Where one tiptoes on the edge of libel, slander and deformation of character, it would be sensible to use pseudonyms. The title to this blogpost is also not entirely accurate as the characters were what we all are; a mix of mostly good and a tad bad. Where I’d like to use their proper names to acknowledge the good, I’ll use other names to mention the bad, but without the bad, there’d be nothing much to write about.
I had three managers to run the Backpackers after it was up and going. I’ll call them Fred, Freek and Frank for fun and for the eff.
Fred was a youngster, twentyish; a farm lad, willing and friendly, at a stage where he hadn’t a clue what he was going to do with his life. At a loose end, I thought he could use some time to get a chance to meet people and hearing their stories, be encouraged to decide what direction to take.
It seemed to start off okay. While I was watching, things got done and visitors gave me mostly positive feedback. However, the nature of the job involved a lot of trust. Visitors paid in cash and although there was a visitors’ book, it was not always filled in. I had to trust that all fees would find their way to me. After a while, I began to hear of clients that came and went without there being any record, but very difficult to prove.
Then there was an electrician who needed more permanent lodging. We came to an arrangement for a weekly fee at a special rate. Fred and the thirty-year-old from Jo’burg became drinking buddies. Excuses were tendered why the rent was not paid or was late – the contract he had on a farm hadn’t paid him etc. Then the man disappeared, 3 weeks rent in arrears, along with several items from my store room including three Surveyor’s levels and a theodolite. I could hardly accuse Fred of being complicit, but… Fred moved on.
Of course it was me that found himself back in the Backpackers as manager until other possibilities arose. A promising replacement was a wiry middle aged man we can call Freek (an Afrikaans variant of Frederick). He was a man with a very interesting background which is another reason for giving him a pseudonym. His proposal to use one room as a leather working shop met with my approval and gave him an income to augment the accommodation and the pitiful salary that I was offering. There could be an added advantage to me as he proposed giving leather-working classes of a week long, and the students would naturally be housed at the Backpackers. If memory serves, he did hold one or two of these. Besides, I rather liked him.
His story was that he had been brought up to the age of six in the Kalahari Desert of Namibia (South-West Africa) by San tribesman, because his parents had fled into the desert to escape the government authorities. Having been a German colony up to the First World War, there was still a large German population, amongst whom there were many Nazi sympathizers, including his parents.
Taken from the San by well-meaning authorities, he became a ward of the state until he matriculated and joined the army. With a sharp brain and wit, he moved into the intelligence field. He related to me how he plied his intel-gathering trade by serving as a Koffie-Moffie, the derogatory term for an airline steward, in which capacity he would overhear and record any anti-Apartheid utterances during the flights. He didn’t go into detail about whether any of this info was of any use to his masters, but did not want his previous occupation to become known in the New South Africa. At the time, there was, he said, a woman who wanted to write a book about his experiences, and I got the impression he was rather nervous about how much to relate.
Along the street from the Backpackers, there lived a man, call him Bob, who professed to be a website wiz, whom I paid R800-00 to set up a site for the Kammanassie Backpackers. He gave me the address and I thought it looked alright; said go ahead and activate it. He didn’t.
The reason for that is bizarre. In mid-February, 2007, I was delivering milk for Sheila in Uniondale when I stopped at the Backpackers to do some bookwork. I found Bob looking for his friend, Freek, with a pick-handle to beat his brains out, he said, because his wife had run off with Freek! When he finally left on his search, Freek turned up. I had to warn him because it would be most inconvenient to have my manager’s head bashed in. He admitted that he would like to run off with Bob’s wife, but had not yet done so. Long story short: he eventually married her and they left town to go and live elsewhere, but in revenge, Bob would neither activate the website, nor return my money. Bob moved to George but I did see him there twice, and yelled Thief, thief! at him, but that didn’t help.
Renting Bob’s house in Uniondale from him were a couple we briefly got to know. Call them Frank and Flossy. Because it was so close to the Backpackers, their offer to look after it was natural, and convenient. Frank was a muzo; an ex-South African Navy Bandmaster who was teaching local school kids to play and march. I liked him, too.
Ironically, his Flossy ran off to the City of George with Bob. Frank moved into the Backpackers which gave him a small salary and accommodation while he gave music lessons. When a nice shy lady, call her Sue, moved in with him, we thought that would be a happy ending. They started a plant nursery and seemed pretty content.
But the wheels fell off somehow. Sue moved out and the local church organist, a farmer’s wife, moved in. The income from guests, which had been pretty meager, now dried up. I heard from the cleaner that they were actually turning people away. Shortly after that, they moved to George to play with organs, there.
On the point of closing up the business, anyway, a construction company came to town to upgrade a nearby road, and hired the whole building for a year at a good rental, which was great except for the damages. After that, I decided on permanent accommodation for four singles, and put it up for sale, in which state it remains until the present.
FOR SALE R695,000-00, anyone? Current income: R6,000-00 p.m.