Suffer little children…..

Comments 59 Standard

Well draw up a chair.  Light a cigarette and take a deep breath.  This Blog wont be a pretty read… and its nothing new and its been done before, but forgive me if I do it again.

Once, back in the 1970’s I had the mis-fortune ( yes, that’s the right word) to work with some South Africans.  Both white ladies and both ex Brits who had gone out there twenty years before and returned when things got “sticky”.  By the mid 1970’s the Group Areas ( Removal) Act was well under way.  The white man began to sleep with bars and fortified houses and buses were noted by who they carried as opposed to their destination.

http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/index.php

I remember being quite young and very naïve about the situation ( after all it was so very far away..) and hearing them say it was quite appropriate for the Blacks to use a separate Bus and if they didn’t employ them for a few Rand a day, who else would?  They even argued that the Black community needed the White community to feed and clothe them.  Thankfully, we have moved on somewhat…or have we?

I cant keep being cross about the housing situation in South Africa, or can I?  When I go there I usually stay in a delightful and very colonial place called Simon’s Town.  Home of the Navy, or at least the Navy dockyard, it has a very British feel.  Its all rather pleasant and pretty and everyone has time for a chat.  Tourists keep the place buoyant, which is just as well when you remember that the Town, almost overnight, lost a good majority of its population when the Group Removal Act came into force.

The one thing in Simons Town favour and more particularly the Mayor at the time, was that almost without exception, everyone in that town voted for the Black and Coloured people to stay.  Petitions were drawn up; Acts ignored but in the end it was fruitless.  People who had made the town their home were suddenly miles away.  Without cars, it was impossible to get there each day to work.  Public Transport was scant, if at all.  Schools who had happily taught all colours were suddenly two thirds empty and the remaining scholars were white.   Fishermen who used to sell their catch on the Dock had gone; Cape Malays who had farmed in the area for generations had lost their home; their stock and their means of earning a living.   No one won…not even the “Yarpie!”  ( slang  term for White Afrikaners)

However Simon’s Town has a name for being one of the safer neighbourhoods in The Cape and this is put down to the fact that all of the residents fought tooth and nail to keep all “locals” there.   It would appear that on the whole, Black and Coloured people don’t bear a grudge towards the white man here ( fuck knows why! ) and both seem to help each other.  Its just a nice place to be and it all centred on the fight to keep the community together all that time ago.  Its still a bit odd though.  Young people matured and moved away.  Black and Coloureds only return to work.  The old (white) folks of the Town… and that’s all that is left now… walk along the beach each day and meet and drink coffee.  A lot of White Rhodesians having scarpered over the Border have settled here.  Most bemoaning their lot and living in reduced circumstances.  Their Black Zimbabwean neighbours having followed them, settled in Red Hill. No black faces here… almost like a Whites Only Club.  When will they learn?

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The Ex Pats still thinking they are living in Happy Valley and having a Gin Sling.

Meanwhile over on the Beach, the Black kids make a living looking for sharks and putting out shark nets each day.  The net bordered the whole beach and took ages to drag in at the end of each day….but at least the Whites can swim safely.

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How easily would you see a shark coming to you in these waves?

 

It was their final task of the day to drag the nets in and put them away

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However, there was an area called Red Hill and this was one of the many coloured areas.  It was very hard to define ” coloured” in those days and when you look at the photographs in the Link below you would easily think ” white”.  When it was earmarked for ” so called” development, people were moved on to another area and their homes ( many of them humble but secure brick farmsteads) were demolished.  Forty odd years later, the land is still undeveloped  and many say it was a ploy to forcibly removed all Black and Coloured People from the area.  You can read more about it on the link below and it has some rather interesting photographs.  Please note this was the original “Red Hill”  and as you will see, in a better state of repair than the one now called Red Hill.  It was a community, not a Township.  The informal settlement of which I am now writing is actually over the mountain top

http://www.groundup.org.za/media/features/redhill/redhill_2043.html

Now it is what they call an ” informal settlement” or a Township, although it is fairly small by Township standards.  Its quiet and self policing.  Its poor. Its desperate. Its filthy. Its overcrowded.   But it also has a huge sense of community ; of real hope for a better tomorrow and a resignation that this is ” their lot” so just get on with it.  I spoke with this lady.  Look at her eyes.

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Each time I look at this picture I see something different.  Hurt; desperation; confusion; pain.  She looks after 22 children every day.  22 children under 4 years of age whilst their parents go out to work.  She does this with the help of one young girl and not a lot else.  Her shack is 2 rooms.  The back room where she lives and cooks.  The front room is her bedroom.  In the day it is converted to her Nursery.    Can you imagine what she does when it rains and she has 22 children in there, including 5 or 6 babies who don’t have a cot, so she sleeps them widthways on her bed.

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I asked her when she could expect some sort of permanent housing.  She tells me, without any malice, that she has been waiting 20 years, so maybe some day soon!  She doesn’t complain.  Who can she complain to?  There are too many people like her.  You truly are pissing into the wind if you think building a few thousand small single story houses is knocking any fraction off the housing situation

When we went there we took some supplies.  When we arrived and got out of the car she looked at me.  ” I have been blessed by God, ” was all she said.  It made me cry.   She didn’t want my tears and I hurriedly wiped them away.  How can you believe in God if he allows you to live like that?  But she did…..   She was just grateful that someone had brought her some nappies; some Vaseline and those all important wet wipes.   We added to the list a sack of maize so that she could make some stew and soup for the children to have a hot lunch each day.  She looked at me and said she would make a huge stew for all of her neighbours to share this weekend.  That is what I mean, a real community.     What they don’t have in material things, they have shedloads of in terms of what is important.  ” Love thy neighbour and share and share alike”   On her list she asked for wet wipes.  I admit to being a bit surprised thinking them somewhat of a luxury.  She explained they didn’t have any running water.  Someone had cut the water supply six weeks ago to sell the piping and no one had been to them to reconnect the water with new piping.  So the only water these people have, is what they carry home on their heads, or by walking to the standpipe at the entrance to the Settlement, just off the main road. Wet Wipes meant she could at least clean the babies’ bottoms.     She also said that she was looking after 2 babies who were sick.  She didn’t have any paracetamol or anything like it to give them to soothe their temperatures.  It was hot inside and out.  Flies hovered around them and slept alongside the babies.  Right outside her shack ( please don’t think I am being disrespectful, its the term they use for their home) were two chemical toilets.  Almost full.  No shelter; no privacy.  If you wanted to use it, you did so in full view of the community.  I asked what she did.  She said the kids used it, but she tries to wait until she can go to the Town….its more private!

