One hundred and twenty seven years ago today – 22 July 1894 – the Concours Les Voitures sans Chevaux, was held in Paris. A city-to-city motoring competition which is sometimes described as the world’s first competitive motor race. Loose translation: ‘The Race of Carriages without Horses.’
The contest was organised by the newspaper Le Petit Journal and run from Paris to Rouen in France. It was preceded by four days of vehicle exhibition and qualifying events that drew large crowds and created much excitement. Eight 50 km qualifying events were held leading up to the last day when the main 126km race was held.
The editor obviously thought about what he wanted. He wanted cars that were “not dangerous, easy to drive, and cheap during the journey.” Good points all. This meant, for example, that if you had to take a mechanic with you on your journey, you were ineligible for the main prize. Darn right.
The first driver crossed the finish line in a blistering 6hrs 48mins, but he did not win the main prize. His steam-powered vehicle needed a stoker! That’s a nuisance, driving with your butler’s bum in your face as he shovels coal, so he failed the ‘easy to drive’ requirement.
Second, a mere 3mins 30seconds later, was competitor number 65, a 3hp petrol Daimler-engined Peugeot. This made him the winner of the main prize. He looks thrilled.
Third, thirteen minutes later, competitor number 28, a 3hp petrol Daimler-engined Peugeot face to face (vis a vis).
The seventeenth and last finisher took thirteen hours to do the 126km course. 102 had entered, but 78 had not shown up for the qualifying events. These included 25 powered by unfamiliar and improbable technologies such as “gravity; compressed air; automatic; electricity; gas; hydraulics; liquid; pedals; propellers; and levers.”
Here’s a Mr Michaux passing through a busy street in Mantes-la-Jolie, racing amongst horses and pedestrians, en route to Rouen where he finished 9th in his 3hp Peugeot phaeton.
I was thinking: What do we have nowadays that compares? When do we see grown men acting all serious while looking ridiculous to the common man? I think old okes on bicycles dressed in lycra, puffing past thinking they look even semi-normal? Any other contenders?
Do go and look at wikipedia. There’s LOTS more. My home page opens to wikipedia’s main page every morning. There’s always something fascinating to see.
Optometric colleagues and classmates from way back in 1977, Di Fotherby, Ray Schoeman, Terry Saks, Pete Brauer and I met at Zena Jacobson’s lovely home in Sandton a while back – 16 Feb – and how very fortuitous that turned out to be, as we have been a great support group for each other during lockdown!
One day talk on our whatsapp group turned to books, and the Schoemans showed their fascinating collection, plus one item of huge envy-producing – and real – value:
Here’s a close-up of the pièce de résistance! –
Signed by All Three Goons!
They also have two of Milligan’s many books:
And another prize collection:
. . and another:
There’s more – it’s an amazing library; Wilbur Smith and Bryce Courtenay novels; medical books, cookbooks, etc
Here are the librarians:
Myself I only have Spike’s scurrilous re-interpretation (improvement) of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, from which I quote: “
Note: I go back to my posts to add / amend as I remember things and as people mention things, so the posts evolve. I know (and respect) that some bloggers don’t change once they’ve posted, or add a clear note when they do. That’s good, but as this is a personal blog with the aim of one day editing them all into a hazy memoir, this way works for me.
Every time I see a new bird I look it up and learn all about it, its scientific name and which other birds its related to. Just recently Steve in Aussie sent me his picture of a ‘Bush Stone Curlew’ nesting on an island in a parking lot.
That immediately reminded me of our water dikkops – I looked it up and ‘strues Bob’ they’re cousins – his is Burhinus grallarius and ours is Burhinus vermiculatus; Gondwanaland cousins.
When I see historical facts I’ve never heard of I look it up and learn something new every day.
Who is Irvin S Cobb? I didn’t know; now I like him; he wrote these instructions for his funeral:
Above all I want no long faces and no show of grief at the burying ground. Kindly observe the final wishes of the undersigned and avoid reading the so-called Christian burial service which, in view of the language employed in it, I regard as one of the most cruel and paganish things inherited by our forebears from our remote pagan ancestors. . . . . perhaps the current pastor would consent to read the 23rd Psalm, my mother’s favorite passage in the Scriptures . . . it contains no charnel words, no morbid mouthings about corruption and decay and, being mercifully without creed or dogma, carries no threat of eternal hell-fire for those parties we do not like, no direct promise of a heaven which, if one may judge by the people who are surest of going there, must be a powerfully dull place, populated to a considerable and uncomfortable degree by prigs, time-servers and unpleasantly aggressive individuals. Hell may have a worse climate but undoubtedly the company is sprightlier. The Catholics, with their genius for stage-management, handle this detail better. The officiating clergyman speaks in Latin and the parishioners, being unacquainted with that language are impressed by the majesty of the rolling, sonorous periods without being shocked by distressing allusions and harrowing references.
