Back in the 90s…
Rhodes Park was perfect. There was an abundance of ancient trees and shady enclosures to escape into; rockeries, ponds and streams feeding into a big lake surrounded by Oaks, Weeping Willows and Firs. There were ducks, geese and swans (I’ve heard that most have now been eaten), fish and even crabs. No, really. Crabs. Big-as-your-hand fresh water crabs. My brothers once caught some. At least 10. We brought them home and loaded some into the garden pond but there were so many that others were offered a bucket-style motel for the evening. We had an excellent time watching the poor, de-homed critters scuttling about, and intended to take them back to the park; return them to the safety of the moss and rocks that defined the backdrop to their existence. Only, this never happened.
There was a murder—a massacre. We left that crabs in the water overnight, they escaped and our serial-killer cats made mincemeat of the poor things. Suffice to say the crabbies never made it home. A while after the genocide, Christopher fell from the rocky overhang in our top garden into the fishpond that was directly below and swore that he was nipped by crabs. Karma.
Our crab-catching days might’ve been over but we did try and fish. Sticks, string and time. We didn’t catch anything but the maybe of the whole adventure was enough to keep us returning for more. Wading into the streams and pools, barefoot, with no fear of deadly glass, bilharzia (“don’t stand in stagnant water, there could be bilharzia” – mom quote – was the extent of any maternal warning thrust our way) or any other lurking evils, was the dream of summer. We’d pack a picnic; mom would find a shady spot and send us off to play. We’d traverse the park; hiding in rockeries, adventuring into hidden kingdoms, swinging on the vines of the Weeping Willows, climbing to the top of the Firs on the edge of the lake, overlooking the expanse of the park, and resting on the trunks of the old Oaks—for hours on end. There wasn’t a single nook or cranny that was not invaded with curiosity.
Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin
Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.