booksdefineme

the journey of a budding author

Today is the start of summer

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Today is the start of summer

If I could

I’d put today in a box

With all it’s flowers and perfumes

And sounds of birds

And gentle breeze

And lambent light

And send it to you wrapped up

In gossamer

And sealed with a kiss.

copyright Elaine Young 2012

11th October 2008

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Thoughts written somewhere in the NE Cape April 2003

As we hurtled along the road to Aliwal North I saw this chimney-piece standing desolate in the veld and these thoughts came to me.

Standing bleakly in a field, a chimney-piece bears witness,

A mute testimony that once a home stood there.

Smoke curled up that chimney with oven stoked beneath

So that the smell of baking filled the house

And love and comfort sheltered those who lived there.

It was a place where people cared and children laughed

And listened rapt while songs were sung

And stories told around the fire.

The walls that once held back the wintry gales are gone

And now the haunting wind moans and sings unhindered

On the desolate hearth.

Elaine Young

Memories of Childhood

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There was something irresistible about that summer dawn. It pulled us from our beds and into the pristine morning before the two younger ones could discover our plan and beg to tag along. As we slipped out of the sleeping house, there was a sense of expectancy in the very air we breathed, that spoke of Christmas soon to come and delicious adventures waiting around the next corner. The mist-wreathed world was ours, with no one stirring. We stood at the gate. Which way? To the left, the road led to the Koppies. They could wait for another day. We turned right, our faces kissed by the rising sun, our feet taking us wherever they would.

When we were growing up in Melville in the 50’s, we experienced a freedom unimaginable to children nowadays. We ranged far and wide, without parental supervision, nor were there questions asked when we came home.  We would disappear for the whole day with a picnic lunch to sustain us. We wandered over the Koppies, or trekked to the Zoo, or the swimming baths; we even investigated the echoing caverns of storm water drains, amongst other fascinating places.

This morning we were drawn to an open rock-lined storm water ‘sloot’ that ran at the bottom of the greengrocer’s vegetable gardens. We turned down Carlow   Road and climbed over the wooden railings that separated us from the tamed stream that trickled down towards a waterfall. This was not very high, but to my nine-year old eyes it was a precipice. However, there was scarcely any water flowing and we clambered down unscathed. This was the first and only time I ever went to this waterfall.

Below the waterfall, the stream was no longer a ‘sloot’ but a real stream full of dull brown rocks with sharp edges. We gingerly picked our barefooted way over these obstacles until we realised that we were entering a green tunnel of willows and the banks of the stream had risen to tower over us. Wondering where we were, we climbed cautiously to the top of the bank and peered over.

An amazing sight met our eyes. We had emerged in the middle of the golf course and there before us were acres of newly mown lawn, white with virgin dew. The sun was still slanting at a low angle through the trees, dappling the grass with golden rays, which turned the dewdrops into a scintillating carpet. It was fairyland!

You know that delicious feeling on opening a brand new exercise book on the first day of school, when you pause for a moment and then begin to write the first word on the first line of the first page? Well, this was like that. We paused for just a moment and then with whoops, we ran leaping and twirling and dancing heedlessly on the chill grass, making footprints where no one had walked before.

We had no thought of where we were, no thought that this great joyful space belonged to anyone but us. We were oblivious to the frantic barking of dogs nearby, until an angry voice halted us in our tracks. The golf course keeper. We had emerged from the stream not far from his house and our wild dance had taken place in full view of his windows. He called us over and gave us a dressing down. Not only were we trespassing on private property, he said, but also there was a real possibility of being killed by a flying golf ball. I hung back while Barbie and John, being older, took the brunt of the tirade. I couldn’t imagine that grown ups would even be up at this time, let alone out playing golf!

What an ignominious end to our adventure. Of course we could not go back the way we had come. We were escorted to the gate and banished, feeling some of what Adam and Eve must have felt being cast out of Eden. However it was not enough to tarnish the remembered delight of that perfect morning one summer long ago.

