Fish Hoek Notes



Municipal Elections:

These were held on Wednesday, August 3, which was declared a public holiday. Overall the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) did a very good job, organising 62,000 polling stations in eight municipalities and in 278 districts, in a fair and free manner.  In the weeks before the election, there were 12 political assassinations, mainly in KwaZulu/Natal, and some pre-election violence. Each polling station had many workers to organise the queues, help the elderly and disabled, and direct voters on the voting procedure. Voters who were severely disabled were able to arrange for the police to visit them at home to enable them to vote. The only criticism I heard was that the workers had to work long hours, often into the middle of the night. Although they were paid by the hour, no arrangements were made for their travel home: most restaurants and other institutions that employ night workers always organise transport to their workers homes.

  The three main political parties – the governing African National Congress (ANC), the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were all very active before the election. ANC is led by 74-year-old president Jacob Zuma, DA by Mmusi Maimane (36), and, BTW, married to a white woman), and EFF by Julius Malema (35).

Maimane-Zuma_malemaMaimane - Zuma - Malema

ANC gathered only 54% nationally , much the lowest since Independence in 1994 ; President Jacob Zuma is disliked – or feared – by many, only a few  of the leading ANC politicians being willing to speak out: this number, it is predicted, will grow, despite the strong support that Zuma still holds  in the rural areas  .  DA substantially increased its votes to 27%, indicating that many Africans were voting for this supposedly “white party “. EFF, led by the radical ( “nationalise the mines and.....”) Julius Malema, attracted more voters (8%) than in the previous election, but not as many as they had hoped.

Of the eight municipalities Cape Town remained even more firmly under DA control; the DA won Nelson Mandela (Port Elizabeth ); in Johannesburg and Tshwane ( Pretoria), ANC and DA were neck and neck ,neither having enough votes to lead the council ,so intense negotiations went on, searching for a coalition with the EFF and other smaller parties. The other municipalities -  Tswane (Durban), Bloemfontein, East London and Germiston) remained under the ANC, but in all cases with reduced voter support.

After the elections, the Cape Town  DA were criticised (justifiably, in my opinion) for their choice of 12 councillors, because there were only three women and three of colour. The council faces major challenges, particularly in improving security (crime is still major problem ) and also in providing services: the contrast between the “leafy suburbs” where most whites live, and the ”informal townships” (which often lack adequate toilet facilities) is huge, and surely ultimately unsustainable. The problem is exacerbated by the unceasing influx of people, not only from the Eastern Province but also from Zimbabwe, DRC and other African countries. For the record, the population of Cape Town is 3.75 million, of whom  42% are coloured; 39%  African; 16% white; 1.4% Asian.

  My polling station was less than a km from my home; when I arrived in mid-morning to cast my vote, a young woman worker noticed that I was wobbly (the effect of the general anaesthetic, see below); taking my arm, she guided me to the front of the queue and into the polling station, which was the main hall of False Bay College. My ID was checked and I was given two forms containing the names of a record number – 77 – of political parties. After voting, my left thumb-nail was marked, to prevent the possibility of my voting again. When I was walking out, a pleasant white woman, also a voter, took my arm and insisted on escorting me all the way to my car: I am constantly impressed here by “the kindness of strangers”.

At the moment of writing there is no clear resolution in the Johannesburg and Pretoria municipalities. No coalitions have been formed; Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters have said they would not support the ANC but they would support the DA if they agreed with the policies.- a master-stroke! The next few months will undoubtedly be very interesting.

Quotas in sport.

This is a very controversial topic, particularly when considering rugby and cricket: one commentator wrote that “quota is arguably the most divisive word in South Africa’s current sporting discourse.” He continued  ”quotas are  for now necessary to achieve change, but the  approach must involve major changes, in education and elsewhere.” 22 years after the first democratic elections, rugby has only five black players playing regularly in major tests.  In cricket there is only one regular black test cricketer. Some say this is because cricketers are elitist, and others point to the difficulties of recruiting players from the disadvantaged communities. A recent target for international cricket was “six players of colour, of whom two must be African”: this last condition is because there are so many talented coloured and Indian cricketers. From time to time the Minister of Sport makes announcements: in April 2016, netball, cricket, rugby, and athletics were to be banned from all mega international events, because of their failure to meet the transformation targets. Despite his announcement, South Africa did send a team to Rio for the Olympics.




