This week I turn 60 and that is OLD man !
How did I make it to this age that used to be seen as senior citizen territory, in one piece.
Sure, there have been a few chunks knocked off, a few scrapes, dents, some fading and general loss of lustre.
But in my heart, I am still that kid who wants to try ramp a soap box kart over a ditch, knowing not, that failure would result in blood spilt, bones cracked and teeth lost, not to mention the beating my mum would give me for getting my clothes dirty, or torn. Dad was a bit more pragmatic and maybe even proud that Deon, my younger brother and I were learning life skills as we crashed through growing up, from hand me down tricycles to home made skateboards that he built for us in 1970/1 before skateboards were a “thing” With us racing down Stanford Terrace in Umtata in the old Transkei province in “Apartheid” South Africa. Oblivious of the damage cars, busses and trucks would wreak on our bodies if we landed under them, or by stroke of luck, splat into the side of them. Life was great, never an excess of money, toys or material things, but never hungry or cold. We developed in a way I will never regret, and in a way that set us up for success, and that in itself can be measured in so many ways.
Years later when we lived in Melmoth in the then Natal Province , now known as KwaZulu Natal or KZN my father made it possible for us to ride motorbikes by buying a few in succession including a Yamaha RD350 air cooled coffin tank which Deon and I essentially learned to ride on, though we had already been riding various farm bikes on the sugar cane farm of Jurgens Moolman, a school friends parents. Racing around town in shorts, T-shirts, flip flops and often without helmets, having removed the baffles of this two-stroke monster (we were 13, 14 year old skinny kids) the local police would wave at us and tell us we had a cool bike and to be careful. We were the kids you hate today, noisy bike, racing, doing stupid shit, and we survived. At some point my dad moved on the RD350 as it was no good offroad, and replaced it with a few other bikes, including a Suzuki OR50 chopper, TS/ER 125 and a Honda XL185S which were better suited to farm roads and off road riding. Mom rode the OR to town and visited her friends with her Poodle Pepe riding shotgun in a box my dad had mounted in the rear, they were a well known sight in town. Deon did manage to plaster one of the bikes into and over a metallic burgundy BMW 518 (if memory serves me) while riding like a hooligan in town.
We were both sent to boarding school for the last 5 years of school and only got to ride bikes and horses on our weekends when permitted to go home.
After leaving school I went into the army for a few years, getting seconded to two different special forces units as an operational medic (ops medic) which was a full combatant role. I finished that in one piece too, despite doing some stupid shit and getting involved in a few situations.
After clearing out the military my head was a bit screwed up. I had been accepted to do what was known as Dental Technology at Durban Technicon at the time but cancelled it before leaving the army, which agitated my parents as they thought I was headed on a sensible career path. My dad suggested I go nursing, of course that was just so counter intuitive to a 20 year old with a huge masculine Testosterone filled chip on his shoulder. But some research and introspection, tempered with discussions with three of my male cousins who had entered nursing in the prison service, saw me interviewing and being accepted to do my basic general nurses Diploma in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which was about 680 miles or 1150km from my parents home. Having been sent to boarding school at age 13, being away from my parent’s home was and would be nothing new, and Port Elizabeth was a great village like city.
I thought it was a way to work for a year or two and then go do a manly trade like welding or fitting and turning. Being a nursing student allowed me to do sports like wave skiing, ride motor bikes, date girls, travel to my hearts delight, while having subsidised accommodation in a block of flats the hospital owned and being one of the few students who had a car in my first year, and later a Ford Cortina pickup truck, meant I had a head-start when it came to girls, along with not living in a hostel my freedoms were really free and I loved it all. Most of my buddies in sport were always shocked when I said I was a student nurse as they saw a big 6 foot tall guy and it clashed with perceptions.
Night shift nursing in my first year 1983.
Suddenly 8 years had passed, I now had qualifications as a General Nurse, Midwife, Psychiatric nurse as well as Occupational Health and Audiometry certification. I was married to a lovely Emergency Department nurse, promoted to ward manager at age 28 but also disillusioned with the whole system. So Kim, my then wife said “Screw the hospital, let’s find you another job”
So the search was on, giving myself 6 months to find a job in the pharmaceutical industry, or else go to medical school and study medicine for 15 or so years to become a specialist consultant in some avenue of medicine.
Thankfully I found a job and as part of accepting the new job in sales, I was offered a job in Cape Town, a dream city to live in.
There we started and built a new life together, I designed a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, had a shell built in Glencairn, Simonstown and did all the finishing myself, often working till 03.00am then sleeping a few hours and heading out to work, while Kim worked a nightshift at a private hospital. She preferred working nights. Subsequent to having a miscarriage, we separated our ways, I kept the mortgage and she got the car and furniture. Zero malice divorce so we both carried on with our lives. At some point I sold the house, bought another 30 miles or 50km away in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town.
A company change saw me leave Cape Town after 6 years , and relocate back to Port Elizabeth with a new fiancé (or fiasco really) in tow with her daughter. A new house, relationship breakdown, old cars, motorbikes, scooters and some very big successes at work saw me relocated to England in 2002 through a corporate transfer. Almost 21 years later and another divorce from Nicola, some more girls, many old cars, motorbikes, amazing global travel and friendships around the world, sees me surviving redundancy, health issues, relationships, old cars, and a ton of other stuff that has brought me to where I am today.
Asking myself who the old guy in the mirror is…….
Because the guy looking at him is about to go crawl under a fiberglass car he built the last year or so to add a few final touches before taking it for its MOT test and insuring it for some open topped summer fun when summer makes it’s brief appearance. I am young and invincible, or is that invisible?
I have been kicked in the teeth a few times, had my butt kicked more times than I can remember, but you know what, Karma is a Bitch as a mistress, she will either kiss your butt or kick it. And how you deal with it, is entirely up to you.
Life is good.