Conversations with the Sun on My Back

I have slept late a few days this week. I woke at 5 am but then fell asleep again and only got to my writing at 5:45 am and nothing happened. Now some more time has passed, the cats have been fed, coffee has been made and the struggle continues. After all these months of easy, if not bad, writing, the block has set in.

The only cure is to just write. So I sit at my desk with the sun much higher than when I normally write and it burns my back. Feeling this warmth reminds me of a picnic. Picnics remind me of the family picnics at Germiston Lake.  The lake is a man made reservoir that was sued by the local mines, edged by industry on the north and a park and Germiston Boys High School on the south. The park and school are set in amongst pine trees, with a meandering road leading along the water’s edge and another nearer the fence. Both lead to the red facebrick columns that frame the gates that guard the school. When I think about it if there was any school I wanted to attend, it was that school. It seemed to be solid and peaceful, with a history that extended beyond the fact that my father matriculated there.

The park area had open pergolas interspersed amongst the trees. At the south eastern corner, near the weir that was the outlet of the water, you could hire row boats. Directly opposite this was the Victoria Lake Yacht Club, where I eventually managed to get membership as a windsurfer.  It was like a drug addict asking to join the Jehovah’s Witness: awkward!

As a family we would arrive on the weekend and camp out at one of the pergolas. I remember braaing on the cut 44 gallon drums, rickety folding picnic tables and the dank smell of mould in the creosoted wood that famed the pergolas. I remember playing cricket in the open spaces after lunch, while the older people had a siesta.

The thing I remember most is how big the group was. When I say the family camped out at a pergola I mean the extended family and friends. So there might have been anything from five to 20 couples with their children and grandparents. It was a very social event.

I cannot remember if they ever played music, either from the car radios or from a portable radio or tape recorder. But I do vaguely remember them dancing, clearing the pergola of tables and chairs and doing the Tsammiko on the bouncy wooden floor of the large square pergola.

As the song says, “those were the days”. Indeed, the less we had the more people we needed.

My father at a picnic at Germiston Lake: the cars belong to the "family" and the pergola is in the background.

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