For Jenny’s Alphabet Thursday, I am going to write my thoughts on bits and bobs that I remember and how it was for me, during my almost fifty years spent in South Africa.
These are my ‘B’ memories, opinions and views on a time during a much loved childhood and beyond! It will be a difficult choosing the Best of them.
Bees, Ballito Bay, Baboons, Braai, Beit Bridge/Border post, Bushveld, Basotho people, Bon Accord, Bread, Betty, Bearded vultures
Bright and Beautiful, are also ‘B’ words that remind me so much of my old home, but I’ll touch on those two at the end.
Starting with those delightful, although sometimes not very good looking creatures; the baboons. I have seen them in the game reserve close up, but this was different, not like going out to meet them on their own turf, in the Drakensberg mountains. We were staying at the Sani Pass Hotel, and one morning were out for a ‘gentle walk’ up the mountain. That’s how it was advertised.
The attached photograph is not mine, my camera hung unused for most of the time, as I clung on in fear, with both hands to whatever there was to hold on to, husbands, strangers, grass clumps and fences.
Suddenly our guide stopped to point out a waterfall way in the distance and draw our attention to the animal noises echoing down the mountain. Those are Baboons barking, he said. In answer to a question, he replied: ‘No they rarely come down as far as we will be going.’
We trekked onwards and upwards; by now my asthma breathing ( which I still believe is a nervous affliction and my angina pain down my arm ( which to all accounts will never kill me), were really putting pressure on me. Guide said it would be getting steeper so it was best I rest till they returned.
Well, great idea! I could sit in the sunshine and take a few pictures. Of course not giving a thought to the baboons, bees, beetles and boa consticters (who knows if a couple of them hadn’t been smuggled into SA from the jungles of central and South America!) that could be waiting to pounce on me, all alone! There was a lone bird in the sky; what if it was a bearded vulture, who fancied his chances!
I began to watch my back, check the grass, turning and listening, imagining a baboon would appear at any moment; so quick-thinking; food might keep him at bay, got my biscuits out ready to protect myself. Silly girl, me! Baboons eat anything, adapt to their habitats all over Africa, from savannas, to mountains to deserts; and love a good argument. What hope did I have with a packet of lemon creams.
Next thing there was a shuffling on the path, NO! But no, I didn’t have a close encounter; it was one of the other climbers come back to rest with me. Everyone was having tea and biscuits, she said. I felt thirsty, tired and a little disapponted then, as my fear ebbed away, it felt like an opportunity missed. Aren’t we funny creatures, too?
Another fear, Beit Bridge which is the border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe. We visted our family relations there every other year in Salsibury, now Harare, and the approach to the border always put a fear into me that I cannot explain, but remember it to this day. I had seen families with all the contents of their cars unpacked and officials searching them. For what I wondered, but as a child the thought of all our parents hard work packing being undone; it was upsetting. I feared this happening to us.
When we pulled away through the gate and across the bridge, into the scraggy bush of the Zimbabwean strip roads of that time, thankfully
‘unsearched’, with all passports stamped, I breathed a sigh of relief. Our Dad was the Best; they believed everything he said!
Sometimes not the best: My school friends knew me as Betty. Once I spent most of an afternoon and evening covering my new school books in crisp brown paper, ready for a brand new year. Dad promised to write my name on the books so that I could go to bed.
Imagine the shock when I woke to find he had written my name in Irish Gaelic, the way he had been taught as a child in Ireland. He saw no harm, he said. It was gaelic lettering and spelt differently. I cried in the bus to school. Because I was ashamed?
No never. I cried because of what others may say, as I was still often perceived as different by other children, who are sometimes the cruellest little beasts alive.
Children, sometimes the combination of innocence and what they think is correct, goes wrong. So back to our bright and beautiful land, known only recently as the rainbow nation.
Long before that we sang at the top of our lungs, “All things bright and beatiful”, when I was little, I truely believed it was written for our country, which was so fair.
However it was written by a lady born in 1848, Mrs Cecil Alexander in Ireland; imagine that! My land of birth, no wonder I loved it so.
Click this link and Enjoy the pictures and the words of this childrens chorus.
Below are some pictures of the Basotho people of Lesotho, which borders on Natal, South Africa on the Drakensburg range of mountains.
If you would like to catch up on the other letters, here are the links below.