Friday, July 29, 2011

Last of the Rhodesians – This is IT!

I realised I have picked a rather prickly subject with this memoir. The deeper I went into my memory, the more I baulked at some of it. I decided from the beginning to write it in my satirical, piss-taking style, but with all my Open University learnt skills, even I struggled to try to depict the last African colony’s death throes in such an acutely accurate scenario.

Many people died. There is nothing funny about that. But, to create the perfect balance of me, the naïve, arrogant 18 year old, and the early fifties memoir writer, in to some kind of true recalled reflection, neither boring in history, or pathetic in liberal left wing retrospect ponderings, or, right wing ‘hang the niggers high’ theology as reading entertainment; is not easy.

Many try - quite frankly there are tons of totally boring, creaking old White Rhodesian ‘memoirs’ being churned out faster than a Warren Hills Cemetery grave digger preparing the final chapter. (See last posting.)

So what can I do when others such as Peter Godwin and Alexander Fuller became rich and famous by jumping on the Rhodesian guilt train as it left the station? Quite a lot actually – but…you have to read the book. (And cough up some dosh as my fridge is running on empty….)

So, after much weeping into my last, but not least, beer tin, I now give you, the ultimate start to an adventure that even the devil would decline. This is a one off hey! I wish to point out that I might change a bit of this depending on the maelstrom I get, but…hopefully, Chapter One gets to your gut instincts…. I need loads of comments, after all, you lot are supposed to buy the book…

Chapter 1: Return of the Rogue Rhodie

‘Jannie van de Merwe, your Captain speaking, ek se. We have arrived at Salisbury dodgy International Airport in the illegal Republic of Rhodesia. Those Whenwes returning to fight a hopeless cause – you can stop whining now. Thank you for flying South African Airways.’
I staggered out of my seat and collected my piles of cabin luggage. I noticed that a mouse seemed to have terminated in my mouth overnight after my downing of half a dozen vodka, lime and lemonades freebies to help me sleep. I smashed my head on the Jumbo’s exit door. I forgot I was now considerably taller in my platform shoes and as I stood at the top of the stairs leading to the kiss smacking tarmac below-
‘Karl, Yoo-hoo, Karl!’ screams of adulation pierced my ears and I threw my gorgeous locks of softly undulating brown hair from my shoulders, and took in the sight of my ululating adorers screaming from the terrace public gallery. Stephanie Brooks, Clare Finlason and Lorraine Trenchard waved enthusiastically. It was a bit confusing at 6.00 am on a chilly August day of 1976. I was expecting my step-mother Katherine, the history teacher, to pick me up. Still, having a few groupies screeching away did wonders for my ego. I was returning in triumph to save Rhodesia.
My landlocked scrapping little land, barely the size of Texas, was surrounded by hordes of evil, commie Black tyrant controlled basket cases, such as Zambia and Mozambique. Rhodesians only had one semi-friendly escape route to the south over what Kipling called, ‘the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River’. And, those rooinek hating Boers couldn’t be trusted either! I mean, as I observed a few of Africa’s ‘happiest Blecks’, unload the luggage, I was trundling on the way to the terminal across the world’s longest civil runway. At a mile long the thing could have, at a pinch, accommodated the Space Shuttle. Local Rhodie lore was that when the slopes down south got themselves some new 747s, our lot rang them up and asked how long the runway must be extended too?
            ‘Ag, man, make it a click, hey.’
Of course, this caused confusion. Is a click a mile or a kilometre? Rather than ask, hence showing more ignorance of the outside world, they just settled on the extended version. I suppose, because of sanctions, the phone line to Seattle was blocked, otherwise they could have just asked some techi bloke at Boeing and saved a few uppity peasants having their maize fields buried under tarmac. Nowadays we have Google and it’s the uppity peasants that are getting buried under the tarmac by Mugabe.

