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.