Hi, I’m a wannabe author. I live in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and I love it. Like so many small towns in the world hardly anyone knows the place even exists.
I based my first novel, ‘Silk Threads,’ here, although I didn’t get in as much about Bulawayo as I intended. I’m writing more, and I hope to base all my books in ‘Bullies’, after all, it’s the place I know best.
I will post my own pictures of Bulawayo and places I visit around the country, but most of the other pages are to practice my writing. Please visit them and comment.
Of course my real name is not Frankie Kay, I have a day job. Actually, the nice thing about Frankie Kay, is that she can be whatever I want her to be. I can leave out all the boring bits.
The other me is really boring.
Frankie was there, all through my childhood, and into my early adulthood, but disappeared like a subduction zone after I had kids. Sucked under by responsibility and conformity. Squashed deep down only to pop up as flotsam a few years ago.
My kids call me a hippy, but I don’t think that fits. Hippies are always weird, always walk around in strange clothes, funky sandals and rarely bath. I am all normal on the outside, Frankie suppressed, until something wakes her up. Only then does she pop up, thinking her alternative thoughts.
Recently I have begun writing some of them.
I mostly live in Bulawayo now, although as a child I was brought up a little out of town. I never really got into the whole black, white, coloured thing. Race and race issues are a constant undercurrent in Bulawayo, and one which I often find annoying, or confusing. It is something which interests me though. On some occasions even my own actions or thoughts are contradictory or obtuse.
So, rather than the boring biography often found on blogs, I decided I would tell you about myself via stories, as they often better portray a person. After all, I began this blog to practice my writing as well as to promote it.
The first one, a true story, is from the point of view of the man who told me this about myself:
Here you go:
Well before Independence, I worked for a construction company as foreman in charge of the bulldozers, constructing the road from Essexvale to Habane (black township). I was a younger man than would normally hold that position, but I had lost an arm in an accident. As a reward for keeping out of the lawyer’s office, the construction company paid all my medical expenses and promoted me to this position.
We worked all week, and on Friday afternoon I noticed a little girl, in the company of a few black kids about her age. All wearing shorts, raggedy shirts. No hats. I noticed her first, not because she was watching us, or because she was with a bunch of black kids, but because she was not wearing shoes and the red sand was hot. She was thin, but muscular with wide shoulders, pushed back.
I thought she was coloured, like me.
She stood around with the kids, watching the heavy machinery for hours, her hands on her hips, her little face screwed up against the bright sun. She had a shiny ring on her hair where the light landed, shifting when she moved. And she moved a lot. She was always on the move and if she wasn’t, she looked as if she was about to be.
At one point, when the noisy machines had advanced a little way along the road I turned to find her, squinting up at me, her hands on her hips. She had huge brown eyes in a little pixie face. Her badly cut spiky hair stood up from her face, but lay thick and silky at the back.
Now, I was not so sure she was coloured.
Without fear, she regarded me steadily, and then said, “You are a funny looking man.”
Surprised, I asked her why.
“Well,” she began, “you are a funny colour.”
Now I was even more surprised, because from out of that little brown face came a true blue accent.
“Why?” she asked.
Well, I thought, she sure was direct and I nearly laughed, but those black button eyes held onto mine.
And so I explained that I was a funny colour because I had a black mother and a white father, although I didn’t. I decided it would be easier to say that because she would never understand the intricacies of the mixes we have in Bulawayo.
She cut her eyes to the group of black kids she had been standing with, and then slowly around the other blacks nearby and then tracked them back to me. It was obviously a novel concept for her: mixed marriage.
“And you only have one arm?” she stated, again with that clipped, upper-class English accent.
So I told her about that too, and she wanted all the gory details. Then with her head tipped back and slightly to one side, she thanked me politely and walked off as abruptly as she had arrived.
I never forgot her and then one day, that same girl walked into my bus company to buy a ticket. A woman now. She wanted to visit her sister in Hwange and didn’t feel like driving all the way. It was her son who brought the memories pouring back. He had the same dark eyes and direct stare his mother had had all those years ago. He wore no shoes.
I went over to her and said, “You are a funny looking woman.”
They both turned and looked at me, her in surprise, the boy with the same appraising look he had inherited from his mother. Her eyes tracked over me, her eyebrows raised haughtily until they finally fixed on my empty sleeve and suddenly I was no longer standing in my carpeted ticket office. I was standing in front of a little girl on a dusty road, a girl with huge brown eyes and a brown pixie face. She grinned at me, “Perhaps,” she drawled, “but I at least, have two arms.”
