Skip to content

Pennies from heaven

Huzzit. Murra fuckup, hey, your 2016? I mean fucksakes – how bad can a year get? People pegged it left, right and centre, Ian Smith got re-incarnated as a fat chop with a ginger hamster on his head and somehow got to be made president of America. I can’t wait to see what PK van der Byl comes back as. Things are so kak Down South that okes are starting to cross the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees, in the other direction strues’bob.

Worst of all, the Irish beat my beloved All Blacks at rugger. Sundowners came fukken early that day, let me assure you. Eish.

When I was in Africa the other day, packing up the old man’s katunda – fucksakes, the kak he had stashed away, hey? – I found a big bag of Rhodesian pennies. You know the ones: hole in the middle. When I was a piccanin whenwe, those pennies were the most sought after currency in the whole little teapot-shaped country. I used to kife them from my old man’s wallet every evening and hang them on a string tied between the handles on my bedroom door. One day at about midnight the string broke and millions of pennies crashed onto the parquet flooring there by Knight’s Bruce Road, Milton Park. June, hey, not impressed. Lots of jesus bloody christing and it’s impossible to get some sleep around here and then finally where did all those pennies come from Steven? Those what’s ma? Oh those pennies. I found them ma.

Pennies were also the reward we gave to the shy picannins who came to shuffle fole-fole, barefoot in the red dust of Waterfalls on Christmas day at the Hollings, softly singing hymns they had learned at lo church school lapaside lo makulu farm with mombis and everything. They’d bob politely, each of them, and cup their hands together, then clap them gently to say thank you. I can’t think of those pink-palmed little black hands clapping thank you without starting to blub like a sissy. Sorry hey.

Those pennies were also highly sought after by the bwanas that came shooting, because as any one will tell you, Holland and Holland and other fine gunsmiths made sure that all the screws that held their mbumbulus together were made to be turned by a Rhodesian penny. Some of the green-baize lined gun cases even had green-baize lined holes to keep the pennies in.

Anyway, I digress. The phone rang yesterday and Shamwari Number One was on the line. We laughed, as we always do, and we talked about our kids and gwarras, and okes we know from way back when and more kak than you can shake a stick at, and then I told him about the pennies. Do you want one I asked. Ja he said. Are there any silver ones too? Ja man, ‘course; I’ll send you one of each. He was very happy with this arrangement. I am too. I did point out to him that even though we’ve enjoyed some 50 years of solid friendship without a single angry word between us, it seemed our relationship was still worth tuppence. He laughed at that, and so did I. Then again, there are some things that money just can’t buy.

Have a peaceful, relaxing break and a tit new year.

Abramowitz

Bogroll

There are several indisputable facts that any whenwe knows about our beloved little teapot-shaped red soiled piece of Africa. For example:

 

 

 

  • The mightiest river on the continent is the Makabuzi, found to hell and gone past the Tobacco sheds out Waterfalls way;
  • That Rhodesians invented smart-casual when they introduced the safari suit to the world;
  • That the Rhodesian Air Force had the best pilots in the world, even if they had Zings on the aerials of their sky chorries.

Ag look man, I could go on and on hey? Rhodesia set such high standards in so many things, from biltong to orange juice and back again, with Tanganda Tips in the middle and a T-Bone at Guido’s after a bowl of clear soup right up there at the very top. Even the chops who lived gwara-free at The Trelawney and spent their days fixing motorbikes in the bathtub and their nights seeing how many spook and diesels they could puza before falling into a coma know all this and more to be true.

But here’s a fact many of you might not know: the 1970’s Great Rhodesian Bogroll Shortage was single-handedly caused by my old man, strue’sbob, cross my heart and hope to die, and here is exactly how this came to happen:- (well ekshly not exactly-exactly because at the time I had just discovered dagga and the Watt girls next door were burgeoning into beautiful young women so I was more than a bit distracted, but still, hey.)

Uncle Ian and his boyfriend PK van der Byl had driven Harold Wilson & friends kapenzi by declaring UDI, so the whole world decided to stop selling Rhodesia everything. This soon meant that when you wiped your bum it was with a sort of sandpaper that made your nought climb back inside you from fear. Chapped lips had a whole new meaning; the whole of Rhodesia (well, mukiwas anyway) started walking like John Wayne. This was especially inconvenient if you had eaten the peri-peri chicken at Guido’s for Sunday lunch. My old man – who as you know by now was a mild and gentle man – refused to suffer such indignities. He phoned everyone he knew and bought up their fancy goods permits. I have no idea what fancy goods means at all, especially in Rhodesia, where wearing socks was thought of fancy, but I do know that the term included bogroll.

