Bass Straits and Dire Straits

Early Sunday morning I roust the lil bastids. C’mon, Up! Let’s go. Off to Inanda Dam where they’re going to slay the bass. Tom, Jose & Ryan. 45yrs of trouble on six legs and, according to them, fishermen of note.

We hire two canoes from Msinsi and off they go. “See you in about two hours, Dad!” shouts Tom as they wobble off.

Inanda Dam fishing (12).jpg

I chill and watch the terrific birdlife. Wrynecks, woodpeckers, waxbills, prinias, canaries, sunbirds, geese, a fish eagle, herons, neddicky, bush shrikes, etc.

Six hours later a weary and sunburnt crew return. They had flattened the eats and drinks I packed and it’s lucky I did: No fish were harmed in the filming of this movie (none were even disturbed).

Lugging the boats back to the boathouse (with much help from Dad) they unanimously decide they would not be doing the Dusi anytime soon.

Inanda Dam fishing (16)

Dusi – The Dusi Canoe Marathon, 120km 3-day river race from Maritzburg to Durban passes by this point on the Umgeni river.


Generations: The (rugby) Legacy

I lost a bet to Tom with the Springboks’ loss to the All Blacks this weekend.

Paying up was painless compared to sitting with him watching the match!

Then Sunday I went to Pietermaritzburg where I got a blow-by-blow “Hoor Weer” of the match from the Ole Man.

Both my deskundiges cannot BELIEVE how the Boks just don’t LISTEN to their (simple, foolproof) advice! One says they should just play like he played for Westville Boys last year and the other says they should just play like he played for Maritzburg College in 1937.

Fuckit I’m going to heaven I swear. Or at the very least I’ll get a diplomatic posting.

Hoor WeerKyk Weer, but aural – a verbal re-run and re-hash

Deskundiges – experts, but more than that

Old school rugby.jpg

Our Fisherman Tom

The first time: He found a bamboo with a line tied on the end at Kelso beach when visiting the Harveys, Margaret and Bryce.

MargBryce Kelso2005 (18)

When Trish’s Dad Gompa Neil found out he gave him two big surf rods as he had decided to give up fishing. We took them to Cape Vidal and three year-old TomTom waved them around like fly rods in the surf. The fish were quite safe, there wasn’t time to grab hold of the hook!

Cape Vidal Oct 2005 (6).jpg

Some of the other times:

I shoulda said Gosh! Or Darn!

Jaynee J had a luxury courtesy suite at Centurion Park cricket ground and she invited us to watch a game. The Springboks / Proteas were playing someone in an international test match. 2001, so Sri Lanka, maybe.

Also: Jayne called it a ‘champagne suite’ and – as always – she had laid in enough stock for a siege. Or a rainy day. And that day Centurion Park was not like this:

Centurion cricket ground

I had great fun watching the people. Especially a guy in the next-door Telkom box, scanning the crowd with powerful binoculars, looking for girls. Whenever he saw someone watching him he’d say “I’m looking for my sister”.

We had to take two year-old Jessica along and it wasn’t really her thing. It rained off and on, so we were indoors with guest barman Johnno, who was intent on quality control and sampling. Aitch and I took turns amusing Jess and keeping her out of the adults’ hair. Here she is puddle-jumping behind the stadium:

After a while (cricket matches carry on and on and when you think they MUST be finished – surely? – they stop for tea) I had to feed and change Jess and decided to take her back to Jayne’s home. Change of scenery and a break for the adults.

On the way back to the stadium, freshly-fed and -wiped Jessie strapped in the car seat behind me, I missed the freeway offramp to the stadium. Didn’t have a clue how I’d get back to the stadium now, so I was kinda tense and focussed and fuming – what if I missed Jayne’s famous lunch? – until I finally figured it out and managed a tricky u-turn after the next offramp and got back on track. Finally I could relax.

“Pete?” came a little voice from behind me. Yes my love?



Oh, boy . . . . .

Pfft! We’ll Beat Him!

Brauer was running Comrades. Successfully. I was definitely not – not even unsuccesfully yet. I had always thought running was easy – you just put one foot in front of the other, how hard can it be? I couldn’t understand how they wrote books about it. I mean c’mon!

So I joined him on a 32km run in Springs on the East Rand on his build-up to the big crazy ultra day when fools shuffle from Maritzburg to Durbs-by-the-Sea.

Oceans of people filled the park at the start – It was the Springs Striders club’s big race. I had never been in such a big field. The Harrismith Mountain Race was the biggest bunch I’d run with before – nothing like these thousands.

The gun went off and – nothing happened. Eventually we started shuffling forwards, then walking, then eventually we reached the start line under the ‘Start’ banner and after a while we could trot a bit. Then it opened up and we got into my stride (mine, as Brauer thoughtfully stuck with me and didn’t go roaring off like a Fordyce). After a while we passed a tiny little ancient man barely shuffling along with his shoulders hunched and his eyes firmly fixed on the tarmac a metre in front of his feet. He must have started way ahead of us in the pack, but now we had caught him due to our superior pace, skill and youth. I looked at Brauer and crowed quietly: “That’s one good thing about these mass runs: At least there’s always someone who you know you’ll be beating”. I had never been in a mass run, of course, but I was drawing on my extensive experience as a spectator, where I would always be near the front, striding out with knees flashing past my ears.

And so it went for 16km, me matching my Comrade Brauer stride-for-stride. Inexplicably then, I felt the urge to tap off a bit and at around the 20km marker Brauer mumbled something and disappeared effortlessly off into the distance. It sounded like “Fuckit, we’ll fall asleep if we continue at this snail’s pace” but it wasn’t that.

He’s fart oo polite.

At 25km I heard a quiet little shuffling and a tiny little ancient man barely shuffling along with his shoulders hunched and his eyes firmly fixed on the tarmac a metre in front of his feet came past me as if I was going backwards. His pace was exactly the same as it had been when we passed him on km 3 or 4. Mine was not. So I started walking, joining up with some other porky-looking fellows. The spring had left my stride on the Springs Striders.

“Look at him!” one of my fellow strollers said, “That’s Liege Boulle. In 1983 he won his 39th Comrades medal, fifty years after his first”.

Liege Boulle

I learnt a big ‘respect-your-elders’ lesson that day which I try to thump into my kids’ skulls now. Unsuccessfully.

Years later I got back to that park in Springs where Brauer was waiting. Patiently. He knew better than to call out a search party. It must have been within some sort of time limit though, as they gave me this cloth badge with the appropriate animal on it.

Springs Striders 32km

You would think this would have decided me not to run the Comrades ever.





‘Bain of Harrismith’

My granny Annie had an older brother Ginger. He was the oldest of the seven Royal Bains and a great sportsman. They owned the Royal Hotel and were not to be confused with the Central Bains, who owned the Central Hotel!

This old report was reprinted in the 1997 Hilton vs Michaelhouse sports day brochure: 

Hilton Ginger Bain_2

Drop goals were four points and tries were three in those distant days. I like that the one side was “smarter with their feet” . . and that that beat “pretty passing”.


Ginger Bain’s father Stewart died in 1939:

Stewart Bain 1939.jpg

Sister Sheila says he was known as “The Grand Old Man of Harrismith” and his clan was called ‘The Royal Bains’ after his hotel!

I thought I remembered that, despite the fact that every dorp has a Royal Hotel, the Harrismith Royal Hotel was one of only two that could officially call itself ‘Royal’. Sheila has confirmed that I have a flawless memory (well, something along those lines):

Royal Hotel article