Late in life, when his roots should have held him steady, he became unmoored, and it seemed inappropriate. But who determined what was appropriate?
In the summer of 1956 when he was an eleven-year old boy, the hot items were fluorescent socks in lime green or neon pink that glowed in the dark as they strolled up and down the beachfront at night. Those strolls were a local version of what his parents called shpatzieren, the pre-WWII Mitteleuropean slow promenading up and down main street on a Saturday or Sunday summer afternoon, men in white suits walking arm-in-arm with their parasol-carrying wives, the men doffing their hats to the opposing women on someone else’s arm, the women smiling back in response.
Here in southern Cape Town (or Cup-Eh-To-Ven, as his mother first pronounced it, she told him, when she heard she was to emigrate to there from Poland) no one wore white suits. Here, teenagers and parents shpatziered in casual clothes on the elevated Promenade in Muizenberg, or on the winding pavement beside the lawns of Beach Road, Sea Point.
Muizenberg was a Southern African Brighton or Blackpool, a colonial English-style summer resort, the preferred vacationland of Jewish immigrants who lived in the lower part of the continent.
Every summer for several years his family spent two weeks at The Queens Hotel, a shabby dark three-story establishment owned by some relatives of his father, open only in the summer. All the hotels in Muizenberg were colonial. Every meal from breakfast to dinner seemed to involve baked haddock, and every room had a chamber pot in case you had to urinate in the night, since the shared bathroom was at the end of the corridor or even half way up another flight of stairs. Parents requested on a form to have coffee or tea with biscuits delivered on a tray to their room each morning at 6 or 7 a.m., a supposed holiday luxury whose nature eluded him: Why would you want to have coffee served to you in bed long before breakfast and then go back to sleep?