Within weeks every cupboard at 4 Ridgelee Way Avondale Salisbury Rhodesia was crammed with soft 2-ply luxury toilet rolls from Down South. It was everywhere. Now, like all good sanctions busters, my old man always had proper scotch in the house and June had a seemingly unending supply of Chocolate Logs and peppermint Crisps, but this bogroll episode was a whole new thing; I had shamwaris pulling in just to have a kak.

But Les, who was patient and clever as well as gentle and mild, waited for a bit longer, keeping the noughts of Rhodesia in discomfort and then one day all the bogroll was gone and there was a new Mercedes-Benz in the driveway.

Sing

In 1971, most of the inhabitants of our beloved little teapot-shaped piece of Africa (by which I mean mukiwas chete) were gooing the Tom Jones’ vibe at the top of their lungs. Well, she’s all you’d ever want, she’s the kind I like to flaunt and take to dinner she’s a lady woah woah woah she’s a lady. One time. Shoe shine. The indigenous chaps scuffed up clouds of red dust in their white-white-Bata takkies or pink-soled bare feet to jiti jive and kwela. Uncle Ian held hands with his sweetheart PK van der Byl every evening when the RBC said goodnight and sighed with contentment. Flame Lily Tours still attracted the rich and famous from Bo-Kaap to Boksburg , swamping our tourist spots and all was super-tit there by us, lapaside lo grey-green-greasy Limpopo river, all set about with fever trees.

At 4 Ridgelee Way Avondale Salisbury Rhodesia, music was also number one on the hit parade; yours truly had taken to learning dirty songs. “She married an Italian with balls like an Arab stallion,” I roared lustily in the shower of an evening. “And the hairs of her dicky-doo-dah hung down to the ground. She lived in a lighthouse that stank like a fukken shite house. One red one, one white one and one with a bitta shite on, the hairs of her dicky-doo-dah hung down to the ground.” Man I fukken loved those songs but – as those of you who have nothing better to do than read this kak will know only too well by now – June did not love them one single bit.

What is that you were just singing in the shower Steven? Singing ma? Yes Steven, singing. Shower ma? Jesus bloody Christ my boy. The. Song. You. Just. Sang. In. The. Shower. Ja ma? What was it? Oh it’s just a song ma. Well it’s bloody awful okay? It is not clever or funny to sing in the shower about anyone’s dicky-hoo-hah. Doo-dah ma. What’s that Steven? It’s doo-dah ma, not hoo-hah. Thin ice Steven. You are on thin bloody ice my boy. Be very careful. Do not sing that song again. Ja ma sorry ma.

A couple of days later I burst into the kitchen yelling Three German officers crossed the line they fucked the women and drank the wine inky-pinky-parlez-vous at volume level 10 to discover the medem’s icy stare at point blank range.

And the medem, she was not happy.

I thought we talked about this Steven. Ja ma we did but – But Steven? But bloody what? But it’s not the same song ma, so I did listen and… And my boy? But? No ands, no ifs and most of all no bloody buts. NO more of these disgusting songs, do you understand. You sing them so loudly Mrs. bloody Tapsell up the road knows every word by now. There will be dire consequences my boy, dire bloody consequences indeed if I hear any more of this nonsense from you. Do I make myself clear? Ja ma. Sorry hey.

Of course it didn’t stop; not even a week later I was bust roaring out On the road again, I jerked my beef and shot my load again. Not long after that, One day, in a fit of desire, I pulled my wire, I used my hand, and it felt grand. You pulled your what Steven? My wire ma. Jesus bloody Christ my boy, that is disgusting. What’s disgusting ma? Pulling wire or singing about it? This sort of questioning by yours truly created pauses so pregnant that there were midwives standing by.

Funny hey, the shit we remember? I barely remember a single thing from going to PEfukkenS (in fairness to them I didn’t go all that often but still hey) yet lo songs about dicky-doo-dahs and German officers, nearly every fukken word is still stuck in what’s left of my mind. Inky-pinky-parlez-vous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boxmatch

If there’s one thing Rhodesia was in the 1970s, it was murra fukken dangerous. Over and above small calibre eastern bloc ammunition, strip roads littered with landmines and certain countries to the north of us being the hell in with Uncle Ian and his boyfriend PK van der Bilious, there was all sorts of other katunda waiting to make you peg. Mambas in an assortment of colours, flatdogs (which as I may have mention before is the greatest whenwe word of all time), your puffadders, gaboon vipers and vine snakes, scorpions, spiders, shumbas, ingwes, nayati, rhinos, mvus in every waterhole, angry RLI buggers on RnR in every bar between Bulawayo and Beitbridge and drunk safari suit clad uncles at the wheels of their Peugeot 404 station wagons on the way home from lunch at La Boheme and other swinging Salisbury spots. That’s of course if you managed to dodge the malarial mosquitoes, tsetse flies, ticks and other goggos that shared our little red-soiled teapot-shaped piece of Africa with us. Survival of the bloody fittest hey? Sterek. Darwin’s Theory was another great Rhodesian invention, named after Mount Darwin.

