Thursday, August 25, 2011


Last night we ordered takeaway pizza.
We wanted to treat our children, and so, while they tucked in I watched them, and realized that pizza has always been part of their lives, something they know.

Not so for me.
Archie comics arrived at my childhood house in mysterious ways. I don't remember ever buying any. Comics were frowned upon in my house, where good literature was always highly praised and encouraged. But it was in the pages detailing the antics of Veronica, Betty and Jughead that I first encountered these strange, platelike, floppy, edible things called pizza, which I pronounced piz - za, without the obligatory, inserted T.
 They were a mystery in the then South Africa, alongside 'Sea Monkeys' and that empowering ingredient that transformed the guy on the back page advert, who never had sand kicked in his face again.
 If you know what I mean, then you know.

That was then.
 And me, growing up in a suburban house, set like an island in a sea of mown grass in P E, glimpsed the bigger world as best I could.

There was one big exception to the comic rule in our house.
Every Friday the British mail arrived, and we would stop, on our way home from school to fetch our magazines from CNA ( as long as there had not been a workers strike in Britain). We bought chocolates too, and home at last, shed our uniforms for an afternoon, bare legs hanging over the side of the sofa, of reading.
Chocolate melting on my tongue on a carefree afternoon still fills me with guilt free pleasure. No homework, no sport, just the antics of 'Patty's World' in 'Pink' magazine, and posters of David Bowie and David Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers to drool over in 'Jackie' with my sister.
My mother paged backwards and forward through her 'Womens Weekly', which educated me  all about the Royal Family, and 'Mills and Boon' romance. We always had 'Look and Learn' thrown in for good measure, no doubt to assuage my mothers guilt of all the frivolity
Everything was always depicting the wrong season, winter in summer, summer in winter, and the special enclosed gifts never arrived. I don't think I ever heard a song or saw a moving image of any of the pop stars on the posters, which my sister and I stuck up on our bedroom walls.

When I first arrived in London later, fully grown , and surfaced from the tube somewhere near Trafalgar Square it was all so familiar. The train out from London through the suburbs, clattering between the backyards of the terraced houses was as known and loved as chocolate on my tongue.
 It took years before the reality of its strangeness overtook me, my deep Africanness surfacing and totally swamping every other thing.

Then, memories of lying ill as a child and listening, against my mothers wishes, but she was at work, and it was just me and my nanny Sarah then, at home, to Springbok radio all morning, would come back to me.
I balanced the leather encased transistor radio on my stomach and it was so close to my face that I was reflected as in a mirror in the silver metal lines across the speaker. I stared into my own eyes staring back at me and listened to 'Under the Jacaranda Tree' and other stories so gripping to me then, that I would often have to fake an extra day of illness so as not to miss the next installment.

I fell under the spell of serials in England much later, when the dreary dark afternoons kept me housebound with my baby and I had only the telly for company. The Australian soaps in the afternoon filled the screen with sun and sea and funny accents.
 But my downfall really, were the British series, when, on my little snowflaky screen I followed the antics of all the 'East Enders', and, with chocolate in hand, and baby sleeping, it was the British mail all over again.

My love of magazines was born then I suppose.
The black and white 'penny horribles' Sarah read in her room, and the Afrikaans radio dramas in the afternoon she listened to whilst ironing, were out of bounds for me. Mom came home then, and I picked up my real book, probably a classic, maybe Wuthering Heights - again.
I loved them passionately too, its true.

But, what sweet memories.
 Archie comics, being read with my damp swimming pool hair dripping and making the print run, whilst lying on a towel in the sun.
Those British mags being poured over too, by other far away girls, who were, I thought, like me,  but were really oh so different. They had 'fellas' and 'discos' and called their sisters 'our Kate' and wore their hair loose to school, and their ties pulled down.
And food like pizza was being eaten, and people all went to the 'pub' .

None were like me, lying in a sick bed, with no TV yet , but only a transistor radio for company, and a nanny called Sarah, who came in from hanging out the washing, to pull my bed straight, and plait my hair back very, very tightly.

And if I was very good, she would  make me french toast with  Worcester Sauce, and bring it to me , on a tray.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Its been the time of  fevers in our house for the last couple of weeks. No doubt its linked to the time of year, a new school, new viruses.

I took my thirteen year old daughter into my bed the other night, like my mother did before me. L had to sleep on the sofa, or her bed. He opted for the sofa, her bed being one large knot of blankets and sheets. We extricated her from the tangle like from the tendrils of some tropical plant. Her fever was so high she was hot to the touch. I watched over her all night, whilst she tossed and turned and muttered strange delirious strings of poetic words.

I was a very feverish child myself. I think I ran a fever with every virus I had. I also had illnesses like tick bite fever, hepatitis and my sister the deadly encephalitis. My mother tended us both faithfully, folding cloths soaked in vinegar and laying them across our brows.

 Some illnesses I came home for, having left some lover who proved unable to tend to me. My mother changed my soaked sheets and pajamas as faithfully as if I was still a young child.
 I sailed the seas of my fevers like a drunken sailor, muttering muddled thoughts through parched and thirsty lips. Indeed, the days after a fever feel like those of a man who still has his sea legs on dry land, with a rolling gait and a far away horizon in his sights.

Rudolph Steiner has a thing or two to say about fevers I believe.
 I spent some time at a Waldorf School, my son in the Nursery and me in an office. The fantasy world of washed through purple and lilacs and pinks coloured both our worlds willingly. No nightmares there I found, only a dreaminess, and a welcome escape from the harsh reality of the divorce we were enduring at the time.

I think my son had some fevers then, And I, comforted by some dear women, almost 'brides of Steiner' I fondly remember, rode those fevers with him. The Waldorf world has no fear of fevers. They are seen as necessary times of travel, of journeys almost, to the other side. Times when 'we can truly be ourselves.'
And, when they, the fevers pass, we awake afresh to a new, bright day, alive with possibilities.
 I do remember that feeling.

In those Waldorf days I was wracked with pain mostly, emotional, spiritual and physical. My body was bent double often then, with the passing of  agonizing gall stones, so 'galled' was I with an individual, I suppose. Our bodies do, it seems patently clear, mirror our minds and our emotions.

So, very healthy now, my thoughts have turned to illness.
 I watch my husbands eyes grow bleary and red rimmed, watery, his pupils like two swimming fish in bowls, when he is sick and tired. Those fish flash their tails at me, like warning flags of approaching  illness. Stress does it too.
 He hardly remembers having a fever - only I do, nursing him once through the high temperatures of pneumonia, when he made the transition from bachelorhood to me and mine. That was a long bridge to cross.

No doubt my daughter has made it over some high suspended crossing with this latest illness of hers. It is a time of change for her in body, mind, place and face. I remember her as a baby, emerging from fevers to reach another milestone. She took a sudden step, uttered a clear loud word, slept through or tossed a bottle aside for a sippy cup.
And never looked back.

In my nursing days I held many a hand whilst feverish eyes flickered and bodies shook and sweated and fought that within which needed to be dealt with. I felt I might have steadied them as they made some crossing.
I left some folk after a fever. Some left me before.
All I know is something changes with a fever.
Something new begins.