No Problem

Another late night shift at the restaurant where I worked had come to an end. The books were balanced and I was ready to go home when Mike, a waiter I was friendly with, asked me if I’d like to go to Joseph’s place with a couple of other colleagues for a few drinks. Joseph was a barman and a really kind person, often giving me a lift back to my bedsit after my shift as he hated the idea of me walking home on my own in the early hours. Being a newcomer I was more than happy to accept the invitation just so long as I could get a lift home afterwards. No problem.

An hour later we were in Joseph’s tiny, but cosy, kitchen in the southern suburbs sharing a few cans and a pretty decent Malay curry and laughing and chatting and exchanging stories and jokes. The atmosphere changed abruptly when there was a knock at the door. It was 2 am. Mike looked up at Joseph and raised his eyebrows questioningly. Joseph shrugged his shoulders and made his way to the front door. Whilst he was gone Mike told me to keep quiet and let him do any talking. I asked him what was the problem.

The date, 1974, was the problem. The country we were living in was the problem.The fact that Mike and I were ‘white’ was the problem. The fact that Joseph was a ‘Cape Coloured’ was the problem. The fact that we were in a designated ‘coloured’ part of Cape Town was the problem and visiting a house that by law Mike and I were not allowed to be in was the problem.

What would have happened to me had that knock at the door belonged to the security police I will never know. Thankfully it was a neighbour who had seen the lights on and who wanted to join the party.

No problem.

~wander.essence~ Prose

The Kindness of Strangers

It was mid-December 1973. I was finally in Cape Town, South Africa after travelling with a South African/New Zealand friend for three months overland from the UK to India and then by ship to Durban . Unfortunately on arrival in South Africa the rules for entering the country had changed – when I set off all you needed was a sufficient amount of money, £100 – now though I was made to pay for a ticket out of the country and as I had arrived by ship the ticket had to be by ship. The cheapest option was from Durban back to Mombasa – it took practically all my money and I truly hoped that I never had to use it! I had no idea what I would do if I was to find myself alone in Kenya!

Table Mountain

Arriving in the Mother City I was invited to stay with my friend’s family in the southern suburbs. Due to my financial crisis I had to get work quickly and I managed to get a temporary job in the city at the lovely pink coloured historic hotel, the Mount Nelson, doing flower arrangements of all things. No-one can say I was not adaptable. As it was almost Christmas we were very busy with table arrangements and huge floral displays for the suites and public areas. It was hard work with an early start and a long day, but quite enjoyable and the best part was walking to and from the railway station along Adderley Street and through the Company Gardens where cheeky squirrels ran around chasing you for peanuts.

Christmas Eve arrived and I was looking forward to spending my first Christmas away from home and in the southern hemisphere. The sight of robins and snow were rather incongruous in the summer heat. My friend’s family came from Norwegian origins so this was the night for their main dinner and celebrations. It would be very different from my own experiences. I had even spent some of my wages on a dress for the event as all I had with me were jeans and tee-shirts.

It was very different alright, but not quite in the way I had imagined. On arriving back at the house in the suburbs after work in the early evening I was met by my friend’s mother with my rucksack in hand. She told me I was not welcome in her house any more as she had friends and family coming to dinner that evening and I was too ‘common’ and didn’t have the ‘right’ clothes to wear.

I was stunned! I knew that she wasn’t very keen on me and was a bit of a class snob, but the rest of the family were lovely and I had spent a couple of free days on the beach and in the mountains with her other children. It wasn’t even as though I was in a relationship with her precious boy, we were good friends, but had no plans in taking it any further. But I could see from the look on her face that it was no good arguing with her. Christmas Eve and homeless was not what I had in mind! My travelling friend, took me to a youth hostel in Muizenberg on the False Bay coastline where fortunately they had a vacancy. He dropped me off then left, looking somewhat shamefaced, as he had to return to his family dinner. Thinking of the hospitality my own family had shown him in England, I felt quite sad and rather home-sick. I turned in early as I still had to go to work the next day.

Beach Huts
Beach Huts, Muizenberg, False Bay

I returned to the hostel on Christmas Day at around 6 p.m. to find the other hostelers sitting around having Christmas dinner together. They were all talking and laughing, wearing silly paper hats, being happy and having a good time. I tried to sneak past them to the dorm without being noticed as I was still feeling a bit raw, but the manager caught sight of me and insisted that I joined them, even though I hadn’t contributed financially to the meal. Quickly room was made for another seat and food hurriedly dished out onto a plate. Silly hat was found and a glass of red wine poured. For the next couple of hours I was welcomed into the fold and a normal Christmas resumed.

I thank those strangers for their kindness.

~wander.essence~ | Prose

home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

It is my birthday today. A significant number though not one of the BIG ones. Seems big enough to me though. So I am going to indulge in a bit of nostalgia today. This photo is from a place I used to live in, a place I used to love and where I spent several years with my then young family, the youngest of which was born just a few miles further along the coast from here – he is older now than I was then.

Muizenberg is my favourite beach in the entire world. I might be slightly biased as it was my home for several years and I lived only a 5 minute walk away from this beautiful white sandy beach with its iconic beach-huts; a favourite beach with surfers with stunning views across False Bay to Cape Point. It was a dream location with the added bonus of seeing whales in the bay during the winter. A sight I shall never forget no matter how old I am.

Square September: Pink

Becky’s September square photo challenge Day 27!  She would like us to share photos which embrace ‘pink’ –  there could be pink in the photo, the subject or photographer could be ‘tickled pink’*, or indeed looking ‘in the pink’*.  A photo that manages to do all three things is the ultimate offering.

tickled pink and totally terrified as these three lions headed towards us in Addo National Park, South Africa

*in the pink’ means in perfect condition, or in good health, and ‘tickled pink’ means delighted.

September Squares | Pink

If you would like to read more about this incredible experience then please take a look at Loads of Ellies

home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

Visiting the African penguins at Boulder’s Beach in Cape Town in 2008 we came across this young guy sleeping in his wheelbarrow. Obviously exhausted from his efforts to keep the dunes tidy. Whenever I see this photo it makes me smile and brings back memories of those delightful and comical creatures who have colonised what was once considered to be a prime beach on the peninsula.

I can still recall the long row of parked cars along the roadside in the summer months making it impossible to visit the beach back in the 1970s.

Mmm… now where does that remind me of?