I have two girls. Two beautiful girls. A little princess. And a slightly bigger angel. My girls. My life.

My girls they love to dance. Ballet. Jazz. Hip Hop. Tap. Crazy. You name the style and they have it. Just a shame their dad was born with two left feet…

I have the dancing ability of the Elephant Man. Some say it is cute. And then laugh when they can’t keep a straight face. Others just burst into laughter straight away. But it hasn’t stopped us from dancing our life away. It hasn’t stopped us from having our music moments. Let me tell you a bit about those moments…

I lie in on Sunday mornings. Not too late. But a little. My beautiful and suffering wife takes on Sunday mornings. Making Belgium waffles or pancakes or vetkoeke. And bacon. In the words of my little princess… “I loooove bacon”. But it sounds more like “I luuuuuuuuv bay-kin”. It’s Boston you see. It is rubbing off on her. But I lie in like a lord while the smell of love fills the air.

But I don’t lie alone. My big angel comes to join me. Just the two of us. Little princess is in the kitchen with mom learning how to cook. So we lie in bed. She lies in my arms and together we listen to music. No. We “play argue” about music. Channel hopping between VH1 Classics and MTV. She laughs at the big hair of the 80s and the crap music back then. I laugh at the lack of proper lyrics and new styles in the music of today. And we argue about who has the best music taste. She rolls her eyes when I go “Yeah” to Springsteen dancing with the Courtney Cox or do my MC Hammer impressions to “Can’t Touch This“. I laugh at her doing a hip hop impression with her skinny legs and the girlie voice when she goes “Yo!”

But sometimes we go quiet for a moment. A song comes up that makes us go quiet. And we just lie there. She in my arms. And I hold her a little bit tighter than before. It’s then that the music knows no age. It’s when the music goes straight to the heart. And the stomach. It just tells you to lie back and listen to the voice and melody. The words doesn’t even matter. It’s just a song that reminds the two of us that we are lucky. Lucky to have a mom who loves us. And a mom we love. And a little sister that’s a little bit crazy. And lucky that we have our little Sunday morning of music. And love.

We always goes quiet when Sinead O’Connor tells us Nothing Compares. Because we know. Nothing compares. Nothing compares to the laughing and the music in our house. To the love you can almost touch in our house. And nothing compares to the big angel and me lying back and enjoying our Sunday morning of music. Just a dad and his girl.

Sinead always does that to me. I look at her face and remember that she was the first crush I had. But it was just that video. And when she cries. When the tears starts rolling down her face. All I wanted to do was just hold her and say “It’s okay Sinead, we love you”. Of course I knew it was just a video. Just a song. But I always felt that she just needed a hug and a whisper that “it’ll be okay”.

But there is a new song that also makes us go quiet. A song of today. It’s not the words. Like Nothing Compares wasn’t about the words. It was about Sinead being lost without love. She reminds me about those out there with no love. Those with no Sunday mornings. This new song just reminds me that there isn’t enough love out there.

It’s different from Sinead. This song doesn’t make me feel sorry for singer. The song doesn’t tell you about the love that is missing in that life. But this song hits me. Always. I don’t know what it is. But it reminds me that most people don’t know that love. Love that hurts because it is so good. Love that makes you cry because you are so happy. This song haunts me. It makes me miss people I don’t even know. And I can see my angel feels the same when we lie in bed and listen to this song. Watching the tv. But not seeing the song. Just letting it flow.

That’s my Sunday morning of music. And love. And then there is the Sunday afternoon of music and love. Crazy music. Crazy times. Crazy love. That’s my little princess. And Love Is In The Air.

It’s from one of my favorite movies of all time. Strictly Ballroom. Make no mistake. I am not into ballroom. Or musicals for that matter. But this is one awesome movie. This guy can dance. And you should see me and my little princess make our moves on this song.

It’s just crazy. I never tell her when I am going to play it. Never. I just switch it on and watch her reaction. She’ll be in the lounge and I’ll put the boom-box on in the kitchen. Loud. No. LOUD! All she needs are those first few keys to play. And then she runs into the kitchen and shouts, “Louder dad! Louder!” So I turn it louder. Max. And then she jumps up for me to catch her. And hold her. Hang on baby, here we go!

You start off with a few slow swings. Her legs clamped around my middle. I take her hands and she falls back. Her long hair almost hitting the ground. And I wiggle her arms for her whole little body to shake. I swing her up and grab her by her middle. And flip her up in the air. Her head almost touching the roof. Her eyes jumps open wide with a mixture of exhilaration and happiness. I can hear her laugh and giggling throughout the song. I swing her around my body – over my shoulder and around my back. Her feet never touching the floor. It’s wild. And it gets wilder. She stretches out like Superman while I hold her up in the air and move her forward and backwards. And spin her a bit more. And then the song hits a high note and beat. And I swing her head back. Holding her head with one hand and her back with the other. And I start spinning. Around and around. Keeping up with the beat. And going faster and faster as that piece builds up and builds up. And then… BANG! “Love is in the air!” Full swing. I see nothing but her face laughing. Her mouth open with the happiness of just dancing. Her eyes wide open with pleasure. Her arms swinging outstretched. Complete trust that her dad will hold her tight enough no matter how fast we go. Her complete love for her crazy dad dancing his silly dance on a Sunday afternoon.

