Goggles

I have written about this before here:
http://eriktheready.com/somerset-west-i-can-see-clearly-now/
but this is a version that I wrote in 2012 for a course assignment and that I was also considering entering in a story contest. I hope you find it interesting? 


The little boy had cried before he fell asleep.

There had been no beating but there had been words. Words that made him feel worthless and stupid, as if he did not merit the roof over his head.

It had been about his reading. After being told to go to bed and switch the light off he had used a torch – and been caught.

“You’re always reading! Why can’t you be like other boys your age? Why don’t you play sport”, these regular harangues caused the boy to become more withdrawn. Trying to speak up for himself he only attracted more scornful accusations.

Life was a series of precarious, unpredictable encounters with his stepfather who could be affable and good-natured at times. Patient and imaginative he would teach the boy things – little things that the grown man would later remember and struggle to reconcile with the more usual behaviour of scorn and impatience.

His mother once asked him, pleading and demanding that he avoid annoying the man. He should do his chores before the man came home and avoid the nastiness.

He never seemed to be able to water the garden enough, or clean the hen-houses or rabbit hutches properly. His mother understood and when she could she helped. But the man would know by the way the hutches had been cleaned by stronger arms and that led to more nastiness – both mother and son would suffer.

The boy loved playing with the few friends who lived up on the mountain but reading was his escape.

Huckleberry Finn’s adventures on the river after escaping his father (he could relate to that), the dangers on Treasure Island and the Famous Five.

Oh to have parents who allowed him camping adventures? Breaking crime rings and smuggling operations!

Lost in his books the boy would be startled out of this other world by the arrival of the car, by his name being shouted, ordering him to another confrontation. The man would raise his hand and the boy would cower against the expected blow. Sometimes it did not come and the man would declare scornfully, “Christ I haven’t even touched you. What are you afraid of? Be a man!” But he wasn’t a man; he was a little boy.

“He’s only a child,” his mother would say, “let him play”, and the scornful reply would be that the child couldn’t play sport but he always “just wants to ‘play’.”

“But you never let him stay in the village after school. How can he play sport if he has to come home and water the garden and work around here?”

Another argument would start about her taking her son’s side over supporting him and how the child was a waste of time. At times, and if drink had been involved, the abuse of his mother might become physical and he might get a severe beating himself.

One evening, at the dining room table, the boy was copying notes from another child’s notebook because he was unable to read the teacher’s notes on the blackboard.

The man accused the child in harsh terms of cheating and cribbing and being so useless that he had to copy other people’s work.

The boy protested. The man became even angrier when the child told him it was because he could not read the blackboard. The child’s mother tried to intervene, to suggest that the child be given a chance.

The evening did not end well.

Next day the boy was chastised by his teacher because his notes were not up to date. He had to explain that his stepfather had accused him of cheating, taken the notes away and only given them back that morning so that he could return the book.

The teacher, a stern spinster was a dedicated educationist, fiercely protective of the children in her care. She had experience of the type of conflict that was involving this child. Without overt fuss she wrote to the parents about the difficulties the child was experiencing and the effect on his work.

The little boy gave the note to his mother and then went to his room to hide in a book.

Soon raised voices announced that the note was under discussion and fragments of the altercation drifted up to him:

“He’s just lazy and making excuses….”

“Why do you think he would do that? The teacher says he battles to see the board!”

“He’s sly and he’s got her fooled, stupid old cow”, and so it went on.

Suddenly the door of the room flew open, “What’s this rubbish that you’ve asked your teacher to write to us? Just because she believes you, doesn’t mean I have to! You’d better start doing your work and don’t let me catch you copying again. Now turn off the light and go to sleep!”

“But I haven’t had supper yet…..”

“And you won’t get any tonight”, slam.

Time passed.

At school his teacher had him sit next to a girl who wrote clearly. When he could not see the boy was to copy from her as she wrote her own notes.

This solved the teacher’s dilemma but anyone who has suffered this type of childhood ignominy will understand how the child felt – and how he was teased.

