The Self Employed Housewife - A Seaman's Wife's story Ch 15
They had a television
That was the first thing she saw when she walked into their lounge. So far as she knew South Africa did not yet have TV.
“We took the TV with us from Zambia. There’s only a few hours of TV and you never know when. Piet is so disgusted with the South Africa policies, you will hear all about it.”
“About having TV in South Africa?”
Knowing very little of the politics in South Africa, Piet’s remark made her smile. Jan would have been just as annoyed with what was going on, but more to do with the apartheid policies.
“Come on you are just frustrated because you are now going to see Pierre Jacy Fourie, the first white boxer in South Africa to fight against a non-white opponent.” Yolanda brought in snacks and the whole setting made her almost homesick for Holland.
All four children were in bed fast asleep. Being in company after hours with friends who also spoke Dutch was a real treat. Piet handed her a glass of wine, and the three of them all smoked. Piet asked her about the trip, and when she told them about her traffic violation, they were both rather shocked.
“Gosh you could have been killed!” Yolanda replied covered her mouth in awe.
“I was far too stressed about losing my escort to worry about any danger. Thinking back, yes it now gives me the shivers.”
Yolanda’s lounge had a very Dutch feel to it. Her lace curtains and the Delft blue plates on the wall reminded her of Jan’s parent’s home in Almelo.
She woke up hearing a lot of laughter and the sound of people running about in the passage. Gosh she was cold. It felt close to freezing. Why Yolanda thought they could swim when it was still at the tail end of winter surprised her. She had read up about Johannesburg’s mild temperatures with dry winters and warm summers, but she had not prepared herself for these low temperatures.
“Mommy are you awake?” Sascia asked as she burst into their bedroom followed by Jeroen.
“I am now! Come you two should get some warmer clothes on. And where are your socks?” Jeroen was all flushed but if it was from running or something else, that was hard to guess.
The knock on the bedroom door made her look at her watch next to her on the bedside stool. Nine O’clock! Gosh she had truly overslept.
Yolanda handed her a mug of coffee while apologizing for the loud noises. All she could do was express her surprise that she never woke up earlier. Piet had already gone off to work and Richie had been allowed off from Playschool because of her visit. The school holidays were different in Johannesburg, that she knew, but playschool had no strict rules.
She was glad to have her corduroy long pants and pullover. No way could she ever see herself taking a dip in their swimming pool. By daylight the back garden looked dry, yellowish and cold. Not anything like Durban.
Yolanda’s two and a half year old girl was already in the highchair having her breakfast in the kitchen. The Dutch interior with the lace curtains and nick nacks on the windowsill made her truly feel at home.
“I had no idea what you would all like to eat for breakfast. Hopefully you all like soft boiled eggs.”
Their breakfast was a loud and jolly affair. The kids liked their “soldiers” strips of toast for dipping in their soft boiled eggs and soon all four kids were off playing, while Yolanda and her lit their first cigarette of the day.
Living in Johannesburg
She knew Joeys (as Johannesburg was popularly known) was a gold mining town, and its major township on the outskirts of Johannesburg was called Soweto. Most of the native African workers lived there and worked for the gold mining industry. Yolanda did have a maid. She came twice a week. It was her first experience of seeing an African woman doing the housework that she had always done herself. Especially ironing, now that was truly something she could do with help on.
Yolanda was used to having servants, as she called them. Living in Zambia she had a house boy every day. It was hard to imagine have a man doing house cleaning.
Between twelve and three on some days when it was sunny it would warm up nicely, but the temperature could easily drop to below 10° C after sun set.
Piet had already done a lot of renovations to their house, and which inspired her to one day own her own home again, like they had in Australia.
Piet came home just after 6 p.m. and that was always a jolly time. He often cooked the dinner while they were bathing the kids and getting them ready for bed. That totally surprised her. How different their relationship was compared to hers. Piet always asked what they had done for the day. She wanted to know what his day had been like, feeling somewhat unproductive. His caring nature and genuine interest in all things made her whish Jan had some of his qualities.
Books to read
Piet had been involved in the construction of the Carlton Centre, being a civil engineer. It was the first time she learned about the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. It would soon be opening a 5-star and 30-story Carlton Hotel, taking up most of the floor space of the complex.
During the day they often went shopping in Florida. Yolanda loved chatting about all kinds of things. Topics like kid’s clothes, household stuff and especially her brother and sister in law, who lived in Cape Town made up her conversational repertoire. Piet was devoted to Yolanda but she sensed he wanted company for her when he was at work. Yolanda wanted to learn a craft, so they spent many hours in craft shops, which made her miss her leatherwork. The time spent under their roof allowed her to see herself in a different light. She was more enterprising and independent, which Piet wanted Yolanda to be.
She had brought along two books to read, but she could only dip into them late, when she had gone to bed. Yolanda never seemed to read and Piet was often fiddling with the TV.
By midday even at the end of August as it was, Yolanda and Richie sometimes had a dip in the pool. It was a quick dip but she and Jeroen were not interested.
Sascia overcame her fear of the water after Richie jumped in and challenged her. He was already a good swimmer. It was far too cold for her, but she was proud of her little girl.
Jan’s sister lived about forty minutes away, so they visited her and her French speaking husband twice when Piet was at work. She would have liked to have visited them more often, but Yolanda was less keen. She must have talked about them to Piet in private, because Piet asked a lot of questions about them over the weekend when he was home. She hardly drove during her stay there. Not knowing the way in the heavy traffic and the Beetle being a lot smaller than their car made her a relaxed passenger.
She had already seen the TV series in Australia, so she started reading the many Dutch magazines Yolanda subscribed to from Holland. Time flew past.
She often mentioned to them that it was time for her to return, but Yolanda and Piet kept talking her out of it until the day she spotted a headline in the newspaper Piet had bought on the way home:
The crew from the Voorspeler rescued 15 sailors from a storm-hit tanker.
“Is Jan not the first officer on the Voorspeler. Sorry but this paper is from last week”
She grabbed the newspaper and started reading how the crew of the Voorspeler, a cargo ship of the Unicorn Shipping line had managed to rescue most of the crew members of an oil tanker which had become grounded due to heavy seas. They were near the harbour of Port Elizabeth where the owners of the tanker were expected to arrive soon. There was a great worry about possible oil pollution.
Someone had taken photos of the faces of the men all wrapped in blankets, having been through a shipwreck ordeal. Two crew members, the captain and the first officer decided to stay on board.
Her dad would have done the same, because an abandoned ship could be lost to the owners. It was presumably the same for tankers.
Sascia seemed to sense that something was written about their Daddy when she asked” “Mommy when are we going home?” While trying to look at what she was reading.
“Daddy is OK sweetie. He helped to rescue men from a sinking ship. “
“Really, is he a hero?” Ritchie asked. Jeroen joined his sister and nodded as if to say, yes.
The tanker was apparently stuck on a reef, but due to the chance of it capsizing and the danger of a fire breaking out; most of the crew had jumped off the ship. All she could think of was the fumes from the tanker Jan had sailed on and how freaky it must have been to be so close to the shore at that time.
She asked if she could phone the Durban harbor captain to ask when the Voorspeler was expected to be back in Durban.