39. Our first bought home at No 7 Leader Street Vanguard Estate from 1965 – 1972 (Part 2)

And then there was my sister Shirley, brother-in-law Manny Manim and the start of their brood of Anita, Helena, Bernard and Maria, plus my parents who lived at 43 Zenith Road. Because of our close living proximity, Joan and I visited whenever we could and encouraged our children to go over and play with their cousins. We also invited them to the numerous parties given at our home so that we could socialize, and them too with our numerous friends and our other families too, which saw my brother Paul and sisters Rita and Gertrude attending. Manny was a real inspiration and role model for all of my kids, and other kids in the neighbourhood, because of his dedication to encourage and teach different survival skills. My kids and others never missed a swimming, judo or callanetics session that saw them the fittest in the neighbourhood. He also prepared them for the hard-knocks of life by actually not only having them compete against other clubs, but also to have the best in those fields to come and give demonstrations of those skills. I can still hear my kids shouting those words of ‘Rei’ to bow before starting, ‘Hajime’ when beginning their judo fighting, ‘Ai’ when agreeing and ‘Yame’ to stop. When going to watch them it reminded me so much of my younger days when doing wrestling, boxing and weight-lifting in the school rooms of St Raphael’s under Mr James Battle who was a professional wrestler then. My sister Shirl (Shirley) was another kettle of fish who I always teased about her ‘looping rond’ (walking about), because others and I would bumped into her all over the estate, Welcome Estate and Athlone scurrying around like someone on a mission, and she was.  Her mission in life was doing good where ever she could even if not knowing those people because their dire circumstances counted to her. I think she invented fast food because I also use to tease her about her vinnage kos (fast food) the way she use to cook, which was like Jamie Oliver the TV cook in five minutes flat. Slice, slice, chop, chop into the pot with the whole bloody lot. I never partook of her culinary concoctions; however, her family all seemed to survive and looked really healthy for it. What she also loved to do was to have a chat with all and sundry and never minced her words or outspoken comments. One that will always stick in my mind is when she bumped into one of our aunts when shopping in Athlone and that aunt pulled out a photo to brag about. It was of that aunts niece in Canada who had married an African American, and Shirl’s to the point comment was that she might as well have stayed in South Africa and married an African, touché!

My mum on the other hand, which isn’t meant as a pun or a joke, had a lame one due to a stroke.  Didn’t stop her though from smoke, smoke that cigarette that we did together when going to visit her, plus getting me a glass to have a wee dram of whiskey of my dad’s stock that was supposed to stay hidden behind the dressing table in their bedroom, which we did when he was there too.  I loved my mum dearly but wouldn’t have wished her as a mother-in-law on any one because she had a barbed tongue that could spit venom like a cobra through innuendos indiscriminately at all in-laws. The problem as I saw it was that she loved her children to much and wanted to protect them by wrapping them in cotton-wool as she use to do when we were kids. Now on the lame hand that she used to move around with the other hand; funny, was really something to see. She use to place the lame hand onto anything she wanted to hold down, no not my dad but like ironing my dad’s clothes, or use it to wave goodbye by holding it with the good hand and flipping it in a wave; funny again. My dad was the main culprit in spoiling his grandchildren by popping in on his way back from Emdon Caterers to distribute to our kids delicacies obtained there and to visit with us, and then he would continue to the Manims, where he lived, and distribute the rest to Anita, Helena, Bernard and Maria. It was difficult then for outside communication by telephone into the estate, which only the babbies shop had one, especially for my dad who had to receive phone calls from Emdon Caterers for his type of work that depended some times for a day in advance. But thankfully Mr Adams, who lived in Zenith Road and had become a Justice of the Peace, was granted the first and only telephone in Vanguard Estate, which was convenient for my dad to receive messages conveyed to him by Mr Adams children or brought over by him. What my parents really enjoyed, which I think the neighbours didn’t, was that on New Year’s Eve I would set the children up with penny whistles, party noise blowers, a tom-tom drum and me with a bell that was used from our home in Leader Street to them in Zenith Road when the clock struck twelve. We also did the same thing but with a twist when the Springboks played the All Blacks at rugby, which saw is wearing the white leaf and waving the black flags with the white leaf motif on it, which I made, while walking to Zenith Road. My dad because he also preferred the All Blacks, and whiskey, would see the two of us downing a few while listening to the match on radio. Even today, down to my grandsons, we still love to watch the All Blacks in preference to the Springboks and Wallabies…must be the hakka!

We had great neighbours though that we could chat over the fence with, wave to from a distance, enjoyed each other’s company in our homes, go for outings together and attend braais and parties at one another’s homes. Never lived out of each other’s pockets, but if advise was sought we would lend an ear and give not lend if anyone was short of anything. In Leader Street were: #1 Wessels, #3 Reynolds; Children: Alex, Cecilia, Pearl, Ursula, Lorraine, Regina, Nathan, Sharon, Vanessa.  #5 Johnson, #7 Harold & Joan Lorenzo; Children: Christopher, Regina, Neil, Harry, Gregory. # 9 Price, # 11 Klein’s; Children: Kevin, Shawn, Lindsay. Eendrag Rd was: # Dyson, # Le Roux; Children: Charles, Paulette, Basil, Bonita, Mitchell, Danny, Adele, Ulrich, Garrett. # Flowers; Children: Dennis, Keith, Roy, Loretta, Mavis, Jean, Lorna, Vanessa. # Carelse, # Prince, # Claasen; Children: Lionel, Lester, Charmaine, Graham. # Basil & Florence Espin; Children: Mark.  # Rinquest on the corner. Crossing at Spar Rd; du Plessis, Ford, Fortes. Down Myn Rd were Roman, de Cock, Campbell, Newfeldt and Josias. 4th Ave back of Leader Street: Morgan, Meyer, Fourie, Pedro, # Robert & Noreen Newman; Children: Carol, Jean, Denise, Neil. # Vigne; Children: Michael, Bernice, Imelda.

The Newman’s had the greenest lawn in the whole neighbourhood due to Mr Newman divulging his secret formula to me when we were imbibing too much at a party of his. He had a drum in which he mixed cow dung with water and then added urine kept from his wife and his peeing in a chamber-pot at night that he occasionally added to that mixture; they must have drunk green tea to wee green pee. On Winter nights we use to rug up and car with a group of friends of theirs either to a beach  or a mountain-side area with blankets, grub, booze and instrument music, light a bonfire and really have good times together.

The Espins of Basil and Florence were our bestie friends though because of them living directly opposite us, which was a walk across the park and within cooee distance. I never possessed a car and couldn’t drive, but Basil had a Peugeot car in which his wife, Joan and I we went everywhere together. The two of us use to really booze it up in our homes or when going out to parties, and when coming from one we nearly came a cropper with the law. He was more out of it than me when driving us home and had begun swerving all over the road. Seeing a police car in the distance and warning him about it didn’t seem to register with him so I put my hand on the steering wheel to keep the car from wandering across the road. It must have been noticed by the police because they had slowed down as if waiting for us to catch up, which we did at a crawling space because he only then became more aware of what was occurring. Undercover of me still holding the steering wheel with one hand at the bottom of it while he had both his hands on the steering wheel also, I steered pass them, where by then they had parked on the side of the road to watch us, gave them a wave with the other hand, and that’s the way we drove home from there. Basil’s favourite recording was Frank Sinatra’s song of “I did it my way” that we would sing over and over again either sober or with a few drinks under our belts as we would belt it out without any consideration given to the neighbours. Basil and I were also responsible for starting the Vanguard Estate Ratepayers Association with the thought in mind of the betterment of the area and neighbourhood. Luckily for us the estate was only in its infancy so we were able to cope with the work involved to get it up and running. We had a good support from Mr Doman, School principal and Athlone City Councillor, who attended occasional meetings held at Saint Theresa’s School Hall, and eventually Doman Road in the estate was named after him. Basil was the chairman and I the secretary that saw us having to frank envelopes with the resident’s names, addresses and deliver them by hand for meetings. We had quite a few achievements in the areas of street lighting, scrub and tree planting, street cleaning, garbage collections and what kept our little neighbourhood safe was our instigation of a neighbourhood watch whereby groups of us men patrolled our streets weekend nights.

Does anyone remember the night of the 29th September 1969 and where they were at the time and doing what? Well I do, because it was when an earthquake that struck in the Tulbagh and Ceres area that was felt all the way to Cape Town. We were all in bed in our home in Vanguard Estate when I felt the earth move, no not that but factually as the house seemed to be doing that. It was when felling the constant tremble and the rattling of crockery that I jumped up and when to front-room window to peer out to maybe ascertain what was the cause. Seeing movement across the park at the Espins house with Basil bundling Florence and Mark into his car and speeding off made me think that something disastrous was happening because he was a cool and collected type of bloke. While going to round up my family, my thoughts wandered to what I had learned while overseas where earthquakes was an ongoing occurrences, and it was advised to seek shelter in the safest room in the house. Our bathroom been enclosed by the other rooms was to me the safest and that’s where I herded them all into, and prayed. When everything had quieted down and going to investigate, I found neighbours in their nightwear all agog about what had caused  that tremor which had scared the shit out of all of us, especially Basil. His story was that he was heading for the hills because of thinking to get to the highest point where they would be safer. We had quite a chuckle about that because on the Cape Flats, which is why it’s called flats because of the flat land, there was no higher ground than the many dotted mole-hills there. Where he actually landed up was at Rhodes Memorial on the sloops of the mountain where he stayed until felling it was safe enough to return home and relieve his tension with a good few brandies.

Our home had also then been increased by two more bodies in the shape of Joan’s mum and dad. Now these were in-laws that one would give your eyeteeth for because like since when I first courted Joan they hadn’t changed one iota in their loving tender kindness to one and all. When our children were little and we lived at their Ma and Pa Fisher in Woodstock, they were given every consideration that grandparents could bestow on them, and nothing ever seemed a burden as far as the children were concerned. They and the children were older with a lot of water having flowed under the bridge, but it seemed like all of us were still on that bridge watching together the water of life flowing in the same direction. It was also a pleasure having them living with us because not only of Pa taking over the veggie garden and getting the boys to assist and in teaching them a few gardening skills, but also of Ma with her culinary skills of doing the same in the kitchen with Joan and Gina. The two of them also enjoyed our parties given, which was something new to them because of never been to any before, and even though they would just sit and watch our over the top sometimes party exuberance, they enjoyed it as much as we did with almost permanent smiles and laughing. It was also at these parties that Ma took a liking to champagne shandies that she would never say no to refills, and Pa wasn’t lazy too for the cocktails that I mixed.

Although we frequently took the children to visit their cousins of the Manims, Rhodes, Fishers and Van der Byls, their neighbourhood friends were also in a close relationship with them. There were also outside the neighbourhood friends like Rodney Campher (Rotte) who was a friend of Nathan Reynolds and who became a friend of the boys. Rotte was a very colourful character who had known Nathan when they lived in Bridge Town and had also attended Saint Theresa’s School together. The thing is that although at first frequenting Nathan’s home, he then shifted over to ours not only because of the boys but more so for Regina that he seemed to be very sweet on.  But then again there were heaps of boys who felt the same way about her because she had become very feminine and attractive. Although Gina wasn’t much into book reading then, Rotte use to bring her books just so that he could be in her company and occasionally brought nibbles for the family to keep in our good books, but all in all he was a good friend and company for the children. He also at times brought his guitar around to entertain us with his playing of songs that we use to join in with the singing that the family loved to do because we loved to sing. Other times he would entertain the boys with unusual snippets of his life that took in everything from soccer to the many fights had with others in his neighbourhood of Bridge Town. It seemed that he could really take care of himself were street fighting was concerned, and when relating one of those, he would perform all of the actions relating to it with his favourite of stomping down with one foot, twisting the heel into the ground as if he was doing it to his opponent, with a loud exclamation of 26 cents…funny guy. He wasn’t a bad influence on the boys but they sure learned a few choice words from him, like when others annoyed him he would forewarn them by saying ‘jou kop sal lek’; meaning, your head shall leak, that is if he had to hit someone until their head would bleed. ‘Jou ma se linke tet skiet bullets’; your mother’s left tit shoots bullets, which was a favourite of Chris, as a putdown. He was also a crack at soccer that the neighbourhood boys and he played in the park opposite our home, which I refereed at times, and I also did for a church junior team. Rotte also had a peculiar walk as now seen by young Afro-American kids with a bit of swagger and a leaning to one side of the shoulder as if saying to the world watch out here I come, which I suppose  was his coping mechanism of having to live in a tough neighbourhood. And then there was another ‘boyfriend’ Eldred Maggott, who now lives in Canada, that when the first time came to visit me due to his been an apprentice where I worked, just kept on coming back after meeting Gina, and he too walked all the way from Bridge Town where he lived. But nevertheless, Gina’s bestie was Eleanor Peterson who also went to St Teresa’s School and church, the same as Nathan Reynolds and they both frequented our home.

Nathan was a dependable good bloke not only to his family, which must have been a pain in the arse surrounded and brow beaten by sisters, but also to my children who at times thought the sun shone out of that same arse. Don’t laugh, because although there were others in the neighbourhood that my children associated with, he was their main chommie (friend). Where you’re going I would say to them and they would say, to Norras. Yip, that was his nickname to them just as the rest of them all had nicknames if they really liked you. Chris was called either Kipper or pongo brown because of his farting, Regina was called Gina or Ginger, Neil was called Neila or Maletjie because of doing his nana at times, and Harry was called Haroldtjie because of also his smallness.  I used to like watching them from the front stoep while sitting there with a beet in hand while they played at cowboy and Indians in the then over-run grown bush in the park opposite us. Or else at times play hide and seek and on-on; similar to tag now, with childish shouting and laughter that use to get me smiling too. Norras at those times, I use to notice, was the prime target for the boys to get him to be the seeker or the chaser, but because he was such a nice guy he didn’t seem to mind because he always seemed to be enjoying himself. Did they have fights, yes, but with a camaraderie that didn’t continue into ill-feeling amongst them. Harry related one such incident when wanting to play with the big boys as he put it, and so did Norras to me. According to him, Haroldtjie used to bloody “be in the way” of us “big boys” plans! And Haroldtjie confessed to be a right whinger in trying to play with them and would continuously plead with a please, please I wanna play too. It seems the gentle, passive giant in the form of Norras just lost it one day and punched Haroldtjie in the midriff to shut him up because he wanted to take Norras on. He folded up like a bag of potatoes with the wind knocked out of his sails, which did the trick for all of them of sorting that out like real little gentlemen.

But all in all it not only sorted out the boys from the men, but it also built there characters for further growth, which wasn’t all that it set Harry’s direction in because he excelled at Saint Teresa’s School in all fields of his endeavours. He was one of those kids that had a flair for learning that was not only soaked up like a sponge but was also spurted out to all and sundry who differed from the taught subject. He use to have a field day with his teachers who he would rectify if their teaching so much as strayed one iota, which got him into strife but he also became their teacher’s pet for some reason or other. When in standard one though he came across another smarty as himself in the form of a girl by the name of Nicolette Van Driel, who gave him a run for his money. Nicky and Harry it seems according to what both have been conveying to me, due to Facebook’s ‘Im A Vanguardian’, is that there wasn’t only a fierce competition going on in the class room between them, but also a liking of each other between them. Could be because Harry use to tease her because of liking her and she use to get all girly about it and give him soft punches, which so I was told. It all came to a head that who was the academic intellect in the school when the School Inspector came around calling and landed up in their class. He must have found out through the principal and wanted to make a showing of it because of asking their teacher who was the best student  in that class between Nicky and Harry.  I don’t know and they don’t neither if the teacher was playing favorites seeing how Harry was a teacher’s pet, but she first looked at Nicky and then Harry, and pointed Harry out.  Now maybe also the teacher wanted to keep in the principal’s good books seeing how Nicky, in her wisdom, was combative with the inspector on sentence construction and contradicted him.  Now also as the story goes, the School Inspector gave the principal instructions to promote the two of them immediately to  standard two, but unfortunately it didn’t occur maybe due to the inspector having his five minutes of fame, recanted, or it got conveniently lost in the principals files. Now here’s a coincidence or was it fate, because that was Nicky’s last year at that school and so Harry’s too and both for different reasons. Nicky’s message to me; Harold, I meant to tell you that I left St Theresa’s after that one year, 1971. I then attended Primrose Park primary and gave the boys in class a run for their money. In particular, Ebrahim Rasool, who later became premier of the Western Cape and tried very hard to beat me, but that, is another story. And Harry’s story is that when he left Saint Teresa’s School in 1971 he boarded a ship early 1972 with the family to Australia and continued his schooling there in a completely different environment. What strikes me as strange though that after all these years is how those twos thoughts have come alive with recollections by just a simple hello, which just goes to show how long and far a friendship can last.

 

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Our daughter Regina receiving her Judo Competition trophy at Manny Manim’s Judo Club held at Saint Theresa’s Church/Hall, Welcome Estate.

 

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38. Our first bought house at No 7 Leader Street, Vanguard Estate, Cape Town, from 1965 – 1972 (Part 1)

 

When beginning to serve as an altar-boy at Saint Teresa’s Catholic Church at the age of 9 in 1942, it was just a little hall in the bush of Welcome Estate. The reason for me been there was that I would go with the priest of Saint Mary of the Angel in Athlone to assist at mass there because there were no altar boys there then. From Klipfontuin Road, up 5th Street into 4th Avenue was all bushes with an occasional wood and iron shanty scattered along the way on both sides. The whole of the area running from Klipfontuin Road and up Vanguard Drive on both sides was also bushed, with the only entertainment then on the right side of Vanguard Drive and Klipfontuin Road was a golf-course of sorts. An event that caught Athlone’s golfing enthusiast’s attention was when ‘Papwa’ Sewgolum, the champion Indian golfer from Durban, played a friendly against Gary Player the South African World Champion golfer there. It was packed and my sons and I went along, however, my son Neil almost caused a disaster when one of their golf balls landed at his feet and he picked it up. Poor kid he didn’t know any better, but they accepted my apology, had a drop ball and played on. That game must have been a warm-up to the 1965 Durban Golf Open where Papwa beat Gary to take the championship, which saw him banned from playing against white golfers.

