Thames House 1

I was at Gordon’s studio, how and why I will tell you about some other time, right not I want to tell you about Thames House. Gordon found them and asked if I would like to go there for two weeks, I thought it was a good idea.

 

A Thursday, which happened to be a public holiday, we left the studio and our first stop was Jeppe Police Station. We had to go there because my kit had been stolen and all my ID was in that kit. In order to book into Thames House I needed to prove who I was. At the police station we got an affidavit to say I was me. Then we drove into Lanasia, Thames House is in Johannesburg Eskom’s property, this consists of the power plants offices and the housing that the workers for Eskom used to live in long ago. All the houses are now occupied by some sort of charity or another. Thames House runs a free two week course in order to help alcoholics. The House is one half of a semi-detached affair, old but neat, except the backyard which was full of junk. It has a large stoop and the front door leads into a lounge, we walked through the lounge into a wide passage. As one enters the passage there are two doors, one on the right and one on the left. We went left into an office. Gordon spoke to an Indian guy called Taga who did the paperwork to book me in.

 

I was taken down the passage, went left into a smaller passage at the end of which was a bathroom. A right turn took us into a bedroom with a door at the rear, through that door was another bedroom. This is where I would lay my head for the next 14 nights. I put my meager kit down and walked out with Gordon to say goodbye. The kit I had Gordon had provided as well as a donation of groceries for Thames House.  I returned to the house and went straight down the passage into the large kitchen, Taga was making breakfast and said I should go outside to meet the others. I went through the back door, on my left against the side wall was a converted double garage. I found out that this room was used to hold AA and NA meetings. All the guys are sitting on plastic chairs in the sun, at 10am we hold our own meeting outside. I find Taga has an interesting take on the Big Book and Bill W’s writings. While  we hold the meeting an older Indian man is cooking in the kitchen, lunch is at 12 o’clock. The meeting is broken up only for lunch which is curry and rice with a lot of chili.

 

After lunch we sit in the sun and just talk, one guy, a Black man named Wendell, cleans the AA room. I find out that he and an older Indian man, called Ken, are my room mates. A very loud man comes into the yard, he yells at me asking if I am Wayne? I confirm this. My friend Gordon has told him a lot of very nice things about me, he is Babs, the caretaker of the place. I chat with him for a while and see that the older Indian guy is cooking again. I offer to help and chop and peel vegetables. The rest of the guys just sit outside and talk shit the whole afternoon. Taga is breaking the AA rules and glorifying his drinking days. The rule is a good one and if the guys get into who drank the most, made the most shit etc it just make you think that drinking was not so bad. It was.

 

I check out who is in this zoo. There are two other White guys surprisingly enough, Russell and David; they are druggies not alkys. Druggies are a different lot, the story goes like this. Alkys and druggies are not the same. An alky will steal your money/stuff in order to buy booze. So will a druggie, but he will then try help you find it. The other man sitting around is Pa, he lives at Thames House permanently. He sleeps a lot and when he is awake you hardly ever hear a peep out of him. He is also a Black man, so there is a nice mix in the house. We have supper, everyone except for the Indians and The Mexican Horse Thief suffer. By God, that old man cooked some chicken that made Naido’s extra hot look mild by comparison! My hair was wet with sweat.

 

After supper Taga and Wendell make a fire in the backyard, they use perfectly good wooden flooring boards for this. Wendell was a soccer star but the rival club sent people out and they shot him through the knee. He then got into drugs. Taga and Wendell have both been in prison and they decide to educate this dumb White boy on the numbers system. I do not tell them that I was in a rehab in the Western Cape, with a founding member of one of the big gangs grandson. I went to dinner at Granddad’s house FFS. Lights out is at 10pm, I am glad to get some peace and quiet.

 

A buzzer goes off at 6am for wake up, I find out later, a buzzer for breakfast at 7am, a buzzer at 12pm for lunch, a buzzer at 5pm for supper, a buzzer for a meeting every night at 7pm. Eish! I will be sober but crazy like a loon after 13 more days of this. No coffee at wake up, we all are assigned a section of the house to clean. Breakfast is maize meal, very sweet and weak even sweeter coffee. Two guys are assigned for breakfast dishes and there is a meeting at 10am. I have plenty of time so wash my clothes.  A guy from Primrose, where I grew up, comes to hold the meeting.  A problem with some guys that have been sober for years, they hang on to some of their defects of character. This guy over analyzes ever word I say and is a bully. My problem with bullies remains stat. He is 3 years sober, so I tell him when he gets to over 7 years he can come and fucking lecture me. Opps!

 

 

After the meeting Taga tells us the Gamblers Anonymous also use the outside room; they are making a TV program about it and will be filming today. In other words, go clean up that room!  After that the boredom kicks in and I chat with Ken in our room. Then start re-reading Selous Scouts – Top Secret War. I find out that this is not allowed, only AA literature my be read; but as both Taga and Babs do not stop me, I finished the book while I was there. Lunch is again a spicy affair, lentil and meat and soya stew with rice, we can smoke anywhere in the house except the kitchen. I sit in the lounge smoking and reading, the rest of the guys sit outside in the sun; listening to Taga’s stories. Supper is again very spicy, soya stew and rice, the guys are bitching their stomachs cannot take much more of this. Sissies! After supper an AA guy arrives to take us to a meeting, the car holds Ken, Wendell, Russell, David and myself. The meeting is in a bad section of Lanasia, I love meetings in the bad ass areas of South Africa, you meet such interesting people.  We get coffee with milk after the meeting, which made me happy.

 

 

Next morning not in a happy mood at all, we have oats and sweet tea, I mop the floor when the dishes are done. I am thinking, “Oh God, how am I going to handle the boredom between the meetings and also keep my mouth shut when Taga speaks shit?” I clean the house and do my washing, waiting for the 10am meeting. There are chickens and two roosters in the yard, along with a really old dog. The dog’s fastest speed is slow motion. The chickens steal the dogs food, one chicken steals a piece of meat and the dog “chases” this one chicken, leaving his whole bowl for the other chickens to plunder. My amusement for the morning, but really this dog did move in slow motion so it was funny. It kept my mind off all my stolen kit and what I was going to do about it, no ID, no Passport, no bank card, no laptop.

 

A new Indian guy arrives, Dee, he is from Newcastle, long way to come for two weeks. Food is getting short in the house so lunch is rice and baked beans and yes, the beans were spiced with chili. In the afternoon Wendell’s family come to visit him and a young guy that had been in Thames House before arrives. I hate him instantly; he is loud and just walks into the bedrooms as he pleases. He has that gangster attitude and style of dress. He just will not shut up. He distracts Taga from dishing up and the food is served cold, Dee had brought some mutton and we all were looking forward to supper. Then that evening a “forced to watch” inspirational Jesus movie. More than half the guys here are Hindu, but Taga is a Christian. That is what I dislike about Christians the most; they force their view on everybody.

 

The next day is Sunday and there is a public meeting in the AA room at 10am. That afternoon some guys from the Midrand Group arrive, I spent my 7 years in that Group and ask them to tell any of the old boys still around and alive that I say, Hello”.

 

 

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