I glanced across and saw a Clinic.  Upon closer inspection I saw it was closed and stripped bare.  “Its been closed for 2 years now.  We used to get a Nurse every Saturday but they closed it and we have to walk now to Ocean View ( another Township but more established with shops and a school) if we want the doctor.   She looked at me as if I had a magic wand.  I looked at the floor, suddenly mindful of the dreadful imbalance.

I didn’t outstay my welcome.  The kids are curious about ” white people” but already know not to bite the hand that visits them.  The adults go about their daily business; acknowledge you politely but nothing more.  They probably think another white person come to look; stare; gasp and then go away.

I left there determined to try to help.  I returned to the Office and galvanised staff into action.  We are trying to raise 2000 GBP to prepare a porch and a concrete path around the Nursery before the rain comes.

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You can see from the picture that the road outside is mud.  The kids play in the mud and the dirty carpet is the only thing that stops the dust coming into the shack.  You can imagine, it doesn’t really do anything and when it rains, it becomes a soggy mass of fibre.   The concrete path will enable them to walk without getting filthy and the porch will keep some of them dry when they are forced to sit outside and eat.  I already have 5 people pledged to go there in June and do the work.  I just need to raise the money for the materials

We are contacting pharmaceutical giants to ask them to donate a basic First Aid Box.  They don’t have a Clinic but we are trying to get them a Medical Box of bandages; aspirin; TCP and things like that.  Even these basic things will stop the 45 minute walk to Ocean View.

And our Volunteering Project for University Kids means they will go there for up to 2 months and help the kids speak English.  Their language is Xhosa and is spoken when at home.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xhosa_language

Although they can speak English, its their second language and is often stilted .  If you cant speak English, schooling is hard.  The school in Simons Town now is 80% black.  We went to meet the Headmistress as we wanted to send some European kids there.  She was bemused by this request!  She has been one of the children removed from the area in the 1970’s and she returns as Headmistress to a school she was once removed from.  Ironical, eh? Its true to say there is an element of “ fuck you” in her but this makes me like her all the more.

What she has achieved with those kids in that school is nothing short of a miracle.  The Pass rate is now 97%.  She has encouraged them all to achieve things and points at the disadvantage she had when she was younger.   The conversation with her gave me hope and we decided to send our ” rich white European kids there” for an African experience.  We both exchanged a look.  I don’t think for one minute they will be unsafe but I do think it will be a wonderful lesson in life.  Their parents, surprisingly agreed with me.  Interestingly, all kids have to wear a Uniform and if you don’t have the Uniform, you cant attend school.  That’s right across the board.  So what do you choose?  Food for your family or school uniform so you can educate your child.  What a Catch 22 situation?

Although it is fair to say that there are now local Charities which raise money so that black kids can have a uniform to go to school.  Otherwise the cycle would never end.  No education…no progression.

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Simons Town’s hope for the future!

 

On a final dismal note to this rather depressing Dispatch and one which may help you understand why I feel so useless as well as so angry, I said to the lady at the Nursery…

” Have you thought about asking the Supermarkets to give you the food they throw out each day”

“Yes, but I have to register as a Charity before they give me any food, although they know we live here”

” Can I help you do this” I asked,

“No.  we tried” she replied

“What happened?”

” We cant register as a Charity whilst we are in an informal settlement.  We have to wait until we are in permanent housing.  We have waited 20 years, it cant be long now”

So the crux of this conversation was that the local government and huge supermarket giants know these people are hungry.  They know they need the food.  They know this informal settlement has been in existence for more than 25 years and yet because no one will acknowledge its presence, the red tape means they will continue to go hungry and Supermarkets will continue to throw food out in front of their eyes. So she continues to wait until they are re-housed and she can then register as a Charity, until then, as Marie Antoinette would have said ” let them eat cake”

Meanwhile back at the Beach.. no longer for Whites only, but during all my morning walks, I didn’t see one face other than a white one use it.  The answer is easy of course, the Beach is in a wealthy white area and difficult for Black and Coloured people to access.  Its a strange sort of inequality and part of the division is still there.

South Africa is a beautiful stunning country with some of the most vibrant and engaging people I have met.  During all my times I have been there, not once have I encountered malice; rudeness or indifference from Black or Coloureds. Only courtesy; helpfulness and a smile.   As you can imagine, with the Whites, they have an imperious streak of their own making.  Maybe that is unfair, many are pleasant and friendly it is true.  And many do their best to raise awareness and funds,  but I cant understand why change doesn’t move faster and how most White people can sleep at night.  If nothing else, its downright embarrassing.

As I was told I don’t live there and I don’t know the Policy! But what I do know is what is right and what isn’t… and currently…. Red Hill isn’t…

I make no apology for my feelings….. sleep well !

Steamy Weather and naughty Turks

Comments 30 Standard

Just got back from KL.  Pretty hot and humid there.  Oh and yes, a spot of rain as well!  And boy when it rains, does it rain!