Already rather introverted and shy this “humiliation” was hard to take at first. He was an intelligent child and although not able to engage in some of the rough and tumble ball sports and games – he couldn’t see the ball you understand – he was more well-liked than not. All the quieter children suffered at the hands of the bullies but in a fifties village teachers were more aware of the culture in the school. Bullies’ dominance was not what it was to become later under less dedicated educators. But that is not the subject of this story.

Once a method had been found to enable the boy to keep up with the class he was always at, or near, the top of the class. This earned him some respect because it was known that this was achieved on his own easy ability and that he received no favouritism.

There was still trouble at home. If the boy had stayed in the village to play or take part in activities and arrived home too late to carry out his chores the man would always find fault, even when the chores had been done.

“You didn’t water the garden properly!”

“I did, I watered all of it.”

“Not properly, look here,” digging his index finger deep into the soil, “it’s only damp on top! You only sprinkled some water over it so it would look like you had done it. Do you think I am stupid?”

“No, dad, but I did water ….”

“Rubbish! You think I’m an idiot? Did you think I wouldn’t check?”

“You can stay out here and water the whole garden properly and before you come indoors I’ll come and check. Now get started”

“But I can’t see.”

“Just water the bloody garden and don’t make excuses.” and off he went. The boy could see him through the window, sitting at the dining room table pouring a drink.

He watched his mother enter the room with the food and her questioning posture. The abrupt, angry gestures and the sound of the raised voices drifted across the plot to him. He couldn’t hear the words but he knew they were arguing about him.

A while later his mother came out with a sandwich and some tea. She did not say anything. Then he   called her inside – angrily. She went.

It was very late when she came out again.

“He’s fallen asleep” she said “let’s just turn off the hose and you can come inside and have some food and then you’d better go to bed.”

“What if he wakes up, mom?”

“He won’t, don’t worry.”

One day the government doctors made a visit to the school in the village. Reports would be sent to the parents of children deemed to be in need of medical attention.

This medical included an eye test.

Only a few children got letters for their parents. The boy was the only one called for a second test and it was explained to him that he must tell his parents that he is very short-sighted.

The boy was jubilant and fearful.  Jubilant at having a reason for his difficulties; fearful of the reaction the letter would receive at home.

He gave the letter to his mother and after she had read it and asked a couple of questions the boy disappeared.

It was not long before the raised voices indicated that this latest communiqué was not being well-received.

“He’s lying again, just lazy and looking for sympathy. You spoil the child.”

“But he’s my child and he is not lying. The teachers and doctors say he needs to see an eye specialist.”

“Waste of money. I won’t waste money on him.”

For once though, his mother prevailed. An appointment was made with one of the leading opticians in the region who had his offices in the city where his parents worked.

The day came. Not going to school, he would accompany his parents to the city, thirty six miles away at the foot of the mountain.

The grumblings that had gone on for several days continued on the trip into town. Dire predictions of what would happen when the specialist proved what a liar the child was. That it had been a waste of time and money.

The optician was a kindly man with rooms upstairs in a tall building. The boy was fascinated and intimidated by the procedures that he underwent. He was enthralled by the way the letters on the chart went from indistinguishable blur to pin-sharp clarity.

The optician said his spectacles should be collected a week hence. For a few days he should only wear them at home until he was used to them.

The man was furious at being proven wrong but curiously, at the same time seemed pleased that a very real problem was being solved.

The great day arrived when his new glasses would be brought home.

It must have been summertime because the day was still bright with sunshine as he put the spectacles on and looked around. They were brown horn-rims (the ‘Buddy Holly’ look of the day), but they were magic devices! 

Their house, the very first one on that estate, had a wonderful view. It was a spectacular vista across one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  The child had had no true appreciation of the locale. The bay stretched some thirty miles across and its arms stretched away some thirty miles to each side.

White beaches fifteen miles away, surf breaking on them. Swells on the blue ocean could be seen. Fields and vineyards in the valley were no longer smudgy greens and browns. Roads with cars on them. Far away the white letters GB, on either side of an anchor, on the mountainside above the old naval school were now clearly readable…eight miles away!

He looked and looked and looked. He looked everywhere and anywhere and over and over again he looked at things.

