So the garage door was falling to pieces. Made of strips of aluminium riveted to a frame the rivets had mostly popped and it was flapping in any breezes that wafted.
Something had to be done.
So I waited a few months. And a few storms, for enhanced flapping.
Then I bleated to a project manager who sprang into action, roared off to a hardware store, bought some self-tapping screws and gave them to me along with his automatic, hydromatic, self-propelling, variable speed, battery-operated 14.4Volt hand-held Bosch Power Drill. With star bit for screwing screws with star heads.
He obviously hadn’t understood what I wanted.
So I waited.
Then I told Ziggy, ‘When you’re finished tidying the garage let me know. I need to repair the broken door.’ And sowaar, my patience was rewarded: ‘Why don’t you let Mbono do that? He’s very handy with man things,’ she said.
Now usually I would stop my daughters in their tracks with my standard, ‘Hey! Anything a man can do a woman can do too,’ but I listened and I shurrup. ‘OK’ I said and gave him the screws and a Spanish screwdriver (Manuel).
Mbono fixed the door in no time. Like greased lightning, it was hydromatic, automatic. I was going to post before and after pics here – too late.
So to end this lecture on project management: For suitable tasks all you need is to find one tame project manager and one tame matriculant from Northwood Boys. Then expertly source – or delegate the sourcing of – a bit of equipment and it’s actually quite easy.
Or I thought I was. Packed the hebcooler, the book box, the camera bag – now huge with two tripods and a new spotting scope (the main toy to be tested out at Mkhuze’s hides!). Food. Ice bricks from the freezer, the lot. Having been a critic when Jess forgot things, I went through my mental checklist. Nah, I’m sure I have it all.
Oh, clothes and toiletries. OK. Coffee. Right. Charcoal. First aid kit.
Loaded the whole lot in the car then remembered I had undertaken to get my will signed, witnessed and courier’d today. Did that, then had to arrange a locum optometrist to work for us – quick! before he changes his mind! Did that, then remembered I’d arranged to meet the lady who sold all my furniture for final payment. Did that. Then Gugu texted me: Can the girls come for a swim this afternoon in my newly cleaned sparkling blue pool? That did it.
I unpacked, back in the deep freeze and fridge. I’ll leave tomorrow. Early start. The three young ‘uns had a noisy, fun swim, chips and red cooldrink. Perfect day.
The big old album is hitting the recycling bin. I have recorded all the pictures.
Home after our lo-ong honeymoon and some surprise welcomes:
Also in 1988 we had a big optometry conference in Durban. As part of the hosting committee I produced a daily newsletter. Then I became president of the optometric association at the end of the conference.
Friends at the conference – and an induction (Brauer says they induced me):
I dragged some non-canoeing friends out to the Umgeni Valley. I wanted to see the valley for a last time before Inanda Dam drowned it forever. The river was rather shallow – um, VERY shallow! We dragged for miles!
We visited the folks in Harrismith, clambered the slopes of Platberg and sang around the piano:
Bernie & Karen Garcin got married in Empangeni – George Stainton and I were his best men.
In between all the scurrying we lived in our lovely Whittington Court one-bedroom apartment in Marriott Road, and I think I occasionally did a bit of work. Sheila reminded me that she lived there for two years after we bought our house in Westville.
Another of our frequest visits to Hella Hella. And a visit to the Hills on Melrose farm, Mid Illovo.
I gave a talk in the Kruger Park once called The Art of the Game Drive. It was magnificent, complete with exciting sightings and livestreaming. Pity was, I had an unappreciative audience. Well, they were from behind the boerewors curtain, so . . you know how they are.
It almost sounded like they had a pet monkey with them, as they kept muttering Ari Aap as I drove them serenely in quiet splendour and exquisite comfort in my VW Kombi 2,1 in subtle camouflage blue and white. But you won’t believe this, when I stopped to examine old poo there was audible sighing. Philistines. The talks are still wildly popular* but I notice none of that particular batch were ever repeat guests. And I mainly have repeat guests.
*Jessie has been a repeat guest dozens – scores – of times. She can appreciate the Art of the Game Drive. Specially if she has her phone, her music and noise-cancelling earphones with her.
‘They gave us supper early. We were saying, Soon They’ll Feed Us At Three.’ I said, In this cold weather if it was me I’d say to you all at lunch: Eat Up! Your Supper’s Ready! so I could get home early. She had a good laugh at that.