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Standing at Baku Caves

Having walked to the top of the steps in searing heat – hundreds of them as well, and avoided the rabid ( literary) monkeys, I was glad to get back to terre firma.  And boy, was it hot and this was only about 0930hrs….

Anyway back to the grey and murky Blighty.  Love it and just in time for Christmas.  Having a few days away from the Office is not really to be recommended.  I like to get away but I like to stay in control.  Oh Irma, where are you when I need you  ( as a point of fact she is currently in Manhattan.  Her ex husband works for the Trump Organisation.  How that will fare she doesn’t quite know, as her husband, like Irma is from Havana…)  But he has invited her there for Christmas and she is having a super time, staying just near the Lincoln Centre.  Of course its very cold there, but Irma, being Irma, can always create a bit of a diversion and currently is sporting something rather fetching in fur hats.

irma-hat         irmans                                                                                                                                                                She said she is enjoying her husband spoiling her again and maybe she will see where he lands when the Trump Organisation is in place.  She said Manhattan is in her blood…. so maybe she wont come back!!

I had previously fallen off the horse ( again) and needed a break which was why we went to KL.  I don’t know why these horses spook but I have fallen off more times lately than in my entire life.

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I aim to be careful now but after a fall and being concussed and time in the Hospital, we decided that it was time to have some sunshine and meet our Malaysian Agents before the season kicks off.  I have to tell you 11 hours on an Air Malaysian flight is not the best experience, especially when they only had seats available in coach..  ( They don’t even have fresh milk for the tea, F F S)

Okay, back to work.   The first thing we ran into was an irate Mrs Wimble.  Now Mrs Wimble has been a host family of mine for about twenty years and does a fine line in leopardskin leggings.  She usually teams these with matching boots and, get this, her car seats match her bottom half.    You can see its an interesting impression, she gives, when  first meeting a student.    Please add to this that she is probably 4 stone overweight; has lost 3 of her front teeth and her hair is in the tightest of corkscrew perms.   But, we love her anyway.

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Her car is also a talking point.  Its a Robin Reliant.  Do you remember those?  And yes, I am sure you wonder if they are still on the road.  Well, this one is ….. and its driven with great care and attention by Mr Wimble.  ( Mrs Wimble sits neatly in the front seat with her bag on her lap)  I think however she has a contrasting bag, usually fuscia pink, so that she doesn’t morph into the car seats which, as I said before, resemble her leggings. It would be a tragedy if she got lost between seat covers…  I do not jest……

However the cause of angst this morning was the fact that Mr Wimble had come out to the front of the house to take his first early morning Fag and saw something wrong with his beloved Robin Reliant.  In fact he stood there for a moment ( so he tells me ) neither inhaling or exhaling, merely sucking.  Somewhere in the night between locking up the car and coming out this morning, someone had dragged his Robin Reliant to the wall and upended it so that it rested, very gently against it.  One tremble; one puff of wind and I daresay the thing would topple over and what would the result be then?    Mr Wimble wasn’t sure what to do but one thing he was sure about, was who the perpetrators were !

Yes, last night he had got into a bit of a ruck with the two Turkish boys staying there.  He had told them they had to be in by 10pm and they wanted midnight.  Mrs Wimble entered the fray saying that she had treated them very well and given them tinned strawberries and evaporated milk that night for ” tea!” and so they should be thankful for that and respect the curfew.  They sulked off but did, so she tells me, appear just before 10pm

The Turkish boys however, not one to be blamed for any injustice whether perceived or not, flatly refused to admit it was them but said they would help right it.  Mr Wimble had tried earlier to lift it down without damage but was worried he wouldn’t be able to hold it and it would bounce down and the front snap off.  Well come on Guys, it is only fibreglass after all.  So the Turkish boys after their mandatory cigarettes, this time shared with Mr Wimble,  huddled around the Robin Reliant and hatched a mean plan with him.  They tried to manoeuvre it around and away from the wall but it would appear that the Robin had other ideas and once it had swivelled around they all lost control and it crashed down.

There was a moment silence, so Mrs W told me. No one moved.  No one spoke.  I don’t know if that was shock or a horror but when they all pulled themselves together, this was what was left…

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The car had crashed down on its side and the wheel had been driven in, by sheer force, into the engine.  Apparently that was the time to light more cigarettes.  Mr Wimble was silent.  Mrs Wimble, however, was not pleased and made it her sole mission that morning to let me know.  What to do?  Oh, what to do?

Meanwhile, Irma is sending me more pictures of her Manhattan skyline.  Folks, I fear, we will soon be ” one man down!”  

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 EDIT and UPDATERegarding a couple of comments below, please can I clarify that ” a fag” is a term used to refer to a cigarette…. and although can also be used in a Boys Public School it is not relevant to this Blog.  Additionally, Robin is ” not a Fag from a British Public School ” but a type of 3 wheeler car, which surprisingly is not in production now…..Many thanks to Mick and Hariod for pointing out my social faux pas! 

 

More tears than an ocean

Comments 25 Standard

I have been having a very interesting discussion with Farhad today.  I love him so much he makes me want to cry.  Farhad and I do a lot of crying together.
We usually manage to cry at least once a week, especially after his weekly Facebook post of the Shah.  He cries for the Shah and the fact that France and then us, by default, didn’t let him in. Because of this, his beloved Persia has fallen to ” infidels and shit heads”  His words not mine!  About this time,  he takes out a very white linen handkerchief and dabs his eyes.  This, in turn makes me cry and we both end up snivelling over the desks. I worry about him being homesick.  He says he will never be allowed to die there and then gets out the photograph of his grandmother who he said died in ” PERSIA” without him being able to say goodbye to her.  That is cue for another bout of tears, from both of us.  Its a bit like a Greek tragedy really.
crying
 LM does a lot of sucking his teeth and glaring by this stage.  I ignore him.  He isn’t very empathetic.
The rest of the Office think we are mad.  Aladene doesn’t like him ….. and Farhad doesn’t like Aladene.   Alaedene insists on calling him an Iranian – to which Farhad refuses to answer.  Once when Farhad had enough of it, he held up his religious token in front of Alaedene’s face and growled something in Farsi at him.
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Alaedene all smiles, as his team has just beaten Farhads! 

