27.2.09

The New House

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The New House

In 1959 my father built a new house for his family. He was the designer, bricklayer, carpenter, plumber and electrician. What makes it truly remarkable is that he did it in only six weeks without any mechanical or power tools - all was done manually.

He had one or two labourers to help him with mixing cement, passing the bricks and various other jobs. Of course, all of us children helped. My job was to carry water in a little bucket he made for me from a 1-pound jam tin. (He probably gave me that job to keep me out of his hair more than anything else.)

This was a big house, even at today's standards. My parents, my sister, and I each had our own bedrooms. My brothers, once again, shared an outside room as was the tradition in those days and my spinster-aunt had her own two-roomed flat - a living room and a bedroom.

The most wonderful of all was that we had a bathroom and toilet inside the house - all shiny white porcelain and tiles. (No more trips to the outhouse in the dark!) This was the delight of my life! I used to take hour-long bubble baths, using my mother's washing powder, as genuine bubble bath was an absolute luxury only afforded after birthdays and Christmas.

My father planted an orchard with the most delicious varieties of peaches, apricots, and plums. We also had a vineyard and a row of quince trees and my mother planted shade trees and flowers. As we had a very strong borehole, my father could also grew vegetables to his heart's content. This vegetable garden did not only feed us, but also numerous visitors from town.

These visitors were invariably relatives with children who knew nothing about the veldt but everything about bioscope. It is Afrikaner tradition (to this very day) to greet relatives with a kiss on the mouth and even as a child I used to run away and hide when they arrived, to escape this kissing business.

We also had our own cows for milk, and chickens for eggs. Once a year my father would slaughter a cow and make "biltong" (dried pickled and spiced meat strips - delicious!) and dried "boerewors". This was a very industrious time as all the meat had to be processed very quickly seeing we did not have either a fridge or a freezer.....

Until one afternoon when I came home from school to find, there in our kitchen - luxury of all luxuries - a brand new Phillips fridge, and inside it, a fizzy Sparletta cooldrink especially for me! If I close my eyes I can still imagine the ice cold bubbles tickling my nose and tongue.

It was almost as exciting as the day when my father brought home his brand new motorcar. A Humber Hawk - although I was a bit disappointed that it did not have ”fins" like my friend's father's Ford.

This house was a house of new beginnings for me. This is where I became aware of a world outside my home and people other than my family. My time in this house was a time of open spaces, freedom and innocence...a time of discovering and learning...a time of growing and forming.

In 1967, Ronaldsvlei, where our house was situated, was proclaimed an area for Bantu housing development (development that never took place) and my father had no choice in selling our property to the government for whatever they thought it was worth. We moved to town and a whole new chapter in the book of my life, began.

PS: In 2004, while visiting Kimberley for my niece's wedding, I went back to see "The New House" of my childhood and this is an arial view of what I found.
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No more orchard... no more vineyard... no more quinces... no more vegetables... no more flowers - in fact, no more natural habitat. All that was left was the ruins of a once great house (well, in my eyes anyway), a dry and cracked cement dam and the trees that my mother planted. (It was sold to an African farmer who used the area for grazing his goats and never lived in the house.)

I was very upset at first, but then realised the almost poetic beauty of it: In this ruin lies closure. My parents, who made this house a home, have both passed on; "returned to the soil" and now their house is returning to the soil also. No strangers will ever live in it - It will always only be OUR new house.

4 comments:

budh.aaah said...

Very touching..I am a fan of your writing.

Arley said...

What a beautiful story! I so wish more people put their heart and sole into something so wonderful. You had a wonderful blessing, to be part of something made completely out of love and from the heart. I do hope you cherish those memories forever! Thank you for shareing such a moving story!

PhilipH said...

Great nostalgic, honest picture of your first 'real' home.

You wrote it with much feeling.

I've lived in over 20 different houses in the last 50-odd years and can hardly remember anything about most of them.

But my first 'real' home was the ground-floor flat of a small terraced house in Croydon. I can remember every nook and cranny of it as though I were still there.

Phil

JD said...

I am in love with your writing style. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, it felt as though I was right there. I really appreciate everything you've shared about this time in your life, as well as the wisdom of how you see the house now, and how you reconcile what it was, what it meant, with what it has become.