Next morning he gave assurance that he had put his new glasses in the drawer, hoping to be believed.

At school there was teasing, oddly good-natured though and that was OK. With his glasses on he did not have to sit next to a girl any more. He was still not particularly good at ball sports!

A few years later the boy went on to an all-boys high school as a boarder. The school was way out in the bush, an old training aerodrome from the war years.

Within days he was nicknamed “Goggles”, Gogs for short. He did not resent it – besides his mom had said only well-liked people got nicknames.

Sixty years later, the man still occasionally bumps into people who remember “Gogs”, and that is also OK.

Gnash Gnash mutter…

I made a decision a while ago – stop going after the mutilators of the language.

Stop being an apostrophe policeman, a spelling policeman and a pronunciation policeman but the latest thing to intrude has caused me to snap, to break my word to myself!

It started with the apostrophe – and I know there is, of late, a lot of controversial debate around it slowly being accepted to indicate a plural… WHAT!? I scream silently inside my head, WHAT?

Then another of my favourites popped up this morning BREAK being used instead of BRAKE to stop something. Come ON people!

Of course THESE always jar the senses and are so common, as if thrown at the page to land where they will. Rather like too much confetti at a traditional wedding, these words get in everywhere, every day. THESE are… their/there (and even they’re), your/you’re, cant/can’t, his/he’s, whose/who’s and perhaps a few others that don’t come to mind immediately.

A few years ago I had to consciously give up on entrepreneur. The imaginative pronunciations were myriad – and they all grated!

Then there were JANYEWRY and FEBYEWRY and JILL-EYE – a long time ago it seems, the first two months of the year lost an R and the U in July was somehow subsumed by an I….still the case.

Anyway, just as I had settled down and thought myself at last immunised against all these irritations along comes the latest – and it is all over the radio and in television voice-overs.

It is TUMOURIC! For something that is supposed to be beneficial to one’s health and well-being, making it sound like something life-threatening, cancerous even, is awful!

TURMERIC is pronounced as it is written see this link   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turmeric – and the Oxford dictionary gives this definition https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/turmeric and includes  an audio file so that it can be listened to.

If you don’t want to look it up then:
TUR as in FUR, TURD, STIR or BURR. The letter R appears TWICE and should be sounded TWICE!

Rant over….for now, as I try to come to terms with this latest affront to my (English language) sensibilities.

Of course this is a generalisation. It is really about those who insist on using such poor language in promoting their businesses, or other agendas, with official announcements and texts. Language that is then inflicted upon the listening and reading public – the target audience for their wares.

My rant therefore is for those who could REALLY use the services of someone specialising in proofreading, editing and copywriting. For everyone else perhaps my thoughts are merely an amusement…there goes another language nutter?

Fixes – another vacuum cleaner

This Kogan vacuum cleaner was brought to me with the complaint that, when it was new, it worked fine. However, now that it is a few months old it will not pick up anything.

Even though the dust container had been emptied and the machine appeared clear with no obstructions in any of the flexible tubes, still it did not work. The machine had been bought online and the owner was disappointed and considering getting a replacement.

Would I have a look at it first though?

I took the machine and examined the more obvious things such as the flexi tubes before I switched it on. As soon as the motor came on I heard a sort of POP sound and the motor sounded a bit laboured. After listening to this once or twice I determined that there is a blockage and the POP is either something being sucked into, and closing, an airway or a safety by-pass feature to stop the machine from overheating too quickly.

After removing the dust container I looked into the blue uptake tube and found it was blocked. I removed the filter assembly from the container and took the fine dust filter off the top of that.

Looking down into the filter unit I could see that the filter head was also very blocked.

After picking out a lot of the material blocking the pipe and the head of the assembly I could see the latches that hold the top of the assembly to the uptake pipe. It works like a bayonet light bulb fitting and with a gentle twist I separated the two parts of the filter assembly.

It was fairly easy to then clear the tube but the head was a bit more work using long-nose pliers and a wire hook I gently worked the blockage loose until I could shake all the rubbish out.