Aladene in turned shouted ” Allah Akbar” or something like that.  Its true I didn’t hear clearly, but I am sure it was along those lines.  Its a very sticky truce they have.
Farhad is a very snappy dresser.  I have never seen anyone shine their shoes as much as he does.  In the summer when I make him, ( much to his chagrin) wear a company Polo Shirt he still has his shiny shoes on, although he does stop at wearing shorts and shiny shoes.. that is far too much.  Instead he goes for an Italian Loafer, similar to Tomasso’s
farhad

My Sobbing Partner

However, I do think Farhad is also an Agent Provocateur.  Once, Mr Wu said something along the lines of ” its the same for all of us British…” and Farhad immediately said he wasn’t British but Chinese, to which Mr Wu said he was Hong Kong /British Subject in that exaggerated Chinese accent that he sometimes puts on.  Mr Wu finished off with reminding us that he was, after all, a member of the Conservative Party.  A hush immediately fell over the office.  Whether it was out of respect or confusion at this remark, I didn’t dare ask!
If its a really bad day when Farhad has the group or excursion that Mr Wu wants, then Mr Wu annoys Farhad by telling him that he went to a party once in Hong Kong where he met the own of Lacoste and told Farhad that his Lacoste polo shorts are not made in Paris on the Left Bank as he stupidly assumed, but actually in a Kowloon sweat shop and still sold for an inflated price to any idiot who will buy them.
The good news however is that I have to go to Cape Town ( again) . Yes, its a tough job but someone has to do it.  And, as always, I am happy to ” take one for the team!”   We have 45 French students arriving in February and I need to check everything is fine with the School there.  By way of contrast, we have arranged for them to spend two days in a local Township High School.  I don’t mind and I think it will be very beneficial, but the Agent is a trifle worried, so to reassure them I said I would pop over ( as you do…)
Also, as previously eluded to, I have a blood diamond languishing in a vault in Joburg. It was part of my previous life but that doesn’t mean to say that it should stay there forever.
The Pilot is due to be there at roughly the same time, so I shall fix a rendezvous with him and go and retrieve it. ( we both have to sign to get it out of the vault. F F S )   He isn’t top of the list of people I want to see when I am there, but its a means to an end.

If anything occurs to stop it seeing the sunlight, he had better run fast…..

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 Its a very nice stone, even if it is ” one in the rough” being neither polished or cut.  I initially wanted a square one but fell in love with the slightly odd style and have been told that once cut and polished, it will look just great.
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H – this is one I found earlier and is merely used for illustrative purposes.

Currently, I have no desire to cut or polish anything and aim to sell it on and try to get the tax back!  My main worry would be getting either that or the money out of the country, and yes, I have thought about driving up to Botswana and flying out under the radar!  As the Pilot will be flying down in a VVIP BBJ then he wont be subject to the same rigorous restrictions that I, flying economy, will have.  I have asked if I can cut him a deal and he take the diamond out in his Nav Bag but he merely looked at me and said ” Jacks.  Have you completely lost your mind?”.  I shall safely take that as a ” NO!”
The best bit of that time will be staying in Simons Town, amply looked after by my two most favourite people in the world. Wayne and Margaret.  I am sure you can work out who is who from the photograph.  Ho Ho     I just love these people to death and they make me feel most welcome when I stay there.
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Wayne and Margaret.  Two very decent human beings.

Simons Town is a wonderful coastal town, towards Cape Point and is steeped in history.
  ( I attach a link for those who wish to know more.)
The town still has a wonderful colonial air about it and I covet the  second hand shops every time for wonderful gems from a bygone time. Usually, these gems are being sold by ex Rhodesians who have come over the Border hoping to regain some of that
” Happy Valley Life” they used to have.  Sadly, they have been relegated to walking, en masse, along the beach each morning, reminiscing about the good old days and bemoaning what has happened to them.  I don’t have a lot of sympathy, sad to say

WAKE UP! THOSE DAYS HAVE GONE AND WONT BE BACK

And talking of crying, every time I meet them again ( my favourite peeps ) I cry.  When I first arrive, Margaret looks me in the face and says ” Hello, Miss Jackie…welcome home!”.  And indeed, its just how I feel… a homecoming.  I just love her to bits

Before I sign off, a funny story from Margaret.  It goes like this..
“Well Margaret, how goes it?”
” Oh you know Miss Jackie.  Good and bad.”
“Are you liking your new home Margaret”
“Yes, Miss Jackie, but you know I have to pay for my power now.  I never had to before”
“Oh really Margaret.  What a shame.  But maybe that was because you used to hook it up to your neighbours supply”
( she smiles) ” Yes, Miss Jackie.  Maybe that is it”
“How is it now, Margaret, that Zuma is in power?”
She purses her lips…” Miss Jackie, I have never known such a mess.  That is what happens when you put a black man in power!”   ( and you will have seen what Margaret looks like, which was why her comment made me smile… )  She looked at me and winked.
Its one of the most wonderful countries I have ever seen.  A great contrast of beauty. Gentle and rough. Wonderful people, and somewhere, somehow, its in my blood.
It really is my second home – faults and all.  I simply adore it.  That’s it folks…
I shall leave you with my favourite song, currently.  🙂    I bet you are all feet tapping after this…..
The lyrics are just brilliant.  Simply brilliant.

And as they say in the veldt….  Totsiens!

