Tag Archives: South Africa

Post 121. EEEEEEEeeeeee!

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Zoe- photo by Terry Kreuger

The girls and I were in the bazaar so I popped into the pharmacy to get something for my nausea.  I had been feeling sick for a while.  We seemed to live with those feelings so it wasn’t really a big deal but Tony was away in Australia and New Zealand and I didn’t want whatever it was to get worse.  I was also feeling really tired.  We had visitors every month and life was full on and I needed to be well.

Our Tibetan friend Sonam and Vijay Masih were in Australia with Tony.  He wanted them to meet our friends from NCMI and see that we were part of something bigger.  We were so grateful for the many friends we had made in South Africa.  Many of them had visited us and helped us to get the community up and running.  It was an exciting, fast growing movement.  After we left South Africa there had been an explosion of community planting all over the world.

A couple of years before that, we were stuck.  There were international sanctions against South Africa and we were an “unwanted” people.  The world wanted us to change our racial policy; a fair request.  Things started to change when Nelson Mandela become the first black president of South Africa.  The world loved us again and we became the “Rainbow Nation.”

In the late eighties our prophetic, eccentric friend, Malcolm Du Plessis, prophesied, that in a few years we would be bumping into each other in international airports.  Many of us took it with a pinch of salt, having no idea how that could possibly happen.  From May 1994, our prison doors opened and we were free. Then we were everywhere.

Many left South Africa for safety reasons.  They wanted their children to have a quality of life.  Many left because they were racists and couldn’t stand the idea of being ruled by a black political party.  Unfortunately they took their racism with them and struggled with people of colour wherever they went.  Many were fearful.  There were prophecies that there would be a blood bath.  It was a miracle there wasn’t.  White South Africans had been dominating the majority for generations.  They had no idea how the majority would treat them now that the tide had turned.

There was also a prophetic word that the nations would call South Africa.  She would be a lighthouse to the nations who were still struggling with racism.  South Africans had been there and done that.  They had fought the apartheid system and won.  It was a miracle and no one could deny it.  Tony was in Australia for one of the first NCMI conferences with excited, wide-eyed South Africans carrying brand new suitcases.

The girls and I got home and I unpacked my packet from the pharmacy.  I asked the girls to come with me to see what I had bought.

It took me ages to get hold of Tony in New Zealand where he was visiting his family.  International calls were always a challenge.  When he finally got on the phone, I didn’t ask him how he was.  The girls were shrieking and jumping around.  Through all the crackling and chaos, I shouted, “I’m pregnant!”

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Post 57. Cry Freedom.

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Tony got a job at Legends Restaurant in Rosebank.   He had advertised himself as, “Willing to do anything; cook, wash dishes, sing, dance on the tables,” The owner liked that.  His wife was due to have a baby so he gave Tony the day manager shift.  It was perfect.  He could work all day and spend the evenings with his new fiancé.

It took him a while to work out the bus route.  It sounded so easy but he kept missing the bus.  In his desperation he climbed onto the “blacks only” bus not realising that he had.  There were lots of smiles of appreciation from the passengers.   They weren’t used to seeing white people on their bus.

South   Africa wasn’t doing so well.  We were at the peak of our dark apartheid years.  The townships were erupting.  People were being necklaced* and schools were being burnt down.  Prisons were bursting at the seams, mostly with political prisoners.  The ANC had been operating underground for years and their struggle was fierce.  Nelson Mandela seemed to be our only hope.

Tony went in and out of  Alexandra Township  for 6 months sharing his story in the schools.   One day he was in our little blue VW beetle, making his way through Alex.  He almost drove right into a burning barricade and an angry mob.  He pulled the handbrake, spun around and took off in the opposite direction.   We were still living right on the border of the township and the gun shots got more frequent and one night, a brick came through our window.

Our black brothers and sisters way out numbered us white people, but we ruled.  They lived in their townships and weren’t allowed to live in ours.  We lived apart in every way; separate schools, churches, buses, movies, shops, parks and park benches.   Everything about it was wrong and we felt the need to make things right.

Malcolm Du Plessis brought his musician friends with him to Waverly.  A band called Friends First was formed to encourage reconciliation of the races.  Nic Paton, Steve McEwan, Joe Arthur, Victor Masondo, Lloyd Martin,Vuvu and others sang and danced out the message all over South Africa.  Some of their songs were banned from the radio but they kept going.   They put a documentary together called, “Another friend in another city,” encouraging whites and blacks to make friends with each other.  It was a demonstration of reconciliation and the love of God across the massive racial divide. It was sent to 10   Downing Street and Reagan’s cabinet.  Their response was, “You have given us more hope for South Africa than any of your politicians.”  Those were radical days.

Some of our young men refused to fight the racist war that was being fought on our borders.  They became known as conscientious objectors.  They were given menial tasks and their lives were made miserable for being unwilling to fight.

“Prophets” were predicting a blood bath, but we lived and demonstrated as best as we could the “new” South Africa.

Even in our darkest and most dangerous time, we held onto the hope that South Africans could be healed.

