BOOK REVIEW – A COLOURED IN FULL FLIGHT, THE BOY FROM THE BARRACKS (PART 1)

By Georgie Calverley

 

The book idea of writing my story started as a diary in 2004, three years after immigrating to the United Kingdom as a nurse. Other than documenting my daily activities on a second-hand computer, some patients were intrigued by my accent, often comparing me with the other South African nurses in the ward. To them, the racial classification of coloured was banished to a terrible past, which involved explaining how I got saddled with the label on my birth certificate in 1967.

Releasing the first book, after four years of trying to get it right or make it perfect, A Coloured In Full Flight: The Boy From The Barracks, was liberating but scary. Throughout the years, my friends and acquaintances received edited versions of my life, often told with a comedic twist, as I did not want pity. The original idea was to inform close friends about my past, but I was unprepared for the comments. Unwittingly opening a box of suppressed emotional and psychological traumas, I read the reviews and struggled to hold back tears. 

The youngest of three children in the Calverley home, my parents and society expected me to be a well-behaved boy, but nobody prepared me for the predator in plain sight. Throughout the years of writing and editing, I remained in the dark about how badly I got treated when an older cousin chose me as his plaything. Too innocent and trusting to know his intentions, especially during a game of hide and seek, I saw nothing wrong as he covered me with his larger body to hide me from the seeker.

When his manners and movements changed, I was under his spell, unsure of the tension in the air long before or after we left a hiding space. Obedient and docile, I understood no one had to know what he did, so I kept quiet and played along. Harvey had groomed me well, taking every opportunity to keep me close. When someone eventually cottoned onto his antics- I was teased, called a sissy boy or Harvey’s girlfriend, unsure how to deal with my new status. 

Soon, I had other boys chasing, kissing, pulling and groping my tiny body as if looking for any anatomical differences. The laughing stock among a group of kids, all adults, were remarkably silent even if they heard taunts directed toward me. Isolated for being a sissy one minute, then called upon to join games, but on the girls’ side or team. They stopped seeing me as one of the boys, and set the pattern of my life for the next few years. 

The Boy From The Barracks follows my journey from age five until I leave junior high school at age fourteen. My family lived in Wentworth, Durban, until I was eight years old before relocating to East London. I thought escaping might save me from the taunts and teasing, but I was wrong. After settling into an even smaller wooden shack, I was the new kid at school, pointed out because I sounded different. 

Months later, the new sissy in town was a beacon for boys and bullies, the latter group ensuring everyone knew that I walked, talked and acted like a girl. Whenever I left the confined space of our tiny shack, I had to face the bullies, boys or anyone shouting horrible words as I minded my business. At school, groups of boys tried cornering me in the toilets, pinching, grabbing or pushing me to the ground to have a go at the sissy. 

The five years I spent in primary school were a mixture of pleasure and pain, as I navigated the dusty streets, trying to avoid, flee or ignore my tormentors. I got bounced around boys my age, who practised their kissing skills on a willing sissy who did his best to avoid older males. Sometimes, I was not lucky, and after being publicly degraded and embarrassed, I would run, hide and cry out of sight. At no time did anyone see me break down and cry. 

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