Memories of Melville: an addendum to this story

While I was writing this story I was reminded of what the area looked like.

When we first moved to 50 8th   Avenue, things looked very different to what they look like today. On the corner of 8th   street there was an old wood and iron house that had been abandoned. We thought it was a ghost house. We took some of the plants from the garden to put into ours.  Shortly after that the present neat little face brick house was built.

Further down 8th avenue, on the right-hand side was Mrs Lust’s house, also a wood and iron house with a big veranda. A huge loquat tree overshadowed it. Mrs Lust was an old German lady, a dead ringer for a witch if ever there was one. She had wild grey hair that mostly was pulled back into a bun, with a chin that seemed to meet her nose. I suppose that she didn’t like wearing her false teeth!  She was my friend Marie Haas’ grandmother.

At the end of the road, on the corner of what was then called Rustenburg road (maybe it still is) on the right was a huge field and in the middle of it was a low building that looked like a farm shed with a white gabled front. This was King’s Dairy. I remember the first time I was sent down there for milk, soon after we moved in to the new house, I thought that it said King’s Diary and so I didn’t go in. I didn’t have the courage to look in the door and make sure. I rather think I walked all the way up to <<<<<the top of the stairs to the dairy in Seventh   Street so that I would not look foolish. Later of course I got to know the dear old Zulu who worked in the dairy quite well. He used to call me Futi (short for Mafuta!!) Within a few years, this field became a petrol station with the workshops built with their entrance in 7th street. Facing on to the petrol station area was a Spar supermarket, probably one of the first ever in Johannesburg. This has also disappeared to be replaced by a modern block of offices with glass frontage that overhangs the road. It is so totally out of place in quaint Melville that someone described it ‘like giving an eighty-year old a boob job’

Across the road from the dairy was a small simple building that was a greengrocer run by a Portuguese. Behind this was an old abandoned flower Nursery that ran down to the stream. This whole area was flattened a few years later and buildings for Chamber of Mines Laboratories were erected there, as well as huge Keep Out fences. No possibility of wandering there anymore.

Years later, say in the mid-seventies or there about, mom and I went for a walk and we walked into the Chamber of Mines property which didn’t have a proper fence yet; it still had the simple wooden  rails on posts that it had always had.(Easy just to put a leg over) (me sitting on these railings) We were admiring the gardens. We even walked up the steps of the building, when a guard with a gun stopped us in our tracks and told us to move off. Some time later mom met a man who was somehow connected with the C O M and he told her that it was as well we didn’t try the door (as if we would!) because the guard had orders to shoot any intruders and that could have been perceived as intruding!!!

Across Carlow road was a similar building obviously the competition, a greengrocer also run by a Portuguese! This shop however had their market garden right there. It stretched down to the above-mentioned sloot. Afterwards, this little building was taken over by a Scout Troop and tennis courts were built and the gardens became a sports field.

The sloot is still there, running uncovered next to the ‘new’ section of Barry   Hertzog Avenue. Of course there was no need for the CarlowRoadBridge yet, and Carlow road was a narrow road that sloped down to the sloot that became a stream. There was a small bridge that spanned this. We used to go that way when we walked to the Zoo in Parkview The stream often smelled terrible. In those days, near the Gasworks there was a commercial Laundry that spewed its wastewater into the drains that fed the stream. Some things never change. If you look over the bridge you can still see vestiges of the old road.

The waterfall is below Oom Paul se Kop. I read recently that this was called Oom Paul’s se Kop because when said Oom Paul came to Johannesburg by ox wagon he used to water his cattle at this very waterfall!   It really wasn’t a beauty spot by the time we went on our adventure. It is not visible from the busy Barry Hertzog road just as it sweeps around to the first traffic light in Emmerentia. Mom said that squatters had moved in some time ago so it can only look a lot worse than it did then. This waterfall is not to be confused with the lovely fountain waterfall that courses over a rocky outcrop on the opposite side of the road. This was created by the Parks Dept. in more recent times.