 

A fish by any other name

Comments 20 Standard

We have two new members in the office this week.  Well three if I include Bruno!  Please note, however, I would prefer not to include Bruno.  So, who is Bruno you wonder?  I will get to him in a minute.  For now I want to tell you about two new members of staff.  ( Oh and by the way I haven’t forgotten about Farhad, our Persian friend who spits on the floor if you mention the ayatollah Khomeini…..not that we do, that often, but if it does slip out, then cover your shoes. But more about Farhad another day………

I would like to introduce Tomasso here.  Tomasso is from Roma, so that should tell you plenty. He does have a very catchy line in shirts and wears a beautiful ironed one each day with different cuff links.  He also said he doesn’t wear after shave but would prefer to call  it cologne.  Well whatever it is he is wearing, is so strong we don’t need any sort of air freshner in any part of the building.  Yes, you can smell him at 100 paces… so getting him out of the office so we could get some fresh air was a ” must do”   However his idea of business wear was as original as Akiels.  But I digress….  His first assignment with us hasn’t gone too well.  He had to take a group to Arundel for the afternoon before they went on to Portsmouth.  It all seemed to be going well but after the Castle he had to walk them across a field, by the side of the lake and out onto the main road to meet the coach.  We talked him through it.  We gave him a map.  He showed the coach driver ( who happened to be female, ) where she was to meet him and off he went.

An Italian in charge of other Italians.  Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.  About 30 minutes after the agreed rendezvous time, the coach driver called to say that her group had still not been seen making their way across the fields .  She was a trifle concerned.  I said to give it ten more minutes and then I would call him.  I didn’t want to contact him on his first sojourn in case he thought we didn’t trust him.  So we waited.. and waited.

After forty minutes the driver called back.  She was on her way to look for them.  She was, to put it mildly, concerned!  I called Tomasso and no answer.  I tried again and again.  Finally I got a call back… so if nothing else, we had made contact.  I wasn’t prepared for his reply.   ” Tomasso, where are you?”

“Lost. Lost.  On no, we are lost. Oh what can I do.  Alone out here in the wilderness”

“Well just a little bit maybe dramatic Tomasso.   You cant be far off track and lets be honest, its hardly wilderness.  Do you have any idea from the map?”   Silence followed.

” Tomasso…. do you know where you are? ”

“No No No” he replied in more than a state of panic.  This was, as they say in the movies, NOT going well.   I wondered about my next move when all of a sudden I heard a bit of a whimper.  ” Tomasso, is that you?  Are you crying”

Silence save for a sniff.  A muffled one, but a sniff.

“Tomasso, whats happening?”

“Oh I don’t know. Where are we?  It will be dark soon.  We will be lost in fields.  It will be like Picnic at Hanging Rock.

We will be dead.  All dead.  Oh I don’t want to die in a field in England.  ”

I didn’t bother to say any more.  What was the point. It was obviously walking around the Lake which put that idea into his head.  He was definitely showing his Italian Side and with that it was panic full speed ahead.  I called the coach driver and being a woman ( sorry about that Blokes!) she didn’t panic.  She said ” don’t worry, I will wander ( wander? oh please run…) down and see if I can find them in the field.  I know the route they should be taking.”

Meanwhile, whilst Tomasso was out having his own private drama lesson, I was left with Bruno in the office.   Meet Bruno….

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Bruno and Tomasso

and yes, those teeth are real !!!     Sadly the trade off was if Tomasso went and looked after our Italian Group and impressed them with his chi chi Roma style, we would look after Bruno.  But Bruno is a small dog with a huge chip on his shoulder.  And whilst he is ok when Tomasso is around, when left alone he becomes a right royal pain.  Tomasso acquired him from his dead neighbour.  She died almost because of Bruno or more accurately because of him!.

Apparently because the old lady ill treated Bruno he bit her one day.  She deserved it, I am sure you will agree.  Sadly though he bit her on her freshly amputated leg. ( that’s the honest truth).  She had lost her leg because she was diabetic.  So he bit the stump and it became infected… she died!   He was homeless and so Tomasso adopted him.  He said he is normally very noisy but at the funeral he took Bruno and Bruno was very quiet.  Almost smug one would say.

Anyway, no one goes near him and we leave him to sleep in his doggy bed, which was purloined from an Italian hotel Tomasso once worked at .  We also seem to trip over dog toys and bones and he has only been here a matter of a week or so. No one has the nerve to move them and we leave them where they are dropped.  ( as the Pilot used to say, ” Jacks, this is about to become interesting!” ) and for once, I can concur with that.

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Bruno’s Bed ( courtesy of Grand Hotel du Mare )

However he seems to smell a change in situation and when Tomasso leaves, then the little darling comes right to life and bothers and worries around our ankles.   With teeth like that, who would upset him but I do notice a lot of feet on the desks currently?

Meanwhile, Mohammed comes into the office having just stopped in on his way home.

” Ah Missis, bad day today.  ”  ( he seems to forget I have a name and always refers to me as Missis)

“Whats wrong Mohammed?  Not taken anyone down in the Sim (Simulator) today?”

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Mohammed in his Aviators, just in case it gets sunny in The Sim

 

Mohammed now has to keep a very low profile at Flying School because the last time he was in the Simulator he showed off by trying to get an A320 to do a ” loop the loop”.  Needless to say, the Instructors were not impressed and he is on a Warning.  He, however, doesn’t seem to worry because, as he told me, his father paid someone in Benghazi to get him through his test there and, for some strange reason, he thinks the CAA will be just as open to that idea.!  Oh the ignorance of youth….

