Category Archives: Writers Pad Additions

Cemetery Tales 1

One of my favourite memories of my childhood was the time we lived with my grandparents next to a cemetery. My grandfather was the superintendent of cemeteries in Pretoria. One of the perks of his position was free housing next to Sandfontein Cemetery It was located on the southern slope of Magaliesberg and while we stayed there, a highway was being built just to the east.

Soon after they moved in they noticed lights in the cemetery that didn’t have any electricity. My gran wasn’t one to go “Oh, Gosh! What now?” She bullied my granddad to go into the cemetery with her so that she could see where these lights were coming from. Now in those days, you got these plastic flowers that were covered with a plastic dome. The domes turned out to be the moonlight reflecting off the flowers on the graves.

The new highway included blasting through the mountain where the highway had to cross the mountain to the North. Natural habitat being invaded made the jackals and snakes retreat to the least affected area; the cemetery. Now imagine a cemetery filled with lights particularly on a full moon and jackals crying. Real monster movie material!

My uncle played guitar in a band that used to play dance music. Two-step music mostly. This was in the eighties and all the favourites were played. My cousin and I used to dance between all the adults. Boys our age not being interested at all. They preferred playing outside in the dark and getting up to various naughty things. And that is how my brother got a ticket for driving without a licence at the age of twelve.

Because of the very low living population at the cemetery, my uncle, and his band used to practice in the Rondawel next to the main house. It’s not like the neighbours were going to complain, right? They regularly practiced until just before midnight. Once they finished, they would have coffee provided by Gran. One night that they practiced the full moon came up very late. We were all well aware of what happens in that situation. But one of the band members believed in ghosts. He walked out the front door, saw all the lights in the cemetery and heard the jackals howling. For a fairly big guy, he moved with remarkable speed to his car, jumped in and locked the door.

Okay, so this is where I get my mean streak from, Gran walked over to the car, knocked on the window and told him calmly that a locked door wouldn’t stop a ghost. Right then he pleaded with the rest of the band to pleeease can they go now?

My granddad used to love practical jokes and telling jokes. So, I have no idea if this story is true or not, but…

Granddad told us when he was younger and he was working at another cemetery, they found a guy in the bottom of a grave that had been dug for the next day. When they took him out he told them what had happened after asking for a match first.

He was out drinking and when he walked home, he decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery as it would be a much shorter route. But since there were no lights in the cemetery, he fell into the open grave. This accident removed most of his drinking buzz. Try as he might he couldn’t get out of the six-foot deep open grave. He tried everything he could think off but failed miserably each time. Knowing that someone would help him out in the morning he picked a corner and took out his cigarettes only to realise that he didn’t have any matches on him. This turned into another search, but alas cigaret in hand came up empty on matches. With regret, he seated himself again in a corner. He was sitting there for about half an hour before the second guy fell into the same open grave. The new guy went through the same motions trying to get out without success. Once he gave up and took a seat in an opposite corner the first guy asked the new one if he had a match by any chance. He said in one move the new guy jumped out of the grave and he was stuck without a match again.


Sometimes mothers do something inappropriate to proof a point. Like the other morning when I deliberately took my six-year-old, tantrum-throwing daughter out of the car and drove away. Yes, I do know that is probably social security worthy, but I only drove around the corner, turned around and picked her up again. Plus I chose a very safe spot to do this. The tantrum, however, was gone.

But what happened to me as a child was easily one of the worst mistakes a mother can make. We were living in Germiston, Gauteng and went to visit family North of Pretoria. At a rough guess about 120km away from home. During the visit, it was decided to not make lunch, but rather to go to a restaurant in Pretoria North a suburb of Pretoria.

Since I was very small my dad used to ask me how we would drive to a familiar place. He still remembers the little-crooked finger that I used as a toddler to show him which way to turn. It was a game we played a lot. So by the time that at I was eight or nine, I had a fair knowledge of roads. When we left the farm to go to the restaurant, I was feeling very “grown up” and decided to drive with the women instead of with the men who had all the kids. The restaurant had parking areas on two different roads. The men used one and the women the other.

I whispered to my mother that I was just going to the ladies room as they were paying the bill. I walked out of the toilet and saw that no one was left in the restaurant. I quickly walked outside just to realise that they were gone. I have always been a fairly independent person and decided that since it only took 5 minutes by car to get back to the farm, that I would walk there.

But at that age, you have no understanding of how far a five-minute drive could be. I started out full of confidence. The first kilometre was going well. Even the two families that stopped and offered me a ride I waved away with a smile. I knew where I was going and didn’t need help. By the end of the second kilometre, I was sure that I was turned around. Suddenly I didn’t recognise the road anymore, the sun was starting to go down and I knew I wouldn’t make it.

So I turned around and walked back. By this time, I was crying as you might expect. About 800 meters back from where I turned around a small yellow bakkie (a South African way of saying a small pickup truck) stopped next to me. I can’t remember if he was young or old. I do know that he wasn’t very young, but I had no idea what age he was.

He told me that he had seen me walking the other way earlier and that I was obviously upset as I was walking back. By this time, I didn’t want to walk anymore and got in. My faith in my direction capabilities was completely shaken. So I told the man that he could drop me off at another one of my uncles. I was positive that I could tell him where that was.

We got to my uncle’s house only to find the house empty. The man decided to take me to the police station so that they could help me get home.  A very friendly officer drove me first to his house, where his wife gave me cookies and a cool drink. I think that was probably just to settle my nerves. I remember that they had this beautiful garden with a newly built swimming pool. There was no water in it yet since they were still in the process of having a dolphin picture added. I thought the dolphin was so cool.

Then the officer asked me if I think I could remember the road now. I told him that I’m sure I could. I even described the little dirt road you had to take because of the new road being built. On the first drive by I missed, but on the second time I got it! The sun was starting to draw water (an Afrikaans saying “die son trek water” that describes the way it looks when the sun starts to touch the horizon and light shimmers in the heat) as we pulled into the driveway of the farmhouse.

Now you might think that my mother must have noticed the fact that I wasn’t around. Unfortunately, she hadn’t, when my aunt told her that I was there with a policeman she wanted to know what I had done wrong. Her explanation was that all the kids drove back with the men and since they arrived first the kids were all gone playing on the farm and that she didn’t know that I had been left behind.