Because of also before then when employed at S Stones and Son Furniture Manufacturers in Gunners Circle, Epping, I use to cycle back and forth from where we lived in Lincoln Estate onto Klipfontuin Road, all the way up Vanguard Drive and into Gunners Circle. Obviously there was no Vanguard Estate then, nevertheless, I had observed when cycling pass Welcome Estate that there was a hive of building activity occurring from 4th Avenue into the vacant land there. My further investigations let me discover, when finding out where and who to contact, that all applications were filled. My further enquirers when finding out that a deposit of 600 Rand was required, got me to go directly to my bank and withdraw that amount. Method in my madness, yes, because the first thing the next day I rocked up at the Government Housing Office with the cash in hand, handed it over and signed the paper-work then and there. Again my motto of sizing life with both hands eventuated into fruition because of knowing that everyone wouldn’t have that sort of cash handy. When been informed that our house would be at No 7 Leader Street I took a look and a circumnavigation of the area. There were houses on 4th Avenue, the beginning of Bronze Street, Goud Road and Zenith Road, Myn Road, Eendrag Road and Leader Street. My life seemed to have gone in a full circle then. My family and I then lived a street away from the church and school, as it was from Saint Mary of the Angels and Saint Raphael’s School in Athlone, a stone’s throw away from the bus route, as it was from Athlone Railway station, but still in the shadow of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head Mountain, and not with a back lot facing our backyard as in Athlone, but an immense park playground for the children directly facing our front door.

Moving into that basic built house in 1966 and to make it into a home wasn’t for the faint hearted because for most it was from scratch. There were no built-in kitchen cupboards, bedroom wardrobes or bathroom cabinets. Neither was there lawn, shrubbery or a pathway from the front door to the front gate only Cape Flats sand. That was my first priority because of the dust storms that would blow into house almost daily. The lawn I established by every day when walking the distance from Epping to Vanguard Estate, I would pull up and out runners of buffalo grass, which grew in profusion on the Cape Flats, and replanted them in the garden. Constant watering got them to also growing in profusion and so did the weeds. In any case I had a plan for them through my four children who became my weeders with a little bit of incentive by offering them ten cents for every fifty pulled out. The youngest, Harry, thought he had earned a fortune when showing me the amount he had weeded the first time, but unfortunately he was very disappointed when finding they had to be pulled out roots and all. Next I tackled an area that I had left not grassed against the back fence for a vegetable garden, however, because of the sandy loom it had to be well fertilized and garden soiled. Problem, no problem because in that area there were still cows in paddocks and cow manure was freely available. Now I didn’t own any mode of transport then but I had built my sons a billy-cart that wasn’t only used for their enjoyment but for also going to pick up the cow pats. We grew a row of mielies (sweet corn), then tomatoes and in front a row of green beans, which supplemented our veggie intake. Right beside the garden patch in the garden corner was a large Mimosa tree, and in front of that was a huge indentation in the ground that must have been left just like that when they dug for sand to fill up in the house foundation, in any case it did us well when it was overgrown with the grass as a relaxing spot in the tree shade. I also built a South African braai (barbeque) of a pit-hole in the ground, bricked-up and with a metal grill on the top, at the back of the house. And because that didn’t sit right on its own, I constructed and affixed wooden trellises, which the timber strips were offcuts from work, on either side up against the house back wall.

The next on my agenda was the path from the front stoep to the front gate that turned into a bit of comedy drama. When walking around the estate where they were building more houses going hell for leather, I noticed quarter and half bricks that were scattered around and seem discarded. So been the bright spark that I was, on going home I told my eldest son, Chris, to take the billy-cart and to pick up any that I explained to him what he could pick up. He scooted off and came back with quite a load; however, he also came back with an African watchman who was trailing him at a fast pace. Waiting at the front gate and seeing this happening, I indicated to Chris to pick up speed in the hope that the watchman would let it be. While Chris continued at break-neck speed down Leader Street into Eendrag Road and then into 4th Avenue, the watchman slowed down and approached me. Wanting to know what my game was in that child coming to pick up bricks, got me to tell him that it was only throwaway ones that I wanted to use in a pathway. It didn’t at first cut the ice with him because Chris had also taken whole ones that he didn’t think he should have taken, On the other hand, when handing him a bottle of wine as a pacifier, he told me to tell Chris when coming around again to first come and see him. Chris by then had circled into Myn Road and back into Leader Street, and that is how I got my footpath laid, which just goes to show that it isn’t what you know but who you know. My other brainwave idea was to construct a bench for the front stoep so as to sit and admire my handy-work, but in preference to timber I went bush and cut branches to suit that turned out pretty rustic and admired. Thinking that I could rest on my laurels was not yet to be because my wife, Joan, envisaged a trellis on the stoep to make it an enclosed porch. No sooner said than done made again from timber strip offcuts from where I worked, and then to make it pretty, she planted climbing roses that eventually entwined through it.

Now before all of this eventuated there was the settling of the children into a new environment for their well-being. Saint Theresa’s RC Primary School in 4th Street Welcome Estate was the one down the road from us that saw Christopher, Regina, Neil and Harry attend there. The school principal then was Sister Mother Superior Mary Agnes and nun teachers there also was Beatrice Malunga and Muriel Roodt who I went to school with at Saint Raphael’s School in Athlone. There was also the teacher Mr Reinhardt who was the movie man for Saturday matinee movies in the school hall. I use to go with the children at times because of the rougher element that were there too, but what made all of our day at one of those movies was when my son, Christopher, who had a habit of farting at ease, let off a rip-roarer during the movie and one of those shouted out for him to ‘hou jou poep in jou hol’ (keep you fart in your bum).  Another episode toward their well-being was when the first time they ventured to go play in the park opposite our home on the playground swings there, and were bullied by a group of boys and chased away. On coming home to tell me this, I took them to the back garden, pulled out and gave each one a tomato stack and told them to go back there and hit and kick the shit out of them, which they did. They had plenty of chommies (friends) from then on in after the word got around in the neighbourhood of not to mess with the Lorenzo boys.

 It also did them in good stead with the Welcome Estate toughies who tried it on with them, especially when going to the shop and been challenged for their purchasing money, and other kids that they would also put a stop to of them been robbed. There was one bigger than Chris that lived opposite the babbies (Muslim owner) shop on 4th Avenue who seemed to be the leader of a gang that he and his mates had roughed Chris up when he was alone. Now this same bully where he lived had occasions to have the police raid there home for the cultivation of dagga that they grew freely not only in their backyard but also in their front garden. However, Chris showed him a thing or two when he happened to walk pass our home with his father one day because I stopped both of them to tell his father about what had occurred. His father listened, but when asking me what I was going to do about it and I told him that the two of them should have it out then and there without his sons friends been a backup for him, he had a smirk on his face because of his son been bigger than Chris. Nevertheless, the father had to call a stop to the walloping Chris was dishing out. Now here’s why, Manny Manim, my brother-in-law, conducted a judo class at the St Theresa’s Church Hall where all of my children were enrolled in and they had become very good at defending themselves against just those type of toughies. Needless to say the word spread around there too to tread softly around the Lorenzo boys. One more episode about Chris that bears mentioning was when he broke his shin while playing soccer but never told us about it and rather limped around as if everything was fine. On the other hand or should it be on the other foot, when he began dragging his foot behind him that we took him to hospital where they had to reset it and put it in plaster. Now any other child would walk around with a crutch until it healed, but not our Chris, he was not only riding his bicycle with the plaster on with one leg stretched out in front of him but also playing soccer in the park with his mates. Any other child would also go back to the hospital to have the plaster cast removed and for a check-up, but not him, because he used a knife to cut the cast off that looked like something the cat would drag home and a dogs breakfast all rolled up in one with blackened bits hanging off it.

And then there was our second child, Regina, known as Gina, who although all girly became a Tomboy due to her three brothers rough and tumble influence. Played cowboys and Indians, soccer, the Three Musketeers sword fighting, rough-house wrestling, and judo and even followed the boys on to the top of the roof where they would play Superman and jump off. She came a cropper on that one though because she was at that time going through puberty and the constant jarring had caused her to bleed, which became another hospital case. One thing the boys didn’t care about her though was her spying on them and then telling the mum, especially when peeping through the toilet keyhole when they were in there and then shouting out that they were playing with their willies. She was a damn good baby-sitter and little mother when along came our fifth child, Gregory, whom she adored and eventually he followed her around like a little puppy and she became my little girl again away from the boys influence.

Neil was next in line with his love for creepy-crawlies and his mother’s stubborn streak of wanting to do it his way or take to the highway. He had this scorpion that he had caught and he would feed it all type of caught bugs, especially the caterpillar-worms that would crawl in that funny way of arching its back in the centre as it moved along. Always wondered what he was doing in my vegetable garden and had to chase him out of it until discovering that he was actually doing a good job of picking off the bugs that he fed his scorpion. Although all of our children loved their pet dog Spotty, Neil was the only one that cried when she was run over by a car driven by stupid neighbour who lived in Eendrag Road and was always speeding, whose name I won’t mention because he was an arsehole and even had the audacity to say that dogs should be kept indoors. Neil was actually the one to see it happen and to come and tell me, and because she was still whimpering and nothing else could be done to save her, I phoned the police who came to cease her suffering by firing a bullet to her head, which is what they did in those days. And then I got them a larger dog, Rusty, that became not the scourge but a scrounger of the neighbourhood because he was such a placid and docile dog that everyone would not only pet him but also feed him titbits. He was also a great leaper and would clear not only our fence but also the park upright-metal fence that enclosed the playground equipment when our children were playing there on the swings.  

Harold came next, but when little was called baby-Harry so as not to confuse the issue because of my name been Harold and my father’s name was Harold too and he was called Harry. Now baby-Harry was the cutest and knee-high to a grass-hopper in the family, which he still is and would love to be taller, but he loved to sing just like Jeremy Cricket. He seemed to have the same go as I did when a kid in school concerts because he too was singing his little heart out on stage, and one of the crowds favorites was ‘Edelweiss’ from the ‘Sound of Music’. He also had a very good memory and still has, which must be like me with a photographic one, because when writing this he was able to fill me in on bits and pieces that had escaped me because of not experiencing it. Something that he remembered, which I think still annoys him, was when there was a drawing competition at the school to draw a picture of the St Theresa’s Church and he submitted his, it was torn up and discarded because he was told that it had been drawn by me. Oh by the way, the teacher who did that, he is still a very talented artist as is all of my children thank you very much for nothing. And there was also his recollection of an incident of how a Muslim kid, who had the biggest head in the neighbourhood and he use to tease him about it, got Harry in the park when he was alone there, and with his family to hold Harry down, got the kid to sit on him and head-butt him repeatedly until he saw stars. Harry reckons he had headaches for days after but it was sweet revenge when Chris, Neil and he confronted the big-head kid where Harry used his judo skills to throw him time and time again to the ground until he had said he had enough…Yeah! Something else that amused me and has been confirmed by the rest of my brood is when I gathered them all together to tell them about the birds and the bees, which is the way they said I put it. It seemed that Harry, who was baby Harry but because my dad has died he now bears the mantle of Harry, made the comment of why then the neighbours next door who were married didn’t have any children like we did. And my rather left-field answer, as they put it, was that I said that maybe he masturbated too much, and I think confusion must have rained amongst them, then.

And then there was Gregory who was the only one born there and was six years younger than Harry; well we had to baptize the roof when Joan and I moved in and then we had him baptized at St Theresa’s. Now because all of our other children had been delivered by Midwife Nurse Gow-Kleinschmidt of Athlone, we wanted the same for Greg. However, because of not been connected to a phone I had to bike it to her home to forewarn her so that her son Gown could motor her to our home. With Greg there was a complication of him been turned in the womb when it time for his delivery so I had to assist the nurse. The nurse on instructing me to put one of Joan’s legs over my shoulder while she did the same with the other one, made me realize why, because Greg’s baby head when it protruded out was the largest I had seen of the other children. It was also Joan’s most difficult delivery because she tore in giving birth to him.  But maybe that was why he was never a difficult child or then again maybe because he was the youngest and everyone just loved him to pieces. It was fun just watching him tag around with his siblings and try to do what they did, which got him underfoot most times. His siblings had also forgotten the idiosyncrasy they all had when little by wanting to hold any bit of their mother’s clothing against the side of their face when sleeping, and couldn’t believe what he was doing was the same as them. On the other hand, he had one up on them because he used his hand when been feed to hold and rubbed the earlobe of the one giving him his drinking bottle. His was also the biggest party given in our home when he turned one year old. The neighbourhood kids had an afternoon one so that their parents could jol (party) at the night one, and family, neighbours and friends rocked up to rock the night away. There was my Uncle Johnnie Rhode of Johnnie Rhode Fisheries of Athlone, who brought his music of guitar and piano accordion, Andy Weichtman manager of Beverley Hotel, Athlone, who was Greg’s godfather and supplied heaps of booze, the van der Byls, Fishers, Espins and  Newman’s, who contributed foodstuff and the rest who made it a night to remember.

Last but not least, Joan who was the rock of Gibraltar through all of that and the glue that held everything together. There weren’t many in the neighbourhood then that I knew of who had five kids, especially four boys who could run one ragged. She really had fantastic coping skills and knew how to use cheap child psychology on them when wanting to get things done her way and not theirs as most kids tried to do. They had a great respect for her, as I also did, because manners was everything to her that showed when they were at others homes, and when meeting up with parents the would sing the praise of their good behaviour. I knew for a fact that when they were at children’s parties or at school functions were eatables were concerned, they would stand back until asked to help themselves in comparison to other kids who would rush and grab whatever was in front of them without been invited to do so, which was what we were told by parents and teachers alike. Saw this for real though when we gave our first children’s birthday party for one of our children, and there was many more because each child had their chance because we didn’t believe in giving anything for and to one child only. The kids in the neighbourhood loved to come to our parties because we put a lot into it to make it enjoyable and memorable. Joan been a damn excellent cook would make the electric stove buzz with activity as all type of delectables would come off the hotplates and out of the oven. She loved making her own stuff instead of buying it in, and that’s why we ate like kings almost every day with her culinary delights that made us at times come back for seconds. And that’s why too the neighbourhood kids looked forward to our next birthday party plus the entertainment thrown in for good measure. We had egg and spoon, three legged, low hurdles, zigzag and piggy-back races plus musical-chairs, tug-a-war, blind-mans-bluff and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey that had prizes for every event and even for the losers because we thought that every kid was a winner. Joan’s exemplary housekeeping was another of her attributes that she took the time to teach the children that and cooking, that became a sort of life-saver for her as they became handy in helping out around the house, which has also paid off for them even now.

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“We Are Family” Neil, Harry, Joan & Greg, Gina, Chris…And Me.

 

 

37. My Inroads Into The Workforce As A Landlubber When Leaving The Merchant Navy.

With the insight of the freedom experienced in other parts of the world, my main aim and endeavours were to find some way for my family to have a free and unrestricted life as not experienced in South Africa. My first function establishing myself ashore was to obtain employment at Lansdowne Hotel in Claremont as a barman, which was obtained through my connections with Mr Nicks of the Athlone Hotel. Here too it was again dealing not only with the elite type of customers but also the rough, tough element of society from Lansdowne and Claremont. You had to have hair on your teeth and balls to go with it if wanting to keep a lid on your bar and the rowdy ones. When taking over that bar I established rules that had to be adhered to or get tossed out by the ear, actually. I didn’t tell them how to dress or what unsavoury language wasn’t allowed because I wouldn’t then have had many customers. However, three rules applied; to leave their weapons with me when entering, which I did a spot search occasionally, no smoking of dagga (marijuana) on the premises, which I knew there was a seller doing that, and all physical fighting was to be taken outside, which there were some beauties. Growing up in Athlone and associating at times with the ‘skollies’ there and in District Six, gave me an insight and understanding of them and them of me. What also did me in good stead was my youthful art of self-defense learned and at times my rough and tumble in bars overseas when in the Merchant Navy. Yes I tossed quite a few out on their ear at the bar for ruckus behaviour when it didn’t sit right with other customers.  In any case when they returned to ask forgiveness with a please Mister Harry it was always accepted until it happened the next time again. I also ran a slate (drinking on tick) whereby squaring the account up on pay day suited the bread delivery drivers who were regular daily costumers after doing their bread runs. Plus there was also a fafee (Chinese gambling numbers game) runner who took numbers from customer on a daily basis, and while waiting would run up a tab that he would square on Saturdays. Now because I worked the morning shift, lived in Woodstock, the China-man that ran the fafee lived in Gympie Street in Woodstock, and to save the runner of going all the way from Claremont to there, I use to take the numbers played plus the monies to the China-man, which earned me some bucks. Another something I did during quite times in the bar was to sketch and draw my customers with their permission.  And then draw funny cartoons around it depicting their type of life-style with captions, which they saw and were agreeable with, that I put up within my bar area. The owner liked that because it attracted more clientele through the customers bringing their friends in to view them and they also became customers. The ‘rookers’ (rough tough guys) of Claremont really took a liking to me because when having a ‘gang’ jol (party), I was asked to operate not only their bar but to also join in with them, and it also extended to braai’s and birthday parties. The thing that struck me was the respect shown to their women no matter what a hard time they were given by them, and then it would be a bokkie (sweetheart) this and a bokkie that.  The only ‘problem’ was that were females there that wanted to be my bokkie too, but because of wanting to keep my peepee (penis) in my pocket and because those guys didn’t like anyone messing around with their stukkies (women), I rather kept my hands in my pockets and played pocket billiards.

Then after one year in working in that position I was promoted to Off-sales Assistant. That position though eventually turned into a nightmare for me. Part of my after hour duties; off-sales closed then at 6pm with no weekend openings, so I had to check all incoming returns from deliveries off two vans and three delivery bikes plus all float-monies and cash received from customers. Now bear in mind those were the days in South Africa when Oom Tas and Virginia fortified wine was  bought by the 3 and 6 gallons, and so was Libertas sweet wine with an also ran Commando Brandy in 3 gallon jars by all smokkel (shebeen) houses. I was also in charge of the liquor order books on which I had a permanent list of all the Pangs and Sissies (Men and Women) of the smokkies that I would write up their liquor orders two weeks in advance in. Now the reason for that was because there was also a daily restriction so it had to be stretched out over time so that when the books were inspected by the Liquor Board there would be no discrepancies for Hotel Management to be fined or lose their liquor license. The smokkies were also business savvy because of bottling those down with an addition of water, which none of you smokkie customers would have known about when consuming it there instead of takeaway bottles that were bought sealed, or diluting the sweet wine with fortified wine per bought bottle.  Another of my duties was to see that the empty jars returned corresponded with the ones deliver or the customers would be charged for the ones not returned on their next delivery. And then there were also the delivery boys who were always looking to make a quick buck on the side because of been skelm (thief). Hell they were dealing with a professional who knew all the sleight of hand tricks that they tried to implement. Trying to replenish to customers their order of liquor that was supposed to have fallen off the truck or bicycle and broken while on delivery didn’t cut the mustard with me.  Especially if the returned jar or bottle’s seal wasn’t intact on the neck of it, which the liquor distributors would then replace gratis. This is what they use to do in cahoots with smokkies. They would occasionally crack open the jars of wine or brandy bottles at the smokkies in a bucket that would be fine sifted of all glass and then re-bottled for use. If successful in receiving another one gratis, they would split the value difference.  I did think it was clever what they did, well I thought it was, and at times would let them get away with it because they were overworked and under paid. Now I wasn’t a mister-goody-two-shoe either, because been in that position I was very aware that the firm was making a killing in their turnover by ripping off the public in subtle ways, so I did too. They never paid me any over time when having to wait late at night for the return of the deliveries, so I never paid for any booze after that because I would knock off from their stock to supplement my liquor stocks when knocking off at night. I mean to say I was the one to do their monthly stock taking and I sure knew how to cook the books in my favour as they did theirs.

Then one Friday night I really thought my goose was going to be cooked when I was held up at gun point in that back-yard. I had consolidated the receipts and monies that had balanced, packed it in the canvas bag provided, locked up the store and was going towards the back gate when a figure emerged from the shadows. Thinking at first that it was the manager of the hotel coming to check up if everything was all right, wasn’t, because it was an African brandishing what I thought to be a gun and demanding me to hand over the canvas bag. My nightmare had begun. In a situation like that I was no hero so I handed it over with my heart beating ten to the dozen. In that split second when he stepped out of the shadows to take the bag I recognized him to be one of our former employees who had been a cleaner there. Not wanting to show any recognition of him in case he would have taken it further, I waited for him to leave and then hastily made for the hotel where I reported the holdup to the manager. The police were called in and they searched and inspected the premises but were unsuccessful in their endeavours.  The next day I was again interviewed by a detective from Wynberg who strangely enough surname was also Lorenzo, which I found out later was a distant relative, that wanted the full description of the gunman and if I would recognize him if seen again. I had seen and known the cleaner for the year of  my working there as a barman and had at times chatted with him, so I had no doubt that it was him because of him also knowing the layout of the hotel and its workings, which I confirmed to Detective Lorenzo. Then out of the blue the next day he came back, while I was at work, with the owner, to advise me that they had arrested the cleaner and that I was to go with him to a line-up so as to identify him. To me this wasn’t part of my job description and it must have shown because the owner poured me a double shot of brandy to ease my nerves.  In those days you didn’t stand behind a one-way mirror to identify a miscreant but right there face to face.  When told to identify him by stepping forward and touching him on his shoulder I had no doubt that it was him. However, because of his slightly hung head and feeling sympathy for him I voiced that I was sorry.  Now here’s the thing that really perplexed me because I was again interviewed but by a different detective who wanted to know if I had given the right description of the gunman, with also the remark that the Africans all looked the same to him, because the cleaner had a water tight alibi that they couldn’t break. Well to me enough was enough and I sort better pastures to break away from there.

Because my thoughts had been along the lines of going back into the furniture trade I began making inquiries for the possibilities of it. However, because of wanting to ease myself into it due to my long absence away from those skills learned, I searched for employment in which I could do that. My employment as a tradesman was at S. Stone and Sons in Gunners Circle, Epping, where they manufactured show-wood and upholstered lounge suites, tables, chairs, beds and mattresses. Like on the merchant navy I took to it like a fish to water although having been that long out of the trade. It was almost like riding a bicycle where you never forget how, and it all came flooding back. Management noticed my quick grasp of the intricacies of the vast amount of various furniture modules that were assembled, and the different methods employed by me for a proficient expeditious output. Through proving my versatility in all facets of manufacturing I was soon promoted to charge hand, and it eventuated because I was adamant to make good my resolution to Joan to be trustworthy in all of my endeavours.

The upholstery section in a complete separate division and building of that vast factory was on a bonus system, but he wood machining and assembling sections, which were in a different section but in the same building, were not. The upholstery sections output was exceeding the assembling sections because of their bonus incentive, and down time by them was not fulfilling orders. I was not aware of that set of circumstances until approached by management who inquired where my dexterity and efficiency in my work methods had been acquired. My relating how saw me in the owner’s office where I had to again reiterate that my seven years in the merchant navy had been one of self-discipline, adjust-ability, competence, quick-wittiness and no procrastination. He then advised me that the assembling section was the bottleneck that was holding up ongoing production in the upholstery section, and that the employment of further workers in other sections would eventuate if the assemble section was introduced to an incentive bonus system. That to me at first was an unrelated solution. His further interpretation though was money music to my ears, and when he suggested that I take a crash course in its execution to familiarize myself with the concept that I readily accepted.

When having accomplished that, my permission was requested to stop watch time me on timber component parts assemble to its completion of a timber framed lounge suite after management first explained to the assemble section what its format was for. There were those who embraced it because they saw the benefits for its introduction, and there were others who it was unacceptable to because they were tardy in their work ethics. That led them to involve the shop steward who at their insistence tried to negotiate a wage increase instead for increased production. Knowing that if that occurred we who were the diligent workers would still be the only ones to produce at an increased capacity, and that the rest would be also reaping the benefits at their slack pace, I conferred with the upholstery section. I discovered that a more substantial wage could be earned through the bonus system than receiving a pittance increment, and that even with overtime reduced, which had become a necessity in our section to try an alleviate the bottleneck, the bonus system would compensate for that. With all that information gathered, I passed it on to those who indicated to the positive aspects. On the other hand, it all came to a head while the others and the shop steward were still pushing for an increment. I indicated one afternoon at knocking off time when we were as usual into overtime, that my time with my family was more precious to me than working overtime, packed up, clocked out and had more than half the workers do the same. Doing that two afternoons in a row saw the shop steward blow up, resign for having been undermined as he put it, management introduce a bonus system, the industrious reap the benefits, the slack arses leave, and I excelled by becoming the highest paid incentive bonus worker. It was a Godsend because I purchased a house in Vanguard Estate soon after.

S. Stone and Sons were shipshape though as when been on the Merchant Navy, and the assemble section was in full production and operating like a well-oiled machine with me in charge. I also received an award for the most outstanding worker for that year, and the only one in my section to be requested to work at overtime in the upholstery section when backlogged with orders before the Christmas holiday period. Also, I was selected to construct a dis-mountable complete new stand of lounge room size with interior and exterior fixtures for upcoming furniture shows in all main capital cities of South Africa. The firm was also progressing in leaps and bounds, and had bought over a kitchen cabinet manufacturing business. The amalgamation of the two saw staff and workers transferred where appropriate needs were required, and the owners having to divide their time to their new commitments and to travel overseas to procure diverse furniture designs. That resulted in the owners employing a Production Manager with qualifications direct from England. What they didn’t know and realize then was that his impeccable references didn’t state that he was adept at manipulation.

As soon as they left him in complete control while away, he had his home completely renovated with timber fixtures, fittings and furniture by conning those who were involved in it’s manufacturing that it was part of his employment deal. He next utilized his new found authority and to cover his tracks by installing one of his mates as manager of the woodworking and assemble section. The consideration of that was to dismiss the charge hand in that section and myself so that he could show the owners on their return that he had reduced costs, and not for us to be there for the obvious reasons. Of course reasons also first had to be obtained to dismiss both of us, and that’s when his contrived scheming came again into operation. The wood machining charge hand told the manager to stick the job when told he was to become a working charge hand, with me though they tried a different approach. The manager advised me that the Production Manager had come to the conclusion that my section was over staffed and I had to pick three workers that were to be dismissed. Nobody had ever been dismissed at that firm and I reminded him of that, and also advised him that my position as a charge hand didn’t carry that authority and that either he or the Production Manager should do the honours. I was dismissed for insubordination.

The following months saw me employed at Louw and Halverson in Cape Town’s docklands in the capacity as a shipwright, until being told by a follow worker that the owners of S. Stone and Sons had been inquiring to my whereabouts, and to pass on the message to get in touch with them. I couldn’t for the life of me see what benefit would be derived from that as my earnings were applicable when employed there, and I had already been selected by the foreman for intricate, difficult boat customers tasks, which were challenging and rewarding. On receiving a second invitation my curiosity was aroused. I was received with courtesy and friendliness by the owner who after having coffee ordered for both of us proceeded to inquire about my well-being and employment in the boat building industry. While relating all of the positive aspects he waited with decorum until I had finished. He must have known someone who was or had been employed at boat building because he described all what he assumed was the negative features.

He knew about the strenuous lifting, maneuvering and machining of solid jarrah timber used for the construction, and the laborious chip adze trimming of the boats framework ribs and any excess boat construction overlaps. The labour intensive work of planking the boats exterior while dangling over the side of it in a swaying bosuns chair as the boat bobbed on the water. Decking the complete boats deck while bent over continuously and to wood-plug all the screw holes in the beating down sun or rain in the same position. Constructing hatches while either dangling by a safety harness or balancing precariously on cross beams while struggling with a heavy-duty electric drill gun to bore twelve inch deep bolt bore holes through the hatch into the deck so as to secure them, and while trying to maintain ones footing at the same time so as to not plunge down in the bowels of the boat. All in that order; yet, to me that had been the easy part. I had done all of that, was past that stage of initiation that gauged my capabilities, and was then working on the finer features of the boats that required preciseness and quality that would satisfy the customers, and was due for a forthcoming increment that I retaliated with. His request that I consider coming back because the firm required someone with my capabilities and expertise made me ask the question of why then was I dismissed in the first place. He answered my question with the question of what the reasons were for the Production Manager to dismiss me. He saw my surprise and puzzlement, and when asking to summon him to the office so that I could tell him to his face, he smilingly said that it wouldn’t be possible for he had dismissed him and related the very reasons that I was aware of.

When telling me that I had been unfairly dismissed and that the firm needed a role model like me to encourage and motivate the rest of the workers as I had done before, the first thing that came to mind was that he was offering me my charge hand position back. I was sorely mistaken; for he went on to fill me in on an act just passed by the Afrikaner National Government whereby all authoritative positions had to be replaced by a White. If employed there again, an Afrikaner who had been one of my workers and a dumb one at that who had to be spoon feed was going to be my ‘baas.’ Telling the owner that it would be impossible to work under those conditions and why, and at a reduced wage, caused him to negotiate a compromise. Now because he wanted me to motivate the workers discretely by my example into a better work ethic and to aid the Afrikaner with my wood working knowledge in the same manner, I returned there after he offered me my former charge hand wage as an incentive for part of the deal.

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Lansdowne Hotel, Claremont, Cape Town, now.
Right – the White and non-white bars. Left – the White and non-white liquor off-sales.
The holdup occurred at the back of the hotel.

36. My Last Merchant Mariner World Travels Wherby Stricking A Blow Against The Then Apartheid Discrimination Policies.

In Cape Town I had sneaked a peek at our sailing and consignment orders in the captain’s quarters, which was an expected procedure from the Captain’s Tiger, so as to discretely inform the crew that our next destination was to Europe. Our first port of call was in Belgium when sailing from the North Sea up the Scheldt River through the locks to the seaport of Antwerp. Its harbour that stretched from the Dutch border to near the city centre was the only one that I had ever seen around the world with so many docks, cranes, warehouses, and railway lines that lead from the industrial area directly to the loading yards onto the wharves. The city too was an amalgamation of impressive Gothic architectural cathedrals with churches, statues and museums. Also, cobbled lanes that lead to open squares from which tucked away in allays and backstreets of gabled houses and terraced cafes, enough restaurants and bars of every description. And to add to all of that, the world’s largest diamond cutting industry that operated in discreet but shabby looking shops by the Jewish population, and also the red-light district, which was Belgium’s largest, where women sat framed in red lights in the Schipperskwartier (Sailors quarter) that was inundated with clubs. Because of the seven hundred or so breweries in Belgium, it had the distinction of being the only country in the world with a quality or quantity of an array of about eight hundred beers, and because almost every beer had its own glass, which they maintained that the shape of it affected the taste and aroma, I left with quite a collection of them to add to others collected from around the world. The beer took nothing away from their gin that was brewed with Genever (French = juniper) that had about two hundred and fifty different brands. However, my taste buds picked out the one that I found the smoothest in Oude (Ancient) Genever contained in earthenware bottles and that packed a wallop after only a few served in a tall shot glass that had been cooled in ice, which was how it was served. The volume of alcohol produced in that country also saw an abundance of waterholes at every conceivable venue, and with all that types of liquid drinks it wasn’t a wonder that the national symbol of Brussels, also in Belgium, was Mannetje Pis; a statue of a little black boy cheerfully peeing at a fountain, which when obtaining a souvenir of it was added to my collection.

Something that I didn’t have to add to my assemblage from around the world was one of the two states languages that constituted the country of Belgium. One was Walloon where French was spoken and the other Flemish that was spoken in Flanders, which was where my grandfather Bill Dodgen had given his life for king and country in World War 1. I had been looking forward to visit the Flanders Battlefields so that I could maybe visualize and get the feeling of how it must have been when he was there knocking off the Jerrie. One could see still see where trenches would have been and pock mark indentations of where bombs had landed although grown over. So many soldiers’ grave-sites that brought tears to the eyes at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, and more so when the ‘Last Post’ at the Menin Gate was played by a bugler that for a few minutes the noise of traffic ceased out of respect. How that came about with me hearing Flemish spoken for the first time was when greeted with a ‘Goeiendag’ (‘Hallo’) by the wharf attendant when our ship had come alongside to be moored to the quay, which made me do a double take because of thinking I was greeted by a fellow South African greeting me in the Dutch language. My returned greeting of ‘Goedemorgen’ (‘Good morning’) made him do the same because of thinking that I had returned his greeting in Flemish or Vlaams as they called it. I soon learned and came to realize that because both our languages was a compilation of the Dutch one, that it was why their spoken language and mine were familiar to the ear and similar in the spoken word, and from then on in where ever I went in Antwerp there was no problem of communication. With it also one of Europe’s greatest medieval centers, its Gothic and baroque architecture and paintings by Rubens displayed in churches and museums around the city, particularly The Descent from the Cross that hung in the Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal (Cathedral of our Lady), which was the most impressive in the country and also everything else seemed as miniatures to it, was a day well spent in accumulating more cultural knowledge for myself. I was also fascinated by the colourful barges that either plied there trade goods or the home ones that you would always get a wave from the people on them.

It was on our last night in port, which was also well spent, when I almost missed the boat, not literally but factually, because of a Spanish flamenco dancer. While wandering the city we happened in the late evening to hear Spanish gypsy music that came from an alleyway, and on approaching, discovered a cosy Spanish club. The patrons and staff conversed in Flemish, which overcame the language barrier, and after consuming Oude Genever; my feet were ready for dancing. The gypsy band had begun playing a tango, and having observed a woman who had been dancing it in sync previously, I approached her for a dance. For dancing it with gusto with the intricate steps included, we were awarded with clapping from the crowd. Curtsying we made our way off the floor to fall laughingly in a heap in an eating cubicle that surrounded the dance floor. Over drinks my dancing history, techniques and routines were prised from me, and her expertise was because she was a Spanish dancing instructor with her own dancing academy. Calling a waiter over she ordered drinks for my shipmates and myself under protest from me, but her insistence was due to the two of us having given the customers an excellent exhibition of the tango. Excusing herself and first going over to converse with the band she then made her way through a doorway glancing smilingly over her shoulder at me. When the waiter brought over the drinks we wanted to pay, but he told us it was on the house.

Puzzled by that was remotely nothing to the amazement felt when on the band striking up a flamenco dance tune, she appeared at the door entrance dressed in traditional Spanish flamenco dancing costume. Amid clapping and cheers from the customers, she swirled, stomped, clicked her heels in rapid tattoos on the dance floor, clapped with her hands extended upwards in time with the music, walked a bull fighters walk towards me and extended her hand for me to dance with her. Calling on all my powers of observation and mental capacity to remember those techniques and routines that had been seen, taught, and last danced in Rio de Janeiro, we exploded on the floor. We accepted the accolades more gracefully that time, and a bottle of French champagne greeted us at the table with her applauding my dexterity and suave rendition of the dance. We both had worked up a sweat from all the exertion, but me more so because of the concentration, and again the waiter was at hand with face towels and to pour the champagne. Inquiring if I had dinner yet and answering in the negative, she advised the waiter to prepare a meal for two. The drinks of champagne and the food that she had just ordered had really perplexed and annoyed me because I had always paid my own way and wasn’t a sponger.

She excused herself and departed through the doorway again, and instead of her reappearing, the waiter did later with a polite request to follow him. My shipmates and I not having any idea to what was occurring, but with them encouraging me to go for it and to not consider them, I followed. Thinking that we were going to have dinner in another area of the club proved me wrong, for after ascending two floors up we arrived at a plush apartment where I was greeted by Juanita and escorted into a dining area where we were wined and dined by the waiter. My perplexing questions were answered by the fact that she was the owner of the club on the ground floor, the first floor housed her dance academy and her apartment was on the top floor. I had died and gone to heaven. After finishing dinner and with her having excused the waiter, she inquired of my wanting to remove the day’s grime. It had made sense because seeing how I had been all day in the city, and dancing up a storm.

It wasn’t what I had in mind though when showing me into her bathroom that really blew me away, for not only was the bath sunken, it was that wide and deep you could almost swim in it. The waiter must have prepared it because it was steaming, but because she didn’t seem to be leaving, and not knowing where it was leading to, made me ask if she was going in too. She had no hesitation, stripped and glided in, followed by me gingerly feeling the water, whereby she splashed me and pulled me in. The water was pleasurably warm with a filtering system that sucked and pumped in fresh constant warm water to keep it topped up. It seemed that she also wanted to be topped up as she revolved around me, and she became like an octopus as her body parts became like its tentacles against mine. It wasn’t a straight out assault by her but rather a pleasant playful method of being touched, teased, explored, massaged, stroked and squeezed, and I reciprocated. A bottle of bubbly and a bubbling spa did wonders for relaxing after that, but it seemed that she wasn’t ready to let me leave yet after telling her that the ship was sailing at five in the morning. Her encouragement of first wanting to take me on a tour of the dance academy and the rest of her home, and then to drive me back to the ship was enticement enough. Although it was only the two of us in the academy she still wanted to dance after the room filled with gypsy salsa music that she had put on. Maybe there was method in her madness because it was one of those dancers that consisted of very close body and at times groin-to-groin steps. Her provocative swaying and undulations could have been a factor that caused us to use the dance floor not only for the dance, and also another one too for me to stay the night when after continuing the tour that ended in her bedroom. Her boudoir was all frilly and lacy, two complete mirrored walls with one a walk-in wardrobe, an entertainment unit that comprised of a television, high-fidelity equipment and a large round bed in the room’s centre. A man’s photo on her bureau brought the revelation that her husband had part owned the dancing academy business, had died young, and because there was no children she had thrown herself into the business to build it up to what it was then. She had men friends but they weren’t suitable because of needing someone with the same interest and sexually compatible. She had taken a fancy to me because of my suave behaviour at the club, had never revealed her personal self so flagrantly to any man before, and had found me sexually attractive.

