PJE Publishing

In late 2008, in resurrecting the two manuscripts that had lain dormant since the early 1980s, the first step was to retype them into the digital age. The process was valuable for several reasons. It gave me a refreshed view of the time-frame I had mostly forgotten, solidly in the era of Apartheid, and it was satisfying to see that I had not been totally blind to the injustices of the times, although obviously my view was very one-sided. I decided not to try and gloss over the past with the benefit of hindsight. From the writing viewpoint, I was able to proof-read as well as correct errors, and tighten the stories.


Harry Bingham – author

That done, I approached a company called The Writer’s Workshop in the UK to polish them up, if needs be. The Writer’s Workshop, brainchild of author Harry Bingham, with some thirty other published authors of every conceivable genre on tap to advise the aspirant author, is now called JERICHO WRITERS

I ordered Harry Bingham books from my library to see whether I would like what he himself had written, and was very impressed. He continues to write works of the highest order, and goes from strength to strength. (I had the delight of meeting Harry in person in 2010, but that’s another story.)

Dexter Petley

author- Dexter Petley

My books were steered into the care of Dexter Petley (author of WHITE LIES) who praised what he thought was good and slammed my weaknesses. It was quite an ego-deflating experience, but absolutely invaluable when my pride would finally admit to the accuracy of the criticism. I would very strongly recommend their services to any seriously aspiring author.

Robin S-C

Robin Stuart-Clark – publisher of Bumble Books.



Needing help with this self-publishing lark, on 28 August 2008 I contacted a man named Robin Stuart-Clark of Print Matters ( He also designs layouts and markets, as well as publishes, books, although not my genre. He suggested that I send him my thoughts on a cover for PURGATORY ROAD. He liked my attempt but made suggestions with regard to the fonts and the title positioning and the ‘teaser’. I was very excited about it and wrote, asking what I needed to send him to do the design. I also had to get stuck into writing an author’s profile and blurb for the back cover, and some alternate ‘teasers’.  He also required a photo of myself, which I was reluctant to send, but Sheila and friend, artist Johan du Plooy, both thought that most people like to see what the writer looks like.

Once I had accepted his quote for the design and printing, including the reduced rate for printing 200 books from Digital Print Solutions, he got the ball rolling. Every step was new to me. It included things I’d naively never heard of, like Imprint, Tradesheet, and Blurb, never mind the ins and outs of establishing a Website.

Robin was peppering me with questions that I tried to answer, and any reviews or positive comments I had received, but I had difficulty justifying using Dexter Petley’s comments on Purgatory Road without his permission. I needed to come up with 20 meta tags for my web-site, whatever they were. I made a deposit into his bank account so that he can get on with the job, then sent him PURGATORY ROAD. Thumbs were tightly clutched.

There followed a tennis match of back and forth when I agreed to use his recommendation of Dr Eva Hunter as proof-reader.

Robin asked me to send him the name of my publishing company and suggested PJE Publishers.  I replied okay. I really couldn’t give a damn; I just wanted to see my baby in print! So I now had a Publishing business too!

I received 4 alternate choices of cover for Purgatory Road and showed them to Sheila and Johan. We all agree which was the best but there were certain bits we thought needed to change. I also received the ISBN number. Robin sent me another cover choice and 2 text & layout choices.

I received proof 1 of Purgatory Road text, re-read it to check I agree with it, or not, then returned it to Robin. Back and forth…

By early October I completed the corrections in Text proof no. 4.

Robin sent me a suggestion for the PJE Publishing monogram and an improved cover where he had got rid of some shiny strips.  Robin again asked about the PJE logo which was becoming a nuisance as I stupidly did not really care if it was there or not in the first place. Finally there was an improvement that I replied to accept. There was still one detail on the cover that bothered me – lettering that lay on top of a cartridge case, that I drew to Robin’s attention.

purgatory cov frontThe general summary Dr. Eva Hunter gave was positive. She also liked the cover.

Dr. Eva Hunter’s Report on “Purgatory Road” by Peter J. Earle

The story is an exciting one, with excellent twists, especially towards its conclusion.  Some of the scenes are especially vivid, including those set in Rhodesia and the cast of characters is an interesting one.  The title is a terrific choice.

