In my third year of Primary School in the UK, I had a teacher called Mrs M. Every Monday she would gather us together to sit at her feet where she’d ask us in turn about our weekend. I guess it was an early version of show and tell, without the show.
I’d often become a little jealous of some of my friends as they seemed to have very exciting weekends: ski trips, visits to Edinburgh zoo, ferry trips to islands and historic castles …In comparison, my weekends seemed rather dull and mundane: a visit to my grandma and grandpa, maybe a trip to the shops, Sunday school, and if I was really lucky, a walk to the cemetery to put flowers on my recently deceased father’s grave.
I remember one particular weekend I’d been finishing off a geography project on South Africa. I’d chosen SA for several reasons. I liked giraffes and zebras, I’d noticed that the tin of guavas in the pantry, that we kept for special occasions, came from there and then there were the Outspan oranges in the fruit bowl. Yes, oranges were considered a special treat in 1960s Scotland.
So the following Monday when it was my turn to talk, I proudly announced to the entire class that I’d gone to South Africa for the weekend. There were a few gasps and a few giggles. Then an angry shout from Mrs M who accused me of being a terrible little liar and demanding that I leave the room immediately. Humiliated and ashamed, I left the room with tears streaming down my cheeks wishing that it had been true. I so wanted it to be true. I stood outside sobbing and awaiting my fate. I was reprimanded again and told to come inside and apologise to the class for telling lies, which I duly did with my head bowed and eyes downcast.
The good news is that I received an A+ for my project which I believe assisted my emotional recovery. In spite of everything, my fascination for South Africa continued into adulthood where it remained very high on my travel Bucket List.
Last June saw my dream realised when I landed in Jo’burg on an overcast winter morning. I loved every minute. My visit to Kruger National Park was unforgettable as was the week in Cape Town. But the best part of all was that I spent not just one, but two weekends in South Africa – take that Mrs M!