I tipped all the material that was trapped in the two parts of the filter assembly out onto a sheet of newspaper. An explanation of what was found is in the captions on the photographs but, to reiterate:

Small sections of what appear to be some kind of rigid plastic straw were found in the vortex assembly (the filter assembly head). Some of these had become trapped ACROSS the airflow path. Once that happened any slightly large dirt – such as cotton cleaning pads and bits of paper lodged against them then larger bits of dust and debris (and hair) also packed onto this until eventually, rather like a beaver dam, the air stream through the filter was completely blocked and no more suction would take place.

What is more commonly found, rather than these STRAWS is hair pins and paper clips – they perform the same blocking function in a vacuum cleaner. It is better to pick up any such items BEFORE vacuuming. This includes balled up pieces of paper and larger lumps of cottonwool.

I then opened the sweeper brush compartment and removed bits of thread and hair from the brushes themselves and from the ends where they could impede the rotation of the brushes.

Once cleaned and reassembled the vacuum worked AS NEW.

If YOUR vacuum cleaner is giving problems – and you are on the Sunshine Coast – let me have a look before you dispose of it and buy a new one. It could save you $$$$!

Fix – knife repairs

A few weeks ago a lady brought me two knives that her father had made for her many years ago. She really liked them because they are really nice knives to use. They are similar to cleavers although not as heavy as a traditional cleaver. The problem was that the handles kept coming loose.

It turns out that the handles were fitted by heating the pointed tang of the knives (the bit that goes into the handle) and then forcing the hot steel into the wooden handle. 

I found the problem with both knives was that the tang was not anchored in any way in the handles. In both cases the tangs were very short and unsubstantial – only extending about two centimetres or less into the handles. The leverage effect of using them eventually caused the handles to come loose and they had to continually be forced back into the handles. This went on until they were only good for a minute or two of use before the handles parted company with the blades.

With the first one, the larger of the two, I took the approach of extending the tang with a length of eight millimetre threaded rod that I welded onto it. I then carefully drilled through the length of the handle and slid the handle down over the now extended tang until the threaded rod protruded out of the back of the handle.

The threaded rod was then cut to allow about ten millimetres to protrude through the end of the handle after which a washer was fitted and a domed nut was screwed onto the thread.

The original, handmade, handle was now firmly attached to the blade with no chance of it coming loose.

After sharpening the blade I sprayed the handle with a couple of coats of varnish.

…and then:

The smaller of the two knives was next and I took a slightly different approach with this knife. Instead of extending the tang I cut the blade back about a centimetre effectively giving it a longer tang and a slightly shorter blade. I then made a cut across the width of the handle where the blade was to fit and, after heating the tang I forced it into the handle so that the width of the blade would also extend inside the handle for about a centimetre.

The next step was to drill two five millimetre holes through the handle and the part of the blade seated inside the handle and fit two brass machine screws and nuts. This did not turn out to be as neat an operation as I had hoped but it was a workmanlike solution.

Once again I sharpened the blade (another service that I offer) and varnished the handle.

The owner was very pleased with the results and that she could now use both her knives.

Knowing where…

There is an anecdote about a HUGE SHIP worth perhaps 50 million dollars or more that developed a problem with starting its engines.

After every technician had looked at the engine and much money had been spent on consultants someone suggested a man they had heard of who had an uncanny ability with matters of this kind.

The man was summoned and when he turned up he was seen to be a rather elderly, small man with an old-fashioned tool bag. He reminded the suits of one of those cartoons we see of an old railway engineer in the late 1800s.

He walked around the enormous engines and listened with an old stethoscope.

Eventually he took out a small ballpein hammer and tapped gently in several places, all the while listening intently with his stethoscope.

Finally, as the big bosses were becoming fidgety, he took out a slightly larger hammer and gave a sharp rap with the ball of the hammer.

“Try now,” he suggested.

The engines turned over and ran smoothly even after several tests.

The man packed his tool bag, took out an invoice book and wrote an invoice which he placed in an envelope and handed to the senior manager present and left.

When they opened the invoice they were surprised to find it was for $10,000.00 – ten thousand dollars!

They wrote to the man and asked for an itemised invoice for they had only observed him tap on the engine with a hammer.