‘I played the piano at supper.’ Oh, good. What did you play? ‘The piano’ she says mischievously and laughs. The she sings, ‘Lady of Spain I adore you – right from the night I first saw you … ‘
‘We would dance to this in the Masonic Hall. Folk dancing. Also to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. And a Welsh dance and a Scottish reel.’
‘For Girl Guides I had to play a March for my piano badge. Mrs Steytler said I was playing too fast, the girls marching couldn’t keep up. Then I had to play God Save The King, we were still under the monarchy then, in the Commonwealth. And Elizabeth has gone to hospital for the first time.’
Well, she’s 93, I said, same age as you. ‘Oh, I thought she was Pat’s age, older than me, and Margaret was my age.’ I think she’s 1928, same as you, I said. While we were talking I checked. True’s Bob, Mary was right, Mrs Queen is two and half years older than her. Pat’s age. I was foolish to contradict her. What do I know about poms?
‘I saw her in Boksburg, you know. She was keen to get back home to the only boyfriend she ever had. Philip.’
Another chapter begins. I’ll be leaving the home I’ve lived in the longest in my life – sixteen years. The kids were eight and four when we moved in.
How hard can it be, right? You sell, bank the cash and drive off into the sunset. So I called Aitch’s friend and colleague in her four-year stint as an estate agent, Pam.
Pam, You Know What You’re Doing, You Come And Do This.
So you know what she does? She gives me a list as long as your arm! You do this, then you do this, then . . she’s as bad as Aitch was!
So she tells me: Sell your furniture; sell your books; sell the many wall hangings which haven’t hung on a wall for ten years since Aitch went; Fix the cracks, the windows, the doors, the ceilings; Paint – a lot; Rip up those carpets; New light bulbs;
Mow the lawn – WHAT!? Now you’ve gone too far!
Hell, if I didn’t do all those things for us, why should I do them for strangers? Cos you want to sell the house, Pete.
I decided I’ll never get this done, so we put the house on the market “as is” – its called voetstoots in South Africa. And on that very day we got two offers for the full asking price. A week later their finance was approved and so I asked ‘Must I Leave Now?’ No, they said, it takes about three months before you’ll have your money! Damn!
Now it is very real and I sat Jess and Tom down and broke the news. They picked what they wanted from the house, a truckload went off to Tom’s rented rooms:
Jess wants less, but the other fridge and microwave will go to her.
On Mon, Nov 22, 2010, Pete wrote: I felt a snuggle in bed last night. Wasn’t Aitch. Eight year-old TomTom had come through and was spooned tightly against my back.
Later, when I had to roll over he was wide awake. “Dad” he whispers close to my ear, scared he’ll wake his Ma. Mm “I’m hungry. Can I get up and make myself a snack. I’m really hungry.” He’s 24 kg wringing wet, and his muti suppresses his appetite by day, so I say: Mm
I wake again to a feeling that it has been some time. I can hear dishes clanking, so I get up and tiptoe to the kitchen, where the clock shows straight up 4am. Still dark outside, but the kitchen neon is blazing.
Lots of kit has been employed and a good dusting of icing sugar is evident on the chairs and the floor. What? I ask “Dad” he says, “I’m icing Marie biscuits.” Have you eaten? I ask. “Not yet, Dad, but they’re nearly ready.”
“And” he says, “I’ve made my school lunch.”
I didn’t ask.
Steve replied: Doncha just love it. This young man is not only a problem solver but also aware of the necessity for contingency planning. Hope this does not turn into a regular event though. Our Neil  occasionally mentions he is “off to get some food” at the end of a phone chat to him down in Welly. I imagine this would mean most likely pizza, burger or when he is at his most domesticated, a ready-roasted chicken with some breadrolls. Like you, I don’t ask.
Friend Rohan owns Detour Trails and arranges the most amazing bespoke mountain bike holidays all over Africa. We joined him Easter 2010 on a ride from the Mtamvuna River to the Mtentu River. At least I did. Aitch drove the kids to Mtentu in the kombi (or maybe in friend Craig’s Colt 4X4 – not sure).
Both hands on the handlebar, so no pics of the ride. I only fell off once, and no-one saw. On the way we stopped for a refreshing swim in a clear deep pool in a steep valley.
Once we got to the magnificent Mtentu River mouth (see the feature pic above) I abandoned my bike and joined the family for lazy hiking, while the keen MTB’ers rode out and back each day.
