Dear Old Sambucca

Lemme confess that the first emotion when Sambucca the black labrador finally breathed her last was relief. The sadness and the memories came later. See, she grew a brain tumour and it grew and grew until it was about as big as her head.

When the bump first started we knew it was the end and I told the kids I would just support the old dear and only consider ending things if she was no longer comfortable, not eating, not happy and not interested in a ear rub or tummy tickle. I said I don’t want you shooting me just cos I’m inconvenient and so I’m not shooting Sambucca for our convenience. And anyway, she’s only 87yrs-old in human terms. Born in August 2012.

Well, she hung in and kept eating while getting thinner – which is a terminal sign in a labrador. I was vrot with worry and angst as she started getting smelly and the parasites attacked her – fleas, flies and ticks. A daily bath and shampoo helped but she’d disappear for hours and come back covered again, her hidden spots in our jungly garden obviously infested with the lil bastids. Yet she still kept getting up and walking towards me tail wagging as I got home each day, asking for a scratch. Then Friday she got weaker and Saturday and Sunday she didn’t eat. I added gravy and fat and she refused it. Refused a meal! I knew it was soon. Sunday night she suddenly yowled a bit and then went quiet, considerately choosing Aitch’s birthday as her last day so we can remember it more easily.

I started digging her grave early Monday morning and three inches down I came to an astonishing and unexpected realisation: I am not cut out for physical labour! Can you believe it!? I sub-contracted the task and Tom and his mate Jose dug a goodly hole – after negotiating a financial reward – and Sambucca now joins her predecessor Bella and a gerbil under the soil in our garden. Also Aitch and her Mom and Dad’s ashes.

Rest in peace ole Sambucca, you made twelve years and five months and were the best watchdog ever: you watched the monkeys stroll across the yard, you watched the hadedas glean the lawn, you watched our neighbourhood kids stream in and out of the gates whenever. You only barked when I got home to say Hey Welcome Back! About Time! Look What A Good Watchdog I Am! and by the way, When’s Supper?!

And that’s when you showed you had 12% greyhound blood, as you tore off round the trailer, gleefully thinking “He’s Home! He’s Home!”. Two laps when you were younger, one lap the last couple years.

Jess was going to call you Sweetie when you arrived, so we hastily canvassed friends for a less saccharine moniker. Terry Brauer from the Gramadoelas of Pretoria came up with Black Sambucca. Just right.

vrot – full of

Find Sambucca (Jena out of Yellow Daisy by Kilgobbin Zinzan) ‘s pedigree certificate here.

Jessica turns 21

She’s Twenty One Today!

My lil Jess turned 21. I don’t know how that happened. One minute she arrived, aged two and two days:

Jessie’s first morning with us.

the next she took over our home:

Can’t stop. Things to do . . 

and here she is, a fully grown woman!

Let’s plot a few milestones to remind ourselves of the journey of my lovely best daughter in the whole wide world: JessiePops!

– her Moms. The top two pics are her Tummy Mummy Thembi, the rest are her Mom Trish:

Jessie’s Moms

– birthdays, well, some of them:

a few Jessie birthdays
Jessie’s birthdays

– holidays

Jess holidays

– concerts

– game reserve trips & a field guide course

Jess at eHlatini on Bhejane Course

in the background . . .

Build-A-Boat

When we grew up outside Harrismith ca 1959 we couldn’t use the lounge. The lounge was filled edge-to-edge by an upside-down speedboat. The old man built his first speedboat in this lounge, shown below many decades later:

1990 Birdhaven Mum, Dad & Sheila

Younger sis Sheila, in the picture with Mom & Dad, says he also built that fireplace.

Then, after we’d left home and Mom & Dad had retired, he developed another urge to build a boat. Luckily this time in a boatyard with the help of boat builders.

1990 April Dad's newly built boat0002

On a cold winter’s day ca1990 we took it, shiny new, for a spin on Sterkfontein Dam outside Harrismith: Me, Dad, two Eskimos and a semi-eskimo.

Trish eskimo, Mom eskimo, Dad, Sheila semi-eskimo

1990 April Sterkfontein 50002
Dad, Mom, Trish & me – pic by Sheila

We zoomed over the spot where Mom estimated her old farmhouse was – on Nuwejaarsvlei, where she grew up.

 

 

Childhood Trauma

Back in 2005 our kids were quietly acquiring wisdom and knowledge (and singing and dancing skills) from an impeccable source – me – when they received a setback: A weekend visit from the Brauer at 10 Windsor Avenue. Old Pete visited. Luckily with Terry.

The bribery started immediately:

Brauers visit 10 Windsor (1)

It took effect:

Brauers visit 10 Windsor (2)

Precariously, reluctantly, ominously (more words here) I had to go to work Saturday morning. I KNEW this did not bode well. Indoctrination intensified in my absence. Sugar-laden indoctrination.

 

When I got back it was too late. You think corruption is bad nowadays? It was worse back then: The kids were now calling HIM Clever Pete and ME Old Pete!

It took a long while for Tom to recover:

Oh, no! The Brauers are coming?!

I don’t think he was – I sure hope he wasn’t – bemoaning the fact that fate had given him a paleface barber who obviously didn’t know what he was doing.

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

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