Growing up in Norton. Now it was a long time ago, but at the time it was an idyllic time in our country which was known as Rhodesia. Where do I begin to tell the story, the sweet love story that is older than the sea, where do I start? It was before the war had started and politics and hatred had not really begun, but unbeknown to us the indigenous people were quietly simmering and soon all hell was to break loose. So it is important to tell you about some of the people I knew who had very different views, so here goes.
I am at Norton Junior School as a boarder and I become very friendly with a guy called Jeff Dix. An amazing talent who could do just about anything from sports to art and so much more. He also had an older sister who was teaching at the school called Judy who to this day remains as one of the most beautiful woman I have ever known. Now the other boys had ganged up against Jeff and a great fight was had. I was the only boy in the school to support him, so the two of us were not exactly popular at the time. The long and short of this is that he asks me out when his parents come on a Sunday. Judy is also with us and we drive past a farm known as Merton Park. Even in those far oft times it was one of the show pieces of the country and Rhodesians en masse sure knew how to farm. It was owned by Sir Cyril Hatty, knighted by the crown for his services to the country as Minister of Finance. He had a son Graham, who was working for him and a great romance began between him and Judy, whom both are still married to each other.
Now here is where politics enter the equation. Rhodesia had a new Prime Minister called Ian Smith and he had just broken away from the crown and declared Rhodesia’s unilateral act of independence. You see Rhodesia had always been a British colony but independence was to be granted the same way this was given to Australia and New Zealand but in our case was denied. You see what I am really leading up to is that not everyone thought the same way about politics and how the country should be run. Sir Cyril Hatty for one had exactly the opposing views to how Smith thought. However the bulk of the white people agreed with Smith. Which is about where I come in because as a young boy I had learnt that everybody has opposing views and this did not mean that thinking differently made you any less well liked. It certainly didn’t work that way in Norton.
I have finished my secondary education and am at home on the farm before commencing to do my National Service. It is just before Xmas and a variety concert is being held in the hall at Norton Country club. I have been playing snooker with some of my mates so am late getting there and all the seats have been taken, so sit on a table at the back of the hall. Lady Doris Hatty who used to be a chorus girl is singing on stage, dressed up in a long dress and floppy hat which the girls wore way back then and she sure could sing. One of my mates says something to me at the back which causes me to burst out laughing. Lady Doris immediately stops singing and says. ‘Ah Spook, I’ll carry on when you have stopped laughing.’ The whole hall swings around and showers me with dirty looks. TSUH, and I wasn’t even laughing at her I promise Mum. It is not long afterwards that I am left totally deaf from my very short time in the army. I go to Gwebi Agricultural College and in my last year there do Merton Park as my project. Sir Cyril and Lady Doris Hatty couldn’t have been nicer to me or more helpful as were Graham and Judy.
Times are now bad and the war goes on ever escalating. Politics are now the forefront of everything and everything we stood for looks like it is being lost. Robert Mugabe, onerous dictator has a purge of his cadres in Zambia and Josiah Tongarara is murdered. Sir Cyril Hatty makes the eulogy for him and a most fitting tribute it was.
Then there were Ralph and Marguerite Palmer who were also farmers in Norton and two nicer people one couldn’t hope to meet. I well remember when I was chosen for Standard Bank first cricket team and my Dad told Ralph who replied, ‘he’ll play for Rhodesia yet’. Now they were completely opposite to most whites in Rhodesia and passionately believed ‘that you can’t judge a man by the colour of his skin’. Somewhere in 1980, and Mugabe was in power, Jim Sinclair there son in law and onetime head of the Commercial Farmers Union, came over the radio one morning. In a most distressed voice he told us ‘that there had been a murder’. It was none other than his beloved Mother in law Marguerite who had been shot in the head through the window in their household. By an African soldier, of all people. He wasn’t one of Mugabe’s lot but a former soldier in the Rhodesian African Rifles, who I guess had finally lost it and gone off his head. It was a most distressing time for all who lived in our country.
Now as time progressed and things became worse and worse in our beloved country. Sir Cyril Hatty paid a visit to parliament and there was no paper in the toilets. Can you believe it? As he said himself, he’s an old man now and the call of the toilet is never far away. The long and short of all this, is, even people who were all for the change now realised that it actually had all happened to fast. Their lovely farm Merton Park is now no more as with most farms in that poor blighted country.
Don’t you feel like crying?