A Prior Engagement.



Soon after I got back to work, agricultural surveying in Shangaan-land, I was informed that, firstly, I was to join the team in northern Mozambique, and secondly, was given the go-ahead to order my own new Series II Land Rover!

Joy, joy, joy!

As the first week of May 1971 was spent at the head office of Loxton, Hunting and Associates in Sandton, I was invited to stay with my good friends, Bert Sabatier and his wife, June, in nearby Greenside, Johannesburg.

Naturally, I contacted Liza Theunissen, recently met in Mozambique, who joined me there.

I drove the minimum mileage required to carefully run the new vehicle in, had it serviced, packed tools, food and equipment required for eight months in the bush, said goodby to Liza and set off north.

The six cylinder engine blew up with a bang not far from Warmbaths! The garage that had sold it towed it back to Sandton, but the broken rocker arm was not available and had to be ordered from the UK.

Back to tracing maps in head office, and living with Liza at Bert and June’s flat while waiting for it all to happen. This was a time of frustration on the one hand and sexual bliss on the other. I asked Liza to marry me; she said yes.

We had a party at Bert’s place to celebrate. I took her home to meet the folks.

“So, Dad, how do I know it’s the real thing?” I asked him when we were alone.

“There is magic,” he told me. “The bells ring and you walk on air. Real magic, the way I felt about your mum.”

Which I thought was either a load of horse-shit, or it simply had not happened between Lisa and me. I had thought myself in and out of love since I fell for Joan Robertson when she was six and I was nine, but it seemed to all be one-way traffic. Rather pick a suitable person; sensible, interesting, kind, and persuade her to marry you. Less heartbreak if it doesn’t work, I thought.

But with Liza, there seemed to be something wrong. She was great company, sense of humour, generous… but something bothered me.

I wrote a poem about my doubts.


Observe, my friend, the picture that you painted yesterday;

It stands upon the easel by the tubes, still on their tray.

The sunlit attic window holds the oils sharp; they glisten.

You see right through the painting, and you tilt your head to listen.

You hear, my friend, the voices calling softly from your dreams,

“Was this really in your vision? Is this picture what it seems?”

You still can feel the tremble of the paintbrush in your hand

As you raised up that mountain and you forested the land.

You still can hear the gushing of the pure clean mountain stream –

With soul and hand uniting, you immortalised your dream.

But now, today, you’re frowning and you shiver, ‘though it’s warm.

Is there discord in your mind? Did your hand distort the form?

Those figures in the foreground, do they grimace? Do they smile?

Walk they the path to freedom? Do they tramp the gallows aisle?

You hear the drum beat plainly, see the dancers move and sway:

Do they still feel the rhythm as they felt it yesterday?

But, ah! I hear you laughing. Is it bitterly, or gay?

Are they not lost forever, those dreams of yesterday?

Come, hold your head up proudly, give me answers to these things!

Is that your heart a-crying, or that your soul that sings?

Liza decided to come north with me and catch a train back to South Africa from Salisbury, then catch the liner to go overseas as she had always planned, while I was away in Mozambique. I had no problem with that.

Liza gave me a letter to post to her parents in Australia. Before posting it, I steamed it open and read it. She told them that she had met a bloke she liked who had asked her to marry him. She said she was giving it some thought…

What a relief! It not only justified my reprehensible action of reading her letter; it put to rest the doubts and uneasiness. I did not tell her what I knew. We had a great trip north when the vehicle was ready once more. When I said goodbye in Salisbury, I knew it was not au revoir. A few letters later, she broke off the engagement.

And Africa was waiting for me.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 6 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom - #1' 'Medicinal Purposes Only - #2', and 'Children Apart - #3; and 'Tribes of Hillbrow'; all from Southern Africa.
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