In previous issues, I have mentioned PUI – poverty, unemployment and inequality – three of South Africa’s most pressing problems. I am most concerned with inequality which seems to be growing: over 40% of young people, including university graduates, are unemployed. This is a problem in many countries all over the world and many fear that it is bound to lead to some sort of explosion.


Black people on communal land (with no individual title) are at the mercy of mining firms, which often carry on operations without any compensation, usually after bribing the traditional leaders. A recent video dramatically explored this , describing how in several instances the leaders of protests had met sudden and unexplained deaths.

There is also a serious threat of mining workers going on strike, mainly over their pay, but also about housing and other conditions of work. In addition they notice, and publicise, the huge gap between the pay of workers and that of the CEOs


This year there were 17 deaths (compared to 44 the previous year) in illegal circumcision schools run by ”cruel and heartless thugs”, according to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Nearly all the deaths occurred in the Eastern Cape, where virtually all young Xhosa men undergo this traditional rite. (During the nearly 20 years when Bernard and I spent time doing fieldwork in Kenya, there was a marked decrease in ”traditional” circumcision, with many fathers – and their sons – preferring to have the operation done in a hospital.)


In July this year, the International AIDS Conference was held in Durban; Graca Machel, Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, and widow of Nelson Mandela, stressed the need for ”a change of culture”. 2,500 young South Africans acquire HIV every day, giving South Africa one of the highest acquisition rates in the world. According to one survey of school pupils, 37% have had sex by the age of 14, and 12.5% before 14. (When Thabo Mbeki was President, he claimed that AIDS was a Western plot designed to kill Africans; he refused to allow anti-retrovirals, encouraging his dotty Minister of Health to promote remedies which were entirely ineffective: their policies have led to many thousands of deaths.) The present Minister of Health is fortunately pursuing a vigorous policy.


The poorer coloured areas in Cape Town are plagued by gangs, such as Hard Livings, American Clever Kids, Drive Boy Gangsters and others. As happens in other countries, poverty, youth unemployment and drugs are all very much present. Gang shootings are frequent and it is common for bystanders, often including children, to be caught in the crossfire. Police are severely handicapped in their enquiries by the reluctance – and fear – of witnesses to testify.


 (the South African Broadcasting Council). The CEO, who does not even have a matriculation, has been – even by South African standards – notoriously corrupt, inefficient and liable to fire staff without cause. Despite that, he remains in office.

Public Protector

I had previously praised Thuli Madonsela for the splendid job that she was doing, despite heavy opposition from the Government. Her seven-year term of office ends in October.



Letters to the Editor

I have been engaged for some time in compiling the various letters and articles that Bernard and I have had published over the past 50 years. They appeared in small local newspapers ,as well as in large national ones. I wrote to correct what I thought was an error in something that the newspaper had published , while trying to avoid becoming a “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.). I also commented on topical issues, both local and national – in the three countries where Bernard and I lived : USA, UK and South Africa. This collection reflects some of the people and themes that captured my interest over the years. I admit that I was always thrilled when my letter appeared in print, and I did write my share of non-published letters. I have also included several letters which I wrote to authors of books which captivated me and a few other bits and pieces.

You can read a selection of these letters to the editor at this address:

A very recent letter to British author Jonathan Tulloch, who writes for The Tablet (the British Catholic weekly) - did not make it into the collection and I append it here.

Tablet article


From: David Brokensha []
Sent: 14 August 2016 11:06 AM
To: 'The Tablet'
Subject: for Jonathan Tulloch,please

Dear Jonathan Tulloch,

1) this is a fan letter

2) NNTR - no need to reply

I usually read The Tablet from cover to cover (sometimes skipping here and there), and finishing with the back page where I always enjoy John Morrish, Guy Consolmagno, E.N.O’Phile and, especially your notes. While I appreciate the balanced news in The Tablet, it is increasingly depressing, with the terrorism attacks, the Donald Trumps.........and I find it refreshing to end with your always joyous Glimpses.