How are Canadian and Eurasian beavers different – they look identical and Canadian beavers have even been introduced into Europe? One has 40 chromosomes, one has 48. Completely different animals! They just look and behave (almost) identically!
Obviously, I did all this on Wikipedia.
I was therefore thrilled to see motherjones.com has hailed Wikipedia as one of its Heroes of the 2010’s decade. I don’t like the overuse of the word ‘hero’ – I’m being so restrained here – but motherjones is American, so the ubiquitous American concept of hero – ‘anyone I like,’ it seems – is probably not amiss here.
This was the decade we learned to hate the internet, to decry its impact on our brains and society and to detest the amoral organizations that dominate it. Facebook steals our data and abets Trump’s lies. Amazon is a brick-and-mortar–crushing behemoth, like the Death Star but successful. Instagram is for narcissists. Reddit is for racists and incels. Twitter verifies Nazis.
Amid this horror show, there is Wikipedia, criminally under-appreciated, a nonprofit compendium of human knowledge maintained by everyone. There is no more useful website. It is browsable and rewards curiosity without stealing your preferences and selling them to marketers. It is relaxing to read.
It’s wrong sometimes, sure. But so are you, so am I, and so are all your other sources – and most of them, there’s nothing you can do about it. On wikipedia, you can. Its transparency is a big plus. Wikipedia critics often seem to think ‘encyclopedias’ are better – you know, ‘encyclopedia brittanica’ anyone? Hell, those books are out of date long before they’re printed. That really is (early) last century! Many of its critics say you have to go to the academic source and read the latest research. Well, many of the custodians of those places are knowledge-hoggers, wanting to protect ’eminence’ rather than sharing knowledge. Well, phansi with them, I say. Phansi!
If you actually know something is wrong on Wikipedia, become an editor (full disclosure, I’m one – a very inactive one) and fix the info – don’t withhold, share!
With wikipedia you can – indeed you should always – check sources. Use the footnotes. Some pages need more information? You can add some. Governments, political figures, institutions – especially dodgy ones – or lackeys and fans of those politicians, ‘celebrities,’ or institutions may manipulate the info on themselves. Liars will always lie. But because it’s transparent, they usually get caught. Wikipedia has rules against “conflict-of-interest editing,” which you can read about at “Conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia.”
Founded in 2001, Wikipedia has spent the 2010s getting better and bigger. It now has over 377 million pages of info. It is a hero of the 2010s, because while the internet mostly got worse, it kept getting better, reminding us that the web can be a good thing, a place where we have instant access to endless information, a true project of the commons at a political moment when the very idea of the mutual good is under assault.
And it is free in a good way, not “free” like facebook and google which end up OWNING YOU.
(So I just sent Wikipedia my annual donation via paypal)
Its ongoing. There’s even less stuff there, but some stuff is going to have to be pried from his tight reluctant fingers, maybe?
The awl and the hand drill brace were Oupa’s in Boom street in PMB. The screwdriver and needle-nose pliers on the right were issued to Dad by the General Post Office when he started as an apprentice electrician in 1938. He had to climb up telephone poles with those in his pocket. Here’s the GPO vehicle he’d drive around in, fixing the phones! They didn’t bother with parcels and letters, no! That was old-school! They were the high-tech side of the Post Office: The telephones!
By the way, everything has a correct name. The screwdriver is a ‘perfect handle’ screwdriver. That’s a specific kind of screwdriver.
Today I learnt Mr Buckle didn’t shoe horses. No, he was the blacksmith, upholsterer and wagon-maker. Charlie Rustov shoed horses. He was a few rungs lower down the totem pole, and the only farrier in town. He had a high-pitched voice and would say‘Nee man, Mnr Swanepoel, daai blerrie hings gaan my skop!’when I took my stallion in to be shod. Dad would buy horses, school them, then sell them for a much higher price. I made more on horses than my post office pay.
