I’m writing a letter to tell you where I am and to tell you I am fine. I hope you are fine too.
I’m in Southampton and arrived on a HUGE ship and not on Elphick’s tail. Let me just say I MIGHT have annoyed him by telling him he should try another route to the Antarctic because after that I found myself flying in the air like a cannon ball and landing on the deck of a passing ship.
When I got off the ship and still wearing my wobbly sea legs a man in uniform asked me for a passport, luckily I had the Hermanus Info booklet and I gave it to him, he paged through it and looked at me and then stamped it. So I think it can be used as a passport as well. You must remember that when you travel one day Cyril.
It rains a lot here and it’s cold. Do you know that it’s winter here? Not like in Hermanus where it’s summer. That’s because I’m in the Northern Hemisphere and you are in the Southern Hemisphere but don’t worry we are under the same sky, think of it as a big umbrella that we are sharing.
I met a lovely lady at the charity shop where I got a pair of boots, a woolly hat and a scarf. First time I’ve owned shoes. It’s very exciting. She’s knitting me a scarf and hat in the colours of the South African flag so I don’t have to wear the MANCHESTER UNITED hat and ARSENAL scarf for long because I’ve noticed a lot of finger signals when I wear them, and when I told the lady she said I mustn’t worry as long as I’m warm but I did notice her knitting sticks going much faster.
I will write again when I’m in London. Do you know that Southampton is in England? The lady at the shop told me that London is also in England and so I thought I would go to London and find Rudy and Bobby Bear, you remember them, they came on holiday to Hermanus.? I think they know the Queen too because I remember Bobby Bear saying he must send the queen a post card after he fell off his bicycle and hit his head.
Obby knew the time was right. There wasn’t a sign or anything like that- he just knew. It was like a natural instinct.
From where he stood he could see the whole of Walker Bay in its bluest colour and he thought of the magic and mysteries of the ocean and all that lived in it. He thought of all the young calves born in the bay and how their mothers proudly displayed their delight and introduced their new borns to the world by jumping in and out the water for all to see.
He too had been loved and nurtured by so many friends after he’d lost his family in the great bush fire, where someone without thought started a fire that spread and changed so many lives forever. But he didn’t want to dwell on that because he had learnt that there were far more thoughtful people in the world who had embraced him for who he was- a little mountain boy, who lived in a cave high up in the mountains above Hermanus.
He knew he had to say goodbye to friends and that was going to be hard seeing the sadness in each other’s eyes whilst looking for the understanding and encouragement to take such a big step to venture into the great big unknown.
He stood at the waters edge thinking about all the goodbyes that had been said, and all the well wishes of a safe journey, when he saw the familiar sight of Elphick swimming towards him getting as close to shore as possible for Obby to swim out and climb aboard the great big Southern Right, who along with the other whales were starting their long journey too.
Before they headed out deep into the ocean, Obby turned around one last time and saw all his friends standing on the rocks waving him goodbye- he waved whilst swallowing his tears, and whispered, “Till we meet again.”
It had been such an exciting day. Cyril couldn’t wait to tell Obby all about it. But Thursday was school day for Obby, so he just had to wait. So he waited and waited. For one whole long hour in fact.
Finally, he arrived with a big smile on his face. He always looked extra happy on a Thursday- school day! In fact everybody knew it was school day for him- because he told everyone.
“It’s Thursdays, I must get ready for school.”
“I mustn’t be LATE for school, it’s Thursday.”
“It’s Thursday-school day.”
“It’s school next Thursday.”
“I’ve got homework to do before next Thursday.”
“It’s only Wednesday, I wish it was school day Thursday.”
‘Blah,Blah, Thursday, Blah, Blah… Thursday…Blah, Blah…’ It was quite annoying! But Cyril never told him that because he knew how much Obby liked school.Obviously!
He liked learning new things ‘At School-On Thursday-Ever Thursday- Once a week-four times a month, approximately forty-eight times a year-with NO School Holidays…’ Cyril had heard this all before, again and again.
But today, this Thursday, Cyril had lots to tell Obby. So before Obby could talk about his day at SCHOOL he told him about his day.
“Obby”,he said, “I’ve had the most exciting day.”He started talking before Obby had even said ‘Hello’.
He told him that he was sitting on the cliff path near the New Harbour, when he saw two bus loads of children, “There were more than a 109”, he said. Cyril stopped counting at 109, that was the highest number he counted to-Why? Nobody knew.Not even the doctor.
“They walked along the cliff path”, he said, “From the New Harbour to the Old Harbour, 5 km’s in fact. Some complained it was too far,others complained it was too short.”
He told Obby he thought it was some type of educational outing and when Obby asked him why he said, “Because they kept pointing at me,and one little girl thought there were 36 of me’s but really it was only me she saw 36 times. I also walked the 5 km’s. Look at my sore little feet, they need a good soak in salt water”.
“Dip them in the sea”, Obby said, “It’s full of salt.”
Cyril pretended not to hear, he did that sometimes when he didn’t want to hear certain things, and he certainly didn’t want to hear about him and his toes being in the ocean-the sea and him weren’t friends ever since he had slipped off the rocks and landed in it with a big fat SPLASH!
He carried on telling Obby about all the children, and how the teachers walked with them all the way to make sure they were safe, and about the Sir Principal and his Big Boom Box and how he rapped a song and Elphick jumped out of the water to see who the new whale crier was.
