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Back To Old Blighty

October 8th, 2009 3 comments

blightyWe left England when I was four years old and so I cannot really remember much from the time when we actually lived there. As my father was in South Africa on contract we got to go back to England every four years or so for him to renew his contract and for us to see all the family “back home”, as it was called.

The first trip back that I can remember with any clarity was when I was about eight years old in the early 70’s. We flew over in December to spend Christmas in Yorkshire. We left in the heat of summer and I can remember being confused because my mother insisted on us carrying our winter coats and having jerseys in our bags not realising that we were travelling into the teeth of winter. I can clearly remember being highly upset that I had to wear long trousers, warm socks and shoes to travel in, telling us that it would be cold when we got to London was not really a concept we understood.

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Categories: Holidays Tags: , ,

Love It Or Hate It…

August 18th, 2009 6 comments

RooinekI was forced, along with all other kids in the land, to learn Afrikaans at school and it was a language I despised as a child. This I think was mainly because the main protagonists in our childhood rivalries were predominantly Afrikaans and we were usually in the minority and so tended to lose these arguments. I can still hear the shouted insults between two groups of youngsters. ” Rooinekke” aimed at the English kids and the equally disparaging “Rock-Spiders” being hurled back.

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Categories: Afrikaans Tags: ,

A World In A Small Town

July 23rd, 2009 6 comments

My memories of growing up in South Africa are mixed. I grew up in a smallish mining town about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and it was a very Afrikaans with a small immigrant population. We immigrants tended to stick together as a defense mechanism against the “Boertjies” and their, sometimes, belligerent attitude of superiority.

JulukaAt school things were fine as we were all in the same boat of being at the only English school in the town. There was a real conglomeration of people in that little school, we came from all over the world especially Europe, there were Italians, Portuguese, Greeks, Dutch and English folk besides the regular South African English kids. There was also a substantial community of Jewish people – we loved the Jewish holidays as the school was half empty and we couldn’t do any work so it was essentially a free day.

The strange thing was that we all kept out nationalities, almost like badges of honour. We used to share out lunches as there was always something different on offer. We had pretty cosmopolitan palates for little kids, tzadziki, lasagna, matzo and cheese sandwiches got traded with relish. So we never seemed to consider ourselves as South African even though we all grew up in this little Highveld town we had our own little United Nations.

As I got older I still considered myself to be an English immigrant, and this was entrenched when directly after Matric I went back to the UK to visit my Grandparents. When I came back home to South Africa I had picked up a long buried English accent which has stayed with me to this day.

globeThe first time I really felt truly South African was probably when I went to my first Johnny Clegg concert held at the Market Theatre in about 1983. A group of us piled into my old skedonk of a car, I vividly remember one very tall chap was behind the back seats in the boot area as it was the only place we could fit him. Anyway, off we drove to JHB, with a good supply of red wine and beer of course. The vibe at the concert was absolutely mind blowing and Johnny and Juluka had us dancing like maniacs. We danced and drank and danced some more, we sang along to every single song at the tops of our voices, we acted like people possessed and in a way I suppose we were. The times were troubled and this was a celebration of being young adults in an uncertain world.

It was a moment to savour, I did not go to many concerts and I relished the occasion. It was the music that spoke to me, it screamed to me that this is South Africa and I understood every beat of it. At that moment I knew, I WAS a South African, it didn’t matter where I was born, or where I had grown up. This was what I was and nothing could change that or take it away from me. South Africa had gotten into my very bones and I was a child of this land no matter what happened in the future.

Categories: Realisation Tags:
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