An easy stroll across pristine coastal grasslands took us to where the Mkambathi River drops straight into the sea at high tide.
At low tide the falls (very low flow here) drop onto the sand of a beautiful beach. Tommy knows there’s bait under here somewhere for his fishing!
Everyone loves this little bay. Aitch, Jess and Tom each had a spell where they had the whole beach to themselves: (click on pics for detail)
Upstream along the Mkambathi River you find Strandloper Falls. The last time we’d been we said ‘Must Bring Our Diving Masks And Snorkels Next Time!’ – and we remembered.
Then we strolled back:
Back on the Mtentu River, Rohan had kayaks for us to paddle upstream in search of another waterfall
Then back downstream to the Mtentu mouth
Paradise – three hours south of Durban. There’s a lodge there now, so it’s even easier to stay.
Jessie is smoking tik. That was a shock. I’m sticking with her and supporting her, trying not to lose contact with her. Reading up a lot. I decided to talk, not keep quiet. The first five people I told, four came up with immediate solutions and advice. The fifth listened, empathised, offered an ear and said, “Good Luck, It’s A Long Haul.” He’s a medical specialist doc living with a drug addict child for around forty years.
I remind myself: Jess is addicted to tik AND very addicted to her boyfriend – completely under his sway; Jess takes herself to him – he does not drag her there – although she sometimes says he keeps her there, sometimes when she SAYS she wants to come home; sometimes, though, she admits she decided not to come home despite telling me she was coming; Nothing is clear, though. The truth is a serious casualty of the addiction – there is a lot of lying, a lot of blaming, a lot of confusion and uncertainty;
Both of them, and others who live with them, suffer from paranoia and hallucinations visual and aural, so when they see and hear things it’s not at all clear if they saw it in real life or in hallucination – most of what each of them say they’ve heard is aimed ‘against them,’ so paranoia would explain that; and again, the lying . . . ; Jess is aware that nasty things said against her are possibly real, possibly imagined.
Then I also remind myself that Jess has a wonderful time with him and his family when all is well; Mom, Aunt, Uncle, brothers, a sister. They sing and dance and laugh and get drunk and get high and have a wonderful time and she loves them and is loved by them; Especially the ladies there – Sihle’s sister, Mother and Aunt – treat her very well; So the lows are horrible, but the highs beat the boredom she feels at home.
And I remind myself of that socially acceptable substance right on top of this list. The acceptable one. The one I grew up with.
And I remind myself of the criminal disgrace of the failed, yet ongoing “War on Drugs.” And of how the only places who have reduced drug use and drug crimes are countries that have ended the lie of a “war on drugs” and significantly decriminalised drug use, instead helping drug users with their lives. Who see drug use as a disease, to be treated by healthcare workers, not as a ‘bad choice’ to be stamped out by policemen who are not trained in anything other than arrests and throwing users in jail. They are not equipped to do the very difficult task of talking to users who are high. They’re incentivised to make arrests, so they ‘raid’ and arrest. In the process, all thoughts of a police service go out the window. Instead of assisting their citizens, as they swore to do when they qualified as police officers, the system sets them against them.
An example of unintended consequences and misguided laws: Codeine is freely available in South Africa, you can buy it almost anywhere. We have a fairly low annual prevalence rate of opiate use at 0.3%. In the United States where all opiates are strictly regulated, the prevalence rate is almost double, at 0.57%.
Tolerate drug use!? Legalise all drugs!? What MANIACS would do that!? Well, be a lawmaker. Be honest with yourself and decide which of the drugs you would make illegal if you were making the decisions. Of course, you’re an honest person and you want what’s best for your people, right? To make it easy, let’s say you can only make ONE drug illegal. Which one on the HARMS CAUSED BY DRUGS list below would you choose? Start at the top and count down and choose the one you would ban (even though banning never works). You’d ban the top one, right? The one that causes most harm?
“God save us from the people who want to do what’s best for us.”
“There’s a certain class of people who will do you in and then remain completely mystified by the depth of your pain.”
As for addicts – they have their own challenges:
“You can’t save others from themselves because those who make a perpetual muddle of their lives don’t appreciate your interfering with the drama they’ve created. They want your poor-sweet-baby sympathy, but they don’t want to change.”
“Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between being cautious and being dead.”
“Insecure people have a special sensitivity for anything that finally confirms their own low opinion of themselves.”
These quotes by private investigator Kinsey Millhone, female protagonist in author Sue Grafton‘s novels.
