A road beckoned to three generations of my family.
We came from all over the country to meet for a weekend at a farm in the Bushveld to celebrate what would have been my father’s hundredth birthday.
The firepit was at the centre of our celebrations.
The fire burned all day.
With a kettle constantly on the boil.
It was where we cooked
With plenty of pots to choose from.
A sheep was slow roasted over the fire to feed the gathering of the clan.
It was shady under the Karee trees.
Nyala came down to drink at the dam next to our gathering place.
There were impala nearby too.
Including a few black ones.
Redbilled Oxpeckers kept them free from ticks.
Pairs of Egyptian Geese kept us company.
As did some White-faced Ducks.
Blacksmith Plovers arrived and left throughout each day
We talked, we laughed, we cried. We remembered, we found out new things, we bonded all over again.
Look what fell out of a pile of papers I was sorting through the other day: the examination time-table for what we called Matric – the last year of our secondary schooling. How well I remember that time: so much depended on the results of those examinations. For me a university entrance pass would be the ticket to exploring another part of the country and an opportunity to broaden my horizons and future prospects in ways I was still unsure of.
There is no longer a Transvaal Education Department. Transvaal as a province no longer exists – the part of it we lived in is now called Mpumalanga.
How well I remember the lump in my stomach sitting for the two Mathematics papers – they were the biggest hurdle to my future.
Then came the other hurdle: Physical Science. This is because we had been taught that subject all the way through in Afrikaans, which meant that I had to turn to the Afrikaans side of the question paper to see what each question was requiring of me as I did not recognise the English names of anything!
There was such joy when all was over … I left the Transvaal to make my home in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) for many years and, after several moves, now reside in the Eastern Cape – which used to be part of the Cape Province. Just seeing this sheet of paper again after so many years makes me realise how different my life may have turned out had I not gained a university entrance – or not passed the examinations at all!
What memories do you have of your final school examinations?
Two more images from my Grandmother’s album.
This is dated 2.6.1903.
Do you remember the Mother Goose rhyme, There was an Old Woman who lived in a Shoe?
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread;
And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.
The next picture brings it to mind – note the wonderful detail.
Here are some more of the entries from my Granny’s album. Look at the intricacies of this beautiful illustration in pen-and-ink:
A beautifully painted bouquet of flowers:
Lastly, something close to my heart – birds:
It does not fail to amaze me how much care has been taken by friends and family in their contributions to her album.
Here are three more pages from my Grandmother’s autograph album. These entries date from 1903 to 1905. It is amazing to think this was done by hand – such a labour of love, patience and good penmanship:
These cats have each got such a character. The headline of the lefthand newspaper reads: FRESH RATS Just imported 1/3 per lb. Cheap. Take your chance. The middle newspaper reads: FOR SALE Tinned mice, locusts, rats etc. All arranged in latest style. The righthand newspaper reads: Music allsorts … A Rat Hunt to be held at Ratfield on Cat Monday. Wonderfully intricate detail!
This is a fun entry too:
My maternal grandmother, Edith Claire Myrtle Donald (née King), was fourteen years old when her older brother, Frank, gave her an album for her birthday on 8th May 1903. Most of the entries are dated between 1903 and 1905, although there is at least one dated 1919 and the most recent was one my mother added in 1934, when she was fifteen.
It is akin to some of the ‘autograph books’ that were popular during the 1950s and 1960s, in which people wrote verses or drew pictures. What is striking about this collection is the trouble my Granny’s friends and family went to when making their contributions. I will be sharing some of these from time to time as a reminder of the times of yore, when the pace may have been a little less frenetic.
Look at the intricate details of the cats, birds, dog, rabbit and spider on this page of ‘autographs’. Many are undated, while some are dated between 1906 and 1910.
The violets painted at the corners of this verse quoted from Keats are as fresh today as they were over a hundred years ago.
The ink has faded on this page, although the sentiments expressed have not. My Granny had a ‘contented mind’ and enjoyed a variety of friends who loved her dearly. Those ones still alive did ‘cleave to thee / whatever may betide’. As young children, we were in awe of the way the (to us) old people visiting my Granny and Grandpa at their retirement home in Southbroom on the south coast of what is now KwaZulu-Natal seemed to care for each other’s welfare.
I will leave you this time with a lovely painting of Coleskop – near Colesberg – along with a description of “The Myrtle”