I am reminded of one of my favourite poems as a school-boy, you probably know it too :

William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I am 93 years old, gay, shared my life for nearly 50 years with Bernard, a wonderful man who died 12 years ago. We were/are both Catholics: I joined when I was a postgraduate student at Oxford in 1950 and Bernard in 1993, when we were living in Sherborne , Dorset. I am a professor emeritus (University of California Santa Barbara, social anthropology and environmental studies) now living in my native South Africa, having lived away for 52 years. We have been fortunate in that in both Sherborne, and also in Simonstown, my present parish, both priests and parishioners have been fully supportive. Enough! I just thought you might like to know who some of your keen readers are.
With all good wishes

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Jonathan Tulloch Tablet
Date: 2016-08-16 11:30

Dear David

Thanks so much for your message. I really do appreciate getting a feel
for my readers. And knowing that they enjoy the magazine. Glad too that
you and Bernard enjoyed so many happy years together. I hope you're
enjoying life in South Africa. My wife and I worked there for a year in
1997 at Maryvale School in Joburg. I can still see those pied

best wishes



Two weeks in hospital:

Kingsbury Hospital

I begin with this topic because this was the only dramatic change in the even tenor of my ways, since my last Fish Hoek Notes in October 2015. I shall try to minimise the clinical details

This tale begins in 1990, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and I was given radiotherapy at St Thomas Hospital in London. In 2014, I had urinary problems, which the urologist Dr Trevor Borchers diagnosed as ”radiation prostitis”, a side-effect of the radiotherapy of 24 years previously. I knew Trevor well, because I had accompanied Bernard when he consulted Trevor initially in 2000. Trevor had read and liked my memoir, Brokie’s Way, and he calls me “Brokie”. I will refer to him as Dr.B.

Dr. B explained that there was a blockage in my bladder, which could only be removed by surgery, which he regarded as a last resort. I was also anxious about surgery: while I had no doubts about Dr B's competence, I had heard, and read, frightening accounts of the effects of a general anaesthetic on the elderly - and I am now 93 years old.

July 14 I saw, on Dr B’s recommendation, Dr Verster-Cohen (known as Dr V-C), who examined me at his office near Kingsbury Hospital; because my pain was acute he told me that I should be admitted that day, so Rob very kindly drove me back to the hospital on the evening of July 14. Rob and Lorraine are my thoughtful neighbours (and landlords); Rob drove me to and from the hospital several times during this period.

Kingsbury Hospital, located in the suburb of Claremont (30 to 45 minutes drive from my home) is a modern hospital, and I have the highest praise for the treatment I received. I was placed in a three bed ward, where I was the only patient. My bed was in the corner with huge windows which provided me with a grand view, looking east towards the (? Tygerberg) mountains; I enjoyed watching the trains go by on their way to Simonstown.

Some years ago, my brother Paul told me that I was “obsessed by race”, to which I responded: “How could I not be, growing up in South Africa?” Some of you might agree with Paul by the time you’ve read the next section.

The nursing staff was about half and half, black and coloured, with a slightly disproportionate share of the coloured in the higher ranks like Sisters, and the blacks disproportionately, sometimes entirely, occupying lower categories, like the sweepers. Whatever their rank, the many nurses and sisters whom I contacted were universally friendly, quick to answer the bell and entirely professional. I found it a little easier to have friendly personal chats with the black nurses. Nearly all the nursing staff called me “Prof”, as this title was on my admission papers.

While I’m on the subject of race, I would mention that of the seven doctors (physicians, urologists, one anaesthetist) who saw me, all were male and all except one, an Indian, were white. To complete this account, of the 15 of my ward mates (over my two weeks in hospital) all were white, except for one Indian and one coloured man.

The night nurse was called Kusi, short for Kusikelela, which, as she explained, means “blessed”; she was a jolly soul, and her merry chatter alleviated my anxiety.

