Donald Philip Noels - 31 December 1938 - 23 May 2023

Desai 1


It is hard to believe that you are gone. I was planning  –  in my head – where I could take you and Margaret for our next dinner date in February 2024 – the date of your arrival,  the 7th of February, is at the back of my 2023 diary.  In Salt River, where you were born, you were seen as the ‘invincible one’ for outliving all your siblings, despite being the eldest. I got to really know you – warts and all – in the year I spent in London doing my Master’s in  Applied Linguistics at  the Institute of Education. Ons het baie baklei daardie jaar oor dit en dat, maar het nie te lank kwaad gebly nie  Given that we often spoke in Afrikaans when I visited you and Margaret, I had to write something in Afrikaans!

Our friendship was not just an individual one  but was rooted in the role my extended family played in your life.  Durham Avenue in Salt River was where you, my uncle, Abdulla Desai and his cousins, Ismail and Ahmed Kasker, got up to all kinds of mischief as ‘jong laaities’. You were particularly fond of Ebrahim Desai, Abdulla’s older brother.  And after the previous generation of Desai’s passed on, you kept the Desai connection going by visiting the family home in Kingsley Road for our famous Saturday lunches, whenever you visited Cape Town. As a result, the generation after us, my nephews and nieces, also got to know you.  They all enjoyed your banter and used to be amazed by your energy.

In London, you had an open house for many South Africans and I have fond memories of visits to Mornington Crescent during my year long stay in London in 1987/88 even though I had, at times, to knead my way through my London stay.  Your generosity towards South African  visitors became legendary back home.

In later years, I saw you mellowing with age.  I was particularly struck  by the way in which you cared for Margaret after she was diagnosed with dementia.  So Margaret, I feel for you.  You must be feeling the loss acutely.  And I am glad your sister Maureen is there for you.

Don, all I can say is rest in peace. You deserve to.

Two photos follow:  the first one is of Don with my uncle Abdulla and the legendary CLR James, the second one is of me in 1987 kneading my way in Don’s kitchen in Mornington Crescent.

   Zubeida Desai

Desai 2

Zubeida Desai

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