He told Obby about the delicious lunch they had, and how Mr Boom Box Principal and all the teachers made sure -doubly sure- that nobody had been left out. “There was one teacher”, he said, “She was a magician because she stretched that bottle of tomato sauce from Hermanus to Cape Town. Magic at its best”.
After lunch Sir Principal and Lady Teacher, asked the children lots of questions.
“What type of questions?”asked Obby.
“Now that I think of it”,Cyril said, scratching his head, “They were about you.”
“Me?”said Obby,acting all surprised.
Cyril suddenly went very quiet and looked around to make sure they weren’t being watched and then whispered, “I think somebody is writing stories about you and all your adventures.”
“Really” said Obby, with a mischievous glint in his eyes, “I think you’ve had too much sun”.
“I think you’re right”,said Cyril,rubbing his head, “Because I thought I saw an Obby puppet too!”
“No, I mean flat like a flat-tyre,” Big Al replied.
“Okay,” said Obby, “I will see if I can get a jack as well.”
“And instructions too,” he said to Obby as he walked off in search of his troop.
As morning dawned, Obby woke to Big Al banging on his door and shouting, “Wakey Wakey Matey Matey.”
“Thanks Big Al,” Obby shouted back, letting him know he was awake.
Obby quickly got washed and dressed and ran down the mountain at great speed, only stopping to pick Mrs Sidebottom’s favourite flowers. He had promised her he would be there early in the morning, in fact he was there so early that Mrs Sidebottom was still fast asleep; the nurses told him not to wake her, not that he was going to anyway!
After a while, maybe ten minutes or so, he got bored,so he decided he would go in search of the stock room and see if he could find two knees for Big Al. Luckily, it was easy to find because on the door written in big red letters was: KNEE ROOM. He opened the door and slipped inside, he didn’t want anyone to see. He turned on the light and saw lots of boxes marked in alphabetical order. He scratched his head, would Big Al’s knees be under B for BIG or under A for AL- he wasn’t sure, so he thought it best to open both boxes and compare sizes. Inside were lots of different pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, he liked building puzzles, so he took both boxes back to Mrs Sidebottom’s bed and used her tray table to work on.
The parts weren’t numbered and the instructions didn’t have drawings or anything like that, only lots of small writing in different languages, and there wasn’t even a jack in the box, but that didn’t bother him because as long as he could put it together with enough bend that would be the most important thing, he thought.
He was so busy concentrating that he didn’t realise Mrs Sidebottom was awake and watching him.
“What you building?” she asked.
“You’re awake?” he said, and gave her a big hug. “Look, I picked your favourite flowers.”
“They’re beautiful,” she said.
Mrs Sidebottom loved this little mountain boy as if he was her own grandchild.
“What you’re building?” she asked him again.
“Knees,” he said, “For Big Al. He also needs a new knee, but I’m not sure which size.Which ones do you think?” he said, using her last bit of dental fix as glue.
“I think he should make an appointment with a vet to find out what is wrong with his knee AND I think you should put the knees back in the boxes and take them back to where you found them – before you get into trouble.”
Obby knew by Mrs Sidebottom’s tone that he must do as he was told, so he put the knees back in the boxes and took them back to the KNEE ROOM. At least he had built them for the next person-he has done his good deed for the day.
Big Al was waiting for him when he got home.
“Sorry Big Al I tried, but Mrs Sidebottom said you must make an appointment to see a vet about your sore knee.”
“I think I would rather see a Proper Doctor,”Big Al said,”What’s the name of Mrs Sidebottom’s doctor?”
“Dr Bobby Yarn,” said Obby.
Big Al looked at Obby with BIG eyes and said, “I think I will get some knee pads rather,” and with that he was off, probably in search of his troops, who seemed to be on permanent AWOL, thought Obby.
Yesterday’s reading by our community reader/worker, ‘Saved by a Whale’s Tail,’ started the conversation with the children about the ocean, the southern right whale and staying safe near water-all in preparation for their next outing-a world away for many, a 15 minute bus ride into Hermanus, a walk along the cliff path and an opportunity to see a whale or two…or three or four,as well as seeing the bold and bright spring flowers and all the biodiversity. And lots of dassies too.
“Sometimes you don’t think about how much you are going to miss someone until they’ve gone away,” thought Obby.
Today he was feeling a little sad. He wiped the tears from his cheeks as he thought of his friend Toby, who had returned to his country, which was now safe.
People referred to him as the refugee boy, but to Obby he was simply a boy, and a friend who never complained and always tried his best.
He was so proud when he finally got a passport that allowed him to travel home and his uncle travelled to South Africa to take him back, to his country of birth. He cried when he saw his brother’s son and when he looked into his eyes he saw the resemblance of his late brother. The last time he had seen Toby he was a small boy – just before the war. Now before him stood a young man.
At the farewell party, Toby spoke about his journey and the loss of his parents when their boat was struck by a wave and how their guiding spirit filled with love lead him far south to the little town of Hermanus -where he met such caring and loving people-especially Uncle Yitzhak.
Obby couldn’t believe how many people came to Toby’s farewell, young and old from all different communities, some dressed in their traditional clothes. The farewell turned into a celebration of love as everyone wished Toby well on his new journey- his return home.
Before Toby left he sat with Obby on the whales tail bench, he didn’t say much but Obby knew that just sitting together as friends in silence was a moment not to be lost. Before his final goodbye, he said to Obby, ” I told Uncle Yitzhak you will visit him and Ollie- they will like that.”
Obby wiped his face as he walked to Uncle Yitzhak’s house.