July 15 I was wheeled into surgery at about noon. The nurse who accompanied me was unusual in being (a) male and (b) a handsome young Indian, here for two years on an exchange programme from India. .His happy chatter and laughing eyes displaced any anxiety. The anaesthetist asked me if I was related to Dr Brian Brokensha, who is a second cousin and who was a popular GP in Cape Town. The surgery apparently took nearly an hour and I slept soundly for some hours afterwards. Dr B came in the evening, telling me that I must stay in hospital until what he called ”the waterworks” were in proper working order.

July 16. I was not allowed to shower but instead the nurse stripped and washed me all over; all done so professionally that there was no embarrassment. I had to accept being treated like a baby, with regular enquiries about my bowel movements and my urine. This was never a problem. During the whole time that I was in hospital, Dr B checked me two or three times a day, even over the weekend when he was officially off duty. Trevor is a star.

Every evening an attendant (not a nurse) brought me the menu for the next day, asking me to choose what I would like for breakfast at 5 or 8 a.m, lunch at 12 noon, dinner at 5 p.m.. There was an extensive menu, 10 items each for lunch and for dinner, and the food was tasty and well-prepared. I had little appetite for meat, preferring the vegetarian alternatives.

While I was in hospital, my niece Chris visited me every day , once accompanied by her daughter Caitlin, and once by her son Andrew and his girlfriend Marieka. Christopher also looked in a few times, both Chris’s bringing me books and magazines. I had my own TV, which I did not watch – partly because I found the remote difficult to manage.

One of the nurses checked my blood pressure and temperature three times each day, and also regularly took blood samples to check on my white platelets. Dr B several times required urine samples

July 17. I was allowed to shower, but at first nurse Dora accompanied me to the shower and insisted that I sit in a chair, from where I could manage the controls ; the shower and toilet were located in our three- bed ward.

maties choir

July 19. Nurse Dora brought me a copy of the Cape Times, where I read a headline, “Maties (Stellenbosch University students) choir win gold in Russia:”, with a photograph (above) indicating that more than half of the choir were “of colour”. Given the current protests at South African universities about “transformation” (meaning increasing the number of university personnel of colour) this was a pleasant surprise.

I also read my Gemini horoscope, having plenty of time on my hands

A timely resurgence of all-around energy could be just the challenge to get you going again ...... put some of that vitality to work in a gym or out on the road. Begin a health and fitness producing regime forthwith.

I wish!

July 20 Walking back from the toilet, I noticed a new arrival in the next bed; he was a very noble looking Indian, whose face seemed familiar. When I paused, he reminded me that his wife Shireen had met Kate Emmons when they were on the same course at UCSB about 30 years ago. Kate had been enrolled in two of my courses, and she was also a teaching assistant for the joint course that Bernard and I taught. Kate and her husband , Tony, who comes from Cape Town, have a house in Scarborough, a 15 drive from my home, which they usually occupy for some time every year. I had first met Shireen, who is a psychological counsellor, and her husband when they accompanied us (Kate and family, niece Chris and her son James and me) to our annual picnic at Maynardville, followed by a Shakespeare production. Also, I had sat next to Shireen at the 18th birthday dinner of Jordan, Emma and Tony’s son. In addition I had had a pleasant Sunday lunch at their home in Claremont. That evening Shireen visited her husband, and we had a good talk.

July 21. I had a good night, and Dr B suggested we ask the physician, Dr V-C , about my going home. I was hesitant about that because I did not feel completely in control yet. It was a glorious day and I much enjoyed simply regarding the view.

I suddenly remembered that I had invited Hannah Moore, a visiting American student, friend of Peter Castro’s student, for lunch the next day, and I did not have her phone number. I phoned Lorraine, who left an email for Hannah, whose name was actually Foote. I am so often Mister Muddle these days, more so after the anaesthetic. Then I remember my niece Judy frequently telling me that at my age I am entitled to be a little forgetful, so I speak sternly to myself:

Come on Brokie, quit moaning, you are in very good hands here at Kingsbury and you will soon be home.

By now I was able to sit up in a comfortable chair reading or writing on my movable dinner tray. One of the few white sisters kindly suggested that I have a short walk along the corridors, with her holding my hand, as I was still a little wobbly. On Chris’ visits, she regularly walked the corridors with me.