Although I told her again that it was really time for me to leave, at the back of my mind after the way we had completed the salsa dancing and the viewing of her bedroom with the extra enticement of its paraphernalia, I knew what my answer would be when she pleaded for me to stay with the excuse that she felt tired and that she would get me to the ship on time. However, when she told me that all of her sexual fantasies had not been fulfilled yet I drew the line. I reminded her that my sleep was required for the heavy day in front of me in catering to the needs of the captain, and not one but three ship’s pilots, and then I slept a sleep of sexual gratification and exhaustion. When we awoke at six with the ship having sailed already, it had made me incoherent, abusive and angry, and her sympathetic apologies with an invitation to stay and share her life fell on deaf ears, as even my hasty dressing became all thumbs. Dressed, and with her again asking me to stay while holding on to me, to pacify and to get away, I told that her offer was respected and worth considering as a new life, but that I had family back home to consider that was my real life. Because she was too distraught to drive me to the docks she called a taxi and thrust a wad of money in my pocket for the fare, and employed me to keep in touch with her by writing.

My knowing that the ship had passed through many locks before we docked made me hope against hope that the same procedure would apply before its return to sea. When arriving where the ship had previously berthed I found an empty quay. The astute taxi driver though saved the day or maybe he had done it before when he advised me to look around the dock area to see if the ships funnel logo or South African flag was visible. Sure enough I sighted it two locks away where he dropped me off and I tipped him well. After they lowered the ship’s retractable ladder for me to board, I was severely reprimanded by the Captain, docked one day’s pay and demoted to Passenger Steward. We were then on our way to Le Havre in France and London in England for the embarkation of passengers. The ship was a cargo passenger liner, and people who had time on their hands preferred their passage indirectly to their destinations by the ships voyage of port and island stoppages. Just as the Statue of Liberty could be seen when entering New York Harbour, and the Eiffel Tower when entering Le Havre Harbour, so to Big Ben when nearing London.

It was at that time when hearing more and more of the atrocities of the South African police forces and the South African Defense Force occurring not only in South Africa but also in its border countries of Namibia, Mozambique and Rhodesia where they too had taken up armed struggle against forced imperialism and apartheid that I wondered what the hell I was doing so far away from my home country. The remembrance also of the Sharpeville massacre of sixty nine Africans with the majority shot in the back, and the wounding of over four hundred including women and children by the South African police, really began to play on my mind. What made it more worrying was that in Langa,  police had killed African people there too when some 30 000 led by a young student, Philip Kgosana, gathered in a demonstration against passbooks that were compulsory for Africans only to carry. That was followed by a protest of 50 000 again at Langa in sympathy to the Sharpeville massacre. My thoughts and feelings were of the survival of my family and that their lives might be in jeopardy, that it was time for me to take my responsibilities more seriously and to quit and stay ashore, and that my last seafaring sexual episode should last me for a life time. Do pigs fly? Because all of my heartfelt resolutions were brought to a just one more time continuation instigated intentionally by a lass from England. Knowing the many lustful problems that were created by some of those women when encountering dark skinned men, and not only me but any other nationality too, for they were seen one on each arm of a Jamaican hooked in and walking the streets of the United Kingdom, or the darker the European the better. Passenger dalliance by any crew-member resulted in getting flogged, quartered and hung by the yardarm, literally; so I was very aware of the consequences, and having been in the bad books of the captain already, I just concentrated on my duties. Although the odd occasion had arisen at times, I had politely ignored every slight flirtation from sexually starved spinsters or widowers.

From the moment I brought her luggage to her cabin on her embarkation, to when she requested my help in unpacking all of her clothing, my senses became attuned to her seductive overtones, and my usual polite parry in those situations was completely ignored by her. She begun then to use her womanly wiles at every inconceivable moment and was scaring the hell out of me. The passenger’s quarters were amidships above the ships officer’s quarters and there was constant people traffic in both alleyways. My position only allowed me certain times of the day and night to implement my duties that were comprehensive to my station in that area, and she was placing my work position in jeopardy. Her ordering breakfast served in her cabin because of feeling under the weather, would find her in the bath with towels conveniently forgotten in the cabin that had to be passed on. Morning and afternoon tea was always served to passengers in their cabins, and she would either be reclining in a two piece bathing suit with legs spread that dangled over the arms of a lounge chair or feigning sleep on her bed wearing only a towel draped over her naked body. Another enticement was her ringing for drinks before lunch or dinner, and on its delivery, she would surprisingly walk out of the bathroom in her sexiest and revealing lingerie, I would be invited to have a drink with her, and on refusing, she would pout. She would also partake a little of everything on the menu when having lunch and dinner in the dining saloon, especially when served by me so that she could brush accidentally against me.

Then one day while she was taking the air on deck and my chance had come to sneak in and out to service her cabin before she got back, as was my custom with her when convenient, unbeknown to me she had been quietly observing my methods. While cleaning the bathroom she had silently returned, locked the door and was smilingly sitting on the lounge chair that she had moved against it. Knowing that I carried a master key for all the cabins had made her astute to the fact that I could have unlocked the door and left, and also knew that I couldn’t manhandle her out of the position that she had placed herself in because she was a passenger. She though calmed my surprise and apprehension by saying that all she ever wanted to do was talk to me so as to get to know me better. Her story was similar to many British citizens who were immigrating to South Africa to settle as families or to get married to influential or prosperous Afrikaners. Her forthcoming marriage was to be with one of those who had a farm in the heartland of the Boer, Transvaal. My bile rose and my stomach turned when she sprouted the worst indoctrinated dribble of the Afrikaner and apartheid, and her inference that the black African was inferior and should be glad that the Whites with their superior intellect were controlling and ruling the land made me see red.

I don’t know how, but I controlled all of my outraged emotions instead of shaking that shit right out of her because of how I felt to what was really occurring in South Africa. Be that as it may, I succeeded to proceed calmly and with convincing emotional verbalization to give her a synoptic, true, personal view of their conniving, denigrating, forceful and slaughtering history. It astounded her. She had also been given the same untruthful information by some of the young Afrikaner ship officers who were trying to impress her. That really got my blood boiling and my dander up. She also confided in me that she and her intended Afrikaner husband had become engaged in England, and with his convincing reasoning and her consent they had consummated their bond because of the distance and time involved before their meeting again in Cape Town. He had also booked her sea passage on a South African ship because of been adamant that it was the only way that she would arrive safely to his arms. And that made me almost spew with disgust and loathing for that mightier than thou attitude of him.

My question of her seductive enticement towards me brought a coy smile and an overwhelming reply. She hadn’t had many boyfriends and had been a virgin until the night of their engagement, and knowing according to his explanation that his vast isolated farm wouldn’t incur much visitors had made her feel that since she wasn’t married yet, and hadn’t known any other man except him, and never might, she was entitled to a last fling and I was it. My racing thoughts envisaged her as going to be an Afrikaner’s Boer meisie (Dutch = Boer meisie, farmer’s girl), and how proverbial it would be that while he and his kind were fucking South Africa and its non-white people, I could be doing the same to his woman. What also came to mind was that if he was a farmer, I too could become one by ploughing and tilling her patch, and my sperm seeds, if her to be husband’s hadn’t already, could germinate so that they too would have a non-white in their family as I had been designated to, by the Afrikaner National Party. Thinking of the sweet revenge and retaliation that it would inflict for all non-white South Africans, I set the ground rules and the importance of her utmost discretion. I also emphasized how paramount it was for both of us not to be caught contravening the Immorality Act that would see me thrown in the brig for non-compliance for the duration of the trip and jailed in South Africa, and that she would not only have the wrath of her husband to be but also the government’s to contend with for breaking that act. She couldn’t fathom the concept of persons of a different colour skin not allowed to have sexual relations, and referred to the hypocrisy of the conviction when her fiancé was as tan as I was. In my book that gave her a plus one, so I decided to give her one too seeing that I had explained, clarified and interpreted what the consequences would be. Her having tried to seduce and then solicit me, meant that she was by then as horny as hell and hot to trot, so I threw caution to the wind. Our tête-à-tête had moved her from the chair to the bed with me sitting at the foot end with my legs over the edge and her seated up at the head end with her arms encircling her drawn up legs. She was wearing a buttoned blouse loosely worn over a short pleated skirt, and her sitting position had been revealing glimpse of her white knickers, which was what she called them in comparison to South African women calling them panties, and up the inside of her thighs. My occasional eye flicking in that direction while we were chatting had then become a lingering stare, which she had noticed, and as I begun to slowly pop open the snap buttons of my work jacket and while still doing that, she in her eagerness caused her not to unbutton her blouse but to pull it off over her head. When she slid down from her seated position I didn’t need a second invitation, and she was that enthused for gratification that it saw no further divesting from her as she handled me straight in and lustfully participated in her ravishment.

I not only had to reorganize my schedules at my workstation, which had made the timing factor critical, but I also had to fabricate excuses for my whereabouts so that my shipmates and the officers wouldn’t perceive deception on my part when responding to her seemingly insatiable desires. To keep her content and me prepared for her passion, I had to keep both of us simmering so that we both would be capable intermittently. I wasn’t then only riding the waves of passion I was actually sailing on it. She too used subterfuge as a means to keep the officers at bay and away by constantly complaining about seasickness, which kept her at times in her cabin for our tryst, and when promenading on deck she would wear slacks so as to curb advances made by them, and she would excuse herself and retire to her cabin when they tried to join her when swimming. I never encouraged her to do any of that for there was no feeling to have her just to myself, neither was there lust of any sort while out of her company. What permeated through me when with her though was the constant thought of a designated non-white having been where her supposed to be superior White Afrikaner future husband would be eventually going, and that where ever he touched I had been there too, and that’s when it had become a turn on. When we were also getting it on and in the heat of passion, hatred for the Afrikaners must have also inundated my thoughts at times because I would handle her roughly. But because she never complained about that sort of aggressive treatment, I got the impression that she liked it that way; however, for the rest of the fourteen days, which was the duration of the voyage to Cape Town, every part of her was explored, manipulated and imbedded, and at times with tenderness too.

It became a subtle game of eluding and outfoxing the enemy of white officers and my unaware crew-mates of our secretive shipboard affair. She never made any advances on me when out of the cabin; instead she would when greeting give a mischievous smile and a slight wink when no one was in sight. She had kept to her part of our agreement, which was easy for her, but then out of the blue she gave me the fright of my seafaring life. When summoned by the Chief Steward and questioned about the service she was receiving in relation if it was the best and if she was assisted by me in every way to make her voyage pleasurable, left me speechless and shaking in my boots because my interpretation was of a different reason. I was more at ease though when he also stated that she had requested to view the crew’s aft quarters because it was the only section of the ship that she hadn’t seen. When he asked for my input so that it could be made possible, my reply when my brain made my mouth move was that it would be appropriate to let the second steward, who was a white officer, escort her. He though surprisingly disputed it by saying that my knowledge of the crew’s quarters would serve the purpose better. I was to arrange the tour during the morning when the majority of the crew were at their workstations and the rest were catching up on their sleep before or after their four-hour watch duty. Her amusement and laughter at the way she had duped the Chief Steward and the unexpected result of her charade for wanting to see where I lived as she put it, found us both in her walk-in wardrobe trying to deaden and stifle our continuous uncontrollable mirth because of the outside movement of passengers. Being almost caught out a few times when leaving at un-rostered times got me in the habit of leaving a spare prepared tea- tray and towels in the cabin so that it created an illusion when leaving of on call to her cabin. That was one of those days. The duty officer that was directly passing at that precise moment of me coming out with the towels, and my comment to her when leaving that fresh ones would be brought immediately caused him to give me a nod of duty well performed.

She had become really excited about the guided tour back aft, but her exuberance had to be curbed or it would have been noticed by the other passengers and officers. One of the stipulations was that it had to be low-key, so advising her on that and also telling her that the Chief Steward would definitely be watching our progress from amidships on the lifeboat deck proved me right. What she didn’t appreciate was my telling her not to dress provocatively as she usually did in skimpy shorts and boob tubes while in the cabin. What did turn her pouts and sulks to girlish pleasure though was when I told her that there would be a few surprises in store if she behaved and was not so demanding on me for the days that followed. She was dressed sensible in slacks, blouse and walking shoes that didn’t attract attention. There was a stiff wind blowing though, and a skirt or dress would have been blown up as we passed the deck crew busy chipping and painting away with heads down. She did though receive sly glances because they were very aware that the Chief Steward was watching. Her attire also helped when taking her first onto the poop deck, which involved climbing three stairways, because the deck-crew would have been able to see right up the other type of clothing. The Chief Steward that seemed to have been satisfied with the decorum and progress had made his way to the ship’s fore where the passengers were swimming and sunning themselves, and we were then out of his sight. From the poop deck because of been out of sight of everyone made her almost forgot where she was by trying to embrace me, however, I distracted her away from that by drawing her attention to look down the stern end of the ship.  Having not witnessed before the wide and extended wake of the ship caused by the propellers that churned in the water, made her to forget all about me and be mesmerized by it.

The crew’s cabin doors were always bolted open to prevent slamming when the ship had occasion to roll from side to side and to let the sea breeze from the open portholes circulate for ventilated cool sea air throughout the crew’s quarters. And those cabins of the crew on watch and those gainfully employed on deck and in the engine room were looked at, and it took some time because there were three tiers of crew’s cabins from the poop deck to the stern bottom. She had tried really hard to behave herself even though it was only the two of us wandering around in completely deserted crew’s quarters, except for the crew that had come off an earlier watch but by then they were asleep and dead to the world. She had to be chastised on a few occasions though when I was ahead of her on going up stairwells because she would grab at my behind, or when going down ahead of me would reach back and grab at me genitals. By the time we had only gotten halfway she was already smouldering and intense with desire because of her having been celibate for those days before the tour, so I sprung the first surprise on her. In the stern of the ship was a gear locker that I had opened and steered her into, and on closing it threw us into pitch-black darkness. Holding her I felt her pounding heart and trembling body at those turn of events, but it soon turned to ones of pleasure as I laid her on coils of hessian ropes in the locker. Not knowing where my hands were going to be next had also begun to send mummers of pleasure to emit from her. Nobody known to me had ever used the locker for that purpose, but my problem though was that in the dark my thoughts had become darkened once again with the hatred felt for the Afrikaners who with a stroke of a pen had not only created South Africans into separate races but had also separated them. And although with her it was an act of subjection, with me it was rejection because of the thought of them grounded into the dust as I was then doing to her, which didn’t allow me an outcome.

Disheveled but not too bad for wear we had continued down into the stern area where we made our way down to more crew’s cabins, and but making sure the coast was clear I sprung the next surprise and steered her that time into my cabin and locked the door. When assuring her that it was my cabin she glowed with expectancy as she looked, touched and scrutinized everything that concerned me. My African and other countries artifacts, photographs of me at world destination places, framed photographs of my family, which as designated non-whites she couldn’t relate to that and hoped that her children would be as beautiful, and even went through my wardrobe to see what my taste in clothes were. I sat on my bunk and watched, answered and explained the rapid questions asked of me, and when she had exhausted her inquires she threw herself on top of me with ardent kissing. Her submissive body in such enclosed quarters of my bunk with nowhere else to turn or go, responded to mine with a passion until the slow ebb and flow eventuated to an undulating in the motion of the pitching and rolling sea combined with the ship’s propeller’s thrusts.

We had laid there grinning and contented until we heard voices that caused her to become apprehensive, and I had to calm her down because of knowing it to be crew coming and going off watch. After we cleaned, dressed and adjusted each other quick smart we warily made our way via an aft hatch onto the deck at the stern of the ship. While we stood holding onto the ship’s rail with a cool breeze that fanned both our hot bodies and flushed faces, the second steward came strolling towards us, which was in the nick of time for us in finishing the tour. Her smiling reply that it was more than she had expected almost gave me a heart attack when he asked her if she had enjoyed the tour, but I gathered myself in time so as to ask him if he would escort her back. It was unusual they way that ended because it gave him an air of self-importance, for her to put on a demure look and to politely thank me, and me to assume a devil-may-care attitude as they walked away. What did make me care though as she walked away was that an obvious large wet spot showed on her slacks in between and just below her buttocks, and because she had insisted that I keep her knickers as a reminder, she had sprung a leak.

I had contemplated to go after her and to somehow draw her attention to it, but my second thoughts was that if it was noticed she would have a thought out a ready answer. It was only then that I also noticed something else that caused my devil-my-care attitude to adopt an angelic innocent one because of a crew-member who had been peering at me through his deck cabin porthole. He had a thoughtful look on his face as he confronted me straight away with questions that almost threw me. His questioning of why when he went to the rope locker to obtain rope to splice a hawser; mooring rope, so much time had elapsed of the passenger’s tour from the poop deck down to the stern cabins because it was only then that he saw the two of us enter my cabin. He also wanted to know why while both the passenger and I were inside my cabin, the door had been closed, and that he had noticed a wet mark on a very unusual area of her slacks as she passed his porthole.

I knew that if my answers weren’t convincing enough that he would definitely tell the rest of the crew, and that somehow it would have gotten to the officers ears. So again I brought my rhetorical questioning into play combined with the most plausible answers that my mind could conceive. When asking him if he knew that it took women longer to use the toilet, he agreed, and when I explained away the time taken between decks by telling him that she had to use it twice, he understandingly nodded. My question of if he at times also closed his cabin door to not only to keep the passing boisterous crewmen’s noise out when he was asleep due to going or coming off watch, but also to the closing of his porthole due to the gale force winds that at times blew through it, and he definitely agreed with that. So it was a simple matter when I explained that while looking through my photo albums of my travels that she knew about and wanted to see, and that the closed cabin door was due to the cold and draught she was feeling in my cabin, he concurred with that too. The wet patch I explained away as a backwash splash of seawater that she had sat in on the bollard, which is a double mooring deck post and backwash is what occurs at all times at the stern of a ship because of the forceful trust of the propeller, the waves and the wind. He had thought long about that one before drawing his own conclusion, and then came straight out that he had thought we were fucking in my cabin, but somehow he discounted that as ridiculous because she was a passenger and my arse would have been on the line.

He couldn’t have spoken a truer word in both instances, but my concocted half-truths had kept our secret safe. When all that had transpired had been related to her later, she deduced that the crewman had just missed us coming out of the gear locker, congratulated me on my quick thinking and my astute answers, and concluded that the wetness she had first felt was thought of, of her having a period. What caused our sexual relationship to be put in a new perspective though was with what she came out with next. She had missed a period and had also thought that that was what was occurring, at the same time though her other reasoning was that if she were pregnant it would either be from the Afrikaner Boer or from our constant sexual encounters.  Also if the baby was dark skinned it wouldn’t have to be accounted for because her Afrikaner was dark skinned too from working in the constant sun. She was that naive about the distinction made of the colour of ones skin in South Africa that my explanation would have been wasted.

