The Self-employed Housewife: A Seaman's Wife's Story Ch 13
A ten hour drive lay ahead
She had phoned Yolanda from a call box at the petrol station outside Malvern before she left Palm Springs. If Yolanda was not at home she had already decided they would have to stay over at Jan’s sister, who also lived in Johannesburg.
“Mommy, when will we get there?” Jeroen asked from the back seat of her Beetle, after they had been driving for half hour.
“Sweety we are still a long way from Johannesburg. When we stop for a break I will show you the map OK?” It was already a sweltering hot and humid day for spring and she wondered how the kids were going to cope with being cooped up for hours.
Right now they were playing in the fold down backseat. It was a cozy space for them. They could even lie down together. She hoped that Jeroen would fall asleep after the next petrol stop.
“Mommy I need to wee.” Sascia called out in a whining voice. Gosh how was she going to manage the whole trip!
“Can you hang in there? Look out for a petrol station, both of you.”
That might work for a few minutes, but if not she would have to stop by the roadside.
What they left behind
They had only been driving for just under one hour. The vivid memory of the drowned woman lying on her bed would not leave her. She hoped that the shocked family would find some private space in her townhouse to grieve. Jan would not be coming home for at least four weeks, so he would never know that she had let complete strangers stay in their home.
Would she ever learn why the woman had committed suicide? A part of her felt angry for the hurt she must be causing her family, especially to her young son of sixteen.
Two heavily laden trucks that overtook her on a single lane took her mind away from the tragic events of that morning.
She found the N3 national road to Pietermaritzburg after having studied the road map just outside Malvern. It was already three O’clock. They would have to find a place to eat a late lunch, preferably nearer Mooi River, 64 km outside of Pietermaritzburg. She hoped a full tummy would make them both sleepy, so she could make it to Escourt and stop for an overnight sleep, hoping she would make it that far. She reckoned it would take her around five hours. Her speed was around eighty km per hour. The Beetle was not going all that fast compared to the cars that passed them.
Our history today
Nelson Mandela was arrested in the nearby town of Howick to the north of Pietermaritzburg. The arrest marked the beginning of Nelson Mandela's 27 years of imprisonment. A small monument has been erected at the location of his arrest. Immediately after his arrest Mandela was taken to the Old Prison in Pietermaritzburg
They were city slickers
“Ok OK I will slow down and stop and you will have to make a wee in the bushes next to the road.”
She already knew that Sascia was going to freak out. She slowed down where there was a wider verge and the gravel made a crunching sound.
“You can get out, but stay on this side of the car. Climb over mommy’s seat.”
It would do them good to stretch their legs. She already felt stiff. The heat outside was not helping.
“Come both of you. Jeroen you had also better make a wee.”
“But mommy they will see me.” Sascia whined
“Oh come on girly, really. See that little shrub over there? Come, I will help you. I will hold you. Look, pull your pants down and use mommy’s arms to sit on.”
Jeroen was struggling with his pants and she hoped he would watch out where to aim.
“Come on girly, let go now. Nobody will see us. “
She knew that her little girl was totally out of her element. Jeroen took it in his stride.
“I’m doing it like daddy!”
“Get out of the way. Step aside.” She scolded at him when Saskia let go of her full bladder.
When it was over she now realized that she had forgotten to bring to bring any toilet paper.
Sascia started to laugh as she swung herself around hoping that it would dry her bottom. Jeroen looked on with a jealous frown.
“Sweety, yes you have copied daddy, but us girls are different, you know that. Now get in the car and soon we will stop to have something to eat.
Gandhi was born in India on 2 October 1869 and he was assassinated on 30 January 1948. As she waited for the petrol attended to fill up her Beetle, she remembered reading that Gandhi had been married to a 14-year-old in an arranged child marriage, according to the custom of the region.
Gandhi was 24 when he arrived in South Africa where he lived for 21 years and where he developed his political views, ethics and political leadership skills. Why she linked him to Pietermaritzburg was because he was thrown off a train there because he was seen as a colored man. He had a first class ticket but only white people could travel first class.
Their first stop just after Pietermarizburg
She wondered how far she really had driven. Not all that far, because she had been here before with Jan. She saw a sign. Durban was only ninety kilometres away. It felt like nearly 200 km. She had read on the map she bought at the petrol station outside Malvern that Pietermaritzburg was the capital of Natal Province and the capital of the Zulu Kingdom at the time of its fall to the British in the Anglo-Zulu War.
A week ago she had taken books out of the library about Mahatma Gandhi, and also about Nelson Mandela. Pat’s husband Dirk had called him a terrorist and Gandhi a troublemaker, but Pat then stopped him from mentioning anything more. She already knew the opinion of her creepy Afrikaans neighbor, the plumber, but whatever he said she would never believe. The man was a pompous brainless ass.
It was hard to find anything on either of them. She was clearly looking in the wrong place. The librarian asked what she was looking for and when she told her, she knew where to look.
The woman did ask why she wanted to read up about these two people, and she honestly told her that she was new in South Africa and knew very little about the history, especially the political background. Her English was good enough to come across as someone who was just doing her own investigation.
When you read about about South Africa who do you admire the most today?
4:40 in the afternoon
She reckoned that it must be at least thirty degrees outside. All the windows were open. The winter was over and spring was already in full force, especially inland in the Natal province. Thank goodness the kids were both fast asleep, just as she had predicted. She hoped to really make good time. She would soon be driving past Mooirivier, a small town situated at 1,389m above sea level and 160 km from the coast in KwaZulu-Natal. It felt like a real adventure to be driving to Johannesburg.
Thank goodness that Yolanda had answered the phone and was truly happy to hear that she was coming for a visit. She had run out of money to feed the call box, otherwise she would have phoned them again from a call box nearer to a place called Escourt. Hopefully she would find a place to sleep overnight there.
She read over lunch that Escourt is a predominantly white and Asian town but nearby was Wembezi a township to a large black population. The N3, passed through the town, so she hoped it was not too late to find a hotel.
Almost before we knew it she had driven past Estcourt and was on the way to Ladysmith
“Mommy are we nearly there?”
“Not yet sweetie”, she whispered. “Don’t wake up your brother.” It was getting busier on the road. Most cars passed them but she didn’t care. They must be getting nearer to Ladysmith. They were now in the Natal Midlands and the Drakensberg was about 40km to the west of the town.
“I need to wee.”
“Can you hold on for a little while? We will soon reach a small town where we are going to find a hotel to sleep over.”
“Really, just like the movies?”
She wondered what Sascia meant, but then she remembered. On Jan’s week off they had been to the drive in.
“Yes sort of.” It was now just after seven O’clock. She had made good time.
The royal hotel in Ladysmith
The royal hotel in Ladysmith
The Royal Hotel in the center of the town looked expensive, but she was not going to risk looking around. It was now getting dark.
Hiring a room with two single beds would have to do. She was not going to book two rooms; the kids would never go to sleep without her being there. The room brochure said that the town itself is 1196 M above sea level, so they were already climbing towards Johannesburg, not that she ever noticed that while driving.
Inside their room was nice and cool and the kids were excited. It was their first experience of sleeping in a hotel. Sascia’s eyes were on stilts when they booked in carrying Jeroen over her shoulder. He woke up when she was forced to put him down and he hung onto her skirt, being very shy all of a sudden....