< 1960. Esslemont Brothers, Durban.
We holidayed at Elandspruit farm, where us kids swam in the dam. We looked at pigs and fowls, and collected eggs. We helped aunty Esme in her garden. We dried squash, pumpkins and onions in the stone cool-room. At the dairy, we watched uncle Chum bossing Zulu umfaans and men hand-milking Jersey cows. The bull had a brass ring through its wet nose. We fed pails of milk to calves, which sucked our milky fingers. We turned a separator handle, then stored milk, cream and butter in an old paraffin fueled fridge. We scoffed apartheid amasi with breakfast cereal. After meals, aunty Esme called her Zulu maid, "Letha iteye Intombi!" Intombi brought tea for us. Aunty Esme then placed a big bowl of milk for her cats outside the kitchen door, and called, "Kitty!-Kitty!-Kitty!..."
Sometimes, a mad munt stripped off his tatty clothes, doing a Zulu war dance, stamping his coarse feet in dung, his penis eeling sideways. Zulus grabbed him, dressed him, and led him raving back to his wattle-an'-daub thatched rondavel.
Shannon and I helped munts load mealies from fields into a trailer. In a silo we pelted each other with sugary silage. We collected mielie-cobs from the barn, and stored stove-fuel cobs in a shed outside aunty Esme's kitchen. We wrestled in an itchy haystack. In a shed, we climbed onto an old, red tractor, and talked on and old, wooden wagon.
We played hide-an'-seek in the barn. At night we shone torchlight into rats' red eyes in the barn roof, and watched uncle Chum shoot rats. We scraped our muddy feet on a metal scraper by the door, near agapanthus blooms.
Mom said to aunty Esme, "Siobahn's a domineering sponger with an Irish temper!" Aunty Esme smiled.
Back in Durban, Rosie cackled, "Maram! I 'ave allis extra bread-buying from Bakers Bread lorry, an' bunny-chow cooking! Terrible t'ing! Aai-yai-yai-yai-yaaai!"
We holidayed at aunt Dorothy's Bloemfontein home. "Yoiks! Get that Irish woman out of your house!" hissed aunt Dorothy, while soothing her nerves, raking gravel paths around her house. "Crunch-crunch..." was a good burglar alarm.
Near the Basutoland border, we visited uncle Lesley's Clarens farm. We saw Mushroom Rock on a red cave-sandstone cliff-top, amidst Golden Gate koppies. Uncle Lesley's sunburnt hands were crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. He showed us Bushman paintings in caves - from Bushmen to blogs ne? He showed us his collection of Bushman stone thumbnail-cutters, axeheads, circular digging-stones with a hole in the middle for a sharpened digging-stick, grindstones, ostrich egg shells with a hole in the top for water storage.
Basutho owned cattle and goats overgrazed slopes, causing donga erosion in steep Malutis. We holidayed at Caledon Poort Christian guest farm near the Caledon River, where Shannon and I swam in the sepia Caledon, threw mud, collected jasper, agate and moss-agate from the riverbed. We played tennis, rode horses, swam in the pool, and climbed eastern Free State flat-topped koppies. We played Monopoly, Scrabble, ping-pong, cards, and watched thunderstorms over the Malutis: "Boomalakkawa!..."
We holidayed at Southport MOTH beach-cottages, as dad was a former soldier. Shannon and I picked red num-nums from spiny bushes, and sucked tart sweetness. We put coins on the railway-line, and watched steam-trains squashing them.
While changing in a cottage, when Shannon wriggled into her Speedo, I checked her cherry. She checked my knob. While crossing the railway-line, Shannon and I held hands. I smaaked her moist palms. We walked under whispering casaurina trees and clattering banana trees. We scoffed bananas under silver-oaks, while sand burnt our feet.
We swam in rock pools and Southport beach-pool, then lying on our towels we caught a tan. Shannon lowered her Speedo top, so her flat titties caught a freckled tan. We folded our towels into points, dipping the tips into water, then we flicked our legs, leaving red wheals. Wind blew stinging sand, which dried on our skins. We looked for cowrie shells and seaweed, and popped bluebottles on the shore. Our eyes were bluebottle blue.
Back home, mom told Siobahn to leave, and was enraged when Siobahn said, "You're a sucker!"
I was glad to return to my porch, as an oil painting had hung there all my life: a mouse swam around in a bowl of cats' cream, with six hungry cats looking on. Fraser and mom slept in their own bedrooms. Toby returned to the kitchen. Rosie cackled, "Aai-yai-yai- yai-yaaai!..."
Ndlovu's and "boys'" families lived in Zululand. After school, it was scary sneaking past out-of-bounds Ndlovu's school khaya, as khaya walls and ceilings were blackened by soot from cooking fires on concrete floors. Electric bulbs hung broken and flyblown. Sour stench of urine, stale putu, munt-sweat hit my nostrils.
From my porch window in our Chelsea Drive dip home, I could see Brooklands Crescent; flower seller Mrs. Porteous's flower-plot; and the spire of St. Martins Anglican Church. Late at night, I pissed through burglar-guards into hydrangeas. If I strained hard, aiming for St. Martin's steeple. I could reach our couch-grass lawn.
1961. Mark Esslemont, standard 3, Durban North Primary. (Mumby)