A childhood friend is writing a lovely book on his mountaineering exploits and the journey he has made from climbing the mountain outside our town to climbing bigger and more famous mountains all over the world!!
Flatteringly, he asked me and a Pommy work and climber friend to proofread his latest draft. Being a techno-boff, he soon hooked us up on dropbox where we could read and comment and suggest.
I immediately launched in to making sensible and well-thought out recommendations which were instantly rejected, side-stepped or ignored, I dunno WHY!!
Like the title I thought could be spiced up. Three African Peaks is boring compared to Free A-frickin’ Picks!!! to lend drama and a Seffrican accent to it, right?! I know, you can’t understand some people. !
John, very much under the weight of a monarchy – meaning one has to behave – was more formal:
‘What is it with south africans and the “!”? (which is my major comment on your writing style!)
Well!!! Once we had puffed down and soothed our egos by rubbing some Mrs Balls Chutney on it, the back-n-forth started. I mean started!!
My defensive gambit was: ‘We’re drama queens!!’
My attack was an accusation: ‘Poms hugely under-use the ! In fact, they neglect it terribly! John was quickly back though, wielding his quill like a rapier:
‘Not true. We use our national quota. We just give almost all of them to teenage girls.’
I was on the back foot. When it came to the cover, the Boer War re-enactment resumed. I mean resumed!! I chose a lovely cover with an African mountain and a lot of greenery on the slopes. The Pom chose an ice wall, no doubt thinking of the London market. Stalemate.
Next thing he’ll be suggesting a stiff upper cover.
A strange thing has happened since John’s critique! I am using less exclamation marks! I have even written sentences without any!! It actually feels quite good. The new, restrained me.
In high school we had an older mate who was in the Free State koor. He was famous in Harrismith for that. His nickname was Spreeu but we called him Sparrow. Everyone knew Sparrow, Chris Bester, was one of ‘Die Kanaries – Vrystaatse Jeugkoor.’ Fame! Bright lights! Girls threw their broekies at the kanaries! OK, maybe not.
One day a buzz went round school that Septimus – apparently he was the seventh child – Smuts, Free State Inspector of Music was there – here! in Harrismith, city of song and laughter – to do auditions for new members for this famous koor.
We were there! Me and Gabba. Neither known for having the faintest interest in warbling before (my membership of the laerskool koor a distant memory). Nor any other form of culture come to think of it, other than rugby. Gabba was a famous – beroemde, kranige – rugby player, having been chosen for Oos Vrystaat Craven Week in Std 8, Std 9, Std 9 & Std 10. Strong as an ox.
People were amazed: “What are YOU ous doing here?” they asked as we waited in the queue. We just smiled. We’d already missed maths, biology and PT.
Septimus was a dapper little rockspider full of confidence. He gave Gabba exactly three seconds and sent him packing. Gave me ten times longer and said ‘Nice enough, but no range.’ So back to class we went, crestfallen look on our dials, mournfully telling our mates and the teacher that we COULD NOT understand how we’d been rejected and there must have been some kind of mistake. Tender-rigging, maybe?
The teacher raised his eyebrows but we stuck to our story: It had been a longtime deep desire of ours to sing for our province and the rejection cut us deep.
It became mine & Gabba‘s standing joke over the decades that followed.
Decades later research has uncovered what Septimus was looking for. If only we had known! Here’s the criteria they were looking for in aspiring choristers in the late 60’s:
We may have scored E’s and F’s on most, but on 126.96.36.199 Intelligence and Dedication we surely got an A? Also, if we’d known the choirmaster had ‘n besondere liefde vir die gedrae polifonie van Palestrina se koorkompetisies,’ we’d have practiced that shit.
Another random re-post from way back called: “Uh, Correction, Mrs Bedford!” from my pre-marriage blog vrystaatconfessions.com – chosen as I was recently sent 48yr-old evidence by a classmate!
In 1969 a bunch of us were taken to Durban to watch a rugby test match – Springboks against the Australian Wallabies. “Our” Tommy Bedford was captain of the ‘Boks. We didn’t know it, but it was to be his last game.