And when it is over? “Again dad! Again!” Love Is In The Air. On a Sunday afternoon.

But this song is also different. The words are true. The beat belies the words. The words…

Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyesLove is in the air.

Love is in the air
In the whisper of the tree
Love is in the air
In the thunder of the sea
And I don’t know if I’m just dreaming
Don’t know if I feel safe
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when you call out my name

Love is in the air
Love is in the air

Love is in the air
In the rising of the sun
Love is in the air
When the day is nearly done
And I don’t know if you are an illusion
Don’t know if I see truth
But you are something that I must believe in
And you are there when I reach out for you

Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

Love is in the air
Love is in the air

Love is in the air
Love is in the air

Sometimes with music. Always with love. Sometimes on a Sunday. Always every day. Love is in the air. In my home.

Love Is In The Air

Love Is In The Air

Will you take the flower please?

Will you take the flower please?

I am still haunted by this picture I have stuck in my head. The picture of the bully. The bully at my oldest angel’s school.

It happened a few years ago when my oldest daughter was graduating from her school. Well, graduating is pushing it a bit. She was just moving up to middle school. But we were proud parents. And we were there for her special day.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were out to sing us a few songs. Us parents huddled around waiting for our kids. Chatting away about this and about that. Taking up our seats on our nice comfortable chairs waiting for our our kids to graduate. And someone mentioned the bully.

She was also going to graduate today. She was in my daughter’s class. The discussion? We hoped that she won’t be in the same school as our angels next year. This year was tough enough. We really didn’t want our kids facing her again next year. The pushing on the playground and the shoving in the corridors. Enough was enough. And we all hoped the bully will land up somewhere else. Far away from our kids. Somewhere where she can cause trouble on her own and not cause any more crying at home.

This girl was really a bully. A big girl who bullied everyone at school. When they played she always took the ball away from the other kids. And then pushed them. Or just ran into them for no reason. Or shouting and screaming at them. You name it and she did it. The ways bullies do it. It was a bloody nightmare. She was always frowning and being nasty. Just one horrid girl that needed one good bloody hiding if you asked me.

We were still talking about the bully when the kids and teachers came out. There’s our angel! Big wave and even bigger smile and huge kiss blown her direction! Good! She saw me! Mission accomplished! Actually, I was only just warming up with silly things to do…

And then it was time for the end of school ceremony.

We all sat down and listened to the headmistress talking about the kids and what a great year they had. Just the usual blah-blah but special to us and for our kids. This was their big moment. And we hung onto every single word she had to say. We took photos and waved even when told not to wave. Our angel was a bit embarrassed (as she always is with me around!) but she waved back. And she had this huge grin on her face. We might embarrass her every now and again but she loved it. Just loved it. We could see it in her huge big smile. She’ll roll her eyes and whisper something to her friend pointing at me – her crazy dad. And the kid will look at me and laugh. I knew my girl loved her crazy dad and mom. Because they were there waving and whistling and smiling and taking millions of photos of every single moment – when she sang and when she got her piece of paper and when she walked up and when she shook the teacher’s hand and when she breathed… Clickety click-click. We never missed a moment and made sure we had the memories captured for her kids to see one day. The day she can tell her kids, “These are the photos my mom and dad took when I graduated to middle school.” And maybe she’ll tell them about the other times we were there.

Actually, all the kids were smiling at their parents. Smiling and waving and just being crazy kids loving their crazy silly parents. But I only noticed our big angel. “Hey girl! Look here for another photo! Do it or else I’ll dance!” That always got her laughing. And maybe a bit worried that her dad will actually do it. Because she knows he will!

The bully? She wasn’t waving. She wasn’t blowing kisses. She was bloody well pushing and shoving the other kids. With her arms folded and a frown on her face each time one of the kids close to her smiled and waved. You could see her lips moving. Saying things like, “Stop it you” and “Oh puh-leeze you wimp”. But I wasn’t going to let her spoil our special day. I was just smiling and waving and doing crazy things to let my girl never forget this special day.

The school had this really cool thing they do for children who do not have a younger sibling. They are given a rose to give to their parents. A thank you from the school for trusting them to look after their precious kid. And a goodbye as the school won’t see another one of their kids coming to their school. It was a really nice touch. Kids were called up by the headmistress and given a hug and a rose. The kid will then turn around and look for their mom to give her the rose. And a big hug and a kiss. Oh the mothers cried! Their youngest one finishing school! Look how big they are getting!