I was a tad worried after collecting my luggage. I had to go through customs and didn’t fancy declaring anything. I had lied at the check-in (aim for the pretty girl, give number one smile, and flutter long eyelashes and get away with 15% excess, whilst not pointing out you have a mountaineer’s rucksack packed with stereo equipment you intend to sneak on board as hand luggage). Of course, all shit broke out on the plane at Heathrow airport, as I wobbled aboard with the thing on my back. The White stewardess (no Blacks allowed on this plane), wasn’t having any of my snake charming.
            ‘Listen,’ she hissed into my ear as I sat smugly down, ‘I know exactly what stunt you pulled here. I am getting this put into the hold. I have a good mind to report you,’ she huffily said as she dragged my rucksack away.
            Report me to whom? Who cares, they had threatened me a few years ago, when I was visiting my bio-mother in the United Kingdom (UK) and got caught thieving all their face creams and Eau de cologne from the toilets. Now I had just moved house and the White supremacists were paying for it…hah-hah. No wonder I was the black sheep in my dysfunctional family!

Still, I now had to sneak the contraband into Rhodesia. I had a bad feeling I was about to be fingered…
            ‘Anything to declare?’ the smartly attired officer, decked out like a tropical cruise ship captain in pure white, asked rather inhospitably.
            I had to think fast. It didn’t help that I looked like David Cassidy from the Parakeet family. My plumage of bright green included a pair of Oxford bags, enough to laminate the landscape luminously, and…I had a better suntan, since Rhodesia was just crawling into spring and I had returned from the UK’s hottest summer on record. Not only that, his hairstyle cut a clean cut image, whilst mine looked liked it needed cutting to get clean.
‘Oh, erm, I have a few music tapes, and I am here to join the British South Africa Police.’ That threw him a bit.
            Behind him on the wall was a framed picture of our Great White Bwana, Prime Minister Ian Smith. That was him who told us we had the happiest ‘Blecks’ in Africa. His droopy eye, damaged in a Spitfire crash whilst fighting the eyeties for the motherland in WWII, stared accusingly at my luggage.
            ‘Do you have any books or magazines of pornographic quality?’
            Of course I did. I had stuffed into my luggage one of the hottest books around, Xaviera Hollander’s Happy Hooker, along with the latest Playboy and Penthouse magazines, but I wasn’t exactly going to tell him that. In this country even Wilbur Smith was called a sexual pervert by our Victorian censors. Nor was I going to inform him that I had half a discothèque’s sound system that could reap a nice amount in import duty. Also - A litre of Captain Morgan’s 73% proof rum and a super cool digital watch, four tins of Brut 33 deodorant I had purchased at Woolworths on special offer, instead of the rip off ten bucks down at Barbour’s (Rhodesia’s version of Harrods, - less the Arabs and most of the stock). All in all, I was carrying a rogue’s treasure trove, but as a true Rhodie, I wasn’t letting on. Guard Against Gab was now a well known government slogan to stop us spilling beans to the enemy.
I showed him a couple of the latest UK pop albums - Mike Oldfield and 10cc.
‘How much foreign currency have you brought into the country?’
‘Sixty British pounds.’ This was not good. Fifty of them had been a goodbye and good riddance present from my bio-mother. The next few weeks were going to be tough, but I was hoping to shift the porn for a few bucks.
And then I was sneered through into the awaiting arms of my fans.

Lorraine’s old man owned Le Coq D'Or, a nightclub in the centre of Salisbury. There they had live gigs and the brain dead Rhodesian Light Infantry troopies, on their ten days ‘Rest and Recreation’, kicked testosterone fuelled rival armed forces to death whilst competing for any available jiggy-jig. Hence, Jimmy Trenchard had a bit of coin and his Suzie Quatro look alike daughter could go to school in her own Mercedes. The other arriving Whenwes went home in dilapidated Rixi Taxi’s Renault 4’s or a sun faded Datsun 120y and the occasional pseudo BMW Cheetah. (Named after the animal, not the fact the Rhodesians had been nicely cheated by these kit cars.)  There was still no sign of the accident prone second-hand donkey and wooden scotch carts, but at the rate petrol was being rationed, I guessed it wouldn’t be long. Well, at least my darling fans chaperoned me home in style.
Unfortunately, despite my seven month absence and my amazing transformation from a scrawny short back and sides and floppy fringe, into a Top of the Pops one hit wonder, none of the girls were interested in popping a wondrous hit with me on the back seat. Actually, it soon became apparent I had been used as an excuse for them to get off school for a day. Besides, as they were also just over eighteen, and wrapping up A’levels for university entrance, they were hardly likely to be caught messing with someone their own age who had barely scraped through O’levels; regardless that I looked like David Cassidy’s half Jewish clone.

So whilst I did all the talking, the Mercedes cruised through the poorer Whites’ suburbs of Hatfield, Queensdale and Cranborne. The standard sized gardens, two thirds of a football pitch, many littered with huge outcrops of weathered granite boulders, showed off the occupant’s income. If it looked shit - they couldn’t afford a borehole and a full time garden boy. Then the car’s retreads crossed the main railway line, (the only one actually), and we entered the city centre. We passed street names of pioneers, explorers, missionaries, and land thieving imperialists - Moffat, Stanley, Rhodes, Livingstone et-al -with old Dutch style gable houses and shops either side. And then up Second Street, heading north, passing some of the ‘skyscrapers’, crossing over Jameson Avenue, the statue of Cecil Rhodes stuck in the middle of the road, and so into the suburbs where the proper upper middle-class Whites lived – Alexander Park, Avondale, Borrowdale, amongst the many of this city of a quarter of a million of all races. I think the indigenous population had their own versions of income graded urban habitats, but they weren’t in sight, or in mind - segregated mentally and physically. Land possession…the first of White Rhodesia’s bane.
It was so strange, judging by the peace and harmony of Salisbury; it was hard to believe that Rhodesia was at war. The open space, the intense colours of nature, the neatness, the cleanliness, the smell, the amazing weather, the laid back populace of Black, White and in-between – this was the jewel of Africa – once bitten by its addictive toxin; a place to die for…And - that was the problem, not all the ‘Blecks’ were happy, and it seemed that some had progressed from being just cheeky munts and kaffirs that needed a good snotklap to sort them out; but into terrs and gooks that needed slotting. The former derogative terminology was used by boorish Rhodies, the latter, by all of us. Rhodies that is – the rest of the mad planet considered them as ‘Freedom fighters’…hah-hah, in retrospect, did they get it wrong or what!

It was nice to be home again. The suburb of Mount Pleasant was okay I guess. Here the soil was red with iron content, but with no giant boulders, the prolific gardens of sub-tropical fauna had nothing adventurous about them. But most did have a swimming pool (except us). Arriving at 14 Sims Road, I was rapidly booted out the car as it appears the wicked wenches had other plans. Julia, the ageless multi-purpose maid, known locally by the uneducated uncouth as a ‘Nanny’, was delighted to see me, and I was greeted with much happy babbling in her local lingo of Shona and clapping of hands. Besides a few swear words, most of it was gibberish to me. Local indigenous language was not on our school curriculum, unless you count Afrikaans. I proudly managed to get a mark of ‘U’ (ungraded), for my ‘O’ level exam in that incomprehensible guttering. Actually, I also failed English, but managed to scrape a pass when I did the exam again...
Her English was rather limited, but she understood her daily duties at $13 dollars a month -  make tea by 6.00am, set dining table x 3 daily, clear table, wash up, ironing, vacuum, dusting, polish the patio, prepare vegetables, baby sitting and weed the garden (her favourite chore). She wasn’t allowed to use the washing machine or the stove – they were considered too technical – and on no accounts was she to touch the pressure cooker or the Kenwood cake mixer - God forbid! (Nor was I come to think of it!) She was allowed to use the iron, which, as they were Made in Rhodesia, fell apart under her heavy hand on a regular basis. The Hoover was built in the fifties and was almost indestructible.
I unpacked my precious (as my Hi Fi was named), and waited for the rest of the clan to turn up, usually about half past one; after school finished for the day. The family consisted of Michael, my seven year old half-brother, sixteen year old step-sister Bridget, and my petite, strict and correct step-mother. My old man had passed to the beyond in ’74 and was pushing up daisies in the Jewish cemetery at Warren Hills. I missed him as much as heaven did. But, the family diagnostics is for another story – suffice to say my school years loosened many bolts in my head, assisted occasionally by clips around the ear hole from father dear, but this book is about the next traumatic period in my constantly unstable life.

The last seven months had been rather dramatic and traumatic. As soon as school was out for ever, I scavenged more of my rapidly dwindling inheritance and went back to my roots, Salford, a real dump of a place. A city within the city of Manchester in Great Britain – except there wasn’t anything great about it. Suffice to say it is a story in itself, but to summarise –
I started my career by stashing blocks of butter into the fridges of Liptons supermarket for £17 a week. Progressed to indoor pool attendant and finally gave up my ghost’s roots whilst on £45 a week (before tax), working in a cotton mill factory as a labouring lackey. I had tried to join the Royal Navy as a trainee officer. I passed the exams and was thrown onto the street when they found out I was from Rhodesia! It seems that the counter-culture of the sixties, so recently ended, had made the British completely paranoid about White people from Africa. They had sent us there in the first place, the uneducated idiots!
I was home sick and wanted out of this place where people my age spoke with every second word a reference to theirs or someone else’s genitals as adjectives, punctuated with grammatical variations of the four letter word for sexual intercourse. Idiots…all of them. 99% of them had never heard of Rhodesia and those that had thought I was a mass murderer or at least a plantation slave driver.
I wrote to the British South Africa Police (BSAP), the Rhodesian police force as it was known, hoping for them to pay for a ticket home. I mean, they actually promoted these kinds of deals. Unfortunately for me, I received a threatening letter spelling out I was being considered a deserter unless I returned pronto. To this day, I still can’t figure this out. I left as a minor, with British Citizenship. So, as a British adult subject, I applied for the free ride…and, they claimed because I had registered at the age of sixteen (all White boys had to), I was theirs and due to start fighting. I still don’t get it. Well, that’s besides the point. I got step-mom Katherine to spring a one way ticket (to be paid back), after bio-mother said she was happy to see the back of me as long as she wasn’t paying and here I am…

The next day was a high speed lesson in the naivety of my situation. I decided to hitchhike up to my old school just in time for their twenty minute break at 10.00am and check out some chinas. Normally I would have used my bike, but sadly it was rather wrecked and besides, wearing my peacock outfit along with the extreme heels; I would have been wasted on the tarmac at the first corner.
            ‘Yussus man, I thought you were a chick ek-se.’
            That charming comment came from the rather dodgy driver of the Peugeot 404 that picked me up. But things were to get worse as I stumbled on to the rugby field where several hundred kids (Whites only), ritually ate sandwiches and mobbed the Dairyboard ice-cream vendor (Black only), for the limited plastic bags of Bengal Juice, a beloved chocolate flavoured milk drink.
            ‘Bloody hell Greenberg, you look like a morph! You turned queer or what?’ asked my good friend Tim Bell in greeting. ‘Hah-hah, you look like your wearing a friggin dress, you longhaired fairy.’
            This comment, accompanied by snickers and giggles from dozens of straw boater wearing tarts and macho rugger-buggers in their scrotum tight khaki shorts and rain shrunk, dirty brown porkpie hats, had me rapidly losing confidence in my fashionable superiority. I was awakening to the fact that Rhodesia was still stuck in some weird kind of time bubble and my apparel was sending some bad messages…

