From the farm, the road ran through Jinnah Park, the “Indian township” of Apartheid South Africa, just outside Warmbaths. They were mostly Muslims, and only a few Hindus. The Ravat family had a large general-dealer. There were at least three Ravat brothers and a sister, Rashida.
In the mid-eighties, they wanted to erect a building-material shed behind the shop, and got Sheila to draw up the plans, which was easy with her architectural drafting past. But whenever she asked for her money, a mere R50-00, the eldest brother always had excuses, like he did not have his cheque-book with him, just banked the till, etc.
One day Sheila looked around the shop and selected enough goods to cover her invoice, and told him they were now square. He protested that she should pay VAT, but she reminded him that she had not charged VAT for her work, so it was his problem. How his younger brothers laughed at him!
The Ravats treated her as a friend of the family from them on, giving her sweet and savoury treats at Eid and a present at Christmas. They became loyal milk customers and warned her when an irate local dairy farmer objected to losing their custom. He would lie in wait to catch her selling milk as her dairy was not registered. Done properly, hand-milking is cleaner than machine milking, and Sheila was scrupulous.
She would drive straight into the Ravat’s yard, then, with her overalls on and a balaclava on her head, she would deliver her milk around Jinnah Park with her delivery bicycle, while the farmer sat waiting in a dark alley for a white woman who never seemed to arrive.
Rashida Ravat had to marry a man from the home country that she had never met. Sheila was invited; the only non-Muslim there. The men and women attend the ceremony separately, so Rashida did not meet the bloke until after they were married. He was squint-eyed and did not speak a word of English. She confided her shock to her friend, Sheila!
Sheila met Dr Bhamjee, another Jinnah Park resident, at St. Vincent’s Hospital where Sheila worked. She respected him enormously and he became a friend. The local white doctors who got paid to serve at St Vincent’s would not actually touch a patient of darker hue.
George Barrington, an ex-Kenyan “White Hunter”, and his American wife, Linda, had an orange farm and had kids the same age and at Lord Milner School with Sheila’s two boys, and they became good friends. A karate instructor came weekly to the Barrington’s to give lessons. George and I, chatting in their kitchen, were alarmed to hear the kids shouting, “Kill! Kill!” from the lounge. We dashed in to put a stop to this and of course then discovered that that was not what they were shouting…
Linda, Sheila and two other women used to manage to get in a weekly game of tennis at the local caravan park. Of the two others, one was a rather prissy Afrikaans lady. One day, the others saw her stop playing, stunned, and hiding behind her racquet. They turned to find that a naked bloke had emerged from a nearby caravan, smoking, with an ashtray in his hand. It wasn’t the man that caused the other three to hoot with laughter, but the reaction of the prude, peering through the cat-gut with her lemon-sucking expression