Life in the Fast Lane with George (…Part 2)

A continuation from part 1

I think 1992/93 will always be etched in my memory as a very important period in my life.

To give a little context to the narrative, I am a social justice activist. I was a member of the Black Sash, whilst living in Gauteng I was involved, along with some other folk in monitoring, observing and assisting folks who were evicted from their flats. These were large scale evictions.  Unscrupulous landlords would rent these places out to people of colour, very little maintenance or upkeep of the buildings was adhered to, and because of this the residents stopped paying rent to the landlord, rather paying it into a trust account, thereby resulting in evictions. With only their furniture, clothing and household items – families were then forced to camp out on the pavements. These incidents were monitored by the Sash and other organisations, often times, we were required to spend days on end, observing and monitoring the situation.  

Any dinner party could be ruined if the other guests found out that you were a member or the black sash or politically active.

It was against this backdrop that I got to meet some exciting people and experience new things.

February 1990 heralded a new era in South Africa; political parties and organisations were unbanned and South Africans living in exile started returning home. Despicable laws separating ordinary South Africans were being stripped away, although suspicion, anxiety, anger, hostilities still existed, there was also an expectation of hope and an air of excitement, life on the political front was changing. 

South Africans voted overwhelmingly to end minority rule in 1992 and the following year Nelson Mandela and F W de Klerk jointly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and the interim South African constitution was approved in parliament.

In the midst of all this, for me personally, the most exciting event was meeting and getting to know George.

George, a South African Cypriot was born in Hillbrow, spent time in Boksburg then relocated to Port Elizabeth. 

From the outset I loved meeting and getting to know his very large and extended family. They are interesting, kind, colourful, welcoming and generous folk. 

Having met an interesting and eclectic group of friends and family, along came Arthur, who was a much loved friend of the family.

In my opinion Arthur was different, he possessed an air of authority and confidence, bold, extremely polite, yet guarded, maybe a bit shy.

I was, at the time, extremely aware of the fact that we viewed the world from very different perspectives. While neither one of us appeared to be uncertain or hostile, there was a healthy dose of curiosity.

Arthur, a self-made man, who started working for the Railways, progressed to a clothing outlet and then started working for himself, was unafraid to take risks, and loved the cut and thrust of negotiations, buying, selling and making money.

At the time of our meeting, Arthur, amongst other businesses, owned a casino. I had never, in my 37 years on earth, ever set foot inside of one,  that is, until I visited Arthur’s  777 Casino, a very tasteful establishment that was situated on Cape Road.  Arthur and George were very amused at my reaction to being in the Casino.  I exclaimed: “Wow, look at this place, it is stunning!” They were gobsmacked at my innocence, honesty and naiveté, freely admitting that this was my first visit to a casino, and that I found it to be such an exciting place.

Arthur, turned to George and said in Greek,”Giórgo, eísai polý tycherós, vríkes éna “chorianó korítsi” sti Nótia Afrikí. (George, you are a lucky man, you have found a “village girl” in South Africa.)

The ancient Greeks taught the world to broaden their view on love.  According to them, love is multi-faceted in that it encompasses many different ways of loving someone.

Briefly, there is Eros (passion), Philia (deep friendship), Ludus (playful love), Agape (love for everyone), Pragma (longstanding love), and finally Philautia (self-love)

My friendship with Arthur was based on Philia, and I quote: “a deep comradely friendship that develops between two people”, based on loyalty, sharing, deep honesty and trust. 

To the world Arthur appeared to be hard and tough, but to those of us who really knew him, he was kind, tender and generous.

Whilst I was working for Reach for a Dream (an organisation that realises dreams of children living with life threatening illnesses), Arthur asked me to give him a list of dreams.  Reading through the list he decided to fulfil the wish of a little girl who wanted to go shopping for a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt and a pair of sneakers.  “That’s it”, he declared “I want to take that little girl shopping, please arrange for us to meet with her at Greenacres shopping centre”.

I duly made the necessary arrangements, in that I chatted to her parents, sought their permission to take her shopping and then organised to fetch her from her home.

What a shopping expedition that turned out to be.  We went from shop to shop, not because we couldn’t find anything appropriate, according to Arthur, over and above owning a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and some sneakers, a girl needs other things as well.

A couple of day dresses, a party dress, a denim jacket, a pair of shoes for every day, shoes to go with the party dress, slippers to go with the nightie and dressing gown, a handbag, oh yes, how could I ever forget, a decent pair of dark glasses.

Oh, that little girl was so taken with Arthur; he was patient, kind, attentive, funny and loving. She was so amused with him for giving me strict instructions not to interfere with them and their shopping.  My job was to push the trolley and look after the bags.  Excited, exhausted and happy we were treated to a double thick chocolate milkshake at the Wimpy.  I will never forget the smile on Arthur’s face when that little girl threw her arms around him and said:  “Are you for real, thank you so much for everything.”

Arthur’s kindness and generosity of spirit was never ending, even when he knew in his heart of hearts that he was being hoodwinked, he remained gracious.

In plain simple English, I adored that man.

Prosefchi (a prayer)

Give me a border to walk

Give me a name so I don’t get lost

Give me a dream to hold on to

Give me a vision to resist (repeat)

Give me a child to confess to

Give me a kiss to wash away the sin

Wake up in the morning with a song

Where he can say prayers to life (repeat)

Haris Alexiou

Prosefchi (a prayer) from the Netflix Series – Maestro in Blue

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  • Anne Bizinos

    What a beautiful, poignant story. There are so many stories about Arthur’s kindness and compassion.

  • Sanette Cavallari

    Oh Gail… another glimpse into your colourful and intentional life ! A pause to remember and to honour a very special individual!

  • Michelle

    What a lovely Man Arthur seemed to me and what a treat that you got to go along on the shopping trip with him and share it. Lovely post Gail.