100. General Orders and Colonial Regulations.

By Peter Fraenkel

Every single one of us in the Colonial Service had that loose-leaf book of regulations and had to study and pass exams on it. Failure lost us an annual financial increment and required that we had to try again the following year.

Replacement pages were issued regularly though occasionally it was not an entirely new page but a mere paragraph which was distributed and had to be cut out and pasted over an outdated one.

On rare occasions we found “G.O. & C.R.” amusing. It usually occurred in that chapter we nicknamed “Noticing”.

I quote from memory: “If an officer were to find himself noticing a lady colleague, he is to raise the matter promptly with his Establishment Officer. Steps shall then be taken to transfer the noticing officer or the noticed lady to another post.”

I do not recall that such “noticing” ever occurred between members of the same sex. Homosexuality had, apparently, not yet been invented.

But there were also instances – much whispered about – where noticing was discreetly ignored. Such was the case of One-armed-Willie.

He was a war hero.  He had lost his right arm landing on the Normandy Beaches on Day 1. Despite his loss he maintained an active sex-life. There was some speculation how this was accomplished – but his girls were discreet. But when Anita discovered he was two-timing her with her best friend there were noisy outpourings of tears. Anita was transferred to my department – the broadcasting station.  But she didn’t last long with us. She had come from Cape Town and soon announced she was going back there.  When she came to say good bye I told her I was booked to spend a holiday there the following month.

“You have friends down there?” she asked.

I said I did not know a soul.

“I know everybody,” said Anita. “Well, almost.” She wrote down her address for me. “Do make contact.”

I phoned her soon after my arrival and we met in a fascinating bar-cum-nightclub in a building that must have dated from the days of the Dutch East India Company … a store room, perhaps, ten or even twelve feet high. The floor above was supported on enormous timbers that may have been salvaged from ships that had once sailed between Holland and the Dutch East Indies.

Anita was with a new lover – Tubby, a man everybody thought much too old for her. And far too fat.

Most of us were used to drinking cheap Cape red wines but Tubby was obviously affluent. He called for the one and only good brandy then produced in South Africa. As a chaser he ordered a liqueur Scotch whisky and not long after, a second bottle of each.

But then Tubby and Anita quarreled. I have no idea what it was about. Someone said later he had laughed off the idea that he might leave his wife to come and live with Anita. Another suggested she had been rude about his girth. He got up suddenly, banged his bottle on the table and stalked out. Anita swore after him. The rest of us, embarrassed, turned back to our drinks.

Retribution followed: a waiter presented a bill and no one of that Cape Town crowd had that sort of money.

Only I had.  I had, that very morning, trekked to the bank and had cashed travelers’ cheques to finance the rest of my holiday.

I found myself forced to cut short that holiday!

There had been nothing in General Orders and Colonial Regulations to warn me of such eventualities. And I had not even “noticed” Anita.  She wasn’t my type.