The Cherries in Ficksburg . .

. . were delightful. But they were all chaperoned by big ugly old males:

Ficksburg_Hysterical_Tour_2018[1].jpg

Oh well, I made the most of it by looking for Vrystaat poppies. At least some of them were unaccompanied:

Hysterical Tour Ficksburg-002.jpg

And the local birds were also obliging:

Ficksburg Hysterical Tour 2018_3

Ficksburg Hysterical Tour 2018_2

Ficksburg flower & mountain

Saturday Supper was delicious. Cafe Chocolat hidden in a massive pile of priceless collectibles:

Hysterical Tour Ficksburg Junkyard
Barbara’s pic of the treasure

We had a hilarious mixed message, crossed wire and different-planets outcome when I enquired about birders who might know where to watch birds around Ficksburg. The only ‘bird guy’ they knew was Johan and he replied to my sms asking where we could watch birds in the Ficksburg district thusly (translated):

Hey! Jong, in Ficksburg it’s only me and Martin and Willie. But its breeding season now and I don’t take people through my cages now, only end-January again.

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Meanwhile, back at home some life lessons were being learned:

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Possible Lost Opportunity

In the shadow of old Platberg this weekend I sat down to lunch with an array of superb swimmers at my table. On my right was Sonja du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Lyn du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Pierre du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer. And that got me thinking of the days I’d line up next to the pool and on my right there’d be nobody. Nobody.

That’s because I’d fought (and easily won, you’ll see why) for the right-most lane in the shallowest part of the pool at swimming lessons. On my left was Francois vd Merwe, coming up to my navel; and on my left was Deon Joubert, coming up to my navel; and then some even shorter girls; That blerrie whistle would shriek, they’d dive in and I’d jump in – bravely; I’d sink to the bottom – very bravely – then kick powerfully off the bottom in the direction of the distant other side of the pool. We were swimming breadths. The older kids – some of them as old as my younger sister Sheila and the even-younger Sonja – would swim lengths.  A few kicks off the bottom and much spluttering and gasping later I’d finally get to the blessed sanctuary of the other side of the pool just short of an asthmatic panic attack, sometimes even earning a podium place – well, if there were absentees due to coughs and colds and Harrismith’s notorious cold weather.

At about the same time I was also not a rugby player. I was in the u/11 second team it’s true, but that’s because there were 29 players and number 29 clearly deserves his place in the second fifteen-man team, nê? So although you could honestly say I was there on merit, there are also lots of other things you could say and I caused poor Giel du Toit much sadness and despair. But at the end of the season, a long season in which he had given me much encouragement and sympathetic ‘moenie worries nie’, he did an amazing thing. He did not say ‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ No. What he actually did, I swear, this is Giel’s gospel and it is amazing. He had a rush of something to somewhere and he made me captain of the u/11B team for the last game of the season.

So there I was two days later, in Vrede, barefoot in orange, holding the ball and running onto the field at the head of an orange line of fourteen laaities doing something I almost never got to do: Holding the ball.

The rest is history: I scored the winning try against the olde enemy; I grew five inches that summer; the next winter I was the tallest oke in the u/13 team; and I scored the winning try against Grey College in the last game of that amazing season. So although Giel may have fluked it and definitely didn’t have anything to do with my growth spurt; and although he may have thought that was going to anyway be my last rugby game ever, he nevertheless changed something in my brain that day. It didn’t last long, but was fun while it did.

And thinking about this long-forgotten little tale, sparked off by sitting amongst those swimmers which, let’s be honest, may have sparked off a Caster Semenya-like debate had DNA testing been available – I mean did they have mermaid genes? dolphin genes? – made me think something else: Why didn’t Joan and Joyce think of something that could have sparked me off Mark Spitz-like? I dunno: Maybe choose me to hand out the oranges at half time at a gala or something equally inspirational?

Makes you think. Joan and Joyce may have missed a big one here.

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nê? – just nod; except, not about the netbal

‘moenie worries nie’ – tut tuts

‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ – Look, you don’t have a talent for rugby, OK? maybe you can sing?

laaities – athletes of note

Sheils & Bess.jpg
Length swimmers at the scene of the torture

 

My Famous Friends – #1

** this blog is mainly after I got married in 1988; my other blog vrystaatconfessions.com is essentially pre-marriage; sometimes things don’t fit neatly into one or the other – they overlap; so occasionally I copy and paste **

Tuffy has hit the bright lights. School friend and class mate Mariette van Wyk edits a lovely magazine Atlantic Gull down in the Dryest Fairest Cape.

