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Authors: H. N. Quinnen

Starlight in the Ring

BOOK: Starlight in the Ring
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First published by Top Hat Books, 2014

Top Hat Books is an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd., Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK

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For distributor details and how to order please visit the ‘Ordering’ section on our website.

Text copyright: H. N. Quinnen 2013

ISBN: 978 1 78279 532 2

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publishers.

The rights of H. N. Quinnen as author have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Design: Stuart Davies

Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

We operate a distinctive and ethical publishing philosophy in all areas of our business, from our global network of authors to production and worldwide distribution.

To my beloved Nikki, ‘my friend’.

Author’s note

This book is entirely a work of fiction based on South African historical facts, covering the period of The Apartheid Era from 1948. It is written carefully, to inform, inspire and entertain the readers. I am aware that there are people who might have suffered during and after that period of conflict – those who were for the laws and those who were against, who may still be alive; therefore to respect their dignity, I have used the language I believe to be politically correct throughout. In order to protect their privacy, all the names identifying settings, characteristics, dialogue, structure and details, other than those clearly in the public domain are fictitious. The story is reconstructed for this purpose. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely a coincidence. The moral of this story is that of perseverance.


A million thanks to Nicola Quinnen, my daughter, for her love and encouragement when I was writing this book; you’ve been an asset throughout my life.

To Richard Gibson - for your love, support in every possible way and patience.

I owe gratitude to Mike Willmott of Shrewsbury Words for all his help reading every line of this manuscript.

For her critiques and encouragement, Carole Manship, Editor of GEM Magazine, “thank you”.

My editor Autumn Barlow.

Top Hat Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing and the whole team that made this book a reality - John Hunt, Catherine Harris, Maria Barry, Mary Flatt, Nick Welch, Stuart Davies, and Trevor Greenfield.

There are other people who played a very important role, helping to research for the content of this book and to get this work to print – thank you Stivie.


koonfontein farm, where I live happily with my parents, and cared for by the farmers, is my home. Of course I’ve faced many challenges there and elsewhere, one after another every so often; who doesn’t after all?

The apartheid laws, around which this book are based have taught me valuable lessons as has my interaction with many people; this knowledge supplements my teacher training in South Africa. I learned to be a good citizen, work hard, obey all the laws, and resolve issues through peaceful means and negotiations only.

I write about these experiences and cover each of the 16 laws in every chapter of this book. Before the start of each chapter, I write other people’s views about me, and also some extracts from my diary or journal about my thoughts at different times. This is to keep reminding you, the reader, about me, Betty Baker.

I’ve gotten familiar with the beauty of life and also its challenges, and have chosen to focus on the good reports I’ve often received from these people. However, when the laws restrict me from having my chosen lifestyle, especially the love
of my own choice, education and career, it hurts so much. I escape to other countries. My story covers various experiences, living in three countries, learning new cultures and best of all, enjoying myself.

I’ve had some happy days while my life journey has been very long and rough; I’ve chosen to keep my commitment to ‘doing things as I am told’ by adults – a common catchphrase I often hear daily in my community. I know also that some things do change for better, when adults give good guidance.

When you love the people around you, you become so familiar with their actions, whether good or bad, and get used to their lifestyle. It may seem odd to say I’ve seen unpleasant situations, too; I’ve lived in fear, facing uncertainty, and near death situations, and yet I continue to love every one each day. How can I hate these people? Nelson Mandela told the Nation, including me, to reconcile
with them.
This is the message that this book carries forward.

But it certainly wasn’t always easy…

Chapter 1
The Wedding
August 1975

ventually, I arrive at my dream destination. Whispering softly to myself, and shaking my head, I say, “Huh, Betty Baker, is this really you? Has your dream ultimately come true?” Trying to come to terms with the day’s programme, I tap my chest with my index finger for assurance. I’ve reckoned this amazing day would happen, but I haven’t known when. However, it’s been a long wait. Nevertheless, the most fantastic and overdue day of my life is just about to unfold.

The vintage, cream Daimler decorated with a triad of colours - gold, crimson-red and lily-white ribbons - gradually pulls in front of the weathered church, in Kettlewell, a small village near Skipton, in North Yorkshire. To me, it appears neglected – neither plastered, nor painted: it’s just bare stone! In front of the church, the thick mist is swirling around. Within the mist, three doves flap their wings gently, before one descends onto the
cracked windowsill.

