Photographs taken in a garden

IN 1960, when I was 8 years old, I was accepted as a pupil at the Hall School in London’s Swiss Cottage area. Recently, I received some photographs of me in my newly acquired Hall School uniform. They were taken in the garden of our house in Hampstead Way in the Hampstead Garden Suburb, Maybe, it is fortunate that the photographs are in black and white because the Hall’s uniform was pink trimmed with black. The Hall’s ‘logo’ was a black Maltese cross – also a symbol used by the German army. I remember occasionally, children from other schools used to shout “Nazis” at me and my friends when we were wearing our uniforms in the street. The photographs were taken by my uncle Felix, who was born in South Africa.

When Felix came to London from South Africa in the second half of the 1950s, one of his first jobs was working in a photography shop in London’s Holborn. Like other members of my mother’s family, he was a keen photographer. His grandfather, my great grandfather, opened a photography studio in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape in 1880.  It was while Felix was working in the shop that the photographs of me in my new uniform were taken.

I remember the occasion vividly. Felix arrived at our house in the Suburb, carrying with him a great deal of equipment borrowed from the shop. Most of it was professional lighting on collapsible stands. Felix spent some time setting up a photographic studio in our living room. There were wires all over the place, and every electric socket in the room was used to power the lighting. I was positioned in a suitable pose. When he was ready, my uncle began switching on the lights. Then, it happened. The house’s electrical fuses blew, and all the lights went out. I remember that my parents were not too pleased with what had happened.

Because of the electrical problem, the much-wanted photographs, which were to be sent to relatives in South Africa, had to be taken outside in the garden. Seeing these pictures six decades later brought that occasion to the forefront of my memory.

Felix was a delightful, kindly man. He was everyone’s friend, and never harboured a grudge against anyone. Although he never had any children, I believe that he regarded the whole world as his family.

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