And the bully got called up to come get her rose. I was thinking that the school is lucky that she is the last one from her family to come to this school. You never know how her sisters and brothers might be. And I really didn’t want out youngest one to go through the same experience with the rest of her family. I was saying thank you for small miracles…

She got her rose. And she got her hug from the headmistress. And it was a bit odd. The hug was a little longer than usual. Longer than what the other kids got. And why was her shoulders shaking like that? It’s not that cold. And then she turned around. Slowly. To face the crowd of parents. And the tears was rolling down her face. Her little face…

She scanned the sea of people in front of her. But you could see that she knew. You could see it in her eyes and through her tears. She knew there was no one there for her. No one doing crazy waves. No one taking pictures. No one to give her a big smile. Her folks weren’t there. You could see her looking for her mom. But there was no one there. She was just a little girl on her own. Not a bully. Just a little girl crying.

She looked at the sea of faces for a few seconds. Hoping. But here was nothing and no one. Just tears that never stopped.

She turned around and leaned forward to give the headmistress one more big hug. And then gave her the rose.

And then she joined the other little girls.

And she was the only one crying…

What are we doing to our children?

____________________________

From the Loose Ends files…

fartlady

I got a talking-to from the lovely suffering wife… Yes, I know… It happens often…

Who said parenting was easy? My wife will respond by rolling her eyes and say, “A parent? You’re a bloody buddy to play with not a parent!” I’ll just be nodding my head with my eyes staring at the floor and my tail between my legs. And peeping to see where the girls are to get them to pull my finger once my “discipline session” is over.

Anyway…

I got the talking-to because the teacher had issues with my poetry teachings…

Apparently, not everyone at school appreciates good poetry. The missus got called in by my youngest daughter’s teacher for “potty talk”. Bah! It’s not potty talk! It’s poetry! Don’t they know anything cultural around here?

Let’s go back to my “poetry teaching” sessions with my 5-year old daughter…

As you might know by now, I bath my youngest daughter at night and put her to bed. Well, that is a pretty boring job if you stick to the “get-it-over-and-done” style of parenting. And I take my job as a parent very seriously. Very seriously… So up the stairs we go every night and in the bath she gets. Actually we do our “pictures” in the mirror first where we pull different faces – happy (Liverpool won!), sad (got to clean the cat litter) , mad (thinking Bush…), crazy (still thinking Bush…), handsome (my normal facial expression…), pretty (my Angelina look) and any other combination of faces. Only once we’ve done our acting classes in the mirror do I allow her to move into the bath. And Grand Master Teacher Angry (or  Guru African to some) comes out to play… hum… I mean… teach…

I have the curriculum well planned and sorted. We will eventually move on to Shakespeare, but for now I want us to concentrate on getting the basics right. Poetry 101… Nice easy rhymes…

So we did a few of the usual rhymes. You know…

“I’ve got a cat in my hat” and “I’ve got a yummy in my tummy” and “I’ve got a bear in my hair”. Just the usual rhymes. And then we moved on to more difficult pieces of poetry. Of course they also had to show me they take their lessons seriously and come up with their own poetry…

I really can’t help that my daughters are geniuses! It’s not my fault that they take innocent little rhymes and create their own unique take on poetry. Should I not be applauded for teaching my child the finer things in life? Should I not be rewarded for bringing the gift of literacy to my youngest daughter? Should I not be celebrated as a teacher and guru of poetry? Should I not be held up as the parent of all parents? Should I not…

And so on and so on. It ends with me claiming the Nobel Peace Prize for teaching my kids silly rhymes that ultimately and directly resulted in world peace and the end of world hunger and poverty. Oh yes, it also ended the current economic downturn worldwide. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the lack of appreciation…

So my youngest daughter decided to share her new found poetry gift with the rest of the class. I was so proud. My little girl sharing her passion for literature and fine arts with others. And, of course, for them to stand in awe and admire her poetic abilities. Bow down and sit at the master’s feet please. There’s a good class. Now sit still and listen. And then she let rip with some of her most creative pieces. Her own poetry in her own words…

“I have a drum in my bum.”

…and the clincher…

“I have art in my fart.”

The simple beauty of it. She makes me so proud. “Sniff.”

But noooooo… Apparently that isn’t good enough for Ms Snotty Nose teacher. Not appropriate language for a little girl. WTF? Does she not appreciate the beauty of poetry? Does she not recognize the modern version of a young Shakespeare? Damn teachers…

The curse of a genius…

Anyway, I couldn’t believe that the teacher didn’t give her a special prize for that one. Or at least push her one class ahead. Advance learning or something. Heck, I say let her teach the class literature! My little genius.

But maybe the teacher just didn’t understand her true ability. Because one of her pieces of genius poetry was in two languages… You hear me? Two languages! Bilingual baby!

“I’ve got a football in my poepol.”

Genius! Genius, I tell you!

I didn’t teach her any of this. Nada. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. She did it all on her own. Like I said, she makes me so proud. Damn teacher…

Oh, the meaning of poepol?