Schoolboy “seats” were flat on your bum on the grass in front of the main stand at Kings Park. Looking around we spotted old Ella Bedford – “Mis Betfit” as her pupils called her – Harrismith English-as-second-language teacher and – Springbok captain’s Mom! Hence our feeling like special guests! She was up in the stands directly behind us. Sitting next to her was a really spunky blonde so we whistled and hooted and waved until she returned the wave.
Back at school the next week ‘Mis Betfit’ told us how her daughter-in-law had turned to her and said: “Ooh look, those boys are waving at me!” And she replied (and some of you will hear her tone of voice in your mind’s ear): “No they’re not! They’re my boys. They’re waving at me!”
We just smiled, thinking ‘So, Mis Betfit isn’t always right.’ Here’s Jane. We did NOT mistake her for Mis Betfit.
“corrections of corrections of corrections”
Mrs Bedford taught English to people not exactly enamoured of the language. Apparently anything you got wrong had to be fixed below your work under the heading “corrections”. Anything you got wrong in your corrections had to be fixed under the heading “corrections of corrections”. Mistakes in those would be “corrections of corrections of corrections”. And so on, ad infinitum! She never gave up. You WOULD get it all right eventually!
Stop Press! Today I saw an actual bona-fide example of this! Schoolmate Gerda has kept this for nigh-on fifty years!
In matric the rugby season started and I suddenly thought: Why’m I playing rugby? I’m playing because people think I have to play rugby! I don’t.
So I didn’t.
It caused a mild little stir, especially for ou Vis, mnr Alberts in the primary school. He came up from the laerskool specially to voice his dismay. Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! he protested. That was optimistic. I had played some good rugby when I shot up and became the tallest in the team, not because of any real talent for the game – as I went on to prove.
ou Vis – nickname meaning old fish – dunno why
Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! – Don’t give up rugby. You should become our ‘second Tommy Bedford;’
Meantime Jane Bedford has become famous in her own right in the African art world, and sister Sheila and Jane have become good friends.
. . raised a whole lot of money for Udobo School. Udobo is a pre-school in Montclair for the special kids of Montclair. Udobo – the name is isiZulu for fishhook – needs to raise funds to keep going and Aitch’s unused ceramics helped. Anne Snyders of Udobo set her kids to painting them, varnished them, and then auctioned them off to those wonderful suckers called parents, who each bid way more than the intrinsic worth cos THEIR kids painted it! Everybody wins!
In the Southlands Sun: UDOBO Pre-Primary School hosts an art exhibition and auction at the major hall of the Montclair Methodist Church on Saturday, 24 November from 11am to noon.
They sold tickets for R50 which included a meal and light entertainment. The children’s artwork was on sale, and the pottery pieces plus tablecloths decorated by the children were auctioned.
Hey! and they gave me a free plate, painted by Eli! Look how cheerful a kid can make a plain white plate!
Recently I took another load of Aitch stuff – books, picture frames n stuff, which occasioned this letter above. Hopefully they can put it to work for them too.
Udobo’s main source of funds is from Action Udobo in the UK. Their website has pics from Udobo just down the road from me in Montclair.
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!”
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 —
Reed: Screw the Camaro and the fat tyres. More about Debbie please.
Me: OK. Here she is, seated right:
Of course on hearing about me ‘jamming with the guys’ and knowing my lack of any musical talent, the rude comments flowed!
Koos jamming!! Playing the washboard? Or just Koos Konfyt ahead of
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:
Taylor: Did this jamming involve making jello sandwiches? Didn’t know you played any instruments?? Except wind . .
Played the organ, did he not?
I am sure he has done many solo recitals – unappreciated by the world
at large but deeply gratifying to the organ player . .
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?
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 ——-ooo000ooo——-
We’re hosting a young man from Pretoria Boys High in the 2015 rugby season. One of the u/14 rugby squad on tour to KZN to get their asses whipped by Westville Boys High.
I feed them steaks (they ‘have to eat steak Dad, they’re rugby players’) and send them to bed early – the game is usually early when you’re in the D team.
