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LM By Pontiac

lmPart of an idyllic childhood on the edge of the Valley of a thousand Hills was the oddly seedy genteel lifestyle Natal’s British expats – the types that pawned the family silver to send their kids to Michealhouse, Hilton, Thomas Moore and such havens of the G & T brigade. And true to form (of course), they had more than their fair share of eccentrics. Thank the Lord. And our neighbours took their eccentricity most seriously, pushing the envelope to the point of the bizarre.

Mrs. C** was formidable. A blonde Valkyrie who smoked cigars, swore like a trooper, who no one would dream of calling anything but MRS C**, she ran her household of 5 sons with the most relaxed version of an iron fist one could ever imagine. But there are volumes to be written about this extraordinary family, but I fear I can’t digress, as limits are limits, readers mine, and the focus now is a weekend trip to LM. Simple as that. But here’s the thing…

Going to LM with the C**s was no walk in the park. I didn’t even know that we were leaving South Africa. I was young – about 10 or so – and only figured that out months later. Bear in mind we grew up with brothers that listened to LM radio and Long John Berks. LM was a household name. I had no idea it was in another country. So when Mark asked me if I wanted to go with them, I jumped at it. Mum and Dad were an abstracted lot, and I think only half took in my asking, so off we went. Me and Mark and two more brothers and mum and dad C piled into this amazing Pontiac Parisienne – lime green, with wings and all – and set off down the North Coast road.

Through what was then Zululand and further until the nice wide tar road was a shaky memory, we eventually ended up in serious bush. This was before the bush war, and the road just went on and on for hours through the most extraordinary mangroves and dense forest, with here and there miles and miles of bushveld and then we hit what seemed like a dense black fog….. ‘cept this fog was alive. After a few minutes that seemed like terrifying hours it was gone, and the windscreen was a mass of squashed mosquitoes. We must have the hit the mother of all mozzie swarms. The outskirts of Lourenco Marques a few miles later were most welcome and we quickly warmed to world I’d never known about. Vendors everywhere, selling everything… cheap cheap cheap. And then I learned how Mark always had money. The day before we left, he bought hundreds of packs of small cheroots, apparently made from some part of the banana, for next to nothing. These he secreted in his case, and snuck it into the boot while his dad was packing.

Thinking back I don’t recall there being any formal border post on that extraordinary road. We certainly didn’t stop at anything like that. Whether the ingenious Tony knew some secret backroad or not I still don’t know. Very possible. He was a man of many schemes, and Mark must have got his idea somewhere, because no sooner home than on his bike and off to Hilton, where he made a killing selling cheap cheroots to the form fives. No wonder he was the only kid no-one at school messed with. So there we have it… international smugglers at the age of ten. Who would have thought.

It was Eden in Africa, but as a kid who grew up in that world it’s taken me near half a century to see that we were truly blessed, beyond the religious trappings of that notion. This was heaven on earth.

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  1. October 1st, 2009 at 04:34 | #1

    Robin, I truly loved reading this story – it has made me go and read up a little more on these histories, I need to know more than just the prawns

  2. October 1st, 2009 at 06:49 | #2

    LMAO! This reminds me of a Larney I met in Durban recently… April, I think it was. Shame, that poor bloke was born in the wrong bloody century. He would have been perfectly at home in a pith helmet and safari suit, somewhere in Kenya 100 years ago.

    Great story, Robin.
    .-= Good Charlie´s last blog ..10 Conditions For Transition To Communism, 2.1 =-.

  3. avatar
    robin hawkins
    October 1st, 2009 at 08:26 | #3

    Alex, thanks for finding and posting that photo. It makes it look good.

  4. October 1st, 2009 at 08:30 | #4

    Never heard of Lourenco Marques before! Thank you for educating me 🙂
    Brilliant story! Do you think I could get a reward if I turned you in for smuggling? 😀

  5. October 1st, 2009 at 20:27 | #5

    Never heard of LM prawns Diva?

  6. October 2nd, 2009 at 12:11 | #6

    No O_o

  7. October 5th, 2009 at 08:19 | #7

    Alex :Never heard of LM prawns Diva?

    LOL! How do you say, “Don’t point your f*kken tentacles at me!” in Portuguese?
    .-= Good Charlie´s last blog ..Awulethe iPolygamy Yami… =-.

  8. avatar
    colleen
    October 27th, 2009 at 09:37 | #8

    LM radio, John Berks, Lournco Marques, this is a lovely, lovely piece Robin!

    Filled with a feeling of freedom, and a sense of place

    Excellent

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