Tuesday, July 31, 2007

1984 Apartheid Durban, SAP Dawn Raids and More Teaching Hassles

1984. Mark Esslemont in an Injasuti stream, Drakensberg.

I went on SAP night-patrols with Al. There was no skop, skiet en donner, just hours of boredom. Al detained a drugged coloured man, too dangerous to jail with other prisoners, but locked in the back of a police van, until he dropped from his drug high. He swore at cops when they checked on him. Once, Al found a grotesque rubber-mask, donned it, and wandered about the precinct, roaring at cops and prisoners. Zulus swore at him when he skulked from cell to cell.

Once, we went to Chatsworth to chivvy a malingering Indian cop, who got a dawn door-knock. Bobbejaan crept to the back of the house, stopping escape. The front door opened, and the Indian rubbed his eyes.

"Be at your next rostered shift!" said Al.

A car with black robbers was chased by a SAP squad-car from central Durban, along N3 western freeway, while robbers thew stolen goods from car windows. Police HQ radioed Pinetown cops to assist, when robbers escaped along dirt roads. At dawn, Al, Bobbejaan and I raided a Claremont house to arrest the car-owner. The pondok was like thousands of other concrete-block township houses, with few rooms and bare essentials. Bleary-eyed Umfazi opened her front door saying, "Sanibona."

"Sawubona," said Bobbejaan. "Where's Skebenge?"

"Haaikona! Skebenge not heah seh." Umfazi showed us a bedroom, where Heavenly People raised sleepy heads. No Skebenge.

"Who's in this room?" asked Bobbejaan, twisting a locked door handle.

"Nobody seh. Ees Skebenge's storeroom. Nobody."

"Open it!"

"Haaikona! Skebenge has key."

"Don't 'Haaikona' me! Open, or I'll kick the door down..." Nobody.

Al drove to Claremont cop-shop, manned by Zulu cops, and progress-reported. Returning to Pinetown, Al stopped a car, filled with bulge-eyed black men, staring at us, cowed and servile. Al let them go - night-shift workers.

One night, Al chased a car, sending it towards Inanda hills. The Zulu driver reverse-rammed Al's van. Al arrested the Zulu man, a wanted murderer. Al, with handgun, black, plastic truncheon and handcuffs had immense power: wisely used. Al knew intuitively when someone lied to him. Al never shot or killed anyone during his SAP years, including National States-of- Emergencies. Child abusers angered him most.

Al emigrated to USA, married a Latino, producing three kids. He worked as an organist in churches; then in USA airports, managing scores of staff. He ended up at Buffalo: New York State. Al made final decisions like: detaining asylum-seekers after they'd destroyed their documents on the plane; processing prince Andrew smoothly through customs; helping former president De Klerk escort his partner through customs, after her visa had expired; swiftly grounding planes on 11 September 2001. Al could get cheap flights, so his mom visited him on champagne and first class flights.

One sultry night, I sat on a molehill in Fraser's garden, watching flying-ants crawling from holes in red earth, then flying in arpeggios, circling street lamps. Bats attacked - diving and clicking, catching ants. Wing confetti shimmied down...

Mr. Maher discussed my classes' exam marks in his office. He correlated marks with previous terms' marks, and adjusted marks according to his arbitrary standards. Boys' marks had to be spread in normal distribution curves. I wondered whether it was better to ignore exams altogether, estimating marks for each boy. If exam -papers were properly moderated, mark adjustments would've been unnecessary. "Why'm I not teaching matric this year?" I asked.

Mr. Maher flushed, and fiddled with NED papers, searching for my matric marks saying, "You belittle boys."

"You cane boys. Why'd you abuse the intercom?"

"Whaaat? I don't recall that."


"GET OUT!" he shrieked, pointing to his door, stooping over me.

"You recall your intercom message: 'Mr. Esslemont, your class waits for you?' That's intercom abuse. I was standing next to you in the science storeroom, at your request, when teachers viewed old science chemicals."

"I didn't know you were there." We continued discussing correlations. Like Mr. Wilkinson at Northlands BH, and other white affirmative -action bosses I'd meet, Mr. Maher blackmailed disliked staff by depriving them of teaching labs, or equipment, or text books, or promotions, or deserved merit-increments. The blackmail just hardened me.

Mr. Maher fraternized in a secretary's office while I filed my class's year-end cumulative-record cards. "You should leave Glenwood..." hissed Mr. Maher. I went. It was pointless continuing working for a white, affirmative-action bully. In his favour, Mr. Maher led an orderly and disciplined school. And he had provided an old lab for me to teach biology and general-science for 6 terms.

Unrest: Esplanade car-bomb killed an Indian. It was time to leave Durban.

March 1984. At Nkomati, PM Botha signed an accord with Mozambique's Marxist president Machel, promising not to subsidize destabilizing Renamo in Mozambique, if Machel promised not to subsidize ANC terrorists in Mozambique. (Alan Cowell, Killing the Wizards, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992). Nkomati Accords were nonsense, as SADF and Renamo continued warring in Mozambique against Machel's Frelimo throughout the 1980s.

I joined Durban Men's Choir, but my singing soon became tuneless. Leah taught at white Woodlands Pre-Primary, her fifth school in two years. We resigned, giving one term's notice, as Leah and I had both outgrown NED. Our Natal days were over.

London friend Kleintjie emigrated from Zimbabwe to Durban North, and visited us, extolling his USA Greyhound bus-trek. We braaied at Stainbanks Reserve, then boozed at Father's Moustache. When I shouted, "Nastrovya!" throwing empty glasses over my shoulder, a bouncer growled, but forbore ejecting me as Kleintjie was bigger than him. Later, we sat on a hotel verandah boozing Lion Lagers. Kleintjie reminisced about the Bush war: "I shot a zot," he said. "Just a kid. I waited till he got close. Mush head-shot: cartwheeling away - tickie-tickie-tickie-tickie-tickie."

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

1984 Apartheid Durban, Glenwood HS Cadets and Cash Inheritance

< 1984. Mark Esslemont's Wildlife Society boys camping in Ndedema Gorge, Drakensberg.

My matric SG class passed. The next year, I wasn't timetabled matric, but had to mentor two new male biology teachers in general-science teaching. They both taught matric biology. As I hadn't divulged my early deafness, Mr. Maher was playing power -games. Mr. Maher asked science staff to clear out old chemical stock from a science storeroom. At the end of break, my class lined up outside my lab, while Mr. Maher and science staff, myself included, viewed old stock in the storeroom. Mr Maher left, and announced over his intercom, "Mr. Esslemont, your class is waiting for you." A thousand boys and staff sniggered.

Leah and I enjoyed Spike Milligan's one-man show at the Playhouse: Spike gooned on stage, striking a man-doll with a stick. The doll looked like Nat politicians.

During a National Referendum, white voters agreed to a Tricameral Parliament: where coloureds and Indians would participate in parliament. I voted "No," as coloured / Indian representatives would be out-voted by whites, and blacks would be excluded from parliament. The Nats continued their divide and rule, with a new Indian House of Representatives and a new coloured House of Delegates, dominated by the white House of Assembly, excluding majority blacks, who had their puppet homelands, whether they liked them or not.

Unrest: Townships became ungovernable, (RW Johnson, South Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004) while ANC / United Democratic Front (UDF) mobs, representing black anti-apartheid (ANC) organizations rioted. Back cops accused of being collaborators were murdered. Township homes were razed. Hundreds of township blacks found "guilty" by mobs were "necklaced" with rubber tyres forced over their bodies. Petrol was poured over the victim who was burnt alive - for universal franchise. Shadows remained, after charred body bits were shovelled away. (Bruce Connew, Vernon Wright, South Africa, Hodder and Staughton, Auckland, 1987).

White businesses and buses were boycotted. Work stayaways and terror increased. One night in our duplex, Leah and I heard a thud and our windows rattling, while ANC outcasts attacked Durban oil refinery and oil storage.

In a Musgrave Road church hall, I listened to a conciliatory speech by Zulu chief Buthelezi concerning blacks amongst whites: "We are everywhere, in your homes, in your schools, in your businesses..." (Paraphrased).

During summer, Glenwood boys went tieless. Some teachers wore safari-suits. Others went tieless. Mr. Maher ordered staff to wear ties, despite Durban's humidity. I stayed tieless amongst tieless boys. One morning, on the way to assembly Mr. Maher shouted, "Wear a tie!"

"Why?" I asked. "No boy wears a tie in this heat. You've made a double-standard." I wore a tie.

As there was a positive correlation between cadet-masters and promotions in white high schools, Blikskottel led conscript cadet -masters. I didn't volunteer. One cadet-parade, while cadet-masters wore army uniforms, cadet-sergeants sang to marching boys, "LIK-JUK-LIK-JUK..." Guest-of-honour, SADF Colonel, stood on a podium with Mr. Maher, Inspector Mandrill and Blikskottel, reviewing rifle-bearing, uniformed cadets marching past, while a cadet-band played, "Boomalakka! Boomalakka! Boomalakkawa..."

Malacca rugby-flag canes, erected in a straight-stripe before the podium, guided marching cadets. An eyes-right cadet marched over a cane, which dragged under his crotch, then whacked the following boy's balls. Air exploded from his mouth. Keeping his tearful eyes -right, he marched with bandy legs: Cane in crotch - drag - smack balls - repeat... Ten eyes-right boys' balls were caned. Ten explosions. Twenty bandy legs. The crowd tittered. The band played: "Oooompa! Oooompa! Oooompapa!..." Blikskottel leapt off the podium, while Colonel saluted. Blikskottel gathered canes, dumped them, then furiously jumped on the podium and saluted: "Eh Kwa! Dammit!"

In Murchies Passage, Skate and I grazed Wimpy hamburgers opposite brother-in-law Gee's Idols Eye jewellery store, while Gee was having a shave in a barber shop. Gee's coloured sales-lady and Leah attended Idols Eye. "I got the hardware job," said Skate, while a Zulu man walked into Idols Eye, followed by an Indian security-man.

Indian grappled with Zulu, digging his fingers into Zulu's mouth. I ran to Gee's barber. "Gee! Someone's robbing your shop!" Gee whizzed to Idols Eye, and flung his arm round Zulu's neck, throttling him. Gee had been a conscripted SAAF serviceman. Gee ground Indian's truncheon into Zulu's kidneys, while Indian dug a ring from Zulu's mouth. It was a hard day in a SA recession job for Gee, who didn't lay a police charge.

Fraser sacked Edna and Ndlovu, as he couldn't afford servants. Edna got R1000 from mom's estate. Ndlovu got nothing. Fraser got mom's house. I got the money. To equalize our inheritance, we agreed with Barclays Bank executor that Fraser would mortgage his "new" 22 Chelsea Drive home - stupid advice, which hastened Fraser's decline. Fraser was still employed at Standard Bank, from which he got the mortgage. He'd lived in mom's home all his life, and had tolerated mom's deafness and cancer, while she died. We discarded and sold mom's belongings, but kept heirlooms, like her "Basket of Roses" oil painting by HJ Dykman. Over the years, I'd sat under that rose painting. Another oil painting I inherited showed a mouse swimming around in a bowl of cream, surrounded by hungry cats. We sold dad's oak desk, but kept his stamps.

