Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Long Drop

A number of years ago the Wee Manny family took a scunner of living in Norn Iron and bought themselves a South African village. It was a bit run down so they got it for a good price - about the price of a three-bed roomed house in Galgorm actually. The village was in the Eastern Cape and was called Old Thomas River. It was a little township that had been built around a railway station. It comprised a hotel, a post-office, a school and a station house. The Wee family lived in the hotel and used the post office for parties and guests. Their farm worker (South Africa remember) lived in the schoolhouse. The other buildings were pretty dilapidated. Let me explain the farm worker. Kabula came with the place and would have been devastated if his employment hadn’t continued. He definitely found the Wee and Diana very benevolent employers and said he had learned more English from the Wee than from any other boss. South African employers typically speak to their black employees in Afrikaans or Xhosa.

We visited them for three weeks one January. While we were there we took several trips around the country. One of these trips took as to a tourist resort called Hogsback, which is part of the Amatola mountain range. On the way back the Wee decided we should visit an old friend of his in a town called Keiskamahoek*. Mrs The Wee Manny (Diana) is South African. She’d met the Wee in London Town and after they got married they went to live and work in Keiskamahoek where they worked in a lumber factory The Wee as a boss (remember he’s white) and Diana in the office. The Wee befriended Harry who was the factory foremen. No doubt Harry kept the young, inexperienced boss on the right track.

It was a Sunday and although Harry was not expecting us he made us very welcome. His wife was not there. He told us that she was at Church and he chuckled that she spent all Sunday in Church but that it was not for him. Rum was produced. Within an hour Harry’s porch was full. There was the five of us and as many and more again of Harry’s friends and neighbours. There were no women for they were all at Church. The men were all Xhosa except for one Zulu man. They all spoke good English. It was decided that more drink was needed so a trip to the bottle store was proposed. Everyone piled into the vehicles, our car and their pick up truck. As we drove through the town lots of women and children and a few men were coming out of various churches. Harry’s party blared horns and yelled and waved to attract attention to them and us. I remember feeling a bit affronted at the disapproving looks of the good God-fearing, Church attending people.

When we got back to Harry’s place his wife and a couple of her friends/sisters had returned from Church. Mrs Harry was part of her Church Choir and she and her friends wore an elaborate, beautifully tailored costume with matching headdresses. It was in emerald green with a dazzling white ruffled, starched collar. I’d noticed on our trip through town that different churches had different choral costumes and that they were all equally elaborate. The ladies were quite shy and not half as raucous as their men folk. But then they’d been imbibing the word of the Lord, not big feeds of rum. We were given a meal of stewed meat and vegetables with delicious flat bread. Diana, Laura and myself were served first, then the Wee and Bert, then Harry, then his older friends, then the younger men.

After a few hours and a few glasses of gin I needed to visit the toilet. I whispered to Diana, “Will there be a toilet?” She said, “Ask Harry’s wife.” so I did ask her and off she went coming back moments later with a beautiful, rose-patterned china pot with a lacy towel folded over the top. I just couldn’t! I just couldn’t do my thing in her beautiful china pot and then what? So I shook my head and thanked her and said no.

But I still needed to go. The Wee said, “Why don’t you go to the long drop?” I had it pointed out to me and set off. The long drop was a little tin construction sitting on top of a mound. I dandered over. Even at a distance the smell was very bad. I ventured in. I held my breath. I did my thing. It wasn’t the first time I’d used a dry toilet. But it was the first time in a hot climate. And at about 12 foot it was a long drop too.

The Wees sold Old Thomas River several years later and came back home. He missed the Ould Sod too much. The village is a backpacking hostel now. I wonder if Kabula still works there? And does he still speak English with a Ballymena twang?

*Keiskamahoek is situated in the poverty-stricken but beautiful Transkei region. In 1959, the National Party government introduced legislation to create eight ethnically and linguistically divided homelands for black South Africans. The Transkei was designated the homeland for Xhosa speakers. The Transkei homeland became independent state in 1976, although it was only recognised by a few countries internationally. With the victory of the ANC in the 1994 elections it was reincorporated into South Africa, despite opposition from many of its citizens. (Wikipedia)

21 comments:

Lost Identity said...

Wow. That's a story worth telling. Thanks for sharing it.

Nelly said...

It was an very interesting afternoon and I'm glad I had the opportunity. We were a bit off the beaten track for the typical white tourist.

Anonymous said...

that was very interesting, suprised i hadn't heard the wee manny mention any of it before.
mikey

Nelly said...