It had come to our last day at sea before reaching Cape Town and the passengers were helter skelter in packing and preparing, and with me at their beck and call constantly, made for our usual sexual routine to be stymied and her to be frustrated. As she had pleadingly requested of me to spend one more night with her, I had racked my brain with all the possibilities to make it happen. So I devised a plan that I hoped would first fool my cabin mate because he would have been the only one who would have discovered or known if my bunk hadn’t been slept in that night. My intention after I had sneaked into her cabin was to spend the night as a last surprise and goodbye. I knew that the ship pilot was to be picked up first thing in the morning, so my story to him had been simple and half-truths. As my new duties hadn’t pertained to the captain’s needs anymore, although when he still required special meal he wanted prepared for the ship’s pilot and himself, which the promoted captain’s tiger didn’t have the skills for, I was called, and I had been requested by him to be on standby for the ships pilot and him in Cape Town. My explanation to my cabin mate was that because of the bad weather that had been predicted over the night and the picking up of the pilot in the early hours of the morning, if I wasn’t seen in my bunk during the night to the morning, that it would be because the captain had me amidships on standby. Also, that it would be appreciated if he had the main cabin light turned off, used his bunk light only, and to have the door closed so as to keep the crews noise out because the night for me was going to be a long and sleepless one, and that I would be turning in early.

It was our last passenger dinner on board, and because it was always a gala affair, all passengers dressed up and all officers attended. She too was dressed up for the occasion; however, no matter how much she had tried to put on a brave and cheerful face for passengers and officers alike, her constant side glances at me betrayed her true feelings. When I had to be over at the bar to fill up drinks for the passengers, she would at times come over under the pretense of changing the drink that she had ordered, and there I would be quietly pleaded with to come to her cabin that night. I had felt a real cad when I saw the tears that would well up in her eyes when I shook my head as an indication that we didn’t have an imaginary drink and meaning no to her question, while I knew that I was. She though still played the game by using a handkerchief to fiddle with her eyes as if it was irritated by something in it. While the rest of the stewards completed the clearing up, my having hastily prepared the passengers cabins for their night’s repose while they danced the night away allowed me to furtively make my way to my cabin. I first ruffled up my bedding, drew my bunk curtains tight close, switched of all the lights and closed the door with the hope that my cabin mate would get the impression on his return that my story held water. When entering her cabin I had only left her bedside light on because of wanting to have it softened before I concealed myself in her walk-in wardrobe, and my short wait was rewarded when she arrived. Not having heard any further movement from her for quite some time had caused me to become concerned. What I saw when entering the cabin was her still fully dressed lying on her back on the bed clutching a pillow that she was quietly sobbing into. She was a pitiful sight with teary eyes, makeup running, and her evening frock all rumpled up around her waist as she slowly swayed with her legs slightly bent.

I had actually felt a touch of sympathy for her, but knew that when becoming aware of my presence she would be ecstatic. What I didn’t intend to do though was to scare her. After having crept slowly towards the foot-end of the bed I first eased myself up and then leaned over to plant a kiss on her usual morning serviced wake up call. She though gasped in fright, snapped her legs together and brought her hands hard down t. That reaction not only caused her thighs to squash my ears and her hands to land on my head but it also snapped up her body and opened her mouth for an intended scream. It was stifled though when she saw that it was me because she had thought that it had been one of the officers who had chatted her up at the farewell party and had sneaked in. She had burst into tears again, but that time because I was actually there with her. While I was consoling and assuring her of my intention to stay the night due to my crafty scheme; she though had begun to peel off her clothes as fast as she could. After I had turned off the light and locked the door, which she hadn’t, in case the officer had thoughts of making a late night call, my thinking that our last sexual interlude had begun wasn’t hers yet, for taking me by the hand she lead me to the shower. Her wanting to do that was to rid the touch of the officers who had danced and tried to embrace her, and she wanted to feel free of them before I touched her. I found that sweet, but found it sweeter when pulled into the shower so as to wash her. Doing that had made me as horny as hell; she though for the first time after we had dried each other rather wanted to talk first.

We just laid in the dark and cuddled while she talked her heart out. It seemed that she wished the sea voyage to perpetuate so that we would have more time together and in that way she would have more her memories of me. She also wanted to know if by corresponding to me through the shipping company if her letters would be passed on, and that in some way she would obtain a private address for me to reply back. Her romantic notion of her pregnancy was that she would return back to England for a holiday with the baby when it was older on a company’s vessel without her husband, and that she would make inquiries to what ship I was on so that the child could be seen by me. It also seemed that it hadn’t been her intention but she more than liked me. I though had never romanced her in that sense nor had I ever given her any indication of an ongoing affair. She had been the instigator from the onset and my perpetration had been as a participant in her last fling. My whole concept of that sordid affair had been one of contemptuous revenge and denigration against her Afrikaner Boer husband to be, and all Afrikaners, and if the baby had a dark pigmentation when born, the colour wouldn’t have come from the sun beating down on her husband.

The Afrikaners predatory history and ongoing exploitation of the land, resources and its people was a bitter pill to swallow. And as one would hunt, enclose and slaughter animals that was there as seen by them their given right to do, wasn’t actually seen that way by them as far as non-whites were concerned.  What it was to the Afrikaner was their prerogative right to do as they pleased and what they pleased to all non-whites. And I knew that once she had sampled the Afrikaner symbol of the horn of plenty she too would adapt, adopt and accept the doctrine of their concept of the master race. I would never ever be accused of rape in any form, but because the Afrikaner National Party were preoccupied in doing that to South Africa in all their planning, methods and performance, my mind turned to her lying there vulnerable and exposed to my hateful thoughts. During my thought processes while she had laid there patiently and quietly, although looking quizzically at me, I had seen in her eyes and by the soft tenderness in her face that she actually did have a love for me. My realization then that my entire pent up ill will indirectly or wrongly against her for going to be one of them had been dissipated by her subdued body that she had allowed me to denigrate or venerate as I had seen fit, and it saw me then with no further ado to have my last sexual seafaring interlude.

Knowing the time of the ship pilot’s arrival and having had my watch set accordingly, my quite exit as she slept sexually satisfied and spent, didn’t disturb her when I made my way up to the bridge. Having arrived precisely as the pilot boat came alongside, the captain after thanking me for my diligence ordered bacon and egg sandwiches with coffee for the two of them as starters. When docked, I instinctively knew who her Afrikaner fiancé was by his arrogant bearing, and it was confirmed when he waved to her as she stood at the bulwark; the ship’s side above deck, and she gave me a wry smile when noticing me watching when she waved back. Wanting to see him face to face, my appearance at her cabin to check out the luggage disconcerted her when she looked at me over his shoulder while he was hugging her. She though was in a state, and because of wanting to defuse that reaction to composure, my long wink and a stuck out tongue brought a smile with a quick wink and a darted stuck out tongue in return.

When he became aware of my presence he turned to face me, and that well set, blonde, dark tanned, arrogant person while he looked scornfully down his nose at me asked me in Afrikaans if there was nothing better that I should be doing, and that he would report me for encroaching on their privacy. My hackles went immediately up at that ‘Ja baas’ (Dutch = ‘Yes master’) attitude they expected from their Hottentots (Non-whites), Slaams (Asian), and ‘Kaffirs’ (Africans), and it was directed at me. Because I wasn’t going to put myself at his primitive, uncultured, rude level because of him addressing me in a language that was foreign to her, my reply and as a put down in the most fluent highfaluting English, which they despised you to use and demanded their mother tongue of Afrikaans be spoken, was that my specific obligation and responsibilities were to officially inspect and concur with the passengers that their luggage count was accurate. With him being on the ship, which had maritime laws unto itself and on my territory, and not ashore, I was the boss then as his bewildered, flabbergasted, put back in his box expression showed. My further tongue in cheek, false, ethical, harangue to him so as to rub salt further into the wound was that I had rendered, provided and serviced his future wife with every available resource at my disposal so as to facilitate her every wish and desire.

Although it had caused the Afrikaner to be flummoxed, she had been grinning and shaking with silent laughter behind him. She had also stopped him dead in his tracks when he fumbled for his wallet to give me a tip by seriously saying, but keeping the alluding sexual overtones going, that she had shown her gratitude already by giving me a worthwhile gift that she was sure I appreciated and that further gratuity from him wasn’t necessary. To me she had taken it a bit too far when she shook my hand because it had almost popped his eyes out of his head when he saw my brown hand grasped by his white fiancées, and as he glared at me the imp came out in me. While shaking her hand, I then used my forefinger to tickle her palm within our enclosed clasped hand, and with her of the same mind and mood too, she had then put her other hand over mine, shook it vigorously, and while her eyes twinkled with mischief her lips pouted slightly as if kissing me.

Having made tracks quickly out of there before she had really given the game away and he had a heart attack; her luggage was taken ashore by me. While the two of them were preparing to leave by car I had waited on deck for Joan’s arrival, and when she turned around to have a last look at the ship while he was busy stowing her luggage and unbeknown to him on seeing me, she waved in my direction and cheekily blew me a kiss that I impetuously made as if catching and placed it on my lips. When I glanced furtively around because of realizing what my rash action could have caused, I noticed the gangway watchman and second mate not only watching me intently but with an astonished and unbelievable look on their faces. But it didn’t matter to me then because the car had sped out of sight and there was nothing that could be reported, verified or done. It was not only that she had gone thankfully out of my life but that I had struck a blow even though it was a  minor one indirectly against the denigrating Afrikaner Apartheid policies in more ways than one. But most of all my seafaring days had come to an end with me signing off completely.

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Ah! The life of a Merchant Mariner.

35. My Merchant Mariner World Travels (Part 8)

The transfer connection from ship to ship was immediate, and we sailed on the SS South African Pioneer from there to Las Palmas for bunkers, and then to New York and on to Québec and Montreal in Canada.  Did my usual sight-seeing of New York and also did the Bronx and Harlem that time. Harlem was at times very scary because when ashore during the day you would see gangster types, Pimps and prostitutes plying their trade. The gangster types would be selling their drugs or contributing to the numbers racket, which was done openly on the streets. One incident that really scared the shit out of a group of us downstairs in a hotel when having a coffee, was when hearing a commotion at the entrance and a Negro; they weren’t known as African American then, came storming in brandishing a gun. Thanks heavens for our new found Negro friend with us, who told us not to stare at him because he was as high as a kite and just looking at him could set him off in any direction. We were relieved when the direction he took was to stomp up the stairs of the hotel muttering as he went. The prostitutes were just as scary because they would accost you on the street by getting hold of your arm and forcible try to steer you into an alleyway or into a motel, which was why going there was safety in numbers.  Although there was all type of clubs, the one we really wanted to experience was the Cotton Club because of hearing so much about it. It seemed that an Owney Madden, a prominent bootlegger and gangster, took over the club in 1923 while imprisoned in Sing Sing and changed its name to the Cotton Club. In its hey-day black entertainers and jazz musicians of the era included Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, The Nicholas Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. The Latin Quarter nightclub opened in its space and that’s where we went to. We didn’t know what to expect when entering because we were in the hood and the most of the men sported fedora hats, black or pin-striped suits and white or black ties. Some of the women were a bit of a concern at first though when not only introducing themselves but also joining us at our table too. But we shouldn’t have been concerned because the customers there were different than the ones encountered the afternoon. But all in all it was pretty safe during the day, fairly sketchy at night, but a must see for nightlife,

What I didn’t expect though was what was offered me by the Captain and Chief Steward. There was important company dignitaries coming for dinner and I was asked to organize the catering and service on board ship. This came all about because that was my known forte for functions aboard the ship like the crossing of the line ceremony and Christmas and New Year at sea. I was also told to go the whole hog to impress and that it was to be a buffet type smorgasbord dinner with display stands as centre pieces, which was what I also did at ship functions. So I got the Chief Steward to order in flowers, a large block of ice and I raided the ship’s larders and fridges for just got in fresh vegetable produce, fruit and other goodies for canapés.  The chef and cooks the Chief Steward roped in to do the hot food, cold meat cuts and fish that consisted of lobster, king prawns, pink salmon and lox.  I also roped in all the stewards to assist me in the making of the salads and canapés. Then I got stuck into a flower arrangement as my dad had taught me to do at Emdon’s Caterers, followed by a vegetable arrangement that I shape wove into an American Eagle, as I had done before with other shapes, and with the block of ice I chiseled shaped a ship that I filled with fruit. During the function I kept the bar as my domain because there were so many cocktail drinks picked up in my collection of them in places traveled to and I wanted them to be tried out. Seeing also how that bar was stocked with all types of booze and the paraphernalia to make those cocktails, I had a field day with customers trying them out. And to top it all off as entertainment, no other than Brook Benton hired by The Company as background music on his guitar and interludes of singing his soul and rhythm and blues numbers, man did he blow not only me but everyone else there away.

Entering the Gulf of Saint Lawrence was always a hazard in foggy conditions because of countless freighters, ferries from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, and icebergs that drifted on the Newfoundland and Labrador currents. Those icebergs were a spectacular sight seen during the day when occasionally they did a giant somersault caused by gravity change as the bottom larger half melted. We sailed through that area at night time, and the foghorn sound changed dramatically every time we came in close range of any of those objects, which was detected by the echo variance and the sharp eyes of the lookouts, and we always held our breath until the following blasts resumed their normal haunting tone. We had navigated up the Saint Lawrence River before but on another trip, but it was still an amazing sight gazing up at Québec from a ship because it looked like a walled fortress. It’s completely walled city of grey stone towers, stoned buildings and the impressive Château Frontinac Hotel with its jade green turrets and castle like structure looked impregnable. The city was on two levels, which consisted of the Lower Town and the Upper Town, due to its formation originating through the original city having been down by the Saint Lawrence River, but when having to fortify it against the British in the 1700s and been overrun, it was moved further back and created another town.

The Lower Town with its stone houses that were huddled together and the carriage wheels that creaked in unison with the horses clip clopping along its leafy canopied cobblestones streets was exquisite when strolling through it. The Upper Town I found to be a complete different environment with every turn having an abundance of chapels, churches, cathedrals with unique histories, and everything French on its menu in bars, music and dance clubs and restaurants. The people too were a bit unusual in their strong feelings of wanting to remain French and not Canadians. Although occupied by the French and called New France until 1763 when invaded and captured by the British to become the province of Québec, they had laws that made French the official language and prohibited the use of English on street signs. They did though give Canada the emblem of the maple leave on its flag, and all over the world their famous maple syrup was consumed with a passion.

Montreal further up the Saint Lawrence River was also a city of churches, but with one though having a difference. It was a chapel known as Sailors Chapel where model ships carved by sailors were suspended from the ceiling and there were hundreds of them. What had not hundreds but thousands was where the majority of the population seem to hibernate during the bitter cold days. The Underground Montreal City was a revelation and a lifesaver to our chattering teeth and not used to rugged up cold bodies. Through observing the locals scurrying down escalators and stairways to get out of the freezing cold we followed suit and found ourselves in a subterranean universe. You could live down there, and many did because of the underground railway stations that had extensions of hotels, restaurants, movie houses, concert halls, shops of every description and even swimming facilities. The nightlife district in the city was where it all happened though, with its massed bars, clubs of all styles and restaurants that catered to your every need.  What I didn’t expect to see though when a group of us went to a strip club was an African setting set up on a stage. A dusky French dancer called Afrisqué who danced and stripped to the rhythmic beat and sound of African drums had as her props a jungle backdrop, an African straw hut, life size animal cut outs and an open fire. She was dressed in an artificial leopard outfit that consisted of a leopard mask headpiece, leopard type paws on her hands and feet, a lap-lap that covered her breast and G-stringed pubes, a spear, and a tail that was tucked into the back of her G-string. To the soft beat of drums her routine consisted of leaping from out the hut and to land by the fire, and a spotlight followed her dance movements on the darkened stage as she danced around the flickering fire. She would then periodically attack and stab at the leopard cut-out, and every time she stabbed at particular parts of its body the drums would be sounded louder, and while it continued she would then strip discard the corresponding part of her costume and place it on that part of the cut-out.

In the routine, the top lap-lap and G-string was stripped off too, but the bottom lap-lap remained. The tail was then incorporated for the most erotic purposes. It was first run around, crisscross, and in between her firm ample breast, and then the tuft of the tail was used to stimulate her nipples to stand proud. She also whetted the sensual appetite by slowly moving the tail held at both ends backwards and forwards against her vagina undercover of the lap-lap while swiveling her hips in a provocative manner, and through it all the drums had increased its tempo. The grand finale was with her on her spread haunches, and with a rotating motion while bent backwards with her head touching her heels, her procedure after inserting the beginning of the tail into her vagina under cover of the lap-lap, resulted in her snaking the tufted end around on the stage by swiveling her hips as the sound of the drums reached a crescendo. She was a real crowd pleaser, and the large crowd that she had attracted, who had been very attentive and quite during her performance, cheered her off when she danced and pranced with the tail and spear in her hands around the flickering fire and then exit into the hut. She also alternated her performances as a black panther, lioness and a tiger through the night.

We though attracted her attention when sending a message that we were from Africa, and her interest when keeping us in conversation and to extend it by a longer stay, resulted in her to buying a round of drinks. Although there was no cover charge it did cost you to buy a drink every time she performed and a beer cost five dollars. The night though turned out to be an enjoyable one for us because she had also introduced us to a few of her fellow strippers, and the following night although we only had enough money to buy one round of drinks we went back, and we also had a few presents for her for the genuine friendliness shown. When my two shipmates presented her with African artifacts and I a real complete cheetah skin that were part of a collection we decorated our cabins with, she was that ecstatic and appreciative that we were invited to her sumptuous home that overlooked the Saint Lawrence River for cocktails and dinner on her night off. Having us picked up in a limousine caused quite a stir on the ship; it was nothing though to the stirring up of our emotions for what was prepared for us that night.

The three of us for company had Afrisqué and two other ladies who entertained us. After cocktails we sat down to a complete French cuisine dinner that was digested with French wines, and then Cognac and Havana cigars. Following that we were ushered to a luxurious entertainment area where we three sat in deep elongated upholstered leather lounge chairs in a wide semi-circle. The three ladies after excusing themselves to powder their noses disappeared through a draped archway, and left to our own devices we consumed more cognac and wondered what else the evening had in store for us. We knew we didn’t have long to wait when first hearing music and then seeing two of them appear through the draped archway wearing stripper’s costumes. Although their dancing and performance wasn’t as risqué as Afrisqué, their bump, grinds and stripping techniques was enough to fulfill our wildest fantasies, especially because one was outfitted in a skimpy schoolgirls uniform and the other in a short sheer nurses uniform. They ended their stripping by backing onto my mates lounge chairs, reclined back against them, and removed their G-strings, which was their last bit of attire, and handed it to them. That’s when Afrisqué’s African music resounded throughout the room and she came through the archway on all fours with the cheetah skin draped around her body. Her feline dancing movements combined with seductive, provocative undulation of her body, got my shipmates, the two strippers and me excited with her performance. Although my shipmates were all eyes on Afrisqué’s sensuous performance, it didn’t stop their legs and bodies to be entwined with exploring hands everywhere. The sultry cheetah clad Afrisqué when easing down on top of me, enclosed us in the cheetah skin. It wasn’t the cheetah’s tail in her then as I followed her slow executed bump and grind routine, and my shipmates taking their cue from us resulted into a long night of continued sexual delight and pleasure.