Hum… well… I… it’s a… the meaning is… but… No, I mean “butt”. Backside, arse, behind… You get my drift…

She mixed her languages all on her own and created this piece of beautiful poetry just for her dad. Like I said, she makes me real proud – “sniff.”

But ooooh nooooo, the teacher doesn’t recognize this piece of genius. Everyone is a critic. But maybe it was just a big misunderstanding. Because I also tell my girls to never lie. Not even in poetry.

If only the teacher asked her if she really had a drum in her bum…

My little girl would have kept a beat that will make her dad proud and her mother cry.

And maybe then the teacher would have realized that my little girl really told the truth when she said, “I have art in my fart”…

 _fartpropellant3

walk20away201920x2026_5

You know about my father and me. We didn’t get along. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t do much together. None of that “dad and son” stuff. We might not even have liked each other much. There was bad blood. Lots of it. And still I learned so much from the man. Even when he didn’t mean it and I did…

We had many arguments. Many, many arguments. Almost always about politics. He was on the side of Apartheid and I was on the other side fighting what and who he stood for. He was a bigot and I was always happy to point it out to him. And I was just as stubborn as him. I refused to budge. I refused to try and understand. I refused to give him one single little bit of ground. I refused to give him or what he stood for the benefit of doubt for even a split second. He was wrong and so was everything he stood for. No movement on bigotry. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I was right about Apartheid being wrong. Why should I move even an inch for any form of bigotry? I still won’t. I refuse to compromise just because it might make people feel better. Or because it would be the nice thing to do. I won’t. Not with bigots.

And I do expect people to point out my own bigotry. Trust me, I have a thick skin and I am a big boy – I can handle it. It’s the only way I can ever answer The Question…

Anyway, back to me and my father…

Back when we still spoke we had almost daily fights about Apartheid and the fight against Apartheid. He called those who fought the Apartheid government terrorists – Nelson Mandela to Breyten Breytenbach and everyone from the ANC to COSATU. Yes, we fought like hell. It eventually tore us apart completely. There was a moment when I just gave up. And there was a time that I realized he just taught me the biggest lesson of all. He didn’t know it but it has driven me since…

It was just one of those days again. We were arguing like hell. I can’t even remember what triggered this one. The ANC was already unbanned. It could have been him calling Nelson Mandela racist names again. Or him bitching about anyone who was black and who didn’t agree with his warped view of the world. Actually, you didn’t have to be black to be hated by him. Even Reverand Beyers Naudé was a terrorist in his eyes.  But we were off on our usual little boat ride down the rough river of arguing.

My poor mother was just sitting there half in shock as always. Every now and again trying to calm us down. But she knew it was a losing battle. I was never going to keep quiet. Not anymore. And it gave me a chance to fight him on every issues that I ever thought he was wrong about – from Apartheid to my mother. So once I started I would never let go. And he egged me on by pushing one button after the other. We were predictable…

He was on about the Apartheid National Party giving him a job and me an education. He was shouting at me that the ANC and Nelson Mandela will always be terrorists. I was throwing it back in his face that he must live with the fact that we have won. That it is over. You lost your right to bigotry and murder. No more. We won, you lost. And, to rub it in, that if Nelson Mandela is a terrorist then so is his own son.

It shut him for a little bit. He stared at me for a moment. I could see he was ready to explode. He was about to say something. And then it came. The question. I popped the question without even thinking…

“Tell me dad, what did you do?” (“Sê my pa, what het jy gedoen?”)

It shut him up. He had a puzzled look in his face. Not sure what I meant. That’s when I hit him with the meaning of my question…

“What have you ever done to make this country a better place? Where were you when they were murdering people? Where were you when all the killings were taking place? What did you do to stop all the madness? What did you do to end all the hate and bigotry dad? Where is the love and the peace and the freedom dad? Tell me dad, what have you ever done to make this world a better place? For me. For my sisters and mother. And for the kids we will one day have? Tell me dad, what did you do with your life?”

I only stopped when I saw his face change. I can’t even describe to you what he looked like. That expressions…

It was as if the life was sucked out of him. Like an animal in complete fear of his life and knowing that this is the end. That he has no more to offer. That everything is empty. That all that was left was this shell of a man standing in front of me. The look of a man knowing that everything he has ever done is meaningless and worthless in the eyes of his son. The look in his eyes was of a man knowing his life and what he stood for meant nothing to his son. Nothing. Like him. His life. Meaningless. All in a single expression.

it is difficult… I can’t really describe to you what he looked like…

But I will never forget it. That look in his eyes. It was something that made me shut up. I knew there was nothing more to say. I knew he was not my father anymore. He was… He was… Nothing…

Because his expression also told me something else. It betrayed him. It told me the answer…

Nothing…

I looked at him for a little while and said it one more time softly – almost a whisper, “Tell me dad, what have you ever done?”