I input Eva Hunter’s contribution into Proof 5 and returned it. When it came back to sign off, I found 9 mistakes which I sent back to Robin to implement. Back and forth. Two mistakes corrected, okayed and finally sent for printing.

Robin sent me yet another proof after fixing the two (only) mistakes. I supposed they were washing their hands on any further errors that might exist, even if they made those mistakes themselves. I checked that those two were dealt with and asked him to send it off for printing.

By the middle of November, Robin had sent me a nice example of my web-page and tradesheet, (whatever that was!) On 21st. November, my 62nd birthday, I met up with Robin in Haarlem, on his way from Cape Town to Grahamstown. He brought my 180 copies of Purgatory Road with him, keeping 20 to distribute to whoever he wants to in Cape Town for promo purposes. Having a copy of my own book in my hand was a special triumph.

But, I was to discover, the biggest hurdle, one I have still not crossed  ten years later, was yet to come. I still have not got a distributor; I was to discover that they take about 60% of the cover price, and are still not responsible for marketing! That’s yet another hurdle.

TBPpic5528In January 2009 I had a few good words of praise from Dr. Eva Hunter with reference to the novel she was working on, The Barros Pawns. She said:  “Peter is very good when it comes to describing battle scenes and landscapes – he creates vivid images and his plot successfully suggests the tortuousness of what goes on behind the scenes when power is being fought for – I have the impression this MS is even better than Purgatory Road.”

Robin Stuart-Clark, in writing to Brian Joss, News Editor of Independent Community Newspapers, sent him a copy of PR and finished: “PS – I am currently working on Peter’s second novel, The Barros Pawns, which is a remarkable follow up from a writer to be watched.”


Posted in Backgrounds, Crime genre, Shaping a writer, Writing novels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crooked Cops & Robbers

In early March 2009, as I arrived at my office in the Twin Chimneys property, it was to find that someone had broken the security bar door and opened my office. VIVITAR DIGITAL CAMERABesides about R10,000-00 in power tools, they went off with a lot of valuable personal items including my father’s WWII medals. The robbers had emptied my desk drawers onto the floor. They even stole two large plastic tubs in which to load all the loot. Spending the whole morning with the police, I gave them as complete a list I could of items I claimed to have been stolen. It was very not very accurate as I could not remember everything in the desk drawers. The fingerprint man came out from Oudtshoorn as well, and the CID came out the following day. I gave them the details again and also the name of a witness to whom the thieves had tried to sell some of my goods; some printing cartridges and my Dictaphone.

Two weeks later, while in Uniondale, I went to see the CID cop, Sgt. Jacobs, who is handling my robbery. He showed me my little spirit-level, a dagger and a Dictaphone all taken in the robbery but I knew these had not been listed. He claimed that they had been retrieved by his ‘informer’ while she visited Zhivago, the local fence and gangster. (Saw them on his bedside table, he told me!!) How did the so-called informer know that the items were mine? It is said that the ‘informer’ is related to the cop, too. And I was asked to pay R300-00 to the ‘informer’ for retrieving the goods! Very interesting. Now that I had the Dictaphone back, I thought I’d put new batteries in it to use whenever I met up with the crooked cop.

Stolen items.JPG
I got an interview with the chief of CID in Uniondale, a Captain Benn, and reported the situation about the “recovered” goods. He admitted that it was not required to pay informers as they receive payment from the police, anyway. He said he would look into Sgt Jacobs actions, but avoided the subject whenever I asked what had happened. (Soon afterwards, Jacobs was promoted to Warrant Officer and transferred to Johannesburg…)

On 27th May I had to attend court as a witness. Eventually the case came up – they had a man named ‘Getuie’ Borchards accused of complicity and he was in the dock when I was questioned. I simply repeated my statement that I had found my building broken in to and agreed that the list of items stolen is accurate, after trying to tell them that it was incomplete. Also that I had received 3 items recovered by the police. From then I was not allowed to re-enter the court to see the rest of the case which was very frustrating as I was burning with curiosity, both for personal interest as well as from a crime-writer’s point of view!

There seemed to be four men involved in the robbery. Three of them swore, so help me god, that they were all playing cards with their mate, the one in the dock, at the night of the break-in, so he was released. No reference to fingerprints. No statement by the man who was offered the goods for sale. And so the matter rested; unsolved…


Posted in Crime genre, Shaping a writer, South Africa, Writing novels | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Novel of a Road-Rage Decision.

