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The Self Employed Housewife - A Seaman's Wife's story Ch 10
The Voorspeler was due to dock in Durban
“Mommy can I wear my leather skirt when we go to daddy’s ship?”
They had just arrived home from playschool. Jeroen had already run upstairs getting his ruck sack.
“You sure? You know that ships are greasy and dirty, you might get a stain on your leather skirt sweetie.”
Her little girl’s frown, while contemplating a difficult decision was so cute. Shame she felt mean. The leather patch skirt and a matching sling bag she had made for her sixth birthday, was often the only outfit Sascia wanted to wear.
“Go ahead. Mommy can always fix it if you get an oil stain on it.”
Sascia’s jubilant response by running upstairs followed by her brother was so endearing. Had Jan any clue how important he was in their lives? She was also looking forward to some adult company, especially in the evenings. The books from the library were getting to bore her until she took out a book by the British-Australian author Neville Shute the day before. Reading English books had been slow going, but the novel ‘A Town like Alice’ had started to grip her last night like no other book had before. Jan might also like to read it.
“Mommy is daddy going to stay home for a while?” Sascia was asking while coming down the stairs all dressed up. She wondered what she would be like when she was older. Thank goodness she was good at sewing, so she could alter the kid’s clothes so they would fit just that little bit longer; but her leather work had taken up most of her time these days.
“I believe so sweetie. Ten days at least. Why?”
“I want to stay home with daddy” Jeroen replied with an unusual strong tone. Gosh she was surprised, or had Sascia put him up to it? They were both staring at her, hand in hand as a united team.
“We will see. I have to speak to the teacher first.” Come let’s go. First we need to phone the Harbour master and then we will drive into Durban.”
Driving into Durban
The weather was now cold, but still nothing like she was used to. Durban’s winters were so mild, almost like Holland’s summer. The laborers who usually hung around the entrance to Palm Springs had already gone home. The traffic on the road was busy being Friday afternoon. People knocked off work earlier, especially in the building trade.
The kids were safely playing in the back of the Beetle with the seat down, while she stepped into the phone booth. After a few attempts she got the harbor master on line.
“Ma’am the Voorspeler already docked this morning. I hope your hubby is still on board.”
Gosh she was surprised. Jan must be waiting for her. It was really difficult not having a land line, but Jan did not want to spent money for the cable installation since they were only renting. He felt it should be paid for by the owner of the complex. When she mentioned that to the son of the owner, after he had once again been pestering her for a date; it was clear that that was never going to happen, unless they bought the townhouse.
Many of the complexes were now up for sale. The Agent had visited her also, but she knew Jan would never buy a townhouse. Their lease was on a month to month basis, so if it was sold they would have to move.
She needed to stop for petrol in town before arriving at the ship, since the needle was already on reserve. The old palm tree at the entrance of BP reminded her of the postcards she had collected as a child. Had she known she would live in a county where they had palm trees when she was Sascia’s age?
The friendly lady
“Hey you two, put your toys into your ruck-sacks because daddy is probably waiting for us.” She warned them while driving through the harbor entrance.
“Really, is daddy’s ship already here?” She hated it when Sascia leaned so far over the front seat. If she would now have to suddenly stop...
“He, sit back you both. Mommy must concentrate on the road.”
When they arrived at the right quay she saw the Voorspeler’s gangway down but nobody on it.
“Stay close to mommy. Don’t go jumping or running onto anything when I’m not around.” The kids knew already from the last time where Jan’s cabin was, but when they were about to run inside, Jeroen suddenly stopped. Sascia was also not walking inside the cabin and when she arrived at the doorway she saw why. A rather loudly dressed black lady was smiling at them saying hello. She was sure they were at the right cabin.
“Hi there, who are you? Where is the...”
“Jan went upstairs to the bridge.”
She was so taken back that she had addressed Jan by his first name, who was she? When Jan suddenly reappeared, his behavior was all embarrassed and shy.