In due course the invoice arrived. It had two lines:

Tapping with hammers – $2.00
KNOWING where to tap – $9,998.00

Even at my level – that is nowhere near such desirable numbers – it is my knowledge, my time and my readiness to get my hands dirty that I am charging a very reasonable rate for…

Fixes – vacuum cleaner

I was asked if it was worth keeping an LG vacuum cleaner. It was a good machine so I said I would check it out.

The owner said she had cleaned it and when I opened the machine to check the filters were clean and the machine was empty of dust and rubbish.

I then dismantled the hose ends where they clip into the machine and also the end where the attachments are connected.

I found an interesting mix of hair pins, paper clips, hair, dust, sweet wrappers and post-it notes all mixed up with floor sweepings and food crumbs near the ends of the flexible tube and trapped in the end attachments. The floor/carpet cleaning accessory (sweeper head) was similarly clogged.

Some of the plastic clips and rubber seals that hold the sweeper head together had been broken and lost. When I reassembled this item I sealed the places where the rubbers were missing with duct tape so that air leakage would not affect the vacuum suction.

 I removed all the debris and cleaned the hose and its connections and the sweeping accessory. After reassembly the machine worked like new.

On the subject of vacuum cleaners…
I was asked to attend to a very good Hoover. The owner said it just did not switch on and wanted to know if it was repairable or if a new one might be in order.

I disassembled it and found the fault to be the on / off switch inside the machine (it is activated by the large knob on the top of the machine).

I found HOOVER to be rather unhelpful but was able to source the correct switch in Maroochydore (for those not familiar with the area that is a larger town near where I live in Palmwoods and about 20 kms away) where I had to take the sample for comparison. The switch itself was not expensive but, because of the travelling I was not keen to go home, write a quote and, if it was accepted, have to go BACK to town for the part.

I bought the part and installed it and reassembled the Hoover. I tested it and it worked perfectly.

When I contacted the owner and quoted $45.00 she was a bit miffed suggesting she could have bought a new one for not much more. The equivalent new machine would, of course, have cost over $100.00, perhaps closer to $150.00 so I was a bit aback taken. After a bit of dickering the vacuum was collected and I was paid. If it had not been for the travel and time spent finding the part the cost would have been less but I felt it was not unreasonable under the circumstances.

Reminiscent of the story about KNOWING where to tap? See http://eriktheready.com/knowing-where/

Perhaps I should have suggested that I keep the machine instead of being paid?

Fixes – shelf install

I did a number of repair jobs in the last year and did not post many of them to this site so here goes.

First was a shelving project for a client in Coes Creek.

The garage area under the house was becoming very cluttered and every time something was needed all the plastic boxes had to be lifted down to get to the one that was needed.

Also, the boxes at the bottom of the pile were becoming damaged. They contained business documents that had to be kept for a time in good order so broken boxes would be a problem.

I worked out the materials and the client arranged for all the wood to be brought to site (I do not have a large enough vehicle).

The shelves are attached to the stub wall at the bottom and to the floor beams at the top. Each shelf is 450mm deep by 3.1m long and, including the floor at the bottom, roughly 6.7 square metres of storage space has been created. The floor to ceiling height is just over 2 metres.

It is now possible to get at one box at a time. Boxes are not being crushed by being on top of each other and it is possible to also store a number of other items on the new shelves.

Workmate table top

I wrote about this little workbench before at   http://eriktheready.com/refurbish-workmate-copy/.

However, I needed a flat work surface to do small work on because my big workbench is so crowded with all manner of stuff.

I scrounged a piece of board and cut it to a reasonable size – in this case just under 600 x 800mm.

I attached two pieces of wood  with screws to form a lip front and back of the board.

 

The back of these LIPS is just under 350mm apart.

By using the cranks on the bench I close the sides of the bench, place the board with the lips down then crank the bench open again so that the edges of the surfaces latch into the lips.

This now gives me a surface I can work on without worrying about it tipping if I put something near the edges.

When the top is on and the bench is being used as a table I needed to keep the dogs and pegs that I made before, somewhere they will not be misplaced when I DO want to use them.

