For some reason I have my cousin Alan on my mind today. Alan was a month older than me, he passed away after a motor vehicle accident just outside Perth in Western Australia in about 1984. As kids we were as close as brothers when growing up. We were in the same class at school, did similar trades, went to college together and of course got up to mischief together.
Alan's father Joe and my mother Nellie were brother and sister and they were pretty close. My earliest recollections are that we all along with their sister Rita and family, lived in Waterford an outer suburb of Bulawayo in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Mom's oldest brother Danie and his family lived in Queens Park while mom's youngest brother Ben lived at home with their parents Dan and Phoebe in Kenilworth.
When my dad was transferred to Wankie (he was a telegraphist on the railways) I recall that uncle Joe and the family moved in next door to us in Motherwell Street. I have no idea what the circumstances were but I remember we had a ball as we went on camping and fishing trips along the banks of the Zambezi river, we were aged about 6. Uncle Joe and family moved back to Bulawayo in about 1962 and we were to follow in 1964 when my youngest brother was born.
We moved to Queens Park and Alan and his family lived in Sauerstown just a block off Hugh Beadle School. Initially I was enrolled in Newmansford School but I was homesick for my friends in Wankie so I was moved into Hugh Beadle because Alan was my age and he was there - we were in standard two. I recall being raised as a Jehovah's Witness and listening to long discussions between my dad and uncle Joe as my dad tried to convert him to the "Truth". My mom was not a "JW" but she never openly opposed my dad. These discussions went on for years.
When I was about 11 or 12 we were living in Sauerstown diagonally opposite Skippers Garage in the "Olds" old hotel on Marula Ave when something dramatic occured and uncle Joe lost his job as a Coachbuilder (Carpenter/Joiner making carriages) with a private company. I don't recall the circumstances but uncle Joe opted for a change in career and took on a role as a salesman. Times were tough, we had space in the old hotel and the family moved in with us. The complex was large with separate living area's so it was more than adequate with 14 bedrooms and common area's that we could have put 8 lounge suite's in.
We went to Northlea school and were in the same class there too as we took the same subjects, as thick as thieves we were. I was a lazy little bugger and once copied Alan's homework, an English essay which got us both into a lot of bother at school. This was unusual for Alan but not for me. I was always in trouble at school with more energy than you could poke a stick at - for all the wrong things but as lazy as they come when it came to homework. Alan was no saint though, he knew that I was not flavour of the month and used this to misbehave. I would say that I had the most punctured posterior in the school from Alan's compass - that thing spent more time in my rear end than it did in it's case and I was always in trouble for disrupting the class with my anguished bellows. Alan would sink that darned thing in to the hilt when he could.
It was actually Alan who planted the seed to take Mrs Adams exasperation with me to the next level. You see I refused to do homework for several of my teachers and Mrs Adams in particular. First thing in Mrs Adams Class was to present homework and for this we were to line up alphabetically by our surname and it became customary to send me to the back of the line because invariably I had nothing to present in my homework book. I would finally arrive at Mrs Adams desk and present my brand new never used homework book whereby Mrs Adams would scribble out a note for Mr Eddington the Deputy Head, to inflict six of his best on my posterior (corporal punishment was alive and well and it did me no harm). We had science after break so Alan wondered what Mrs Adams might do if I presented a note from Mr Eddington thus saving her the trouble of sending me from class. Alan suggested that this would save time and I might actually get to participate in some of the cool experiments. So I did precisely that during the next days break, Mr Eddington smiled, shook his head and called me a "cheeky sod" as he granted my request for 6 of the best and a note for Mrs Adams.
Well the result was a little unexpected, actually I'm not sure what I expected but as we lined up and I was being dispatched to the back of the line I called out - "My homework book is not empty today Ms Adams." What a transformation, Mrs Adams was positively glowing with a grin from ear to ear as she beckoned me forth with her hand gesturing frantically, she bubbled "Come along, do show me!" I handed my book over and she opened it expectantly .... and there she found Mr Eddington's note "Six of the best for failing to complete science homework." I never would have believed that something so bright could become so dark, so quickly as Mrs Adams face flushed with every colour under the sun until it finally became a deep purple "GET OUT!" she spluttered, "OUT OF MY CLASSROOM!" she screamed pointing at the door. I swear I could see steam coming from her ears as I exited hastily and stood outside. This was where Mr Eddington found me as he was doing the rounds, he smiled, punched me on the shoulder with enough force to rock me but never said a word as he went along his way. Needless to say, Alan thought the whole thing was hysterical and he paid out on me for years over that "Priceless piece of entertainment", as he put it.
Isn't it funny how things turn out, my dad "fell away from the truth" - the term used when one becomes an ex-JW and uncle Joe and his family "came into the truth" - the term used when one becomes a JW. When we would visit which was frequently I would hear the age old arguments but now it was uncle Joe trying to convert my dad. Alan and I were now at college, we were doing our apprenticeships, visiting with our grandfather who had a shop 'Nulife Batteries' right across the road from Bulawayo Tech. We were 15-16 and Bubbles (Oupa's receptionist) would be teasing and embarrassing the heck out of us. We lived on fried chips which we ate as we went shopping for trade tools at 'Vivien & Watson'. Uncle Joe always advised us on the best brands and we would get into debates with sales staff as we haggled over the price of tools.
My favourite group was CCR and Alan's was Queen (Alan and Freddy Mercury could have passed off as brothers they looked so alike) Alan would tease me at college when things weren't going my way by singing "I see a bad moon arising" but he would substitute "mood" for "moon" and this would always brighten my day.
As time went on Alan went to jail as a religious objector and I went to do National Service at the same time. I married first but Alan wasn't long behind me. The country was going okay as we transitioned from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia for what would inevitably become a moderate majority government of the people providing the rest of the world left us to work at it. Alan was less optimistic than I and he migrated to Australia with his wife Purna. He finally persuaded me to move my family to a safer environment when the British with the backing of the west decided that Comrade Mr Robert Mugabe was the solution to the Rhodesian problem. We accepted Alan's offer of assistance on the eve of Mugabe's Fifth Brigade's attempted genocide. With the country in the hands of a mad left wing extremist racist, this was no place to try and raise a family so we made our applications and were finally accepted by Australia.
Alan picked us up from the airport in Perth at 04:30 March 27, 1982 and helped us settle and assimilate in this new land before he was tragically taken from us the day after one of our lengthy discussions as he tried to convince me to "return to the truth". We may not believe in the same doctrine but we do worship the same God.
RIP Alan you are missed and definitely not forgotten.