The kids both jumped on him and the lady stood up and said goodbye. She was friendly enough but never said who she was. When she asked Jan, he just shook his shoulders and instead gave her a hug, with Jeroen already in his arms.
“Let’s go home. I’ve been waiting for hours.”
Have you read all my ten chapters?
Jan’s first long holiday
She was so happy to hear that he would be home for ten days; she would ask later who the black lady was. Maybe she was the wife of one of the crew members?
She told him about the surprise visit from Piet and Yolanda while the kids kept interrupting her from the back seat.
“What a shame that I missed them, now that I’m really looking forward to doing some sightseeing. “
Thank goodness it was the start of the weekend, because the kids would hate to go to playschool while Jan was home. How she was going to tackle that she didn’t know yet. She would probably speak to the head of the playschool, and ask her if she could take them out of playschool for the duration of Jan’s holiday.
“Let’s find out what is playing on the drive-in shall we?” She was so surprised that he even thought about the drive in. Jan clearly wanted to please them all with this suggestion since he was never all that interested in movies. In Australia they had had a TV but he never watched, except for the news. Working in his garden or reading gardening books was his hobby. Jan was driving and she enjoyed being a passenger. The kids were all for it. Jan seemed to be in a happy fun mood. He must really be glad to be off the ships for a while.
After the children were in bed asleep she made coffee and asked him all about how the trip was around the coast of South Africa.
“How was it to sail on the Voorspeler compared to the tanker?”
“The major difference is that the crew is less hassled with formalities. The captain is an O.K. guy and we stayed longer in each port, so that was nice. On my next trip I will be looking for a job ashore in Port Elizabeth. I can’t really see myself working like this and never be home.”
“But what would you do? Your papers are all to do with ships? How long would it be before you get a captain’s post? Would you then not have more free time?” She knew that a captain’s post had more perks.
“I never was planning to make a career with Unicorn shipping; it was a way to get into South Africa. I will look for a stevedore kind of job, or even see if I cannot get a post on one of the tugs, but then Durban would be out. There is already a long waiting list. Every captain or first mate wants to work on the tugs and Durban and Cape Town are the most popular harbors.”
The lack of communication
She was sometimes so sad that they seldom talked about what was in both their minds about their plans. To hear for the first time that he had no intention to stay working for Unicorn shipping made her sad. He had also never mentioned that he wanted to work ashore either. All Jan was good at was making his need for sex very clear. Her needs, to have communication on all other levels seemed to bore him.
She had a great need to share her ideas, thoughts or lately her contemplations about general things. The books by Neville Shute had stimulated questions within her. Like, why were they born? What was behind living anyway? She had never taken to the religious beliefs that her mother was heavily involved in. She and her sister had had to attend Bible classes but all that did was trigger a rebellion within her by asking questions which the dominee had no satisfactory answers for.
Leatherwork inspired her more and more, especially after Nicole, her pregnant Afrikaans friend, had mentioned that a journalist friend of hers might want to write an article on her leather works for the Fair Lady Magazine. Nicole, who was still working part time for the Fair Lady magazine as a layout artist told her during a coffee break on her day off that her work needed more exposure. All she wanted to know was what a layout artist was. It sounded such a fun and creative job, but all Nicole was interested in was baby stuff.
“Hermien when you were pregnant with Sascia, what work did you do?”
“I wasn’t working. I mostly traveled with Jan on the ship.”
What she didn’t tell her was that Jan was very shocked and disappointed when she told him she was pregnant. She would never forget that moment. His reaction had been like a piercing knife in her solar plexus. Admittedly he was not quite sober when he had responded.
“Gosh what an adventurous life you both have had, and you also lived in Australia and now here. I’ve never even been abroad.”
She didn’t know what to say. The truth was that she almost envied her for having a husband who was as excited about her being pregnant as she was. During her first pregnancy Jan had made it clearly known how unattractive she looked. It was the moment when Sascia was born that his whole behavior changed. When he held her for the first time, she knew he would be a good father.