Tom sidles over to me: Dad, thank goodness he’s asleep, he talks non-stop, and HIS ACCENT! Hmm mm!
This about his PBHS guest Owethu (who told me earlier in a quiet chat when Tom and Jose were in the cottage that he only speaks English. He understands Ndebele when his parents speak it, but he doesn’t speak it himself). We’re hosting him on their rugby tour to KwaZuluNatal. They’ve been allowed to enter from behind the boerewors curtain. Special visas.
My son the accent snob. I guess what probably happened was Owethu interrupted him. Once.
PBHS is Pretoria Boys High and we’ve been having a lot of trouble with their past pupils as far as decorum goes. One is blasting polluting rockets into the atmosphere and one is blasting Audis into buildings.
Small wonder Tom was wary of this one.
Before this, I had written: The feisty flank of the u/14D’s (DEE, not EEE* now, take note) scored two tries against Kearsney as a warm-up to the impending doom facing the wimps of PBHS. I was working, but it was as if I was there as he modestly told me about bouncing people left and right as he zipped down the touchline like a wing (his preferred position) for the one near the corner, and forcing his way over near the uprights for his second. My suggestion that this was in part due to my influence and advice got a snort of derision.
The PBHS victims bus down to KZN in trepidation this coming weekend.
*and hopefully one day to be my BEE
Steve wrote: Sheesh – good lad. Especially against Kearsney. PBHS should be shitting themselves. Great stuff. Well done Tom.
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.
He preferred the role of full-field chaser:
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:
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:
Essential support came from the team manager Sir Aitch Ferguson:
and the expert coach and tactician Me Mourinho – wearing a Galatasaray S.K cap (that’s Turkey’s best soccer club, turkey!):
After the game that all-important thank you team handshake. Tom not exactly the tallest team member:
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!
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!
A well-known tactic of the name-remembering incompetent is to use one ‘name’ for everyone when you can’t remember their names. In the sixties Uncle Jack Kemp used to call everyone ‘Cock’. ‘Hello Cock!’ he’d say and you could see his mind racing: Just WHO is this again? I mean, I know him but what’s his name again?! ‘How’re you Cock?’ In the eighties Peppy Peeperkorn, a delightful nurse friend at Addington Hospital when I was sentenced to live there by the army used to call everyone ‘Chicken Legs’! ‘Hey, Chicken Legs! What you doin’?’
I sometimes use Green Cheese: Have you fed Green Cheese yet? WHO!? You know: TC, Matt, Bogie, Shadow, Sambucca! SAMBUCCA! You know I meant Sambucca.
So I made the mistake of asking Tom after one of his home school lessons: ‘What did old Green Cheese teach you today?’ He cracked up and has called his tutor Green Cheese ever since, my protests and explanation and Hey, you don’t DO that! falling on delighted deaf ears.
This morning I overheard him as he walked in to start his lesson “Hey! That’s my chair! It’s made for my arse, not an old Green Cheese arse!’
He should get a klap on his ear from his older, bigger, cleverer, more capable, more focused third year economics student tutor, but instead – as so often with Tom – he gets away with it.
You’ve heard all those “Rich People’s Problems” jokes?
Today (this was in 2016) I heard a big “Indian People’s Problem”.
Went to Italtile to fetch yet another farking expensive something or other. This time tile mosaic for Tom’s shower floor. R990 just to cut it – tile price excluded.
So my saleslady says “How’s Tommy?” – she’s been planning “Tommy’s Bathroom” and “Jessie’s Bathroom” the last weeks, so she’s an old hand.
I say (mistake – should have stuck to the tried-and-tested “fine thanks”):
“He’s battling at school. It’s exam time, and he’s not interested in studying”.
“I KNOW!!” she exclaims “My 13yr old son is THE SAME! He came back from these exams with two B’s! He dropped his “all A’s” just because he won’t learn. I TOLE him: “You won’t get anywhere if you don’t shine up!”
I’m a diplomat. One who would give his left leg for two B’s. I jis nodded.
Jess was invited to accompany Lelam to his matric dance at her old alma mater Wendon Academy. Yes, she’d go; No, she wouldn’t; Yes. No. I won’t enjoy it Dad. You’ll love it my girl. Cold feet. But we got going:
We bought a dress.
We used her silver shoes from her own matric dance in 2016, then got (shh! cheap) jewellery and a clutch bag to match them.
Charmaine up the road did her hair.
Her childhood friend Annabelle did her make-up.
Lelam’s Dad phoned and organised things. He would fetch Jess and take them to the dance. He sounded like a lovely person, but a dark secret cast doubt on that assessment: He is a Michaelhouse Old Boy! I’d be keeping a close eye on him.
Proud Dad Mphathisi and Lelam arrived with a beautiful bunch of roses and a stunning corsage:
They had a lovely evening. We fetched them afterwards, so we got to see the star-studded hall.
They had danced all night; We had eaten, drank and solved the world’s problems all night. Mphathisi is a lovely guy even if he did go to a dodgy school – the one Tom whipped at rugby.
Next morning a beautiful Pearl Charaxes found the single malt dregs:
. . . and a skein of birds flew overhead:
What a lovely day. The world is a good place to be.
Aftermath – I wrote to Mphathisi:
I enjoyed this little snippet from last night:
Lelam told me at the hall when we fetched them that ‘he had taught Jess to dance’. I thought that was brilliant and interesting, as I have paid for YEARS of dance classes for Jess!
So this morning I probed gently:
How was the dancing?
Fun, says the monosyllabic one.
Did everyone dance?
Was the music good?
Oh, and the DJ’s assistant was “hot” – she’s opening up here!
Did you do any different dances?
What do you mean?
I mean did you learn a new dance or something?
Oh, yes, Lelam showed us a new dance and we did it.
HAHAHAHA – oh the trials and tribulations of parenthood. 😊 – And HE has not shut up about how he taught Jessica to dance. Big moment for him, that – LOL!!!
feedback from friends and big supporters –
Terry: This made me cry twice. She looks just as Trish would have wanted Her too. What hugely handsome beaus too! Beautifully written Pete.
Rita: She looked amazing – both times. Jess has really grown into a beautiful girl. Aitch would be proud. And don’t run yourself down. You do a good job.
When I left Specsavers in 2000 the lovely team I worked with gave me a perfect farewell gift: A book by Chris and Tilde Stuart: ‘Africa’s Great Wild Places.’ Right up my alley. If the Stuarts think these places are special you can bet they are. They have been all over Africa and they don’t flit in and out; when they go somewhere, they stay a while!
I had been to seven of the fifteen places they chose for the book and immediately set about getting to the eighth:
Luangwa in Zambia
Okavango in Botswana
We had this book at home growing up and I loved it. It describes the Okavango in 1958; Moremi and Chobe weren’t parks yet, but the story about two crazy loons driving a great lumbering gas-guzzling, wartime D.U.K.W amphibious monstrosity led to a fascination and – years later – many trips there starting in 1985. The latest trip was in March 2018. While there I read her new book Starlings Laughing, under her new name June Vendall Clark. I’m pleased to report that exactly fifty years later the Okavango is still the amazing paradise June Kay loved so much.
The Kalahari – Gemsbok Park in SA and Makgadikgadi Pans Botswana
1969 school tour and 1996 with Aitch; In 2010 with Janet we saw the Green Kalahari!
Etosha in Namibia
Hwange in Zimbabwe
Probably my favourite. In 1997 we went to Makalolo and in 2010 to Somalisa
This was one area I thought it unlikely we’d get to visit. Then Mike Lello got to go! His son Chris worked in wildlife safaris in Tanzania and arranged a fly-in trip. And lately, wonderful news: My bro-in-law Jeff and nephew Robbie have bought a farm near Iringa. I may not get all the way west, but I’d love to go to the Selous and Ruaha National Park! Time will tell!
More to see:
Uganda, the Serengeti, the Soda Lakes, the Great Selous
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.
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. 🙂
Oh well, there’s still a lotta drinks that I aint drunk . . .
‘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’;