Just a thought about Barry Hertzog (BH) Avenue. I think that before the new road was built, the road around the Koppies from Richmond, through Melpark and through Emmerentia was called Rustenburg Road. Then they built the section that went up to Empire Road from, I think it is Tana Road, and called the whole thing from the bottom of First Avenue Linden,  B H Road and left the section through Melpark still as Rustenburg Road.


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Paris

I am re-blogging this post for my daughter Natalie and son-in-law Steve who are basking in the beauty of Paris at the moment!

Old, yet still beautiful;

World-weary yet never tired.

You sing a siren song

To entice the unwary to your breast.

From the ends of the earth

They hear your seductive call

And come to drink deeply

Of the heady wine of your presence;

To eat at your table where

All their lusts will be fulfilled.

And when they leave

Unsatisfied

To you it matters not whether they stay or go.

A heartless mistress,

You blink your heavy-lidded

Eyes and turn away with

Careless lifted shoulder

As they depart with aching hearts

To dream forever of returning

One more time to

PARIS

Copyright Elaine Young 2012 http://wp.me/s2rKaK-paris


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No-one tells you that when you have a baby you sign up for life…

Motherhood

I once saw a video of funny moments in sport. One of the clips showed a rugby scrum moving powerfully, with the referee dancing around them. Suddenly the writhing heap collapsed sideways and the poor little ref. was buried under several tons of flesh. Since becoming a mother I know exactly how that poor little man felt.

You marry and the first thing people ask you after “How was the honeymoon?” is

“So when are you going to start a family?” As if it was their business but yet the pressure starts, quietly at first just the odd comment from foolish aunts and manipulative grandmothers who want to see their great-grandchildren before they die. You carry on your life, ignoring the growing insistence of the voices and that relentlessly ticking clock; children are a sign of blessing from the Lord, happy is the man whose quiver is full of them, you are told with arch looks.

Then peer pressure of the worst kind starts. Your friends fall pregnant. Your conversations which used to be filled with plans for interior decorating of the love nest and layouts of new gardens, and exotic holidays for two, now becomes filled with  complaints about morning sickness and visits to the gynae. Very soon you and your beloved succumb to all of this and look at each other and say: “Why not? Everyone else is doing it?” Without a thought for the consequences, you throw yourselves into the flow. It is amazing that one enters into the most life-changing experiences without even thinking twice. No one tells you that you are signing up for Life.

First Pregnancy is very like a honeymoon. You are caught up in the idea of Motherhood rather than thinking about what happens after.  You expect that babies will be just like playing dolls. You live through the discomforts which are sweetened by the planning and furbishing of The Nursery; you are amazed at the feelings that stir when you feel the flutters of life in your swelling stomach. You become aware early on, that inside of you there is another person, albeit a stranger, not just a growth, or a  new piece of yourself. You plan and dream, while you cuddle the new babies of your friends. You attend pre-natal classes and you pack your suitcase.

You wake one night with the sure knowledge that The Moment Has Come and shaking with excitement and nerves, you are rushed through dark streets to the hospital, screaming through red lights, Beloved almost hoping to attract the attention of some cop.

“I’ve always wanted to do that.” says your beloved, grinning.

After a long night and half a day of agony and pushing and puffing, you finally hold the sweet and precious cherub in your arms. Despite the pain, and newness of trying to feed her and the necessities of learning about changing nappies and bathing and coming to terms with the changes in your body, you are wrapped in an awareness of having done something marvellous. You have helped God with his creation and produced the most beautiful baby that ever lived. You feed her and wonder at the miracle she is; you stroke her soft cheek and examine her dainty hands and feet. Then she is whisked off to the nursery while you bask in the congratulations, surrounded by bouquets verbal and floral. The day comes when you can take her home, and your beloved carefully puts you both in the back seat of the car and whisks you home. You are surrounded by flowers and still in your imagination you can hear angels singing in pink fluffy clouds surrounded with bows and ribbons. Motherhood is so easy.