I then drilled holes in the pegs and threaded a cord through them and did the same with the dogs that fit over them – threaded a piece of string through them.

I screwed cup hooks in under the bench and the dogs and pegs can hang there out of the way and where they will not be separated from the bench itself.

 

 

This turned out rather well – very satisfying and a great boon when I first used it.

 

 

 

 

Pop-up toaster that doesn’t

This toaster was working. BUT…when you inserted bread if you did not jam the lever down REALLY hard it did not engage and stay down. What this meant was that the toaster elements did not come on and no toasting was happening although the lever appeared to be down.

The pilot light did not light if the mechanism did not actually engage but this was not always noticed – very frustrating.

Once bread was in the toaster and being toasted the end of the toasting would happen but the lever would not come up. One had to hold the toaster cover and pull the lever up to get the toast to emerge from the slots.

If one wanted to STOP the toasting for any reason you similarly had to press the cancel button and push the lever up to disengage it.

I removed the cover from the toaster and examined the electro-mechanical part that controlled the POP-UP part of the device. I found that the shaft on which the mechanical and spring-loaded part of it rode up and down was gummy with quite a lot of old crumbs attached.

I cleaned the shaft and the lock mechanism and put a dab of lubrication in the cam that controls the hold and release of the mechanism.

After re-assembly the toaster latches into the ON state without effort and pressing the eject button works at once whereas it had to be pressed and the lever physically lifted before.

Although toasters are comparatively inexpensive they are often repairable at little cost.

Abandoned – sort of

We arrived in Rhodesia from Cape Town in May 1958 when my stepfather, Cyril Williams, was transferred to Gwelo (Gweru) as General Manager, Prices Candles Central Africa.

By the end of the year he had lost that position and we moved to Sinoia (Chinhoyi) where my parents were to manage the Sinoia Caves Motel. The trip was quite an adventure with our trailer losing a wheel on the dirt road between Hartley (Chegutu) and Sinoia via Gadzema. (These are stories for another time).

There was no high school in Sinoia (that opened in 1960) so in the January of 1959 I was enrolled at Guinea Fowl School (GFS), halfway between Gwelo and Selukwe (Shurugwe). I was in Wellington House (WH) at the school. My brother was born in Sinoia in April 1959.

GFS was a great school, way out in the bush and almost every weekend would be spent walking and exploring.

Some time in about mid-to-late-1959 my stepfather caused the owners of the Caves Motel to, reluctantly in my mother’s case, let them go. My mother wrote and told me about this and said Cyril had got a job at Copper Queen near the Sanyati – way out on the Alaska road. He had been friendly with the people who offered him the job. The accommodation, I was to learn, was primitive – not to put too  fine a point on it.

Towards the end of 1959 I had no idea where my parents were.

I subsequently learned that the job at Copper Queen had ended and my parents were, by that time, living on a very basic farm (rondawels with no electricity or running water) with a chap named van Tonder about halfway between Karoi and Sinoia (I know it was 28 miles from Sinoia).

I had not been in contact with my parents for some time and I must have said something to one of the teachers. The upshot of his was that under no circumstances was the school prepared to let me get on the train to Sinoia until contact had been made with my parents. There was some discussion about what to do because the school would be closed. One of the cook matrons was approached and she offered to look after me until my parents could be contacted.

Accordingly, on the last day of term, I accompanied the lady (I will call her Mrs Brown for ease of reference and until I learn her actual name) to her home in Hunter’s Road, where her husband was a warder at Connemara prison.

They were lovely, kind people and I remember running around the area, exploring here and there. I don’t remember if they had children of their own but I remember that there were children around my age – perhaps neighbours?

After a few days Mr Brown announced he had taken a week off and was going to go down to his gold mining claims near Fort Victoria (Masvingo). He wanted to do as much as possible in his mine as he could because Lake Kyle (Lake Muturikwe) was close to completion and had already started to fill. When the lake was full all the little mine smallholdings would be under water.

He asked if I would like to go with him – I jumped at the chance and we set off. I cannot remember the accommodation there but I think Mr Brown had a small cabin that we stayed in.

