Category Archives: Uncategorized

A STRANGE AND MARVELOUS CHRISTMAS

Several people have encouraged me to write a sequel to An Immoral Proposal, the idea with which I’ve been toying. But as usual, the past decade has been unbelievably transient for me. Seven years ago, after a nine-year stint in New Zealand, we returned to North America after grandchildren began to appear on the scene.

Michael and I went back to Ontario, Canada, where we had lived for twelve years before moving on to the United States due to a job transfer. We’ve packed in so much moving and traveling over the past forty one years that it’s become par for the course now. Life has been too frenetic of late and so I’m just slowing down to catch my breath, staying in the now and simply letting creativity take its course.

Having revamped my website, I thought instead of writing a book sequel, I’ll simply write blog posts you all can follow and perhaps a book might materialize out of it. We’ll see.

So, I’ll kick off this post as a retrospective. If you’ve read An Immoral Proposal, you’ll know that my story begins in Cape Town, South Africa and the first move we made was to England to escape apartheid’s draconian Immorality Act law that forbade Michael and me to be together. What was it like for a young woman shy of twenty to leave her family and country behind and venture into pastures new and far away?

I left Cape Town on Christmas Day 1975, my first time on an aircraft. As the British Airways Jumbo 757 hurtled down the runway, my breathing became shallow as my chest tightened with a sense of awe, wonder and anticipation all rolled into one.  “Someone pinch me please, I can’t believe this is finally happening!” I wished I could tell someone, but my traveling companions were sparsely dotted about the fuselage. Being Christmas Day, the flight was only about a third full. Each traveler had a whole rows of seats to her/himself.

Once the aircraft had reached its cruising altitude, the attendants trundled down the narrow aisle with turkey dinners, cranberry sauce, Christmas pudding and brandy sauce – the works, complete with Christmas cracker (a party favour in the English tradition that normally has a charm, joke on a strip of paper and a paper hat.)

Jet travel then was still a novelty – expensive and therefore not yet commonplace.  Those were the days of warm scented towels, real crockery and cutlery and when people dressed up for air travel. Looking back makes me chortle at the most unsuitable gear I wore for a twelve-hour flight.

A fashionable, fine corduroy patch-work patterned dress, chosen with much care and deliberation for the English winter, was my choice.  Matching maroon pantyhose met either dark green or maroon stilettos on my feet.  I can’t remember and I can’t see because the photographer (amateur) cut my feet off!  But really? Who did I think I was donning this get up complete with trendy green Sherlock Holmes style cloak to meet my Dearly Beloved? Elizabeth Taylor?

The downside of flying in 1975 was that the only source of entertainment was audio sound and it didn’t take long to run out of reading material. This was before in-flight movies and today’s plethora of modern electronic devices. The twelve-hour flight from Cape Town to London was brutal, especially not having a soul to talk to. Fortunately, I was able to stretch out across several seats in my row and fall into a restless sleep, at least giving me some respite from infernal boredom. How totally different flying is today!

After disembarking, I teetered nervously on swollen feet toward the baggage claim sign praying that Michael would find me and Heathrow Airport would not swallow me up. My prayer was answered almost immediately as I spotted the unmistakable short, wavy-haired figure of my sweetheart, beside a taller one, heading toward me. At this point, being the hopeless romantic I am, I’d like to report that I kicked off the shackles from my feet, and glided on the air in slow motion toward Michael’s open arms. Instead, I wobbled toward a very relieved looking sweetheart and his companion whom he introduced to me as Eli. This was our first taste of freedom together where the menacing watchful eyes of South Africa’s secret police could not reach us.

Let me end this post by back-tracking to a moment in the flight.  As I was scrolling through the music channels on the armrest of my seat, I stopped at the one piping Karen Carpenter’s rich, mellow alto into my ear, “Love, look at the two of us, strangers in many ways/ We’ve got a lifetime to say, I knew you well/ For only time will tell us so/ and love may grow/ for all we know.

I hugged the small pillow to my chest and let The Carpenters music usher me into realms of celestial bliss. This, to me, was indeed a good omen that things were meant to be.

(Look out for my next post about what it was like for me to be in England with complete freedom of movement where there were no “whites only” signs and Michael and I could eat in a restaurant for the very first time.)

FORTY YEARS LATER – WHO KNEW?

It’s January 2016. I’m in Cape Town escaping the frigid Canadian winter. February is a big month for me – my sixtieth! But where to celebrate? I run it by my sister. (Oh, I should have told you I was born and raised in the Mother City.) We had a shortlist of venues to check out, the first address being 118 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock. Somehow that rang a vague bell in my mind.

The “financial temple” of Barclay’s Bank is now Star Dust, theatrical dinner theatre

As my husband, Michael and I, step out of the Uber cab, we are both gob-smacked. For here we are in front of what used to be Barclay’s Bank. This is where our history together began over forty years ago. The fact that the building looked just the same send memories rushing forward like a tidal wave. Although, then, I paid scant attention to its architecture, I do remember it having the aura of a financial temple in which everyone spoke in hushed tones. I never noticed the lovely exterior pillars, the decorative arches or the single porthole window above the main entrance keeping watch like a cyclops.

Our minds flash back to 1974. Across the road, at 29 Sir Lowry Road, was Highams (Pty) Ltd, the linen factory owned by Michael’s father, where we were both employed.

I can still see myself, a fresh-faced eighteen-year old debtor’s accounts clerk striding to Miss Moore’s office to remind her it was Wednesday – early closing for all banks back then. She of plaid skirt, taupe cashmere twin-set, adorned with a single strand of pearls, usually accompanied me to the bank. I handled deposits for Highams and Edith Moore, the subsidiary company’s banking.

But this particular Wednesday, my sixty-something-spinster, office supervisor footed in sensible shoes, barely glanced up from the documents on her desk, muttering that she was frightfully busy. Could Michael, seated at his father’s desk, escort me to the bank?

That was not the only time the boss’ twenty-seven-year old son stood in as my “body guard.” Through a series of surreal circumstances and against all odds, I, a girl of colour, and the boss’ white son fell in love. How I willed those days into being when Miss Moore would be too busy, and my “Kevin Costner” bodyguard aka Mr. Graham Jr. could stand in for her. The vivid image of a pretty, mini-skirted, teenager, stealing precious moments with her ‘secret’ sweetheart on the dual carriage median waiting for a lull in the traffic, still resonates strongly with me. O my wêreld, this was 1974, the height of apartheid, and we were in deep – how shall I put it – kak.

What used to be the tellers’ counter is now a bar!

Fast forward to 6 February, 2016. We cross over a once familiar, almost forgotten threshold to be greeted by the applause from our table of twenty plus guests as we make a fashionably late entrance. I feel like a time traveler. Yesteryear’s wood-rich counters manned by austere tellers with their rubber stamps pounding the daylights out of documents, had morphed into an exciting vaudeville entertainment joint.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Star Dust – home of the singing waiter! Tonight, not only will you enjoy the wholesome, sumptuous taste of our designer tagine menu and the buzz of our wine bar’s best and brightest, but you’ll also be served and entertained by the shining stars of Cape Town’s immense pool of talented young performers. Make sure you get your waiter’s name – it’ll be written in lights one day!”

What separates the Star Dust from other eateries is that the waiters – excuse me – waitrons in modern parlance, are first and foremost performing arts students. After kicking us off with drinks and starters, they bounce onto the flood-lit stage setting the tone for an amazing theatrical dining experience.

Between serving us their mouth-watering signature dishes -Moroccan stews of aromatic lamb, chicken and seafood oven-baked to perfection in tagine earthen pots, one by one the entertainers strut their stuff on stage. They put on a rousing old-fashioned variety show giving us everything from swing and rock n roll, to opera. I have no doubt seeing these singers and actors’ names in bright lights in the future.

The energy and sizzle in the packed house is palpable. At one point the performing waiters invited a guest or two to dance on the tables. I, together with several other birthday gals and guys, was invited on stage to be serenaded. After a delectable dessert choice and liqueured coffees, the revelry continued well past midnight.

Dancing in the bank

Forty two years ago, if someone had told the eighteen-year old, that in the distant future, the bank would be transformed into a song, dance and dinner joint, where she would be celebrating the best party of her life at age sixty dancing with her “Kevin Costner” bodyguard, she’d have thought “Don’t talk nonsense!”

Michael and I had to leave South Africa in 1975 to forge our married life together overseas. Thank goodness the nightmare of apartheid is behind us. As the famous bard said, “All’s well that ends well.” And our fantastic journey continues. Life is definitely stranger than fiction.