I thought, after a really nasty attitude by a traffic cop roadblock, that I might just understand the ultimate road rage of losing it completely and blowing them away. That action which would send one’s life to hell because of one stupid emotional blow-out.

purgatory cov frontPURGATORY ROAD – self-published 2008. Originally written in the ‘70s, this is another non-PC tale set in Southern Africa. I didn’t try to dolly it up to meet our more exacting PC obligations of the present, but to reflect the moment in history through the eyes of a South African pale-face.

At the time, in the early ‘70s, Apartheid South Africa was under siege from the self-righteous West and by the Communist Block (in retrospect, a weird alliance.) From a vision of Southern Africa’s nations proudly developing their own states separately, Apart-ness morphed into a majority oppressed by a privileged minority. Of course the vision was flawed, and even naive, but the intentions were, I perhaps also naively think, not bad. They just could not come to fruition in any practical manner, so the experiment exploded when nobody else shared the impractical dream.

The Bush War in Rhodesia was in full cry. Both the Rhodesians and South Africans were under sanctions. Petrol was rationed; speed limits to save fuel were in force. PURGATORY ROAD unfolds against that background as a stockfeed salesman speeds home to his little farm at midnight and runs afoul of a roadblock manned by corrupt police. He stands to lose his little dream-farm, and his job.

He snaps. Minutes later, he is a murderer.

At home, he finds that his wife, a city girl, has left him. With a death sentence awaiting him and nothing to live for, he sets off for Rhodesia and the Bush War, to commit a useful suicide.

It is a tale of redemption set against the powder-keg of 1970s Southern Africa.

Some reviews:

What sets Peter J Earle’s debut novel,

Purgatory Road, apart from the

rest of the genre is his compelling

no-nonsense, fast-paced narrative using

credible characters and a strong

sense of location, delivered in

unpretentious language.

In short: refreshing and remarkable.


Dexter Petley

Dexter Petley – author

…a veld-noir

just ripe for the

picking with an

original setting

and an incredible

knowledge of

the terrain. – Dexter Petley, author.



James Nesbitt – author

“...Stafford is a product of his times — born in South Africa well before the end of apartheid and white-minority rule in that country, drawn to again take up arms to defend white-minority rule in Rhodesia as a death-wish penance for his horrible crime. Earle makes no apologies for Stafford being on the wrong side of history and portrays the time and place of his novel with unblinking frankness and the same absence of apologia….Stafford knows he is caught in a vise and that’s what makes this such a classic noir tale. The setting may be the veldt, but the feel is the concrete urban jungle of American noir. Earle deftly ratchets up the fear and pressure while masterfully bringing to life one country well before its dramatic change and another that no longer exists. That’s what makes PURGATORY ROAD such a crackling read.”Jim Nesbitt, author of THE LAST SECOND CHANCE and THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER

Enquiries and Orders for the soft-cover edition from me:


More reviews:


Posted in Backgrounds, Exploring Africa, racial development, Shaping a writer, South Africa, Writing novels | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Non-PC Reflections on my first novel

Some South Africans clearly remember the increasing difficulties of life in their country as the World focused, in the seventies and eighties, on bringing the Apartheid regime to its knees by, among other methods, increasingly throttling sanctions.

Both the sanctions and the resistance thereto impacted on both the Haves and the Have-nots. Besides the tightening of belts, heightened security and stringent racial controls, there was innovation and invention.

A view through white eyes during that time expressed now is of course blatantly non-PC. However, it is historic. There is also no doubt that a certain feeling of guilt for their privilege was at the time, if not blossoming, beginning to bud.

Barros eBookCommunism was the bogeyman of the day, and a tool of good use by the burgeoning Black Resistance. My novel, written in the ’70s but finally seeing light of day in 2008, THE BARROS PAWNS, reflects this unease at the imbalance of justice, as well as the feeling of threat and the security methods used to counter the Communist advances. Only a thriller novel of adventure and the efforts by various ruthless interested parties to manoeuvre the struggle of Frelimo in Mozambique to shed the yoke of Portuguese colonial control, the background, nevertheless, is a reasonable reflection of the times.

