Finally! I paddled on moving water for the first time this century. I had often thought about it, I mentioned it a few times (I’m good at the talking side of things); I even bought a new boat in anticipation. Then yesterday, finally, I dipped my little toe into the nicely-flowing water of the wonderful Umkomaas river.
I was going to paddle with four guys with 280 years of life experience and 160 Umko canoe marathons, but Jess joined me and I didn’t want to leave her alone, so Charles, Hugh and Rob set off from Nkonka camp below the old No.8 rapid on their sit-on kayaks, while Chris and I drove to the takeout point at Josephines bridge.
I’ve often pooh-poohed the concept of ‘muscle memory.’ It’s your brain that remembers, I’d growl. But yesterday my muscles remembered that I hadn’t done any training for decades; and they remembered that paddling upstream is hard work and they don’t like it. Downstream was wonderful; whattapleasure drifting on the current. Brought back many happy memories.
(old post from my early daze blog vrystaatconfessions.com)
Harrismith had a very successful sportscar designer! Sheila reminded me on her facebook. He was a big mate of Polly du Plessis. They called each other Sissel Pud (du Plessis backwards) and Tweedie (de Witt backwards). Verster was captain of the rugby team and Mary Bland’s boyfriend. He dopped a few years and was in JC when she wrote matric. A real gentleman, says Mary. When she left to go nursing he said, ‘My fear is that we don’t meet again – worse, that we’re living in the same city and we don’t even know it.’ Sensitive soul.
Here’s the story of Verster de Witt – or the parts I could fish out:
Two Stellenbosch university pals wanted to make a great sportscar. They were Bob van Niekerk and Willie Meissner. In 1958 Meissner went to England and saw a new technology called fibreglass. He wrote a letter to Bob van Niekerk asking him to come to England to study fibreglass crafting. Bob hopped onto a Union Castle ship and joined his mate. In those days that was called ‘instant response’: The letter took a week; the response took a week; the ship took a month; Bang! Two months later there his mate was, ready to help.
Bob recalls: ‘We had full confidence in our ability to produce the mechanicals and a good chassis, but needed someone to put a ‘face’ on it – a good looking design. As luck would have it, Willie knew a lady Joan, nee Peters, who was married to a stylist working at Rootes who would hopefully stop us from producing a mediocre, unattractive body.’
His name was Verster de Wit, an ex-Harrismith boykie and good friend of our Polly du Plessis and Mary Bland (later Swanepoel). He very soon had them building quarter-scale models with plasticene during the week in their one-roomed flat in Earls Court while he was off working in Coventry on the Sunbeam Alpine. Fridays, Verster would come down to London to inspect the work they had done. When they got to scale model number 13, it suddenly all came together, and ‘a unanimous decision was made to progress to full-scale.’
‘We rented a garage in Gleneldin Mews in Streatham and built the mock-up using wooden formers and plaster of paris. The first body came out of the mold in April 1957 and was sold for 75 pounds, which helped to pay for my trip back to Cape Town where Willie had started the Glassport Motor Company (GSM).’
They considered what to name their cars: Cheetah, Mamba, Simba, Zebra, Kudu, Lynx or Tyger? Eventually they called the open top the GSM Dart and the hardtop the GSM Flamingo. On returning to South Africa, they built four prototypes in 1957, and the first production car rolled off the line in early 1958. In total, 116 GSM Darts and 128 GSM Flamingos were produced from 1958 to 1964. Actually, the GSM club tracked down many of them and reckoned there were a few more than that.
The GSM cars were astonishingly quick and agile and won a lot of races. In their first nine hour in JHB, a Dart beat Sarel vd Merwe in his Porsche into second place; they were followed by an MG, another Porsche, a Volvo and an Alfa Romeo!
But perhaps the best story was after they had sold 41 cars by 1959, for racing and road use in Cape Town, they decided they could also be sold in England and Bob set sail with a complete body and chassis kit on the Union Castle liner. In England Bob was introduced to Mr John P Scott at Windsor Garage, West Malling in Kent. Scott agreed to give him a place to build a car and fund all the parts on condition that Bob built the car in 10 days! AND that he entered it in a race at Brands Hatch! AND that he won the race! What a tall – almost impossible – order!
Bob accepted the challenge and worked day and night to complete the Dart by the Friday before the race. On the Saturday, April 18, 1960 Bob found himself in the middle of the grid on an unfamiliar circuit in a brand new and untested car. He steadily worked his way up into first place and won the race! He actually did it! Setting a Brands Hatch lap record that stood for seven years! A delighted Mr Scott then established a GSM production facility in a 5000 square foot factory behind the Windsor Garage to produce the first batch of cars. They couldn’t call them Dart in England, so they used ‘Delta’. Records are vague – it seems somewhere between 35 and 76 GSM Deltas were made in Kent.
The little cars developed a legendary winning reputation in the UK, Europe and SA. To show that they weren’t only about racing, the Flamingo was marketed as the road-going version:
In 1964 they ran out of money.
Aftermath with Verster de Wit: 1976
A GSM club was formed in JHB and they tracked down Verster at his home in Kosmos on the Hartebeespoort Dam. He and his new wife Eva hauled out a suitcase full of his photos and sketches of his design days in England and in SA. They regaled the club members with tales of the hours of dedication and hard work Verster had put into his automotive design career. Another well-known design he had also been involved with – in addition to the Sunbeam Alpine – was the Humber Super Snipe.
In the 1980s the design got another lease of life when Jeff Levy got Verster to help him make a series of accurate replicas known as Levy Darts.
After a delightful game drive we rounded a bend and there before us was a fairyland under the acacias: Candlelit tables; white tablecloths; mounds of food and litres of grog; Dinner under the stars;
Litres of grog. We felt obliged to indulge. Wonderfully festive and everyone in expansive, friendly and bonhomie mood. Well, me anyway. I had fallen amongst thieves and was being happily led astray. Again.
Hyenas around the camp watched us just outside the circle of firelight. Every now and then someone would shine a torch round and there were those eyes, watching us and taking notes.
We drank all the bottles. We tried hard to drink all the boxes.
Landrovers left, one after the other. We drank on. Then came that fearful dirge, dreaded by all soaks: Time gentlemen please. Gotta go now. The last Landrover is leaving.
Go! we said. No Worries! We’ll catch the last hyena home. Bacchanalian Bravado. The rangers who’d drawn the short straw rolled their eyes and waited, then patiently herded us into the last Landrover and drove us home, pretending to enjoy our songs and wit. Some of us sitting on the bonnet passing the last box of wine from mouth to mouth.
Back in River Camp they resignedly open up the pub and we drank some more. Strangely enough we felt thirsty, they always say one should drink a lot – avoid dehydration. There was a bit of spillage on the bar counter due to enthusiasm and slight co-ordination challenges. But more No Worries, we dutifully mopped up the bar counter leaving it clean and tidy. Vicious rumours circulated that I played a central role, hoovering up the booze lake. Tall tales were told how I was held by the legs and torso by sundry drunkards and long-lip suctioned up the leftover moisture. I was only trying to help. One should act responsibly I feel.
Merriam-Webster says (paraphrased): German tipplers toasting each other’s health sometimes drank a brimming mug of spirits straight to the bottom-drinking “all-out.” They called it – gar aus. The French adopted the German term as carous, using the adverb in their expression boire carous (“to drink all out”), and that phrase, with its idiomatic sense of “to empty the cup,” led to carrousse, a French noun meaning “a large draft of liquor.” And that’s where English speakers picked up carouse in the mid-1500s, first as a noun (which later took on the sense of a general “drinking bout”), and then as a verb meaning “to drink freely.”
dictionary.com says: carousal – [ kuh-rou-zuhl ] – noun: a noisy or drunken feast or social gathering; revelry.
A Fierce Feathered Dinosaur took um at a Faithful Amiable Amphibian who was just doing his duty recently. The Redwing Dinos were filled with amour and nesting fervour. They had their eye on a spot on my stoep – the Black Flycatcher nest.
But le frog was on duty, determined to put them off.
The male starling pestered him
‘e chest-bumped le frog; who landed with a splash
Undaunted, le frog he say Mon Dieu and went back on duty; whereupon ‘e got attacked from le rear and landed face-down, falling on hard tiles ‘e did, shame. ‘E almost croaked
I picked ‘im up; I patched ‘im up; I gave him le pep talk. So zis time ‘e decide No More le Watchfrog! Zis time ‘e OCCUPIES!
‘Don’t come and visit! I’ve got head lice. They’re all over. I’ve told Linda to keep great-granddaughter Katie away! I have used over R1000 worth of muti from Aidan the chemist, I’ve sprayed the carpets and bedroom with Doom, I even sprayed my head with Doom, I know I shouldn’t have, but they’re crawling all over my body.‘
OK. That doesn’t sound right, so I go and visit. No sign of head lice. Have you seen any? ‘Only one, in my bed, but I saw three or four eggs on the lice comb. The louse on my bed was about the size of a grain of rice.’ Hmmm.
I write it down so he can’t mis-hear me or get me wrong: “I don’t think you have head lice. I think you have crawling nerve ends. Peripheral neuropathy.”
I’m wrong, of course. Immediately wrong. This and that.
I spell it out again: “I do not think you have head lice. In fact I KNOW you don’t have head lice. Stop using poisons. Your shingles and nerve endings cause crawling and itching sensations. Basically it’s peripheral neuropathy – nerve damage.” You’re not allowed to say Dis Die Ouderdom, but nevertheless I say, “You don’t have any specific cause, so it’s probably age-related.”
He’s skeptical, but at least when I take him to PicknPay he doesn’t buy any more Doom – which was on his list.
Later I take him the blurb on neuropathy – which is also the most likely cause of his pins and needles fingers and burning feet. It’s a bugger. But it’s not lice.
Nowadays he tells people about peripheral neuropathy.
No, better! It’s actually a Starred Robin! I said excitedly.
A frosty silence descended.
‘DO YOU KNOW I’M THE CHAIRMAN OF THE HERMANUS BIRD CLUB?’ came the imperious question.
That’s very nice, I said without taking my binocs off the robin, But that doesn’t make a robin a shrike. Look at its beak.
A classic attempt at eminence over evidence. Whattahoot!
We moved on, back to our bush camp near Lake St Lucia. Things were uncomfortable, as Jess and I were actually their guests, and mine host’s ego was wounded.
That night I aimed my tiny little 22X Kowa spotting scope at the full moon, setting the tripod low so the kids could get a lovely look.
Again I felt the ambient temperature drop drastically. There were mutterings by Ma, sending The Chairman of the Hermanus Bird Club scuttling off to his son’s bungalow and emerging twice with two large wooden boxes and one small one. A huge tripod emerged from one of them. Unfolded, it resembled the Eiffel tower. From the other box a white tube like an Apollo rocket. The Professional Celestial Telescope! After much assembling and urgent furtive instructions the fussing codgers and the favourite son start searching for the moon. Hey! It’s not easy to find with those bazookas. You move it a millimetre right and you’ve got Jupiter; a millimetre left and its Mars. Go too far down it’s Uranus. Eventually the moon is located and focused on. Ma, Pa and favourite son step back satisfied, and invite the kids to look at THIS telescope. A real one. A chair has to be found for them to stand on.
Oh, I much prefer that one, says the grandkid and then Jessica agrees, and then the other grandkid says Yes, That one’s much better, POINTING AT MY TINY KOWA! It’s a social disaster! Their own grandkids betraying them in their moment of triumph!
I hastily step up to their scope and say Ooh! Aah! and Wow! Magnificent! Powerful! What else? All you can see is white. It’s focused on an insignificant bath mat-sized area of the moon. Whereas with mine you can see the whole moon the size of a dinner plate, this one you could see a dinner plate on the moon. Except there’s no dinner plate to see. Mine shows mountains and craters, this monster shows white.
Cast a pall on the evening it did. Gloom descended. Some went to bed early after some muttered explanation of how the better telescope WAS actually much better.
Hilarious, if a bit stressful at the time for a polite person.
We have a new book out! ( – get it on takealot.com – )
OK, the author has a new book out, his first. School friend Harry ‘Pikkie’ Loots is Harrismith’s latest published author, following in the footsteps of FA Steytler, EB Hawkins, Petronella van Heerden and Leon Strachan. There must be more? Indeed – Pikkie reminded me of Johann Lodewyk Marais and Anita van Wyk Henning.
He has published it as an eBook – and I have now received my hard copy too.
I had the privilege and fun of reading it as he wrote and re-wrote it, as one of his proof-readers. It was a blast! I climbed his mountains without getting breathless – except occasionally from laughing, as we relived the olden daze..
Now you gotta realise, Pikkie is a mountaineer and trekker. These are phlegmatic buggers; unflappable; understated. So when he says ‘we walked and then crossed some ice and then we got here: ‘
. . with lovely pictures and fascinating stories along the way . . you must know what he doesn’t show you:
And this is the third highest peak he climbs in Africa! There’s more to come!
Those of us who climb Mt aux Sources should also remember how we drive to within an hour or two’s leisurely walk from the chain ladder. To get to these higher mountains there’s days of trekking before you reach the point in the picture. And there’s way less oxygen available up there! After reading some chapters I had to go’n lie down for a while.
Here’s the back cover blurb: ( – get the book on takealot.com – )
Riposte and Touché:
Pikkie appointed a fellow-mountaineering Pom John as another of his proofreaders. This John asked ‘What’s it with you Saffers and exclamation marks?’ I puffed myself up and replied the problem was not that we use too many; the problem was that Poms use too few!
John’s rejoinder was, “Not true. We use our national quota. It’s just that we allocate almost all of them to teenage girls.”
Phoned Mother Mary Methodist tonight. She’s 92 and in frailcare. She reports that she’s still playing the piano in the dining room before each mealtime; and that she has given up walking.
She was walking a few steps, fully assisted, each day after her hip op, but now the steel pin has escaped the bone and would need another op to remove so she (wisely, IMO) has decided to simply stick to her wheelchair.
She says of her piano playing, “Sometimes not very well, but I’m the best they’ve got!” She gets wheeled up to the piano, and ‘as long as someone can put my feet on the pedals,’ she’s away! If she plays too long (over her five or ten minute limit) there may be a bit of harrumphing that the food has arrived. Then she’ll wheel over to the nearby table and have her meal on wheels.
She keeps remembering new songs to play she says. Her latest is one Annie (her mother) used to play while she and ___ (Trudi? Sylvia?) danced to it in the Harrismith town hall – some polka. “Step Step Step HOP” she says.
‘Step Step Step HOP’ sounds like some of the eight-beer dances we would do on the Gailian lawn in the 1970’s. Though I don’t think the number of Steps and the number of Hops were as strictly stuck to. It was more laissez faire, I think, more impromptu.
Dad had me in stiches last week….wasn’t sure if he was joking until the second letter accepting the refusal, and Sheila re-inforced it was a joke…..he formally in writing asked to keep a cow here in the greens as milk is costing him too much each month….
Mrs Collett Doncaster
Azalea Gardens Body Corporate
I wondered what he was on about just about a week before:
You know I tried to get Mary to drink milk, but she wouldn’t. We had a cow, we had our own milk, we used to make cream in the separator right there in the pantry on the plot. But no, she wouldn’t drink milk, and isnt it true calcium builds strong bones?
Ah, I see where this is going. Mom broke her hip last year at age 91. Had she only done as he TOLD HER at age 31, no broken bones, QED.
I remember the separator. We called it the yob yob ting. As you turned the handle it went yob yob ting and you could time how fast to turn it by getting into a rhythm. Also the butter churn – I seem to remember the propeller-like paddles inside glass. Maybe like this:
Green beetle bugs have little bugs upon their heads to bite ’em, And little bugs have lesser bugs, and so ad infinitum. And the great bugs themselves, in turn, have greater bugs to go on; While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
In the cottage while Jess was being ridiculously fussed over a hawk moth in her bedroom, she spotted a snake under her bed. This didn’t faze her, it was the moth that bothered her! She watched me catch it, photograph and remove it and carried on gaan-ing aan about the moth on her wall! I said Jess! You’re my field ranger! Relax! It’s a moth, f’gdnis’sake. After releasing the snake we couldn’t find the moth, so Jess went to bed warily, one eye open . .
Birds Seen: 1. Ostrich Grey goway bird Loerie Speckled Mousebird Red-collared Widow Long-tailed paradise Whydah Pintail Whydah Southern Boubou Dark-capped Bulbul 10. Stompstert Crombec Arrow-mark Babbler European Roller Lilac-breasted Roller Rattling Cisticola Zitting Cisticola White-brow Scrub Robin Yellowbill Hornbill ForkTailed Drongo Lesser striped Swallow 20. Barn Swallow Black belly Starling Redwing Starling Blue Waxbill Grey head Sparrow Buzzard common Crested Barbet Scimitarbill Southern black Tit Palm Swift 30. Southern masked Weaver Lesser masked Weaver Village Weaver Spectacled Weaver Golden-breasted Bunting Village Indigobird Dusky Indigobird Whitebellied sunbird Amethyst Sunbird female Scarlet chest Sunbird female 40. White-throated Robin Chat Blue grey Flycatcher Spotted Flycatcher Black Flycatcher Crested Francolin Helmeted Guineafowl Redbill Firefinch Striped Kingfisher Brownhooded Kingfisher Magpie Shrike
50. Red back Shrike Black crown Tchagra Green Woodhoopoe Bronze wing Courser Tawny-flanked Prinia Cardinal woodpecker Emerald spot wood Dove Cape turtle dove Laughing dove Redeyed dove 60. Burchells Coucal (fukwe) Woolly neck Stork Black belly Bustard Redbill Oxpecker Cardinal Woodpecker Bearded Woodpecker YellowBreasted Apalis Diderik Cuckoo Hoopoe Rufous-naped Lark 70. Gorgeous Bush Shrike Pytilia Yellow-fronted Canary Cape Batis Natal Spurfowl Sombre Greenbul Wahlbergs Eagle Golden-tailed Woodpecker Little Bee-eater Chinspot Batis 80. Black collared Barbet Pied Barbet White helmet Shrike .. 82 species Heard calls only: Grey headed Bush Shrike Orange-breasted Bush Shrike Camaroptera Black Cuckoo Piet my vrou European Bee-eater Brubru Woodland Kingfisher
Friend Larry had a beautiful old Tudor-style home, almost 100yrs old. He had a fire in the basement which caused huge damage. He sold to renovators who said they’d restore it, not demolish. Larry was hoping that happened.
It did. It got beautifully restored, renovated and sold as a family home. Being on a busy road in Akron, Ohio, and having apartments and businesses as neighbours, it may have become offices, but the renovators stuck to their word! I do note they say the basement is ‘unfinished.’
Fully Updated ‘Highland Square’ 3162 square foot brick tudor home. Includes large family room with recessed lighting, built-in cupboards, fireplace, hardwood floors. Upgraded kitchen with new cabinets and center island, first floor laundry, 4 bedrooms with 4 full bathrooms. Dryer, Washer, Dishwasher, Waste Disposal, Microwave, Oven, Range, Refrigerator.
I was talking about GPS devices and how they make maps obsolete, but do they? As friend, trekker and mountaineer Harry ‘Pikkie’ Loots points out, when out in the wilderness, be sure to take your maps and compass along. Sometimes you’re not connected to anything, you only have what you brought.
I love maps. Here are some of mine – about 70 of them here:
Those three Drakensberg maps are 1:50 000 and made of waxed paper so they can survive some soggy weather. Some of the others are plastic laminated, so even more waterproof.
I thought I’d compare my Drakensberg map of the chain ladder to what I could find online. Actually, you can get far more detail online! Here’s a snapshot of the chain ladder area:
So it would pay to search the area you’re going to beforehand and capture and print some detail to supplement your maps.
ca.1996 my good friend Larry sent me a Magellan hand-held GPS after we had hosted him for parts of his trip to SA that year. I didn’t know what to do with it. It was fun, we’d stand outside while it took its time finding up to nine satellites; it would give us our location (about 300 South and 300 East); and we could re-trace a path we had driven, but we didn’t really see much use for it at first. I kept playing with it, fascinated, thinking ‘Oka-ay, now what?’
Then came frog atlassing! We were active in bird atlassing in quarter degree squares, but frogging was different. Easier! All we had to do was tape-record the frog calling, add a few details like weather and habitat, record the location on the GPS and send in the “sighting” (hearing). That was really cool. No maps needed.
For recording we had a directional mike and a cassette tape recorder. My first one had a fold-out parabola mike, the new one looked more up-to-date, just like this:
Although we felt like early adopters in 1996, much had been happening already. The GPS project was started by the U.S Department of Defense in 1973, with the first prototype spacecraft launched in 1978 and the full constellation of 24 satellites operational in 1993. Originally limited to use by the United States military, civilian use was allowed from the 1980s.
In 1989, Magellan Navigation Inc. unveiled its Magellan NAV 1000, the world’s first commercial handheld GPS receiver. These units initially sold for approximately US$2,900 each. We had the 2000 – wonder what Larry paid!?
In 1990 Mazda made the first production car in the world with a built-in GPS navigation system.
Garmin seemed to become the most commonly-seen GPS units in SA, as I recall it. Now cellphones – smartphones – have it all built in, no need for a separate GPS. No need for a separate anything, almost.
Camera, TV, map, compass, email, music player, music library, PC, internet browser, scanner (paper, credit cards, barcodes), fax, bank, credit card, remote control (for TV, DVD, games, drones, model cars, cameras, etc), business card, airline ticket, light meter, spirit level, distance measuring tape, calendar, guitar tuner, recipe book, library, e-reader, field guide, tune recogniser, advice columnist, demonstrater of how to fix anything and build anything, video phone, video camera, live streaming camera, plant, insect and animal identifier, newspaper, photo album, photo editing, notepad, book writer, dictionary, online shopper, timer, watch, alarm clock, walkie talkie, data store, games (board, active and interactive), keys (house, car), torch, voice recorder, calculator, radio, ANYTHING. Everything!
One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.
. . you can’t go home! You can’t go back to Botswana! Who’s going to help me keep Tom in his place!?
Tumisang Lekoni studied hospitality at the International Hotel School up the road from us and she and Tom became good friends. Twenty two pounds ringing wet and four foot two (I exaggerate!), she has a lovely strong voice and is one of the few people who can get a word in edgeways when Tom is off on a monologue.
You spoilt Tom rotten, helping him with his chores after a full day’s work in which he’d mostly sat on his bottom!
We’ll miss you big time Tumi. Our little valley is emptier without you.
Here we see Tom ‘Not Dropping His Phone’ – cos ‘I never drop my phone, Dad, it just breaks!’
The building trade in Maritzburg is the worst I’ve ever dealt with. They’re useless, useless.
Its my xmas phone call from the old goat. He’s been in the old age home retirement village for something under a year now and has finally achieved one of his many goals to change things there, to improve things. Meaning, to do things his way. He has covered in the small veranda that was useless, useless, so he can now use it as a workshop. Or at least he has nearly covered it in. The steel framework for the windows and the door has been installed after much fighting with a guy ‘who Sheila has known for forty years. You’d think he would do my installation right!’ Now he’s fighting with glaziers. The glaziers in Maritzburg are the worst I’ve ever dealt with. They’re useless, useless.
I would do it myself, but I can’t lift my right arm and my ladder has one dodgy leg, like me. My leg is 98yrs old, so it has an excuse. Otherwise I would just do it myself. They say I must use 4mm glass, but I’m going to use 3mm. I’ll save over R500. I should just do it myself.
I’m tired of cooking, eating, cleaning. I enjoyed it for a while, I was like a little girl playing house, but now I’m tired of it. It’s not productive. Cook, eat and clean; I’m not achieving anything.
So now I’ll have to wait till after xmas. I think I’ll phone them on Monday and shit all over them! What do you think?
Me, bellowing down the phone: NO, I DON’T THINK THAT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA. PHONE THEM AND BE NICE AND SAY PLEASE.
Good. I’ll do that then. I’ll phone them and shit all over them.
** sigh ** Makes my eyes glaze over. I’ll get on now with preparing our xmas lunch. His phone call interrupted the proceedings. I’m busy glazing the gammon.