Friday, July 20, 2007

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.

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

August 2007 email from UK National Trust:

"...I am glad that you enjoyed your time volunteering with the National Trust and yes, Working Holidays are indeed still going strong. We are celebrating our 40th Anniversary this year..."