His expression also betrayed something else…

It wasn’t just the question that cut him up. It wasn’t just his lack of answers that drained is soul. No. It was also my expression that sucked the life out of him. The expression of someone that felt nothing anymore. The look of someone who knew his father no more. The face of someone who knew a common love no more. The questions from someone who believed in his own blood no more. The end of the blood running through our veins. He knew that my own questions and eyes told him that we were no more…

That was what he saw… And what he heard…

And then I turned around and walked away. Leaving him there to… I don’t know… I just left him there without thinking about what I wanted from him. I didn’t want anything anymore. I didn’t need anything anymore. I got what I wanted…

I will never forget his face. I still see that expression. Daily. It drives me. That single question and that single expression drives me daily. Each and every single day. Because I never want to be asked that question. Never.

Maybe I am over sensitive to what is going on around me. Maybe I love my wife and kids a little more than what I would have if I didn’t know about that question. Maybe I get angry about bigotry and injustice and inequality more than I would have if I didn’t know about that expression. And maybe I see the beauty around me a bit clearer thanks to the face I saw that day. I don’t know. But I know this…

I never want any of my kids to ever ask me that question…

And I never want them to look at me the way I looked at my dad that day…

dont-ask

______________________

Note: I should have added that I did make peace with my dad shortly before he died. I do understand where he came from even though I never agreed with his politics or the way he treated some people. But we did make some form of peace. Do I wish our relationship was different? I am not sure because I would not be who I am without him being who he was. I am at peace with how it all turned out – it could have been better but it could have been worse. I focus on the here and now. The question I asked him doesn’t drive me a in conscious way where I think of them daily. It is only when I think and reflect on what I do that I recognise some of the events that played a key role – and this was one of those key events.

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I love Saturdays. Come on, don’t be so cynical! No, not only because it is weekend. See, Saturday is my day at the dancing with the little one.

My girls love to dance and they are always off at some dance class. The older one does tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, modern, post-modern and existential. I think the last one is a bit of a rip-off. The teacher only shows up if she wants to and it is a continuous hit-and-miss as you never know if you want to go in any case. Even if you do, you pick your own time to show up anywhere you believe a dance should take place. I think Jean-Paul Sartre’sinterpretation of the Nutcracker hurts in any case…

Wait… Where am I? Oh yes, dancing and Saturdays…

I miss all the dancing sessions of my oldest daughter. Her classes are during the week when I am at work. I don’t think she would like me there in any case. Dad’s cool but also a little bit embarrassing. As you will see…

My lovely suffering wife lets me lie in a little bit on a Saturday. Just for a little while for the little one to hop into bed with me and for the two of us to play draw-on-the-back. I draw a picture on her back with my fingers and she must guess what it is – and she does the same on my back. Heck, it’s the only way I get a bit of a back tickle in our house. I don’t know whether it is the hairy back or just a girl thing, but none of the girls likes giving me a back tickle – including my lovely suffering wife (Yes, the same one that gets a back tickle almost every single night.) I’m not too picky, but I do think that my daughter is cheating. How many times can you draw a ball? A round one? And how many times can I say, “I don’t know what that is. Draw it again!”

Anyway…

We lie in for a few minutes and then it is a rush downstairs to slurp down some serial – Coco Pops! And for me to get my coffee fix. Then we race upstairs (with a giggle or two) to brush our teeth and for me to get rid of some of the coffee…

And then I dress the pretty ballerina.

That takes a while. First I rub her body with some cream so that the stockings and ballerina outfit don’t make her itchy. She’ll stop half-way through with me still trying to get her clothes on – she stops just to do a little twirl and to shout, “Look at me dad! I’m a pretty ballerina!” We are now officially running late. Again… It happens every Saturday morning. We always run late. We always have to work out an excuse for being late while rushing to at least try and make it in time.

“Hurry up you two! No time to play!” That’s my wife reminding us that it we really don’t have time for this. Especially not this morning. It’s a special day at ballet today…

My wife does the little one’s hair while I put on the rest of her clothes. The ballet tag team. I’m not good at hair but can do pants and shirts. Done! Get jackets on. Hats. Gloves. Scarves. And anything and everything else we need to face the cold outside. Then we jump in the car and rush down to ballet class – swearing softly (and sometimes loudly) at the slow driving oxygen thief on a site seeing cruise ahead of us.

I usually go on my own to the dancing with my little one. We are not allowed inside “the room” to watch in any case. So I sit outside in the hallway and read a book and listen to my iPod. I sometimes even blog from there. But not today. Today I can watch! And…

Every now and again the family can come in to watch. And our gang always goes in full force with all the troops accounted for. No one left behind. Today was going to be even better – A special holiday show just for us. The Nutcracker!

Only the little ones and a few of the older and more experienced dancers to show them the way. Always a ball. They were all there – the Nutcracker, Clara, the Mice, the Russian dancer, the Chinese dancer, the Spanish dancer and the Arabian dancer. No, I don’t mean that the class is very international – I think it is a bit of a twist of the original one. I laughed my ass off so many times that my wife had to tell me to shush a few times. And to tell me and the oldest one to keep quiet because we kept on whispering and giggling while pointing at the little one. She was just so damn cute. Our little ballerina. What fun. What a Saturday. And with any luck, it might just get even better for me today…

And then came my moment. The one I have been waiting for. I was made for moments like these. All my years of training. Just for this. Deep breathe…

“Any of the dads want to volunteer to come and do some dancing with us?”

