Maverick Life


My Dad, the legend — all man and all father and all true

My Dad, the legend — all man and all father and all true
A family gathering, with the author's father, 'Pa Bernie', and her mother on the sofa. (Photograph: Supplied by the author, Karen Mallinson)

Karen Mallinson, the South African chef, food writer, and restaurateur behind the now closed The Kitchen in Woodstock, Cape Town, shares the many ways her dad influenced her.

My father, filled with ambition, rode his bike from Genadendal to Cape Town as an adventurous teenager.

My father herded cows, learning Latin declensions, concurrently.

My father loved Genadendal and its people, passionately.

My father had, essentially, a working childhood.

My father, after sabotaging a prospective position by saying that he was Coloured, was forced by his father to leave home and find shelter with a relative in Cape Town

My father demonstrated extraordinary discipline, ambition and powerful ingenuity which caused him to rise in business in apartheid South Africa

My father invented cunning devices to, among others, save thousands of chickens for farmers when the power dropped, and caused the Adderley Street Fountain to drop during high winds.

My father imported insulated high-voltage cables from France which he sold to Eskom in the darkest days of apartheid, bringing power to rural areas, small towns and townships which had previously not had access to electricity.

My father had white friends who would sign for import permits and building leases because these were affairs reserved for whites only.

My father cared for orphans and for widows. He had an enormous heart for poor people in remote towns and villages.

My father, with others, opened a non-racial school in Zonnebloem in the Eighties.

My father, together with my mother, travelled extensively, all over the world and around South Africa, making friends everywhere, extending their imagination and their understanding.

When the brethren church refused to allow guitars, jeans and make-up in church in the 1970s, my father and others led all the young people out of the church, many of whom would enrich other churches with their wisdom and energy.

My father was deeply committed to missions. He supported, mentored and coached countless young leaders.

My father wore the best shoes.

My father drove interesting cars, seasons in time now marked by “the blue Chevrolet” “the long Citroen”, “the Supra”.

My father was a quiet civic activist, a disruptor, creatively finding ways to beat the apartheid status quo.

My father sat on the board of Standard Bank in the late 1980s.

My father wooed my mother by taking her on long drives through Bainskloof Pass, playing classical music on his mobile turntable in his beautiful white Valiant.

My father was a man of faith, prayer and devotion.

My father built roads and eye clinics in the Transkei while deep in his retirement.

My father loved well. He loved strangers, associates, brothers and sisters, siblings, friends and family.

My father was magnanimous. My father was gracious.

Enthusiasm was his superpower.

The Dudley family. Image: Karen Mallinson

Memories from abroad. (Photograph: Supplied by the author, Karen Mallinson)

The Dudley family. Image: Karen Mallinson

A picture of Karen Mallison’s father and mother together. (Photograph: Supplied by the author, Karen Mallinson)

The Dudley family. Image: Karen Mallinson

A family gathering, with ‘Pa Bernie’ on the sofa. (Photograph: Supplied by the author, Karen Mallinson)

The Dudley family. Image: Karen Mallinson

Another family gathering. (Photograph: Supplied by the author, Karen Mallinson)

My Dad devised special car seats on his bicycle so that my brother and I could ride with him.

My Dad and I perpetually quested to find the best slap chips in Cape Town.

My Dad and I would perform “death-defying” acrobatic feats, swinging young me between his legs and onto his shoulders.

My Dad could be dogmatic.

My Dad called me “loskop”.

My Dad came to my rescue with every distress call.

My Dad stood by my side with every tough decision.

I partly resented, partly craved his wisdom. 

My Dad showed me how to live an enormous life.

I loved the legend. Even more so because he was all man and all father and all true. Humble and bold. Vulnerable and tenacious.

I loved my Dad most of all because he loved my Mom. Properly. DM

Lessons from My Father is a series of interviews and stories collected and written by Steve Anderson. Anderson has been a high school teacher for 34 years, 26 of them at two schools in East London and the past eight at a school in Cape Town where he heads up the Wellness and Development Department and teaches English and Life Orientation. About the series, he says: “[It] is not about holding up those who are featured as being ‘The Perfect Father’. It is simply a collection of stories, each told by a son or daughter whose life was, or whose life has been in some way, positively impacted by their father… And it doesn’t take away the significant part played by mothering figures in the shaping of their children. Theirs are the stories of another series!”

In case you missed it, also read Zingisa Worthington Ndungane – role-modelling perseverance and keeping family bonds strong


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