Beer-gutted Fraser and friend Jason boozed. One night, Jason padlocked Fraser's driveway gate, for fun. The next day, Fraser arrived late for work. Jason, jealous of Fraser's inheritance, in a drunken rage, stabbed a broom-handle through the ceiling of Fraser's lounge. Prick! Jason bossed blacks at Coronation Brickworks. "I keep a loaded, pump-action, double-barrel shotgun in my office," Jason said, "in case kaffirs riot." Jason had been a conscripted State President's Guard.

Leah and I got a mortgage from Permanent Building Society, and used our inheritance to buy a three-bedroom house at 21 Heron Way, Yellowwood Park: near Stainbanks Reserve. When we drove past, we saw Ian Player's Wilderness Leadership School. Ian, of Operation Rhino fame at Umfolozi and Hluhluwe, once told me he used Erythrina lysistemon trifoliate leaves as his wilderness symbol, as the leaves showed the vertical and horizontal of the Christian cross. We sometimes saw giraffe, antelope, zebra, vervet monkeys, and heard purple-crested-louries calling, "Kok-kok-kok-kok..." Ian offered us Drakensberg conservation work, but we declined - poor pay.

Isolde Mellet's Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) was nearby. Isolde nursed injured wildlife back to health, releasing fauna into the wild, if possible. Leah and I did volunteer work at CROW sanctuary, by measuring tortoises' growth. Isolde nursed tortoises after they were burnt in veld fires, or were injured as illegal pets, or run-over by cars. At CROW, young lions, duikers, bush pigs, blue cranes, Cape vultures convalesced. Birds, too injured to be released into the wild, stayed CROW residents. Isolde raised farm animals, and gave conservation talks to school children and interested groups. Isolde offered me a job and free housing, but I declined - poor pay.

Leah and I continued living in our Wild Fig Tree Close duplex, and renovated our Heron Way house, put tenants inside for years, and profited.

Monday, July 30, 2007

1984 Apartheid Durban, Glenwood HS Teaching and Deafness Hassles

1984. Mark Esslemont's Wildlife Society boys clearing Kariba weed from Happy Valley, Bluff, Durban.

Arrogant Meneer Basson, bald, pouch-faced, paunch hanging over his belt, grizzled hairs sprouting above his safari-suit collar, disliked assertive younger staff like me, but liked gatkruipers like Blikskottel. "Eet waz betterr when da ol' prreenceepil waz herre. When we werre young, teacherrz had morre gutz. We went on ztrrike. Youz young prreema-donna teacherrz haven' godda gutz forr ztrriking." Meneer Basson didn't support his volk by coaching cadets. Before exams, invigilating staff collected exam -papers from a table in Meneer Basson's office. One morning, Meneer Basson berated me: "Youz late!"


"Everry morrning youz late collecteeng exam-paperrz!"

"Rubbish! I collect papers timeously, after the staff crush. You enjoy seeing staff tensioning-up in the mornings. Putting exam-papers in this office is stupid. Why don't you put them in the staffroom each morning? Have I ever begun exams late in classes?"


Later Mr. Maher said, "I heard you insulted hard-working Meneer Basson! Apologize, or I'll call Inspector Mandrill!"

"I arrived after the staff crush. It's less stressful. As for insults, Meneer Basson chastised me before staff. That's verbal abuse."

"Apologize hey, or your NED file will get a report!"

I found Meneer Basson sulking in his office. "Mr. Maher says you're upset. If you're upset, I apologize hey."

Glenwood had a shortage of fans during summer. I took an electric -fan from a science lab, and gave it to Blikskottel, who taught on Fortress ground floor. Fortress was a new building with sealed windows. To save money, Fortress air-conditioning was switched off. My lab fan vanished. I found it in Meneer Basson's office. "Why've you got my fan?" I asked.

"Eet'z yourr fan eezeet meneertjie? Ay arzed da carrtakerr to fin' me a fan. Ay 'ad no fan een may offiz."

"Does the caretaker always do your dirty work?"

"Meneer Ezelmond, youz juzza juniorr teechirr een deez ztaff hey! Ay needed a fan, az eetz hot! You ztole a fan frrom da zcience lab, an' geevz eet to Bleekskottel!"

"Ja, well two wrongs don't make a right. Blikskottel needed a fan. The science lab, which isn't used much, had an extra fan. I didn't steal it, like you didn't steal my fan right? I'm responsible for my lab equipment. I want my fan back, as my lab's hot!"

Mr. Maher bought fans for all staff. Caretaker sneaked my fan back to me. During winter months, Fortress's sealed windows were replaced with opening / closing windows.

Boys' questions became hard to hear. I had vertigo and nausea attacks. I staggered along corridors like Frankenstein, steadying myself against walls. I consulted an ENT specialist, who did tests saying, "You're going deaf." I was 31.

At an Addington second opinion, a Portuguese quack said, "You're going nerve-deaf. Accept it! Another test: Close your eyes and pull a face!" When I opened my eyes, interns were sniggering.

In future, I'd not be mute, but I'd play Luister - Listen parts, which would threaten some people, whose reactions to my deafness were belittling or hostile. I'd learn the evils of deafness: hits and hurts which robbed me of professional work; teachers who took advantage; pupils who mocked; quacks and audiologists; patronizing people who talked past me, like I was dumb; the timid; the fearful; the bullies; the haters; those who used my deafness to blame me for their faults; those who used my deafness for their gain.

I was on borrowed time for the next decade. I'd disguise my deafness, but I'd experience intermittent silence; sound; grief; insecurity; fear; isolation; and unromantic solitude - a refugee road of sights; smells; tastes; feelings; self-taught lip-reading; memories; bluffing; guessing; apologizing and improved prescience. Leah would have an angry, changed husband, and my children would have a deaf father who'd never hear them weep nor whisper. I'd learn about bits of me slowly dying; deaf apartheid; disability; rare spurts of others' compassion; and Leahs' love. Leah would be patient, kind, and a great mime, with her own invented sign-language. Leah had the kindest heart I ever knew, which she inherited from her mother.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

1983 Apartheid, South West Africa Trek and SAP Pinetown

< 1983. Leah Esslemont, Principal & Natal Education Department Director, Leah's new Reception Class, Montclair Junior Primary, Durban. (Natal Mercury)

On a South West African holiday trek, in our new, 1200cc Datsun bakkie, desert-wind colour, I drove westwards...

At Kalahari Gemsbok Park (where Bushmen had been eradicated) Leah and I viewed gemsbok, jackals, scrawny lions, springbok in the dry Nossob riverbed. A road ran along a sandy riverbank. Riverbed boreholes watered game...

Near Twee Rivier, we parked beside the dirt road for a pee. Our bakkie stuck in gravel. We dug for hours...

Welwitchias grew on a stony Namib plain where nothing else grew. Atlantic foggy winds blew while gemsbok galloped away to desert hills - shadowy ghosts...

At Swakopmund, while we signed a pension register, a German host asked, "Are you married?"

"We've been married five years!" said Leah.

We stood on a cliff-top staring at the far rim of Fish River Canyon. We chipped rose quartz from a huge pink boulder, then washed dust off ourselves at Ais-Ais spa. We would return to the desert in a year's time.

After cop training at Pretoria, Al was posted to Pinetown, one of Natal's busiest police stations. Al lived at 294 Freemantle Road in the flat Leah and I'd built. In blue SAP uniform, Al wearing peaked cap, loomed over six foot, intimidating charras, skollies, tsotsis, jollers, including Skate. During his four years at Pinetown, Al wasn't physically harmed, but he left SA after conscription completion.

< 1983. Fish River Canyon, South West Africa.

Pinetown cops patrolled and controlled white Pinetown. Outcast black Indanda and Claremont townships smouldered nearby. Outcast Indian Chatsworth was in the opposite direction. On one of Al's earliest call-outs to a Fields Hill road accident, he found a runaway truck had hit a car. Al had to restrain the wife of the car-driver from seeing her decapitated husband: misery for a teenager cop.

Al liked night-shift, which kept him out of the charge-office, on vehicle patrols, making independent decisions, driving his van most of his shift, in radio-contact with CR Swart headquarters and Pinetown cop-shop. Patrols included checking warehouses, homes of holiday-makers, businesses; speeding to places where alarms sounded; checking subordinate Zulu cops guarding government buildings. Al sorted out: public complaints and requests; N3 western freeway and suburban motor accidents; rowdy parties; nervous white women hearing night-noises in their gardens; drunken drivers. When arrested thugs were abusive or aggressive, Al slapped thugs' faces. When Al tried peacemaking in white domestic disputes, squabblers abused him. "Fight quietly!" Al said. "Don't disturb neighbours!"

Once, Al found two Afs robbing a warehouse. They ran to the perimeter fence, and climbed. Al raced up, warning them, cocking his 9mm automatic pistol behind them. Robbers froze. Al ordered them down and arrested them. At another warehouse, Al saw a cardboard box moving along the ground... moving... stopping... Al sneaked up, tapping on the box: "Hello?... Come out!"

Box moved... then stopped. Al laughed. A Zulu man emerged, blinking in Al's torchlight. "Hau seh! You geev me freight!" Al jailed crims in Pinetown cop-shop cells. Cops found a car-bomb under Spaghetti Junction on Durban's Ring Road. If it had exploded, it would've disrupted N2 and N3 freeways for months.

Al and teenager partner Bobbejaan were called to a burning oil storage-tank near Chatsworth. Black smoke billowed upwards. It would explode any moment. An outcast chutney mob shoved closer to the blaze. Al radioed for assistance. "You're on your own Al." HQ said. "It'll take time sending cops and firemen." Al and Bobbejaan ordered jeering coolies to disperse. They didn't. Lives were endangered, while hysterical coolies pressed closer to the blaze.

"What do you do when confronted by a mob?" Al later asked. Although armed, Al and Bobbejaan pushed coolies, who swore at them. Al and Bobbejaan clouted coolies with their black plastic truncheons, dispersing anyone in their way. More cops arrived, cordoning off the area. Firemen quelled the blaze. Coolies didn't thank Al and Bobbejaan for saving their lives and property. At patrol's end, Al drove back to Pinetown charge-office, completed paperwork, and drove home.

Unrest: During the 1980s, state censorship blurred the fact that SADF was warring in Angola and Mozambique, by military actions, induced famines, or using surrogate armies UNITA and Renamo, to kill hundreds of thousands of people. (Sean Moroney, Editor, Africa Volumes 1, 2, Facts on File, New York, 1989).

1983. Leah Esslemont, Koker Boom & Datsun Bakkie, Windhoek - Swakopmund road, South West Africa. >

Saturday, July 28, 2007

1983 Apartheid Durban, Glenwood HS White Boy Expelled.

1983. Esslemonts' Mini outside Wild Fig Tree Close duplex, Montclair Road, Durban. >

Leah and I bought a duplex at Wild Fig Tree Close, Montclair Road. NED paid me a housing subsidy for the duplex. As Leah was married, and had broken NED service, she was no longer a "permanent" teacher, with "permanent" perks, like a housing subsidy. NED discriminated against white female teachers. As a solo parent, mom had struggled for years to become a "permanent" white teacher.

Leah did several Durban temporary teacher jobs: at white Stellawood Primary Hard-Of-Hearing class; then acted as Tomlinsons Pre -Primary principal. Leah began a pilot reception-class at white Montclair Junior Primary. As white junior-primary rolls had lessened over the years, there were empty classes in Natal white JP schools. As the JP headmistress was ignorant about pre-primary teaching, she was unwelcoming and patronizing, threatened by Leah's Durban and London pre-primary expertise. In her teaching career Leah was a leader, and did pioneering teaching in SA, and later in NZ.

