Tag Archives: long distance relationships

Post 54. Welcome to South Africa



My fiancé, Tony, who I had never been with, arrived in South Africa in December 1985.   We had been pen pals for a year and a half.  Cathie Beattie came to our house early that morning.  She was almost as excited as I was.

I filled up the bath and was happily soaking in my bubbles when she knocked at the door informing me that the plane had landed.  We weren’t far from the airport, but I was still pushing it.  I had been day dreaming; imagining what I was going to do when I saw Tony.  We were engaged, but we had never been together.  I pictured myself putting my hand out and saying to my fiancé, “Welcome to South Africa.”   Just thinking about the whole thing got my tummy going and by the time I left the house, I had the runs.

I was so nervous.  Rig drove me to the airport and Cath sat on the backseat smiling from ear to ear, trying to calm me down.  As soon as we arrived, I bought some gum and then ran off to the loo.  Rig and Cath waited in the car outside.  When I came out I saw Tony looking around for me.  He looked so handsome.  I crept around behind him, put my arms around his waist and said “Welcome to South Africa.”  He turned around, we looked into each other’s faces, smiled and hugged and kissed.  It was as if we had always been together.

We walked out to the car where Rig and Cathie were waiting.   I introduced them all and off we drove, chatting about his trip.  We found out why he arrived wearing such a heavy sweater.  He had been travelling for days and wasn’t able to wash anywhere.  He was wearing it to hide any B.O he may have had.

I had found a small garden cottage for him, just up the road from the Wallace’s place.  It was tiny and perfect.  I filled up the little fridge with food and he was so happy.

My friends loved him.  He found Waverley quite unusual. The first Sunday he was there, Marie Dunn linked arms with him and swung him around during the one of the songs.   That was a first.  Strangers kissed him on the mouth in typical South African style.  That was another first.

In a few weeks we had our official engagement party at the Wallaces place.   Everyone knew we were heading off to India so we didn’t get a lot of gifts and there was still no ring.

After a month of being in Johannesburg we took our first train trip together.  Tony was going to meet Wilf and Val and the rest of the Lowe family in Durban.

A friend of ours offered to give us a lift to the station but didn’t tell us he didn’t know how to get there.  We got hopelessly lost and missed the train.  We rushed into the Station Master’s office. There was a group of tourists who had missed their connection and there was a bus taking them to meet the train at the next station.

We got on the bus then boarded the train, huffing and puffing.  There was an excitement about the edginess of the whole thing and we loved that our lives together had started that way.

Post 51. So, how old is your fiance?


I didn’t hear from Tony for about 2 weeks.  The mailbox was empty.  It was the longest I had to wait to get a letter from him.  I was upset.  I wondered if he had changed his mind.  Worse still, I wondered if he had met someone else.  My imagination ran wild. 

In the meantime, I loved my job in the engineering company in Johannesburg.  It took a while to get on with some of the German secretaries, especially Charlotte.  She was blunt and she felt it her duty to let everyone know exactly what she thought of them at any time.  No one liked her.  I made her my mission. She started to warm up to me and we became good friends. 

One day she asked me what my star sign was.  I told her I didn’t believe in horoscopes and such things.  She eventually got me to tell her when my birthday was.  She was surprised.  Apparently people under my star sign and people under her star sign didn’t get on; ever.  She had never met a person born under my star that she got on with; ever.  I didn’t fit into the “star” box.  She was surprised again when I told her what I was like as a child and how I was changing all the time.  She was concerned that Tony and I wouldn’t be compatible.  I assured her that he had also broken out of his box.  The stars had nothing to do with the changes that had taken place. They had no power to change anything.  She was fascinated.

Everyone in the office was involved in my love life. The guy who picked up the post from my desk teased me for running after Tony.   He could only see the letters going out.  He had no idea how many letters had been filling my mailbox at home.  

We had been writing for months and neither of us had thought about asking each other’s age.   After we got engaged by phone, cassette and letter, Tony thought he might as well find out.  The post guy in my office picked up my letter with the answer and posted it without a stamp.  It went to all the islands in South East Asia and it was weeks before Tony got it.  His friends in New Zealand were asking him how old his fiancé was.  He kept telling them he had no idea.  They thought he was crazy.  

It was two weeks before I heard from him.  When he called, his voice was shaky.  The police had come to their house and Tony was asked to go with them to identify a body in town.  It was his dad, Doug. He had died from a massive heart attack.  

