The company I keep….


I have 4 Xhosa ladies that work for me. Thembisa, also known as Tiffa, in the house and kitchen. There’s Nonkoliseko, an awesome Grandmother, whose chief job is to look after Molly, coz she’s cerebral palsy. Then there is Noza, who comes twice a week to do the washing and ironing, brasso-ing and polishing silver, washing windows. She is about 6 months pregnant, or as my Dad says, properly up the spout.

Lizzie is my lady in the garden. She is fairly oldish, comes in when she feels like it, 100% old school and barely speaks English, she rattles off in Xhosa and has the kindness and soul of a saint.A few days after my father-in-law died, John and I arrived home to find Lizzie huddled against the wall at about 7:30pm at night, in mid winter. When we asked why she was still here, she replied that she didn’t want to leave John’s mom on her own. My mom-in-law didn’t even know that she was still there. But that’s how we are on the farms. Generations growing up together. Lizzie’s parents and grandparents growing up in this area, watching John grow up in front of them playing with their kids. It’s family in every sense of the word.

Now, having all these helpers is awesome. I leave in the morning to go to work or do the school run and arrive home to a clean house and a meal of reis, vleis and aartappels on the table. But it also comes with its side shows.

 For example buying bloody Boxer tobacco. Lizzie and Nonkoliseko, whom we affectionately call Seko, get the heebie jeebies if their tobacco runs out. So very few town runs are made without the request of Tobacco. It’s so annoying sometimes because not every shop sells it and one can only buy it at the cigarette counter, where there is invariably a queue. So with two kids clinging or running wild I have to stand in the bloody queue for tobacco. It’s not worth, not getting it. You know that saying, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Well, it was invented with Xhosa women in mind. The cold shoulder, sulking and pure punishment is NOT worth it!

Seko, is a special person. I firmly believe that divine intervention sent her to us to look after Molly. She has 6 kids. 3 normal, 1 that walks on his hands and feet, 1 cerebral palsy and 1 child who died when he was young. She knows shit. She’s seen bad things and she JUST GETS ON WITH IT! Always has a smile on her face. In fact I think that, had she been born in different circumstances, she would probably be a CEO of a company. She has Mandela’s sunny, yet pragmatic disposition. I’ve told her, that she may never leave us. She finds this very funny and laughs her head off.

It’s important to respect each other on a farm. Read The Poisonwood Bible if you haven’t already. You know…… respect each others cultures and beliefs. At the end of the day I am the boss’ wife, but respect goes a long way. And a Xhosa woman has never-ending strength and abilities. She loves her children, she laughs a lot and she loves her family. There’s no sense of humour like that of a Xhosa woman….



3 responses »

  1. Go to Weirs, buy the tabacco and resell it yourself – less mess less fuss! Thought we were doing coffee and talking about Tuscany this morning….

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