My ward mate Charles, in his mid-60s, came over and sat next to me while we swapped brief life stories. When I told him about Bernard, Charles extolled the virtues and love of his gay nephew and his partner. Perhaps it is like being on a passenger liner, when strangers speak freely to each other.

July 22. I think that I have handled the question, of leaving hospital, well. I have plenty to read and I can relax, so I must not be precipitous. The anaesthetic has taken it out of me, but I’m sure that I will recover in good time. I am fortunate too, in all my Ward mates have been quiet and considerate, not like some whom I encountered when I stayed at Constantiaberg Hospital a few years ago.

At about 10:30 a.m., the kitchen lady came with her chart for me to choose the meals for the next day she asked whether my wife would be visiting, so I told her about spending nearly 50 years with Bernard. She was fascinated with my story, and when she said, feelingly, “Oh, how much you must miss him!”, my tears flowed, and she said “Come , let give you a hug “, which she did. Such impromptu heart-warming little encounters are much more likely to happen here in South Africa than either in England or the USA.

Dr B checked my medications and blood pressure at 10:45 and said I could go home if Dr V-C agreed which he did when he arrived a few minutes later . Nurse Dora helped me to dress and at 3:30 PM Rob collected me to drive me home; at home I phoned my close friends to tell them. But it was premature: by 6 p.m. I was unable to urinate and I was in agony. Dr B was not on duty and his colleague Dr Govender told me to return to the hospital – by 7:15 p.m I was back at Kingsbury in the same ward, indeed in the same bed. By then I was feeling anxious and depressed, wondering when this saga would end, and I reminded myself that, at my age, I can expect some medical problems, and many, many people are much worse off.

At 8:30 p.m. Dr Govender, 40-ish, smiling, confident, good-looking, reassuring, applied a local anaesthetic and inserted a catheter, which did the trick. The night Sister, Esmaranda, welcomed me back and was outstanding in taking care of me. During my short stay at home I had collected a batch of magazines that had arrived in the post – New Yorker, New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, Literary Review and the Catholic weekly, The Tablet, provided me with some good reading for the next two days.

July 23 I had a fairly good night, waking up to an overcast day , though the sun was trying to come through. I remembered my only other long stay in hospital, which was in Tanga (Tanganyika, now Tanzania) July 1954. As I wrote in my memoir, I remember waking up from my delivery and finding Bernard, whom I had only recently met, looking very worried (“ I spent all my life looking for you, then I thought I had lost you”) while holding a bunch of blossoms from what we called the tree of heaven – Callistemon.

callistemon citrinus        Callistemon Citrinus

Niece Chris looked in briefly at 8:45 a.m., keeping up her routine of daily cheering visits

Once again Nurse helped me to shower, and after my ablutions I felt ever so much better and enjoyed my breakfast, trying to get accustomed to my tenth day in hospital. At 9:45.Dr.Govender gave me a choice of going home (with the catheter) or staying over the weekend (this was a Saturday) until I saw Dr B on Monday. I preferred the latter course; as I told Dr. Govender, I did not feel confident being alone at home, when I was not in control of my bodily functions. Dr Governor was very reassuring, telling me that I would be really OK by Monday.

I phoned my friends and managed to get a message to my niece Judy, who was visiting her family in England, and who had been very worried about me. This time I had no ward-mates, it was like being in a private suite, and I was soon once again used to the hospital routine.

7 :00 p.m. dear Chris came , staying half an hour, I did look forward so much to her visits.

At 9 PM , night nurse Nosipho gave me two Panado tablets, then, it having been a quiet night, she asked me how I managed to live so long. I gave her my usual answer about having led both personal and professional lives that were happy and fulfilling, telling her about Bernard; this time there were no tears.

July 24, Sunday. Reading an article in The Literary Review, Anna Sebba , Les Parisiennes: how the women of Paris lived, loved and died in the 1940s. The author made the point that about that some 10% of the population became either resistors or collaborators, during what became known as Les Annes Noires , with the rest carrying on, as best as they could, their ordinary lives. This is similar to the point that I used to make in lecturing about apartheid, or in my course on “Minorities”, when I estimated that 10 to 15% would be on one or the other side of the spectrum, with the rest worrying about their ordinary lives.