But all of the above was as gentle as two-ply paper on your zoompipe after piri-piri prawns compared to a ten year old jewboy with time on his hands, a low boredom threshold and a box of Lion Matches. Fucksakes hey – nothing was safe. I would mix things in the bathroom basin – Vitalis, a good splash of Old Spice, some Dettol and what have you, and see if it would burn. Kitchen consumables such as cocoa powder, sugar, salt, mielie meal were wrapped in tight twists of the Rhodesian Herald and set on fire behind the kitchen to see what might happen. It was only the timely intervention of Aaron the garden boy that saved all our lives when he refused me access to the large bucket of Alginate every Rhodesian household kept, regardless of whether they had a swimming pool or not. I was a pyromaniac deluxe, and it dirrint take the old queen long to notice.

Where are the matches Steven? The what ma? The. Matches. Steven. Oh those matches ma. I dunno; I dirrintouchemhey. Really Steven? Strue’sbob ma. Crossmyheartandhopetodie. What’s that Steven? Hope to die? You won’t have to hope to die; I will bloody well kill you in cold blood my boy. You took the matches – shut up – you took the bloody matches and you will not take them again. Do. You. Underbloodystand. Me? Ja ma sorry ma.

Now, as if playing with matches wasn’t bad enough and made all the more sweet by being expressly forbidden, I very soon learned the delights of playing with matches and a tin of Killem. Fucksakes man, what a tit discovery. Stalk a fly, light a match, aim the Killem tin and wooooosh – no more fly and no more fingers. I was in my element. Little Airfix soldiers – woosh. Little Airfix spitfires – woosh. Matchbox cars, seven singles, Barbie Dolls. Woosh, woosh, woosh. The garden was littered with small lumps of melted plastic. And then I remembered the bamboo. Lapaside the kitchen, there was a stand of bamboo. Not that play-play decorative stuff. The real fukken thing – tall, thick, knee deep in bat-shaped hairy bamboo leaves and full of brown house snakes and other things. I wondered what might happen if I applied the Killem/ Lion Matches contraption to the bamboo. I fukken found out quickstyle. One woosh, and flames starting spreading at a rapid rate through the leaves, crackling and leaping higher and higher. Willard, who had been watching me from the kitchen window came running and knocked the can out of my hand. He yelled for Aaron, who came running with the hosepipe, and between them, Aaron and Willard managed to get what looked like an enormous fire but was probably quite small out very quickly. Aaron sprayed water around the general vicinity to make sure things were out, and I followed Willard back into the kitchen. Jeez Will, did you check that hey, a fire, hey man, jeez -. Willard turned around to look at me. Do not talk to me about this fire ever again he said, and turned his back on me again. That hurt more than anything June had ever said.

 

Signature

The year is 1975. Uncle Ian’s little tea party (camouflage-themed) with certain countries to the north of us isn’t going particularly well, and The Bay City Rollers are singing Bye Bye Baby, Baby Bye Bye while the makiwas pack in droves. The American preachers go first, dragging their hordes of sunburned children and promises of redemption with them; the ma-judahs are long gone; the Poms are starting to leave – even the Greeks are thinking about it, while the poor old Porras have only just started arriving from Mozambique. Murra fuck up hey?

But in Bamba Zonke, ‘Skies, Enkledoorn, Umtali, Rusape, Marandellas, Fort Vic, Umvukwes and other metropoles throughout our beloved little teapot-shaped country, the remaining madams and masters are putting on brave Rhodesian faces and carrying on like nothing’s cutting. Are we going too ma? Are we what Steven? Going ma. Going Steven? Going where? You know ma – going, like the others. Jesus bloody Christ Steven. The only place I am going is round the bloody bend from all your stupid questions. We are going nowhere my boy. No. Where. What. So. Ever. Got that? Ja ma.