Post 27. No pork, no bacon

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I had NO idea what to do next.  I spent my “well deserved”  holiday a bit concerned.  I wasn’t qualified to go to college.  I didn’t want to anyway.  There was no way I wanted to work at the bank.   I was starting to wonder if I would end up in a supermarket, just as my maths teacher had said.

At the same time, there were three things I felt strongly about:   I had a feeling I wouldn’t marry a South African.  I had a feeling I would travel.  I had a feeling I would marry a pastor.

While I dated South African guys, I didn’t meet one  I wanted to marry.  Over the years there were a few serious proposals which I happily turned down.  Some were pastor-types.  Now they were interesting. One took me out for dinner. Forget about “should you kiss on your first date?”  He proposed to me all the way home and kept going at the gate.  He talked about a how I could help him in his ministry.  What an asset I would be to him.  He was desperate.  I was desperate too.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the car.  He became pretty famous- for doing the wrong thing.

Another one was a full on, “no pork, no bacon” type.  We had met at joint youth camps over the years.   He was the most eligible pastor’s son and in much demand among the young girls.  I needed a partner for a banquet so I plucked up all the courage I could find to call him.  He courteously told me he was dating someone but something could be arranged.   He called the next day to say he was available.  After lots of interrogation as to how it happened, I had a date.

He had a fancy sports car and Val made sure he got lots of avocado sandwiches.  He kept coming back.  He didn’t like that I wore earrings or make-up. He tried to convince me that eating bacon was the cause of my bad eyesight.  There were lots of rules and regulations except for the ones that really mattered.  We argued about everything and we didn’t last long.

A lot of time was spent getting them to keep their hands to themselves.  They didn’t make it easy for me to stick to my guns.  It wasn’t my  fault I was “so irresistible.”

I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t that.

In our youth group, we were encouraged to write down the qualities that we wanted in a husband.  My list was long. It was a perfect description of Jesus; except he played a guitar.

Post 21. Zulus and Indians

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Fear wasn’t a stranger to me.  I feared many things. My biggest fear was the Zulus.  I thought one day they would come into our circle with their spears and shields and that would be the end of us all.

There were some black people around but they were different. They worked for us.  They lived in the kaiyas (small rooms) in the back of our gardens. We called the ladies “girls” no matter how old they were. The men were “boys.”  Many of them were “John.”  Some had funny names like “Hyacinth” or “Garden Boy.”

When I was really small, Margaret was our first “girl.” She was older than Val. She wore a uniform with a matching apron.  She had her very own aluminium cup and plate which she drank and ate from.  We never asked what she wanted for lunch.  She always got 2 thick slices of white bread with mixed fruit jam and she had coffee with two big teaspoons of sugar.

They were so quiet and un-demanding.  Their families weren’t allowed to live with them.  Angela came after Margaret left.  Her son Lucas used to come for the holidays and we loved him to bits. We loved his curly hair and white teeth.  He was one of David’s best friends.  We never really understood why he couldn’t come to school with us. He always had to go back to the village.  Angela missed him and she missed her husband.

Amos our gardener was David’s weed smoking buddy.  He loved to tease Kim, our little fox terrier.  One day she had enough and bit him. Amos waited for the right moment to get her back.  Dad was looking out of the window one day and saw Amos creeping up behind her.  She was doing her doggy-doos and the last thing she was expecting was a kick in her bum.

Maids and gardeners were part of our lives and we saw them as friends.  Dave played soccer with the gardeners in the park after work.  He was the only white boy.  They got pretty rowdy. One of the neighbours called the police to report them for disturbing the peace and for playing soccer in a “white” park.  The police van arrived and the “boys” were piled in.  They didn’t touch Dave.  We dropped our bicycles and ran to call dad.  He marched across and told them to take Dave, since he had also disturbed the peace.   They got the point and the gardeners were let off.

It was different with the ones we didn’t know.  We were scared of them.  There was always the feeling that they weren’t happy with us.  They lived their own lives and we had no idea how they lived them.  They had their own toilets and buses.  We never saw them at the movies or concerts. That’s just how it was.

Indians were different.  Maybe because they looked like us,  except for their colour. The only Indian who came into the circle was “The Sammy”.  He used to drive around in his open van full of vegetables.  He was friendly until he caught David and I stealing handfuls of French beans and peas from the van.  He warned us over and over again but we kept doing it.  One day there was a knock at our front door and it was a policeman.   David and I hid under the bed on the front veranda and listened with terror to the conversation between my mum and the policeman.

Policeman:  The Sammy has reported that your children have been stealing his vegetables.

Mum: Are you sure they were MY children?

Policeman: Yes,  David and Linda.

Mum (who saw us hiding under the bed):  Well, what do you want to do with them?

Policeman: (Wink, wink) Well if they are caught again we will have to arrest them and put them in jail.

Mum: Ok that will be fine with me.  Thank you, officer.

Our eyes were huge and we were white with fear.   Mum dragged us both out from under the bed and we got the hiding of our lives. That was the last time we did that.

Life for us white kids was good.  We never asked how or where our helpers lived.  We had no idea what their “village” was like and there was a quiet belief that somehow we were helping each other.   I was ok with that.