As a child going to the movies or flipping through the National Geographic, the sight of the Mountie, as we called them, use to inspire me. There I had actually sighted The Royal Canadian Mounted Police drill team or Mountie, who were on tour, in their vivid red tunics and peaked broad brimmed hats parading with their magnificent horses, and because it impressed me immensely I was actually thrilled on seeing them for real. Seeing also large high tepees in the distance made my curiosity discover that they were actually residential homes built in the shape of a tepee and occupied by Canada’s Red Indians. Huron, Blackfoot, Cree, Crowfoot and Iroquois were all part and parcel of the Canadian scene. It was a thrill also to see them in traditional costumes and settings that again took me back to my childhood Red Indians as they paraded and danced through our streets during the New Year festivities. As I was always interested in the indigenous peoples of any country because of my early introduction to Africans and their culture, it was a bit disappointing in the meager display at a museum of Inuit and Canadian American Indians culture. However, what made up for it was when going not only on an organized tour to a festival depicting their traditional life style but also on viewing there their traditional tepees and lodges that they had constructed, and a powwow between First Nation Groups, which the Canadian Native Americans were called because they were the first people to live there.

We missed the warmth of Afrisqué’s home and their company when the Canadian cold weather really settled in; nevertheless, with the paint peeling off the ship and our inner thighs and arms looking like wrinkled prunes because of the extreme cold, we were thankful to be shipping out of Montreal. The Saint Lawrence River was slowly icing up and the ship’s bow cracked and pushed the thin ice as we made our way to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. We crossed the Atlantic Ocean and headed for Dublin in Ireland where meeting unexpected distant kin and comparing ancestors there came as a complete surprise to me. The association also with Irish people in their habitual environment in comparison to my only knowledge of them having been when in the company of Irish priest, nuns, brothers and my grandfather in South Africa, and it was enlightening and educational. I had also always wondered why my mouth at times would run over until hearing the Irish, and my quick wit and my love of jokes was another, but the initiation to Guinness was the froth on the pint.

Entering Dublin Bay from the Irish Sea to the river Liffey that bisected a superb natural setting on a wide plain overlooked by green hills and headlands was Dublin that faced the broad sweeping bay, and it was really something pleasing to the eye. The city although it looked dingy was down to earth with its Irish hospitality and bustle, and their carousing although unexpected was acceptable because I too had a love for a wee dram of whiskey. The colleens with their copper colored hair, rosy cheeks and freckles, which reminded me of my mother when younger and I saw why she would have inherited those distinctive features, although with their all Catholic upbringing like mine, didn’t deter their provocative pleasure seeking nature, and pubs, clubs and dance halls was were their frisky ardent enthusiasm overflowed. Wanting more knowledge of the Irish I first visited the Old Library that was boundless with information, but what really caught my interest was the magnificent ornate 9th century manuscript copy of the gospels in Latin of the ‘Book of Kell’s’, and further interest were also the various castles and cathedrals. The Ha’penny Bridge was another, so called because of the toll once charged for crossing it. Constructed of cast-iron across the Liffey River as a pedestrian walkway made for interesting viewing, and it also linked into a network of small streets and more pubs across the river.

Extreme Irish hospitality was also extended to us when after many of those pubs and drinks, we awoke one morning in rooms of a hotel owner who had made our acquaintance and taken a liking to us. After a most welcome Irish coffee and when taking a stroll outside, I was amazed to see that we were in a country village. Patrick O’Connor or Paddy as he was called, told us that we were that inebriated that instead of taking us back to the ship he had brought us by car to his place to sleep it off. While gazing at the diverse scenery, which encompassed green hills, rolling pastures, rivers and lakes, I was suddenly struck by the most weird feeling that I had seen all that and been there before, and instinctively also knew that if I turned around and looked to the top of the hotel roof I would see a shamrock. And that’s when déjù vu set in when remembering that it had been part of one of my dreams. Sure enough there it was, a large shamrock emblem with the name Green Shamrock Hotel underlining it. It didn’t end there, in conversation, Patrick O’Connor’s great-grandfather had come from Tipperary in the province of Munster in Ireland, and according to him there had not only been Irish chieftains in his ancestry but also that the O’Connor’s had originated from an Irish King, which made me think that he had kissed the Blarney Stone. My grandfather George O’Connor though who often spoke to me about his Irish ancestry and had also told me about his family in Tipperary and their relationship to Irish chieftains, had made me think at that time that he was kissing the wine bottle too much.

Sailing from there back into the Irish Sea we headed towards the North Channel up to the mouth of the River Lagan, which flowed into the Irish Sea, where Belfast was set in a saucer of green hills. Sighted first were rows of redbrick terraces competing with massive cranes that dominated the skyline of the shipyards; however, what still reigned supreme was the abundance of pubs. Although still in Ireland, the atmosphere wasn’t the same, and we soon found that it was due to another dominant factor in the form of the English Protestants. Not wanting to get involved with the politics of the Protestants and Irish Catholics who seemed always at loggerheads in all spheres of their living to what was experienced; I rather sought tranquility in the many cathedrals and castles that also abounded there.

We then crossed the Irish Sea on our way to Liverpool in England. We were looking forward to the serenity of that country for a bit of peace and quiet after the hectic times had in the western part of the world that we had sailed from, and we hoped that in the northern part of the world there would be fewer incidents. One unexpected incident though did occur on our ship before reaching our destination. It was common knowledge, by those who had sailed previously on her, that whenever voyages on that ship neared the United Kingdom, the captain, officers on watch and able seaman that steered the ship at night would observe a figure in work overalls walk the ship. It would make its way from the anchor chain locker to amidships along the deck, disappear aft, reappear and make its way back again, and searching and questioning on various trips had never brought any results to that mystery. Crew members on that trip when coming off the ghost watch, which was the midnight to four watches, asked me the next day about seeing me wandering to and fro in my dark cabin that early in the morning. They were under the impression that I was searching for something, but when they called out I ignored them and then blended with the darkness. Puzzled, intrigued and further inquiries led me to wait for the bewitching hour to see if anything would eventuate again as I had never walked in my sleep. Lying in the darkness with just the dim bunk light on I first smelt the sweet smell of a presence and then perceived a distinct figure of a man in overalls enter the cabin. Beckoning to me he turned and I followed. The apparition led me all the way to the anchor chain locker and pointed down at its interior. An immediate thought came to mind that he had died and somehow his remains were entombed down there. Unbeknown to me an officer on the ghost watch who had seen one figure go aft and two return to the fore of the ship came to investigate, but all he found was me with a bizarre explanation. Needless to say inquiries and further investigation by shipbuilding authorities did discover that a shipbuilder had gone missing while the ship was been built, and on removing the steel panels between the hull and interior they found his skeletal remains wedged right at the bottom. The ghost watch never saw any ghost after that, and again I was used to deliver a message.

Ellesmere Port, which was inland from Liverpool, where the Shropshire Union Canal met the refinery lined River Mercy at the head of the Manchester Ship Canal, had scores of barges scattered throughout the canal that went through the same staircase of locks that our ship had to traverse to get there. It wasn’t only those locks that got our and other ships to other inland towns or cities all over the world, and when passing through them to eventually sail through the countryside’s of unbelievable splendor to get to our destination, it was almost similar as on a touring double-decked bus when taking in the sights. On the other hand, when on a ship doing the same thing and you were taking in the view either aloft in the crow’s nest on the highest point of the ship or even from the poop deck with no sea turbulence but a glass smooth river running with the ship, it was like looking down on the world passing by. Ellesmere Port did not seem to have the Flying Angel when going ashore so we opted for a dockside pub to wile the night away. It was surprising that the pub was not crowded on a Friday night; nonetheless, the congenial atmosphere of open-hearth fire, piano sing a longs and inner warmth assisted by whiskey soon got us in the mood of things. Two young women who were there put on a song called ‘Seaman stop your roaming’ on the jukebox and then smilingly looked at us. After that they put on a rock ‘n roll number that they danced to together but were not getting the gist of the steps properly. Through me watching the program of American Bandstand in America with all the new dance steps that were televised, I had added them to my dancing collection by observing and practicing. Seeing me smilingly observing them and smiling back in return, I approached them so as to advise them on where they were going wrong. After explaining the rectification of the dance steps that wasn’t still done properly, I offered to instruct them. Jennifer was younger than she looked under her make up when close up, but eager to learn although with a bit of stumbling, holding on and my guidance, we were soon rock ‘n rolling to the encouragement and clapping of the patrons. Dancing and chatting brought the information that she lived in Chester and at times frequented the pub because her friend lived nearby, and that she bussed it to and from her home because of the distance.  She also informed me on offering to see her home that the last bus was due in thirty minutes and that she would be back the following evening. My intention on knowing that the ship would be in the Liverpool and Ellesmere area for a few more days was to further our acquaintance on a friendly relationship so as to have someone else besides my shipmates to associate with. On getting back to the ship though we found that our cargo had been delayed, and with all the crew on board we sailed back that night to Liverpool to load extra cargo there. No shore leave was permitted for we had to return to Ellesmere when loaded, which took until the late hours of Saturday night, and because there was no hooked up ship to shore telephone lines to phone the pub or my having her address, I didn’t bother any further.

That didn’t make her not bother, for going ashore the Sunday afternoon to the pub to grab a bight and drink; there she was sitting in an eating alcove with a big grin on her face. She had tracked the ships movements in the daily newspaper, knew when the ship would be back, and had hoped that I would be coming ashore to the pub so that we could go to her friend’s home. When offering to buy her lunch, she though offered to make us lunch when going there. What she didn’t tell me was that her friend had left for a convenient days outing, and after an English standard meal of bangers and mash and eggs and peas we settled down to watch television. Her youthfulness showed without the heavy makeup, but she was attractive with dark hair, short in stature, well-proportioned and with an unpretentious shyness. She wasn’t a chatterbox but did ask unceasing questions concerning the where and what about me, and when filling her in with minor but amusing details she would go off with infectious girlish laughter. Because of also displaying a modest behaviour with her clothing made me think that she was a breath of feminine niceness in comparison to the other women that had been my lot when in other seaports, which caused my thoughts to also backtrack to my wife Joan. She portrayed her in stature, colouring, shyness and modesty, except for Joan’s beauty. Those thoughts gave me a cosy feeling, so putting my arms around her and drawing her closer I cuddled her, whereby she cuddled closer and kissed me. Returning her kiss made me feel guilty for the first time because when with other women that sort of kiss never came into play. It was kept strictly for Joan whose kisses gave me palpitations and a yearning that thrilled and lead to tenderness, desire, bodily pleasure, sensual delight and passion. With the other women it was just unbridled lust, especially as I also adored, cherished and revered Joan, but the long absence through sea voyages and sexual distractions made it impossible for me to remain celibate and faithful. The way that I saw it was that she was my spouse, soul mate, partner, friend and better half although we were equals. Nevertheless, knowing the situation and circumstances that she was enduring for both our sakes made me realize that she too must be experiencing loneliness, longing and yearning that could result in an indiscretion on her part too, and that if she did, I would have to be man enough to accept that she also had sexual appetites. Thoughts of Joan quelled all other inclinations that the kiss could have eventuated into, and it gave rather a feeling of bliss that was related in my actions of just cuddling while watching the television show with no further romancing overtones towards Jennifer, which I was glad had been accepted.

With her having to work the next day, and it also a beautiful spring evening, we strolled the usual fifteen minutes bus drive back to Chester. She hadn’t spoken much about herself at her friends place but she was making up for it then, and in a nutshell she was an only child and still living with her resolute parents who would not allow her to have a steady boyfriend. When reminding her that my sea life wouldn’t also allow that, her cheeky retort was that what her parents didn’t know wouldn’t allow them to chastise her about, and that she would be quite happy to have me as secretive boyfriend whenever I was in port. Her youthfulness and immaturity though made me determine that we would only be friends because of her delightful innocence, buoyant attitude and friendliness that would make her an idle ashore companion. Our intentions on the way to her home though were construed differently by an English Bobby who moved us twice along. The first was when she stopped to phone her parents from a telephone booth after playfully squeezing me in with her, and while talking to them she kissed me to spite them. The second time we were told to move along by the same policeman was when she lead me into a side alleyway near her home to kiss me goodbye, and the kiss was as if her life depended on it seeing that we were sailing the Monday evening. Not wanting to lose her as a friend and companion if returning to that part of the world made my usual honest nature take a back step by not telling her of my married status, although my whole intention was to tell her through a letter before we sailed and leave it to providence.

My foresight though didn’t allow for a set of circumstances that would change the whole aspect. The ship because of its long eventful voyage had developed major engine trouble, and we were going nowhere until full maintenance had been carried out to receive a sea worthy certificate. Managing to get a message through to Jenny via the girlfriend, we would meet some evenings at Chester railway station through me traveling by train there from Liverpool. From there we would spend that time on the outskirts of the city where she wasn’t known and it couldn’t be reported back to her parents, and our mutual friendship really blossomed. Because Ellesmere Port was just almost down the river road from Liverpool and that I had taken a liking to the pub there and its friendly patron and customers, I would the other evenings frequent it. It was at one of those that her friend also happened to be there because of working and living nearby, and in our chat the conversation dwelt on Jenny. Thinking that maybe she would fill me in a bit more about Jenny through my inquiries didn’t eventuate to what I expected. What I rather learned was that she saw Jenny, as her parents did, as to young to have a boyfriend, and also that I would be far better off having someone who was older and had sexual experience if that what I was about with Jenny for. My joking question of if wanting a woman like that maybe she would oblige caused her not to be lazy in coming on to me, which I simply ignored.

The Friday night saw Jenny and I spend the night at the pub with her friend in tow, and Jenny also sprung a surprise on me by having conned her parents in telling them that she was spending the weekend with her friend who was ill. To me her friend was really ill, actually sick in the head when suggesting that I stay over at her place and that the three of us could share the same bed. Be that as it may, we didn’t, for Jenny and I refused the offer and rather preferred saying goodnight outside her friend’s bed-sitter where we made arrangements to have lunch in town the next day without the friend around. I had slipped ashore the following morning after breakfast to pay her a surprise visit and to tell her that the captain was spending time with relatives over the weekend, which gave me time off too, but that we would be sailing the Monday. She tried to put on a brave face due to the leaving news, although her holding, clutching and kissing belied that, on the other hand she was ecstatic about me having all that time off. I wasn’t filled in with all the details when returning later; however, after telling her friend that just the two of us were going out for lunch because she wanted some time with me alone, her friend had left in a huff and gone to her friends in Liverpool.

My favourite English meal of fish and chips, which only they knew how to fry, that I had purchased in town and brought back was our lunch instead of eating out. With a heavy thick fog enclosing the port and going anywhere nigh impossible, we settled down in front of the gas fire and sipped on Red Heart rum, which I still had stocks of on board from the West Indies, with a chaser of blackcurrant cordial the way they drunk it in Cheshire, which was the county that Chester was in. On our own and left to our own devices we must have sipped a bit too much of our sense numbing and body warming drink concoction because it induced a comfortable sensual feeling that made us both frivolous in our behaviour. It became a teasing tussle when she tried to unbutton my shirt with me warding her off and the same occurred when doing it to her too; nonetheless, when discovering that I was very ticklish she succeeded in her second attempt. Her wanting to do that became obvious why, for when down in front of the fire and relaxing after that laughing exertion. she put her hand inside my shirt to squeeze and fondle my chest. My first thought was to deter her, but second thoughts made me contemplate her questions of the previous night and it seemed a small token to pay if it gave her some sort of sensual delight. She had wanted to know why she always had to kiss me first, why I hadn’t even made a pass at her, and why she didn’t evoke any sexual response from me while she got aroused by just kissing me, which flabbergasted me by her many other questions too. Although having felt a twinge of guilt for not confessing my marital status then and there, my palming her off with cowardly truths about her parents’ concerns, the uncertainty of always coming back to Ellesmere, my respect and appreciation of her company, and that I didn’t want to start something we couldn’t finish whereby she would get hurt and we both would be sorry afterwards, seemed to have appeased her. Maybe she had only listened to what she wanted too after that mouthful from me or that the rum had made her feel amorous, for while smiling cheekily at me as if to say if you won’t I will, she not only swung her leg over me so that she was pressed hard up against me but also began to kiss me passionately.  She seemed hell bent either to encourage me into some sort of response or her libido was responding to her self-induced arousement, because while kissing me with her eyes closed she was also massaging my chest and rubbing her body against mine. I again thought if that gave her sexual satisfaction and maybe gratification too, then maybe her sexual desires would ebb, but there was no lessening of her desires though as further adjustments moved her body on top of mine. When she next grabbed my hand to knead her breast I gently but firmly moved her off and admonished her. She was flushed and sulky when going to the bathroom, on the other hand, my resolute not to have any sexual connotations towards her because of only wanting us to be friends seemed to be on track.

She had been for some time in the bathroom, and when hearing the shower being turned on I thought maybe that would have cooled her passion. She had other ideas though. She walked into the bed-sitter dripping wet while toweling and came to stand in front of the gas fire. The beads of water glistened as it rolled down her naked back, continued down her rounded buttocks with some to drip onto the carpet and others to continue down her legs. With mouth agape I watched as she slightly spread her legs and bent forward to dry her legs, which I was viewing from the floor upwards, and turning around to heat and dry the back of her body brought her firm breast and slightly tufted pubes into my focus. Unsmiling and without a word she continued to dry herself, and not wanting to encourage anything made me just lay there and watch in silence so as to give no indication that she was slowly succeeding with her seductive tempting display of trying to seduce me. She must have realized that she was gaining control because after smilingly placing her one foot on my crotch, she methodically and meticulously dried her vagina, which blew all my self-control out of the window. Making like a statue hadn’t work for me for she had pressed the right buttons, and when sitting astride me to shake and sprinkle the wetness of her hair over the two of us, I had to laughingly agree that she had succeeded with her endeavours. After dabbing the wetness off her she did the same to me after removing my shirt, and then she knelt in between my legs to dry her hair. They say idle hands make idle work, but what her hands were doing wasn’t idle because she had begun to unfasten my trousers. She must have planned that entire agenda while in the bathroom, and she had also begun to play rough by first pushing me forcibly onto my back, and then by standing up and grabbing the end of my trousers she pulled it off. Then I had battle on my hands for she wanted to remove my boxer shorts too because she was au natural. I was ever sorry then that she had discovered my weakest point, because the tickling that had begun again made her succeeded in her endeavours again. Her lips that were then running a race all over me with kisses, and her inquisitive hands and exploring fingers constant stimulation that had brought a gathering feeling had to be explained to get her to cease. Much to her delight it didn’t stop me though from then doing the same to her, and her former questions of why, was swiftly dissipated when it made her squirm with what she called unendurable pleasure, but it didn’t see her though wanting me to cease until reaching a fulfillment.