I needed a plan B before I was either raped or mugged. I hitched into the city centre and stupidly changed my British dosh at the bank. I didn’t know about Black markets then. I just presumed that’s where the indigenous population bought melies and oddly shaped tomatoes; whilst in the meantime, our government was practicing it wholesale.
The exchange rate was a farce of 80 pence to the Rhodie dollar. I then invested in a pair of blue suede Bata trainers and with gritting teeth, a pair of locally made denim jeans with the dubious name of Spurs. I was furious with myself. I should have kitted up with the much coveted Wrangler or Levi instead of the whirling dervish, bloody stupid Oxford bags! Now I was down over twenty dollars, but besides the long hair, I looked relatively ‘normal’. Thus attired, my next visit would be down to the BSAP Head Quarters and sign my life away- Pro Rege, Pro Lege, Pro Patria  (For King, For Law, For Country.)

 (Motto of the BSAP. Rather odd as we had no king, the laws were rather dodgy and the country was internationally recognised as illegal!)
- - -

Memoir mutterings and glossary

Must remember to point out that the Stephanie Brooks in my story has nothing to do with American mass-murderer Ted Bundy’s girlfriend of the same name.

Must remember to tell Steph she still owes me a new copy of the Happy Hooker. I lent it to her and after much screaming months later, a quarter of it was presented back to me in total bits with the pages glued together. It seems the sex mad pupils of Mount Pleasant High couldn’t get their hands on it fast enough and it was chopped into segments and passed around.

Must drop an Email to Lord Sugar of the UK version of The Apprentice fame. It was his firm that sold me that dodgy Amstrad amplifier. Cost £40 in those days! Cheapest in Dixons at the time. The stupid five pin input had been soldered in mono mode (which I eventually fixed), but the output for the tape deck to record never worked. That’s what you get from buying from a former barrow boy!

Salisbury International Airport. Crazy, but families went to it as one of a Sunday outing. For a few cents you would gain entrance to the balcony overlooking the runway and have tea and sandwiches and get all excited if a plane arrived or took off. 

The statue of Cecil Rhodes had a wide yellow stripe painted down its back when Rhodesia passed away. I believe the figure was shortly after ‘Independence’ in 1980, uprooted and placed in the back garden of the National Archives in what is now Harare.

China – Nothing to do with the bastards that were equipping and training Mugabe’s ‘Liberators’. It was and still is a friendly Rhodie referral similar to the British ‘mate’ or the modern version ‘M8’.

Eyeties – Italians. Many of them landed up in Rhodesia as POWs from WWII and at the end of it promptly decided it was a far better place and settled in as residents.

Ek Se - The phonetic full stop applied to the end of a spoken sentence. Considered trailer trash Afrikaans and means the English etiquette equivalent of ‘Oh, I do say!’

Melies - Local lingo for white maize (corn).

Morph -  From ‘morphing’, to change. Reference to homosexuals or men in touch too much with their feminine side.

Whenwes - Comes from the fact that Rhodesians abroad tended to start all conversations with - ‘When we lived in Rhodesia…

Rooinek - Red necks. Derogative term for white Rhodesians used by Rock spiders and Slopes in vain attempt to placate themselves for losing the Boer war.

Slotting – From slot, to shoot/terminate life.

Snotklap  - The ability to hit someone with the open hand so hard against the side of the head, the recipient’s mucus would spurt out the nostrils. My father was an expert at this. Sadly, I was the only recipient of this type of education designed to drum some sense into me.


Richard said...

gripping stuff lore, when is it out and where do i buy it from?

DeeDee Holderness said...

No answer to Richard's question? Where/how can we purchase your book?

Karl (aka Lore) said...

Hi. The right hand side has all the links you need. It leads you to Amazon. Or just got to your nearest Amazon ( or .com etc and type in 'Gokwe Kid'. Seemples. ;-)

Karl Roebuck said...

Awesome, Well written, I was working at RBCTV as a Commercial Director then and remember fondly Coq Dor, Time and Place, Tramps etc, Saturday Sessions at the Oasis and how the Rhodesians were kind to an Expat Aussie. Cheers Karl Roebuck Townsville