Martin’s story - The early years

Many people ask me about my late ex-husband, his life before our liaison, our life together for a quarter of a century and his ultimate betrayal. His untimely death, as if it was the Universe making him pay for trying to destroy me. Ironically I survived a 4 year ordeal. He did not and died from aggressive leukaemia within one year. Odd that when I said ‘goodbye’ to him at the cancer hospital, I touched his shoulder as he lay there motionless, his eyes closed and said ‘Take good care of yourself.’

I had to forgive the man, let go and move on. Gone was the major man in my life. Gone was my best friend who betrayed me mentally and physically. Gone was my Soul Mate. Gone was the trust. The husband I called Magical Martin except the magic went out of the magic!

Martin Breese became a passionate boy magician after he was given a magic set one Christmas when he was about 12. Normally boys are keen amateur boy conjurers up to the age of 15 and then get interested in sports and girls. For those who retain the passion, joining a junior magic circle throughout their teens, by the time they are old enough to join the adult local Magic Circle in England or in Martin’s case, Cape Town, South Africa, they are quite experienced and hooked for the rest of their lives joining the Brotherhood.

Young Martin was born in 1937, the same year my parents married. A Virgo, he moved with his parents to South Africa from Streatham, South London when he was about 12. The family moved to The Cape by ship, a journey which created a lifelong love for the sea and ocean liners.

Ulrich Breese was a successful pharmacist in South London owning several pharmacies but the English weather did not agree with his health and so his doctor prescribed sunshine and dry heat. Eileen, his wife, was happy initially, looking after their 2 siblings Hilary and Martin but Ulrich’s good luck would change which would affect Martin’s life forever.

With money brought from England, Ulrich purchased a thriving chain of pharmacies from a cunning outgoing Boer who had contracts supplying the hospitals in The Cape. What Martin’s father did not know was that Boers dealt with Boers! The hospitals did not want a foreign ‘Outsider’. The contracts were all cancelled and poor Ulrich drowned his sorrows in alcohol.

Martin at that time was in his second year studying psychology at Cape Town university after having been schooled at the prestigious St Georges. With a broke and broken depressed angry alcoholic father and a clawing mother who was forced to work as a book keeper for an English family business, young Martin never finished his university education.

At first he got a job rolling out carpets for a Jewish carpet businessman where he learned how to sell ice to the Eskimos. You could say Martin became ‘ Jewish’ by adoption. He loved the typical Friday night dinners socialising with his best friend Brian Rakoff. Life was Oy Vey day and evening. He preferred the welcoming Rakoff family because his own family life had disintegrated. His father had died of a heart attack in his early 50’s which convinced and haunted Martin that he too would die at the same age.

His mother had taken up with another man and they owned a guest house together. Another alcoholic so Eileen would start to drink to keep up with her partner. I am unsure if they actually married or just ‘lived in sin’. Martin was unhappy at home which no longer felt like home.

I don’t recall how or when Martin discovered he had an ‘eye’ and aptitude as a photographer and excelled in writing copy at Mccan Erickson in Salisbury, Rhodesia as it was called in his day, where he spent a year. He also bought a motorbike and rode across the desert to Mozambique. He claims he was the first person to make this trip. Who knows? Martin was always a good raconteur.

He discovered girls and dated a lot, went to dances and had lots of friends. However, the storm was gathering with one word he did not believe in - Apartheid. After an incident with his landlord, where he rented a room and held parties, he was criticised for inviting black African students. Martin had had enough of the segregated life and had become a political activist.

Time to go back to London. At the age of 26 and armed with a reference from the agency in Salisbury, Martin the magician, boarded the PO ship bound for Southampton.

The end of the South African chapter that would influence his life, never forgetting Dutch and German, mimicking a South African distinctive accent, loving the dry climate and brais on the verandas, never forgetting his old friends but only to return once with me in 1982 for a memorable magical month travelling along ‘The Garden Route’ to Johannesburg and back, as I had South African family too. 

Written in Palma de Mallorca in January 2019.