I do remember exploring the mine. It was quite extensive with drives into hillsides and long dark tunnels and some deep, dark shafts. On one occasion I was walking along a tunnel and Mr Brown suddenly stopped me rather sharply. He then pointed out the shaft in the tunnel floor that I had not noticed. He showed me how to walk around this black hole and warned me about the care needed in the tunnels. He forbade going into the mine drives alone.

I did do a lot of exploring in the area on my own while Mr Brown and his black workers were occupied in the mine.

One day I was up on the hillside and had been peering down some of the open and unprotected shafts that were dotted around. At one of these shafts I was standing about half a metre from the edge and leaning slightly forward to peer into the dark hole, tossing a couple of pebbles in to hear if they hit bottom or splashed into water.

Somewhat engrossed in this boyish activity I suddenly heard an angry HISS by my feet.

Now HISS is misleading. It leads one to think of the insignificant sound of a tyre deflating…this was more like an EXTREMELY amplified consumptive wheeze, a noise you make in the back of your throat but loud and sinister! Think of the second syllable of BACH (yes, the musical genius – unless you can’t pronounce Bach …?) and imagine that CHCHCHCCH….at your feet but at CONSIDERABLE volume? That is the closest I can get to describe the sound of a startled serpent.

The next sequence of events took place so quickly that for many years I have believed that, in times of stress, one of the SIXTH SENSES is telekinesis.

I glanced down. The cobra was reared up. Its head was level with my knee, hood spread. Another angry CCCCCCHHHHHHH…. then I fell over a log some three or four metres BEHIND where I had been standing.

Trembling, I stood up, all the time staring at the place I had been standing. There was nothing there! Nothing. I picked up a large stick and looked around wildly…was the snake slithering towards me? Would it be angry and come after me? After another moment of dithering I fled. I am glad there were no hidden shafts in my path as I scampered pell-mell down the hill and back to our camp.

When Mr Brown got a message from home that my parents would be coming to fetch me we packed up and drove back to Hunter’s Road.

A day or two later my parents arrived to collect me. Cyril was grumpy that he had had to travel all that way and that I had wasted the train fare. He wanted to know why I had not got on the train – I think he had arranged for someone to meet me…but he had not told the school anything!

Anyway my mother was pleased to find me safe and well and thanked Mrs Brown and her family for their kindness. Although My recollection is scant on detail, and I have forgotten their name, they were the nicest of people – the best of Rhodesia. I have never forgotten this episode.

My stepfather enrolled me at the new Sinoia High School in January 1960. It only had form one in the first year and I had to hitch-hike 28 miles from the farm in the bush every morning. I was always late and I resented being put back a year. My behaviour was not exemplary and this resulted in Mr Talbot-Evans, the new head and my ex-housemaster from Wellington, giving me a talking to before he caned me. First boy to be caned at Sinoia High School – what an achievement.

Because of my rebelliousness it was recommended I go back to GFS and, two weeks late for the start of term I was back in junior dorm at WH.

By the end of 1960 my parents had moved to Salisbury and in 1961 I had to go to Cranborne High, near where we were living. This was because my stepfather could no longer pay my boarding fees due to his depleted circumstances.

1961 was eventful…I started at a new school where I refused to do Latin because I had been due to stop it at GFS. I was downgraded to a B stream as a result…My sister was born in the March…I broke my arm in the April (?), just before end of term…and then, a week or so after start of term, on 11 June 1961, my stepfather was killed in a car accident. 

I missed the rest of second term, we went to stay with relatives in South Africa but came back to Salisbury within months. At the end of the year I came seventh in class. As promised for passing the year, my mother bought me a bicycle. It cost her eighteen guineas that she paid off and it was many years before I comprehended what it took for her to keep her promise. 

My mother made a life for us, made a home for us and brought us up. I was fourteen, my brother was two and my sister three months of age when she was widowed. She always said that had we stayed in South Africa she could not have done that but, in Rhodesia, she could.

I have written a little about these events in my anecdote titled AFTER GUINEA FOWL SCHOOL.http://eriktheready.com/after-guinea-fowl-school-gfs-2/