Flies in the Milk – Shirley Friedman

The true love story about the problems of two unhappy people in the 1960s


Sando, an Israeli Secret Agent, and Shirley, actress and singer, meet by chance at a Coffee Bar in Johannesburg, and then Sando phones for a date. When Shirley reluctantly agrees, his strange question “I hope I won’t come like a fly in the milk?” reveals his desperate need for acceptance.

Before long Sando is head-over-heels, but then Shirley discovers with shock that he is married, though unhappily. In an effort to break up with him, she accepts a singing job in Salisbury, but Sando follows, and when he supports her during an unfortunate problem, she knows she couldn’t ask for more.

They return to Johannesburg and Shirley’s children, but Sando is called back urgently to Israel. Having an Israeli passport whilst on a ship passing through the Suez Canal, he is interrogated by Egyptian officials before being allowed to continue. Hailed as a hero in the Israeli press, but desolate without his love, he then sends Shirley numerous pleas to join him, which she eventually cannot reject.

The bliss of their reunion is soon marred by problems with Sando’s delinquent son, and eventually, though Sando is now divorced, they have to leave Israel without delay. Their journey is fraught with ‘flies in the milk’: unsuitable accommodation, accusations of theft, lack of work, very little money, and Shirley’s longing for her children, amongst others.

Then, almost home, there’s an horrific car accident.


New Year’s Day 1966

Wanting to get home as soon as possible, Shalom and I decided to take advantage of Hymie’s offer to drive with him, Rachel and little Mark back to Johannesburg from Durban, and left on New Year’s Day so as to avoid traffic.  Happily singing together, we were shocked when there was a sudden loud explosion, and the car started swerving from side to side.  Immediately Shalom shouted: ‘Don’t brake, Hymie, don’t brake.  The tyre’s gone!’

My nails dug into his arm as I braced myself against the back door to stop jerking around.  On the front seat, Rachel gripped her little son, her blue eyes wide with fear.  The long straight road past Heidelberg had been newly tarred and the hot summer sun had softened the surface.  As the exploded tyre shredded, the rim of the wheel dug into the tar, a deep curving groove that showed how desperately Hymie was struggling to control the car.

I held my breath as we approached and crossed a bridge.  Then he shouted, voice raw with alarm: ‘I can’t hold it, it’s going…’

About the Author

Shirley FriedmanShirley Friedman, the author of ‘Flies in the Milk, was born just a few years before the start of World War Two, so at the age of 6 was evacuated three times. Eventually back home in Hackney E8, she attended St. Johns High School, and soon her artistic talent won her entrance to their ‘Cream of Art’ group.

Though she also proved able at both writing and singing, her father withdrew her from school at 14, and sent her to learn shorthand & typing, promising she could attend St. Martin’s School of Art at a later stage. However, that never happened as soon after the War ended Mr. Arden and his two sons left for South Africa, and in September 1948 his wife and two daughters followed.

Married at the tender age of 18, Shirley soon gave birth to a boy, and after moving to Durban had another son. Now working at the Durban Jewish Club, Shirley took part in several of their stage shows, and also became part of a popular singing duo. However, unhappy in her marriage she eventually left Durban and returned to Johannesburg with her boys.

Without a steady income from their father, she eventually decided to enrol her sons in Arcadia, a Jewish home where they would be able to attend top schools and university if they wished. Shortly afterwards, however, she met the man she has written about in her book.

Many years later, Shirley Friedman decided to self-publish ‘Flies in the Milk’ as Agents were hard to come by.  Though now in her 80s she is still active with much artistic talent up her sleeve. Stories, songs, poems, even plays fill her files, so she is not finished yet.


“This book is a tale of true but tragic love, of the tremendous struggle of a pair of lovers just to spend the rest of their lives together. The descriptive passages in this book are so full of feeling that they sweep the reader up into the very world that is being depicted by the printed word.”Sylvia