Thursday, April 12, 2012

A belated thanks to the Old Man

Yesterday, when I really didn't have the time, a long ago casually made promise came due. A dear friend of ours had some young relation over - kids from the city on a long promised trip to the island. We'd taken the elder sibs (two cousins) fishing and kayaking ages ago, and cheerfully said we'd do the same if the next cohort arrived. Apparently that was THE highlight of the girls trip. So yesterday, when I really shouldn't stop, I had to make good on that promise. Two 10 year olds were shoved, thrust and dragged into wetsuits (not that they were not keen, just tight wetsuits) and learned how to fall off kayaks and get back on. They discovered this was hard work, and then I took them snorkling along the edge of the rocky point. Well... I thought i was just a watchman, but I found i had two 10 year old remoras... they'd never snorkled (well, apparently in the bath, much younger)and certainly never really dealt with waves... (they were move of a 30 cm high surge, but all things are relative) They saw fish, got quite scared by what I considered near millpond conditions, and despite a healthy level of terror (you SHOULD be scared of the sea), had the time of their lives. Now for me, it was a rather tame dive, never more than 15 feet or so from the edge, with a slight surge, but nothing you couldn't have got out of the sea with ease. Back in South Africa we would have rated it as unbelievably flat calm. And we swam maybe 150 metres there, and about the same back.

The kids came out almost babbling with excitement. And very tired, I think... So we took them fishing off the rocks, and of course they caught some fish - which they had both done... sort of, before. But rig, cast, clean fish... no, those were new learning.

We peeled them out of their wetsuits and took tired little soldiers home. I felt I'd done a little pay forward for all the hours my dad spent taking me - along with my older brother, who was crayfishing while I was splashing in the pools. Who started me diving for sinkers before I could catch crayfish, in a sea that was much much much wilder than this one. And paddling my canoe on the Umgeni estuary and into the swamp. (I can only have been 11 when Armor, Mark and I went canoeing and fishing in Blue Lagoon. On our own.) Thing is... I can't remember learning to get onto a canoe you'd fallen out of. And I can remember losing dad's knife while fishing while he worked on the boat, and slithering down the berm into Durban harbour to get it back - before I went to school (the terror of losing the knife outweighed the terror of the harbour (which was OUT OF BOUNDS). I got wet, and air-dried myself, and carefully never mentioned it, and can remember gutting fish when I was too small to reach the kitchen sink without a box to stand on. I ran wild in the bush with a pellet gun, that dad taught me to use, and what not do with. I didn't appreciate this. I just assumed it was the way things were. I do remember finding some other children odd, because they didn't do these things. But in the centralness of the child's universe... they were odd. Of course, like all kids I wanted to fit in, and wanted my parents to fit in. I just never quite grasped what 'in 'was... and how much I would have missed, and hated it.

They were really nice kids, yesterday. My reward was knowing I'd given them some of the things my dad had given me... and seen how it excited and pleased them. But it made me realise just how much time and effort (without it seeming an effort) my dad must spent on passing these things on to his kids (particularly the boys I suppose). And how much trust it took. And how lucky I really was to have two parents who didn't fit in.


  1. It ate my comment the other day saying that I really hope if I have children that they will one day be able to say something similar about me.

  2. Martin - I am sure they will, or other kids will. I'm a good judge of character, and it is in your nature. If there is one important thing I like to say to you about it (that I regret) it's that I never really realised what it meant or appreciated it fully while I could have told dad.