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Careful Where You Step!

Recording and reminiscing; with occasional bokdrols of wisdom. Possibly.

Random, un-chronological memories after marriage, children and sundry other catastrophes.

– this swanepoel family –

My pre-marriage blog is vrystaatconfessions.com. Bachelorhood! Beer! River trips! Beer!

bokdrols – like pearls, but handle with care

Workshop – New Chapter

The old man gave up his workshop in Ivy Road with great regret about a year ago. Now he has finally finished enclosing the front porch of his cottage to use as his new micro-workshop, where he hopes to do a bit of wood-turning, make some clocks and some mosaic pictures.

After a long saga of great criticism about the poor work ethic of Maritzburg builders, largely endured by Sheila who has stuck with him through thick and thin, he finally has what he wanted. When he announced it, Barbara and Sheila swooped in, fetching all the stuff he had stored at his friend Johan’s workshop and moved it into his lounge, forcing his hand. Suddenly he had to stop moaning and get to work.

Mom & Dad in Azalea cottage – that door leads to the new workshop

Slowly, slowly he moved it all into the workshop. This meant he could no longer get in there. So today he tells me he’s going to move half of it back into the lounge while he puts up five shelves, whereupon he’ll move it all back and he will then be able to get into the workshop and start doing his thing. Except he can only do three shelves, the bottom two he’ll have to have done as he can’t bend down to do them. Ons sal sien if he can complete his first project before he turns 99. The race is on.

The feature pic shows the old Montgomery-Ward desktop wood-lathe he wanted to use. He may have bought a better one since then? He spoke about it a lot.

The WARDS Powr-Kraft Model 9WFD Number 2002 Factory 952, made in USA by Montgomery-Ward. Seems ca.1930 – 1940.

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Call Me Archie

I was miffed when they made a graven image of the archbishop! They’d removed the glasses I made for him before they made the mould of him to cast him in bronze.

Years later I was mollified. They made another graven image of him and this time they left his glasses on!

I cant see, did they engrave my name on the frame? On the lenses?

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Ex Freistata Semper Aliquid Novi

Hey Eddie! Thanks a lot.
I had a lovely quiet day at home with lots and lots of messages – way more than I deserve, as I remember only a few birthdays, so I say to them – as I say to you here – hope you have a wonderful day and year too! So many people remember my ruddy birthday. Can’t think why???

Spoke to Mother Mary on the day. She’s well. Also to the old goat, who pretended to hear what I was saying. Sisters Barbara and Sheila both phoned, and a host of others; a call from Janet in Botswana, a long call from Glen and Ali in Aussie, an even longer call from Larry in Ohio; people are amazing. Messages from all over. And all because I was lucky enough to be born on a highly suspicious day on the Gregorian calendar that people tell me is somehow appropriate to me!?

And guess what I found out yesterday for the first time in sixty six years? Mary said, “Yes, you made a fool of me that day. You arrived two days late. You were due on the 30th March.” First time I ever heard that! Who the hell would want to be born on the 30th March!?

I’m guessing as Mom’s recent grey cells die off, and she loses what happened yesterday or this morning, some of the ancient ones – up to ninety two years old – are getting a fresh look at daylight, being dusted off and telling their story? Maybe?

Thank goodness I waited those two days, incubating quietly and delaying getting out into the noise. My whole life would have been different if I hadn’t been born on the 1st April. Different; Less fun, I think.

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“Yes, you made a fool of me that day. You arrived two days late. You were due on the 30th March.” Then, “Did I tell you that?” Poor dear Mom Mary repeated that surprise news in the same call, not three minutes after telling me the first time.

Birds n Ballies

. . and a lower quota of Booze.

Lang Dawid came to visit after decades in the hinterland. Always very organised, he sent bearers ahead of his arrival bearing two lists: Ten new birds he wanted to see; and Three old bullets he wanted to see.

We delivered thirty percent of his bird list: A Red-capped Robin-Chat, A White-eared Barbet and a Terrestrial Brownbul; Forty percent if you count the bonus male Tambourine Dove landed in a patch of sunlight, a lifer for Dave. All this thanks to Crispin Hemson showing us his special patch, Pigeon Valley in urban Durban. Talk about Guru Guiding! With local knowledge, depth, anecdotes, asides and wandering all over, on the ground and in our minds. Including climbing through a hole in the fence like naughty truant schoolboys. Whatta lovely man.

– Crispin scans, Dave holds his bazooka at the ready – turn a blind eye to the bottom left corner –

Then Dave and I retreated home to my patch, the Palmiet valley, where Tommy had cleaned up, readied the cottage for Dave’s stay and started a braai fire. Spot on, Tom!

One hundred percent of Dave’s list of old paddling mates arrived. Like homing pigeons, Allie, Charlie and Rip zoomed in. So I had four high-speed paddlers in their day on my stoep, race winners and provincial and national colours galore. We scared off any birds that might have been in the vicinity (feathered or human), but had a wonderful afternoon nevertheless, with lots of laughs.

