Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shane and the Shunter

Since writing my last blog this morning about Mom's home remedy and Guy's scalding, I've had my second youngest brother Shane on my mind. Shane was born while we were still living in Wankie, Southern Rhodesia (forgive me for using the old names but I grew up with these names so my fondest memories are inextricably entwined with them). In fact Shane was born shortly after Guy's scalding/burns incident.

Shane now lives with his family in the UK and I was able to catch up with him and enjoyed his company for the whole of September 2011, this is relevant because I hadn't seen Shane for 30 years 5 months and 11 days. That is another story in itself and I'll tell that another time suffice to say we created a whole new batch of awesome memories.

About six months ago Shane had a nasty fall off a ladder and shattered his right ankle. It has been touch and go ever since, as to whether he will lose the foot because of the severity of the injury but I digress - back to our story.

As I've mentioned in my last post, my Dad worked for the Rhodesia Railways as a Telegraphist at that time, down at the shunting yards. We lived at the time in Motherwell Street, the number escapes me but we lived directly opposite the only house on the other side of the street just up the road from the Railway clinic (I was already a frequent visitor, as were my brothers to a lesser degree but "frequent flyer points" or "flybys" as they are commonly known today hadn't been thought of at that time - pity, haha!). The Taggarts lived opposite us in that house, I always thought of the nursery rhyme 'Jack Sprat' whenever I thought of them.... come to think of it I still do. They were a lovely family who had their fair share of trials and tribulations as most families do.

I probably shouldn't mention this but I will anyway as it seemed so comical to me at the time. Dad would often get home from work in the evening, get out his guitar and mouthorgan (harmonica) and play (between sips of coffee) on the veranda. Mom would sometimes sing if we didn't have an audience which wasn't very often. The neighbours would always come out and ask Dad to play various tunes. 

Frequently during these impromptu sessions Mr Taggart would arrive home from the pub which was up the road at the top of the hill. The neighbours would snigger as Mr Taggart made his way on wobbly legs (there had been a tragedy and he no longer drove, I suspect this was the reason for stopping at the pub on his way home). Mrs Taggart would politely escort him into the lounge from their veranda, their curtains were seldom drawn so we could see quite clearly into the lounge and Mrs Taggart would give Mr Taggart a clip across the ear which would always send him sailing across the room past the picture window. She would be heard saying "...and that's for not coming directly home" then as she helped him up " come and have your dinner pet". This usually signalled the end of Dad's playing and bath time for us kids.

I was an early riser regardless of the time I went to bed and this holds true to this day but as a child this was problematic because I was one of those 'hyperactive' kids I think they call it 'ADHD' these days, anyway I couldn't stay indoors I had to get outside and play. I loved westerns which Dad would read to me on occasions and we would sometimes go to number three colliery to watch silent black and white 16mm movies of 'Hopalong Cassidy' or 'Buffalo Bill'. These were my hero's and I would enter my fantasy world and play on my own for hours. 

While I was allowed to go outside to play early in the morning I had strict instructions to make sure I closed the door properly and to play in the back yard. I usually did this however on one particular morning I was coming in the back door when there was a loud banging at the front door. Dad was right there and opened the door... I had a clear view through the passage to the open door.

I'll never forget the big Dutch shunter standing at the door thrusting his right fist forward and asking, "Is dis yorn?" (Is this yours?) and dangling from his huge fist was a little dirty bundle looking like a little puppy that had been dragged backward through a coal shaft... it was Shane!, he was about a 10-12 months old (from memory) and had yet to master the art of walking. "I fond him zitting by the trak at the yardt" said the Dutch Shunter in his thick guttural accent.

By now the whole family, servants included had come along to see what all the fuss was about. Mom took Shane from Dad who had thanked the Dutch Shunter before closing the front door and beckoning me to come closer. "How did your brother get out Peter?" asked Dad, without waiting for a reply he stated, "Didn't close the door properly, did you?". I know now that the questions were rhetorical but Dad was a man who believed that sparing the rod would spoil the child and a lesson needed to be learned - it was fortuitous that a tragedy had been avoided when Shane was saved by the Shunter and so I learned a valuable lesson on responsibility that day. For that I am grateful to both my parents.

Red - Our Home, Green - Dads office, Blue - where Shane was found.
To this day we have no idea how he managed to cover such a distance as a baby, and in less than two hours - incredible!

Till next time, God Bless.

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