We grew up next door to Gould Dominy on a plot outside town. Our plot was Birdhaven, theirs was Glen Khyber. We knew him as Uncle Gould and would watch fascinated as he drank tea out of the biggest teacup you ever saw. Size of a salad bowl. A flock of small dogs would be running around his ankles as he drank, seated on their wide enclosed and sun-filled stoep.
Then he disappeared and re-appeared years later at the hoerskool as religious instruction (RI) teacher. Seems he had been teaching music at some naff school in Bloemfontein all those years. St Andrews or St Somebody.
He had been very fond of me as a boy but he was re-meeting me as a teenager and that was about to change. Or would have had he not been such an amazingly tolerant and loving gentleman.
His classroom was at the back of the school in the row of asbestos prefabs. For the cold Harries winters it had a cast-iron stove in one corner.
We were terrible. We would saunter in while he caught a quick smoke outside, grab his sarmies and scoff them, move the bookmark a hundred pages forward in his copy of The Robe* (that he was considerately reading to us as our “RI” in lieu of bible-punching) and pull up our chairs around the black stove and sit with our backs to him.
Dear old Mr Dominy would come in and start reading while tickling the inner canthus of his eye with a sharp pencil till he couldn’t stand it any longer, would then “gril” and rub his eyes vigorously, flabby cheeks wobbling, and then carry on reading. Every so often he’d mutter “I’m sure we hadn’t got this far?” proving he was the only one listening to the story. Not even the girls, sitting in the normal school benches, would comment on the fact that we read ten pages a day but moved on a hundred pages at a time.
‘Tex’ Grobbelaar, meantime, would also have swiped one of his cigarettes. Rolling up a sheet of paper, he would set light to it in the stove, light the fag and smoke it right there, furtively holding it in the palm of his cupped hand in that ‘ducktail’ way and blowing the smoke into the stove opening.
What a lovely man. Gould. Not Tex. Nor the rest of us.
Here’s Ann Euthemiou combing Mr Dominy’s hair on a trip to Kruger Park back in 1968.
*The Robe is a 1942 historical novel about the crucifixion of Jesus written by Lloyd C Douglas. The book entered the New York Times best-seller list in October 1942, and four weeks later rose to No. 1. The film adaptation (featuring Richard Burton in an early role) was released in 1953. (wikipedia)