When I moved to South Africa in November 1973, the TV Revolution had not hit them yet. I had 3 years to soak up every bit of knowledge I could before I lost everyone’s attention.
This is how my story was born because I was in a hurry here … no time to waste.
Cookie – World’s Greatest Golfer!
What did I do in South Africa in the 70s? Our home was nestled around a quiet and old golf course. After 3 years of watching from our deck, I decided I could be a brilliant golfer!
No, not like the pros exactly, but maybe like the girls who walk by together; we could meet once a week. In my head, I could do this… I was convinced.
What Did I Do In South Africa In The 70s? Part 1:
My friend Robyn was an all-around sportswoman and she graciously took me under her wing. She had just started golfing when her husband invited her to take part in a tournament, “just as an extra”.
In Robyn’s style, she won the tournament! She beat everyone, including her husband! Now I was on Robyn’s team and golf would become my new game.
BTW my nickname was Cookie for 43 years. I use my real name, Corinne too; I answer to both!
Robyn said, “Cook, you have to know your stance, how to grip the club, and how to SWING!” Well Robyn, that goes without saying, don’t you think? – I was rolling my eyes.
At this point, I could do one of two things: I could slice that ball down the fairway…
Whoa! Look at that!
Or, I could swing… and miss the ball… consistently.
I was afraid to hit that little white pill… It laughed at me.
I worked at improving my SWISH, while the other players hid behind each other, so I couldn’t see them laughing helplessly. They held each other up and their shoulders shook.
You know it’s over when your coach tells you, “Give it up… go find something else… save yourself”. I wanted to be just like them, able to swing a tennis racket or kick a ball. They were great athletes.
They learned about sportsmanship, and good manners, a spin-off from their coaching, and there was no room for tantrums in sports.
That is why “Chrissie” Evert-Lloyd was traditionally called the “lady of the court”.
John McEnroe was called “Bratenroe” because he behaved like John McEnroe.
BTW: John McEnroe was welcomed and well-received by South Africans … but not the judges. They could never tolerate such behavior on South African tennis courts.
In this straight-laced, obedient society, the fans couldn’t get enough of him! John was a smart-ass and a hero to every rebellious young person.
John visited the country many times to play tennis and spoke fondly of his visits. I didn’t give up on my dreams of having a sport. I just had to find out what that could be.
Part 2: Adventures in the World of Equines!
While I liked the idea of being a great “athletically inclined” lady, I asked myself why I made so many questionable choices regarding sports! I had this epiphany – to become a bona fide horseback rider.
Horses are outside, frolicking in the unbearable heat all the time, just begging for someone to hop on their backs! Is this really what I wanted to do?
The worst part about the whole equestrian process was learning to ride.
This was my initiation…
Our equestrian guru, Elka said I had to “find my seat”. Elka had my legs dangling over a horse, with no saddle, for an hour every day for two weeks!
I bounced around on that poor nag in a paddock in the blazing sunshine. That horse ran in a circle one way, and then Elka made her go the other way… to be sure that my “seat” was found!
I could’ve died on that horse – what if I suffered a heat stroke?
(There is no such thing as a “lovely sunny day” stroke.)
Heat aside, once I learned how to ride… wellll, everything was different!
I forgot about the sun and the sweat! I forgot how hard it was to find my seat!
From up high in the saddle, I could feel a breeze and our horses were aching to trot away! They loved the freedom of being beyond the fences.
The horses led the way to a watering hole that they visited often. I rode Briar …
He sat in the middle of the pond – this was his guilty pleasure. I was submerged up to my neck.
Briar had a little spring in his step on our way home –
I was soaking wet, and these outrides were wonderful!
I Was In Coach T’s Camp
From the day I met Elka, horseriding was an all-in learning experience.
I felt invincible on a horse. But now, two years later I could also feel vulnerable.
Everyone … Meet Storm!
We went on an outride to shake off the emotional dust of the week.
I had a new horse to ride.
T gave me strict orders: “Make sure you ride right behind the horse’s butt in front of you. Don’t let him turn his head or deviate out of line… Stay close!”
Okay T, lighten up – it’s just an out-ride! … I wondered why they named him Storm.
… I heard rumors about his wild side!