We’ll get there, guys.
I strive for kindness AND wisdom, so on 6 July I passed my course on Addiction and Recovery, so now I’m an expert! Can a complete cure be far off!? Stanford University’s Psychiatric Dept had a six week online course and I just got my results. Learnt a lot and very gratified that expert opinion and the evidence points AWAY from the destructive ‘War On Drugs’ and harsh law enforcement.
TREATING the disease of addiction is the way forward, working with the addicts – each one an individual.
Jessica arrived as Jessica Gambushe, her name give to her by her Tummy Mummy Tembi Gambushe. Tommy arrived as Tommy Ngobese, his name given to him by the local magistrate.
When their adoption papers came through – wonderful papers with “legally they are asof uit u gebore” written on them in black and white! – we started to arrange new birth certificates, passports, etc at home affairs. We loved their names, and kept them, naturally; We also decided to keep their surnames as middle names, so Jess became Jessica Gambushe Swanepoel and Tommy became Tommy Ngobese Swanepoel. But Tommy’s had a twist. Much as we loved his first name, Aitch suggested we name him Thomas and then he could decide to be Thomas, Tom or Tommy in time to come. He has loved that. He was Thomas at school and formal occasions, he prefers Tommy at home.
They were both too young to argue, so although we consulted them formally, they just looked at us with a Can I Have Some More Cooldrink? look on their faces.
Years later, a different story. They had now been subjected to pale schools and their middle names had undergone scrutiny by pale people. Why is my middle name Gambushe / Ngobese? Change it if you don’t like it, I’d say, I still say. Go to home affairs, fill in a form and get it changed, don’t moan.
Back when Aitch was around I’d have to ignore a slight eyebrow arching in the background as madam overheard this. She had heard that story for many years when she would moan about her name Patricia! I would say . . you guessed it: Go to home affairs, fill in a form and get it changed, don’t moan. Lead balloons have soared higher.
Sheila kept a diary in high school. It’s amazing reading such detailed notes of long-forgotten happenings. Last time it was a trip up Mt aux Sources. This time it’s a winter trip to the warm sub-tropical south coast of KwaZuluNatal by a family of Vrystaters.
Pennington, Monday 5 July: – Walked to the beach alone. Stayed for a while. Walked home (± 1 mile – the distance from our beach cottage to the beach). Left for Hibberdene with the whole family. Elsie & Richard Scott were there. Barbara went with them. Went on to Port Shepstone. Went to see Upsie Sorenson, a friend of Dad’s. Walked around a bit in town. Spoke to Lilly du Plessis. Went to Margate. Spoke to Philly and the whole Mikkers family. Swam in the sea with Philly. Went to Port Shepstone to the Sorensons. Chatted to Upsie and his daughter Ingrid. Had tea. Stopped at Park Rynie went to Scottburgh. Bought stuff. Came back to Umdoni Park/Pennington. Went to the café. Went to Uncle Joe Geyser’s sister’s house near our cottage. Met Danie & Pearly (Geyser) du Toit and Pieter Geyser. Went home, had supper with Mom, Dad and Koos. Bathed. Went for a drive. Came back. Barbara & Richard were here. He left. Chatted to Barbara.
Tuesday 6 July: – Had breakfast with the family. Walked to the beach with Mom & Barbara. Swam in the rock pool. Went to the café. Walked to the Caravan Park. Spoke to the Macgregors. Met Glenda & Joan Brand. Went to the beach with them. Spoke to Denise Brand, Glynis and Brian Fisher. Went for a walk alone. Sat on the beach alone. Walked to the café. There were six guys there on three motorbikes. They had met Barbara. They said they are having coffee at our place. They gave me a lift home on the buzz bike. Had lunch with the family. Then the guys, Mike, George, Charles, Terry, Dogs and Kevin arrived. Sat and chatted. Went down to the beach with them. Nine of us on three bikes. I was with Terry & George. Went to the café. They brought us home. Stood and chatted outside. Went to the Happy Wanderers Caravan Park at Kelso with the family. Sat at the boys tent. Had supper in the café. Chatted to them all in the café. Went to Park Rynie with Terry on the buzz bike, Barbara went with Mike. They brought us home. Chatted for a long time. They left. Mike brought Koos back.
Pic of us three taken in Harrismith around about then:
oops, posted this a bit late, but what’s a couple days after fifty years!?
vrystaters – citizens of the province of song and laughter – the Free State