I was a little fearful about going home. Chris offered to spend the nights at my home, but I could not impose on her. After my shower, I saw Dr Govender, who was satisfied with my progress. Then I had a very welcome visit, an elderly, friendly Catholic (coloured) couple from the Catholic chaplaincy: we said prayers and they gave me communion , a great comfort.

A new patient, a coloured man, had moved into the bed next to mine and his friend, a white man, both in their 40s, was visiting him. When Dr B came to see me, he paused to ask the white man how his partner was .I discovered that Dr B knew him because he was an anaesthetist; in fact he was the partner of Dr Brossy, who had anaesthetised me. Later we chatted briefly and I told him about Bernard. In the evening the patient, whose partner was with him, was visited by his Cape Muslim family, with one elderly woman, possibly his mother, in the traditional headscarf. I was glad to see that they included the anaesthetist partner with no constraint.

(OK, here I go on about race again!)

It was a lovely sunny day

July 25 I had a good night, having now been without my usual sleeping pills for several nights.

At 6:15 a.m. The nurse skilfully removed the catheter, what a relief. After a shower I felt so much better. Dr B thought I might go home but I was still having problems and trying hard not to be depressed. Once again I am alone in the ward, which suits me.

July 26. At last I was ready to go home and Rob will call for me at 10:30. I did not feel 100% but was ready to go home. The hospital accounts department will email me my account. On arriving home Rob thoughtfully did some basic shopping for me.

(The total charges came to a little under Rand 100,000, - approximately $7,000 or £5400 - of which just over 40% went to Kingsbury hospital ,and the balance to the doctors (haematologist, urologist, anaesthetist, physician ), radiologists, blood transfusion....Had these procedures been done in the USA, the cost would have been very much more. I now have to claim from my University of California Medical Aid, which takes months, sometimes years (literally) to settle my claims. However, what is important is that I am now well again.

Elke came that evening, bringing supper. When we were in the kitchen, Elke asked me where the pan for the soup was: I glanced around the kitchen, at first having no remembrance of where I kept the pans, despite having lived in this home for 16 years. Then at last I remembered – this sort of thing happened many times over the next few days.

July 27 I spent a few hours on the computer but was still having technical trouble sending messages out. Later Donald sorted this out.

I asked Chris to send some flowers to the nursing staff in surgical ward G4, Kingsbury hospital. She chose a grand assortment and kindly took them herself to the hospital where, she later told me, several of the staff asked how “Prof” was doing.

At 8:15p.m. Christopher came, very concerned about me, but I brightened up after a couple of brandies, my first alcohol in two weeks – I had not missed it at all. Christopher had kindly charged my  cellphone on which I depended.

July 31. Chris collected me at 11:30 for a pleasant lunch at the Vineyard Hotel, where we sat on the outside terrace, admiring the glorious view, of the well-kept gardens and Table Mountain in the background. Then on to the Artscape to see a matinee of a brilliant production of My Fair Lady, even though I had to make a dash for the loo in the middle of the long first act. (Fortunately, we were sitting near the aisle.)

And on Monday, August 1, David and Bill (always lively, stimulating and caring) drove (one hour in good traffic) in from Stellenbosch to take me (15 minutes drive) to Noordhoek, for lunch at the Food Barn. This is probably the best restaurant in our locality and they were offering winter specials, with weekday lunches at half price. We each had a starter and a mains (well, I actually had two starters, I do not have a big appetite these days); the bill, including a bottle of excellent Pinot Noir, and a generous tip, came to Rand 800, or $55, a bargain. My overseas guests have always been favourably impressed by what, for them, are the low prices of our restaurants.

August 6 . By now I have made a good recovery and have resumed some normal activities. On Sunday, July 31, I drove the 7 km to Simonstown for the 9 AM mass. I was upbraided by several of my friends because I did not tell them that I had been in hospital. Lesson learnt! I have now made a list of a few people to contact, should there be any other emergency.

