Cape Town City Ballet

.Earlier today I had the great pleasure of attending a fund raising performance of various stunning pieces from the recent repertoire of Cape Town City Ballet.

Today was the third visit for me thanks to the invitation from my friends and acquaintances at the International Women’s Club (Cape Town division) especially Caroline Gilbert a long time friend and fellow tutu follower. It was a pleasure to see so many gorgeous Ladies under one roof, all glass in hand, helping to support this wonderful institution and essential part of the Cape Town Arts scene.

The two performances that stand out for me where the par de deux from an upcoming new production of Romeo and Juliet, we were the first to see this beautiful piece. Also a delightful performance of scenes from Copelia soon to be performed with the Cape Town Philarmonic at the Artscape.

Something I find particularly disturbing about this wonderful performing arts centre is that they receive no public funding whatsoever !!

All expenses and salaries are paid from public donation or ticket sales !!

Sorry but what the heck is going on here? Performing Arts is an essential part of any city’s fabric especially in countries such as ours that has such a diverse and eclectic heritage, surely culture and tradition is so important ?

We can contribute regularly or donate ant sum direct to; Cape Town City Ballet at Nedbank St. Georges street. code 123209 account number 1232008842 or contact them on friends@capetowncityballet.org.za

If you would like information about how to get involved with the International Womens Club (I.W.C) you can google them or contact either Suzette Raymond, Giovanna Sartor, Caroline Gilbert on Facebook, I’m sure they will love to hear from you.

Looking forward to hearing and maybe seeing you soon. Thank you for reading my blog. xx

ARTHUR……….

The War was finally declared over in September 1945 and consequently hundreds of thousands of men and women from the forces found themselves on the other side of the World a long way from home. One can only imagine what their emotions at that time were. On the one hand glad, relieved and extremely thankful to be alive but……. on the other, what is home going to hold in store for me, if its still there even ? Up until the point in my life when Dad and I spoke about this, just a few days before he left us, I had only really considered the turmoil of the British troops but of course there were hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth troops, Russian, French as well as the defeated German troops that were rapidly being herded into prisoner of war camps that had been confiscated from the German war machine. One hell of a problem for those trying to sort it all and trying to make some kind of sense of it…….hell indeed !

My Dads battalion had been instructed  to “volunteer” ( yes that’s exactly what happened ) to stay on their current tour of duty to help with the problem. Remembering here that a lot of Dads squaddie friends had volunteered to go into the army and were therefore still very much a part of it. The conscripted troops were returned home as soon as was possible via air or sea (mostly sea it appears). Dad and his mates were sent from Rhodesia to India (Delhi ) to help with the problems and repatriation of men and women to their homelands. This was, according to my Dad, the longest period of loneliness he ever remembers in his life. One can only try to imagine the feelings of these (not just my Dad, bless him) young man and women, knowing that the long awaited peace had been declared but not for them a triumphant journey home to their loved ones but back to work as usual was the order of the day! My Dad and his mates only returned to Britain one year later in September 1946 !!

Back home in Ashford where Mum and Patsy were waiting for the return of their own ‘hero’ life must have been difficult also. My Grandad (Mum’s father) who had his own small painting and decorating business which was doing extremely well rebuilding and redecorating war damaged properties locally, was eager to welcome my Dad back home to help him in the business as a partner. Of course my Dad had no idea about this but it was, of course, a wonderful opportunity for him, if he indeed wanted it ?

I know from what he (and Mum) had told me over the years he still desperately wanted to emigrate to Rhodesia as soon as he could. He had, in fact, been offered a good job within the Police force and was still full of hopes that he could persuade Mum to leave England for Africa and start a new life. Please don’t misunderstand me here, he loved being back home with his new family and after what must have been a somewhat difficult ‘settling in period’, he could finally relax and enjoy his married life and baby. The flat upstairs had been redecorated (of course!) and new furniture installed instead of the second hand pieces they had been very kindly given by friends and relatives to start them off in their new life. He greatly enjoyed being home and being “my own boss” with Sam(Grandad) and they were working “all gods hours”, having so much work on hand. Strangely enough the biggest job they had (along with a couple of labourers)  was painting the new council houses that were being built locally to accommodate local young couples as well as displaced Londoners whose home had been demolished. This estate was to be our home for the next sixty eight years, number thirty five Arnold Road. They never moved from there and both my lovely parents were buried from the house. That house has such many and varied memories for us all, I’m sure but most of all it was our home and, to me, always will be.

