Having just put my brother, Richard, on the ‘plane from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and London to visit his daughter after a five day visit with me, I am thinking about our bumpy relationship.
If ‘He’s not heavy, he’s my brother’ means what I think it does, I didn’t have one of those light ones. He was conceived when our father went off to World War II and I was conceived when dad got home. Five years between us, and he was four years old when dad was demobbed. He has memories of England before we left to live in South Africa, but I have none.
We were Jacob and Esau. I headed for the bush as soon as my little legs could carry me there, while Richard started his own garden, kept chickens, and silkworms that he made a fortune on, selling them at school for a penny a piece. In no time, he made a whole pound!
He got sixpence a week, pocket money, while I got three pence. Or a tickey, as we used to call them. He tried to lure his young brother to work in his garden for a penny a time, but did not get much work done, so there was some friction about non-payment. Stupidly, I was roped into building a canoe with him, which ended up with me taking a swing at his chin and he slapping me through the face.
Richard went to The College of the Little Flower, a Catholic high school in Pietersburg, a hundred and some kilometres away, although my parents were Anglicans. Also being sensitive and prone to bullying, he found the Brothers to be a kind haven. After much begging, our parents allowed him to convert to Catholicism. We went up to Pietersburg to the ceremony. Aged about ten, I clearly remember seeing his shoes sticking out from under a black curtain as he knelt inside some sort of cubicle and thinking that was all we had left of him; his shoes. I ran, crying, from the church. My father came to sit on the steps and comfort me, saying that he felt the same way; that Richard had been taken away from us in some manner.
Dad insisted that he do his National Service before going to the Catholic St John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria. He chose and was accepted for the Naval Gymnasium for the mandatory year, then went into the Seminary. He was there for most of the time that I was nearby at Pretoria Boys High School. The calling was getting fainter, after four years and a degree in theology, so he worked in a bank for a year to reconsider. He returned to the Seminary briefly, before deciding that the Priesthood was not for him. Unable to countenance living with Apartheid, he left to live in London and teach there, but he has remained a devout, almost fanatical, Catholic to this day. Married, with three grown children, he now lives on his small farm in Victoria, Australia.
Naturally, he is a Creationist. The sanctity of human life is a special passion of his; he can be seen picketing abortion clinics in Melbourne, so my statement that the world is overpopulated does not go down well with him. He has visited a lot of the sites of miracles in the world, from Lourdes to Bogota. He reckons that we are nearing the clash of Christians vs the Anti-christ; where the One World Order and the Illuminati make their final move.
Fortunately we all have tickets to see the show. Probably sort the population problem out at the same time.