Inthe beginning, I judged a book by its cover. The title read Swimming with Cobras, and I imagined an Amazon woman cutting through the water, cobras swimming closely behind. In reality, Rosemary Smith is not quite so wild, although no less fierce. "Well, I was looking for a catchy title," she says of her newly-released memoir, "and it seemed that that kind of summed up the experience." Rosemary arrived in South Africa from England in 1966, when the dark veil of apartheid was firmly wrapped around the country. That year saw England win the Soccer World Cup, while in Cape Town, District 6 had just been declared a whites-only area. Adjusting was difficult, and Smith hated it. "The problem for me was that everybody seemed related, or friends," she says, "and I had nobody who knew me before I was married. I didn't have my own identity." Smith had married her husband Malvern three years earlier, and came to South Africa with him when he returned to his home and family. They brought with their first two children, Matthew and Anna, and had daughters Charlotte and Lucy once they had settled into their house on Market Street. Rosemary and her husband still live there today. Joining the local Black Sash branch in 1968 put her on a journey towards finding an identity. She explains that her role in the organisation was not about risking lives. "I didn't get detained or anything like that," she laughs. "It's just a story of ordinary people who really had to stand up and be counted." The Sash was dedicated to the black and coloured communities in Grahamstown, and assisted them through its system of advice offices. It was through making life more bearable for others that Rosemary found a sense of belonging here. While she immersed herself in activism, there were others that chose to look the other way. "There were many people in South Africa who had their head in the sand, and didn't want to know - it was uncomfortable." And the discomfort didn't end along with apartheid — as a member of the Black Sash, Rosemary attended many of the harrowing Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. One that still moves her is that of Alistair Kohl, a teenage boy who was mistakenly killed by a police bullet at a funeral in the 1980s. Though now retired, Rosemary still keeps a keen eye on politics. "History used to be one-sided; it was all about the white people in the country, there was no black history. I have a feeling now that history is still one-sided... If you watch the news, it's as though we've swapped one lot for another," she says, speaking of the transition from the dominance of the NP to that of the ANC. The Black Sash's resistance movement came to an end in the 1990s but Smith continues to be an activist through her position as a chairperson of Friends of the Library, a hospital board member and a Quaker. Other than the light English accent tha t slips out from time to time, Smith is completely absorbed in what was once an alien society, and her published memoir encapsulates the voyage. "This is not a heroics story" she says, sitting up in her couch. "It's really about history. And I think history is not about great deeds; it's about what happened on the ground, to ordinary people." ROSEMARY REMEMBERS... Local author and activist Rosemary Smith speaks about the release of her latest book, Swimming with Cobras. The book is a memoir about her life and involvement in the Black Sash movement.