When you get home, your beloved says,

“I’m sorry darling; I have to go back to work. My leave only starts tomorrow.” The rat. You are left alone with cherub who begins to cry, and cry and cry. You change her nappy even though it is not necessary. Still she cries. Check for pins. She can’t be hungry. It is only eleven o’clock. She is only due for a feed at twelve. Something terrible must be wrong. In desperation you phone the hospital.

“Have you tried feeding her?” they say. You can hear the smile in the voice.

“But in the hospital, she was only brought for a feed at twelve…”your voice trails off.

“Try feeding her.”

Feeling very foolish you put down the phone. And feed her. The crying stops. For a while. And that silence is wonderful.

This when Reality rushes up to meet you. Soon you are convinced that every one conspires against you to conceal this reality from you so that you, too, will fall into the honey trap. No-one tells you about the sleepless nights or endless nappies. The crying doesn’t stop it seems, for six months. Then one day, she is passed that tiny baby stage. She sleeps through the night. She chuckles and smiles and pats your face. She spits porridge at you. You think that God made six-month old babies so cute in order to ensure the future of the human race. When the cherub is older and even cuter and you have forgotten about all the said sleepless nights and nappies, you have another one because she looks so lonely playing in the sandpit by herself. And it starts all over again with a second cherub. This time though, you are wiser and not so neurotic. You can’t  believe that the love you have for the first cherub can extend to another, but love is wonderfully elastic. It fits perfectly.

You will never be the same. You can never go back to who you were. You are on duty all the time. Sleeping late is a thing of the past. Even holidays are working holidays. The pay is lousy. You can’t resign either. The loo is no longer a haven. You will be sitting quite comfortably, trying to snatch a read, when the door (which you didn’t quite close) is flung back and children (yours and any visiting ones) and dogs invade en masse without a by-your-leave. There is no place to hide. Showers are all you ever have time for. The house always looks a mess despite your best efforts.

I once told a young mother-to-be that she should not work right through her pregnancy but she should take some time for herself before the baby’s arrival, because she would never be alone, ever again. She was angry with me because she felt I was being negative but on reflection I know I was right. If your children are not physically present, you are ‘haunted’ by them, with the God-given awareness that only a mother could have.

You live through many problems that you have to overcome using your own initiative and lots of prayer. Babies don’t come with a manual, so you make some dreadful mistakes. Everyone has conflicting advice and you weave your way through this, trying to be firm and not feel guilty about doing what you feel is right. If only you were given a crash test dummy to make those mistakes on, you wish, and then when you have totally wrecked it, and maybe learned a few things, only then should you be given a real baby. But God gave imperfect children to imperfect parents and amazingly you all survive.  One day you meet an old friend, who does not have children, and she chides you for not phoning.

“You are stuck in your Motherhood Comfort Zone.” she jeers.

“Comfort Zone!’ your voice rises hysterically. “Comfort Zone! I have never been so uncomfortable in my life!”  However, you have to grow up alongside your children, because there is nothing like motherhood to reveal just how childish you really are. That is not comfortable. And not so wonderful.

There is job-satisfaction with lots of fun and laughter too; more rewarding moments than not. Warmth and love with hatfuls of kisses and hugs and beautiful memories to make you forget the hard stuff. But that is Life. Nothing worthwhile is easy and Motherhood is very worthwhile. And it is Wonderful.

May 8th 2004


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Memphis Belle and other beauties

There it stood in all its shabby glory. Dull brown duco that had probably never seen a polishing cloth. A 1972 Chev Impala station wagon all 4 metres of it. Column shift gears, bench seats, it guzzled about 10 litres per 20kms. You could have played tennis on the bonnet. My emotions on seeing this wonder for the first time were indescribable.