After trotting for a while, we regrouped and T asked if everyone was okay. Oh sure, we all said, and to emphasize that she had nothing to worry about for me, and Storm, I leaned forward to pat his neck.
When I did, my heels touched his flank – and Storm’s eyes lit up and his nostrils flared!
His head shifted and he took the lead – he broke through the circle of horses and we were off – at a gallop! Now I got it – I was riding a Storm!
I could see that my first years of riding were mere survival skills, and I bounced around out of control.
Storm was teaching me a lesson. I pulled back on the reins, pushed down into the stirrups, and sat back… I was terrified!
T was in a full gallop behind me, shouting, “Pull on your reins, sit back, don’t panic”!… Well, what did she think I was doing?
Then, Storm stopped. He was standing at a high fence – which he could have cleared easily … and he was breathing hard.
So far, he was thrilled with this saga.
Storm was acting like a gentleman – I was shaking from head to toe.
T came up quietly behind me, to keep everyone calm.
T said, “Get off”. In shock, I asked “What?” … “get off! get off!”
Like slime, I slid off the saddle and stood beside Storm, clutching the stirrup. My arms and legs were trembling out loud.
I traded Storm for a quiet, placid, obedient horse to ride back.
Storm looked at me, sideways and I am positive he WINKED!
He was saying, “Nice try; better luck next time”.
Well played Storm … (What a horse!)
Part 3: Resourceful South Africans – Where DIY Rules:
South Africans are masters of resourcefulness, from the early Boers to the present. They faced sanctions and restrictions for years, but they didn’t let anything stop them.
They couldn’t buy a Chevrolet over the counter, so, they brewed their own gas and drove Mercedes Benz. Yes, they had General Electric and Spanks and Lactose-free milk, but everything was not available, the way things were in the West.
Necessity is the Mother Of Invention and the thinkers went to work. They said, “A Boer always makes a plan,” and there was a sense of enjoying self-sufficiency.
They shopped locally whenever they could. They did not want to NEED anyone else.
The impact on business and services was huge!
Oddly enough, with all their resourcefulness and enormous pride in their country, they felt like they were in a time warp… Isolated. Pessimistically they believed they could never keep up with other countries in the world.
But… they were ahead of the curve. They tried harder in everything, and they ended up leading the way in many things from cutting-edge home designs to trendy foods and fashions.
They were great leaders in sports, science, and medicine.
Everything they made was proudly marketed as Made In South Africa!
I never felt that I was deprived of anything. People opened shops and stores and artisans flourished. Domestic businesses were honored… life was frightfully civilized!
This was my opportunity…
I had become a good sewer before I left home; the jeans that I made looked like the latest Wrangler. Now I took it up a notch and tested my skills.
I copied the jean designs in leather, which was freely available … and cheap.
Women told each other what I could do and I was in business – this was the reaction I was looking for.
I always loved to swim and made my swimsuits. I produced them as gifts: some were maternity suits for my expectant girlfriends or suits for runway model Margaurite.
One was for Elizabeth who just turned six.
Elizabeth swam like a fish, and now she wore a one-piece, blue tank, the same as her Aunty Cooks! We swam together… Sometimes, Elizabeth wore her swimsuit to bed.
Part 4: Why I Love Gardening…
My parents were born and raised in Glen Nevis, an area around the St Lawrence Seaway.
It was farm country and living off the land.
My grandparents and their parents are from farming stock. So was I!
It was in my genes and my psyche.
Around the house, Mom planted flowers and trees and the vegetable garden.
While I didn’t like to do any of the work, I loved the beauty of it and growing our own food.
Now I had a home to beautify and some of my best friends were great gardeners.
Marg and her husband had a garden that was a masterpiece and I soaked up everything Marg said. I casually dropped plant names into conversations.
Their garden was so well planned – this is the key. Have a plan!
It takes years to achieve what you started out wanting.
Part 5: Monkey See! You can help your neighbor…
Welcome to this tropical paradise! The greenery is lush and houses stand in pockets of trees.
People always asked if we ever had monkeys in the trees around our homes.
(See the Big 5 on a South African Safari!)
Like squirrels in the US and Canada, they were there. Swinging from limb to limb… they are noisy … and mischievous!!
Here is an example: Our neighbor was casually sewing on her veranda when the phone rang. She left her sewing machine unattended when she went to answer the phone.
