Wednesday, October 18, 2006

once was home

I’m excited about going down to the Natal Midlands this weekend for reasons other than fun and games. It was my home for 18 odd years afterall.

I grew up in the same house for all that time. The last visit to my old house – and it is old, a Victorian masterpiece built in 1856, originally a girl’s boarding school or so the records say – I was with Ex S. We walked in and I immediately burst into tears. It’s a heritage site, and I always hope some fucker doesn’t move in one day and fill it with Lubners furniture and stick a tiled floor in the passage. Unfortunately, on my parent’s divorce eight years ago my mum sold it, and I was most distraught.

I know that house so well. I flicked the old light switch to my bedroom and just the ‘click’ of it bought back countless [happy] childhood memories. I am so attached to that house; I remember every nook and cranny, every smell, everything like a blueprint in my skull . I still dream about living there very frequently.

It’s beautiful. Tin roof, Victorian fixtures, pressed ceilings, wooden floorboards, fireplaces in every room. An old bath tub on claw legs, huge spaces. I remember every creak, every balustrade over the doors and bay windows.

That house is the very foundation of my growing up.

Going there evokes fixed feelings of sadness, nostalgia and happiness. For even though the house was old and creepy, I was never scared of being there alone as a kid. It always felt safe. It had a substantial garden complete with indigenous forest and an intricately huge plum tree as large as your average Fourways Tuscan box.
At boarding school, my initial homesickness was manifested by pining for my home.

It even has a resident ghost(s). I never saw it until my last night sleeping in that house. It was the night before I went down to UCT. I woke in the middle of the night of thirstiness. As I popped my eyes open, a youngish man with a hairy face and a tie-dye (that’s not a typo – it was indeed tie dye) t-shirt was staring right into my face.
I got the fright of my life.
Not because he looked scary, but there was a man staring directly into my face.

I sat up and saw the high top trainers he was wearing. He was a character out of That 70s Show. He walked to the end of my bed and dissolved.
Literally. Like a Disprin.
I got water, and went back to bed, still unsure of what had just happened.

I told my mum the next day and even she was sceptical. We both moved to Cape Town and that was that.

Seven years later – that’s last year – my mum went down to Natal to see some mates, and stopped in at the house. (We’re those annoying types that knock on the door: “Hello, we used to live here, please can we come in?”) She chatted to the woman for a while, who has apparently opened up a tea place (such a Midlands thing to do), on one side of the house. There are pictures of us and other old inhabitants on the walls.
Then they had this conversation:

Lady That Lives There Now: Did you guys ever feel anything here? You know, like another presence?
Mum: No not really. Always felt very safe.
Lady: Because I have seen two ghosts since we’ve been here.
Mum: Oh really?
Lady: One is an old lady; the other is a young guy.
Mum: Beg pardon?
Lady: Yeah, they’re both very friendly. The guy especially. Wears a tie-dye t-shirt and has lots of facial hair.

A ghost alibi we call it. Did I shit my doondies? No, because it wasn’t an experience out of Amityville Horror.

I am in love with my old house. I’m still uncertain whether I should actually visit it this time around. It evokes hardcore emotions. Perhaps I’ll take the boys just to my school. And show them where I wrote something on the ceiling beam of the dorm I slept in.
(“Peas 4 Brent 4eva”. And “K & Peas smoked first cigarette on 28.10.95”) Bless.


Crusoe said...

You should go and visit and embrace whatever emotions come your way! There isn't anything to be scared of except remembering your past. You definitely shouldn't try and forget it, or hide it.

When my family moved to SA we lived in the same house for 22 years and only moved out when my parents split - sound familiar? I hated that house for years but now when I go back I get to remember so many cool things from my childhood, and I'm really grateful that my old house was able to bring those memories back!

boldly benny said...

Hi Peas
I can totally relate. My parents moved out of our family home when I was living in another province, I felt so uneasy when I returned to Cape Town and they were in their new house. It didn't compare to the warmth and comfort of the house I'd grown up in. The house that was filled with so many memories and had watched my four siblings and I grow up.
About two months ago, my siblings and I did an email session about where we recounted all the memories of our home and it filled me with such a warm, grounded feeling.
From living in one house for 21 years I have moved about eight times in the past two and half years and lived in three different provinces. I sometimes long for the stability and comfort of my old home and I wonder if the new people know what a legacy that house holds.
It's been completely wrecked now, our big garden has been paved and our beautiful big oak cut down so I can't even drive past it when I visit CT, but I suppose it could be worse, it could've been mowed down in favour of a Spar.

Kate said...

I have never seen a ghost, and the jury's still out on whether or not I believe in them (I want to, but its hard to make that leap). But a friend of mine sees ghosts all the time. She swears that my boyfriend's old digs in Gtown is haunted by ghost cats! I love the idea that there are generations of ex-cats still prowling the house for ex-mice!