Yeah! Wait…

Play it cool…

Don’t look to eager…

Let them beg just a little…

“Oh, come on dad!” from my kids and the teacher saying “Come now Mr H. We know you want to!”

The big African-American guy sitting next to me gave me the “look” and laughed. The look of you-are-not-really-going-to-do-this-are-you. I laughed and noticed that he never took off his Timberland boots before sitting down. Amateur…

Ha! I took my exact matching pair of Timberlands off before I even came in. I left it outside knowing that I can’t dance in them. I came prepared…

I shook my head as I got up “reluctantly”. A few laughs from the crowd – especially from that section where my gang of girls were sitting and my new boet sitting next to me. I went over to my spot and took a deep breath. Closed my eyes slightly to compose and then… First position…

Or what I thought was first position. The “proper” guy dancer looked over at me and gave me the “sorry sod” smile. He’s a nice guy. But he is about 16 and I am turning… hum… slightly older tomorrow! (Yes, 14 December is my birthday!) He was going to “lead” me through my steps. As if I needed any instructions or help…

Plié.” WTF? Oh! No. Wait… I know this one. Bendy knees!

Head straight and bendy knees. Done. Just look at that composure!

“Again!” Damn… I hardly got up from that last one…

“Again! Three times and then a jump like this!”

What? Who? Where? Hey!

Bendy knees and a jump. And again. And again!

I started losing track of the stuff we were doing. Changement de pieds could have been one. And fouetté rond de jambe en tournant must have been one. The twirling around 360 degrees. No problem… (Getting slightly tired and maybe a bit of huffing and puffing…)

Running around in circles and jumping those scissor jumps or whatever they call it. It looked like I was doing hurdles unsuccessfully. I was losing track of what the guy is shouting at me. More of the jumping in the air and bendy legs stuff. And all I heard was, “Again!” I couldn’t really hear much else from all the heavy breathing and wheezing…

Damn! I was actually enjoying it. But that young dude sure had a wicket little smile on his face. Did he like seeing pain like this? Better watch it buddy… Hope you can handle pain when I grand sas d’action or frappé him in his Nutcracker…

Me? I saw glimpses of Mikhail Baryshnikov whenever I saw a bit of myself in the mirror. So gracious… So composed… So stupid!

I love it. I love watching my wife and kids look at me making a fool of myself. Hearing the other dads (and moms and kids) laughing at the stupid guy doing the silly ridiculous attempts at ballet. I just love it and kept on doing it with a big stupid grin on my face.

I’m a pretty ballerina…

Okay. I’m not.

But boy, do I love doing it. I love it when it was done and I did a little curtsy to the parents and to my danseur. The big smile and big shiny eyes I see from my little one. The high five and giggle I get from my oldest one. The smile and you-silly-you-I-love-you look I get from my wife.

Yes…

I love being the stupid dad that always “volunteers” to go do the silly stuff. That’s me. Just call me Volunteer Dad. Anything to see those faces and feel their love. Anything. Especially when I can be silly and have a laugh as well.

Next time you see the guy doing the stupid thing in front of his family – that’s me.

You should know this by now. Remember Things To Do Before You Die? Or When Dad Came To Watch? That’s me. Stupid, silly and madly in love with my gang of girls. Anything and everything just for them. Because it is also for me.

And me dance pretty…

ballerina-plate

I thought it might be a good thing to look back at why I started blogging. You know, while I’m taking a coffee break. I first started writing as An Accidental Activist. Can’t get away from all the “A’s” I guess. It was meant to be about stories of my life and how I got here. I started writing about my past to leave something for my kids to read one day. For them to see what their dad was about. My past and my journey. Hope they will still believe their old man was okay. But I started ranting and raving about issues that pissed me off and someone said, “You are a real angry African on the loose”. (Thanks Cheryl.) And that’s how I got the name Angry African. Not as romantic or inspirational as what people might think. But it flowed onwards from there.

I wrote a few pieces under An Accidental Activist. Like I said, mostly about my life so far. I think it is time to look back at the first post I ever wrote. Just in case you missed it. I might edit it a bit this time. Add something or take something away. Or just rewrite pieces. Or nothing! But unlikely I’ll do nothing! I’ll see where it takes me. (Note: I did rewrite loads and added quite a bit!)

This was my first post ever. Introducing myself. Now reintroducing myself. Then called “An Accidental Activist: I wasn’t born to be an activist“. Now revisited…

Roots Revisited: I wasn’t born to be an Angry african

I wasn’t born to be an activist. Or an angry African. Quite the opposite, really. I was born to be the stereotypical ‘good, racist Afrikaner’ in Apartheid South Africa. My family supported Apartheid and all of them worked for the Apartheid regime at some stage in their lives. We lived off the fat of the Apartheid land. And for most part went through life nice and ignorant. Just the way they liked it.

