Forbidden Ink

Dad I want to get a tattoo.

Aaaargh! I shrieked in my head but “O-ka-ay” I said out loud, all calm-like, “Have you thought about it?”

Oh yes, lots.

“OK. What’s a tattoo? Is it safe? How much does it cost? Does it hurt? Who would do it? Have you got enough money? etc”

Oh, she hadn’t thought of any of that.

“OK. Do your homework and get back to me with the answers please.”

She did. Now that she knows more, she’s more nervous. But still determined. After all, Sindi has a lovely outline of Africa tattoo’d above her ankle.

The very next day she arranges a visit to the tattoo parlour with Sindi, where they are going to find out more and then come back for a final decision. They take themselves there by taxify.

The main thing I’m interested in is: Who’s the artist? Is he/she good? Does he/she do a skilful, safe job? Ask to see their work. Show me their work.

So I’m furiously kicking for touch and I think I’m delaying things nicely. I went through enough trauma with the piercings, I hope to dodge this mutilation. I feel like I’m handling things well as The Dad. I’m In Charge.

So I get a message: Hey Dad please can I have mom’s birth date and her death date.

The message is sent from here:

Jess_tattoo[1]

** sigh **

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Luke Flew out the Train Window

There were two birthdays on the steam train and the pictures are from Tom’s. He turned four. 2005. Aitch arranged a magic day after much preparation, cake-construction and Mom-liaison. Here she orchestrates:

Inchanga Steam Train - Tom 4th Birthday-003.jpg

I was on the train and we had a lovely day. Later Luke, Tom’s big china, turned four and had the same birthday. On Luke’s birthday I was a designated driver, taking a car to the end-point to take stuff and ferry passengers.

So I wasn’t on the train on Luke’s birthday trip when he flew out of the window.

But first: These pictures are of Tom’s birthday:

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That cake:

Tom 4th bday Inchanga Steam Train collage 1Tom 4th bday Inchanga Steam Train collage 2Inchanga Steam Train tracks

Here’s our Luke-fella with Mom Terry. Both on the train and at the stop for Tom’s party (you can see TomTom’s cake). On his way up he was without make-up, and on his way back he was all face-painted:

Luke flew out of the window! Inchamga Steam Train collage
Luke flew out of the window! Inchanga Steam Train

On his big day the same train journey was arranged; Up, then a party in Inchanga and then down: the return journey. Afterwards, I got back to Hillcrest; To Stokers where the journey starts and ends; When the train puffed in I heard a strange tale: Tom huffed and puffed, “Dad, Dad! Luke flew out the window!” The adults said Luke had fallen out of the train and been taken to hospital. I was aghast! What!?

Later the tale unfolded. Luke had fallen out while the train was choofing along. His Dad Steve had leapt up and wanted to jump out after him, but the train was going too fast so he hared through the carriages, rushing through the gaps till he got to the front and could attract the attention of the driver who stopped the train. Steve ran back and found Luke with some railroad trackside dwellers, who had found Lukie-boy –  maybe even seen him fall.

The hospital checked our Lukie-boy over bone-by-bone and organ-by-organ and pronounced him all intact. Massive sighs of relief!

Amazingly, Luke later also said he’d “flown out the window” so who knows what actually happened? Weird!

Our First Soccer Tournament

At five years old Tom was mad keen on soccer. His first tournament in Westville North was cause for great excitement. His team wore orange bibs and tackies and he played everywhere on the field and in the goals. Which he didn’t like. Boring, Dad.

Tom Soccer 008.jpg

He preferred the role of full-field chaser:

Tom on the ball, with Soccer Ma coaching

Champion Soccer Mom was there in full force and voice. That’s her on the right, Mom of triplets Yaya, Yasir and __. She was great, shouting encouragement and advice to all, especially her kids, TomTom and the star player for the orange bibs, Ntutuka. Here are her triplets in orange, on the left, 3rd from left and on the ball:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Supporters traveled from afar to support their favourite team. God-parents Dizzi and Jon live a few hundred metres up the road so made the trek to cheer on their hero:

Tom first soccer tournament collage 1

Essential support came from the team manager Sir Aitch Ferguson:

Mom fusses over Tom

and the expert coach and tactician Me Mourinho – wearing a Galatasaray S.K cap (that’s Turkey’s best soccer club, turkey!):

Tomaldinho gets invaluable advice from his coach

After the game that all-important thank you team handshake. Tom not exactly the tallest team member:

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Later tournaments required more kit. We HAVE to have these latest and greatest boots, Dad! We simply CAN’T play without them! Us superstars need our bling!

Tom soccer tournament 7yrs old
Tom soccer tournament 7yrs old
Tom kneels getting instructions from coach
Real boots and a real coach!

Tomaldinho! I was seeing dollars sign$ I was going to sign him up with Amazulu – No Dad!! PSG in Paris!! Oh. My bad.

But then suddenly it was rugby. RUGBY Dad! I need new boots. You can’t play rugby in soccer boots, Dad! I’m a rugger player now!