Unrest: Pretoria, Church Street. SAAF Intelligence Office was car-bombed by the ANC, killing 21 blacks and whites. (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom, Abacus, Little, Brown & Co., London, 1996).

After six months, Leah left reception-classes - as NED had promoted an Afrikaner Mevrou over Leah, who'd done the hard work of inaugurating reception-classes. (By 2001, Durban multi-racial reception-classes were common). Leah then taught at white John Ross Pre-primary on the Esplanade. The highrise school did bomb-drills, and white infants knew what to do in bomb -scares. Chicken-wire netting hung over the concrete play-area, to catch broken glass from smashed windows, if an ANC bomb exploded.

In 1983 I reached the dizzy heights of my teaching career. Mr. Maher allocated me a dirty, old lab, where I led general-science and taught Standard Grade (SG) matric biology. I fed general-science notes to pupils and staff, and inspired maths, PT and biology teachers in general-science teaching. One morning, I opened a sash-window, which disengaged, crashing onto concrete outside Meneer Basson's office. Startled Meneer Basson then blamed me for my dilapidated lab.

I team-taught with Blikskottel, when he became hysterical about general-science. Over sixty boys doing practical in one lab was stressful. I did most of the teaching, while Blikskottel learned, keeping order. Science teachers like Blikskottel, patronized biology and general-science teachers, as they preferred teaching maths and senior physics / chemistry. They disliked teaching general-science to frisky form two and three boys, and teaching junior biology - unknown parts to narrowly specialized science / maths teachers.

Dev, Indian lab assistant, hid in my lab office, took his shoes off, and slept in my wicker chair. I knew when Dev was hiding, as his feet stank, and stench slipped under my office door into my lab. Once, Meneer Basson found Dev asleep on a sickroom bed, reserved exclusively for sick white boys. A bollocking from Meneer Basson cured Dev.

Once, Dev left apparatus on a lab bench for Blikskottel, who sometimes taught in my lab during my free periods. Blikskottel relied on me for lesson plans and pupil notes. The lesson involved throwing sodium metal into a water-filled trough, and seeing exploding hydrogen and molten metal whizzing on the water.

Later, Blikskottel asked: "Wherre'sa sodium? Mah lesson was buggerrred."

Me: "A standard eight boy must've stolen the sodium when leaving my class!"

Mr. Maher's intercom announcement: "Teaching staff, please ensure no boy leaves your class until further notice!" Blikskottel, Dev and I searched the school. Dev found the sodium canister behind a toilet cistern. If the boy had flushed the sodium away, it would've exploded. The culprit was found and expelled.

Inspector Mandrill saw me in the staffroom and said, "I'm sorry it was your fault a chap was expelled."

"He stole sodium, set out with apparatus for Blikskottel," I said. "You expelled him, as he was a thief and a danger to himself and others."

"Nooit! You're a lazy chap! Your NED file needs updating!"

"Without promotion or HOD pay, I run general-science and supervise ten teachers. In my experience in three Durban high schools, science, biology and general-science are offered to pupils, yet there're never enough labs nor decent equipment. What're you doing about increasing labs in Durban schools?"

"We're discussing that at NED executive level."

1983. Leah Esslemont, Wild Fig Tree Close lounge, Montclair Road, Durban. >

Thursday, July 26, 2007

1982 Apartheid Durban, Mom's Death, Addington Hospital

Edna nursed mom, who drank Complan for months, unable to stomach solids. Mom became skinnier and her skin browned. Once mom fell out of bed and Edna bedded her again. Saint Martins Anglican ladies with Zulu maids brought tureens filled with soup for mom. My old girlfriend Ursula's mom often visited mom, who endured her cancer pain without complaint, goofed on painkillers. Mom wound up her affairs, organizing her own cremation and memorial service, not wanting to be buried in dad's Scottish, red -granite grave. "Care for Fraser after I go," said mom. Her guts swelled into a hot, hard ball. Her body atrophied. Her mind stayed sharp.

During mom's last days at Addington Hospital, mom lay on her deathbed in a private ward. On her last night, I stood at mom's bedside, while an oncologist scowled with scaly eyes, his toxins useless. Helpless, he left mom's bedside. Whenever mom had been in Addington, doctors gave no information about mom to Fraser and me. Nurses stuffed a tube up mom's nose, removing black stomach crud. Mom's mouth opened and closed, her throat swallowing, like a fledgling. Nurses inserted an intravenous-drip in mom's forearm, and removed the drip hours before mom lost consciousness. Nurses rubbish-bagged mom before she died, (euphemism body-bag), covering her with a white sheet. Mom's 72 year old eyes rolled back, sclerotics twitching for hours. I couldn't hold mom's dying hand, while she groaned for hours. A nurse shooed me out of the ward.

Mom's groaning stopped. I wondered what the nurse had done with mom's pillow? "Nurse keep mom in bed while I call Fraser and Edna." The nurse objected. I insisted. Nurses removed mom's rings from her fingers, then stuffed mom's false-teeth into her mouth. Edna wailed then wept, while Fraser and I grieved at mom's bedside.

In Glenwood staffroom, while handing me my class's reports, Mr. Maher harangued staff about shoddy reports. "I need to take leave," I said. "My mother died,"

"Why've you Tippexed your reports?"

"If I punch Mr. Maher," I thought, "my teaching career's over." I about-turned, walked out, drove away, and wept. I returned to Glenwood, found Blikskottel, and said, "Tell Mr. Maher I Tippexed your errors in my boys' reports!"

That afternoon, Leah and I had a picnic at Northpark Reserve, then I body-surfed at North Beach. That night, in Cato Manor I shot a run -over dog with mom's .22 pistol. The dog groaned like mom had. I dumped the dog in a ditch.

The next day, Meneer Basson and Blikskottel, fuckwits, commiserated dad's death - twenty years too late. Other staff lined up and shook my hand. Mr. Maher sent me an apology note, as he'd embarrassed himself.

Unrest: Lesotho, Maseru. 42 blacks were killed by SADF. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of SA Report, Vol 3, Macmillan, London, 1999).

St. Martins memorial service was crowded, as mom had influenced thousands of people. (Years later, strange adults told me mom had taught them). A Methodist minister quoted from the Apocrypha, then we sang "Abide with me..." After the service, Fraser and I greeted mourners. One of mom's lady friends said, "We remember your mom from our varsity days. She was different then..." To me, mom was a depressed griever after brother Paul's death, not an irresponsible student.

For years, mom had written letters to white mothers who'd lost children in "tragic accidents." Mom had yelled at white boys riding bikes on pavements: "Get off the pavement! You're a danger to pedestrians!" She'd attended seances with neighbours trying to contact Paul. She'd attended Spiritualist Church services in Umbilo, where a medium once "saw" a boy pushing a bike down the church aisle. Mom was impressed. I wasn't.

Another friend said, "Your mom had insisted a razor was packed in her bag, so she could shave her legs in hospital." Others remarked on mom's wisdom. Some chuckled over her terrorizing Anglican and Methodist bible-study groups. Con, Cantabile Singers director, hugged Fraser and me. We talked to mourners, then plodded home.

We placed mom's ashes in an urn, in a wall-niche near Stellawood Cemetery gate, far from family graves. On a white marble slab covering her niche, we inscribed:

Valmai Esslemont nee Cosnett
God help us. Peace at last.

Mom had sung a cadence for Fraser and me and servants' extended families. She'd lived in Durban North half her life, and provided us with the best stability she could. Mom gifted us truth and morality. She gave us a love for learning; English; reading; performing-arts; trekking. Her strengths were bravery; endurance; single-mindedness; assertiveness; communication; religion; loyalty to friends and relatives. On the dark side, mom had been difficult to live with, as she was a forceful character, and had been sick for over twenty years after family deaths, with repressed rage; nerve-deafness; anxiety; depression; amoebic dysentery, undiagnosed for years; liver cancer.

1982 Apartheid Durban, Glenwood High School, Science Teaching Hassles

1982. Glenwood High School, Teaching Staff. "Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go."

Back in Durban, goods and services prices had inflated and flat rentals had doubled, so Leah and I rebuilt a basement flat at Leah's parents' 294 Freemantle Road home, which we rented for eight months. Over the next thirteen years, we trekked the Midland of SA - from Natal east coast to Cape west coast, back across Vrystaat platteland to Cape east coast.

Mom had employed Ndlovu Busani, my boyhood pool-greeter, as a gardener. Quiet umnumzaan Ndlovu still lived in the Durban North Primary khaya (euphemism for hostel) near the woodwork room, by tennis courts, together with outcast Zulu men. Their outcast families were in KwaZulu. After work, Ndlovu and "boys" still sat on kerbs near mom's home, smoking thin, hand-rolled cigarettes - oppressed.

As Ndlovu was no longer an umfaan, mom never insulted him with Zulu "house-boys'" garb: white-canvas, short-sleeve shirt and pants, with red stripes around short-sleeves and pants. All my life, I'd never heard protests from spoilt, snobby, insular Durban North whites about Zulu migrant-labour, and forced separate accommodation in khayas and hostels. Whiteys just used Zulu migrant servants, paying them low wages.

While Leah and I were overseas, mom had sussed she had cancer, so employed Edna Rasmini, who was the first Zulu mom allowed in her 22 Chelsea Drive home in over twenty years. Edna lived in the khaya behind mom's garage. Mom bought Edna pink, blue, green, yellow uniforms, with matching aprons and doeke. Mom had chemotherapy, lost weight, and her hair fell out. "Doctors," said mom, "experiment chemicals on me. Their cure's worse than my cancer. No more chemotherapy!"

Al, Leah's younger brother, matriculated, and went to Pretoria for conscripted cop training. "I'll be better treated and better paid as a cop than a troopie," Al said. "I'll have more control over my fate. Four year's cop duty is better than two year's army service, then many army camps and border duties."

After my overseas highs, Natal Education Department was coitus interruptus, while NED buffoons tried fucking me up. My worst donkey wagon ride was at Glenwood High School (roll 1000 white boys), where on my first day, VP Meneer Basson gave me a timetable, showing I'd teach mixed-ability maths classes. Daily, Meneer Basson, head of Afrikaans, drank tea in his office with arrogant principal Mr. Maher, HODs, and his caretaker crony.

Bald, hunched Mr. Maher, ten years older than me, had been principal for one term, after being a Natal Midlands principal, and NED inspector, and failing emigration to Canada. After first break, I showed him a telegram I'd received at Grofit kibbutz, stating I'd been appointed Biology teacher. "This maths timetable," I said, "is crap!"

"Inspector Mandrill says you're a lazy bugger," said Mr. Maher. He gave me a new timetable, including general-science and biology classes. (It was principal's deceit, like I'd experienced at Yellowwood Park Primary four years before). I would teach unknown parts for another ten years. Like at Northlands BH, five years before, I was a peripatetic general-science and biology teacher, expected to prepare lessons and mark in a smoky marking-room. (It was like the headmaster discrimination I'd had at Northlands BH - willfully stressing up, then criticizing new staff).

