BACK THEN

A chance conversation brought to mind the typical reminiscences that arise when a group of people within a certain age range come together. I have mentioned the binding factor of Springbok Radio before: mention that beloved radio station in the company of my age cohort and a host of fondly remembered favourite programmes will come to the fore!

Our everyday lives were quite different then. Of course time provides a certain lustre or patina to the memories of our childhood experiences. We tend to forget the tough times – or laugh at them now – and to gloss over the difficulties we might have faced, or even the loneliness we might have had to overcome.

My companion reminded me that if one lived in a small town or out in the countryside, “we spent most of the daylight hours outside.” I remember spending much of my early childhood playing outdoors sans supervision. We climbed trees, walked in the veld, played in the mud, made small fires, swam, played ball games and marbles, caught tiny frogs, tried to find ant lions, pushed each other on the swing until we had learned to propel ourselves, built outdoor shelters … I also played tennis regularly when I was a little older, played kennetjie, and even read outdoors.

We would come indoors for lunch and, in our family, were expected to be home by the time my father got home from work. During the evenings we played cards, listened to the radio, or read. We were happy.

Not all things were ‘good’ about those times. Before passing judgement though, we must bear in mind the common knowledge that was available. Expectant mothers, for example, continued to smoke and/or to consume alcohol; and, cots and certain toys were painted with lead-based paints. These are verboten now – and rightly so!

As children, we would drink water straight from the hosepipe if we were thirsty and, on the rare occasions we had them, shared sips of cold drinks with friends without a second thought. Vehicles were not yet fitted with seat belts and children rode bicycles without wearing helmets. Among my fondest memories is riding in the back of my father’s bakkie; the wind blowing through my hair; our faces getting covered with dust; and the fun we had making hollow whistling sounds by opening our mouths against the wind.

“Do you remember all the grazes, cut and bruises” My companion laughed comfortably. “We were barefoot for much of the time too!” I loved being sans shoes – and still do. My father was a champion at removing deeply embedded thorns. Stubbed toes were the norm then.

Dispensed medicines had no tamper-proof or child-proof lids on them. Whenever we complained of a headache, my mother would encourage us to drink water. If we really felt under the weather, we might be given an aspirin, I treated my own children in much the same way.

Yes, those were ‘the good old days’, but each generation will have their own version. I often think how much my father would have enjoyed using the Internet and how thrilled my mother would have been to access so much interesting reading material.

She and I wrote to each other and phoned each other every week from the time I went to boarding school until she died. I lived so far away that I couldn’t visit her nearly as often as I would have liked to. What a boon modern technology has been to us with our scattered families: there are so many forms of communication available to us now!

So, when you hear us ‘oldies’ reminiscing about ‘back then’, be aware of how grateful we are for what we can enjoy in the present.

A FRAME WITH A HISTORY

This hardwood hand-carved picture frame from India used to house a photograph of my paternal grandmother. I never met her as she died while my Dad was still at school. My grandmother worked for a time as a governess on the Andaman Islands and married a Scottish tea planter – it would be interesting to know how they met! My father was born in the then Calcutta – his father died a few months later from the “Spanish ‘flu”, the pandemic that spread around the world with horrific consequences much as we face today with COVID-19.

I have replaced the image of my grandmother with a photograph of my parents on their wedding day on 9th August 1942.

My father is wearing his army uniform and my mother carries a bouquet of freesias – always one of her favourite flowers. Apparently my maternal grandfather was concerned about this young couple getting married during the war and so, the story goes, he consulted an old friend of his. According to my mother, this woman’s response was “Henry, look at me. I waited and my young man never came back” (from the First World War). Thus it was that he gave them his blessing.

The intricately carved frame must have been purchased in India by his parents – or received as a gift – and has travelled from India to Britain to South Africa. It serves as an interesting reminder of part of my ancestral roots.

CURROR FAMILY

My maiden name is CURROR, which has an Anglo-Saxon origin. It is a Scottish surname that is not only French in origin, but is descriptive of an occupation for it was given to a person who was either a messenger or who dressed tanned leather. The name is derived from the Old French words corëor or courreour, meaning courier or messenger. The family motto is Merite, which is the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.

First names are always an interesting link when delving into family history and I have been fascinated to discover how far some of the recurring names in our family go back:  a William Currour was assizer (a juror) in Edinurgh, 1402; William Currour has been recorded as a charter witness in Edinburgh, 1425; and it is thought that William Curroure held lands near Edinburgh in the same year. There are several variants in the spelling of the name, as surnames were only standardised with the advent of Poll Tax between 1694 and 1699. William Currour or Courrour, then a merchant of Scotland, had safe conducts into England, 1408 and 1410. A George Currour was charged with “trublance of the toune” of Aberdeen, 1512, and William Currour was factor for the abbot of Jedburgh, 1560.  Much of this information comes from https://forebears.io/surnames/curror

The original Curror to settle in South Africa was my father, William David Curror, who sailed on the City of Hong Kong from London to Cape Town en route to the then Southern Rhodesia, where he was to be a Premium Apprentice on a tobacco farm. This was in about 1932. He later moved into the mining industry in this country. My father, who could speak English and a bit of Welsh, would be surprised to know that his family now encompasses Afrikaans- and German-speakers too!

In his memoirs, my father wrote: “We do not know the exact time that we [the Curror family] came to Dunduff [Scotland], but we can assume that it was sometime before 1715. As far as I am able to calculate, the first Robert Curror, shown on the [family] tree, of Dunduff and Craigdookie, was born in 1715. It is extremely probable that he was born in Craigdookie; his son was. He, also Robert Curror, was probably born in 1745.”

My father was keen on farming and always wanted to restore the name Dunduff, the original family farm in Scotland, to the Curror family and eventually did so in the De Kaap Valley near Barberton.

That farm has been sold and another generation has continued the name in another part of the country.

A BUSHVELD BREAKFAST

Although it is over a month ago, memories of the breakfast after we had celebrated what would have been my mother’s centenary still linger. From the first cup of tea as the sun was rising:

Pots were already warming up next to the fire which had been lit earlier:

Meanwhile, a fire was already warming the oven for freshly baked bread – so delicious when spread with butter while the slices are still steaming:

I steal a portion of fried onions before the finely chopped meat left over from the night before and eggs are added:

Thick potato skins left from having prepared the roasted potatoes are quickly deep fried:

Excellent additions were mushrooms and baked beans, of course:

While not my cup of tea, others enjoyed the marrow bones that had not been eaten the evening before:

Breakfast was a peaceful interlude before the process of packing and tidying up began; before we bid farewell to each other and dispersed to our scattered homes.

A BUSHVELD BRAAI

Although I am inclined to be more of a ‘herbivore’, the rest of my family are solid ‘carnivores’ and so it was only natural for there to be plenty of meat to braai when we gathered in the Bushveld for a special celebration. The enormous fire was started early in the afternoon:

When I saw these ‘smileys’ (sheep heads) perched next to the kettle, I couldn’t imagine them being eaten:

Although these have been traditional street food for years, ‘smileys’ have been brought into mainstream restaurants as part of the nose-to-tail trend. I wonder how many patrons actually see their ‘lamb cheeks’ in their raw state like this:

Nonetheless, there were many people to feed and so a large gas braai was brought into use as well:

I assure you I did not starve for there were several delicious salads on offer too – as well as the most wonderful potatoes roasted over the fire:

Our special family occasion was to celebrate what would have been our mother’s hundredth birthday. She would have enjoyed seeing us gathered together from near and far.