Anyway, the bad news wasn’t anything to do with flying but rather Mohammed having a fall out with lovely Soo from the Co-Op.  He fancied some fish for tea and popped into the Co-Op to buy some.  Sadly, however, he didn’t find any and so thought he would ask Soo where they were.  Soo, was very agitated by the question and said they didn’t sell any.  Mohammed was most insistent that he had bought them in there before and continued to stand his ground.  Soo thought he was taking ” the mick” and walked away.  That resulted in Mohammed getting even more irritated and shouting some curse in Arabic at her. Additionally, he popped his head into the Freezers moving everything about and sliding the lids to one side without closing them.  Eventually he was asked to leave.  He didn’t go easily either and caused quite a fuss at the check outs.  I asked him what he had said to upset Soo, because Soo is so lovely no one could or would want to upset her.

” Oh Missis, she was so rude.  So rude.  She lied.  She said they didn’t sell sea horses and I shouldn’t bring my dirty food habits to England.  She upset me, Missis, she did.  Because I know this lady lie to me.  I buy sea horses there all the time.  I don’t have dirty food habits”

It took me a minute or two to realise his idea of Sea horses, were really our ideas of prawns.  I slipped downstairs and went in search of Soo.  I explained to her and she started to laugh.  And laugh and laugh so much she had to grab the counter to steady herself.  I returned a few minutes later with King Prawns and dropped them in Mohammed’s lap.  As he opened them, along came Bruno, who had obviously smelt the fish.  Mohammed quietly shared them with him.  Well with teeth like Bruno’s, would you?

Oh and in case you are interested, the driver found Tomasso.  He didn’t get murdered and they all drove off happily to Portsmouth.  As for Bruno…. well he is currently on a 3 month trial ( along with his owner )   His bed is going to be moved to the cloakroom and I am going to demand Tomasso feeds him before he comes to the office.

Meanwhile, Mr Wu has been googling ” how to braise a dog” and leaves the window open on Tomasso’s computer.  Strange, but somehow I sense Tomasso wont be with us for too long. So until next time…..   arrivederci    🙂

 PS>   Tomasso and Bruno out on one of Bruno’s teeth filing walks.

tc

 

Off to School, a new adventure.

Comments 17 Standard

So if the little boys thought that being in India would provide them with an eternal playground, they were both right and wrong. Right insofar as they had wonderful adventures ( of which I will write more about later, ) but for now its education.

It was a bit of a heady mix because, if you recall, my grandparents came from a family of Farmers.  My grand father lied about his age and entered the First World War to be with his friends ( witless, but true as in the case of so many idealistic teenagers ) and never left until he was 65 years old.  Anyway for this family to find themselves in India was a Rudyard Kipling story come true!

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This picture shows them just a few weeks before they were about to leave.  Based in Lydd, my father recalls happy days playing on the Beach where the dreadful Dungeness Power Station now resides and sitting on the gate to the beach, offering to open it for car drivers to save them getting out in return for a few coppers.  DSC_0524

They look like a pair of dirty scruffy urchins and certainly not ” officer children” as they would later become

They were very young children when they first arrived as you will have seen from the other posts.  DSC_0261

And below they had become slightly more sophisticated and certainly used to the heat…..

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My father’s first school was local.  Local enough to ride there on a horse every day and at lunch time, one of the house staff came and delivered lunch to them.   I asked why he did not attend the schools run by the Army and the reasons were various.  Some places they did not exist.  Others were not really more than a Dame School and a very important reason often cited by my grandfather was that ” they were in India and India they would experience” and whilst I have to agree it is probably more of a privileged India it was certainly not a sanitised one, lived behind compound gates.

gopi

This picture above shows them ( my father is 8 and his brother 10) .  The photo does not mention where, so I will not hazard a guess.  The men at the back were obviously house servants.  Well the guy on the right was, as he was clean and smart and so one assumes he helped inside.  The other guy on the left was seen with his grandson standing to the fore.  My father called him “Gopi” and he was one of their friends. I suspect this was NOT his real name but my father said it was the name everyone called him.   Allowed to go to school with them he was adopted in part by my grandfather. A few years old than ” the little boys” his affection ( or gratitude?) for my grandfather was such he enrolled in the Army, leaving school and my father. A first indication of how the divide was to be. Class. Race. Religion.  So Gopi left them behind and sought his fortune, such as it was to be.  My father reckoned he could not have been more than 12 years old and said he remained very angry with his father for allowing Gopi to join the Army.  My grandfather, practical and sanguine, said it gave him more of a chance than he would get if he stayed behind.

In Cawnpore my father attended the local girls school!  It was known as ” The Girls High School” but it did take younger boys.  I think the name has changed now to Methodist High School but is still very much in existence.

http://mhsknp.in/     Methodist High School, Kanpur.

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If you click on the link above, one of the pictures shows the front of the school and here is one from there earlier. No manicured gardens then and taken from another angle but the school just the same .  So, Methodist High School or, as it was then, Girls High School , Cawnpore, 1943 was my father’s first school .  My father stands with Ronald Goss.  An local boy whose family had a business in the town.  Where is he now?  ( I tried to find him with google and Facebook but to no avail.  Be great to see what happened to him, although I appreciate its a hugely long shot!)  I love the way Ronald has the sense to wear plimsols and no socks to keep cool and my father, being British, is there with stout shoes and long woollen socks, even in temperatures of 95 plus!    ( “Ne’re cast a clout, ’till May is out,” comes to mind !) The school was run along the lines of educating Indian children as well as British and Anglo/Indian  ones as well.   The above link to the school does lay down some of its history.  Fascinating stuff.