This was the opportunity Curious George – I will call him – needed and he snagged her sewing machine’s foot pedal – after he unplugged it! George is a master of mimicry.
He scurried up into the treetop, with his prize! But the thrill of this new toy quickly wore off. There was no r-r-r-r-uur-rr anymore. It no longer had that noise factor.
George tired of his new toy and let it drop onto a lower branch – which was 30 feet above the ground… That’s when the fun really started!
The neighborhood spent the afternoon brainstorming ways to bring down that foot pedal.
Their first attempt was to try to bribe the monkeys… Don’t ever think these little guys aren’t smart.
They looked down on us pointing and chortling and we watched as they formed their peanut gallery high up, in a forum. We just knew they were making bets and telling people jokes.
The struggle was real, and it took 3 hours! It slows you down to hear them laughing at you!
We’re no match for the Georges of this world; he has the advantage and he knows it.
Part 6: Learn Cricket!
I never understood cricket and it was summarized as kind of like baseball!
Spoiler Alert: No, it’s not like baseball …
I tried to get into it from the beginning because I liked their uniforms. Since it is a national sport I decided to pay attention and learn the game, like everyone else.
I asked questions, like, “So what just happened there?”.
“See, it’s like this, he just … OH!… Did you see that?”
”Uh, no, what happened before that? Why didn’t he run to first base?”
And so, there could be no commentary lesson during the game. It was too intense for anyone to take a break and explain the rules. After the game, we didn’t talk about it. O-kay.
Attending a cricket match with your friends was civilized and the women provided cakes, sandwiches, and beverages from their overstocked larders.
“What did you bring, Cook?” I replied, “Um, does anyone want a brownie?”
I had no clue what form of refreshment it was my duty to contribute.
This was a steep learning curve… (Read about Domestic help and food.)
After 20 years, I never learned much about cricket. I just watched and nodded and clapped when everyone else did. It would be impossible to miss any of these gatherings though.
There was so much niceness about it!
1. No, I never became a golfer. I walked the course with real golfers on occasion, but I refused to pick up that stick again. It got the best of me…
Although, I don’t hate the game. I can be persuaded to watch a tournament when the prominent ones, such as Tiger Woods, are playing.
2. I rode horses for many years and could still enjoy an outride even now. And yes, I did ride the Storm! Everything in this post did happen to me.
I learned to ride English style and you could say I provide levity for the day. I am the object of plenty of banter and I have become the subject of how not to ride.
3. I so enjoyed every entrepreneurship I have had. I cut hair for many years and as practice can only improve you, I eventually did nothing but haircuts… I loved it.
I don’t sew as much as I used to and have gone through a few new sewing machines since 2004. I have a Baby Lock (Brother) and I love it.
I love creating with my hands and have dabbled in macrame again and watercolor painting. Now, I write blogs… I want a she-shed!
4. My gardening experiences have served me well and now that I am back in Canada I work on my garden regularly. It’s like having a child, you watch it grow.
First I will clarify: I live across the Detroit River from Detroit, Michigan, USA on the 48th parallel. That means that my area, Windsor Ontario is as far south as California’s northern border… California, people! … we’re Zone 7.
But we have four definite seasons – there I said it. Spring and summer are wonderful growing seasons and anything will take off in this black soil.
The summers are very hot: average from June, to August, from 65F to 95F.
Not bad at all. (No I do not do temps in Celsius). And very humid.
A South African from Durban – a humidity town if there ever was one – stood in Windsor shook his head, and said, “I don’t think I have ever been this hot in my life”.
Apply everything you learn about gardening, to everything you plant.
The knowledge is there, but the season is too short.
5. The monkeys still live in the trees and the last time I saw them I was in LaLucia, north of the Durban coast. When they jumped onto the house everyone’s eyes turned up.
As they ran after each other across the roof, we followed the thump-thumping with our eyes until they jumped off into the trees at the other end.
Like birds on a wire, they did this so often, that our reactions were a reflex. It became so commonplace.
6. I never saw another cricket match after 2012. I miss the game.
Please tell me about your travels. Did you live in another country?
Did you learn a new language or skill?
How did these adjustments influence your life?
I would love to hear from you.
Leave a comment in the box below and I will get back to you within 24 hours.
Regards, Corinne :-)))