Charlotte & Edward Jones

Charlotte Jones & Edward Jones in front of Table Mountain

These are my "parents" in Cape Town. In 2000-1, I stayed with the Jones for the year, then came back to stay with them again in 2003-4. They are such wonderful people and I always introduce my friends to them if they are in Cape Town. Jones is a salty seadog who has spent much of his life at sea, now still working on tuna boats in Namibia. Charlotte worked for years in a clothing factory, but now works from home. She provided a homely atmosphere for me. I forever owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Charlotte grew up near the Cape Town docks in a family of over a dozen brothers and sisters. Her uncle and her brother worked on the docks as stevedores, while many of the girls went to work in the textile factories. Her aunty, next door, entertained the foreign sailors and Charlotte would hear their strange tongues and exotic shanties. She went to Prestwich Primary School, but had to leave early so that she could earn money for the family.

Charlotte and Edward JonesShe met Jones, a District Six boy, when she was a teenager. Jones was an early school drop-out as well, going to work as an Argus boy, selling newspapers on the streetcorner. He was also a member of the Bun Boys gang, operating out of the Bloemhof Flats in D6. But Jones has always been about having a good time, taking the load off his mind (as he likes to say), so the hardcore criminal activities of other gangs never appealed to him. Rather the Bun Boys might try their luck with a factory break-in, otherwise they would sing Mario Lanza and Frank Sinatra tunes on the corner. He also went to work on the docks as a stevedore, joining Charlotte's brother, Joewa, in stealing cargo from the passing ships.

Charlotte JonesEventually, Jones got a job at sea with Safmarine, South Africa's national cargo carrier during apartheid. He worked in the engine room. At this point, with Jones gone so long, and with Group Areas segregation disrupting the residential patterns of the city, Charlotte moved out to Kewtown with her family. There she met a guy, married him, and had a son, Wayne. Jones too got married to another lady when his family relocated to Bridgetown. He had 3 daughters with her.

Those relationships weren't destined to last, and eventually, Charlotte and Jones were free to connect with each other, to rebuild the relationship they had in their teenage years. Jones was still a sailor and Charlotte still worked at the factory, but they were used to the kind of work rhythms that working-class exigencies imposed on them.

Edward Jones

For the last 15 years or so, Charlotte and Jones have been living in Bonteheuwel, one of the older 'coloured' townships on the Cape Flats. My girlfriend at the time (now wife!), Marjorie, set me up with them to stay in 2000-2001. They were so fun to be with. Charlotte is an amazing listener and has fascinating stories of Cape Town life to share. We spent many nights chatting into the wee hours. And when Jones was home from sea, he was usually battling with his car, trying to get it running again. Frankly, I think he loved being under the hood of that thing because he enjoys working on engines so much. But in the evening, that's when Jones would lubricate his own internal engine with some beer, he would let loose with hilarious and incredible stories of life at sea and in 'old' Cape Town.

Charlotte Jones & Henry Trotter at Henry's wedding to Marjorie Bingahm - 2005 in Cape Town, South AfricaIn fact, the stories that Jones told me about life in District Six, on the docks, in the ships, and in overseas ports, helped inspire me to do research on South African port culture. He has a vision of reality that is so different than us landlubbers who usually remain landlocked. His experiences showed me that there is another way to look at history, especially through the lens of the dockside world.

I stayed with them again in 2003-2004 and briefly before my wedding in 2005. They are so accommodating and warm, the Charlotte and Jones remain two of my closest friends in Cape Town. Indeed, they are my Kaapse ma 'n pa.