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However in 1943 with my grandfather moving about more and having been stationed on the Afghan Border for many months,  my grandmother decided to put her foot down and declared they would NOT be spending another winter in tents in the snow up in the Hills and hoping for better things for her sons sent them off to La Martiniere College in Lucknow. transfer-doc

So goodbye to Ronald and hello to Bullies. One of the last bastions of the Raj. A place where his hero, Rudyard Kipling was educated.  Life was going to be exciting.  Walking in the footsteps of heros, or maybe not!  A goodbye to local life and hello to Privileges.   My father was sent there and in the first few weeks he did not board.  He stayed with my Grandmother at the Victory Hotel or the Viceroy Hotel or even the Vivanta Hotel.  Who knows, save that it had a huge V emblazoned over the door.   My father said he thought it was the Victory, but I cant find trace of a hotel of that name.  I could be wrong. If anyone knows the name of this hotel and if it is still in being, please let me know.

victory

My grandmother used to ask the hotel staff to go down to the school with her each lunch time and take lunch for him.  He speaks of them opening up a linen tablecloth and putting it on the grass.  He and his brother sat down and ” dined” from various hot food prepared by the Hotel staff and brought in metal containers to keep it hot.  After a few weeks, this stopped and he was sent to board there.  Welcome to the world of Dormitory Bullies and more.  He decided that as he was one of the small boys if he wanted to survive he had to fight back.  And fight he did, becoming one of the Boxing champions of the school.  He didn’t go to sleep in a wet bed again.  ( not from bed wetting but the boy across the room who every night positioned a water pistol at my father’s bed and soaked it )   He didn’t particularly like the school or its way.  My father didn’t like the new world he was inhabiting and missed his friends from The Girls High School.  He had enjoyed the eclectic mix there and didn’t enjoy the hierarchy that La Martinere enforced amongst its pupils.  Everyone had to make their mark and if you weren’t good at lessons, then you dam well had to be good at sport.

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As recently as twenty years ago, it had obtained a shady history, as was very well documented in many of the papers over the murder and violence there.  Now, I am afraid I don’t know….

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An In-House Coup and yet more Lemons

Comments 13 Standard

I have had a super holiday.  Thank you very much.  Lots of trying out the languages ( I love it when we don’t spot a Brit for weeks!) and plenty of sun and exercise.  It was great.  I admit that I even impressed myself with my French and felt rather proud when I made myself understood in Italian without the aid of my hands or funny pictures or even Google Translate.    

first day

( this was us just as we were leaving.  Poor car was so loaded up, but what’s the point of travelling light?)

However upon returning to chez nous I thought I had walked into something akin to a political coup.  What changes!  What surprises!  Firstly, my lovely bambini had been moved off the drive and used. After having the guts caned out of her, she was ceremoniously dumped on the pavement outside.  I don’t know why they couldn’t be bothered to return it to the driveway but I was quite worried when I was told that No 1 Son had borrowed it when his van broke down.  Getting a van load of equipment into a two seater sports car doesn’t bear fretting over because it will only raise my blood pressure, especially if the leather seats have been scratched but when Alaedene spilt the beans and told me that he had seen him driving it through the High Street like the phrase, ” drive it like you stole it Mate!” I admit to being slightly nervous.  I have yet to catch up with him. Number 1 Son, that is!

I also thought that Number 3 Son may grasp his chance of his escape whilst I was away and finally move in with his girlfriend.  I cant say I am overly pleased as he has dumped Uni and an expense free existence but its his life, not mine.  H has found a job and he says he ” really loves it” so I have to stand back.  So that’s one man down as you might think but sadly no.  One man down and another 3 in residence.  Yes, whilst No 3 son has moved out, it would now seem that Number 2 son has moved back ” I love being home again.  Its like a haven.  I always feel relaxed here!”

no 2 son

Well he may do but I am not sure I concur.  As having returned home, I found that he had snaffled away my best pasta ( okay, its only pasta but it was given to me by Andreas Ferret so it had a special place in my heart.  Sadly, the huge chunk of Parmesan also given with said pasta now resembles a chunk that even Mickey Mouse would sniff at ) and the batteries have been removed from the TV remote to be used in the once defunct Play Station 2. W T F????

Additionally, lovely Lexi, the girl that can do no wrong in the office had needed somewhere for her Spanish boyfriend to live as he was let down on a room in Brighton.

lexi flexi

For some reason she thought it would be fun for him to come and stay at my place whilst we were away and be very quiet until he could find new accommodation. In truth he was not a nuisance and he has now left.   And to finish off my grand return, I hear news that Number 2 (ex) Husband is on his way for his yearly vacances and is currently en route from Belarus.  he always stays with his when he is in the UK.  Not sure LM is overly pleased about this arrangement but what can I do… its been going on for so long now.  However his arrival is not imminent today because as he usually drives from there to us due to the fact that he smokes so heavily he cant be without nicotine for even the short plane transfer it will be another day or so.   This means that all of my bedrooms are going to be in use but worse than that, I have no means of escape as even when I disappear to the Rompa Room, some bugger seeks me out and stands either talking to me, over my shoulder whilst I am trying to work ( beyond annoying) or brings in a cup of tea ( did I ask for one?/) and thinks that a cup of tea equals ” oh hello. Do come in. Pull up a chair and tell me your woes!”

So frankly, let me tell you, IT DOES NOT!!!  1b078-angryfaces8

On the first night of the holiday whilst we were dining out under the gaze of the Chateau at Fontainebleau, we had a text from Irma telling us that Mr NoseHair and her had a bit of a disagreement ( apparently it was one pinch on her bottom too many) and he was moving out one day earlier.  I asked where he was going for the last night and she told me that it was all sorted and he was off to his friend, Mustapha in Brighton and Mustapha had already saddled the horses and was on his way.  There was nothing I could say but it did taint the end of his stay and ruined the start of mine.

