Leah, sons and I bade tearful farewell to Leah's family at Durban's Louis Botha Airport. We boarded a Singapore Airlines Jumbo jet, flew to Singapore, then onwards to Auckland. I bought a 1600cc, red Toyota Corolla, then drove us south to Christchurch, which became our adopted home.
After seven months living in Sumner seaside suburb, we moved inland to Oaklands suburb, where our boys grew up in peace and safety, far from murderous, thieving Azanians.
Fraser's and my donkey wagon rides together were far longer than any passengers' - medical, madhouse, mental health, legal - who rode with us on various treks. After his brain damage, Fraser had been certified, existing eight years in KwaZulu-Natal hospitals, surviving several medical crises. He'd given work to hordes of medical staff and madhouse keepers, and survived their caring, mistakes, manipulations, deceits and evasions.
Triumphantly, Fraser hadn't been cowed by many Town Hill forensic ward incarcerations. He'd strengthened his iatrogenic, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndome right clawed hand and fingers. He'd strengthened his iatrogenic crippled legs by shambling and "jogging," achieving Maritzburg's Capital Climb, despite Town Hill madhouse negativism. He'd gone walkabout in Maritzburg and Durban during States-of -Terror in KwaZulu-Natal's civil war. Maybe madhouse keepers imprisoned Fraser in closed wards for many months, like O ward and Impala forensic ward, as they were too lazy to rehabilitate and protect Fraser from himself and murderous Zulus.
While we grew up, Fraser and I'd lived 24 years together at 22 Chelsea Drive, Durban North, before I'd moved out, marrying Leah. Fraser never married. Fraser and I'd been to the same Durban North schools together, been boy scouts together, sang in Durban North Methodist and Saint Martins choirs together, trekked on SA holidays and overseas together, and run Comrades Marathon together.
As adults our lives diverged. I was a conscripted Commando troopie. Fraser was a conscripted Citizen Force troopie. We both achieved NCO rank, reluctantly, and saw through SADF for what it was - a kaffir, kommunis, terroris suppressor / oppressor - take your pick - and a waste of conscripts' lives.
Fraser worked for Standard Bank in Durban for over a decade. For eighteen years I taught in Durban, Kleinzee, QwaQwa and East London, dabbled in De Beers personnel work at Kleinzee and Koffiefontein mines for three years, and lived and laboured overseas with Leah for fifteen months, mainly in UK and Israel. Fraser stayed in Natal. I trekked further on my donkey wagon, and the donkeys always led.
I went deaf. Fraser went schizophrenic, then brain damaged.
After our physical crises, our work lives converged when we were both horticultural labourers, Fraser in KwaZulu-Natal, me in Canterbury NZ.
From Christchurch NZ, I wrote letters to Town Hill's superintendent Dr. Ross: NZ contact addresses; queries about human rights for brain damaged citizen Fraser.
No reply from Dr. Ross. A patient's family was nothing to him, especially an expat family like us, as migrants were too far away to bother his conscience.
Fraser replied to my letters thus:
26.06.95. Town Hill dispatch: "I'm very pleased to notice you have found a suitable place in NZ... When you travelled holiday-making earlier, you would have noticed places where to settle. I thought it would take you longer to find a place.
A lot of New Zealanders would wonder about South Africa, beating the All Blacks in rugby on 24.06.95 [World Cup]. I'm sure a lot want to emigrate to SA. I still feel there is no place like home. (Natal - garden province). However I get a mental picture of your Sumner Edwardian cottage. It would be very nice. I think just rent, don't buy the property. Please send me a photograph of the cottage.
To ship your goods in a container would be very expensive. Save your money before buying property. What is this Lyttelton place? Rather get work before committing yourself financially. You may want to move before or when youre 60.
I think you and Leah are bitten by the travel bug, because you both toured Europe and worked in a Israel kibbutz. You both thought travelling was what you needed to stimulate your minds, bodies and souls.
Dont you think the educational change would be too much for the 2 boys? But then again its worth the chance at their respective ages and smaller classes. Give me your phone number at Christchurch, NZ. Mine is... in SA. Thinking of you and your family often...
Are you or Leah good at typing or shorthand taking? Conferences or business conventioents [sic] are always on the lookout for part time workers. At the moment you are living off your savings, that dont last long when you are renting.
Keep in touch by phone or letter, because it will be difficult starting in a new country. Make as many helping friends as you can in NZ. Remember saving money makes money.
Winner Fraser was brain damaged over eight years before, then certified mad. Despite Fraser's brain damage, his semantics, spelling, syntax and paragraphs were reasonable. (I edited worse English grammar and expression from Afrikaner and Af adults at De Beers mines, when they wrote English as a second language. I marked worse English from SA pupils writing first language English, in schools where I taught). There was nothing wrong with Fraser's logic, nor his long-term-memory. Fraser's "learning curve" which Town Hill madhouse Dr. Kaf said was missing, was certainly there.
Sometimes Fraser's letters appeared disjointed, because he was referring to my letters. I edited his letters lightly, keeping his style and errors, like missing apostrophes and capitals. Ask anyone to spell Lyttelton correctly?
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.