We both laughed, now back in the ticket office.
I am afraid to say, Frankie Kay does say those kinds of things too…the other me, the boring one, who talks to clients in the day time, tries to be careful never to step on toes, never to blurt out offensive things and then Frankie pops up her naughty head…
I bet everyone in the ticket office that day, cringed. One doesn’t talk about colour in public, nor that a man has only one arm! One doesn’t talk about open zippers, or vomit or sex at the dinner table.
I must tell you it paid me, later in life, to ditch the accent, but it does come through from time to time. When I’m annoyed, say my kids. They say I tip my head back sharply and look down my nose and use long words. And the burden all mothers must bear is mine: I passed it on to them. I also passed on the feet. My kids hate shoes, only wear them if they absolutely have to.
I went to the Bulawayo Convent, and I learned about coloureds, and I was always fascinated by them, their varied back grounds, their attitudes, differentiations. Sometimes they got cross with me, because I asked so many questions. But where I came from there were only white people, and black people and Tony (above) was the first mixed person I had ever seen in my life. Of course perhaps my school friends instinctively knew I was also trying to eye out their brothers or boyfriends! I love the dark skin, the wonderful language, the sense of community. Us white people are so boring, insular and all the same.
At birth, I weighed in at ten and three quarter pounds. I don’t know what that is in kg, but its alot. I was the only one in the family to be born with dark eyes and dark hair. A darkie in the midst of sandblasted Irish types. I was a silent, dark blob until two years of age and then….I began to talk, and I have never stopped.
Mostly at that age, I asked hundreds of annoying questions. Eventually at her wits end, my mum sent me to stay with my (paternal) grandmother. A terrifying dame. She stood at six foot two, and must, in her day have weighed more than 100kg. By the time I arrived on the scene, she was bent with age and had lost an enormous amount of weight at some stage. I can remember my fascination with the soft, empty dewlaps which hung under her upper arms. I will say more about her in the future, because she had an enormous impact on me.
She had a posh English accent and used it to read wonderful stories. She answered my never ending why’s, handed out pretty good clips along the ear and generally got me into some sort of line to face school….
I hated school. I hated sitting still. I hated that I couldn’t blurt out whatever came to my mind. I cant keep what I think inside, off my face. If I think you are an idiot, you will know very easily – you can read it, loud and clear off my face.
I went to a small school, so I couldn’t hide out in the crowd.
I was a tomboy, never ever wore a dress, and spent as much time in the bush as I could. I had a horse and a dog and the wide open spaces.
I don’t do alcohol in any shape or form. I have never been drunk, and it is perhaps in this area that the real me, and Frankie align perfectly. Any number of friends will tell you about lectures they have had from me for drunk driving. I don’t think its funny when people tell drink stories and I don’t need alcohol to enjoy myself. We had tea at our wedding reception.
Not long ago a relative by marriage was killed in a car crash. He was under the influence, but since he had been to rehab several times and was a member of AA, it wasn’t surprising he drove too fast and had an accident. What I did find very surprising though, was that lots of alcohol was served at his wake!!! And I had to sit and endure his father telling me stories about how he had done this or that whilst under the influence??? So how much help did this kid get from his parents when he tried to stop drinking?
Observing him, and another youngster here in Bulawayo, I have decided one becomes an alcoholic at a young age and although we all see the old soak propping up the bar as the alcoholic, actually he didn’t get that way slowly over the years – he got that way quickly, at a young age and everyone laughed at his stories, were indulgent when he drove ‘after a few.’
The strangest thing is that alcohol is legal, and pot isn’t.
I think everyone has turning points in their lives. Days when their whole world changes direction and I want to tell you about one of mine…
On this particular day, I decided to leave home. Run away. I was eight or nine I guess.
I have already said, elsewhere in this blog, that I was a difficult child. I fell over things, dropped precious objects, blurted out inappropriate comments. If I had been pretty or cute, I may have got away with it, but I wasn’t.
Once, a woman (one of those ones who wear lots of make up and long flowing dresses and sandals and string belts with beads on the ends) told my mum, “She is an Indigo Child. Be very careful you don’t extinguish that blue light,”
My mum had stared at her in stunned disbelief.
Wow, did us kids have fun with that one! We already had a green child…our very own alien… (although that is another story for another day,) now: blue! Cool.
