Bookworm Chronicles #2: STEALING WATER

What are you feeding your mind these days?

Just how lucky are we to have all these little comforts and excesses around us to enjoy on a whim? Regular trips to the cinema, expensive meals, ostentatious clothes and accessories, flashy cars – things that sometimes we tend to ignore because, well, we have never experienced deprivation. Or hunger. Or living in constant fear of being hunted down by creditors and loan sharks we are heavily indebted to.

But this guy, Tim Ecott, a one-time army brat, has had it rough in South Africa (where they moved from a middle-class living in Ireland) where and when his family experienced a mad reversal of fortunes and became so poor they had to literally resort to stealing water from their neighbors at one point.

To keep the family afloat, especially after being kicked out, very publicly, from their home, Tim’s enterprising Irish mother started selling junk from a small shop in an almost inconspicuous arcade in downtown Johannesburg. Meanwhile, his Welsh-English ex-army-officer father failed at everything he tried. This little junkshop is also the setting where some very interesting, colorful, and sometimes mental/criminal characters make regular trips to see and be seen. In fact, you will meet all of them at the beginning of the memoir.

Before moving to South Africa, Tim’s mother was drowning in the weight of domesticity and was described as oftentimes taking a cocktail of anti-depressants as her way of escaping the drudgery of life. But amazingly, in South Africa, she was transformed into a multitasking mom slash small-time trader who won’t stop at nothing to earn a little bit more for the family.

Reading the book I often had to stop and think if everything that Ecott was describing were ever real. Some of the scenes were pretty painful to remember, let alone write about – if I were in his shoes. Growing up and even until today, I have lived a very simple life – punctuated only occasionally by my colorful pairs of shoes, surpassed only by my superlatively colorful (mis)adventures.Sure I have had my moments of pained imaginings of a life that can only be described as rolling around in filthy money –  but that is just me feeling bad sometimes that I am not in any position to build homes for and feed the abandoned elderly and babies in the streets.

A few times I had to blink back fat tears threatening to spill over especially when Ecott’s being ever so descriptive of his mother, Pamela, who has a tendency to scorn fate and probability, all the while bravely carrying the full weight of her family’s string of misfortunes and debts on her shoulders. In a way, she kind of reminded me of my adoptive Mom.

How about you Loves? Anything interesting on your bedside table?