My second teaching comeback went badly, as Mr. Maher was a cheat, like some other NED principals I'd met. Mr. Maher was scared I'd report him to NED in Pietermaritzburg. My NED salary, after eight years' full-time teaching and seven years' tertiary education, was just over R1000 per month. Mr. Maher proudly showed me Glenwood's new computer room with Apple computers. "Our computer-science chappie," said Mr. Maher, "teaches computer-classes to Glenwood boys and pupils from other schools."

Over the next two years, I directed extra-curricular plays, and introduced drama classes to form three, and drama improvisation classes during CCEP - Civic Cultural Enrichment Program. I was re-elected onto the white Natal Teachers Society drama subject -committee, chaired by Hugh. Over the years, we'd played squash at Edgewood. Hugh never married, but later became the first white NED drama inspector.

As Blikskottel was cadet-mad, Blikskottel had been promoted to Glenwood, but he couldn't discriminate between an earthworm's typhlosole and dorsal blood vessel. He bossed sciences, cadets and rugby. "Coach rrugby!" said Blikskottel. "Yous coached rrugby beforre. Know whad ah mean?"

"Rugby coaching's boring," I said. It was sacrilege saying that in a boys' high school. When Mr. Maher and Inspector Mandrill confirmed my reappointment, Mr. Maher said I was an "individualist," as I didn't conform to management rugger-buggery and cadet-coaching mores. I didn't socialize much at Glenwood, as managment and teachers were authoritarian and stuffy.

As I still read my National Diploma in Nature Conservation, I started a school Wildlife Society, donned hiking-boots, and took boys and Blikskottel on conservation trips. I led voluntary conservation work-camps at Umgeni Valley Reserve and visited Durban wildlife sanctuaries. After I sent Blikskottel with a minibus full of boys to a Midlands farm to view blooming gladioli, he returned complaining, "Mah mom grrows gladioli in herr garrden. Why trek to see gladioli?"

"You show boys wildlife," I said. "You don't tell them about it."

In the southern and central Drakensberg, we hiked at Rhino Peak, Sani Pass and Injasuti. Northwards, near the Sphinx at Monks Cowl, Blikskottel screamed when his foot froze over a berg-adder's head, raised to strike. I ran up and the adder slid into thatch grass.

We hiked from Champagne castle to Ndedema Gorge, and saw Bushmen paintings on sandstone cave walls. We climbed Organ Pipes Pass to the basalt plateau, and saw hazy foothills, while blood-winds blew up the abyss, and white boys yodelled, "I did an ol' lady too..." We drove school minibuses down Mikes Pass to Cathedral Peak.

I took white boys game-viewing in bushveld parks, where Natal Parks Board preserved wildlife, but not Zulus. Kwa-Zulu kraal-land around Hluhluwe was overgrazed and eroded, but fever trees and white -owned sisal plantations grew luxuriantly. One fifteen year old racist, German surname, who wore army-boots while hiking, wished to finish school, join SADF and, "Kill bloody kaffirs."

Dronkgat Skate invited us to his parents' Bluff home. We enjoyed seeing Skint again after dossing with them in London. I watched Skate do a dagga-deal with a motorbike-riding pusher. While smoking Durban Poison Skate said, "Bladdy customs at Jan Smuts arrested me, after I flew in from Botswana. They detained me in a transit-lounge, scheming to deport me that night man. I slipped a coolie barman a hundred Rand to show me the back door. Cops couldn't catch me man."

"Why didn't cops catch you here at your folks' place?" asked Leah.

"I jumped outta the window and hid in the bush. I went to my lawyer, tuning, 'I haven't come back to SA to cause shit man!' My lawyer told cops to disperse man. I've gotta job-interview tomorrow at a hardware store. I scheme I'll getta job there."

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

1982 Israel and England, Capernaum to London Trek

At Capernaum, Leah and I picked grapefruit from an orchard, and thought of Christ, His beatitudes, His disciples, His "Fishers of Men," His loaves and fishes miracle.

At kibbutz Ein Gev, we saw shimmering Lake Galilee below. In the hills, we found ruined slabs in long grass. In fields below, amongst poppies and purple flowers, we found graves of Ein Gev settlers, shot by Syrian snipers.

At Tiberias, we scoffed falafels and cokes amongst shore ruins...

On the West Bank we bussed past Palestinian ruined villages, blown up by Israelis during the 1948 war. We passed ruined Jericho and Palestinian Jericho...

Other signs of Israeli / Palestinian simmering violence: Multitudes of male and female Israeli soldiers toting Uzis in public; A Palestinian cop in Bethlehem was hostile when we asked him directions to the Church of the Nativity; Passively aggressive Arabs everywhere we went; Israeli soldier roadblocks on the West Bank, where our Egged buses stopped, while we watched burning car tyres on the roadside, lit by protesting Palestinians; Wrecked tanks on the Jericho - Jerusalem roadside; Wary Israelis only became friendly when we said we'd worked at Grofit kibbutz.

In the next two decades, Israel would carve roads through West Bank wasteland, and erect walled apartheid settlements, settling thousands of immigrant Jews, apart from oppressed Palestinian Arab villages.

At Jaffa artist-quarter, we watched a whore humping beneath a door-arch. Overlooking Tel Aviv, two Arabs hassled us, while we lunched in a park.

We farewelled David Eidelman on Dizengoff Street, where I found a gold wedding ring on the pavement. David's last words to us: "The world is small and you are young." Fourteen years later, Arabs would suicide-bomb Dizengoff Street, killing Jews. We liked Israel, despite Arab-Jew hatred and fear. We left our tent in our youth-hostel for other trekkers to find.

We backspoored to Dirty London to collect our luggage at George House, and farewell wildlife. Lingam, still chewing betel-nuts and shagging Inyoni, was hotel manager. Sam and Xue lived in Barons Court, before moving to Melbourne. Aunty Jean lived another two decades in dirty Birmingham, going blind in her eighties. Lillian and Michael continued living in dirty Edinburgh, and produced three sons. After using Smellidick's home-phone to frequently phone his Zimbabwe family, Kleintjie Greyhound bus-trekked USA. Humble soldiers, Kleintjie and Sam were far better men than any school managers I'd encounter again in SA. Sam's friendliness and emotional strength impressed us. He was the first Pacific Islander we knew. Later, we'd know many more in NZ. Duffy disappeared, and Skate vanished into Africa.

We disliked British weather, absurd class snobberies, with hereditary lords and ladies, and narrow-minded, insular, swearing, punky Poms, and dope-smoking weirdoes. We liked pubs, dialects, multi -culturalism, foreign friends.

Over 2000 000 Poms were unemployed when we'd arrived. Labouring and clerical work wasn't humiliating, but low wages paid by sleazy employers was humiliating. Even with London weighting, Leah and I earned insufficient wages to sustain a family. One weekly-wage paid our rent, the other low wage paid living-expenses. We'd saved zilch living in dirty London, and our SA money had funded all our travels.

As white Azanians, we were stereotyped as racists. Loudest hostility and hypocrisy came from citizens of countries with their own histories of racist oppression: New Zealand, Australia, USA, Germany, Poland, Cuba. Bollocking foes tried to make us feel guilty. Foes spouted jargon like, "apartheid-regime; struggle; privileged -whites; activists; state-terrorism; freedom-fighters; Comrades; socialism; dissidents..." Few foes had travelled to Africa, or Southern Africa, and none had bothered to ascertain our views.

There was no denying SA legalized oppression of outcast non-whites, similar to Israeli oppression of outcast Palestinians, or British oppression of outcast Irish Republicans. There was no denying white wealth and privileges compared with poverty and ignorance of outcast non-whites. Our white privileges were normal for citizens of first-world countries we'd visited in Britain, Europe and Israel. Our aspirations were no different from our British relatives' aspirations.

As Soutie Trekkers, we'd seen stark contrasts between Africa and Europe. Africans aspired to privileges of European commerce and culture. I hadn't observed many Europeans integrating with black cultures' autocracy; kleptocracy; genocide; war-lords; faction-fights; ancestor-worship; animism; traditional-healers; witches; spirit -mediums; muti-murderers; tribalism; chiefs; polygamy; arranged marriages; lobola; low living standards; subsistence-farming; mud-hut squalor; no electricity; no running water; no sewage reticulation; potholed roads; cattle- wealth; sorghum, millet and maize munching; water-carrying; wood-gathering; street-markets; malaria; tsetse fly; anthrax; bilharzia; dysentery; cholera, shitting in bushes; pissing in streets...

I reckoned flaunted wealth of dirty British and European cities, resulted from colonial wealth generated on the backs of African slaves and forced labourers. (Marq De Villiers, Shiela Hirtle, Into Africa, Phoenix Giant, London, 1998). George House had been a microcosm of what slum Britain would become. We'd lived on the edge of London loneliness, petty crime, alcoholism and drug abuse, and we'd disliked what we saw. We didn't want to emigrate northwards. We said, "Goodbye Dirty London," as we loathed the dirt and winter gloom of decadent Britain and Europe. We liked the warmth of Africa.

From Luxembourg, I posted my British passport to sister-in-law Bebs in Durbs. Natal called, so using our SA passports we backspoored to Durban, while Poms prepared for their little Falklands War.

1982 Israel, Kibbutz Grofit to Kibbutz Dan Trek

After two months at Grofit, Leah and I cashed in our shekel-sheets and accumulated leave and left Aravah Valley. "Don't catch Arrab buses," smirked Moshe. "Don't heetch-hike blue nomberr-plated West Bank and Gaza veheecles." We Egged bussed to Beersheva market -place, and saw Bedouin haggling over camels and sour dates. A black-dressed Jewess handed a fowl to a rabbi, who stroked the fowl's neck and slit its throat with a knife. He up-ended the fowl into a metal funnel, draining blood. A chuckling Jewish man then ground away kosher-fowl's feathers on a grinding wheel.

At Ancient Sodom, Dead Sea shore campsite, we saw salt pillars in the water...

At Masada, climbing the Snake Path to the plateau, we watched a camel-train in the desert below. Other tourists rode the cable-car. We wandered ruins, and saw huge water-cisterns and Herod's palace. When besieging Romans had finished their rocky ramp, hundreds of trapped Zealots committed suicide, escaping torture. We snaked down, seeing busloads of Sabra kids on a "Masada shall not fall again" brainwashing tour.

At Ein Gedi, we floated high in the Dead Sea, while brine stung our eyes. Leah showered in a men's change-room, locking herself in, when a busload of doddery Germans changed, leaving their wallets in their trousers.

In Jerusalem, we trudged through Damascus Gate into the walled city of David, Mohammed and Christ. There were no Hosannas. In the souk, an Arab youth, sitting on a three-legged stool before Fat Fathers shop, said to Leah, "Fuckie, fuckie, fuckie, fuckie..."

I berated him, pointing to Leah's and my wedding rings: "These rings show we're married. Be careful how you speak to my wife!"

Whipping his stool from beneath his bum, the youth brandished it above his head. Fat Father squirmed between us shouting, "No fighting! No trouble!" Leah and I ambled through the souk, giggling at how silly it was. We bought leather sandals for our Holy Land trek, then looked at Jews praying at the Wailing Wall.

Moshe had forewarned us about our skinny Arab hotelier being into couples, so the Arab's smarming didn't disturb us. His cheap hotel on David Street had Ottoman vaulted ceilings and dormitory-rooms. When we brewed tea in the dining-room, a Yank shouted above breakfast-babble, "Hey Boers! Whadaboud Sharpeville?"