Prof Pelissier

Dr René Pélissier

French historian, Dr René Pélissier, had this to say about THE BARROS PAWNS:

…We have in hand a late testimony on the Wagnerian twilight of Portuguese colonization in Mozambique in 1974, little before and after the 25th of April. We are under the impression the author of “The Barros Pawns” is not only inspired by Jorge Jardim, but he has visited him or has been close to him, at least at the end of his golden age.

In any case, the author probably lived in Central Mozambique at that time (early 1970’s), as he reveals himself to be an expert on the Rhodesian and South African Secret Services, as well as on the shady world of mercenaries which some rich (or super-rich) colonists of the Extreme Right want or wanted to recruit in order to save their interests against the MFA and the FRELIMO. One does not improvise to be a specialist of the aviation club of Beira, not without having known the place and Jorge Jardims’ parachute girls, at the time they were illustrated in magazines.

The incredibly complicated story of a band of mercenaries, who are killing one another due to lacking leadership, the invented episodes by the author etc, are all less essential in comparison to the realistic description given of the “end-of-era” sentiment, which reigns in the Portuguese army in 1974.There is no consideration for its army’s martial qualities (except when in the commandos), any more than it admires the settlers’ indecision, divided between its generations. No matter what it is, it is a book which subscribes itself under a series of relatively old fictions in English on Central Mozambique and even on Zambezie. The unforeseen heritage of Livingstone? Perhaps not, but certainly that of the Company of Mozambique, without any doubt.

Translated from the French by Ximena Maartense. (Bold emphasis by me.)

Jardim ladies

Gorgeous Jardim girls with their mum.

For the record, I had heard of Jorge Jardim, and indeed, as a skydiver, of his adventurous and beautiful daughters, who sparked my imagination, but my characters actions bear no resemblance to those of that family.

The Softcover edition of The Barros Pawns is currently out of print, but the eBook is available at 



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The Church on Time

A girl’s wait for Mr Right gets to the point where whether she and Mr Right can still share children gets a bit iffy as she sidles up to forty. So at thirty-four my daughter was cutting it a bit fine, I would have thought, but then she phoned to inform us that she had met him at last at her church. Mr Right, alias Frederick Malleson, was duly brought down from Pretoria in mid-January of 2008 to meet us. Besides having their church in common, both had been brought up on farms. Frederick’s family owned a large dairy operation on the outskirts of Pretoria, with a milk processing plant as well as a large herd of Ayrshires.

Nicci wed - Fred

Mr & Mrs Frederick Malleson

They were engaged in March with the wedding set for July 5th, 2008 with the chapel of Lord Milner School, Settlers as the venue. Sheila, who had sworn never to venture to the metropolis of Gauteng ever again, reneged for the occasion, and we set off on the twelve hundred km journey to Settlers, and Greet and Dennis Driver’s farm beyond.

We deviated in the Free State to overnight with our good friends, Greta and Carlo Bighi; a good excuse to see them and catch up. As we entered the nightmare traffic of the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria the next day, Friday, Sheila lay down on the mattress in the back of the Venture van and closed her eyes to avoid seeing it while I drove. With boondocks relief, after a 4pm deadline for a rehearsal at the school, we made it to the tranquility of Dennis’ farm in the Bushveld where we were given a camp chalet to share. It was one of several used for visitors and wild-life students attending lectures on their game farm, where members of both families were made welcome for the occasion.

Nicci wed PJE & brideIt was with some surprise and embarrassment that I had discovered that it would not be Dennis, her step-father, who would be giving Nicci away, but myself. She rightly called him Dad, and me Peter. However, I was really honoured.

At the camp, Frederick’s family provided the loaves and fishes for us hoards and we slowly got to meet them all and renew acquaintances with Greet and Dennis’ family. The Saturday morning, after a Bushveld stroll, greeting old tree friends, we had a slap-up English breakfast provided by Frederick’s mum, Anna. Sheila went off to Settlers to join old friends, June and Gay Sabatier, and her nephew, Andy Maling and his wife Colleen, who had been accommodated in the empty school hostels. I joined Nicci in the bridal car, an Audi Quatro driven by my son Ryan and accompanied by  their sister Cathryn, a bridesmaid.