I had everything a young boy could think of. Days playing in the streets with my friends. A bicycle to ride to school with. Playing sport on some of the best fields of dreams out there. Cool clothes that made me look like I just stepped out of of Miami Vice. A plate of unbelievable food every day – meat, potatoes and rice being staple food for Afrikaners. Friends and family everywhere around me. Good times. Fun times. Unreal times. Lying times.

My dad was a Brigadier in the South African Prison Services, and one of his last assignments was to look after political prisoners at Pollsmoor prison. We didn’t get along. Even when I was still “his (racist) little boy”. Both my sisters worked at the prison service at some stage of their lives and married guys who worked at the prison services. And my brother worked for the prison services on Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was jailed. They have all left since then. Maybe realizing that the life we were told was real life wasn’t that real after all. And that it wasn’t that great for everyone living in South Africa.

I grew up in a home that did everything the Apartheid government wanted us to do. We were part of the Dutch Reformed Church – the Apartheid government in prayer. We went to Church every Sunday. To Sunday school. I got confirmed at a Dutch Reformed Church when I was 16 or something. We were the Church. I left the Dutch Reformed Church. And they have left me.

We watched rugby – then the sport of the white Afrikaner. We went to Newlands on a Saturday to watch our team play other white boys. We went to club rugby games to see our local white boys play other white boys from neighboring towns. I played rugby for my school and practiced almost every day. We played other white schools on a Saturday morning before we went to Newlands. I walked away from it for a while, but rugby stayed with me. Still loved it, but couldn’t face it. It changed when our national team won the World Cup in 1995 and we could all call it our team. But I now I know it was another tool under Apartheid before that beautiful day in 1994 when we had our first democratic elections. Politics on the field. And we didn’t even know it. I didn’t know it when I was a kid.

I went to school at Paarl Gymnasium – one of the best Apartheid schools in South Africa. I attended the University of Stellenbosch – the ‘brain trust‘ of the Apartheid policies and politics. We read the Apartheid government approved newspapers and watched their TV. I benefited from the education they provided and the money they paid my dad. I was made for a life supporting and working for the Apartheid government. I was a star pupil of the Apartheid system. And I didn’t even know it. But I should have.

I was well on my way to become one of them. I did everything they expected me to do. I was a young racist Afrikaner, ready to take my place in their world. Well, at least the small world within the white community in South Africa. But somehow it didn’t happen though.

Somewhere along the line things didn’t work out the way they planned. Maybe it was the fact that I poked fun at everything. Acted out Apartheid leaders on stage in one man shows at school. Half of the people laughing and the teachers staring at me not knowing if I was making a political statement or just being funny. I was just being funny. I didn’t know about politics. But I knew funny.

Maybe it was because my mother told me to question everything. To look beyond the obvious. Maybe it was just that the world wasn’t right. Even for a young kid it didn’t always seem just right. Why can’t I have black friends dad? Why can’t they come over to play? What are those shacks in the townships? Why don’t those kids have nice clothes dad? Why do they look so thin and dirty? See, there dad! Just on the other side of the fence if you look out the car window dad. Come on, you can’t not see them daddy! Why aren’t they allowed on the beaches dad? It’s just a beach, isn’t it? They are pretty funny when you talk to them dad. Really, just speak to them, you’ll see. I see and speak to them often at the station when I go to cricket games. Why do they ride in the other carriages dad? Looks a bit cramped in there. And the buses. Look dad! We have one of them working in our house. She looks after me when you aren’t here. She’s nice. She could be family. She is family dad. She gives nice hugs when I hurt my knee or cut my finger. Why do we call them “them” dad? They look like me. Eat like me. Play like me. They are me daddy…

Slowly but surely I became everything that Apartheid was against – an activist. An Angry African. Speaking out against their system. “Them” taking me in as one of “their” own and becoming me. I am because they are. I became them. I am them. The Apartheid “them” becoming the people I saw as different.  As the others. Instead of being the man they wanted me to be, I became the man I wanted to be. It hasn’t always been easy. It hasn’t always been fun. But it always felt right. From Stellenbosch to Seattle, Mali to Monterrey, and Lusaka to London – no matter where the road took me, it always felt right, and it always felt as if I belonged. I felt like this was what I was meant to be. Just me.

Why was it important to write about this? I don’t know. I hope I didn’t offend anyone. But it is important to know who we are. That we come from places we can’t always be proud of. That we have a history. I don’t know if it is important to know this about me. But it is for me. Maybe just to let you know that we aren’t always born into what we become. That we have choices. We can take the bad and the good and still be someone we can face when we look in the mirror. That we don’t have to be proud of everything in our past. But that we can take our past and own it. You can be born into hatred but still come out hugging the world. That’s the beauty of life – you can be who and what you want to be no matter where you come from. You decide. It’s easier than you think. It’s really your choice. Make it. Today.