Forty In The Shade said...

You must go to your old house, every chance you get.

Forty In The Shade said...

...Great post by the way.

Inyoka said...


I know the feeling. I grew up in a house which my father built himself on a farm in the Rhodesian bush. Made the bricks and all out of antheap. Tin roof from another farm house, with holes in as they could not quite match up the old nail holes. No ceilings. It was like being inside a Jamaican bass steel drum when it hailed. You could not hear yourself speak.

It grew from two rooms with a lean-to kitchen with a cowdung floor and an outside long drop into a rambling ranch house with about six bedrooms, lapa, pool, tennis court and outside cottage during the 50 odd years that we were there.

It was a home like no other and I was supposed to go back there to take over the farm in about 1998.

Unfortunately, Mr Mugabe had other ideas and we lost everything - house, farms, the lot.

I will not even try to begin to explain the rage that engulfs me when I think of it and some...


No ghosts though.

Although, give the right circumstances, I would like to arrange some.

Erik said...


When I go to see my folks, I still go to the same house I grew up in from age 5 until I left for college. Yep, lots of memories.

Kevin Cadman said...


An absolutely beautiful post. Hope that this time around it doesn't invoke feelings from when you were there with Ex S, especially if you're going with sort-of-kinda-of-might-be-maybe-will-things-are-cool-with-guy-you're-sorta-seeing!

You have yourself a splendid day now :)

Koekie said...

Goosebumps! I like to think I'm a sensible girl - sometimes - but down at res I saw a ghost (middle-aged man, slightly balding) at the foot of my bed and woke up with my door wide open.

I put it down to student hallucinations (ahem) and never told anyone... until the girl who got my room the following year mentioned something about seeing a guy at the end of her bed.

It was freaky, but also not Amityville/The Ring kinda way ;-)

tBerry said...

great post peas.
I went to Maritzburg last year with my wife who had been to varsity there. it was really weird cos she had been going out with a zimbo for entire varsity career. Brought back lots of memories for her, but she was able to share them with me. I reckon it strengthened our relationship even more (if thats possible...)
oh, and I love the word doondies...

Jam said...

Gorgeous post Peas.
Hope you get a chance to go past the house again - there is something comforting about being around the place you grew up in. I'm lucky enough to live in close proximity of where I grew up and I rememeber it fondly. Whenever I'm feeling really low, I drive past to get the taste of warmth, love and fun all over again.

Peas on Toast said...

Hi chaps!

Thanks for your lovely comments about the special places you all grew up.

Inyoka - yours hit quite a nerve my dear. Your house sounded exquiaite and fat fuck syphilis Mugabe went and took it away - it fills me with SUCH rage I can't tell you. It's happened to one of my mates who also had a farm there (belonging to generations) and was zyphed by him. Fuck it makes me mad.

tBerry - funny, Ex S is from Zim originally.

Thanks guys for your cool compliments and now I realise I must stop into my house. I'll regret it if I don't, as it's such a special place for me.
This is why I love the blogosphere - encouragement all the way! Thanks chaps.

Billy said...

Nice post. On the ghost issue, hmmmm..... interesting.

On another note:

Natal and weed have had a long tradition of association, i hear, your comments please?

Kate said...


That is so bizarre! I know who you are, because I was in that room the following year (after the girl you mention)! I never saw the ghost exactly, but I remember discussing this with you (bloody years ago) and saying that Denise said there was a ghost in my room!


Peas on Toast said...

Billy - I knew at least one person would think I'd been smoking my socks! :)

It was a strange experience, one I've kind of pushed to the back of my mind and previously tried to ignore. Then this woman said she'd seen it too. Dodge.

Perhaps we're all bonkers from that side of the world! ;)

Kate meet Koeks, Koeks meet Kate. You must know each other - both being Rhodents and all. ;)

Koekie said...


This is so freaky (in the Amityville kinda way...)Good times.

Made my day!

Peas on Toast said...

Fucking hell - how hilarious is that! The blogosphere is getting smaller and smaller as it gets bigger and bigger - what are the chances you okes know each other??


Koekie said...

*Koekie rushes off to see what Kate's been up to, but will be back later to see what Peas has been up to...*

Kate said...

That is really strange! Dont you just love "small world" moments?

Except when I run into people I went to high school with :)

kyknoord said...

Nothing like a post about a ghost. I'm glad it didn't happen to me. There are few things scarier than the thought of hippies in the house.

Anonymous said...

so when the ghost dissolved - like a disprin - does that mean that the room had a slightly effervescent quality, became oddly misty and translucent and took on a mildly bittersweet flavour? - or am I reading too much into that?...F___zeeeee!