In My Father’s Words



In My Father’s Words


03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018


Forests of the Night


Take your mind off things, I told myself.  Keep occupied until you need to be at the Airport.  2200 at JC Smuts International seemed a long way off.  Sunday morning in Johannesburg, and there was only one place to be; the open-air market at Rosebank.  The market was a swirling kaleidoscope of sounds, colours, smells, good and bad and people.  Such people, black, white, brown and all shades in between.  Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu and God knows what else.

I am an old Africa hand, loving and hating in equal measure, but this country, South Africa, had captured my heart.  I loved her and I was leaving her after six months to return to my family.  It was then, as I pushed through the bustle that I saw him.  He was sitting quietly, motionless, his coat torn, stained and shabby.  But the face, a face of incredible sadness, a face that had seen much of life and had not liked it.  A face that expected nothing better in the future.  The face had only one eye, deep-set in the impassive head.  That eye held my gaze for long seconds.  What was he doing here?  Where had he come from?  What happened to his missing eye?

I turned away with difficulty to continue through the market, but felt compelled to look back.  That single eye was still staring into mine.  I knew I would have to come back, I just knew.  I hoped he would be gone with his sad downturned mouth and single staring eye.  It was two hours later when I returned.  I hadn’t needed to come back this way; there were other exits from the market.  He was still there.  As far as I could tell, he hadn’t moved.  I spoke to the smallholder and pointed at the sad one-eyed figure.

“How much is the toy tiger?”

“Three hundred rand, man.”

Three hundred rand!  Lordy, that’s a bit much for a tatty old tig.  “That’s quite expensive.”

“No, not for a Steif; it’s quite cheap.”

I picked up the sad tiger and felt his ears.  No buttons and no holes where the buttons should have been.  No Steif this one.  I turned him over.  No label either.

“He’s very scruffy and battered.”

“No, man, he’s been well loved.”  This guy recognised a mug when he met one.

I left with the one eyed tiger and missing three hundred rand.  I named him Tarzan, and added him to my collection.  I now have forty-eight tigers and eighteen Tiggers, of various sizes and material.  Nearly all have names, all beginning with the letter ‘T’.  What do you call a group of tigers? Not a ‘pride’ surely; that’s for their inferior cousins.  What about a ‘majesty of tigers’?

I am, you see, a hoarder.  I hate throwing anything away.  You never know, it may come in useful one day.  I have stamps from all over the world, although now I only actively collect Germany.  I have the first stamp I ever put in an album, when I was six or seven

I have hundreds of matchboxes in a big basket.  I own three or four hundred LPs, a similar number of singles, including 78s.  Nearly all the music I have now duplicated on CDs, but do I discard the vinyl? 

I inherited about forty photograph albums from my divorce, which was a very fair one.  My ex-wife got all the money; I got all the photos.

I try, from time to time, to cull these collections.  After a couple of days fighting with the books, I give three to Oxfam, three!  From over a thousand!  .  I tried with the tigers to cut down their numbers.  I had two white ones whom I gave to a little six-year-old girl who lived nearby.  She returned them after a few days.  “They say they are lonely, Brian, and miss their friends.”

I haven’t even mentioned the dozens, perhaps hundreds of souvenirs I have picked up on my travels.  I have carved animals, paperweights, matrouskas, worry beads, musket balls, pieces of shrapnel, a French First World War infantry helmet, paintings, wall plates, a piece of volcanic rock, etc etc.

When I fall off my perch, someone is going to have a hell of a job to sort it all out.  That will be the price they will have to pay for having a hoarder as a father.

Written by my Father B.M


9 thoughts on “In My Father’s Words

    1. Yes he most certainly did and he was. Ironically he wrote about it 11 years ago, and 11 years later there is a lot to take stock of. He could never throw anything away.

      1. There are people like that. And when they pass away all the responsibility falls on the shoulders of those left behind.

        1. My Father’s estate l knew would be a nightmare when l first walked into his house about a week after his death. When l was having to sift through thousands of documents that upon intial thought were all different document, was a small relief to discover many were copies of each other.

          But sorting through other things has been difficult. Luckily many of his hoardings are considered collectibles, but not all were, his collection of ‘matchboxes’ as an example or collecting them known as Phillumenism would have been more of an ideal collection had they been specific, but they weren’t, some might be worth something, but his basket was in truth – two giant wicker laundry baskets worth. They should have been listed on the house insurance as they were if anything a potential fire hazard.

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