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!
There’s a lovely spot on the Mtumvuna that divides old Natal from old Transkei. We went with Sue and Mike Barnes in 2009. They own one of the unique semi-permanent ‘cottages’ or fixed tents there and arranged another for us to hire.
Before there was a bridge downstream, there was an old pont here. Nowadays there’s an informal do-it-yourself ferry.
Mike builds beautiful boats and had one of Mallards best there:
Good people, lots of kids, lots of action.
We did some mountain biking in the gorge overlooking the river upstream and visited Beaver Creek coffee farm.
Mike taught Tom to wakeboard and he loved it. Took to it like a grebe to water. I set him off and Trish photographed him from the boat.
On our bikes we came across the sewage treatment plant. Acres of dried kak in interesting patterns. Sorta like chocolate. That’s what the kids have remembered longest about The Old Pont.
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.
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?
On finding out that Aitch had belonged to a ladies mountain bike group, a friend said (in Sept 2013) . . “I didn’t realize she was such a keen bean cyclist – seems there were not many things she did not try her hand at?”
Maybe we can fathom why Aitch got so keen on pedalling . .
“The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands. And, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the whole community” – quote attributed to Ann Strong
“Marriage is a wonderful invention. Then again, so is the bicycle” (and – the bike comes with a far simpler repair kit)
– quote attributed to Jacquie Phelan
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”
” . . before mountain-biking . . (and electric biking) . . came to the scene, the biking scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm”
“Work to ride – and ride to work”
“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul”
“If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride”
“Don’t ride faster than your guardian angel can fly”
(Quotes written on a blackboard at Aitch’s “Angels Mountain Biking Club” coffee shop)
Here’s their guardian angel – who could ride MUCH faster than all of them . . He led their trail rides and looked after them. I never met him but she told me his name. And she’d kick me for not remembering it!
I am a paid-up member of the Flat Paddle Society. Owner and boat-maker at Pope’s Canoe Centre, Owen Hemingway was alarmed that I even existed in the year 2016 and earnestly (more of ‘earnest’ later) explained to me how much more efficient a wing paddle is than a flat blade, demonstrating with a teaspoon under a flowing tap. It was remarkable. I could see clearly that the spoon shape exerts much more force on the water with less wasted energy.
The reason he was concerned for my well-being was I had bought a plastic boat from him, a lovely Detox, second-hand but like new. I now wanted him to make me a left feather flat-blade paddle and Owen assumed I wanted it for forward motion. He didn’t let me explain that I rely entirely on the current for forward motion and my paddle is only for balance and – occasionally – to roll back up into the sunlight again if I’ve flopped over.
This is why I never entered any sprint races. They’re held on flat water and if the wind had been against me I’d have drifted backwards at the gun.
** Ernest Hemingway – NOT **
Speaking of Hemingways, famous Ernest could write,
but Owen didn’t inherit any of his genes. My pleas for Umko stories always elicited an enthusiastic yes! but nothing forthcame. Only when I visited him in person did the excited stories and anecdotes, gossip and insider skinner as only a 30-times Umko paddler could know it, pour forth enthusiastically. But in writing? Not so much.
All of this reminds me I still haven’t fetched my left feather flat paddle from him.