In February 1947 Mum and Dad moved away from my Grandparents in Chesterfield road to start their own life anew. It must have been exciting, intimidating and a whole lot more I guess. My Mum was six months pregnant with her second child, my sister Pam. I’m sure that there were quite literally dozens of young parents to be living on that estate at that time. I certainly recall there being no shortage of neighbours kids when I was growing up, all trying to get in my light !! I was born in number thirty five as indeed Pam and all following six siblings were too. Crowded doesn’t cover it, trust me but the one thing that there was an awful lot of in the house, apart from towelling nappies, (ask yer Mum) was love…….We didn’t talk about it, didn’t say it to each other (if I recall again!) but comfortable wrap around love. Priceless, because goodness knows there wasn’t a lot of anything else around to shout about, times must have been extremely hard for our parents in post war England, with rationing, shortage of just about everything we now take for granted in the World, just little things like bananas and oranges….they might just as well have been gold dust. A truly difficult time for people trying to make their way in the World that they had just saved from disaster. These wonderfully strong people must have, on many an occasion, thought…….’what the hell was that all about’??…….

ARTHUR………………..

I must be said that my Dad was for the most part, was a terrible cynic and that particular gene I did inherit, I think? It is easy to understand this when you remember spending years being told what to do and realising or (dare I say) knowing that the instructions are going to ‘end in tears’ and some poor person is going to have to pick up the tab for it, usually not the instigator of the mess. (I digress again). He surprised me once with a cynical masterpiece, or a sardonic comment if you like that went something like this; ” Abyssinia was a god forsaken dust bowl but the Italians had press ganged the locals in to building the most amazing roads , all leading nowhere, but bloody well made and straight as a dye” I wonder if they are still there, as with the foundations of most of the roads we still use today in U.K.?

The Army spent the best part of a year “mopping up the mess” in Abyssinia and installing some semblance of normality before reinstating the emperor.

At the end of 1943 my dads battalion where instructed to pack up their stuff and await further instructions. On the second of January 1944 allowing a day off for getting over the New Years Eve celebration (how very civilised) the boys were heading for Rhodesia again, they were needed to help organise the army boys (and girls)  there and have them prepare for a possible German invasion. It was, for my Dad and his mates, I’m sure, a strange time. It appears that they all had plans to call Rhodesia home when the war was over and everything was done and dusted. I guess with the huge British influence in the country Salisbury must have seemed almost like being back home in ‘dear old blighty’ !! Over the following six months “more or less I think” Dad and his fellow squaddies worked day and night to help the Rhodesians prepare themselves. Apparently there were a number of South Africans “hiding there”, what from or from whom is not very clear !

My Dad received regular letters from home both from his lovely wife and daughter and his family in Lincolnshire. It appears that his ‘baby brother’ Dick had been called up and was in the R.A.F “learning how to kill people from the air” (there’s that cynicism again, bless him). Doreen and Pat were living in Ashford with her parents (my grand parents  of course) and were fine but, of course, missing him like mad. Thinking about the situation now, with hindsight,which is as we all know a wonderful luxury, the house in Ashford must have been pretty cosy to say the least! 96 Chesterfield Road was (and still is) a three bedroomed two living room Victorian semi detached house (I wonder who’s living there now?). There were at any given moment  at least eight persons living there! My Mum and Pat, both Nanny and Grandad, Aunty Joan, Aunty Ivy and two of my Grandad’s brothers and one of their wives…..Although, having said that I skip ahead twenty years from then to 35 Arnold Road, there were nine of us kids and Mum and Dad in a three bedroom house on a new council estate outside Staines (pre Ali G !)Cosy doesn’t quite cover it here.  My Dad wrote to Mum telling her of his plans to move out to this paradise as soon as the War was over. My Mum immediately replied in the negative! ” How can I bring a child into that under developed place with wild animals wondering the streets and what about my Mum and Dad, they’re getting on and they’ll miss little Patsy so much”. Now, in my Mums defence , I must say that I can totally understand her feeling and must state here and now that she was never given to histrionics and was no drama queen but……I sort of get it. The news reports that must have been coming out from Africa with Rommel and his army goose stepping there way across the deserts (funny pictures in my mind now including Mel Brookes etc.) Lions, elephants etc. the big five as they are affectionately know here in S.A. now must have seemed like a different planet, let alone a different continent. We must also remember that very few people travelled in those days unless they were very rich or (as with most cases) bordering on the lunatic!! My Dad told me much later that he was devastated at the response but (wisely) decided to wait until he returned home with photos and job offers to try to encourage my Mum to change her mind. Again with hindsight I am wondering what happened to those photos, who has them now? He returned to England toward the end of 1944 for some well earned, I’m sure, leave and relaxation which must have included a fair amount of good old British beers, brown and mild (ask yer Dad). I think at that time the end of the war was looking imminent but in fact it staggered on for another nine months. The excitement my Dad was feeling coming home and dreaming of convincing his wife to fall in love with the country that he now thought of as home, must have been almost impossible to contain for him………….not gonna happen Dad, not gonna happen !! ………

 

ARTHUR……….