"What about Sharpeville?" I asked.

"When ya son-of-a-bidch regime shod blacks."

"How many blacks were shot in 1960?"


"You know nothing about SA. You're not the first Yank to bollock me about apartheid. You Yanks fought a Civil War over slavery. Yanks discriminated against Negroes and Red Indians. Yanks' civil-rights are a joke. Yanks' affirmative-action doesn't work. Yanks shot Doctor Martin Luther King. And shot President Kennedy and his brother. Yanks bombed Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to hell. And who's funding the forthcoming Israeli invasion of Lebanon?"


"In Angola, you Yanks proxy-warred SA troopies and UNITA against commie MPLA, Cubans and Soviets. Will USA sort out apartheid's mess? Who'll pay for SA fresh water, electricity, sanitation, roads, housing, schools, hospitals and shops?"

Angry silence.

Yad Vashem museum showed extermination of Jews by Nazi -Europeans. But Israelis were hypocrites, due to their forced expulsions of Palestinians, and occupation of Palestinian land, and non-right-of-return for Palestinians. Whereas any Jew anywhere had automatic right-of-return to Israel anytime. Due to Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Arabs we met were passively-aggressive.

In outcast Palestinian Bethlehem, Leah and I found the Grotto in the Church of the Nativity. We knelt, touching the marble slab, covering Christ's "birthplace." We sat, while candles spluttered warmth. We felt a powerful presence, tear-welling eternity, until noisy Yanks arrived, disturbing our peace.

Northwards, Tel Megiddo had been excavated by archaeologists. We clambered down a rock-shaft, and walked along a water-tunnel, which had watered old Megiddo.

Palestinian Nazareth was an outcast Arab town with a flashy Christian church...

At Haifa, we climbed Mount Carmel, and viewed the Bahai shrine. We talked of post WW2 displaced Jews evading a British blockade in small ships...

In wide-walled, Crusader-city Akko, we lingered along medieval alleys, imagining King Richard the Lion Heart slaying Moslems, and housewives throwing slops from windows into alley middle-gutters.

We bussed to the Lebanese border "Friendly Fence," and chatted to friendly Yanks admiring the distant Mediterranean...

An the way to Safed, at a bus terminus, amongst lonely hills, a crazy Arab shepherd begged from us. "Go away!" I said. He hit me with his stick. I threatened him...

"You go to Rama?" shouted a crazier Israeli pickup-driver, "I go to Rama." We sped down a pass, pickup wheels screeching at corners, dirt-road so narrow, his pickup swiped a mirror off an upcoming car...

We sped in and out of Safed artist tourist-trap...

We sped north to Qiryat Shemona, where PLO rockets, fired from Lebanon, had pock-marked buildings...

We slowed down at Dan kibbutz, in the Golan, and saw a wrecked Syrian tank, left in a garden, commemorating an Israeli - killed: stopping the tank's advance.

See Masada and other Israel sights.

Monday, July 23, 2007

1982 Israel & Egypt, Kibbutz Grofit Labourer and Sinai Trek

Strong volunteer Manfred wrote, "Arbeit Macht Frei" on his bed foot-board. His father had been a Nazi lager warder, and Manfred did penance for him. Volunteers did all sorts of work, and Moshe shuffled jobs, stopping boredom and kibbutznik volunteer friction. We packed guitar-strings in a guitar-string factory, while kibbutzniks made guitar-strings. I passed welding tools to Moshe. I unloaded girders from a truck with Jacob. We unpacked chicken-house equipment from containers. In date-palm groves, we climbed date-palms, cutting off green spikes on palm leaves, stopping sun-hardened spikes jabbing date-pickers. Leah worked in the laundry, gardens and onion fields.

Some volunteers machine-milked Friesland cows in a dairy. Cattle lived permanently on a fenced concrete-slab, with an iron roof to one side for sun-protection. As there was no grass, cattle were fed lucerne, hay and nutrient pellets. Extra milk was sent to nearby Yotvata kibbutz, which processed milk into dairy products. We drank much yoghurt. Yotvata Hai Bar Reserve preserved desert oryxes, but not Palestinians. When tomatoes ripened, we packed tomatoes at Yotvata, and ate ethane-ripened tomatoes.

Grofit onions and dates were computer-controlled, plastic-pipe irrigated. Jackals chewed holes in pipes and drank fertilised water. (Later in SA, we saw Israeli computer-controlled irrigation- systems). When we worked in the onion packing-shed, sorting, grading and packing onions, we all cried. Leah, allergic to onion juice, cried most of all. There were several onion juice allergies, so toilet rolls for sniffers hung at points along conveyors. Poms laughed at Leah's accent when she wailed, "Mah arse!" when rubbing her eyes. Using an overhead suspended sewing-machine, Leah sewed at the end of the production line, where she received full onion bags, conveyed from a hopper.

Outside the shed where I liked working, groaning tractors tipped onions onto wide, clanking conveyors, where onions bounced along upside-down to a grate, where rotary-blades cut green leaves. Besides tractor-conveyor-cutter-cacophany, a loudspeaker blared disco music. There was only one earmuff-set to protect outside workers. The noisy packing-shed left me with insidious nerve-deafness, which would remind me of Israel for the rest of my life. But I would only realize that years later.

Manfred palletized full bags, then fork-lifted them onto trucks for export. Once Manfred threw Negev sand in the air shouting, "I haf Holy Land saints in my hairs." After work, we boozed Goldstar beer on our stoep. When afternoons lengthened, Leah and I hitched to Eilat, as Egged buses were rare along Eilat Road. Thorn trees and Jericho Roses battled to grow in wadis, which stretched out from valley-wall rock fans.

Across Gulf Waters, we saw ships taking materials to Aqaba for the Iran-Iraq war. Eilat had shops, hotels, Israelis, outcast Arabs, topless sunbathers and troops, as Israel was returning Sinai to Egypt. White UN vehicles whizzed about, bulging with Uzi toting soldiers. At hitching places, soldiers strutted to queue fronts, as lifts for soldiers were a priority over tourist or civvie hitchers.

Marginalized Arab youths, practising their English, were aggressive when rebuffed. If we strolled a street, checked out a bloody street -shambles, lay on a beach, sat on a park bench, Arabs hassled us. Souk merchants said, "Hello, welcome, what's your name? What language you speak?" We spoke Afrikaans or Fanagalo, while discussing prices, to block Arabs.

For our Sinai trek, we loaded barbeque-wood into a kibbutz bus, as there was no firewood in the desert. South of Eilat, down the Red Sea coast, we camped at an oasis, and barbequed under date-palms by a ruined Turkish fort near the coral beach. Bedouin men arrived from a settlement, begging water and food. Their water-truck, which Sinai kibbutzniks filled weekly, was empty.

A barefoot Bedouin woman arrived with her goats. Kibbutzniks gave her nothing. Her nearby tent was black. Long sleeves and collar of her black robe were embroidered red. A black mask decorated with coins hid her mouth, a black scarf covered her head. Her earrings also dangled coins.

Two Bedouin men, dressed in white jelabiyehs and keffiyehs, squatted by our campfire. Smiling- Bedou fanned the flames with his jelabiyeh. Beg-Bedou, unsheathing a curved dagger from his belt said, "Trade my knife for your watch!"

"Sorry," I said, stroking my throat. "We need to catch Egged buses on time... Coffee?"

Smiling-Bedou drew "UN" on sand then said, "Brrrmmm!" and ham-acted steering a car. They didn't know Israel was returning Sinai to Egypt. We explained.

Beg-Bedou said, "Every date-palm owned by Bedouin. These palms - ours." After coffee, we gave them our firewood. They left, and sang under their date-palms, beside their fire. We fell asleep, listening to their camel munching palm-leaves.

We picnicked at dirty Nuweiba port, and admired desert views - red, grey, brown rocks and sand. Dry turds littered town. Israelis were leaving...

We bussed to palm-hutted Dahab and its ganga smoking dropouts...

At Ras Nasrany, we climbed a stony hill. Saudi Arabia coastline shimmered across Tiran Strait. An Israeli soldier strolled up, pointing his Uzi saying, "See Tiran Islands there. They caused the Six Day War. Nasser's Egyptians blockaded Israeli shipping going through Tiran Strait into Aqaba Gulf. Egypt remilitarized Sinai. Israelis took Sinai during that war. Now we must return them to Egypt. For fifteen years Israelis have settled kibbutzim in Sinai. Now we must leave..."

From Sharm-el-Sheikh, on our backspoor to Eilat, our Arab bus -driver swung his speeding bus round corners. Soldiers shouted, "Slow down!" Our driver shouted back, only behaving himself after the biggest soldier strode up the aisle and threatened him. South of Eilat, we passed a ruined castle, crumbling on Farun Island. We spent our last shekels at an underwater observatory on the coral shore. Later, cheap Egged bus fares would enable us to visit other parts of Israel.

Unrest: The Jerusalem Post reported that in SA Treurnicht had left the Nationalist Party, forming his own Conservative Party.

Coda: Two decades later, long after Israel had returned Sinai to Egypt, Arab terrorists repeatedly bombed Dahab, Sharm-el-Sheikh and Eilat.

See Tiran Isles, Sinai.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

1982 Israel, Kibbutz Grofit Volunteer

At Heathrow, Israeli customs, suspicious of Leah's olive-green parka, enquired where Leah got it. "I bought it in Earls Court," said Leah. Customs looked skeptical, while issuing our boarding- passes for our 1982 passage from south-east England to south-east Israel. Leah had bought an Israeli army-parka.

At Ben Gurion Airport, Pom Jacob, another kibbutz volunteer asked, "What trees are those?"

"Palms," I said. Jacob had never seen palms before.

Bussing through the Negev, we stopped at a Beersheva cafe, where Moshe our Grofit kibbutz supervisor bought us our first falafels...

At dawn on Eilat Road, Grofit cow-dung smells greeted us. Moshe, Israel born Sabra, showed us our Grofit barracks: "Fourr men perr rroom, fourr women perr rroom," said Moshe. "Boarrd an' lodgeeng frree. Eef you worrk harrd, we'll all geddon." Some volunteers were graduate Poms, who couldn't find jobs in Britain. Others had resigned from jobs, and like us were on a working holiday to play Labourer parts. Moshe issued us navy-blue shirts and longs and brown work -boots, then introduced us to other volunteers: Poms, Germans, Kiwis, Aussies, Canadians, young Yanks - doing maturing kibbutz work. Volunteers were accepted till age 32. Aged 30, I was an older volunteer. Most kibbutzniks were older. Friendliest volunteers were Jacob, Kiwi girls and Pom girls.

Grofit kibbutz was a Marxist collective farm, needing cheap-labour volunteers from capitalist countries to do peasant labouring. Some volunteers stayed for years, enjoying Grofit. Kibbutzim didn't encourage personal wealth. If kibbutzniks liked you, they asked you to join Grofit permanently, but you had to share your wealth with kibbutzniks, like an African extended family. Some Grofit business profits were returned to Grofit businesses, the rest was used to buy goods and services for everyone. Local Arabs worked at Grofit as artisans or builder-labourers, but disappeared at dusk. Arabs weren't kibbutzniks, despite being born in Israel. There was too much spilt blood and hatred between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis in splintered Israel.