My flower girl, Polly, page-boy, Dean, the maid of honour, Donna McArthur and four bridesmaids get out of the Daimler to make a guard of honour. Two are standing on the right side behind Dean, and the other two are behind Polly, all facing this magnificent, ancient stone-built village church. I wait in the car contemplating the tall bell-tower, the cross above it, the large archway, and the stained-glass windows, wondering which century it was built in. Suddenly, my thoughts are interrupted, when Donna re-appears, opening the car door on my side to help me out, fulfilling her role as a maid of honour. I manoeuvre my body gently, stepping out of the car, but moving with some difficulty, as Donna lifts up the three-metre long train fastened to my white wedding dress. Fully covering my face with the veil, she then gives me the enormous, pretty bridal bouquet of fresh lilies, red carnations and roses. They complement the gold of the bridesmaids’ dresses.

My silver tiara and the veil adorning my head make me feel a bit stiff. However, nothing can upset this day for me. The foggy atmosphere, with a glimpse of sunshine glowing through the clouds, brightens my spirit. I feel the cold breeze though, but I ignore it because of my excitement. With Donna on my right, we walk in between the bridesmaids, positioning ourselves just behind Dean and Polly.

“Betty, smile!” Donna commands, in what I think is an unpleasant tone for a day like this.

“I can’t smile, Donna - I’m sorry,” I whisper back, gently shrugging my shoulders. I wonder what’s disturbing me. I try to laugh, then realise the congregation have been waiting since 9.00 a.m. We’re running late. The time is about 9.34 a.m.

Donna notices that as the bride today, I’m not cheerful enough. She mumbles firmly this time, widening her big brown eyes, “Betty, tell me, what’s the matter with you?”

I murmur back, “I’m trying to look happier, Donna, but we’re
so late. I’m feeling embarrassed about what people might be thinking of me. First impressions are very important. They stick in people’s minds. I’m so sorry if I am a disappointment to you. Anyway, we’ve tried our best after the late night of preparations. I hope people won’t mind this slight delay.”

“Not to worry, Betty - this is your big day. They should wait patiently,” Donna says, smiling sweetly in her bright way.

Eventually I smile back, adding a wink. We all walk slowly up to the church porch. Donna discreetly peeps through the door, and signals to Melanie to start playing the bridal-march. The guests stand up, and some face the entrance. Holding onto Donna’s arm, we walk gradually down the aisle towards the altar. About halfway, I look further up to the front, catching sight of my fiancé. We both smile at each other.

I look to my left through the veil: the seats are all filled with people of various nationalities, a rich variety of faces and costumes. I lift my head up, and manage a smile; only I know of my personal difficulties. I guess the congregation will accept this gesture as my kind of greeting. With me clinging on to Donna’s arm, we take a few steps forward, and stop again. This time I raise my head to my right. The congregation is so multi-racial. A couple are taking turns carrying a baby who looks like me. I stand there stunned, until I feel Donna’s grip pulling me forward. Blinking several times, I turn my head, slowly to look forward. We move further up to the altar, passing the front rows; and then Donna and my fiancé exchange positions.

The music stops. The effect of the resulting quietness engulfs me for a moment. My legs feel weak, and my knees wobble a bit. Forcing a smile as my gaze is roving about behind the pulpit helps me control my nerves. Two ministers, Reverend Andrew Fleming and Reverend John Harris are ready to share officiating at our wedding, standing in front of the altar.

The Reverend Fleming, dressed in a white and purple robe, with a big gold cross and tassels hanging from his neck, steps
forward. He says in his eloquent, deep, resonant voice, “Good day, friends, and welcome! I was going to say something unkind, but as I can see, in Africa, we celebrate ‘African-time’.” He refers to our lateness jokingly, but it still causes my mind to sink. “However, in Africa, this fog wouldn’t have happened, so we can’t blame that beautiful continent. Let’s rather say that some things are worth waiting for.”

I hear people giggling, and then a roar of laughter from a few. Surprisingly, he knows about ‘African time’. I’m too nervous to appreciate this joke. I feel a bemused smile spread across my face.

He makes another joke that amuses the congregation, saying, “So, let us sing our hymn, and it is the only one to sing. Therefore, you’d better sing it heartily. The bridal couple chose it, and we sing all the verses.”

I’m a bit confused. Should I join the laughter, or just maintain my dignity, as the focus of the day? I haven’t had formal, traditional classes for a marriage ceremony. I laugh at the jokes, smiling frequently.

The music starts, and the congregation stands up and sings,
‘Let there be love shared among us’.
As this is my favourite hymn, I sing it passionately, with my eyes shut. It’s over quicker than I thought it would be, and I wish we could sing it again. I want to say, “Please, sing from the first verse one more time.” However, I catch the sparkling eye of my husband-to-be, and want the next fifteen minutes to hurry.

Reverend Fleming steps forward, wiggles his shoulders, and says the opening words of the
Book of Common Prayer
Office of Holy Matrimony, leading up to the climactic lines:

“The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children, and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the
purposes for which it was instituted by God. Firstly, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name. Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body. Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity, into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.”

BOOK: Starlight in the Ring
6.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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