Post 19. High School

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Sue and I went to Mitchell Girls High.  Unfortunately Sue’s reputation went before her.  I didn’t think that was fair. I never asked how that happened, but she was in trouble from the day she arrived.  One of my teachers made it clear that I would not be allowed to follow in my big sister’s footsteps.

Well, I really put on a show to make sure they enjoyed it.  The older girls loved me and dared me to do all kinds of things. I was always ready for some fun.  We started a false alarm fire drill and before we knew it, the whole school was on the field.  No-one owned up.  We bunked classes and met behind the pre-fabs where the big girls had their smoke breaks.

One day Lindy, Diane Stone and I decided to meet in the sick room.  We were having a great time laughing and chatting until we heard Miss Odell’s knocky shoes coming down the hallway.  We covered our faces with the sheets and waited for her to go past.  I nearly died of fright when she pulled the sheet off and marched us off to her office.  We had been there many times so she didn’t have to lead us.

Miss Beasley was our extremely thin, bug-eyed, lanky, black haired French teacher.  I don’t think she was well, but we didn’t think to ask.  We made her life hell.  We tied invisible cotton to both sides of the chalk and as she went for it, it was pulled from one side to the other.  We let off stink bombs, locked someone in the cupboard and told her we had no idea where the key was. The pranks were unending. She hated our class.

Michelle, the Australian exchange student was white blonde and red faced, especially when she blushed.  She did a handstand against the wall. Her dress hung over her head and her panties were displayed for all to see.  Mrs Beasley came in and commanded whoever it was to come down.  THIS instant!  She shouted and ranted and we laughed until we cried.  Michelle eventually came down, blood red and dishevelled.  Poor Miss Beasley was in tears once again.

During winter we had to wear black hats, ties and stockings.  They were awful.  The first thing I did was to cut the wire rim off my hat and moosh it until it was soft and floppy.  I had a real problem keeping my stockings from getting laddered and I was always getting caught for having my tie undone.

Getting home from school wasn’t easy.  We had to catch a bus into town and then one to Rolleston Place.  It would take more than an hour.  If I had detention or any activity after school I would miss the connection and arrive home after dark.  I often arrived home crying and full of fear.

Fear wasn’t a stranger to me.  Growing up in South Africa there was plenty to be scared of.

Post 18. Wilf Lowe

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Dad in his element

Dad in his element

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.

 

Lots of jazz vinyls

Lots of jazz vinyls

 

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.

Post 17. Strain

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Sunday School

Sunday School

Dad started family movies at the Methodist hall on Saturday evenings.  We all thought it was so he could keep an eye on Sue and her boyfriends.  She was shocked one night when both of them arrived for the show.  Dad would go around with a torch and shine it on the teenagers sitting in the back row.  He wasn’t popular.  We watched every episode of Mission Impossible, The Avengers, The Lone Ranger and The Three Stooges.

That was when I first tried eye makeup.  We had been at Brenda’s house and went straight to the Methodist Hall.  I went to say hi to Val.  She looked at me and said “Did someone hit you?”

“The Lowes” were Methodists and proud of it.  We were members of the Montclair Methodist Church.  Dad would drop us off at church and read his newspaper in the car until it was over. When they needed a superintendent for the Sunday school they knocked on the car window. They figured that dad had nothing better to do on Sunday mornings.  Dad was irritated that his reading had been interrupted, but he accepted the proposal.

Sunday best

Sunday best

We would dress up in our Sunday best and attend church then Sunday school. Church was quite an experience. It was so quiet and there was, “No talking until it’s over!”  The four of us would always get the giggles and we would be separated from each other. Then we would get separated again and again until there were no more combinations of separation. We giggled at the minister in his black dress and white collar; we giggled at the funny wobbly voice that came from Mrs O’Neill sitting behind us and we giggled at the intense look on Wilf and Val’s faces when we just could not stop.  Val would  slap our leg if we got too noisy and that set off the ones who didn’t get it.  If we got uncontrollable giggles we would be marched out and sorted out.

Papa was funny. He would pretend to take money out of the offering bag and would take an extra swig of communion wine when it came around. No matter how bad the experience was, we didn’t miss a Sunday.  We were regular “church goers”.

Sunday school was better than church.  We learnt Bible verses and fun songs about how Moses parted the Red Sea but none of it changed anything.  It just gave me a love for singing and Bible Stories.  By the time I was twelve I could see the hypocrisy of my Sunday school teachers and was bothered that they couldn’t answer my questions.

It was then that tension came into our house.  With the jazz clubs, entertaining of visiting jazz singers and musicians, dad’s radio programmes and band managing, my parent’s social lives were taking strain. The strange and awful word “divorce” had crept into our peaceful, happy lives.  It became very tense.

With the tension came insecurity.  I would lie awake listening to dad’s music but I could also hear their unhappy voices.  It was horrible.  I wondered what would happen to me if they got divorced; where we would all end up, what it would all mean.  No-one I knew had been divorced, but I knew that it meant the end of a happy family. We all drifted further and further away from each other and the church.

BUT, everything had to look good to anyone who might be looking.  We could never talk about our problems outside of the four walls of our house.  We were decent people.  We were “Christians.”