The expression of sheer delight and satisfaction showed on her countenance, and knowing that it would suffice although completely aroused by then myself, I let her be. What I had also taken into consideration was on her telling me that her girlfriend would only be returning on the Sunday, which I knew would be ample time for me to also have a pleasurable outcome, so with her lulled because of her subdued passion, I brought the mattress in from the bedroom to lay in front of the fire where we fell asleep.  Not having in our friendly conversations talked about anything related to having sex, as I only wanted our relationship to be platonic, it never crossed my mind if she was a virgin or not, even though what her friend had said. What occurred though when waking up that evening while she lay cuddled in my arms changed the whole ball game when she softly whispered that she loved me, and then went on to say that she wanted to experience having sex and if becoming pregnant she would have a remembrance of me. That was when I thought it was really about time to confess that I was married so as to nullify that request, but even that didn’t deter her emotional and passionate unwavering desires, which although of my dislike of condoms I sure wished for a dozen then.

It had been a long time in between virgins for me, and I really didn’t want it to be a hit and run affair with her of maybe suffering the consequences after, and I advised her on those facts as another means of restraint. But her hurt and sad reply that I wouldn’t have thought twice about it had it been her friend who wasn’t a virgin swayed me. I also thought that with her being young and inexperienced in sexual matters she wouldn’t discern coitus interruptus by me faking climaxing so that at least her second request wouldn’t achieve fruition. All of that had made me feel rather famished, and seeing that we couldn’t live on lovemaking and fresh air only, and with the fog lifted, we went out for another English meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and with the inner man fortified the outer man was ready. Because we both were more at ease in our own minds then for what we separately thought our forthcoming outcomes would be, we imbibed our Cheshire cocktails, bedded down for the night in front of the fireplace, snuggled together while playfully intimate, and our fondling stimulation that evoked further pleasurable excitement caused her to be as ready as she would ever be. There was no excuse for me then, and while keeping her ablaze she kept me smouldering. We both fell asleep spent and sexually satisfied; however, her attempt for continuation the following morning fell on deaf ears because I was stuffed, so I made the excuse of wanting to go to the village store to purchase the morning papers and a few odds and ends for lunch. Going on my own and walking around to resuscitate my flagging body not only got me invigorated again but also to really see what the Ellesmere Port was all about, for our moving to and fro on the Mercy River and her companionship had deterred that. There was nothing in comparison seen there though to what I saw on getting back. I didn’t expect my greeting to be that enticing and provocative because of her wearing only a lace blouse and a smile. On the other hand, not knowing what the future held for her or of my return to that part of the world caused her to be sad and teary for the rest of the day. And when I promised to correspond as a compromise and it still didn’t appease her, I conceded to fulfill her desire of just one more time before leaving late afternoon.

Her seemingly girlish request of wanting it to be especially memorable so as to be able to think about it for sexual gratification when I wasn’t there, didn’t get me to have to rack my brain to satisfy her for that request. Now I didn’t also have to be an authority on Kama Sutra to know the variety of sex positions that I had one in mind for her.  With her been that sexually inexperienced, I could see that she had no idea what was going to occur when lying on my back and getting her to sit astride and facing me. However, she soon knew when drawing her closer to me and she ardently participated with lust and passion. But would you guess it that at that moment the front door opened and her girlfriend who had arrived earlier than expected was halfway into the room before we both saw each other. She had stopped dead in her tracks and her mouth was agape with astonishment, and with nowhere to go because the bed-sitter was a kitchen, living cum bedroom, she slowly back peddled towards the bathroom. Her eyes though never left us, and it was focused with a sensual look on her face as she watched our uncontrollable impetus. Because of Jenny’s enraptured senses and unopened eyes and with her back towards the door, made her unaware of her friend’s presence. There was no way I was going to stop either, neither did it seemed that her friend had any intention of not stopping watching also. Not telling Jenny anything about her friend’s arrival while we laughingly disentangled ourselves, she then headed for the bathroom. Silence prevailed for a moment followed by whispering, outrageous laughter and more whispering. While Jennifer was showering, her friend who must have showered before her came out clad in a towel only, and I had visions of her drying off in front of the fireplace, but I gave thanks that she was dried off already and had only come out to fetch a fresh change of clothing.

I had thought the goodbyes would be teary; Jenny’s assumption though of a continuous ongoing relationship in any form on my presumed return had restrained her emotions somewhat much to my relief. But on board the ship that night while at sea, I did a bit of soul searching concerning the women around the world who had come into my life. Although there were a few females that I had come on to through lust, and there were numerous others who had seduced me, there were also others that I had looked for companionship through loneliness, and others who became my bosom buddies. There was never a second time around for those whom I had affairs with though, even if some of it were hit and run affairs, but that was due to the circumstances of traveling around the world to different destinations at irregular times. At other times when voyage continuity to the same destination was on sailing orders, the temptation to visit remembered accustomed haunts, which would have been easy to pick up where I had left off, was somewhat suppressed by the same old same old with no new exciting diversions. The saying that a seaman has a woman in every port and is not worth his salt if he hasn’t, doesn’t mean for sex only.

We then headed southwards into the Bristol Channel to Cardiff in Wales. A castle in its city centre like Edinburgh had was Cardiff Castle, but I couldn’t for the life of me work out the reason why the low walls that surrounded it had sculpted wolves, bears and lions in crawling positions all over it, except that maybe it was to scare off former invaders. What was understandable though were the many badly damaged bombed sites of World War 2, which either stood as derelict buildings or cleared vacant lots. Having a love of rugby union, of which I had watched the Springboks, All Blacks, Wallabies and England play against each other, and my other love of singing, I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined watching the Welsh national team of Wales playing, nor the Welsh Male Choir in full voice as a personal experience. What was also an unusual experience was on hearing their weird language spoken that sounded to me like babbling double Dutch, where as in Scotland there were certain words in their language that was similar to Dutch and could be understood. After many return voyages to the United Kingdom, which included all of the above cities and numerous other inland cities and towns reached by river locks, my perspective of that country took in a vast amount of experiences relating to historical, geographical and personal aspects that was distinctively British. Standing stone circles, chalk figures, Roman villas and baths. Abbeys, monasteries, cathedrals and palaces. Picturesque villages, hamlets and terraced houses. Mills and mines. Sherwood Forest, glens and moors. Locks and canals. Weirs, marshes and moats. Wembley Stadium, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs, Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool soccer teams watched at matches played. Mersey beat, dance clubs, cosy pubs, sing a long at pubs, warm beer and fish and chips. Red double-decked buses, London taxis and the tube. Docklands, smog, the Flying Angel and permissive women.

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‘The Cotton Club’. Harlem. New York.
Check out ‘The Hood Gangsters’ at the back of the club. Ship crew with Gals and Moi front and right

34. My Merchant Mariner World Travels (Part 7)

Bazil and I saw each other when ashore in Cape Town so as to keep in touch either at my home or meet up at the Waterford Arms or the Avenue Hotel where I worked then as a casual barman. I was also fortunate that my dad then owned a fish and chips shop in Lansdowne Road, Lansdowne, where I would work when required to. What I didn’t think was that working there would be fraught with so many distractions, especially in Cape Town that use to be my safe haven away from the opposite sex. They seemed to come out of the woodwork, with their beguiling ways, that I had to at times beat off with a big stick. They came in all shapes, sizes and ages from married, divorced, single and even older school girls that made a bee-line to our shop instead of the one further down the road in the vicinity where they lived.  My dad liked it though because he was then doing a roaring business trade that saw him able to apply for other provisions license. I would be invited to come around to their home for a cuppa, for lunch or even for a walk when locking up shop in the evening, they never missed a trick One out of those charming lot of women bears a mention because she was able to charm the skin off a snakes back. There was this nurse that took the bus from the front of the shop to her hospital job. The first time I caught her eyeing me I greeted her with a hand wave because of thinking that I had never seen her coming to buy anything in the shop and that she might become a potential customer if I waved a hand of friendship. It worked, because she began coming to the shop to purchase not only fish and chips but also other provisions; ka-ching went the till! She was a bit of a chatter-box but it was a never mind seeing how she had become one of our best customers. Nonetheless, I found it disconcerting when she waylaid me some evenings when waiting for the bus home. But my concerns seemed to be unfounded when one evening she was there again but in her nurse uniform, and I was told that she was going to visit her brother who lived in Mowbray on her way to the hospital. Now who wouldn’t believe a nurse looking all innocent and pure dressed up in a semi-starched white uniform with a little nurse’s cap perched on her head.  Yeah, do pigs fly? We just happened, with emphasis on happened, to be traveling the same way then, when she nonchalantly made the comment that she was nearing where her brother lived, and would I like to see where because he lived at Mowbray’s Cemetery and he was the caretaker there. You could have knocked me down with a feather and my surprise must have shown because she laughed at my astonished look. Being up to it because of never ever been in a graveyard at night before and also wanting to see what the setup would be at a caretaker’s cottage, I joined her up the rather long pathway to there. A light was on when knocking, but after repeated knocking and waiting, there was no response. With me reckoning that he wasn’t home, she ignored that, and by lifting up the doormat to produce a key there, she unlocked the door and invited me in. Her explanation was that he always left the key there for her to let herself in if he wasn’t home. A straight forward answer that still didn’t ring any bells that the wool was been pulled over my eyes. Asking me to wait until his arrival because he knew that she was coming and shouldn’t be any longer, and that she had told him about me and that he wanted to meet me also sounded plausible. In another of her deceptive tricks but what put the cherry on the icing for me to wait, was when she offered me a brandy to wile away the time. But because of not observing her pouring the continuous drinks that followed, which she must have had a heavy hand in the pouring of the brandy, I was soon feeling very tipsy. During our idle conversation she casually wanted to know if I too had fantasies like she would have at times, and if any of mine had ever come to fruition. Of course I said, it been right in my element for so many things achieved without wishful thinking. However, wrongly understood by this conniving sweet acting innocent looking nurse who then wanted to know if I ever fantasied about making out with a women dressed up in a school girl or a nurse’s uniform. Of course I said again, truthfully, and asked what type of men uniforms she fantasied a man to be in. I should have surmised that she would say navy, with a knowing smile on her face, knowing that I was in the Merchant Navy, but because my ‘Bacchus cup runneth over’, I didn’t comprehend where it was leading to. She did though because of proceeding to do a slow strip of her nurse uniform with me sitting there like a stunned mullet. Now I don’t know which one of us was enjoying it more, but she seemed to take great pleasure in the titillating manner she was sliding off her uniform, and the rest. Her saying that she had fulfilled my fantasy and that was her turn to have hers fulfilled set me back on my haunches even though I was still sitting down. But she was up to the task of divesting me with not much further ado as if she was on a mission of lustful determination. However, her desire to appease her sexual appetite was prevented due to her naked exposure that had been constantly too close-up in my face, and when highly intoxicated I seem to have very little control of my surges. Having a premature ejaculation without even doing the deed can be very embarrassing at any time for any man, but although she showed her disappointment, my reassurance though that the next time it would be successful seemed to satisfy her, which to me would be in her fantasied dreams for pulling the wool over my eyes like that. Then the gods smiled on me again because there was a letter from Safmarine to sign me up on the SS South African Transporter. My dad though wasn’t smiling because of thinking that my absence in the shop would reduce the customer flow, but my advising him to tell those who asked that it was only a short voyage and that I would be back, worked for him.

Joan was another one who wasn’t thrilled, especially as Harold Jnr made up our fourth child then, but she knew that I was working towards a solution for quitting the Merchant Mariner life. But in the mean time we were in the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Brazil, and our eventual sighting of the Sugar-loaf and the statue of Christ the Redeemer with its outstretched arms atop Corcovado (Hunchback) Mountain made it known to us that we were sailing into the wide spread Guanabara Bay of Rio de Janeiro. What caught my eyes too were the numerous granite outcrops of mountains that inundated the surrounding area, and it brought to mind the mountains of Cape Town when sailing into the harbour there. Then and there I made up my mind that came what may that it would be one of my excursions ashore to see if I still had the ability to scale one of them. I almost didn’t due to not knowing the other distractions that awaited me ashore in the form of music, dance, cachaca (cane spirit), which was almost similar to the type distilled and consumed in Durban from the sugar cane there, cerveja (beer), beaches and the body beautiful. Considering what I had heard of Rio, it should have come as no surprise to the pleasure pursued by the Cariocas (a native of Rio de Janeiro), and it was spelt out in their outrageous Canervala that lasted for five days. It consisted of a combination of the dressing up in imaginative South American Indian’s costumes and dancing to the African rhythms of their samba as they paraded through the streets on their decorated floats that pulsated and glittered. So too did the participants as they strutted their stuff in lavish colored costumes that sparkled with sequins right down to their rhinestone studded G-strings, and every imaginable headdress. The atmosphere was that electrical and pumped up with the waves of the percussion beat of the drums that vibrated through you with the samba beat, that there was no way I wasn’t going to join in the dancing of it with the many who were. Because of my dancing ability in the gyrating of the hips to the dance steps of the samba I found myself attracting many dance partners, and that eventuated in spending the day with a mixed group who had a lust for life and a love of romance. Although I always made an effort to acquaint myself with the basic language of the country visited, and even knowing that Portuguese was the language spoken there, it came as a surprise to me when finding that it wasn’t the same as spoken in Portugal.

It was more of a mixture of the different nationalities there, almost like the mixture language of Africans, but it did me in good stead as usual, and although they found it quite amusing at times with my pronunciation of some of it, they would encouragingly rectify it. It was a fascinating day because I was not only questioned about myself, which they found my coming from Africa fascinating too because they all had African roots, but because they not only explained about Rio and its people, they also showed and introduced me to it. I was told that because of my colouring and background I was a Moreno (a dark white), two of them were caboclo’s (European / Indian mix), another two were cabo verdes (straight-haired blacks), and one was a mulatto (light-skinned black). It wasn’t a colour distinction like made in South Africa’s apartheid system but used as a distinction of their ancestry that they were proud of. What really separated the Cariocas was poverty, and when taken to the favelas (shanty towns) where some were situated on the fringes of wealthy suburbs, it became obvious of the class distinction that blatantly existed. I could relate to the violence and crime that was rife in those areas, for in South Africa it was occurring too in the shanty towns that were springing up like mushrooms overnight due to the Afrikaner National government’s apartheid law of the Group Areas Act. The common denominators for those inconsistencies of the Cariocas that kept them free and democratically together as one people was the beaches where all of the population congregated to do whatever turned them on. I was at times turned on too but not for the same reason. Mine was due to the skimpiest show-off bathing costumes worn by the women that never even saw the water, especially the ones called flo dental (dental floss), which was the appropriate name of the tiniest bikini worn by women. There turn on was the spectator sport of futebol (soccer), which was also played on the beaches, where all walks of life fanatical supporters crammed into the stadiums. Not only to cheer on their respective teams with streamers and banners of their clubs colours, but to also pound huge samba drums, let of firecrackers, throw unrolled toilet rolls and anything else if either over excited or damn angry.

And then there was the dancing of the samba that from the very young to the oldest of old would either tap their feet or shake their booties anywhere night or day when either the music of the samba or the bossanova filled the air at any venue or celebration. Much to my amazement I also discovered that the origin of the samba was not only linked with the African rhythms brought by the slaves of Africa with them, but also the Angolan tam-tam drum and the distinctive dance steps. They also celebrated the body beautiful with a respected of if you’ve got it flaunt it, and it showed in their dress which was usually casual, colourful and at times that light that it only consisted of a bathing suit. Their mannerisms also presented it in their greetings where you kissed a woman on both cheeks when greeting, which I could never get enough of much to their amusement. The women to because of standing that close to me while looking me in the eyes while conversing and who would touch me also frequently on any part of my arm while doing that, first gave me the wrong impression, until told that there were no hidden intentions in them doing that, which I really had to get used to. They didn’t only consider body contact as an essential part of the communication process but also when expressing themselves in body language that somehow represented the signing of mute people. What really threw me though was when seeing them use a finger sign gesture that they said was a symbol of good luck derived from an African sexual charm to my argument that it was a rude sign in South Africa. My understanding of inserting the thumb between the first and second fingers of a clenched fist and to wiggle it meant to get fucked, and from then on with much laughter they would keep on doing it to whomever we met.

If inviting them on board the ship with the permission of the Chief Steward for a South African lunch in our mess room prepared by the chef and myself was enthusiastically and gratefully enjoyed, it was nothing in comparison to the following unforgettable Rio experiences they let me partake of. The first was the curved beach of Copacabana where whatever you had a hankering for, was. Although only a narrow strip of land, it had crammed into it every possible form of entertainment from bars on the beach and beachfront, to those with strip shows, and hotel roof ones too. The night was one long one of drink-waiters run off their feet to replenish the bottomless innards it seemed of thirsty customers with draught beer as we ate, drank, sang, danced to samba music or just enjoyed the time spent there of the unadulterated pleasure around us on the huge sidewalk that overlooked the beach. The clubs taken to by my new found friends were of every description that included participating in dancing and viewing at sex clubs that included strip tease to live sex acts performances. If also so inclined, which I didn’t have to be because of my luscious Brazilian bombshell companion that didn’t seem to be getting enough of me, there was glamorous beautiful prostitutes that lined the sidewalk with a persistence to make your acquaintance and to proposition you. Two of them when introduced to me by my friends, who knew them, were the most stunning women in looks and figure wise, until laughingly pointed out to me that they were actually men in convincing drag, and when I kept looking back at them for they were that believable, they would cheekily wave back at me much to the amusement of my companion. Where they took me next was a most unusual and interesting neighbourhood that consisted of hills with cobbled streets and old mansions that we reached by riding the bondinho (little tram) to Santa Teresa. The unique aspect of that area was that many artists and hippies resided in those homes, and it was depicted in their colourful psychedelic illustrations inspired by drugs such as LSD, which when partaken of again when with them brought back many pleasant memories of my other flower power moments. Even the residents of the favelas that spread out on the hillsides just below when under the influence of that hallucinogenic drug or marijuana or cocaine, was one way of looking at their miserable existence through rose tinted glasses.