Nicci wed portraitNicci was not at all nervous, that I could see, and all the tales of the glow of beauty that enveil brides on their wedding days were evidently perfectly true. She was on my arm as we followed the bridesmaids and flower girls up to the chapel which was the ex-dining-hall when I had attended the same school in 1953-59. When I had handed her to Frederick and answered the minister’s query as to who giveth this woman to this man? in the affirmative, I could go and join Sheila for the rest of the service.

It was a fine wedding. There were more than 200 guests. Kids were welcome and catered for with a play room and a movie room. Speeches were entertaining, and I was surprised to find that Andy had been asked to speak on the influences Sheila and I had had on Nicci! He did a good job of that, his first ever public speech. Then Ryan, then the two best men, then Frederick, and even Nicci herself got a speech in! It was wrapped up by a speech by Dennis’ sister Margaret Acres who spoke about Nicci’s achievements. I was very proud of Nicci, but can take no credit for being any influence on those. Her B.Sc in Physiotherapy and her Masters in Development Studies were her own hard work and intelligence.Nicci wed vows

Nicci wed Earle fam

L-R: PJE, Sheila, Ryan, Elaine; seated: Nicci, Frederick with Thomas.

Later, as the party got into full swing, a friend of Nicci’s mimed Ray Steven’s Ahab the A-rab which was excellent. Then we got a song-sheet to sing off, about Frederick’s meeting with Nicci to the tune of Doggy in the Window which was also a scream. A lovely wedding, indeed.

We returned to the farm just before midnight to sleep, then went back to Settlers to join June, Jonathan and Gay, Andy and Colleen for breakfast, chatting until noon when Andy had to leave to catch their flight back to Cape Town. Sheila and I drove to Bela Bela (Warmbaths) to catch up with old friends and spent the night again in our chalet on Dennis’ farm. Slowed by a horrific road in the Free State, we only made it to Ladybrand the next night, but were home again the following one. No place like home.

Oh yes, and their honeymoon…

From Nicci’s letter in August:

By now you know about that ‘top-secret’ honeymoon … When we finally left the reception, we made our way to Zwahili Game Lodge, an exclusive (12 guests at full capacity) bushveld resort about 40 minutes drive from Settlers. We stayed in a luxury thatched-roof tent-cottage with gorgeous views over the surrounding bushveld and koppies. Frederick had wisely booked both Saturday and Sunday evening there so that we did not have to travel the day after the wedding. We had a lovely relaxing day on Sunday: a late morning, afternoon nap and a game drive after high-tea, followed by a 5 course meal served to us in our own cottage! We actually felt a bit guilty knowing how hard everyone was working to clean up!

On Monday morning, after a late start and a stop to pick up shopping supplies on the way, we drove down to Clarens – a little tourist town in the South Eastern Free State, nestled in the Maluti (Lesotho Drakensburg) mountains, and filled with art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and coffee-shops. Our room had a lounge and a fire place, with a four-poster bed, under-floor heating and a great view of the mountains. It was a really lovely week, with just the right balance of relaxation and adventure. We planned it so that we had one main activity per day, which took up no more than 4-5 hours, and then spent the rest of the time sleeping, eating and reading together. Our ‘adventures’ included abseiling, quad-biking, hiking in the Golden-Gate National Park, and visiting a spa for a steam and massage. Neither Frederick nor I had been abseiling or to a spa before – so both were new experiences. Unanimously the abseiling was the value for money winner and most likely future repeat!

Reading? Really?

Posted in Family, Shaping a writer, South Africa | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Smoke, but no Fire

When Dawid October approached me for advice about selling his home on Plot 222, Haarlem, I asked him what price he had in mind. He said R35,000-00; then when he saw the look of horror on my face: “Do you think it’s too much?”

T-Chimneys.jpg“Too little!” I said. “It’s worth twice that.”

“So, do you want to buy it?” he asked.

“No, I thought you wanted me to find you a buyer?”

“Yes, but why don’t you buy it?”

The property was located on the main road of Haarlem, the house had a good roof but no floors, no ceilings, the internal walls were disintegrating, and, worst of all, it had two families living in it.

I would hate to live on the main road, being a bit reclusive by nature, but it might make an investment to repair and resell. So, reluctantly, having a small inheritance to invest, and believing in property as an investment, I bought it. At least nobody could accuse me of taking the seller for a ride.

Dawid moved out of his half of the building, but his three cousins, resident in the other half, had not moved out in the three months notice I had given them. I pleaded and begged, but two months later, they were still there. I started knocking down the interior walls to use as fill under the yet-to-be floors. The brothers moved at last.

