I never really thought about it before – it seemed dull to write about growing up and anecdotes of childhood, but because culture and society are changing at such a speed, the era and time of my childhood is truly another country.
I don’t mean in terms of SA’s political or economic demographic – I mean in terms of absolutely everything. Let me sketch a picture to illustrate my point:
It’s a Sunday in summertime, just before lunch. We’re a group of, say, ten kids aged between 9 and 14, and most of us are walking home from various church services. We all choose to take a little time out at a swampy area at the top of the golf course, a spot where the LiesbeeckRiver creates quite a full canal between the reeds. When the area is dry the boys use it as a bike-ramping mud course, but when it’s full they build zinc-and-whatever rafts.
Today the channel is full, and we get there in time to watch a pitched naval battle between two boys manning homemade vessels.
I remember that manoeuvres are seriously compromised when Harry Tate’s boat begins to sink – fast – in midstream. Harry’s intense need to win is suddenly replaced by a dawning look of horror as he goes straight down!
Pandemonium breaks out on the bank – (the kind of intensity that you get from eleven-year-lds taking charge) – because no-one remembers if Harry can swim! Why else would he look so terrified?
All the shouted advice turned to stomach-clutching laughter when Harry shoots to the surface with weeds and reeds in his hair, his pockets and down his shirt – seems like he’s the only kid in town whose mother sends him to church in a suit!
Another memory: the day that a group of us watched some of the boys pour petrol into the dry LiesbeeckCanal, light it and cycle through it at top speed (we’d been watching Evil Knievel shorts between Westerns at the local school hall). These crazy boys emerged unhurt, but with no hair on their legs and NO EYEBROWS!
They were total local heroes.