August 11 I saw Dr B, who comes to Fish Hoek on Friday mornings, and was most reassuring. He told me that I was doing very well, considering that (a) I had had ”traumatic surgery”, and (b) I was 93 years old. He felt sure that the few remaining problems, both physical and mental, would soon disappear or diminish.

August 13 To complete my joy, my nephew Garry and his wife Gail were visiting, from Durban, their son and his family in Cape Town : they drove out to collect me to meet Chris for a jolly lunch at Green Beans in Tokai.

Sunday August 14. Garry and Gail drove out again together with their son Wayne, his wife Nikki, and their captivating 2 ½-year-old daughter, Elle. We had another excellent lunch at Café Roux, in Noordhoek. (Pic below).

On Sunday

To complete my medical bulletin, I recently suffered from SOB (short of breath) and saw Dr Acton, who diagnosed “a mild degree of heart failure”, and prescribed some new medication. There has not been much improvement, and as one practical measure I installed a battery operated stair-lift because climbing the 16 stairs several times a day did indeed leave me SOB. It is a great help.


Although my prisoner of war days ended over 70 years ago, in the last two months I had two remarkable reminders. I have previously mentioned Karen Horn’s book, In Enemy Hands: South African Prisoners of War in World War II. Jacko’s nephew, Harold Shapiro, lives in Sydney, Australia and, being interested in his uncle’s POW days, read Karen’s book and contacted her. In turn Karen suggested that Shapiro write to me, because she knew that I had been friendly with Jacko. Consequently we have had a cordial exchange of emails and I am waiting for Harold to send me a CD of Jacko’s journals.

In Part 2 of this tale, Harold told his brother David, who lives in Cape Town, about contacting me, and the story of the bicycles. David Shapiro then wrote an article in The Times (Cape Town, not London) in which he quoted the extract from my memoir - as in excerpt below :-

We were impatient to join the Americans and decided to commandeer bicycles so that we could speed up our journey. Two of our party of six – Jake (a Seventh Day Adventist) and Jacko (Jewish) refused to steal. I remember my own weak indecision, until Paul said ‘Come on Dave, we have to get out of here, no time for scruples,’ and I took a bicycle, leaving its civilian owner looking very sad, and pedalled away with Paul and the other two.

This is one of those bad memories that most of us accumulate, having done a deed I wish I had not done, with a realisation at the time – and growing ever stronger over the years – that Jake and Jacko had been right. I am not blaming Paul; I blame myself for not having the courage of Jake and Jacko, who, ironically, walked and hitch-hiked and joined up with us the following evening, so we had gained nothing. (I recently read of an American soldier who had commandeered a bicycle in an English village where he had been stationed during the war: after more than fifty years his conscience led him to make a gift of sixty bicycles to that village, one for every young person, as a form of reparation.)

-and he concluded:

I wish to end with an extract from Brokensha’s story that left Harold and I proud and honoured, serving as a lesson to all that even in extreme circumstances you cannot compromise your ethical standards, illustrating, too, how misguided moral choices can have consequences even years after the event.

I have no problem with his conclusion.

The second POW story started with Karyn Hodgkinson, my physiotherapist. Another patient saw a copy of Brokie’s Way noticing that I had been in Dresden during the 1945 bombing – as had her husband, Peter Krause. Karyn, knowing that I would like to meet Peter, gave him my address, and I spent a very pleasant and interesting hour with him and his wife. He is the only other person I now know who was also in Dresden during the bombing, which caused 25,000 deaths ( I should explain that I was in Gorbitz , a suburb that was 8kms from the CBD, whereas Peter was in the centre.) Peter, then a 15-year-old schoolboy, was trapped on a burning upper floor, and was rescued by one of his schoolmasters. I told Peter that I still thought the bombing was unnecessary and that I was embarrassed by it, but he waved that aside and said:’” It was all Bomber Harris’s fault”, and I agreed. (Marshall of the Royal Air Force, Sir Arthur Harris, in charge of the bombing of Dresden and of other German cities.)




