we considered it rude and snobbish to do it any other way. They were always fully clothed and never bare footed. We ran around like the street kids we were, always bare foot and barely clad. They watched us going up and down trees, in and out of every one’s house and to their horror, climbing through the underground storm water drain pipes which ran about 6 foot under the road. They had arrived in Africa alright and they didn’t need a safari.
We learnt a bit about dad during that visit. His younger brother had been killed in a motorbike accident when he was 16. Wilf wanted to join the Navy but had no qualifications so he joined the Merchant Navy as a ship’s carpenter and started his life of travel.
Wilf and his sister Flo had been evacuees during the Second World War. He remembered the bombing of London and had quite a collection of shrapnel and war relics.
One of my favourite things to do was to jitterbug with dad. He had won the Jitterbug Championships in Kent for a few years in a row. I was small and flexible and loved being thrown around by him.
It seemed to me that dad could see himself in Dave and didn’t like it. Dad wasn’t the goody-goody we had all thought he had been; Merchant Navy, sailor’s lifestyle, drinking, smoking, (he got TB when he was in his early 20s) and goodness knows what else. Things changed when us kids came along. There was no alcohol or any other substance allowed in our house.
Except for when Papa stayed. He had plenty. Val kept trying to flush it down the toilet, but it would pop up again. We would help him make his cigarettes with a little roller, paper and tobacco. It was fun licking the edge of the paper to finish it off. Papa had to leave when he wouldn’t stop drinking. He moved into a small flat in town with his budgie.
Wilf had done it all and he did everything he could to stop us from doing what he had done. He lost Dave and Sue in the process. It seemed to me that he just didn’t know how to do it.