Workshop SwanSong

The old man has finally taken the momentous decision – after much kicking for touch, procrastination and setting obstacles in the way – to sell their house in Pietermaritzburg, home for the last (?) fourteen years, and – a way harder decision – his whole workshop;

Machines, stacks of wood, hand power tools, hand tools, nut screws and bolts, hinges, upholstery material; all the stuff he has accumulated over 120 years. Everything has to go. Well, almost everything. There’s a fair amount of ‘I’ll keep this’ and then ‘but where will I put it?’ OK, so he’s only 96, so its about sixty years worth of stuff.

The painful process is not without trepidation, hesitation and doubt, but he’s committed now: it’s going.

Luckily he has found a WONDERFUL person, ‘SUCH a nice chap’ to buy the whole workshop from him, lock, stock and barrel. ‘He has taken six bakkie and trailer loads away already and I reckon there’s about another four to go’ says the ole man.

Has he paid you? I ask. ‘What?’ Has he paid you? ‘Huh? Oh! No, not yet, but he will.’ OK, I say, but it’s perfectly reasonable to ask him to pay. Rather he pay now and avoid a drama afterwards. ‘Mm.’

So Sunday I go and observe the process. I thought I’d meet the wonderful Johan de Lange but he didn’t arrive.

16 Ivy Rd Workshop collage Dad

Already it’s half empty. You can now see it has a floor and some walls. I take pictures and ask What’s this? ‘Ah!’ He says, immediately animated, ‘that’s Indian waterbuffalo calf skin, tanned and dyed. I want to cover a chair seat with that.’

What’s this? ‘Ah! That was Oupa’s whetstone. That could be a hundred years old.’

‘Ah! That’s a Stanley spokeshave. They used them to make the spokes in the oxwagon wheels. I used it to make the speedboat I built. Remember I made a boat in the lounge on the plot? It’s also called a draw knife.’

‘Ah! That sketch? We went to Skukuza in Kruger and I saw a lovely bench there and wanted to make one, so I drew a sketch of it.’

‘These are wood turning chisels I made. I used special steel for the blades and turned the handles of olive wood.’

Where’d you get this old handsaw and the set square with brass inlay? ‘Old Mr Buckle had a Blacksmith shop in Harrismith down in McKechnie street before the war. I used to hang out there – remember I had horses when I first got to Harrismith? I used to shoe my horses there and he sold or gave me stuff he didn’t need.’ Before the war – so its eighty years of stuff, not sixty.

The fixed machinery is two thicknesser-and-planes, a Rockwell circular saw, a huge cast-iron bandsaw, a belt-sander (seen in the collage above), a 1m wood lathe with tilt and something. Each one has a story and why it’s a wonderful tool, its name and where it’s from.

I said I don’t recognise the make of the one thicknessers. ‘Ooh, that’s from Austria. Its a good make, but not well designed; it’s tricky to set the blades. I rebuilt it and made some improvements.’ In fact he was so chuffed with those improvements he encased the moving arts in perspex so you can see them. It would have been sad to hide them under a metal cover:

Emco-Rex b20 thicknesser aus Austria

And on and on. We didn’t get much done. I’ll have to write another post on it.

Judo Jess

You ous better watch out for my daughter Judo Jess! She’ll gooi you one shot!

Jess giving a mere guy what-for back in 2009.

See how mean she looks in the top picture!

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Here’s how she usually looks, I have to confess:

my bronze & gold medallists

Mom’s Days

Just in case anyone was thinking Aitch only had Mom’s Day, I gotta tell ya – not at all!

She had her birthday 6 January; She had her second birthday 6 July “‘cos it’s unfair my birthday is so close to Christmas, everyone used to give me one present, and my day was lost in the Xmas/New Year hype”. Right.

Then she was really big on the kids’ joint birthday 11 December, making that a big day, plus the two separate parties she would organise for them, there being a four-year age gap. I tried to combine it after she was gone – whatta disaster!

Then she always remembered the day we met, 27 August, I think. We would celebrate that. Also wedding anniversary 27 February. Celebrate.

Then CHRISTMAS!! An Aitch Day if ever there was one! She was BIG on Christmas. Much planning, buying and the whole house had to be changed: Xmas decorations – putting up the tree was an event! – Xmas crockery, Xmas coffee mugs, Xmas lights, Xmas pictures on the walls, all other paintings had to come down. Mantelpieces would be festooned.

Then she had Mothers’ Day when the kids made a big fuss – she’d see to it. And last but definitely not least there was All Fools Day, April Fools Day – my birthday. You won’t believe how she went to town. She’d get a Big Brass Band to play!

I’m not joking:

Whoa! What a surprise!! Mario Montereggi’s Band! No flies on Aitch!