After they left Dave and I had braai meat for supper; This morning we had braai meat for breakfast and he was off after a fun-filled 24 hours. I sat down to polish the breakfast remains and another cup of coffee and as a bonus, a female Tambourine Dove landed on my birdbath:

– not Dave’s camera –

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Dave’s camera equipment is impressive: a Canon EOS 7D Mk2 body;
https://www.techradar.com/reviews/canon-eos-7d-mark-ii-review
and a 500mm telephoto lens and his go-to, a 70-200mm lens. His main aim is getting a pic of every bird he sees. He shot his 530th yesterday here in Pigeon Valley. So he chases all over Southern Africa ticking off his ‘desired list.’ A magic, never-ending quest: there’ll always be another bird to find; there’ll always be a better picture to try for.

Here’s an adventure Dave and I shared back when we were bachelors, not ballies. It was beer n boobs, not birds n ballies.

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Beds o’ Bugs

Flower beds, not sleeping beds. Not that I actually have any flower beds in my jungle but just to say . . none in my bed. Just an excuse to use beds n bugs in a sentence.

So what are bugs? Well, it depends. Hemiptera or true bugs are an order of 80 000 insect species such as cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm to around 15 cm. Many insects commonly known as “bugs”, especially in American English, belong to other orders; for example, the ‘lovebug’ is a fly; the ‘May bug’ and ‘ladybug’ are beetles. wikipedia

Again, I must add their identifications once I get around to it.

Next, I should do a post on the beatles . . .

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Networks o’ Spiders

You’ve swallowed a spider and nothing happened, so relax about these beautiful, plentiful, essential creatures that are beyond fascinating. Most, by far, are harmless to humans. Like us, they have no wings, and like us, some can fly. Spiders are usually quite home-bound; they live in a small area most of their lives. But hey! they can launch themselves up – ‘ballooning’ they call it, or ‘kiting’ – and fly next door, or next town, or next country – up to 500kms and more, and up to 5km above the ground. ‘Strue! And they make their own parachute. We have to buy or rent our paraglider wing.

Spiders from my garden in this lockdown year. Oh, except the tiny jumping spider on my Hi-Tec shoe – that was in Sand Forest Lodge in Zululand.

If you see swifts and swallows darting about feeding mid-air, part of their diet might be spiderlings.

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Actual pic of a Rockspider’s first flight outside Bulwer, KZN:

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That spider you swallowed? You’ve probably swallowed a spiderling without even noticing it. Here’s a fully-grown one similar to my ‘tiny jumping’ shown above which I photographed in my meadow.

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Herds o’ Butterflies

There been herds o’ butterflies mooching through my garden lately. I been shooting them, but still they come. So I thought I’d post some of those I shot for the enjoyment of them that are fond of the lil guys. Like me.

I’ve posted them – and many other creatures and plants – on iNaturalist.org here.

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“I been shooting them, but still they come,” is me quoting from a book I read long ago, “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.”** It told of settlers living in early Kenya who planted citrus trees. The elephants in that dry country loved them and they shot them and shot them, “but still they came.” Aren’t we humans delightful?

** which man-eater story, incidentally I recommend one takes with a huge pinch of salt. I don’t think lions behave that way, and I don’t think humans behave that way. But it sold like hot cakes and was imitated and frauds were perpetuated on its wave of success (at least one book had that title but the stories inside had nothing to do with the title!).

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I have learnt, in trying to emulate another, more famous Swanepoel with a butterfly net, that catching these flitters aint easy! So its more stalk and click than stalk and catch.

Eggnog

Dad, What’s ‘Eggnog?’

Look it up, Jess. Ooh! It sounds good, Dad, it has alcohol and cream and sugar and eggs and nutmeg! Can I make some?

She does, it goes into the fridge and she disappears off to Folweni. So I’m sitting with a big batch of whisky eggnog in my fridge. What to do?

A few days later I spy the Jungle Oats in the pantry and aha! My Scottish blood rises along with me kilt and I think ‘porridge’ and make a big bowl of steaming hot oats and drown it in cold eggnog and add sugar, eating it the Scottish way: HOT porridge, cold milk, lots of sugar, don’t stir, let it mix in your mouth.

Yum, I had three happy breakfasts.

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Let’s Save Us Some Souls!

(A re-post -I went looking for my ‘missionary’ post to link to, and couldn’t find it. Turns out I’d posted it only on my seldom-visited Apache Adventures blog. So without apology, I thought I’d also post it here).

The new preacherman at the Christian Church of Apache Oklahoma, looked me up after he’d been in town a while and invited me over to his place. Turns out he was interested in becoming a mission-nary to Africa and wanted to meet one of the real-deal Africans he’d heard and read so much about. Maybe suss out just how much we needed saving?

A HUGE man, six feet and nine inches tall, Ron Elrick wore a string tie, a 10 gallon stetson and cowboy boots, making him damn near eight feet tall fully dressed as he stooped through doors and bent down to shake people’s hands. I met his tiny little wife who was seemingly half his height, and two lil daughters. He was an ex-Canadian Mountie and a picture on his mantelpiece showed him towering over John Wayne, when Wayne was in Canada to film a movie.