To end on a happy note, here are some observations on my view. Sitting on the Terrace (which is 6 ½ m long by 4 ½ m deep) I see one of my favourite Zimbabwean sculptures: Joram Mariga’s Gondo Gwarikari (Martial Eagle); it is our only sculpture in lepidolite, and was the favourite sculpture for both Bernard and me. (See for photograph). We met Joram Mariga (known as the father of Zimbabwean sculpture) and his wife in Harare, when we bought Gondo Gwarikari. Then we met him again in Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden at an exhibition. That time we bought a sculpture (the only sculpture we have of a frog) by Joram’s son Daniel. In the corner behind the sculpture is a strelitzia bush, which seems to flower the year around. And beyond that is a large frangipani tree, which flowers (white) gloriously in season. When Enid Bates was still alive, I used to collect the frangipani blossoms for her tortoises, who regarded them as a treat.

Sitting in my favourite chair, at a table in the near corner, I see relatively few species of birds: there are many noisy European Starlings, as well as the red-backed ones; a Fiscal Strike sits on the far telephone wire; I hear and see many sparrows, as well as hearing calls of the inevitable lbj’s. I love to hear the shrill cry of the Black African Oyster Catchers, which always go in pairs, and which mate for life.

Black oyster catchers

A few months ago, I started putting birdseed out for the rock pigeons, who now wait impatiently for me in the morning. One mature female, whom I recognise by her slightly lame left leg, rules the roost; sometimes she chases the juveniles away, but other days she allows them to share. She is very indignant when a timid ring-necked dove tries to join the feast.

I look down from the Terrace to a lovely garden, which is carefully tended by Lorraine with assistance from Gift (perhaps that should be vice versa!) It Includes another (pink) frangipani , some sansevieria bushes, a rapidly growing avocado tree, lemon and papaya trees, and a grenadier creeper- all planted on a well-kept green lawn. Lorraine frequently gives me fruit from her garden. In the far corner is a large Strelitzia Bush, which at present sports more than 20 blossoms.

The garden is surrounded by a fence, on top of which is an electric security wire. Immediately beyond the wall is the railway line which normally runs to Simonstown, but for several months now the train stops at Fish Hoek, because of repairs on the line, and passengers are conveyed by bus from Fish Hoek to Simonstown. I used to use the train regularly when it stopped at Sunny Cove station, 200 m from my home. But I have given it up now – it is too much of a hassle, is unreliable and can be hazardous.

On the other side of the railway line is another fence, then a short bank goes down to Jager’s Walk, a coastal walkway which runs from Fish Hoek to Sunny Cove. It is very popular and during the day (a few hardy souls go out at night when the pathway is lit) there are many walkers and joggers. Immediately beyond the walkway is the rocky coastline: at weekends there are always – when the tide is low - small children excitedly exploring the rocky pools. The most common marine birds are Hartlaub’s Gulls, and Cape Cormorants , both of which can usually be seen perched on the rocks or flying over in huge (hundreds?) flocks, or sitting on the Bay, which is just over a 1 km across and is framed by mountains on the other side.

Cape Cormorants        Cape Cormorants

Apart from the marine birds, there is always something to watch on the Bay: canoes are popular, with about 30 taking part in a triangular race across the bay on Friday late afternoons; in summer I love to enjoy my sundowner, either alone ,or, preferably, with a friend, (often Mary Murphy and/or Christopher) watching the canoes racing past. Cataramans venture out, (often capsizing), and in season, the trek fishermen come out, with each year diminishing catches. When we first came here in 1999, it was a common sight to see the odd swimmer pass our home, but not since our two fatal shark attacks.

The most dramatic sights are the Southern Right Whales, usually in October/November, though many fewer nowadays than in the early 2000s and the dolphins, periodically surging gracefully across the Bay.



Above I attach a photograph of Farai, middle son of my Zimbabwean handyman/domestic Gift Chikonodanga, taken at his recent graduation (in electrical engineering) at CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of technology. I sponsored Farai, and also his elder brother Tendai, who graduated a few years ago from UCT, with honours in geology. It is always gratifying when one’s protégés do so well.


I have given many of you the online site for my latest book Guy’s Story.

You can buy this book at

Again the link to my LTTE, Letters to the Editor.


DWB., August 2016