Part of June deciding that everything was normal led to the only fight my parents ever had in front of me. June came home one day with a painting. Is that a painting ma? What does it look like Steven? It looks like a painting ma. Then even by your standards that’s a bloody stupid question my boy. June’s new painting was almost as collectable as a copper ashtray from Broughton’s, painted by a man who was quite a sensation in Rhodesian art circles. It was one thing to be a sausage jockey in Rhodesia, but it was another thing entirely to be a flamboyant one, and the oke who had painted June’s latest acquisition had not so much come out of the closet as recently burst out naked playing with his own nipples with his boerie gooied backwards between his legs so he looked like a gwarra. And June had – with much excitement – arranged for this paragon of Rhodesian manhood to come round one Sunday and sign her new painting.

He’s not coming into my house said my old man, much to everyone’s surprise, including his own, because my old man hardly ever said anything. He’s not what Les? He’s not coming into my house the old man repeated. Your house Les? Really hey? Is it your house now? Let me tell you a thing or bloody two. For a start, it’s our house. And he is coming here, and he is signing my painting, and that is the bloody end of that. Why can’t he come in our house dad? Because he’s one of those said my old man. One of those whats dad? One of those men who like other men said my old man. You mean a homo dad? Jesus bloody Christ Steven, how many times have I told you not to use that word? Hey? Sorry ma. But is he one dad, hey, that oke who made ma’s picture? Yes Steven, he is, and he is not coming into this house. Oh really said June. Oh is that so. She paused, and looked at Les long and hard. And then she hissed in a voice so icy that snow fell in the Zambezi Valley: And tell me Les. What makes you think he’d want to fuck you?

Les got up and left the room. June and I laughed so hard we couldn’t breath, and later that day the oke came around and sat on the verandah at 4 Ridgelee Way Avondale Salisbury with June, and Auntie Hessie, and another couple of aunties and then signed his picture. Les sat in the lounge, and kept very quiet. But then again, he was always a quiet and gentle man. That painting hung in our various houses for maningi years, and it now hangs in a family flat in Umhlanga – but that’s okay; the story is much better than the painting ever was.

Bell

When I was a whenwe, the residents (by which I mean the whiteys) of Four Ridgelee Way, Avondale, Salisbury were summonsed to supper at the dining room table when a bell rang promptly at seven pee em. We were not alone in this; many houses had dinner bells so that middle class mukiwas could pretend they were English lords and ladies by summoning the serving classes at least once day. Everyone in Rhodesia called it supper, except for Marcus Shtinkus Porkus (not his real name) who called it dinner.

Unlike our mealtimes, our bell was a murra formal thing hey? Silver, on a cradle, with a little silver gong to ring it with and, while the bell that summonsed us was rung very gently, sending a ting-ting through the house, sometimes June would ask me to ring the bell when we were finished. I would chaya it fucked up, sometimes so hard it came right off its little cradle. This ensured an outburst from June. Sometimes, the outbursts began before we’d even started eating…

Jesus bloody Christ Steven. How many times have I told you to wear a shirt to supper? Hey? How many bloody times? But it’s hot ma. It’s what Steven? Hot did you say? Do not make me laugh my boy okay? Hollow laugh. Do. Not. Make. Me. Laugh. Are we going to pretend we live in a cave just because it’s summer. You are not coming to the table in your speedos. No ma, sorry ma.

How many times have I told you no singing at the supper table Steven? Hey? But I wasn’t singing ma, I was humming. Do not get clever with me my boy. Last warning hey. I will wipe that smile off your face with the back of my hand my boy. Do you understand? No more humming, whistling, singing or any sort of musical entertainment whatsoever at the table. Yes? Ja ma. Sorry hey. Other rules included no elbows on the table, no slouching in the chair, no throwing of peas or any other vegetables at my sister and having to eat everything on my plate. I don’t like cabbage Ma. Like Steven? What has like got to do with anything? I do not bloody care for a second what you like. This is not a bloody hotel.

At times, the hour before dinner was fraught with what I like to think were negotiations. Hey ma! What Steven. Please can we eat in front of the teevee tonight ma? Pleeeeeeeease! There’s a really important show on, and I really want to watch it. You are too young to decide what’s important my boy. Supper at seven, at the table, and wear a bloody shirt. On the rare occasion we did eat in front of the tv, watching the best the RBC had on offer in black and white, we had these plastic trays with compartments that the graze was divided up into. Mielies went here, chicken from the Sunflower in Jameson Ave went there, bread sanda sokudla, Chipstix lapaside and a special round place to hold your glass. These trays in turn sat on special little tables that folded flat and clipped onto the legs. My main thing was to get so engrossed in the I love Lucy re-run that I’d lean too heavily on the little table and it would collapse, sending food and milk all over the bloody show, with predictable results. Never again my boy. Got that? Never bloody again. Do not even ask. If you so much as suggest we eat downstairs again it’s me in Ingutchini or you dead in the ground. Christ Les, don’t just sit there laughing, it’s not bloody funny. My old man would call the dogs in and the mess would be gone in seconds.

