Opinionista Mary-Anne O'Carroll 26 January 2018

Remembering Bra Hugh

The ambassador had organised for Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela to perform. God knows, we had never heard them and here they were within touching distance and performing for this relatively small group of people.

The day South Africa voted will go down as a precious and proud memory for me. I stood in my lounge ironing – sure, I ironed the same thing a hundred times over while I watched CNN reporting on the queues and the goodwill between our people. I cried long and often that day. There was no need for steam on my garments. I willed myself there in that blonde land with the blue sky and the veld. We had voted earlier on another memorable day in Berne.

Twelve Saffers in a minibus drove from Vevey to Berne where we were “allowed” to vote and then we went and celebrated afterwards in a local restaurant. I can still feel my cheeks glowing, mostly because I probably had too much red wine but also because I hadn’t stopped smiling all day.

We celebrated Madiba’s inauguration shortly afterwards at the home of the South African ambassador in Berne. Ambassadorial staff mingling with long-time exiles in ANC T-shirts, people laughing loudly, us whities on the fringes, listening in to jokes we sometimes didn’t quite understand. Hearing Afrikaans spoken for the first time in a while.

I wanted to hug that man in his ANC T-shirt speaking Afrikaans. I felt so included then, sidling up to him and joining the conversation. The ambassador had organised for Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela to perform. God knows, we had never heard them and here they were within touching distance and performing for this relatively small group of people.

They were having a gig that night in Berne and I said, loudly enough to be heard by Masekela, that I would love to atte,nd.

Tell me how many tickets you need and I will leave them at the door for you,” this wonderful man said…. I thought yeah, heard that one before… We raced back to Vevey for my husband to attend a meeting and then did some low-flying to Berne for the concert. The tickets were waiting for us at the door.

I’ve never forgotten Hugh Masekela for that and, even though the music was unfamiliar to our ignorant ears, there was nothing like the feeling of being there with a crowd of Europeans hanging on every note of the famous duo and wanting to shake our hands purely because we were South Africans. DM

Mary-Anne O’Carroll is retired student, retired exec secretary, retired mother, retired trailing spouse and current grandmother to eight grandchildren, married for 45 years and is hoping to write something readable in her next life phase.

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