Oh there's many a thing has happened to the Wee Manny in his life so far. There was the time he was drummed out of the Parachute Regiment, the time he was Phil Lynott's joint roller, the time he was a groom to an eccentric old equestrian, nearly run over by a train, lived on a barge on Amsterdam, international drug-dealer, gigolo...

He forgets you see. Too much whiskey. But Nellyphant never forgets (his tall tales). The African village was true. I was there.

ed said...

"I need a holiday"

"Really? Where do you want to go? The Costa del Provo? Maybe Florida?"

"Hell no, I'm thinking of purchasing a small South African village, complete with staff and dodgy sanitation arrangements."

I want to be a part of a conversation like that at some point. Or maybe just be a fly on the wall. Has the Wee Manny considered auditioning for Big Brother? These tales need to be shared with the nation.

Nelly said...

Big Brother! He'd be the first one out for sure.

hootchinhannah said...

I think The Wee would be one of them folk that gets put up for nomination in the BB house every week but the public would keep in 'cos he's entertaining. But the Wee would walk, after a day.

Nelly said...

My daughter the astute observer of social behaviour.

Right on all counts. You must meet Ed. He's always right too.

ed said...

You mean that there's an alternative to being right? What a curious concept. All this time, and I never knew...

Nelly said...

You know when you have a coin and you notice there's two sides? Well right is like that too. Right has a flip side and that's called wrong. Some people say two wrongs don't make a right. But they're wrong. Then there are old-fashioned vinyl records. They have an 'a' side and a 'b' side. Neither side is wrong. Maybe you see life as a CD. Now that does have a wrong side. The side that doesn't play. You know when you go right. Well you can also go left... Oh help! Now I'm confused. Must keep taking the tablets.

ed said...

Ah, but is it not said "Hate is not the opposite of Love, they are but two sides of the same coin"; implying that the two sides of a coin are not opposite but part of a greater whole. Does this mean that this 'wrong' of which you speak is not the opposite of right, merely the compliment without which right is meaningless?

And, assuming that, does that mean that, as in coins, wrong get the interesting design, while right gets the head of some OAP?

Nelly said...

Oh Ed the agility of your big man's brain is far too much for me to take in this evening.

Acting out the hate/love thing with Bertie Boy has left me quite overcome with exhaustion.

Rows are so tiring.

ed said...

Aye, but a good row, like a good thunderstorm, can sometimes clear the air and make the next day much more pleasant.

'Course, the row I had last night seems to have cleared more than the air, but also the prospect of me going out for some time. Bugger.

Nelly said...

Ed - your weather report

Weather: Sunny, pleasant

Bert: Taciturn, moody

Nelly: Long-suffering, resentful

Now what's all this about a row? I raced over to your blog to find out. Did you mean a row as in a rowing machine as found in gyms?

And where have you been hiding that family of six?

ed said...

General row along the lines of "women = bonkers, men = inconsiderate b*stards". Which I tend not to go into on the ol' blog, what it it being the first thing that comes up when you search for my name. Not that good for a real-life relationship to be played out in the public domain, methinks.

And the family of six is purely theoretical. Used as an example to illustrate the stupidity of the inital concept.

Nelly said...

In theory I agree with you about such stuff not being for public consumption but sometimes I like to let folk know that not all is eternal sunshine at Nellybert's. Stops them getting too jealous of our happy, happy life.

And that bonkers/inconsiderate b. one is the same argyment we've been having for nearly 20 years. Anything can start it off. Yesterday's tipping point was me wondering what the funny smell in the house was.

In fact writing this town has made me feel like going out to the clematis fields and giving the silly man a hug.

ed said...

Awww, aint it nice when there are happy endings. We'll get Kerr to put some music to it, and there you have a great movie scene.

Nelly said...

It was even better than that. I wish, I really wish I'd had my camera. Off I tripped to the polytunnel and there he was curled up in a comfy chair (he keeps a selection of comfy chairs in his polytunnel for relazing in) fast, fast asleep. Poor thing was exhausted with the rowing too. I could hardly stop laughing. Laughter - best medicine as you know.

ed said...

Now who in their right mind could be jealous of a life where there is this much laughter, relaxation and general good spirits? Where even after a tiring row, all seems back to normal after a quick giggle?

Nelly said...

Right again. :)

mquest said...

Great story
Great Comments
I feel like I am watching a drama/play about a drama/play based on a book . . .
What a story.
Long drop. what a great phrase.