My Cariocas friends knew of my burning desire to climb anyone of those compelling mountains, but made it a bit easy for me by first taking me up to the Pao de Acucar (Sugar-loaf) in the two stage cable cars, and then we all drove in a Kombi van up the mountain Corcovado on which the statue of Christ stood. The views seen from the Sugar-loaf before sunset was spectacular as it took in Guanabara Bay, a wonderful view of the city, all along the winding coastline and Corcovado Mountain, and as night fell, the brightly lit statue and sparkling city lights was almost as good as the view from Cape Town’s Table Mountain. The Hunchback that hunched over Rio when seen from the top of it took on a different perspective in its panoramic view of the city in a glorious tropical setting sandwiched between the mountain and the sea, and its surrounds that stretched as far as the eye could see reminded me again of Cape Town. And then only did I have my wish granted when they took me to a rock climbing club, which saw them rather wait for my return because they weren’t as enthused as I was, and with a group of other climbers climbed to about 300 metres above the city that not only made my day but also put the icing on the cake for my fantastic stay in Rio.

From there, back into the Atlantic Ocean and then into the Gulf of Mexico where our ports of call were Coatzacoalcos and Vera Cruz in Mexico. Going ashore into town in Coatzacoalcos was like walking into a western movie, and that was the first time I actually saw horses hitched at a rail outside a bar with swinging half doors that lead into the bar. The swarthy western dressed men had amongst them a scattering of Mexicans dressed in baggy pantaloons and loose vest like tops, with straw cowboy-come-sombrero hats hung loosely at the back of the head with leather straps, and some wore serapes. The women too were either dressed in western clothing or colourful embroidered dresses with decorative combs the held their long sleek black hair in place. Strolling Mexican troubadours were dressed in full-embroidered costume, studded buckle belt, neckerchief and authentic sombreros with music to match. Having spent a good part of Lent in Rio, the preparations for holy week festivities of Easter were a welcome sight.  Here I witnessed firsthand their unique culture activities like the Mexican hat dance and the piñata, which was a variant of the firecracker present filled paper-Mache men that were hung in the streets and exploded during fiesta time. There were four things I found that they took very seriously; fiestas and bullfights, the drinking of tequila and siesta time.

We found everything shut and closed for siesta time on our first afternoon’s shore leave, and after walking around sightseeing in the hot sweltering sun we had a huge thirst for cold beer. As all liquor outlets were closed, we knew that if we found a red light district, which never closed, we would find cold beers. The difficulty was that the few people we encountered on the deserted streets couldn’t understand English, expect one who still got it wrong when saying to him ‘Habla usted ingles?’ He pointed and said ‘engleesh’ in the direction of a large imposing building. We approached a closed high wooden gate with a pull bell, rung and waited. After we rang again, a small-screened hatch opened and we asked if English was spoken. When a female voice replied in English that she did, the crewman who had made the inquiry suddenly started asking irrelevant questions, and with a hasty gracias and adios steered us protesting away. His explanation got us to return to the ship until their siesta time was over because he hadn’t been game enough to ask a Catholic nun where the red light district was.

From siesta we went to fiesta where the sleepy population exploded into nightly celebrations, and it was unbelievable that it was the same seaport town as the afternoon. Festoons of colored lights decked the streets, trees were spun with twinkling lights, colored banners fluttered in the breeze, Mexican music emitted from everywhere, colourful dressed throngs crowed the streets with excited balloon carrying children, the food from street vendors tantalized the smell and taste buds, and Mexican bands played while moving through the crowds. We soaked up the carnival atmosphere with shots of tequila, licks of salt sprinkled in the indentation of the thumb held against the forefinger, followed by the sucking of lemon wedges, and through getting sucked in by that ritual we became well and truly soaked. Wandering through the streets from bar to bar, dancing, singing, hugging, kissing and just having a good time, we found ourselves in the back streets where a complete different environment existed. Mexican abodes were linked in continuous lines with harsh lights glaring from open doors and windows that lit up the unlit streets. The aroma of food cooking, laughter, conversation and music made us furtively approach one abode to investigate that life style, and was pleasantly surprised when invited in. They were peasant folk who had gathered together with their families to celebrate the upcoming Easter festivities at home. Tortillas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, frijoles, tamales and a variety of other unpronounceable Mexican dishes were offered to us, and when we supplemented their drinks of mescal and beer with our own abundance of tequila and performed on their musical instruments, it was party time. The mescal when presented to us to sample was a lesser sophisticated one than tequila, and although it had a stronger taste and smell that had the same effect to my senses when over indulging, the weird thing about it was that the worm that was included in the bottle must have suffered the same deadening effects. Their neighbours who had come around to join in the fun caused the party to extend into the street that lasted till dawn, and before dragging ourselves back to the ship we requested a return the following night.

We had observed the poor conditions they were living in and their meager possessions, so we raided the ships linen room, cold storage, stores and paint locker, and that night with the aid of the gangway watchman we smuggled the lot ashore. They were overcome with emotion when we handed them our loot, and on telling them that there was more where that came from for other relatives, we were hugged and kissed to no end. What we had brought with in edibles and drink was enough for a few parties, so the relatives and friends came around again to party. Late at night, full of tequila and feeling amorous we approached the man of the house to inquire of single women in the area to join the party because we didn’t want to offend our host by encroaching on the women that were there. His directions to a local government prostitute house under health regulations made us go there to check it out to see if we could encourage a few back to the party. That house had more than prostitutes, for it was also a bordello with all the trimmings. A horse shoe shaped bar, full sized dance floor, Mexican band with all the regalia, seating coves, dim colourful lighting, private rooms at the back, and the women were all shapes, sizes and ages. Their dress ranged from the back and front of a dress held together either by three large bows strategically placed or loosely crisscrossed with leather strips. Others with voluptuous breast just wore a loose lace or silk flap over them and their short skirts were also flaps only. Others again wore either tight fitting, short off the shoulder dresses that showed off their curvaceous bodies or very short skirts and off the shoulder midriff tops that did the same. My shipmates on seeing all that flesh flaunted forgot about the village party and just wanted pussy, but it came at a price though. Even dancing cost, and although the women were encouraging an erection I though wasn’t going to pay for sex. My shipmates always found me strange in that respect; nevertheless, my belief was that sex was a two Way Street where both should be receiving pleasure, and if somebody was just going to lay there and fake it, I’d rather wank myself. Then again I had enjoyed more sex than they had breakfasted.

It was one of those nights where I was feeling a bit under the weather from all the alcohol consumed, so leaving them there I returned to the party that was still in full swing. Imbibed further from drinking a few cold Mexican beers, which was just as potent as tequila, to sober up but it had only made me feel worse, and not wanting to disgrace myself, I excused myself to leave. Of course my host thinking of my safety insisted that I sleep it off in his bedroom that also slept his four children. My persistent loud intoxicated refusal because of not wanting to disturb or inconvenience his family, brought one of his neighbours also into the argumentative discussion. His offer though for me to go and sleep it off at his place where he lived alone, and  because he did night shift work, which he was doing that night, was accepted, and I passed out on his bed in the darkened room fully clothed with shoes and all on. I stirred later all bleary eyed on feeling my shoes and socks removed, followed by my trousers and shirt, and thinking that it was the night shift worker’s thoughtfulness and consideration, I mumbled a thank you. Becoming half-awake soon after with a heavy feeling on my chest and on my queasy stomach caused me to grab for my chest and stomach so as to massage that feeling away before spewing my guts out, instead what my hands encountered was what felt like someone’s body. My very slow inebriated brain took a while to comprehend that; however, when running my hands downwards it came to rest on small firm warm buttocks, and when also only becoming aware of a warmness that firmly enclosed my firmness within a pulsating recess I concluded that it was a female. The face was of a young pretty girl who had been at both parties, and although we had been friendly, chatted and danced with all of them, we hadn’t encouraged or been over friendly to the females. That one though had been watching me shyly, and when dancing had held me a bit tight, but to me it had only seemed like childish niceness. It hadn’t been childish niceness then because I had been well and truly screwed by a hot tamale 17-year-old Mexican girl. Her lead on explanation with much more gestures than words from me, and her smiling demonstrations all punctuated with a si señor unraveled her story.  She had seen me return back alone to the party, overheard the neighbours offer, saw him leave his house for work, snuck in and it was her that had undressed me after doing the same. My shipmates when told where I was on their return to the party, without the woman, came in search of me, and they couldn’t believe that what they had to pay for hadn’t come near to what I had got for nothing.

And then there were the bullfights. What had been seen in movies had nothing what so ever to do with the real thing because all the very gory bits and bloodletting had been left out, which was what I experienced when seeing my first bull fight. The spectacle began quite colorfully and calmly with an exhibition of folk dancing that was followed by a performance by the charros (Mexican sombrero-wearing cowboys), and then five bulls went through the process of real bullfighting. It was really a spectator blood sport that was enjoyed by a packed arena of Mexicans who cheered the matadors with a thunderous ‘ Ole!’ in their endeavours, but because I came away feeling a bit queasy I made straight for the first bar where a few shots of tequila soon fixed that. Another interesting highlight was the different American Indian peoples such as Navajo, Hopi, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creed and Seminole that I came in contact with in Mexico. There were also the Mexican Indians of Aztec, Maya, Toltec, Zapotec and Totonac origin who wore their traditional dress of elaborate cloaks, headdresses in the form of an eagle or serpent, and the colourful Quetzalcoatl that was a long rainbow colored bird tail when they performed their ceremonial dances.

We docked in the lively colourful port of Veracruz at the beginning of holy week that went from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It wasn’t something new to me as a Catholic because I was in Catholic country, but there it was celebrated completely differently. They had their sombre religious ceremonies almost nightly; however, the festivities that followed in its zócalo (plaza) featured nearly non-stop music and gaiety, and also food and craft fairs, and it was a perfect setting for watching the everyday life of the Mexicans unfold when relaxing in the numerous cafes. What assisted too was the mariachi music that was belted out by a band with guitars, violins and trumpets, and also the marimba, danzonera and norieño music that was played to the crowds congregated there. Their city market was another place that was a kaleidoscope of movement of colour that bedazzled the eyes and the mind with everything imaginable and unimaginable on display for sale. The merchandise included hand painted tiles, colorfully glazed pottery, woven blankets and serapes, embroidered dresses and sequined sombreros and every description of jewellery, plus their flora and fauna, and their expressive and impressive form of dress. What were more impressionable though were the ruins of Zempoala that was the main city of the Totonac at the time of the Spanish conquest with its four temples. It was amazing to actually see what those savages as described by the Spaniards who had nothing in comparison to their civilization and culture had accomplished in their art form, architecture, mathematics and science.

Another amazing and breath taking exhibition seen was the performance of the valadores (the flying eagle dancers) by a group of Totonacs that was of daring and skill. There were a group of them on a square-revolving platform at the top of a thirty-meter pole dressed in brightly ceremonial garments. While one of them stood in the centre of four others, who were perched on the four sides, and beating on a drum attached to a bamboo flute that was played simultaneously, the others that were perched there fell backwards attached to special ropes tied around their ankles, and to the beat of the music revolved in swinging wider circles around the post, and still swinging descended lower and lower until reaching the ground. Watching those first bungy jumpers was a unique experience, though washing down hot tortillas with tequila was a better one. What the Spanish did introduce and establish in Mexico was their Catholic influence, and it was seen in the cathedrals, churches, abbeys and monasteries that abounded everywhere I went in Veracruz. Special attention was given though to the alters that held the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who was the mother of Christ and the patroness of Mexico, that was encircled with lavishly gold leafed designs, which the same veneration was upheld in Coatzacoalcos.

Departing, we sailed across the Gulf of Mexico to Corpus Christi in Texas where we experienced a hurricane and a tornado. On our way in we passed Mustang Island with vast amounts of fishing, sailing and pleasure craft moored at marinas or sailing the smooth blue waters that lapped the miles of sandy beaches. Lush green palm fronds and vegetation surrounded the picnic areas, and varieties of birds sat like music notes on the wire that spanned the continuous line of electric standards. Holiday resorts, park-lands, recreation areas, residential homes and towns all neatly aligned along the seaway inlet were seen while sailing further inland. We berthed, loaded our cargo, hoisted the Blue Peter, which is the flag indicating leaving, and prepared to sail before midnight. The weather had other ideas though because the captain received a weather report of a hurricane pending in the Corpus Christi area. We were then ordered to batten down the hatches, to make fast, secure and stand by, and we did just that. Both anchors were lowered, and not only the hawsers but also steel cables and chains were used for mooring. Hatches, lifeboats, jib cranes and deck cargo were double secured and all portholes and storm doors were double bolted. We put on our life-jackets and waited.

Thank heavens for the captain’s extra precautions because not only did a hurricane hit Corpus Christi but also a tornado. Our ship bobbed, bounced, pitched, rolled, creaked and strained at the lease, and when daylight broke our damage was minimal compared to the destruction that lay around us. Roofs and doors of wharf loading sheds were torn off; discarded cargo lay strewn on the wharves, an overhead traveling crane had toppled, and smashed sea craft floated by. The town and homes were like flattened playing cards, electric standards and lines looked like discarded fishing gear, uprooted trees had taken on the form of giant octopuses and the cars were a panel beaters nightmare. We sailed past ships that had broken free from unsecured mooring, adrift and ashore. Unmanned, demasted, and unbridged boats drifted with the tide, and grappling hook poles was used to push them clear from our dead slow traveling ship. It was heart rendering to see the mangled mass of fishing, sailing and pleasure craft that were catapulted in, on and around moorings of the marinas. Mustang Island was a desert island recognizable only by the lighthouse beacon as we sailed back into the Gulf of Mexico and past the oil platforms offshore that fed the local refineries.

From there we sailed to Galveston, which was still in Texas, and the only excitement there was visiting ‘The Elissa,’ a square-rigger that was used for merchant marine duties a century ago. The next port of call was Houston, which was just fifty nautical miles from Galveston, with its sprawling skyscraper metropolis and incredible fly over bridges. That was the city were the crew got their denim working gear from after been picked up from the ship by a paid taxi from the company that supplied and fitted us out. The taxi drivers were pretty obliging when wanting to see more of their city, for they would always take a roundabout way back to the ship and acted as tourist guides. In that way we viewed spectacular old Southern mansions, and when requested they would stop at eateries so as to partake of the local cuisine and at bars for drinks on the way back to the ship. Beaumont in Texas was our next port of call where Texas tea flowed all day. When I first saw the oil drilling derricks I thought they were electric pylons because they were everywhere; on house properties or they stretched for miles on what looked like farmland. What changed my mind was seeing and hearing the constant thumping of the oil drilling pumps, the expensive luxurious automobiles driven by the locals and the offshore oil drilling rigs as we sailed up the Texas coast.

While there, we ‘so called non-white crews’ common sense diverted what we had to see as a minor incident that could have developed into a major one because of the apartheid white philosophy upheld by the majority of officers while in other countries. We were very aware what retaliation could be inflicted on us when back in the Afrikaner ruled South Africa if letting situations run it’s coarse. One of the crew who was really a quite giant and wouldn’t say boo to a goose had for some unknown reason incurred the wrath of one of the officers, and was given all the crappy jobs. Going ashore to relax and have a drink in a bar, he found the officer drinking there too with other officers of our ship. Because he was polite and courteous and not one to hold a grudge he offered to buy the officers a round of drinks. He though was one of those white is right Afrikaners, and he heaped abuse on him for having the audacity to even contemplating having a drink together and of drinking in the same bar. That it seemed snapped the gentle giant into a raving one and he went for him. The officer was lucky that there were five officers with him as assistance to ward off the onslaught that would have occurred against him by the crewman, and they also assisted him to escort the seaman back to the ship where they clapped him in the brig.

On arriving back at the ship and hearing of the incident, caused us to be indignant of the treatment he had received. It continued in our conversation the following evening when going ashore to a club to have a drink because of him still under lock and key. Unfortunately, two African Americans who overheard our conversation wanted to know if he was Caucasian, and when informing them that he was Coloured they told us to remain where we were and that they would be back to hear the rest of the story. They came back all right, but with about twelve other of their friends that were armed to the teeth with more guns than we had ever seen before. They wanted to storm the ship, have the crewman forcibly released, deal with the white honky officer as they called him, and keep the crewman in America. Although we were angry too at his mistreatment we also knew that he was married with a family back home and he wouldn’t want that to have occurred. Fortunately, we were able to resolve that without them going in with guns blazing; however, they were still adamant that something had to be done to teach the officer a hard earned lesson. What defused that though was in telling them that we had our own ways and means for retaliation, and without any of the officers who used their white supremacy in degrading us any the wiser. They were all ears by our explanation that it was a simple procedure whereby we would doctor the food of the officer guilty of those offenses. All crewmen knew of the castor oil seeds that were grown in Durban, and a Durban Indian third cook had first introduced it on one of the ships when verbally abused in derogatory terms by a white second steward. He loved hot curries and always wanted a second helping, and he received it doctored direct from the galley and served by the officer’s saloon steward in their mess who knew the routine and the why for. What he didn’t know was the castor oil seeds had been baked brown in the oven, grated, and then mixed in with the curry. He sat on the toilet seat off and on for two days, and every morsel of food that passed his lips didn’t stay in his stomach long enough for him to regain his sapped strength. He also looked a shadow of his former self with dark rings around his eyes, and the medical officer could only advise him to watch what he ate because something wasn’t agreeing with him. If he only knew how right he was, and those little acts of kindness that gave them the shits for giving us the shits would act as a respite for us in keeping them in sickbay. The twenty or so, because others had also joined our company, couldn’t stop their laughter on hearing that, and it also didn’t stop them under protest from us to continue plying us with drinks for such a revengeful conceived idea, and suggested that the officer receive a double amount of the beans, which he did.

Fully loaded we sailed for the Virgin Islands for bunkers and then on to Cape Town for bunkers only too, or so I thought. Two days out of Cape Town I was summoned to the Chief Stewards office for a bit of unusual news concerning further voyages for me. A captain I had sailed before with as his Captains Tiger had requested to have me again as his Tiger, but due to his ship been four days from Cape Town, which was coming down the coast to there, I would be there before him. In any case, to compensate without me losing wages, the SS South African Transvaal passenger-liner that would be arriving at the same time as we were, was to be my workplace while it was there for three days before sailing back to England. But all in all, Joan and I counted us so lucky for that really welcome period of time spent together, and so did the kids.

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In my cabin on board ship in my going ashore Mexican gear in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Double bunks at left with wardrobes at each end. Wooden seat against back bulkhead. Porthole left top of bulkhead. Draw cupboard in front with accessories hanging cupboard. World traveled places pennants and family photos against bulkheads. And not much room to swing a cat.