Mariette vWyk's Atlantic Gull

She got the fascinating life story (well actually, snippets of it!) of Irené John Joubert out of him recently.

Tuffy Famous

Fascinating thing is, Tuffy DID this stuff, Chuck Norris acts it out. Here’s an eyewitness account of his famous plummet from a helicopter.

Here he is in those far-off days when you could see his chin and not his forehead:

Pierre Tuffy 95 Sturat St
Pierre duP and Tuffy

Tuffy’s older brother Etienne remembers him getting his nickname like this: In the very English environment of the Methodist church some soutie made the mistake of calling the French masculine name Irené the English feminine name ‘Irene’ in Sunday school and promptly got dondered right then and there by said Irené. And hence the nickname Tuffy was born.

I see Tuffy says he has no trouble in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo as “with my honest face, people just love me”. What I want to know is: How do they see his face?

Well, now that his cover is bust, his anonymity lost, learn more about Tuffy being a domkrag and then tackling an unsuspecting ox here

and head-on colliding with a hill here

and streaking and under-age drinking here

and how he practiced going on long journeys before he went to Afghanistan here

and purloining illicit swag here

and he played rugby for a little dorp and beat Grey College here .

harrismith-rugby-1967-u13

Chuck’s going to have to lift his game. Also, and anyway, America can forget toughness, Harrismith also had another Chuck Norris.

Thanks Mariette for the article! See: http://atlanticgull.com/chuck-norris/

Added: And how Tuffy tricked me here.

Lost Talent

I’ve lost my beautiful singing voice! All of a sudden even I don’t think I sing wonderfully anymore! The kids have never thought so, philistines, and will ask me after the opening bar “Please don’t sing, Dad”. In fact I’ve used it as a weapon: “Want me to sing to you?” sometimes gets them to behave pronto.

Even the neighbourhood kids give a resounding NO THANKS PETE! when I suggest I sing to them in Italian instead of putting Nicky Minaj on the car stereo.

Aitch was the only person who ever said “I love it when you sing” but then she also called me “My handsome oke” so I pinch-of-salted her compliment. She would always ask me to sing “the evening song” when we were driving after dark: Kris Kristofferson’s “Best of all possible worlds”. Of course that’s mainly  gruffly mumbled, so that helped.

Of course I used to sing beautifully. The teacher who trained the seunskoor in Harrismith Laerskool  said so. I was a soprano and looked down on the altos who, though necessary as backup, weren’t in the same league as us squeakers. One directly behind me used to bellow in my ear: ‘Dek jou hol met bowse off hollie!’ FalalalaLA lalalala’

One day the discerning teacher Juffrou Cronje, chose me to sing a solo in the next konsert. Fame was imminent.

Then tragedy struck! My balls dropped. They handled it very diplomatically. By ignoring it and cancelling practice. The konsert didn’t materialise. Co-incidence? Surely they didn’t cancel a concert just because one boy suffered testicular descent? By the time the next one came around I hadn’t been banished – just consigned to the back and asked to turn it down.


There was one other time – in a sort of Harrismith se Hoer Skool’s Got Talent setting – that it was almost confirmed I sing wonderfully.

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Terry Brauer wrote: Oh Pete I am STILL laughing! But never let the kids be the judge of whether you can sing! They are just embarrassed by most of what we do anyway.  🙂

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Oh well, there’s still a lotta drinks that I aint drunk . . .

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‘Dek jou hol met bowse off hollie!’  – the famous ‘deck the halls with boughs of holly’ was improved in translation to ‘cover your arse with boughs of holly’;

My Vegetarians

2013/12/27 Meals: We usually have a vegetarian meal a week. If I have my way its phutu, mfino and speckled beans. Wonderful stuff. The kids love it, but feel obliged to rev me throughout “WHAT!? No meat!? Are we too poor, Dad? This is dodge, Dad! Kinda homeless, Dad!”

Ja Ja! Eat up, I say.

Little shits.

This xmas I picked Tobias’ cabbage and spinach fresh from the garden, boiled it with onions, then drained and added olive oil and simmered with garlic, salt and barbecue spices. Big knobs of butter when served. They gobbled it up after the usual wrinkle-nosed high-pitched HMMMM!? Tom reserves for anything “dodge”. Sometimes I’ll add potato for a sort-of bubble n squeak.

I have to add the occasional green just in case Aitch does peek down from the clouds. Wouldn’t want to get into trouble . . .

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puthu – dry mealie meal (maize or corn) porridge;

mfino – spinach or other dark green leaves; in the Free State growing up we called it meroho, Sesotho for ‘vegetable’;

Deja Bloody Vu

Can you believe it? The irresponsibility!