My Dad and his fellow squaddies received orders to ‘up sticks’ pronto as they were leaving Colombo for Calcutta the next day. The under equipped troop ship left, heavily laden, for India and ‘crawled’ along the coast to Calcutta. These journeys must have been a totally new adventure and mid boggling for my Dad and his fellow soldiers. I’m guessing that most of them had never been outside England, let alone sail around the World ! The journey was to take almost two weeks apparently…….they could have walked there in less time !!

Calcutta was ” like nothing I have ever seen or experienced before or since, I still don’t know whether I liked it or not, it was a nightmare”. I’m sure that somewhere underneath all this confusion, noise and exotic smells Dad must have been like a kid in sweet shop, I know him and his excitable childlike approach to life. From Calcutta the army travelled North,overland to Sikkim and finally to Delhi where there were planes waiting for them to transport them to England via Tripoli. No British Airways frequent flyer points here guys, not even seats for part of the journey and the toilets were simply a bowl behind a makeshift curtain! These planes were converted cargo planes with little or no attention to creature comforts. The battalions arrived in England (Farnborough I think) mid December and transported to Feltham barracks where they were billeted with local families. My Dad and a couple of his fellow squaddies were to stay with an Ashford (MIddx) family by the name of Carrad,it was during this stay that he met ” this lovely girl with the bluest eyes”, a niece of the Carrad’s  by the name of Doreen…….my Mum, bless her. He caught the train to Boston to be with his family for the Christmas period with Doreen very much on his mind. Upon his return to his Ashford “billet” Doreen was waiting there with open arms, it would appear…….I’m getting goosebumps here!

 

They were married on the fifth of July that year and my Dad left for Africa at the end of  the month, leaving a pregnant wife in tears (I’m sure), on the Tilbury dockside. Obviously there were hundreds of brides and grooms all experiencing the same emotional wrench at that time. Such a horrible thing for anyone to experience let alone that at the back of their minds they must have been wondering if they would ever see each other again. Dreadful times truly.

The troop ship arrived in Cape Town on September the eleventh, my Mums birthday,(strange moment here). After deftly negotiating submarine infested waters en route I’m sure the sight of Table Mountain and dry land must have been a huge relief to all the boys on board. Whereupon copius quantities of alcohol were consumed in celebration. (I don’t actually know this but…….I would put my next months pension on it happening!) The ship was moored off Mouille Point  opposite the lighthouse, where strangely enough I rented an apartment soon after my coming to live in Cape Town! They were in the ‘Mother City’ for just a few days before setting sail again, this time heading for Durban further along the east coast of South Africa, “where I had my first taste of curry , loved it so much I asked one of our kitchen boys to show me how to make them”. The rest, as they say, is history. Barely a week went by when we were kids that there wasn’t curry of some sort or another for dinner. My Dad was always a little heavy handed with the spices (if you saw the size of his hands you will understand) and consequently most everything he cooked had a slight green hue to it, but not bangers and mash, I don’t think ? He began to like South Africa a lot and was considering staying on “after this bloody mess is over”. However,about a week later they received orders to move on, this time overland, to Abyssinia (later to become Ethiopia). It was during this journey and over a few weeks on the road that the Army arrived in Salisbury (now Hirare) in the “most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, it was like a piece of paradise”, we knew it as Rhodesia now Zimbabwe !!! It was at this point in his life ,when Dad was not doing his soldier things, counting pieces of paper, painting walls, typing and being marched around the camp that he decided he wanted to bring his new wife and soon to be child here to “start a new life together”. Their first born child, a daughter, our lovely big sister Pat was born on the fourth of December 1942………Pat is sadly no longer with us, bless her, and we all,  miss her everyday…………..