You might know that my dad and I didn’t get along. Yeah, that might be an understatement. You see, my dad was an ass. But I do remember a story or two that makes me laugh at the old man. And the story of the hubcap guy always makes me laugh.

But before I tell you about the hubcap… My dad collected things. Not just anything. Anything crap to be more specific. He had a garage that could hold three cars and still have some space left open. But he only parked one car in there. His Mercedes. Big old ship of a car. The 300D mid-80s diesel version – silver of course. More like a ship than a silver bullet. But he loved that old Merc of his.

But it was old style diesel. Not this fancy stuff you get today. You had to turn the key one way and let it “warm up” first. A little light will go on and then you turn the key the other way. And “boom” with a puff of diesel smoke the baby will start up. And you could see that petrol/diesel meter drop as you idle while you wait for the engine to warm up. That baby was heavy on fuel.

And that car stood in that garage. I had to wash it and polish it. But he hardly drove the thing. He had this clapped out Toyota Hilux. Another diesel. And it drove like a jackhammer. You felt every little piece of the road. Including that ant you just drove over. Oh he loved taking me for a ride in his “bakkie” (what we call a pickup truck in South Africa). I think it made him feel all farmer. He even bought it from a farmer. Of course it had to be a Hilux. Bloody hell, every guy who bought a bakkie that wanted to be “old school” had to have a Hilux. I drove a 1965 Beetle…

But back to his garage.

His bakkie was parked outside the garage because my dad collected crap. Loads of crap. Anything goes really. And it all had to go into the garage. He had it all. Old toilets he found on the rubbish dump. Tables he took from friends who sold their houses. Nuts and bolts and screws to fill a Home Depot store or two. And a physio table. Yeah. A physio table. I mean WTF? The closest he ever got to being a physio was stretching to put his socks on in the morning or tucking in his shirt. But it was a bargain. He found it in the local paper and bought it. Why? Hell, I asked him that many times. And his stock answer was, “You never know when you need one”. WTF? Can you think of a reason why you might just need a physio table and thanked god that you kept one in the garage “just in case”? He never did find a reason to use it. Apart from putting more crap on it that he got from somewhere else. I guess it was just fine for stacking boxes.

Anyway, this isn’t about his bakkie or his physio table. This is about another bit of crap he bought and how it came back to bite him. This happened many years ago. When my dad and myself were still talking. And still driving together once in a while.

He decided to spoil me and take me to town with his Merc. For a number one haircut I might add. So he parked and found one of the local homeless guys to look after his car while we ran off to the barber. I am sure the guy knew my dad because he was notorious for paying people peanuts. A 15% tip? Hell no. More like a 0.15% tip and an earful about the crap service. Dad, it’s the Spur, what do you expect? (Spur is a chain of restaurants in the line with Uno’s. No, more like a Uno’s with the service of a Denny’s.) So he flipped the guy 20 cents and off we went.

I had my haircut or hair slaughtered to put it mildly. I remember that the guy had shaking hands. Leaving my hair uniquely styled for school bullies to target. I had a few fights at school back then. Defending more than attacking! But I had my hair slaughtered and we were off to go jump in the Merc and go home. At least the drive back home was going to be better than the haircut. And then it happened. Someone made my dad an offer he couldn’t refuse. Offered him more crap to buy.

The guy that was meant to look after my dad’s car came walking towards us and aimed straight for my dad. My dad was pissed off that the guy wasn’t looking after his car after he paid him that “King’s ransom”. But the guy quickly got my dad’s attention when he mentioned something about having a “great deal” on some goods he just picked up. I wasn’t concentrating on the discussion as it was really embarrassing seeing his eyes go all bright with the idea of another “great deal”. He wasn’t even discussing whether he should buy it or not. He went straight into how much he was willing to pay for it. They went this way and that way and eventually settled on an amount. My dad feeling he got ripped off and the guy feeling he got ripped off. Always a sign that both are pretty happy with the deal. So my dad got his goodies and we were on our way back to the car. My dad still looked back at the guy walking the other direction and said, “Is my car okay? I paid you for that you know you lazy bugger.” The guy just kept on walking, waved his hand in the air and shouted, “Ja, ja. It’s okay”.

My dad was now in his element. He got another “great bargain”. I asked him, “What the hell are you going to do with that? You already have four so you don’t need two more do you?” He just gave me a “humpf” noise and shook his head at his stupid boy. What the hell do I know?

We got to the car and it hit me. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. This was revenge. This was justice. There was my dad standing with this “great bargain” in his hands. Two hubcaps. And missing from the Merc?

Two hubcaps.

The hubcap guy just made my day. And taught me a lesson. You want to get what you want and the other person deserve? Just play on the weakness of the other guy and sell it back to him. Thank you hubcap guy. I would have paid you double what my dad did. And that would still be a “great bargain”.

My dad going shopping...

My dad going shopping...