Tom is writing exams, writes five and decides he wants to write the last three when I can invigilate. The others have been invigilated by his tutor Langelihle and another third-year student Rebecca. So we settle on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

Except he arranges for Ryan to come around and the two of them beetle off gallivanting heavens know where and doing heavens knows what. So he only wrote the last three papers on Monday and Tuesday. Bloody hell! Who would DO something so irresponsible!?

Er, actually, maybe his father?

Back in 1972 I had four matric final exams, then a five day break before the last two. Me and Gabba took the gap and disappeared off to his farm behind the mountain after pulling in at the liquor off-sales on the way where he could legally buy grog, him being eighteen. Plus.

Gabba was a great friend to have, he had a car and lived all alone on his farm where he bought and sold cattle for a living – ‘speculated in cattle’ they called it. In matric! Cool! His farmhouse was a half-house. You picked your way over the rubble of the first half and entered by what used to be an inside door but was now the outside door of the remaining half.

We flattened the beer, which made us thirsty so we scrounged around and found a big old glass two-eared flagon of umqombothi on top of the fridge, fermenting quietly. We finished what was in there and phoned Frank on the party line. Frank was another bachelor alone on his farm nearby. What shall we do? we enquired of Frank, knowing that he would guide us wisely, him a few years older. Frank said “I’ve got beer, come!”

We finished that and Frank said “Let’s go to town”. Who were we to argue? We hopped into his car, I think a Datsun 1800 SSS, and roared off to town at terminal velocity, strong and clever. I remember a narrow bridge across a spruit approach and disappear in a blur with a loud WHUMP! in the middle of it followed by half a second’s silence –  airborne.

Gabba Frank car

In town we woke up the barman of the Royal Hotel down near the railway line. He grumbled a bit, but Frank was having none of it so he went off and reappeared with a case of dumpy beers. We then drove round to the R’s home and threw pebbles against an upstairs window. Penny opened the window, shimmied down the downpipe and we were OFF again on the dirt roads to the farm behind the mountain. At high speed. Invincible.

The next night back at Gabba’s place I phoned my Mom on the party line during a heavy thunderstorm and downpour. “Where have you been? Come home!” was the message but I said “What? Hard to hear you! I’ll be coming back tomorrow”. She said “Yes, rather don’t drive in this weather.” I said “Don’t worry, I’m the responsible type”.

I’m sure* Tommy wasn’t up to kak like that, so maybe he doesn’t take after his Dad.

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umqombothi – traditional Zulu beer

spruit – stream

kak – mischief

*- not really sure

 

Urgent Phone Call at Work

I’ve left the kids alone at home, so when the ladies at work say “He says it’s urgent!” I take it.

It’s Tom.

Dad! We need to get a lamb roast and rosemary and garlic and small-cut vegetables to roast. It’s a slow roast and we don’t have any rice or lamb stock in the pantry!

OK Tom, we’ll go straight to the shops when I get home.
My 12yr-old has been watching a cooking show on the box.

Tom chef.jpg

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Terry wrote:

Oh that is super funny!! Alone as in NO adults at all?

Me:

None. Cecelia on leave. Tobias is only Mon Wed Thurs.

So far they have been boringly safe and haven’t set anything on fire. It’ll come . . .

Under a previous regime I’d have been in trouble . .

As I would have been for Tom losing lots of skin and getting a huge heat rash when he fished topless all day the first day at Happy Wanderers. Aitch put more sunblock on them in a week than I have in 2,5 years.

Terry:

Hey its not cool to be too black, I hear!! Loads of sunscreen or she will haunt you!!

Me:
We’re all so aware of that, but remembering to do it . . .

Tito Mboweni’s son got picked up by the cops for being too black! I imagine that happens all the time. We’re very aware of that, too!

Kids are watching old Bill Cosby DVD’s (over & over until they know all the words OBH!)
Quite striking how they have chosen all the actors in it to be light-skinned – some to the point of whiteness! Bill himself is by far the darkest of the “Huxtable family”!

The funny thing is I “met” Bill Cosby in 1969 when an exchange student from upstate New York came to Harrismith. He brought a vinyl LP with him:

cosby LP.jpg

Here I am 45yrs later listening to my kids listening to Cosby.

Terry:

And my kids and I always said Bill Cosby was just a dark Pete Swanepoel 😀

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2018:
This was 2014. Now all our Cosby stuff has been destroyed before discarding it. Sad, but he’s history in our books