Grofit mesa was in the Aravah Valley, part of the Syrian-African Rift Valley: Eastwards lurked a Jordanian police-outpost, below a steep valley-wall. Westwards stood a steep Negev valley-wall. No trees, no grass, just stones and sand. North-eastwards grew date-palm groves, onion fields and casaurina windbreaks. Fields were surrounded by rocks and sand.

Sabras like Moshe bloomed the desert at outcast Arabs' expense, after forcing Palestinians into exile during the 1948 war. Bloody sunsets rivalled African sunsets. Aravah saw middle-eastern and European conquerors come and go. Moshe's joke: "Only meestake my ancestorr Moses made weeth the cheeldren orf Eesrrael, afterr forrty yearrs orf Sinai wanderreengs, was Moses went norrth to Canaan, eenstead orf east to futurre Saudee Arrabeean oilfields."

After the 1948, 1967 and 70s wars, kibbutzniks feared Arab attacks, so had dug permanent trenches around Grofit mesa. Concrete bunkers were buried amongst kibbutz buildings. We heard rumours of Israelis invading Lebanon, which happened in June after we'd left, and Israeli soldiers allowed others to kill Palestinian refugees in Sabra -Shatila camps, and would occupy Lebanon for 18 years.

Jet-fighters rumbling above sometimes rattled Grofit windows. Volunteer barracks were closest to the road entrance. Israeli soldiers were billeted in barracks behind ours, so we volunteers were human -shields for deceitful Israeli soldiers. Further away, permanent kibbutzniks lived in houses and flats. A new kindergarten was built, so teachers could nurture infants during the day while mothers worked. Leah said to Moshe: "Mark and I are married. The London kibbutz agent assured us that married couples were welcome in Grofit. Why're we staying in separate rooms?"

"Eet's a prrob-e-lem," shrugged Moshe, lifting his palms heavenwards, curving his lips hellwards. "I'll orrganize a flat forr you." As the flat never happened, and as Moshe was an arrogant, hands-behind-head, feet-on-desk, while-ordering-you-kibbutznik, we squatted in an army barrack room. Friendly girl soldiers didn't mind. On night-shifts, it was rumoured they spied on Jordan from a radar and radio-listening bunker.

Volunteer work began at 06:30, breakfast at 09:00. We ate in a common dining-room, and did rostered work in a big kitchen. The dining-room was also a weekly movie-room. After dinners, we socialized with kibbutzniks in their maodon - lounge. Work-shy Jacob slacked in bed in the mornings, and played soccer in the afternoons, annoying war-veteran Moshe who said, "You must leave eef yourr poorr worrk habeets perrseest!" Jacob pulled finger. We earned a weekly shekel-sheet, which we redeemed at the kibbutz store for groceries. We worked a six day week, including Sundays, relaxing on Shabbat - Saturdays. Sometimes we stole Shabbat-wine to booze at parties.

Some volunteers came for sex drugs an' rock 'n roll. Jacob wore a "Ganga is Good" T shirt, and was anxious that Israelis might catch him smoking pot, but Israelis ignored or mocked Jacob. One night at a disco in our bunker, while I chatted to Jacob, he slid along a wall, falling against me. If I hadn't caught him he would've hit the floor. We carried him to his room and put him to bed.

David Eidelman, Jewish expat dentist from Durban, befriended us. He lived in Tel Aviv, flatting in Grofit when his dentistry was needed. He enjoyed the Negev and young people. "Why're kibbutzniks so surly?" I asked. "Shalom - shalom - bokertov - erevtov - toda roba... Hello - goodbye - good morning - good evening - thank you, is all I get from them. Moshe's Alsation dog fetching thrown stones is higher on kibbutzniks social-scale than volunteers."

"Volunteers come and go," David said. "Kibbutzniks don't commit to you until you've earned their respect by working hard."

1981 London and Scotland, George House Wildlife and Scotland Trek

George House wildlife watched TV in the lounge, while boozing and smoking dope. Some cultivated cannabis plants in their rooms. A cop-raid caused frantic hiding of dope. Cops found a potted plant on Sam's windowsill. "D'yer know this is cannabis like?" asked a cop.

"Firekin' 'ell. No!" said Sam. "A guest asked me to water it while she toured Europe like." The cop confiscated the dope.

Lingam and Inyoni roomed next to us. As Lingam's betel nuts were soaked in drugs, he was often goofed. "Chew these nuts Mak!" Lingam said. I chewed, then rushed to our toilet, spitting Lingam's nuts out. It was hours before I felt fine again.

One morning, Inyoni flew through GH crowing, "'Elp Lingam's dead, 'elp!..." Lingam lay abed, plastic drug wrappings strewn on the floor.

"Phone an ambulance!" I said. "Get salt and water!" Sam sloshed emetic down Lingam's throat. Ambulance men arrived, removing Lingam: his third suicide attempt.

Besides boozing, drugging, shagging, Lingam sorted out Inyoni with his fists. Once after they reconciled, Inyoni crowed, "I love Lingam's brown cock." One night, a knocking at our door woke me: "'Eeeelp! Lingam's 'itting me!"

Wearing only underrods, I jumped out out bed, threw our door open, and Inyoni rushed in. "Go back to bed!" I told Lingam. "I need sleep. I'm working early tomorrow." Lingam slammed his door. "Get into bed with Leah!" I ordered Inyoni.

Lingam knocked on our door: "I'm sorry I hit you Inyoni. Please come back to bed." We pretended to sleep. "Inyoni I looove you. Pleeease come back."

"Go away!" I yelled. "I need sleep." Afterwards, Inyoni boasted I had the biggest cock she'd ever seen. She should've been in PR. Later I asked: "Inyoni, can you spell?"


"S-L-U-T. That's you."

Skate wept on GH dirty doorstep, an empty Jack Daniels bottle bedside him. "My babes has left me," wailed Skate. "My babes has left me..." Skint had fled to Durbs, scared by Skate's payroll thefts. "I'm leaving for Amsterdam," said Skate, packing his bag. He tubed to dirty Paddington on the dirty Circle-and-District line, and hid with friends till cops stopped investigating GH.

Lingam toadied Sam, offering Inyoni's help as chambermaid, as part-payment for rent. Sam agreed, relieved of cleaning duties. Lingam appeared at our door asking, "Have you got Xue's radio and bedside lamp?" We'd borrowed them from Xue. Leah demurred. Lingam backed off, then using Inyoni's master-key, looted guest -rooms, and vanished. Weeks later, Sam caught Lingam in a pub, and punched him.

In the evenings, scrumpie-stupid Duffie knocked on our door asking, "Jayshush, 'ave yer godda loit?"

One night: Knock-knock... "Bugger of Duffy!" I said. "I'm showering.

"What's that?" Leah woke.

"Duffy wants a light." Knock-knock. "Piss off Duffy!"

Knock-knock. I opened the door and shoved Duffy. He collapsed at my feet. I thought of dragging him across the landing to his room. I put my foot on Duffy's stomach. "Jayshush, take yer shite feet orf me eejit! Jashush, 'e's feckin' kickin' me!..."

Sam broke it up. "Firekin' 'ell Mark. If you stay longer in George House, you'll end up in chokey."

Snow fell in December, and enjoying my hotel-work, through my window, I watched pedestrians slipping on pavement ice. I had central heating, food, coffee, TV, a good job. There were morning work-rushes when guests left, and in the evenings when guests arrived. Afternoons were quiet, after Polish chambermaids left.

From snowy Carlisle, we trekked our Freedom-of Scotland Easter train-route. At Fort William Youth Hostel, the manager yelled, "Take yer boo's orf!" We kept them on, while Leah went to the toilet, We trudged through sleety night, and found a B-and-B.

At Skye, we waited in a snowstorm. When a bus arrived, we were wearing all our clothes. Our Kyle of Lochalsh B-and-B hostess, recognizing Leah's hypothermia, sat Leah beside a fire, and fed her hot drinks.

Highlands red deer had descended from snowy heights, close to train tracks...

Shivering in Golspie church pews, we listened to midnight mass with leah's cousin Lillian. Christmas snow covered the ground, icicles shone on a frozen waterfall. When viewing my paternal -grandmother's family Sutherland Dunrobin Castle, we sipped ten-year-old gorse-liquor which Lillian's dad had made.

At freezing Inverness Youth Hostel, central-heating wasn't switched on, so we crawled into our double-sleeping bag beneath a blanket mound...

At Edinburgh Hogmanay, champagne-drunks jostled us on Royal Mile. When they staggered past us again, I stuck my foot out, tripping a drunk. Writhing bodies at our feet disentangled, crawled about, then lurched upright again.

Friday, July 20, 2007

1981 England, London Razzles

< 1981. Leah & Mark Esslemont, Kings Head Tavern, Earls Court, London.

Leah and I browsed museums on my old street-sweeper beat. We grazed Tate Gallery, British Museum and the National Gallery. If we had spare cash, we saw a West End show from cheap gallery seats. Nureyev had the most stage-presence I ever saw. The Mousetrap cast was tired.

After shows, we visited a Chinese restaurant on Shaftsbury Avenue. At George House, Sam's wok cooked us Chinese meals. With Sam and Xue we hunted curries in the Tandoori jungle. We liked Hot Pot, Earls Court cafe, serving French, Italian, Chinese cuisines. McDonald's or Wimpy sufficed, if we were poor. On Sundays, for a beer buy at the Golden Lion pub, we watched girls strip on a central stage.

Once, Leah and I tried sneaking through Savoy Hotel's back door, but were seen by a doorman, who said, "Bloody 'ell. This is the Savoy. If yer wanna visi', go ta reception a' the fron'!"

Another time, I stole soap from the The Ritz Hotel toilet. While I boasted about my handfuls to Kleintjie at the urinal, the doorman walked in and discreetly peed next to Kleintjie. I dumped the soap in a basin, while Kleintjie wet himself.

When GH rooms were fully booked, Sam laid mattresses on the TV lounge floor, so backpackers could sleep there till rooms were available. Bolder backpackers changed in front of TV voyeurs. "While you were working this morning," said Skate, "you missed Joey. Her tits were huge man!"

In Sam's room, girls chattering on couches, I retold the story to Sam and Xue: "...Joey's tits were huge Sam."

"Firekin' 'ell! Joey's on my couch!" Joey froze me out.

Favourite pubs were at Penta Hotel; Denmark, near Gloucester Road tube; Kings Head in Earls Court; Fox in Barons Court. If we left our drinks and went to the toilet, Mavis swigged them. Mavis sneaked into pubs, pestering patrons, until barmen ejected her. I began an argument between two Irishmen, asking one of them, "Please explain the Irish troubles?" They began politely, but soon ignored me, arguing for hours. Next day on the way to work, Leah had an Irish bomb-scare at Victoria Station. Leah and crowds were ordered by station officials and Bobbies to leave.

< 1981. Rhodie Kleintjie & Leah Esslemont with Scotland vs England soccer supporters, Kings Head Tavern, Earls Court, London.

Kleintjie and I frequented a "yaroooing" Aussie pub near Curzon Hotel, Courtfield Gardens, sneaking our six-packs inside. Hidden by the crowd, we drank our beers, stomping our empties on the floor. Kleintjie sniffed: "A kaffir's here."

"Only raucous Aussie here."

