Sifting through some old photos recently, I came across one of my grandparents, sitting in a rickshaw, sometime in the 1950’s. What a great idea, why didn’t someone think them during the fuel shortages???
I thought the picture was taken outside the Grand Hotel, Bulawayo because my grandfather worked there when he first came out. He later ran the Balla Balla hotel, and the Belingwe club. He was a great old guy…Eddie Grimes, anyone? We called his wife Lillian, “little gran” to distinguish her from “big gran” our paternal grandmother who stood at six foot two inches. Very original hey?
Little gran, pictured here was about four feet eight!
I thought it would be clever to go to the Grand Hotel and take a photo. Try to stand in the same place the photographer stood sixty odd years ago….
Well it isn’t the Grand Hotel pictured and I spent most of the morning driving around not watching the road. I jumped out of the car from time to time, photograph in hand and I didn’t find the building. I took some photos though which I thought may bring back memories for some…
This photo of my grandparents in a rickshaw inspired me to write a scene in my new book.
Several years ago, I met an elderly Polish couple. Leaving the country to be closer to their children in South Africa, they wanted to re-home their dogs rather than have them ‘put down.’ The man said he had seen enough death in his life, he wouldn’t like to deliberately cause any more. Since I agree with him, and always try to find homes for animals, I discovered we had much in common. In the end, I spent the whole afternoon, with these two old people while the husband explained his strange comment about death.
At about age five, he had been uprooted from his home and together with his family and servants, forced on a long journey, through Russia, landing in India and eventually Cape Town. It appears no one wanted them, but didn’t know what to do with them, so shuffled them off, on trucks, in trains, on foot. They spent nights in barns, schools, derelict factories. They were straffed from the sky by aeroplanes, killed by disease. They starved, stole, begged, even killed.
I had not heard about displaced people wondering around Russia. Of course I had read A Town Like Alice, but didn’t know the same kind of thing had occurred in Europe. If I hadn’t heard about it, I reasoned many others hadn’t either. I thought it would be a good idea to write about it.
My character, Wolf has to be older, because he can already play music before his long trek begins and, unlike the Polish man, he has lost his memory.
Arriving in Cape Town, an English name is pinned on him and he is sent up here to Bulawayo, to the orphanage at Fairbridge.
A psychologist tells him to write any flashback to his past in a diary, in the hope it will jog his memory. But since his diary isn’t always available, he writes on anything he can find, napkins, newspapers and puts them in a cardboard box under his bed.
He often sits reading the scraps of paper in the hope that more than snippets of his memory will return.
Now, after finding this photograph, the story of the rickshaw he saw in India is on one of these scraps….
Please buy my book, Silk Threads. You can find the link here: