Careful where you step!


Welcome to Bewilderbeast Droppings.

Occasional ramblings interrupted by two pests who insist I raise them, pander to them and guide them. Now doing it solo (dammit where are you Aitch!?). Anyway, they’re bigger now:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Ithala July14 (18) Brekker on the beach

Pfft! We’ll Beat Him!

Brauer was running Comrades. Successfully. I was definitely not – not even unsuccessfully – yet, but I always thought running was easy – you just put one foot in front of the other, how hard can it be? I couldn’t understand how they wrote books about it. I mean c’mon!

So I joined him on a 32km run on his build-up to the big crazy ultra day when fools shuffle from Maritzburg to Durbs-by-the-Sea. This one:

Springs Striders 32km


Oceans of people filled the whole park at the start on the East Rand – It was the Springs Striders club’s big race. I had never been in such a big field. The Harrismith Mountain Race was the biggest bunch I’d run with before – nothing like these thousands.

The gun went off and – nothing happened. Eventually we started shuffling forwards, then walking, then eventually we reached the start line under the ‘Start’ banner and after a while we could trot a bit. Then it opened up and we got into my stride (mine, as Brauer thoughtfully stuck with me and didn’t go roaring off like a Fordyce). After a while we passed a tiny little ancient man barely shuffling along with his shoulders hunched and his eyes firmly fixed on the tarmac a metre in front of his feet. He must have started way ahead of us in the pack, but now we had caught him due to our superior pace, skill and youth. I looked at Brauer and crowed quietly: “That’s one good thing about these mass runs: At least there’s always someone who you know you’ll be beating”. I had never been in a mass run, of course, but I was drawing on my extensive experience as a spectator, where I would always be near the front, striding out with knees flashing past my ears.

And so it went for 16km, me matching my Comrade Brauer stride-for-stride. Inexplicably then, I felt the urge to tap off a bit and at around the 20km marker Brauer mumbled something and disappeared effortlessly off into the distance. It sounded like “Fuckit, we’ll fall asleep if we continue at this snail’s pace” but it wasn’t that. He’s far too polite.

At 25km I heard a quiet little shuffling and a tiny little ancient man barely shuffling along with his shoulders hunched and his eyes firmly fixed on the tarmac a metre in front of his feet came past me as if I was going backwards. His pace was exactly the same as it had been when we passed him on km 3 or 4. Mine was not. So I started walking, joining up with some other porky-looking fellows. The spring had left my stride on the Springs Striders.

“Look at him!” one of my fellow strollers said, “That’s Liege Boulle. In 1983 he won his 39th Comrades medal, fifty years after his first”. I learnt a big ‘respect-your-elders’ lesson that day which I try to thump into my kids’ skulls now. Unsuccessfully.

Years later I got back to that park in Springs where Brauer was waiting. Patiently. He knew better than to call out a search party. It must have been within some sort of time limit though, as they gave me that cloth badge with the appropriate animal on it.

You would think this would have decided me not to run the Comrades ever.





‘Bain of Harrismith’

My granny Annie had an older brother Ginger. He was the oldest of the seven Royal Bains and a great sportsman. They owned the Royal Hotel and were not to be confused with the Central Bains, who owned the Central Hotel!

This old report was reprinted in the 1997 Hilton vs Michaelhouse sports day brochure: 

Hilton Ginger Bain_2

It seems drop goals were four points and tries were three in those days. I like that the one side was “smarter with their feet” . .

Ginger Bain’s father Stewart died in 1939:

Stewart Bain 1939.jpg

I thought I remembered that – despite the fact that every dorp has a Royal Hotel – the Harrismith Royal Hotel was one of only two that could officially call itself ‘Royal’. Sheila has confirmed that I have a flawless memory (well, something along those lines):

Royal Hotel article

Possible World Record

I may be in line for a world record soon. We’ll know in about 190 years time.

I read it here-

Heroic Failures

Seems the Slowest Selling Book Ever was a 1716 translation of the New Testament from Coptic into Latin by David Wilkins. He sold 191 copies.

Well, as far as underachievement goes that’s piffling stuff! I sold exactly zero of my 2016 Umko 50 years book, so I should be able to whip this Wilkins’ ass handily. We printed 300 and gave them all away, so unless people start re-selling them I’m safe, and should become an honorary member of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain.

Only danger is his 191st copy sold in 1907, so he still has those 190 years in which he can claim “Yes, but . . “.


The Book of Heroic Failures was written by Stephen Pile in 1979 in celebration of human inadequacy in all its forms. Entries include William McGonagall, a notoriously bad poet, and Teruo Nakamura a soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army who fought World War II until 1974.

The original edition included an application to become a member of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain; However, this was taken out in later editions because the club received over 30,000 applications and closed on the grounds that it was “a failure as a failure” (but not before Pile himself had been deposed as president for showing alarming competence by preventing a disaster involving a soup toureen, then being expelled from the club for publishing a bestseller). The American version of the book was misprinted by the publishers, who left out half the introduction. As a consequence, later versions of the book came out with an erratum slip longer than the entire introduction. (wikipedia)

Pile says “People keep talking about the things man does well, when these few blades of grass are surrounded by vast prairies of inadequacy which are much more interesting”.


151 Elephants

We spent a few hours in Hluhluwe Game Reserve on my first visit to Jess on her course. We got in for free using our new Rhino Card. For ages now we have battled to see eles in KZN parks. In fact in Mkhuze last year I offered the kids a reward if they spotted fresh ele poo!! Not even the live animals themselves! Nothing.

As always Jess was the spotter: “Dad! Elephants! Stop!” She does NOT want to get close, so we stopped a good 200m away and watched as 30 eles of all sizes sauntered past on a road across a streambed from where we were parked. In another first, I was without my binocs! The last time that happened was 2003. I only had my spares that live in the car, not my proper Zeiss’. Can’t believe what getting ancient does to one.

Then “Dad, there are more” – and then more. And more. They were all headed for the Hluhluwe river so we found an overlook on a bend and watched and counted.

Hluhluwe Jess May17 (24)

Hluhluwe Jess May17 (18)

We counted 150 eles! Our ele drought has been broken. One teenage ele took exception to the presence of the warthogs, rushing them, shaking his ears. They basically ignored him, scampering away at the last minute and trotting straight back to their positions in defiance of him.

On the way out a lone ele ran out of the bush across the road right in front of us, making it 151.




Jess on a Field Guide Course

Set in a beautiful sand forest, ehlathini bush camp is where Bhejane Nature Training courses take place. Up in Zululand north of Hluhluwe village within sight of the north-west arm of Lake St Lucia, the camp borders iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Jess to Zululand Training Course (15)

Jess was assigned a wooden cabin in a mango orchard to share with Lydia from London.

Jess to Zululand Training Course (13)

Jess to Zululand Training Course (39)

Better than a tent, eh Jess? “Just, Dad!” Lydia from London had arrived before her, so got the better bed!

With much trepidation and bravery Jess waved me goodbye and started her first extended spell away from home!

Update: She’s now in Ebandla Trails Camp in amaKhosi Reserve up near Nongoma. She’s out of comms but today they were up on a hill and she borrowed her friend Blessing’s phone and let me now she’s well; They walked right near an ele herd, and a lioness with a cub, and they’re staying there till Sunday 28th May, and will I visit when they get back to ehlathini that day. “Sure thing my love!”

Cape Vidal Camping

So I took these –

Cape Vidal Apr17 (50)

to here –

and when they saw these harmless creatures –

they squealed and ran out of the campsite shouting “I’m taking an uber home!”

Cape Vidal Apr17 (71)

’twas like casting pearls before swine . . . .

Holy Green Underpants

Who remembers the AWB’s Eugene Terreblanche? Who can forget him? I bumped into him one day ca 1999.

Driving my hired car in a crowded Pretorius Street in downtown Pretoria one fine day  I slowed down to let a car wanting in move around a stationary truck. It pulled past the truck and went back into the left lane and slowed so that I drew next to it. The driver wound down his window and gave me a very sincere “Baie dankie, ek waardeer dit terdeë in that voice, staring straight at me with his pale blowtorch blue* eyes. It was Eugene Terreblanche himself. Charismatic bliksem.


Like this, except he was driving and he didn’t smile – he was all sincerity and dankbaarheid.

Terreblanche in car

Famous for his 1988 / 89 liaison with Sunday Times reporter Jani Allan.

Jani Allan.jpg

His large white bottom and his green underpants hit the news. In court: Further testimony was given by AWB financial secretary Mej. Kays Smit. Smit testified that Allan had phoned her to come and remove a drunken Terre’Blanche from her flat early one morning because Allan was expecting someone and was anxious to get rid of him. Smit testified to finding Terre’Blanche on Allan’s couch “naked except for a khaki jacket around his shoulders and a pair of green underpants with holes in them”.

I have inspected my own underpants carefully ever since, and replace them more frequently than I used to. You never know . . . .


*Jani Allan’s description of his penetrating gaze! She wrote “Right now I’ve got to remind myself to breathe … I’m impaled on the blue flames of his blowtorch eyes.”

“Baie dankie, ek waardeer dit terdee” – Thank you, sincerely appreciated

dankbaarheid – gratitude




I read Thunderhead by Mary O’Hara as a kid and loved it. Horse ranching and racing in the mountains of Wyoming. The description of a thunderhead as a huge, solid-looking towering cloud formation always stayed with me. The horse was named after the cloud:


And today I saw one over the Indian Ocean as I left work. It was away to the South East, reflecting the setting sun behind me.