"A kaffir's here. I can smell 'em." Kleintjie's nose was still tuned to bush-spooring. At the bar, I spotted Nigerian Joko, London University student, who dossed in GH. He swotted on floor-landings, avoiding rowdy roommates.

I worked as a kitchen-porter for The Prudential. A Polish woman, married to a Cuban, then employed me as a receptionist at a Belgrave Road hotel, where poor Polish chambermaids sent wages back to Poland.

Every day, Cuban's Polish wife collected money and inspected my book-keeping. General Jaruzelski had taken over Poland's government, tensioning up socialism in Poland, so London Poles were jittery.

When I worked night-shifts, Leah came to my office after her work, for free meals. Once, while I cooked a meal in the kitchen, Cuban arrived and chatted to Leah, who told him about SA's beauty: wildlife, flat -crown trees, savannahs, deserts, mountains. When I served food, Cuban upset Leah saying, "You treat blacks like shit."

"In Angola," I said, "your occupying commie Cubans, supporting local commie MPLA, were recently fucked up by SA troopies, helping Savimbi's UNITA. Sneaky Cubans and Soviets in Angola want Angolan diamonds and oil, deceiving yourselves you're saving blacks from SA racists. Where'd you Cubans get your sugarcane slaves from?" Silent Cuban. (Sean Moroney, Editor, Africa Volumes 1, 2, Facts On File, New York, 1989).

See The Ritz.

1981 England, National Trust Volunteers and Rhodie Bush War

George House wildlife included unfriendly, spitting Arabs, wearing white jelabiyehs, and black-white, or red-white keffiyehs, who messed toilets and showers. Filipina chambermaids were scared of entering staring Arab rooms, so Sam's cleaning work increased. Mavis's nightly mutterings increased. "Leave!" said Sam.

"Fook you Chinese bastard!" Sam threw her belongings onto the dirty pavement.

As I continued my wildlife conservation course, I received lectures by post, dissected a London squirrel, and happy-snapped its anatomy for a dissection project. I wrote exams at the SA embassy. Getting wildlife practical experience as volunteer supervisors at a Guildford National Trust work-camp, Leah and I reported to the resident conservator. Our board and lodging was free. Our team ranged in age from eighteen to mid-thirties. Leah supervised kitchen and catering work, while I supervised a male / female team doing dirty bush clearance: mainly hawthorn, using axes, billhooks, saws, sickles, mattocks. We burned cleared bush. Leah and her girl-team harvested wildflower seeds on the South Downs, so seeds could be sown elsewhere, encouraging butterflies. While I babooned up a South Down hill, a coiled adder hissed at me when I nearly handled it. After work we piled everyone into vans, and got pissed in pubs.

Volunteers were school-leavers, students, employed and unemployed. Some did volunteer work for Duke of Edinburgh Award points. We found girls maturer than guys. Some "men" bickered about van-driving and backpack weed-spraying. We privately thought SA okes were maturer, as conscription sorted men from the boys.

At Sevenoaks National Trust work-camp, our supervisor said, "Don' le' volunteer Bob drive the van! Bob can' 'old 'is drink. Las' camp, 'e wrecked our van!" We did dirty farm-building and oust- house maintenance with job-seekers, shop-assistants, receptionists and two motor-biking lady-cop trainees, doing community work, who labelled other girls "common." A Jewish Oxford graduate wittily amused us. Bearded Bob, on the dole, cycled to pubs, and lost his bike, too tight to remember where he'd hidden it.

After pub-crawling one night, driving through a dark wood, I nearly ran over Bob, as he lay asleep in the middle of a lane. We dumped Bob in our van, and put him to bed.

Back in dirty London, Banditoon kept me going with dirty-warehouse labouring-jobs. Leah did clerking at the Law Society in Chancery Lane. Leah did staff cafeteria work at General Electric, then was tea-lady at Dickens and Jones: "Sugar?... No sugar?... Black?... White?... Weak?... Strong?... Lemon?... No lemon?..." At mealtimes, Leah poured hundreds of cups of tea, and Poms were stuffy when Leah poured wrong.

At Smellidick's dirty import-export business, Kleintjie and I unwrapped Bulgarian ball-bearings, threw away wrappers, then repacked ball-bearings with British wrappers. Kleintjie told us about patrols, stitching terrs in ambushes, capturing and bashing terrs in mud-huts. "One night," he said, "I gapped through bush, fetching one of my men, His blood-lust was up, while a munt lay in a path wailing, 'Why yo killin' me Baasie?' My mate hacked the munt's neck with a penknife, trying to find the jugular. He dug his finger into a hole and pulled. Blood everywhere - munt vrekked."

In Smellidick's garden, while quaffing champagne, Kleintjie showed us how to spoor: "Keep the sun to the side of you, behind your shoulder, if you wanna spoor terrs. The sun'll throw shadows on spoor, and signs like broken grass, twigs, leaves, or knocked off dew will let you 'see' the whole picture. Our Rhodie Bush War's over," said Kleintjie. "Your turn's next Mark."

"Ag no man," said I. "Faction-fights ja, but Dutchmen like you won't allow civil war in SA. They'll learn from your Rhodies' mistakes. Puppet Sebe's Ciskei recently became 'independent,' like puppet Transkei and its one million outcasts. Puppet Ciskei's so close to East London's Mercedes Benz plant, Sebe will be an instant Wabenzi." (Jon Murry, et al, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, 1997.)

"Ja your puppet Sebes, Matanzimas, Mangopes, Mopelis are all get-rich-quick tribals. Your whitey taxes pay for that," said Kleintjie. "Your munts with their left hands will beg AKs from commies, then they'll chase you colonial whiteys into the sea, then with their right hands they'll rifle the till, then beg financial and food aid from former colonizers. It's happened all over Africa."

"You'll soon join us with your chicken-run Rhodies eh?" I said. "And my whitey taxes will pay your generous settling-in allowance, paid to whitey immigrants by our Nat government. No other countries help immigrants like that." Kleintjie silenced out: furious.

See National Trust.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

1981 Europe, More Eurail

In flat Finland's white-nights and sunny days, we passed lakes, swamps, taiga forests... Near Russia, at Joensuu campsite, we heard Swedes forte-fucking...

At Oulu, on Bothnia Gulf, sitting on a wooden pier, while midnight sun hung low, we heard German campers playing violins and flutes, and sotto voce singing...

At Gallivare, Sweden, beyond the Arctic Circle, we saw reindeer on railway tracks. In northern Sweden, elbowing our way through a crowd, our backpacks cleared a path. We climbed into a first-class compartment, while second class passengers barged through. I smiled at an old lady, who sniffed when I sat next to her. She wanted us ejected. When we waved our first-class passes at the inspector, she frowned.

At Oslo's Bygdoy Museums, we saw Viking ships and Thor Heyerdahl's balsa Kon-Tiki raft and papyrus Ra raft. I remembered, as a boy, making a poinsettia-stick model of Heyerdahl's Kon- Tiki raft. We admired wooden farmhouses and a stave-church at the Folk Museum. I was reminded of Ibsen's Dolls House when we saw a replica of his study. We then strolled amongst Vigeland statues in Vigeland Park...

On the Oslo-Bergen line, snow speckled mountains.... From Flam waiting-room, we saw fjord walls and green water. We brewed tea on our Gaz stove, and kept warm in our sleeping-bags... Our train cog -railed past waterfalls, back to the main line...

Bergen: Summer, but citizens wore mackintoshes, and dogs wore rubber boots...

To Munchen: In a compartment, a Hamburger described WW2, allied -bombing firestorms: "Flames reached the sky, sucking air away, leaving thousands of German civilians dead. After the war, we rebuilt copies of Hamburg and Munchen. There must never be another war."

Customs officials were discriminatory and racist, embarrassing us by leafing through our SA passports, and glancing at other foreigners' passports. When I used my British passport, there was no discrimination.

Munchen Hofbrauhaus: Beers-Cheers-Oooompapa, and sweaty Germans. Leah and I sneaked into Munchen station Super-Loo, past Fat-frau guard. When I was seated, Fat-frau threw my door open before grinning, schadenfreude passersby. "Jy moet betalen!" yelled Fat-frau.

En route to Italy, a Kiwi passenger said, "In NZ, Kiwis are protesting against your racist Springbok rugby tour..."

"Maybe that's because your PM Muldoon encouraged the tour in an election year," I said. "Yet in 1977 Muldoon signed the Gleneagles Agreement discouraging Commonwealth countries, including NZ, playing sport against SA. Why've All Black white teams toured SA for years?" I asked, "Without Maori team-mates, who're anathema to SA racists? Perhaps the real issues are anti-cop thugs and crims amongst real protesters; or Kiwi embarrassment at African countries boycotting the 1976 Montreal Olympics due to your racist Kiwi rugby support of SA; or Kiwi unemployment; or dispossessed Maori protesting about former land-grabbing Pom settlers, after your 1840 Treaty of Waitangi."

Kiwi squirmed.

"You Kiwis haven't sorted out Maori dispossession grievances. Are your self-righteous rugby protesters training future SA black leaders to successfully govern SA?"

Stunned Kiwi. He wasn't the first or last sanctimonious foreigner to bollock us about apartheid.

In sweltering Italy, Leah disliked Italian men leering from street cafes, and lounging against walls, making soliciting remarks. Annoyed, I wondered if Italian men were as uncouth to Italian women as they were to tourists. After frenetic Venice, Pisa, Florence, Rome, on the way to Pompei, we relaxed on the Circum-Vesuviana train...

Tanned men rowed us to Capri's Blue Grotto... At Sorrento we bought an inlay-wood clown-carving to hang on our toilet door...

< 1981. Wooden inlay clown, Sorrento, Italy. Hangs on Esslemonts' toilet door.

Southwards to Reggio, cackling peasant women, wearing black dresses and scarves, admired Leah's wedding-ring and diamond engagement-ring, while fondling Leah's hands. Southern poverty reminded us of puppet Transkei...

After the Sicily ferry, we trekked through WW2 battlefields from Messina to Palermo. Seated on a doorstep, we scoffed pizza, drank wine, and fed polony to a cat...

After the Brindisi ferry, we toured Corfu on a hired 50cc Honda motorbike. Leah burned her calf on the hot exhaust. At a northern lookout, we saw Albania beyond calm water. Leah liked Paleokastritsa's bare boobs...

Greece: After Patras, touts embarked our train yelling: "Byron Hotel in Athens - excellento." Byron Hotel was crap, its toilet fulla shit: piled solid in the toilet-bowl, dribbling on the floor, smeared on walls, door, ceiling. We slept on the flat roof.

Touring Greece, we scoffed souvlaki, donner-kebabs, wine, retsina, ouzo. We saw Peloponnesus sights: Corinth, Mycenae, Nauplion, Olympia, and tanned naked on beaches. Lingering in Greece, we visited Delphi, Meteora and Marathon.

We over-night trained through eastern Italy, through Switzerland to Paris, where motorists accelerated when we stepped off shitty pavements. At a cheap Left Bank restaurant, a waiter placed newsprint on our table, then wrote our orders on the newsprint. Much later, we observed Montmarte artists, while I practised French.

1981 Europe, Eurail Trekker

We avoided Charles's and Diana's mobs-an'-snobs royal wedding. Our 1981 Eurail first-class passes didn't include Iron Curtain countries as the Cold War simmered. We lugged our gear in our two backpacks, and we saw many parts of Europe by hopping onto any European train, plonking ourselves on first-class seats, and waving our Eurail passes at inspectors.