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( yes I know the image is upside down, but pretend you are looking at the view from one of the many lakes surrounding the Chateau.  Works for me… )

So you can imagine my surprise when on my return to the Office I find that Mr Nosehair wants to return and in fact has increased his weekly hours from 15 to 25 – but no Irma to teach him.  As his demands are many; varied and GREAT we had to do a lot of calling in favours to get him placed.  In the end we asked the lovely Murielle to take him.  Murielle is French, as you probably guessed, but her English is faultless ( well better than mine at any rate) and she has an en suite bathroom to offer him.  Also being a Parisian she has a certain style about her that he will appreciate and it goes without saying that she is a super cook.  She will compliment her very bourgeois lifestyle with her socialist husband and his strident views which always makes for entertaining after dinner talk.  So whilst Murielle will be whipping up a soufflé in the kitchen, her husband can be putting the Brexit Vote Debate to rights with Mr NoseHair.  I do worry that Mr NoseHair may cause Murielle to combust in a puff of smoke but she reassures me ( endlessly) that she is capable of controlling any man after living with her husband for 40 odd years.  She also says that  as his main passion, after his lemons, is shopping, they can have many pleasant afternoons doing exactly that and she does, after all, know the best place to purchase a cashmere cardigan with leather elbows.   cullen-cashmere-cardigan-sweater-for-men-in-derby-grey~p~5087y_02~1500_2

After that resounding piece of evidence, and showing me her Costa Coffee Loyalty Card, there wasn’t a lot more to say.  After all, have you ever known an Egyptian man not get excited over a cup of espresso in Costa Coffee??

Talking of Brexit, as I briefly did, I was surprised how many people in Italy took my hand and commiserated now that we were ” on our own!”  However the real Biscuit Taker was a American chap from California who said how he sympathised with me over the decision and how he hoped it wasn’t the end of ” us Brits!”  He continued by saying that now we wouldn’t have the backing of the Americans he hoped that we would do ” okay!”.  I was about to drown him, because the conversation was taking place whilst I was trying to do a few lengths in The Med but thought better of it.  The easiest way to get rid of him was to say that I was actually in favour of it, which I was, and with that he looked at me in horror – forgot to close his mouth but did swim off in the other direction.  Okay, I admit I also said that I found it rather pompous of a lot of Americans when they assume that GREAT Britain can not function without the hand of America guiding them and that I for one thought that any war film produced by Americans should be issued with a Warning that it is ” pure fairytale” and the element of fact based events in most films produced by them makes Walt Disney look like Chainsaw Massacre.  Okay I probably did mix a few metaphors but it seemed to make the point and I noticed that the following morning at breakfast, when I went up to get my egg flipped at the poolside buffet, he hung back and tucked into the Muesli.

City of San Remo, Liguria, Ligure, Riviera di Ponente, Italy, Europe.

City of San Remo, Liguria, Ligure, Riviera di Ponente, Italy, Europe.

So back in the room, I am.  Slightly testy but ever so refreshed.  I shall bore the pants of you all very soon with pictures and anecdotes of our rather splendid European Road Trip

( ps… we are off in a minute to look at a Camper Van.  I fancy doing it all again next year but taking it slowly and exploring more of the countryside)

(pps…. I have just been rejected for adoption.  Well, I am not being adopted, I applied for it.  But the Dogs Trust would not let me take Elvis the Basset Hound away as they say he was of a rather nervous disposition and they didn’t feel that my household would offer him the best possible start in his re homing journey.  I admit to feeling rather taken aback and whatever suggestion I gave they brooked it!  I can tell you now, I am appealing their decision and if anyone would like to sign my Petition, please feel free to contact me.  I already have the backing of our local Councillor, although as the Dogs Trust said, ” if she works for you, I don’t think her opinion is particularly unbiased”.)  Elvis is pictured below with Sally his girlfriend.  I offered them both a home

elvis

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Road Trip

Comments 9 Standard

Well that’s it!  Summer is practically over and I am off on my road trip.  I cant wait… I think!  I usually have a bit of a melt down before I go and threaten to cancel everything. The Summer School has been wonderful and the students have been such great fun. I think its been one of the best I can remember ( for me, at least) in sofar as everyone getting on and bonding and the weather being kind.

road trip

So with the last students going on Sunday ( provided the dam Eurostar doesn’t keep striking) we are off on our sojourn.  Driving down to San Remo, via Fontainebleau; Annecy and Mont Blanc Tunnel. I haven’t been allowed to take the ” rag roof” , LM deciding instead that we had to go in a slightly more sedate style.  So I wont be able to wear my scarf wrapped around my head and tied under the neck to stop the wind blowing my hair.   But I do intend to get into the Italian way of life and have been eating pasta all week.  ( I do seem to have bloated at bit and maybe need to restrict it to once a day…)

City of San Remo, Liguria, Ligure, Riviera di Ponente, Italy, Europe.

City of San Remo, Liguria, Ligure, Riviera di Ponente, Italy, Europe.

A week in San Remo soaking up some sunshine and dubious culture ( I love the way the Russians decamped there and tried to make it their own ) and then over to Argeles for a week of cycling, followed by the route home via the Black Madonna at Rocamadour and last night in arty farty Barbizon.

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I am certainly hoping for some Dolce Vita but with LM probably looking for the Sports Bar so he can watch the first Arsenal game of the season, I may need to act fast!

When we return and as our European Summer closes, we start to ramp up our Cape Town Centre. It works very well as it extends our season and you know me, ” any excuse to visit my second home!”   Currently we have 40 French students wanting ” something different” in February and we are trying hard to get everything they wish in just 10 days around Cape Town. A visit to the wonderful Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach is a real ” must do!”

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We naturally have to work on the tourist attractions but in there I always try to get them to visit the local Township we sponsor.  Its always slightly grounding and I ensure that if they come through us, its included in their Schedule.   If you have a minute, please follow the link below and watch the video.  You may be inspired to assist as I was, but if not, you will at least feel rather proud of these people.   I find the community fascinating and I wish there was more I could do….Each time we visit we are treated like old friends and its always a positive experience.

http://masicorp.org/index.html

Lastly, I also have a pink diamond sitting in a vault in Johannesburg with my name on it, but whether I can retrieve it or not, is a story for another day

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Bonnes  Vacances….and see you in September, ( well, maybe! )