A More Social Life?

Bishop Paget & his wife Rosemary at their home Bishopsmount, in Salisbury during WWII

Bishop Paget & his wife Rosemary at their home Bishopsmount, in Salisbury during WWII

A More Social Life?

There were no visitors to the farm, but there was the Que Que River to explore, snakes to kill and the odd leopard and crocodiles to see.  Joan managed.

A More Social Life?

Being a South African Joan had to report to the police monthly.  She would ride into town early in the morning on a horse leaving the cook’s wife in charge of the children, Angela and Tim, for a few hours.

Riding was what her sister Barbara did every day.  It had ended her life.  She was often in Joan’s thoughts.  Barbara had created an oasis of a home in the midst of the bush but after Christmas on the farm Joan decided they all needed a more social life.  Gervas agreed.  She needed a job, a car, a flat, and a school for Angela.

She wrote to Rosemary Paget, the wife of the Bishop in Salisbury for advice. Rosemary was most helpful.  A job was easy if she could type.  There was a small flat in their big Bishopsmount garden where she could live with the children.

They all set off in the train.  In no time, Joan acquired a small car, found a job and a school for the children.

But the weekend before school started the children developed severe ringworm of the scalp.  The doctor shrugged his shoulders.  “My own boys have had it for months. There is no treatment.  They cannot attend school.  Shave their heads.  Wash their pillowcases daily.  Treat it with anything you hear of.  Bring them in every fortnight to check for fluorescence under the Woods Lamp.”  Apparently they had caught it from a consignment of wool from Argentina.  It was impossible to buy wool during the war and when some did become available all mothers received an  allowance.  There were ring worm cases all over the country.

Joan cancelled her job.  She resold the car. They were back to the solitary life with Joan teaching them herself.

The big RAF training camp was close to Bishopsmount and the Bishop and Rosemary were always having shy, very young aspiring pilots in for tennis and meals.  They were a bit nervous coming to a Bishop’s home.   He was six foot five but full of fun and had a charming manner. He soon put them at their ease.  To those who came and spent the night he would say, “Now, I always end the day the same way—Chapel, a hot bath, and a drink.  But no one has to do that unless they want to.”

The airman were mostly fresh out of school. Copper-top Angela used to dance up to each new batch who came to the house and say, “Hullo, I’m Angela.  We live here with Joanie.  She looks after us because Mummy is up with God.  She’s very old, about twenty seven, but she’s lovely.”

The children thought of Joan as ancient, but she made a lot of friends in a motherly capacity.  One of the trainee airmen, David, fell deeply in love with Joan.  She told him he had a mother complex.  She hoped he would survive the war but the lifespan of bomber pilots  in 1944 was precarious.  She was still engaged to be married to Brian Freyburg, Gervas’ former farm assistant, now a prisoner of war.  She had not heard from him in eighteen months.

She recalled Jacob, the African dispenser from her cherished life at Herschel in the Cape as saying, “I have noticed as I get older, so many people are dying who have not died before.”

Could that good life be reserected?

Excerpt taken also from Rain on the Roof, by Joan (nee Millard) Freyburg (1999) ISBN 0 646 38477 5 with  family permission.   Tim Hughes has electronic copies of this wonderful book that may be available on request via the comments section of this blog.

4 Comments

  • betty goolsby

    Reply Reply April 1, 2013

    Love this South African soap opera! I see that Joan’s last name in the credits is Freyburg, so I guess her fiance’ did come home safely. Also wonderfing how many more children Joan raised in her lifetime. I do want this story to have a happy ending! Diana has so many happy, and exciting stories about her growing up years, but it seems that Joan suffered beyond words and had so many disappointments! At least now, she has some nice people to live with and socialize with. So happy the Pagents gave her new hope!

    I am very curious about the ring worm in the Argentinian wool….ghastly!

  • Tim Hughes

    Reply Reply April 1, 2013

    Betty, I can tell you that Joan had five children of her own and that she considerd Angela and myself as her children too.

  • HELEN

    Reply Reply November 17, 2015

    I WOULD LIKE TO GET A COPY

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply November 17, 2015

      You can buy a copy of Whitewashed Jacarandas on Amazon as a softcover or Kindle e-book. Click on the Buy now button on the home page or book page. Free international shipping for the same price is available from the Book Depository.

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