At Chartres Cathedral, France, we lingered under elongated sculptures, and smiled at mediaeval floppy-hats worn by local ladies...

At Pamplona, Spain, accommodation was fully-booked. We hiked from town, and camped beside a bridge. After Running-of the Bulls, tipsy Spaniards staggered about a square, wearing white clothes. Red scarves were tied around foreheads. We watched a procession - clowns with hobbyhorses strapped to their shoulders capered along cobbled streets, laughing, hitting each other and onlookers with big foam-rubber clubs.

In Madrid, a dope-smoking couple invited us to their parents' flat. After a squabble with the caretaker, objecting to foreigners in his building, we went upstairs for a late supper. We met more dope -smokers at an all-night street-disco - blaring music. Next morning, at the Prado there were no lockers, so Leah sat in a park, guarding our backpacks, while Yanks threw frisbees. I looked at Goyas, then guarded our backpacks, while Leah art-farted. We liked Madrid and friendly Spaniards.

Spanish tranvia were overcrowded, slow and dissolute. "Es un problema grande senor," said station ticket-sellers, harassed by clamouring tourists. Yanks irked with loud, demanding voices. If I was rude to ticket-sellers, they spat back my rudeness, then ignored us, serving other tourists. Politeness quickly got our tickets. Like locals, we ate salted sunflower-seeds, spitting husks onto platforms.

Trekking south, our train-driver stopped his train for a track-side pee-chat with a friend, before continuing our trek.

Trekking west, on our Lisbon-bound night-train, squashed eight passengers per hot compartment (second-class passengers crowded corridors), a pissed Yank crunched empty beer cans, while we tried to sleep, wedged between other passengers... By Lisbon Bay, we lunched on a wall. A street-pusher pushed marijuana. "Piss off!" I said.

At Evora we stayed in a hilltop B-and-B. We ignored skulls in a church...

At Seville, we lingered in a pension courtyard, amidst fountains and trellised roses. Sahara winds blew, while we drank wine from our leather wine-bag...

Cordoba: We admired Moorish red-and white-striped arches...

Barcelona was muggy, like Durbs. Trekking north, a hippy-druggie on our train had no ticket, sang ditties, winked at his posy, trying to elbow tourists from their seats. The ticket-inspector bundled him off at the next station. Our Switzerland-bound train was overbooked, and a Spaniard, waving a ticket with Leah's seat-number, tried ousting Leah from her seat. "Piss off!" I said.

A German Swiss official pointed at my spotty jeans and scorned. We ignored the twerp... On Lake Thun ferry, a wine-waiter said, "William Tell really shot an apple off his son's head... In Geneva, we bought Lets Go Europe, so we could find campsites...

On a Rhine cruise, we saw castles and vineyards. Coal-barges chugged along, while riverside trains rattled by. We drank wine on a Moselle cruise...

At Koln, we stared at Koln Cathedral's WW2 bomb-pitted facade, and watched buskers performing for the crowd...

At Amsterdam station, while we perused our map, a cop warned us not to display our valuables, as thieves lurked. At the central Amsterdam campsite, druggies sprawled outside tents, dope-pipes and dope-pouches displayed. Dirty druggies wandered about smoking dope. After a canal-boat trip, we looked at art galleries and Anne Frank museum, and dodged pavement dog shit. Back at camp, we discovered a druggie had stolen our spare pounds and francs we'd kept for later use, stashed deep in a backpack. The scumbag had left our packs looking undisturbed.

We watched tatooists working on Hamburg's Reeperbahn. Leah gripped my hand, while whores scowled and pimps stared. I counted ten tarts in a row, leaning against a wall, dangling thighs in the sun.

Northwards, train services, speed and efficiency improved. Prices also increased. Our Scandinavia trek was, "been-there-done-that..." Scandinavians were clap-board people stifled by welfare-statism. Third World poverty and degradation was foreign to them. At Copenhagen, we ticked off Little Mermaid statue overlooking the harbour. Tivoli Gardens was full of poofy people, paying for sticky thrills.

From Fredrikshaven, we train-ferried to Gothenburg, where buses confused us. We had no local cash. A lady paid for our self-serve -bus-tickets. Her's was the only kindness we experienced in Scandinavia. As foreign backpackers seemed resented, we got glares and hostile comments. Never mind our spending money in Scandinavia. We caught the night-train to Stockholm, where we liked cobbled squares, and Leah liked blonde lady cops.

On the Finland ferry, I wondered whether jellyfish, in Turku archipelago waters, were like Scandinavians - spineless, poisonous, brainless?

See Eurail website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

1981 London, Kensington & Chelsea Street-Sweeper & Rhodie Bush War Soldier

At Haringay, Leah continued kindergarten teaching.

Kleintjie had Eurrailed Europe, his first holiday in ten years. Banditoon job agency provided us brainless labouring jobs, including record-packaging with West Indians (CDs weren't yet popular); furniture-removal and storage; postal-clerking in a medical -equipment warehouse; textile and confectionary loading in containers. At a north London warehouse, Kleintjie and I loaded Lucozade boxes into containers.

"Mark," Kleintjie said, "during the Bush War, as a section leader, I was often pulled outta my civvie job to fight terrs. I fought right through the seventies. None of my men were killed, but we shot many zots. Last year we gave Rhodesia to Mugabe and Nkomo." Kleintjie wore a bandage on his wrist. "I hurt it when I smashed a cheeky munt's nose after Independence celebrations. I caught him burgling my Salisbury flat. Munt was a high-up terr. I must watch my back when I slope back to Zim."

We spoke Afrikaans, mocking Poms. We felt like Zulu road-gangers, swinging pickaxes in unison, chanting insults at passersby. During breaks, we gloated over pornography in smoky offices.

"On section-patrols, we quickly interrogated captured terrs," said Kleintjie, "so we could follow- up, stopping ambushed terrs gapping into the bush."

"How'd you interrogate a nanny - female terr?"

"My mates held her, or tied her down, and I thrashed her, or threatened to thrash her cunt with a stick. Usually the threat was enough to make a nanny talk. They were brave fighters. One refused to talk, so we hung her upside down from a tree, lit a fire beneath her, kicked her, swinging her, but she never talked. Her hair burnt, her fats dripped, her skull popped open, then we dropped her, when her brains burned."

We did dirty back-breaking work when dragging demolition junk into a warehouse lift. Scottish Harry tried shoving a metal door into a lift, but no-one helped Harry, as the door was too big, and Harry couldn't see it. Harry on the dole, did casual labouring for cash-in-hand. During smoke-breaks, Harry fiddled with his tobacco tin, folding tobacco and dope into Rizla paper, licking it closed, then smoking. His long hair reeked of dope. Once Harry asked, "D'ye wan' Wed Leb laddie?"


"Och Wed Leb. Cannabis ye ken? Joos' coom onna marke' fwom Lebanon. I'll give ye a good wee pwice."

"I don't smoke. You drug-pushers are scum."

I persuaded Skate to stop slukking Jack Daniels, and do Banditoon work. A warehouse boss worked Skate and Harry together. By smoke-break Skate was gone. "Where's Skate?" I asked.

"Fooked orf! Skate slacked a coopla hours, fwew a Lucozade box orfa twuck, yelling. 'This is kaffirs work!' and fooked orf ye ken."

Smellidick (pronounced Smellick), a north London Pom, freely accommodated Kleintjie, while Kleintjie painted Smellidick's home. Smellidick organized a furniture-removal job for us, by driving Kleintjie and me to a dirty south London house, then watched us load two Victorian sideboards into his truck. Smellidick then drove us to the Strand, and smoked while we lowered the sideboards into the pavement. "Pu' a sideboards inna basemen'!" said Smellidick. "Locka door af'er ya! Cherry-bye." We lugged the sideboards into the restaurant, and shoved them downstairs into the basement, crunching wooden legs. After leg repair, we phoned our families in Zimbabwe and SA, talking into the night. Smellidick hadn't disconnected phones. When Smellidick got his quarterly bill, we were long gone.

Next day Smellidick drove me to the dirty south London house. "Clean i'!" he said. "Cherry-bye." At dusk, Smellidick drove me along Thames Embankment back to the Strand. "Lonnen's a beau'iful ci'y ri'?" he said.


"Yer come from Souf Africa ri'? Yer Afrikaners give blacks a 'ard time ri'?"

"Ever travelled out of England - to Africa?"


"You know nothing about South Africa. How come London's had Brixton riots?"

Pause. "Yer worked for eigh' hours cleanin' a 'ouse ri'? I dunno 'ow much ta pay yer?" At a warehouse we loaded a Victorian sideboard onto his truck. At the Strand restaurant, Smellidick paid me a pittance saying, "'Elp me unload a sideboard!" While I untied ropes, Smellidick talked to painters. I hopped off his truck and vanished into the crowd. "Cherry-bye," I thought, jogging to Charing Cross tube-station.

I got a street-sweeper job for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I was the only SA sweeper amongst Poms, who didn't invite me to their pub-lunches. Every morning, we met at our dirty Knightsbridge mews-depot, stored gear in our dirty lockers, then shoved off with our dirt-trolleys containing dirt-equipment: black bags, two bins, poop-shovel, brooms. I wore a blue overall and blue cap. We signed-on at the beginning of each shift, and signed-off at the end.

My beat was both sides of Cromwell Road, to dirty Gloucester Road intersection, past Baden Powell Scout headquarters, past Natural History Museum, up dirty Exhibition Road, past Science Museum to Albert Hall, and back past Victoria and Albert Museum. Fat foreman Tom drove a Mini inspecting sweeper beats, and ordering us to sweep dirty alleys and mews. Tom signed our bonus forms daily, if satisfied our beats matched his dirty standards. Otherwise, we got a daily fixed wage. Poms toadied Tom. Sometimes we swept other depots' beats, covering absentees.

Besides pestering women asking me to sweep sand, and remove weeds and beer bottles from properties, which I didn't do, sullen bag-ladies' and chatty hobos' beats criss-crossed my beat. They wore layers of grimy clothes. I retched when they approached, as they stank of sweet meths, piss and dirt. I wondered if they were on the dole. Bag -ladies dossed in derelict doorways under rubbish heaps. I watched one incontinent old dame piss right through her dress. Some hobos sat warming themselves in libraries, pretending to read.

Bobbies and street-sweepers were tourist information-bureaux. A fat yank wearing checked longs asked me. "Where's the Natural History Museum?"

"Ri' in fronna yer ma'e." I pointed with my broom.

"Where's the big shop?"

"'Arrods?...Strai' uppa road." I dropped full rubbish bags on pavements for rubbish-trucks to collect, and finished my beat in 2-3 hours. I hid my trolley in a disused lift-shaft at dirty Gloucester Road tube-station, changed my clothes, then visited embassies to organize visas for our Eurail trek. Tom, too lazy to walk my beat, never caught me.

One Friday morning, a Pom workmate said, "We don' sweep much on Fridays. 'Ide yer trolley a' the nex' depot, if yer need an arf'ernoon orf,"

At signing-off, Tom asked, "Where were ya all arf'ernoon? Yer trolley was a' anuvva depot. Yer weren' onna job. Furloe Place is dir'y! No bonus tidday!"

"Buggers!" I said. "Thurloe Place is clean. I swept it."