We had just recently moved to Lonehill and in those days it was really in the country. We only had one car between us and I had just left a job as a book rep. which came with transport. A neat little blue Corolla in fact. When I was offered this position in an antiquarian bookshop in central Johannesburg I had made the provision of a car a condition of employment. It was a long shot, asking for a car. Maybe subconsciously I was hoping that he would refuse. He didn’t and I duly went to work there. Two weeks in, I still didn’t have the car despite the fact that I brought up the subject daily. He was a vague dithery rather artistic old man, and very difficult to pin down. Finally, maybe just to stop the nagging, the boss capitulated.

“My brother owns a used car lot. I‘ll asked him to find us something.” And that was that. A couple of days later, he came through to tell me that I could go with the driver to fetch the car. At last! I had almost given up hope and had been mentally composing my letter of resignation.

As we pulled into the car dealer’s yard in the dreary fastness of industrial Germiston, my heart sank. As we rounded the corner of the shabby office, my new transport awaited me. Not a neat blue Corolla. Definitely not.

I am only 5 feet tall and when I sat behind the wheel I couldn’t see the front or the back limits of this baby. Reversing was guesswork, and I never learned to parallel park her properly. The 3 gear column shift was so sticky I developed Tennis shoulder. And she would jump out of gear, while we were in the middle of rush hour traffic. Solly, the driver taught me a trick. I had to pop the bonnet and grab some object in the engine I never knew the name of, and violently jiggle it with both hands. Then slam the bonnet, jump in and hopefully be able to get home before I had to repeat the performance. Once this happened while Paul and I were on our way to a dance. We were driving through Braamfontein early one glorious summer evening. He was driving the car for the first time and really didn’t know what to do, so I hopped out in my evening finery and jiggled the Thing, slammed down the bonnet and as I got back into the car, I looked up and I realised we had an appreciative audience watching from the balconies of the building opposite. All I could do was wave!

Because of her great length I couldn’t park it in the driveway so it sat, large and inviting on the pavement. Were those days really so innocent? We had a stream of people asking if it was for sale, but it was never stolen. One day a man came, one of many, and when Paul saw him walk up the drive he guessed what the man’s errand was. So when he opened the door Paul just said, without preamble,

”No it’s not for sale!” and made to close the door. The man said,

“No, you don’t understand! Wait! Just hear what I wanted to say!”

Paul opened the door a bit wider, “O K what is it?”

“Do you want to sell the car?”

I suppose all this interest in this petrol guzzler was because it was in the days before Combi taxis came into fashion and because of their size Chevys and other generously proportioned cars were highly desirable, as their bench seats could be filled to overflowing with customers. Many times as I roared up the road, a pedestrian would put up a thumb without turning around and then be amazed as I thundered past them, at the sight of a white Madam driving a taxi.

How easy it would have been to steal her could be demonstrated by the following story. One day, I parked at the Bompas Road shops to buy veggies and when I came out I realised that I had left my keys in the ignition and had slam-locked the door. I went back into the shop and told the man my predicament, and asked him for a sharp pointed object, like the wicked blade he used for cutting pumpkin. He came out with me, convinced that I was crazy. Everyone knows you use a wire coat-hanger to open a locked car! Instead of trying to pry open the window as he obviously expected me to do, I simply put the tip of the knife into the lock and Voila! I’m sure I could have started the car with the same knife if I had had to! Now the shopkeeper knew he had seen everything!

Some cars are characters in their own right and this one was no exception. She had survived untold adventures in Zimbabwe before she landed up in that car lot. Maybe she had been driven down here by escapees from the early days of Uncle Bob’s rule in that country, who knows?  I suppose that if we had owned her, we would have named her. Maybe Memphis Belle would have been a good name, she was something of a flying fortress, but I left the company after six months and went into interior decorating. With mixed feelings I bid her adieu but she will always have a place in my heart.