I had been going through a bad patch, both at home and at school, and decided I didn’t fit in anywhere and it would be best for everyone concerned that I should leave home. I know a lot of kids do this, run away, sometimes several times.
In my case, however, it was a very real possibility I could be gone for several nerve-wracking days. You see, whilst I didn’t know anything about the mixed race community, I knew plenty about the black one. On my horse and accompanied by my dog, I was well known in many of the ‘compounds’ in the Esigodini Valley, welcome in the kraals in the TTL (Tribal Trust Lands) nearby. I could easily put my horse in with the cows, slip into a kitchen hut with the kids. The adults wouldn’t know mtwana nge twobob had been there until I had left, bright and early. (My dad’s nick name was ‘two bob’ – also another story…)
On this occasion, I had it all planned. I would go to my friend Charity who lived on a farm about five km away.
I encountered a problem immediately. When I got to her house, coming on dusk, I found she had been elevated to working in the house, learning how to be a domestic. I tied my horse to a tree and commanded Sheba to ‘stay.’ I decided I would creep close and attract Charity’s attention.
The house, one of those massive old colonial ones, is raised quite high off the garden. A set of sweeping concrete steps polished bright red every morning by Charity’s mother, lead to a wide veranda and beyond, a huge double door with frosted glass panels down each side. Matching wooden windows on either side looked onto the verandah. I guessed they were bedrooms, maybe some living space, a parlour or something. I dashed across the lawn to the bay window which truncated the veranda on the south side. My plan was to creep along the veranda wall to the steps to look for Charity.
Crouched there, about to make a dash I froze at the sound of someone moving about in the room above my head. A window directly above me was thrown open and I shrank against the wall. Soon after, I heard the piano. I was paralysed by the most beautiful music I had ever heard. It filled the scented garden, flooding out of the open window.
It went on for hours and I sat in the soft, wet flowerbed, my back against the wall, enthralled. Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, although of course, I didn’t know that then. One piece flowed seamlessly into the next. I left my body that night. I was no longer sitting there; I was somewhere else in the universe, flying to the moon, floating on the clouds, totally caught up by the experience.
I didn’t get to run away that time. I didn’t find Charity, I found beauty instead. That evening started me off on a lifelong romance, of discovery. I returned many times to that flowerbed under the bay window. The first time I heard Rachmaninoff, I simply would not believe it was one person playing, above me, there in that room. Pulling myself up on a creeper growing along the wall, I peered over the windowsill at the little, gray haired lady, sitting alone at the piano, her slim fingers flying over the keyboard. I had never seen a grand piano, it looked very different to ours. I wasn’t even sure it was a piano. It stood in a beautiful room with wooden paneling, puffy leather chairs and heavy gilt framed pictures on the walls. Large rugs covered the floor of the lounge which was was beyond the piano. The grand piano stood alone, in the bay window, gleaming on a polished teak floor. It had four little wheels and a lid which opened and the keys shone white under the old lady’s fingers.
I collect music now. I used to have hundreds of Cd’s – now, gigabytes. I have music on my phone, in the car, in my head. I thought I had heard it all, and then, recently I discovered a Brahms I had never come across before! I’m lucky now I’m old and can have Mendelssohn blaring out the car window – my love of classical music always sat a little oddly on the veneer people saw of me – the farmer, the cronky car, the hot chick in the tiny mini skirts!
Two years later, the old lady moved into the house next to us, would you believe. She continued playing most nights until her fingers knotted up with arthritis. I never spoke to her, never let her know I hid outside, listening. I was scared if I did, I would mess it all up by saying something I shouldn’t, or drop one of her ornaments. Instead I crouched outside on her little porch and listened to her play. My own private concert and I can tell you, I have never been able to match that experience. Even on the farm with our fancy sound system open to the night sounds – the dam in front of our house, wild night birds – nothing compares to that sound from the real deal, grand piano, played by someone who practiced every day of her life.
I was privileged to go to the Convent with several musicians, the most notable, Lesley Smith. Her violin never failed to block the breath in my throat. Nothing beats listening to a master musician play, in the same room as you. It’s a pity Cush lost his ear drums in a land-mine explosion; he played the violin until then. I can only imagine what his Steiner would have sounded like, out in the open bush, our auditorium.
And the Indigo Child? Well, years later, another person told me I had an Indigo ‘aura’ and yes, she also has the long flowing skirts, believes in ‘internal energy fields,’ although with short hair and no mascara! So I searched for the term on the Internet.
I would love it if I were an Indigo Child. They sound so cool.
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