I went back to Africa last year to see my old man for the last time. It was a hard thing to do, to say goodbye to a kind, gentle sweet man who had been part of my life every single day right since the beginning. While I was there, I saw our old silver dinner bell standing on its cradle, a few small dents in its side from when I had rung it a bit hard. I didn’t ring it again. Only ghosts would have come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outward Bound

Maningi years back when I was a whenwe, you weren’t a proper whenwe until you’d been on Outward Bound. Outward Bound – like so many good things including your Matopos cheese, Castle Pilsner, Bengal Juice, T-bone steak, Madison gwaais, the K-Car and Merciless Sun – was an entirely Rhodesian invention and its sole purpose was to turn little Rhodesians (by which I mean only the white ones) into good Rhodesian men – even the gwarras.

Outward Bound was run by an uncle called Geoff Someone who wore white, chete. White shirt, white shorts – those short-shorts Rhodesia also invented, and white Bata takkies. He was always surrounded by gwarras who also wore short shorts and had long legs, tanned dark brown by the Rhodesian sun. I am not wishing to cast aspersions on Uncle Geoff’s character here – as you know I only ever cast aspersions on Uncle Ian and his boyfriend PK van der Byl – but there were always maningi gwarras, much younger than him, everywhere you looked. Long-legged super-fit gwarras with tight white t-shirts. It was fukken mushie one time.

You found out you were going on Outward Bound when you got given a roneo’d piece of that kak paper also invented in Rhodesia from your school office that said Uncle Geoff and his travelling gwarra sideshow were coming to your school next weekend and they would toughen you up quickstyle for only five and sixpence. The course started there by the school, and then you fucked off with your classmates into the shateen near Dombashawa and spent the day getting sunburned and skinning your elbows and knees as well as learning how to make a bivouac and other such top life skills.

Hey ma! Guess what? Jesus bloody Christ Steven. How many times do I have to ask you not to scream at me when you’re right behind me? Hey? How. Many. Bloody. Times? I have spilled tea all over my brand new sundress. Jamasorrymabutguesswhatman! Uncle Geoff is doing Outward Bound for us next weekend and pleeeeeeeeease can I go hey ma pleeeeeeeease ma? I never had to beg too hard for this sort of thing because a) I was out the house for the weekend, and b) I was out the house for the weekend.

On the first day with Uncle Geoff and the gwarras we learned how to save our lives by making a flotation device out of long pajama bottoms, which is very handy if you ever sleep walk into the pool. I didn’t pay too much attention to this lesson because Debbie Yates and Susan Jane Watt were also in the pool, which always distracted me completely. On the second day, we learned how to abseil down what seemed to be a thousand foot drop and make shelters in the shateen using just leaves and sticks – passop lo nyokas and scorpions and other katunda while picking sticks up hey? – and various other things before we sat down to a packed lunch which in my case always consisted of some sandwiches on Lobel’s white bread spread thick with Stork margarine and Heinz sandwich spread. Heinz sandwich spread looked like vomit in a jar and didn’t taste much better, but June always bought it and I always had to eat it. I would also have one of those little plastic bottles with a screw top that kept your Mazoe Orange Squash at blood temperature and gave you cancer at the same time.

In the afternoon we were led to a rock face, and told to climb up to the top, where the long-legged gwarras were waiting. Don’t look down they called. Don’t look down hey, or you’ll freeze. I looked down. I froze. There, with my hands burning on the hot Rhodesian rock, I was as frozen as a birthday cake from the Dairy Den. Come on Steven they called encouragingly; you can do it. I couldn’t move an inch. Eventually Uncle Geoff had to climb up behind me and put his hand on my arse (luckily it wasn’t Uncle Geoff Atkins) and then push me up the rocks until I was at the top. When I got home that night, scorched by the sun, tired and sleepy, June asked did you have a good time my boy? Ja ma I did. I did hey? Until we got to the rock climbing bit ma, I thought I was going to die ma, I couldn’t move. Couldn’t move Steven? You? Don’t make me bloody laugh. Hollow laugh. You can’t keep still for bloody minutes. Ants in your pants my boy. Couldn’t move. Hah!

To this day I’m shit scared of heights.