After the army had been in Rhodesia for a few weeks the orders arrived to proceed the rest of the road journey to Abyssinia , driving through the most spectacular and at times frightening landscapes and terrain. Dad couldn’t understand “what all the fuss was about over this God forsaken place” (my words not his here!). Mogadishu was (and still is I think) the capital city and from there the Italians ran the country. The English army was there to chase the Italians out and reinstate the recently deposed Emporeur Haile Salassie and his family who where “currently living the high life in London”, in exile. My Dad actually picked up some of the local language and he remembered some of it for seventy years or more! I know this to be a fact because I was with him in London when he had occasion to visit The London Clinic on the Marylebone Road for a check up. His orderly that looked after his room and (tried) to supervise his getting undressed and ready for the consultant, hailed from Mogadishu. He began to answer her instructions in Swahili(?) just as though he was still in Abyssinia seventy years previously. I, for once, was lost for words…..absolutely amazing powers of recall. I personally have not inherited this particular gene!!

 

                                                                                                                                 

ARTHUR………

Arthur George Ward is my Dad. I could easily say ‘was’ my Dad because he passed away on the 18th of November last year and his body, at least, left us all, his eight surviving children behind him, the World is and will be a sadder place for it, bless him……

Our Father (Dad) was born into a very different World on the third of April 1919 just four months after the end of WW!  “The war to end all wars”, or so the powers that be said! Both his parents Cedric and Kristina (my Grandparents) came from a long line of farming and country people that had lived and worked the lands of Norfolk for three generations or more. He was born in a hamlet just outside Hunstanton that is, sadly, no longer there. He was the ‘third child’ in a family of four siblings, Thomas (Uncle Tom) Madge (a pet name for Margaret) and his younger brother Richard (Uncle Dick).

The family moved from Hunstanton to Frampton,again a small farming community outside Boston in Lincolnshire in 1925 (I think) when Dad was six years old and to quote my lovely Gran “always a bit of a scrapper”! Nowadays I guess that phrase would mean a bit of a fighter but at that time it meant (again I think) always getting into trouble having little or no regard for school, orders or anything remotely regimental or conventional !…….. .Well Tony doesn’t that ring a few bells for you in your early life also?.. Honestly dear reader that similarity has only just occurred to me as I sit here ‘putting pen to paper’, as it were. I’m finding it hard to resist the urge to talk about me now, believe me. Those of you who know me will totally understand where I’m coming from here.

My Grandparents had some very good friends, the Chapples, I think, that had a small holding in Spalding, a large market Town not so far from Boston and therefore they used to ship my Dad off there, sometimes for months on end apparently. Consequently ‘the boy’ Arthur grew up knowing how to milk cows, tend goats, grow vegetables but above all else he was allowed (to a point) to be a free spirit and attend the village school as and when he felt the urge (de ja vu or what Tony?). Mrs Chapple or Aunty Vi’ was the village school teacher therefore my Dads education didn’t at all suffer, he just received his “three R’s” at different times to the other children. What a fabulous way to bring up a child, no?

Throughout his long and interesting life my Dad was able to converse with the World and its wife, quite literally. He was interested in many things but most of all he was very much a peoples person. Often talking to street cleaners, factory workers, shop keepers, lawyers and on the odd occasion titled Ladies and Gentlemen. “they’re all working for a living in one way or another” he would tell me when we spoke about it much much later in his life. Most of the information I received ‘from the horses mouth’ as it were,was after he had retired from pub life. He was a barman for well over thirty years ! It could be said (and has been often) that he spent most of his working life on one side of the bar or the other. Much to the chagrin of my wonderful Mum, bless her. It is interesting for me to note whilst writing this memoir of my Dad (I never once called him Arthur!) that I only really got close to him during the latter years of his life when we both, it would appear, had more time to finally get around to talking properly about the things in life that really matter. He was truly a remarkable, very loving and greatly loved Man. Not only by his ,by now, huge family but also his friends and collegues. I NEVER heard him say a bad word about anybody, never, and believe me there must have been times with both friends and family he must have been very close to it. He was a very private person with a wealth of knowledge and escapades to regail us with.

In May 1939, just after his twentieth birthday Arthur and his friend Freddy signed up for the Army “to see the World….. and fuck me wouldn’t you know it, four months later we were at War with the Germans and I couldn’t get out of it then even if I wanted to”.  I think that so many young Men were actually caught in that dilemma, having gone through the depression in the thirties. With no real goal or opportunities in sight the army must have seemed to be a great opportunity to get out of the mire, as it were? The two of them were sent of to Catterick barracks, in Yorkshire for three months training later to be sent to Scotland “to herd sheep for all I know”. It must have been easy for Dad obviously, with him having all that farming experience as a boy. He always loved whisky, maybe this is where he picked up the taste for it, who knows? (another light bulb moment for me). Freddy and Arthur went their separate ways towards the end of 1939. My Dad was posted overseas to Ceylon( now Sri Lanka) whilst Freddy went to France. They never heard from each other again, this was War after all…………………..