Dawid’s grandfather had two sons and two properties, side by side. He gave the elder the one with the dwelling on, and the younger got the other without, but it was understood that they could share the house until the younger built his own house next door. The sharing of the house involved two kitchens, so, another chimney was built, but no house next door.

The two brothers grew old and passed on. The older left his plot, with the house, to Dawid, his only son. The younger gave his empty plot to two of his four sons. The other two got property elsewhere. A dwelling was started next door but never finished; thus three of the sons had stayed on, sharing with Dawid.

Twin Chimneys.jpg

Twin Chimneys, before the addition of the veranda,

Some sort of pub, or restaurant, I thought, being on the main road. I put in concrete floors, tiled them, outfitted the outer rooms as a kitchen with worktops, and an office with adjacent toilet and shower in case it was used as a flat. The two chimneys, side by side, made an interesting feature for the dining area with a yellowwood bar-counter, behind which was a wash-up sink and secure store for booze. Alongside these were a gents and ladies washroom/toilets.

Then, with approved building plans, I added a big 6x12m veranda on the street side. And along came a gent from Cape Town, with family in Haarlem, to hire it from me as a night-club. Well and good. I gave permission for him to close in the veranda area to use as a disco, and he started to apply for permits. I accepted a low rent for six months to give him time to get his ducks in a row.

He spent mega-bucks on painting it out, adding security lighting, sports-bar TV screens, stools and tables, fridges etc. His young relative, Reagan, was a DJ, but he cautiously invited local dignitaries and senior citizens to an introductory opening where he explained the need for a licence pub, the only one in the village, to prevent young folk from driving to neighbouring towns for such entertainment. Everyone there agreed that it was a good idea, but the ANC councillor did not attend, although he had been invited. He set about condemning the idea of a bar in his town, even though he did nothing to eradicate the more than a dozen illegal shebeens. He set about stymieing the applications for licences.

To bring in something while waiting for his permits, Reagan had some disco events, even advertising them, saying, “Bring your own XYZ.”

A paleface, newly moved to the village, had built his home on the main road a block from the pub. He phoned me at two in the morning and yelled at me about the noise. I told him that what the business owner did with it was not my concern. I had to turn off my phone every Saturday night. He also involved the police with a written complaint, which did not help with the application at the liquor board… He was the only one whoever complained.

He also complained to the building inspector that I had closed in the veranda without permission. The Inspector wrote me an ultimatum about submitting more drawings or tearing it down. I tore into the Inspector about his allowing hundreds of tin squatter shacks all over Uniondale and elsewhere, but being petty with my veranda…

The ANC councillor once pursued me home, filled with righteousness about alcohol and the devil, but I pointed out that he was in a marvellous position to aid the community with the chance of several jobs, as well as a locally run  business to be encouraged and should grab the opportunity with both hands. He simmered down; admitting he had arrived with anger and was leaving with something to think about. He did withdraw his opposition thereafter, but it made little difference as the damage had already been done, and he lost his position to a DA councillor in the next election. The DA councillor was no help either. Lately, another ANC councillor has the position and things now look a little more promising as he tries to persuade the Municipal hierarchy that the village does need a place of entertainment.

The section of the village in which the property is situated had been officially designated as commercial, but I still had to apply for rezoning, which took months of meetings and cost me R8800-00 to George Municipality, under whose care we lie. They eventually sent me a letter confirming that it was rezoned to commercial in 2014, but didn’t bother to give me the certificate which is required for all licence applications…

They eventually sent one late last year for a residential zoning! When I went to George to get the correct one, they had lost all my files and grudgingly gave me one earlier this year (2018) which excluded a place of entertainment.

To date, August 2018, licenses are still being sought. I could weep for my tenant, but unable to raise the rent as per agreement, I calculate I have sacrificed more that R110,000-00 loss of revenue. More fool, me, but half a loaf is better than zilch. Nobody else has offered to hire the place, and I am too busy writing to run a business there myself…

Posted in Building, Shaping a writer, South Africa | Tagged , | 1 Comment

MisManagers, Managers & Misses

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.

West facade BP.jpgI 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.

KB SW elevOn 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.

Posted in Shaping a writer, South Africa | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments