Conversations about a Rocking Horse

Kolisto! Kolisto! – Stick it together!” My father was only four years old but he was adamant. The legs of the rocking horse had to be stuck on to the body again. My grandmother had cut the legs off his favourite toy, a wooden rocking horse, to make it smaller so that it would fit in the kitchen. That bit of village logic escaped my father, who at four was already showing signs of being a perfectionist. He did not appreciate the change in proportions of his favourite toy.

I cannot imagine that he had many other toys. I have seen a picture of him with a red four-wheeled Dennis the Menace pull trolley, and an enamelled metal tricycle. He spent his childhood in the war years, the war that came after the war that was supposed to end all years. He was exposed to the ugly politics of the Ossewa Brandwag and their attempts to destabilise the Jan Smuts government’s participation as Allies. The Brandwag wanted to support Germany. Much as he disliked the discriminatory body, for they had a low esteem of Greek, Italian and Portuguese immigrants, sometimes when we were discussing history he would say: “Imagine if South Africa had joined Germany and Germany had won. The world would be a very different place.” It would be different. As bad as it is now, I believe history has unfolded according to fate, driven by a mix of human emotions, both good and evil, with neither dominating.

My father was passionate about Dennis the Menace and other comics. I think he learnt English by reading from them, as when he started school he could only speak Greek and had to be held back a year to learn some English. When he was older his favourite places were littered with comics, and if he was on holiday he would pop into the local bookstore and in the same bag pack away The Economist and Newsweek along with Archie and Dennis the Menace. The comics always left him smiling, while the news magazines stirred up fear and negativity and his mind kept working on scenario planning.

Before his rocking horse suffered near-mortal injuries, he used to love being taken for walks in his pram. He would sit eagle eyed in his pram, with his puffy clothes and bonnet, the first son of a proud Greek mother. If she deviated from the routine route he would throw a tantrum, forcing her to return to the previous route through the park.

He grew up quite dominant in the family, as first born and lover of comics. His preference for routine and perfection added to him being the man of the family. Even while he was at high school, if anyone wanted to know or do something my grandmother or grandfather would answer: “Rota ton Taki –ask Peter.”

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