From the amazing collection of South African cylists, Bicycle Portraits:
John Jacobs, Kingswood Golf Estate, George, South Africa
My mom and dad had 21 children. But some of them are dead. Two of them, maybe because of hunger, took a paraffin bottle and drank it. The doctor couldn’t help because the paraffin was too strong and one died. He was about 3 years old. Some got inflammation and diseases that broke out, and then we lose another brother or two. And others were murdered. There are only about 9 or so left. But we’ve all split up because my parents didn’t have much money. Each had to find their own place to live.
From 1974 until 1987 I was in a lot of jails, all kinds of jails. Every time I got difficult at one jail I would get sent to the next one. I was in 14 different jails. Big jails. I was a troublesome guy. But sometimes being troublesome helped to get me out of jail quicker – they wanna get you rehabilitated quicker. But now I’m really rehabilitated, for the rest of my life.
And I got a house from the government, now on Tuesday. I’m trying to make it beautiful and neat as quickly as possible so that I can get the people back that I’ve lost when I spent that time in jail. People say it’s a small house but I say this is my house. My wife and I signed the papers and it’s ours. We used to pay R300 rent and R300 for electricity every month. Now we’re going to put that R600 monthly in the bank.
They still arrest me now and then for skyf (marijuana) but I just pay the R200 cash fine before I go to court – then it’s not really a crime. I don’t want to talk about my real crimes but it was a big history… My cycling, I’ve been riding for 12 years and I enjoy it.
This is my tenth bicycle – every winter I have to pawn my bicycle at the pawn shop because I don’t have work. Then when I get money again I have to go a fetch my bike, and sometimes it’s gone. Then I have to get another one. I come from Fancourt now – I’m a golf caddy there. I enjoy carrying at the golf course but there are some problems there – people are starting to ride golf carts!
You can buy any of the three volumes of Bicycle Portraits here.