Mom’s Day

Jess picked the flowers, Tom did the braai. We had chops, ribs and wors with garlic bread, plus some fried beans and mushrooms. I had beer and vino. We raised a glass to Mom!

Sindi’s Twenty!

Jess joined her great friend Sindi Angelos last night to celebrate Sindi’s birthday.

Here’s Sindi in yellow, Jess in pink with Tom down at Gayle’s Hibberdene beach cottage in the olden days:

Jammin’ and Draggin’ Main

Rob & Jay were in my senior class in ’73; Jim & Donny were a year or so below. We used to jam in the garage and in Rob’s bedroom; I was an onlooker, really! I learnt one riff on the guitar which I believe I can still play . . Forty years on and they’re still playing gigs – or some of them are. Some are still based in Apache. Their bands have had various names.

At school, Rob drove a Mustang, Jim a Cadillac convertible, Jay a Camaro and Donny I forget, but I remember his Dad had a lovely old pickup.

Apache’s population sign on the road approaching the town was already faded when I got there in ’73 and the jokes hinted at “1500? Yeah, maybe.” But I was told the population shot up in the oil boom a few years after I had left when the middle east put up the price and we had to drive at 80km/h and hide our jerry cans. But it soon went back down, and when I visited in 1984 and 1988 the clapboard motel which had sprung up to house the workers and drifters, and the two extra liquor stores to relieve of them of their cash were abandoned and flapping in the prairie breeze.
I should write a western.

I see in the 2000 census the population was up to 1616.

The Apache Population 1500 sign was near the start of the quarter mile drag strip where the petrolheads had painted a line across the road. 440yards further was another line, much to the sheriff’s annoyance. It is ILLEGAL to paint lines on guvmint roads. Also to burn up your fat tyres on said road. Jay had a wicked Camaro with fifteen inch rear wheels, raised rear suspension and something I didn’t catch under the hood, despite him telling me many times. It went like smoke and he was very justifiably unhappy with me when I put it in a ditch with the one tyre off its rim. Beer. Terrible stuff beer. Jay was a gentleman and went easy on this foolish foreigner that night!

Just a bit closer to town than the drag strip, a local lass had written in large white spraypaint letters across both lanes: WELCOME TO PEYTON PLACE in pissed-off anger at love’s disappointments.

I taught Rob and Jay the wonderful poetic lyrics of Balls to Your Partner – remember? “If you’ve never been fucked on a Saturday night you’ve never been fucked at all”. We’d been talking about a sexy chick from a few villages away, hot pants and crop top, and Jay said laconically: “Well, she’s been fucked on a Saturday night by that little wine-maker: ME”.

Once we were dragging Main in Robbie’s turquoise Mustang, and Debbie pulled up in her car next to ours. How the conversation got there I don’t know, but one of the guys said “Ah, suck a dick, Debbie!” to which she shot back: “Well, flop it out!”

A semi-selfie in the Mustang with me safely in the seat without a steering wheel . .
A deserted Main Street

But please don’t think there wasn’t culture. I got invited to a Pow Wow by the local Native American Movement where they gave me a gift of a colourful shirt and jewellery.

— pic of presentation here —

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Reed: Screw the Camaro and the fat tyres. More about Debbie please.

Me: OK. Here she is, seated right:

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Of course on hearing about me ‘jamming with the guys’ and knowing my lack of any musical talent, the rude comments flowed!

Brauer: Koos jamming!! Playing the washboard? Or just Koos Konfyt ahead of his time?

Reed: They would have had a lot of trouble finding a replacement for you, Koos.

Me: Nah, they moved on. Here are some later pics when they called themselves The Grissleheads:

Grissleheads, Apache OK

Taylor: Did this jamming involve making jello sandwiches? Didn’t know you played any instruments?? Except wind . .

Brauer: Played the organ, did he not?

Taylor: I am sure he has done many solo recitals – unappreciated by the world at large but deeply gratifying to the organ player . .

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Reminiscing about old songs began:

Taylor: I am glad to see you took the cultural exchange program seriously. Balls to your partner counts as poësie . .

Brauer wrote: OK. So let’s see how deeply your culture is ingrained. Who knows all the words to “Balls to your partner”; How about the Ingineer’s Song?

Me: All, I dunno; but I do know a lot of them – both songs. A-hum a-hum

Soutar: . . and . . “Up jumped the monkey in the coconut tree, it was a mean motherf___ it was plain to see; it had a 10 bopper nanny and a ten inch ______. Time overdue for a song reunion, have song sheets . .

Me: Fourteen-beer song evenings. I remember them well
-ish
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poësie – poetry; right?