 

 

Sole Searching Wild Coast Walk

Driving south to the Wild Coast I glanced down at my feet. Right foot on the accelerator, left foot chilling next to the clutch. No shoes. Barefoot.

OK, I’d forgotten to take shoes on our six-day beach walk. Too late to turn back.

It was fine. I’d make do. I said nothing. Didn’t want Aitch cackling about my dodgy 49-yr-old memory glands. I’m not known for being a meticulous packer or planner, so what the hell . . I was used to making do.

Reflections on the Wild Coast
Reflections on the Wild Coast

It was April 2004 and our hiking route was southward. From Kobb Inn about 60km to Morgan Bay. Another group would head north at the same time and the organisers saw to it we met up and swopped vehicles so ours would be waiting for us in Morgans Bay at the end of the hike. Slick. Good friend and colleague Allan Marais happened to be in the other party so he drove my diesel VW kombi and I drove his petrol 4X4 Mitsubishi. He messaged me that evening: “All’s well. Your kombi is parked outside the hotel. I filled it up to the brim with petrol”.

Luckily I know Allan Marais, so I simply replied, “Great. I filled your Mitsi up with diesel. Also to the brim”.

We’d be staying in hotels and cottages on the way. Slackpacking! What a pleasure! Good weather, lonely beaches, light daypacks with only water and lunch in them. Friendly local people acted as porters on each leg and carried our real packs ahead of us. Cold beers, good meals and comfortable beds awaited us each night.

Wild Coast walk_2004 Candys Beach Hse (4)
Tom and daughters, Taylors, Swanies, Gayle & Janice and our porters

Wild Coast walk_2004 Kobb Inn (18)

Past the Jacaranda thirty three years after its 1971 stranding:

One day was really windy. All the rest were clear and calm. We kept Africa on our right and the Indan Ocean on our left and sauntered along blissfully.

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (23)

There’s nothing to eat here, there’s nothing to drink here, so what’s up, bovine beauties? Beach comfortable to lie on? Looking for a furry tan?

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (9)

River crossings – by boats and wading

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (31)

Janice had to fly home a day early from a little airstrip near the beach. Work! The curse of the drinking class. There she goes; look, she’s waving:

Wild Coast walk_2004 Janice flies early

Morgan Bay with its spectacular cliffs

Wild Coast walk_2004 Morgan Bay (2)

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And shoes? Didn’t need ’em. I walked barefoot most of the way, slipping on my yellow flip-flops when the rocks got pointy. Mostly it was beach sand or smooth foot paths, really easy on our feet.

wild coast map.jpg

See the tiny portion we walked. Friends walked from Port Edward to East London in 2016. Way further, and carrying all their kit! Allie Peter and Mike Frizelle wrote about it. A lovely and highly entertaining read of ancient old goats staggering from shebeen to shebeen fuelled on Transkei dumpies, Wild Coast weed and cataflam. Especially cataflam!

Allie Mike Wild Coast Hairy Hikers

The Old Pont

There’s a lovely spot on the Mtumvuna that divides old Natal from old Transkei. We went with Sue and Mike Barnes in 2009. They own one of the unique semi-permanent ‘cottages’ or fixed tents there and arranged another for us to hire.

Old Pont collage 1The Old Pont collage 2

Before there was a bridge downstream, there was an old pont here. Nowadays there’s an informal do-it-yourself ferry.

The ferry - The Old Pont collage

Mike builds beautiful boats and had one of Mallards best there:

The Old Pont collage 3

Good people, lots of kids, lots of action.

The Old Pont collage 4

We did some mountain biking in the gorge overlooking the river upstream and visited Beaver Creek coffee farm.

The Old Pont collage 5

Mike taught Tom to wakeboard and he loved it. Took to it like a grebe to water. I set him off and Trish photographed him from the boat.

Tom's First Wakeboarding collage
Tom’s first shot at wakeboarding – chuffed!

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History:

heritage Old Pontheritage Old Pont_2

On our bikes we came across the sewage treatment plant. Acres of dried kak in interesting patterns. Sorta like chocolate. That’s what the kids have remembered longest about The Old Pont.

old pont sewage sludge.jpg

 

Phelophepa! – Good Health!

‘phelophepa’

A combination Sesotho / Setswana word, it means ‘good clean health’.

I had volunteered on the train before, in Bergville; Now Trish and I joined it in Underberg. At the time it was a pet project of Jannie Ferreira, optometry professor at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg). So it was full of RAU students. We had a kombi and on the way up from Durban to act as volunteer supervisor, we repaired to the bottle store and bought champagne, thinking we’d load everyone up and drive off to where we could watch the sun set and quaff champers.

Well, we did that, but well after sunset, as we couldn’t stop till we’d seen the last patient. No way we were going to say, ‘Sorry, come back tomorrow’ to poor people who had come from afar.

Phelopepha (1)Phelopepha (2)

After that we went to a farmhouse (the local vet, I believe) where were treated to a lovely braai.

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There are now two Phelophepa trains and the services it provides have increased. Long may it thrive and arrive at remote stations to provide needs and care and happiness – both to the people waiting at the sidings and to the students onboard.