Just a few months before that, Doug and Tony talked about their relationship, their differences and their issues.  Tony was able to totally forgive his dad.  It was a heavy, 24 year old weight off his shoulders. 

Doug had been into a big property deal in the centre of Auckland.  His risky, high powered life had taken its toll.  He was only 59. 

I felt helpless.  Tony was so emotional and I cried with him.   I felt awful for having been so selfish and also happy that we were in touch again.  He hadn’t changed his mind.  

Everyone wanted to know what was happening and when he was coming.  As soon as he had enough money; that was when he was coming.

Post 50. Triple yes.


Letters from New   Zealand were arriving fast and furiously.  They were diary letters.  Every event was written about and we got to know each other really well.  Tony’s dad Doug, wrote a couple of times and I fell in love with him too.  He talked a bit about the old Tony but talked lots about the new one and how happy he was that I was in his life.   Betty also wrote to me, quite concerned that I knew what I was getting myself into.  

We had been writing to each other for about a year and things were getting serious.  Tony was doing a course in a Bible College, painting houses and working in a restaurant.  He was saving up every penny to get a ticket to South Africa. 

Before he came he had to make sure it wasn’t going to be a waste of time and money.   We arranged to fast together over a weekend.  On Monday evening, Cathie Beattie and I were lolling around in the lounge when the phone rang.  It was Tony.  We had a brief chat about life in general and then he said, “I love you and I really want to marry you.  Will you marry me?”  

Cathy was watching me from the couch.  She heard me say in a very calm voice, “I would love to.”  

Her eyes got bigger and she stood up waiting for me to put the phone down.   “So???” 

“He asked me to marry him.” 

“What! How can you be so calm!?” 

We started to hug and jump around the lounge, screaming with excitement. 

That wasn’t enough for Tony.  He needed to make sure he wasn’t going to get to South Africa and be sent home.  Within a week he asked the same question on a cassette and in a letter.  I said yes three times. 

I was sure about him, but for a little while there, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up my single life.  I had always said I wanted to get married at 25.  Now I was 25 and I was having doubts.  I put my concerns in a letter.  I was happy being single.  I loved my life.  I was busy and content.  Did I really want my life to change? His calm reply calmed me down and I started to get excited about being married. 

One of the big things we had talked about was his call to India.  Before he asked me to marry him he asked me if I was willing to live in India with him.  He made it clear that if my answer was no, we could not go ahead with our relationship.  He didn’t want to drag his wife kicking and screaming to India.  I was willing to go anywhere and so that was settled.  

It sounded so simple.  We were going to get married and move to India. 


Post 40. Match making


I was exhausted.  My aunt and uncle wanted to show me the sights of London but I just wanted to sleep.  A week later my English friend Liz invited me to visit her in Belgium before I went home.  I got on the ferry and crossed the English Channel.

I had been in Belgium once before.  We had done a road trip through Spain and France.  On the way we met a team led by Normand Saidon.

My sweet friend Henriette had left the ship a few months before me and she was in a state.  From the day she had walked onto the ship, she knew she would marry Normand.  He was one of the busy, choleric types who didn’t seem to have any time or interest in romance.  She kept it to herself for two years.  In her last week, she tearfully blurted her dilemma out to me.  He didn’t give her the time of day and didn’t seem to know she existed.  She needed to know.  If she was wrong, then she would forget all about him.  If she was right, maybe he needed some prodding.

Henriette and I had been writing to each other and I asked her if I could chat to Normand about it.  She reluctantly agreed.  She didn’t know of any other way.

When our teams met up, I pulled Normand aside and told him Henriette had said hi.  His response was “Who is Henriette?  Oh, the South African girl.”  I told him what she had told me and he agreed to send her his newletter.  How romantic, I thought.  One newsletter turned into another and before we knew it, they were writing to each other.  He fell head over heels in love.

On my second trip to Belgium, I thought Tony may need some help.  He had no way of contacting me and I wondered how we would stay in touch.  He seemed to be very cautious about being in a relationship.

Liz was sending him her newsletter, so I scribbled a note at the bottom of it.

“Hi Tony, I’m with Liz and I saw her writing to you.  Have a good trip back to India.  Please send me your newsletter.  My address is:  28   Rolleston Place, Woodlands, Durban.  Linda”

One newsletter turned into another and before we knew it, we were writing to each other.

Quite subtle, I thought; quite subtle.