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Open Features: Here And Now

...Aboard ship I had an intense curiosity and fascination with everyone and everything, entering areas forbidden to passengers. My mother had great difficulty in keeping me under control, and I spent a lot of time over her knee in tears...

Marianne Hall vividly recalls a sea passage from Europe to South Africa.

Laurence van der Post in his book Yet Being Someone Other tells of his fascination with the sea and the passenger ships which performed a regular service between the United Kingdom and the Cape until the early thirties of this century. These graceful ships of the Union Castle Line with hulls of a lilac colour and smoke emitting from their scarlet and black funnels, danced the seas along the Cape coast.

In 1935, my father, who ran a ‘sigarenwinkel’ in Amsterdam, decided it was time to settle elsewhere. He sensed Hitler would soon spread his tentacles across Europe. He sold the business and took the long journey of several weeks southwards to South Africa. My mother and her three daughters followed a year later.

Aboard ship I had an intense curiosity and fascination with everyone and everything, entering areas forbidden to passengers. My mother had great difficulty in keeping me under control, and I spent a lot of time over her knee in tears. That probably is where my nickname ‘Jantjie’ came from. To ‘tjank” means to cry loudly.

The crossing of the line was a great event. We wore dresses and headbands of crinkly yellow paper – how that paper scratched! I must have wandered into a bar. Every time I come across a glass with a very thick bottom, I can see beer foaming out of the top!

I remember clearly that voyage of a lifetime ago: the rolling of the ship, the smell of the sea, the happiness and relief as my parents were re-united at Durban.

Years later the tables turned when I found myself chasing my three daughters all over the decks on the Europa on the way to Mozambique, working myself into a frenzy lest they get molested.

Van der Post points out that as we travel through life we are always ‘somewhere other’, never the same from one moment to the next: it is only the change from light to darkness, an aging body and a ticking clock which brings a seeming moment of time. Did these not exist, there would be no time. Simply a ‘here and now’.

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