Serendipity Strikes - A happy link-up through HubPages
The comment that made the connection possible
On 30 May I found the following comment posted on my Hub "Blythswood: a unique South African mission station" (see links below):
"Wow, I got to this site by chance. My daughter, Nikiwe and I were talking about my late husband, Boy Bikitsha and his late father, Gladstone, who was the boarding master at Blythswood. I also went to Blythswood and was deeply touched by your account. We have a the same picture of Great grandfather Veldtman in the house. Boy used to tell me stories about Chris McGregor and how they grew up there before apartheid. Oh, I'm so fascinated by all this, I'm speechless. I live in Joburg with Nikiwe. who is a journalist. My son, 37 is married with two kids. My other daughter, Vuyo, is 33 also with two kids. It would be lovely for us to meet you. We would like to be in contact, let me know if you are available. - Mpumi Bikitsha"
I immediately responded: "Mpumi - I am also speechless - I had not thought I would ever make contact with Boy's family again. Please contact me - I would love to hear from you. I am reitred and so can be available pretty much any time - and for Boy's widow really it would be an honour. I have such great memories of Boy. Thanks so much for your comment which I appreciate beyond words!"
Within a few minutes my cell phone rang (I had left my contact details in my comment) and it was Mpumi!
We chatted and made a date for the next Sunday afternoon to do that typically South African thing - have a "braai" together at Mpumi's home.
So on Sunday we went to Sunninghill, Johannesburg, and met the family at Mpumi's home.
I had worked out that I had last seen Boy at the beginning of 1960, 49 years ago!
Boy and I lost touch with each other as after I went back to boarding school in Bloemfontein in January 1960 my father was transferred to Buntingville and moved there in March 1960. So when I returned home from boarding school it was to Buntingville and not Blythswood that I returned.
Boy and Mpumi married and lived in Cape Town for some years before returning to the then Transkei. They had three children.
Boy was tragically killed in a car accident in the 1980s and his family returned to Cape Town where the children all finished their schooling and Mpumi her Honours degree in anthropology at the University of Cape Town.
The first-born is Simphiwe, also known as Brian, who took my breath away when I met him as he is so like his father. Simphiwe runs a plant hire company in Johannesburg.
The next is daughter Vuyo who, like Simphiwe, has two children.
The third is Nikiwe who is a journalist and TV presenter who has a son called Gushi who is six years old and was a wonderful host to our daughter Caitlin during our visit.
A column by Nikiwe was published in the weekly tabloid the Mail and Guardian on the Friday before our visit. It is a wonderfully angry piece about a very senior politician who, when she went to interview him, greeted her with the words: "Hi babes!"
At first, she wrote, she thought the man must have mistaken her for a female friend of his, but, seeing no other woman around, she realised he had actually addressed her in this familiar way.
"That realisation hit me so hard and weighed so heavily that I felt my stomach turn and for a moment thought I might deposit my breakfast muesli on to his plush, paid-for-by-taxpayers rug."
She ended her column by writing that she now knows that she refuses to be cowed and weakened by ugly words. "So, Mr Politician, I refuse to make it about me. It is your despicable behaviour that deserves scrutiny and sanction. If you want to weaken me, there must be something about me that scares you." Fighting words from a brave young woman.
Naturally, we spent quite a while that Sunday afternoon talking about her experience and the column, with some speculation about who the politician in question might be. Nikiwe was adamant in her refusal to divulge anything about his identity.
Our conversation that afternoon and into the evening was what South Africans like to talk about - politics, the weather, even a little bit of sport. (There was general rejoicing in the company when Roger Federer won at Roland Garros!)
But most of the time of course was spent talking about Boy, Blythswood and our respective families.
It was a joyous and wonderful afternoon and I felt so honoured to be there. As Mpumi commented to me later by SMS: "The kids say they actually felt their father's presence amongst us. Twas so surreal."
And for me so serendipitous to have made that contact after so many years.
The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Tony McGregor 2009
- Obsessed with things not thoughts - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source
As a young girl, I once sat in awe as an elderly and inebriated uncle explained the provenance of the Bikitsha name.
- Don’t baby me - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source
Men in powerful positions are presumably erudite and savvy enough to know what is offensive behaviour.
- Blythswood: a unique South African mission station
Blythswood Missionary Institution in the former Transkei, South Africa, was unique in that the people it served asked for it and contributed to the cost of setting it up.
- The journey of my life
The reason for my being born in Cape Town rather than in the then Transkei where my father was a teacher, was Hitler. He overshadowed my life from the start and in some ways still does.