Soon he invited me to join him on a ‘men’s retreat’ to “God’s Forty Acres” in NE Oklahoma (the yanks are way ahead of Angus Buchan in this “get away from the wife and come back and tell her you’re the boss” shit. I mean, this was 1973!).

– me – – Ron –

I had made it known from my arrival in Apache that I would join anybody and go anywhere to see the state (and get out of school – I mean I’d already DONE matric!). So we hopped into his muddy pinky-brown wagon with ‘wood’ paneling down the sides – it looked a bit like the ’53 Buick Roadmaster in the picture. We roared off from Caddo county heading north-east, bypassing Oklahoma City and Tulsa to somewhere near Broken Arrow or Cherokee county  – near the Arkansas border, anyway. Me n Ron driving like Thelma and Louise.

– me – – Ron –

Non-stop monologue on the way. He didn’t need any answers, I just had to nod him yes and he could talk uninterrupted for hours on end. At the retreat there were hundreds of men & boys just like him, all fired up for the Lawd, bellowing the Retreat Song at the drop of a hat:
“In Gahd’s Fordy Yacres . . !!”We musta sang it 400 times in that weekend. If I was God I’d have done some smiting.

We left at last and headed back, wafting along like on a mattress in that long slap wagon, when Ron suddenly needed an answer:
Had I ever seen a porno movie? WHAT? I hadn’t? Amazing! Well, jeez, I mean goodness, he felt it as sort of like a DUTY to enlighten me and reveal to me just how evil and degraded these movies could be.

So we detoured into Tulsa. Maybe he regarded it as practice for the mission-nary work he was wanting to do among us Africans? We sat through a skin flick in a seedy movie house. It was the most skin ‘n hair ‘n pelvis ‘n organs this 18yr old boykie from the Vrystaat had seen to date so it was, after all, educational. Thin plot, though.

I suppose you could say I got saved and damned all on one weekend.

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footnote:

Ron did get to Africa as a mission-nary. He was posted to Jo-hannesburg. Lotsa ‘sinners’ in Jo-hannesburg, I suppose. I’m just not sure they need ‘saving’ by a Canadian Mountie.

I’m a Missionary

I regard myself as a missionary. It’s an important job. There are a lot of people who need help and I – like the man from head office – am here to help them.

Take my mate JonDinDin and his eating habits. Weird. He made a porridge for me once and when I had finished picking twigs, bark, seed husks and I think even a few pebbles from my teeth, I politely asked him, ‘What The Actual Fuck?’ Roughage, he said. Fibre. Gives you moral fibre, makes you rugged. I explained health food to him and gave him some solid dietary tips. You know what food is good for you if it tastes lekker. If it tastes really REALLY good it’s health food: Mental Health. And that’s the important health, right? Mental Health. Also drinking. Eight glasses of water a day is for elephants after a drought. Drink when you’re thirsty, and sometimes drink stuff that makes you feel witty, clever and like you can dance like Nureyev. I don’t think he thanked me. Weird.

Take Chas and his perseveration. Someone has to be there for him. I say to him, Chas, if you have paddled from Hella Hella to Goodenough’s weir, you have paddled from Hella Hella to Goodenough’s weir. You’ve done it. You do not have to do it fifty times. Fifty three, he says.

I say to Allie, Allie, you have walked the Wild Coast. You have been there, done that. Also, if you must swim, there are lots of places you can swim with zero sharks in the water. I introduce a new concept for your consideration: Shark-Free Water.

But do they lissen!?

What made me think of my mission in life was this NEW Gary Larson cartoon. Yes, the wonderful news is that Gary Larson is telling the truth about life again! He stopped doing his The Far Side cartoons in 1995 but recently he started again! Not with pen and ink now, but on a tablet. Here’s the one that got me going:

isn’t Gary Larson awesome! Domestic dogs preaching like mormons or jehovah’s witnesses!! – – telling lies to dogs living the simple, truthful, real life! –

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I went on a mission with a missionary once. Got saved and damned . . .

Muscle Memory

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, years ago. 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 other guys. Between the five of us we have about 371 years of life experience and 171 Umko canoe marathons; the “1” being mine.

I was going to paddle / drift the 12km with three of them, but Jess joined me and I didn’t want to leave her alone, so Charles, Hugh and Rob set off from Nyala Pans camp below the old No.8 rapid on their sit-on kayaks, while Chris, Ron (Hugh’s side-kick from PMB) and I drove to the takeout point at Josephines bridge.

– I paddled up a bit, then down to just above Wake-up rapid below the bridge and back –

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.

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Harrismith’s Automotive Designer

(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.’

Mary & Polly in Harrismith schooldays

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.’

– Bob van Niekerk racing a Dart –
– a 1962 GSM Dart –

‘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.

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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.

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Anyone who knows more, I’d love to hear from you

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archive.org

wikipedia

wheels24

motorsportmagazine.com

carmag.co.za

cartorque.co.za

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