‘Nee man, Mnr Swanepoel, daai blerrie hings gaan my skop!’ – No man, Mr Swanepoel, that blerrie stallion is going to kick me!
blerrie – bladdy
bladdy – bloody; no blood though, just a swearword
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——-
Its amazing that old oke in the middle is still ALIVE!
In that photo you see 150 years of contact lens practice, lecturing, innovation and expertise. It’s clear from the way their specs are carefully centred that these okes KNOW their contact lenses!
Sid Saks on the left started practising as an optometrist around 1958, Brauer in the middle around 1978 and Des Fonn on the right around 1968 (I’m guessing, but it’ll be close).
Des lectured me in contact lenses; Brauer was in my class actually, so maybe he isn’t THAT much older than me – but definitely older; Sid mentored us when we ventured into private practice – me over the phone occasionally, but Brauer needed direct supervision. In fact, in order to get a job Brauer married Sid’s daughter.
A recent booze-fuelled reunion in Pretoria – Des visiting from Canada.
The alcohol you people drink is called ethanol. C2H5OH. This is a molecule that, in highly technical chemistry terms, looks like a hound dog with its leg cocked. Two carbon atoms (black) are stuck together to support an oxygen head (red). Six hydrogen atoms (white) spread out over the molecule to give each of the carbon atoms two feet, the oxygen atom a nose, and the rear carbon atom a tail. Ethanol is small, mobile, water and lipid soluble, so like a dog it can get into all sorts of places that maybe it shouldn’t. Like a dog it can also (sort of) head butt you in the crotch while sniffing to find out, or let others know, where you’ve been.
And where do you people want your ethanol? Why, in your brains, of course. That’s the point, innit? You might bulldust that you drink for your nose, or your palate, or your stomach or your blood. Rubbish. You drink to get that stuff in your brain. Once in the brain, alcohol acts on the nucleus accumbens. This area is a midpoint between the reward centre of a brain and the parts that make associations and memories. Ah, those memories, right? The good ones that you remember. And then there are those that your “friends” always insist on reminding you about!
Now everyone knows that too much alcohol at once can kill you, but how? It depresses nerve function, makes you sleep and suppresses the gag reflex, so people who are passed out can choke on their own vomit, like rock stars. So if you’re a wannabe rock star but can’t sing, can’t play, can’t grow your hair – there’s always that.
The brain also controls things like breathing and heart rate, and enough alcohol can shut down those parts of the brain too. People pass out and their brains simply forget to breathe.
BUT: Alcohol also has its good side, don’t forget! Scientifically, its a solution, and according to Homer Simpson, the solution to all life problems.
It causes a bunch of dopamine to be released, hot-wiring your brain-ular system. It makes you feel confident and talkative, because it depresses some Shut Up! brain functions and deadens the Be Discreet centre. It also makes you feel good, dunnit? And invincible, right? Erudite, and a very good dancer and singer. Remember Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl?
So alcohol is brilliant and worth investing in. Also, depending on what research you choose to believe, a glass of wine per day can either not do any harm, prevent heart attacks, or make you functionally immortal. I believe the latter. Does that make me a Latter Day Saint? Long after you finally die, they’ll have to beat your liver to death with a stick. Or transplant it into some lucky recipient who can wake up in the operating theatre pre-pickled.
It’s kind of nice to know that – sometimes – relaxation, cheer, wittiness and immortality can literally be bottled. All that’s needed is to take care just how much alcohol you let into your brain at any one time.
– – Paraphrased from a lovely article by Esther Inglis-Arkell. It’s worth a visit! It showcases Doug Adams’ cocktail, the ‘Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster’ from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and shows you how to set fire to grog in spectacular fashion. Marvelous stuff!
Set in a beautiful sand forest, Ehlathini bush camp is where Bhejane Nature Training courses take place. Up in Zululand north of Hluhluwe village within sight of the north-west arm of Lake St Lucia, the camp borders iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Jess was assigned a wooden cabin in a mango orchard to share with Lydia from London.
Better than a tent, eh Jess? “Just, Dad!” Lydia from London had arrived before her, so got the better bed!
With much trepidation and bravery Jess waved me goodbye and started her first extended spell away from home!
Update: She’s now in Ebandla Trails Camp in Amakhosi Reserve up near Nongoma. She’s out of comms but today they were up on a hill and she borrowed her friend Blessing’s phone and let me now she’s well: Hey Dad, We walked right near an ele herd, and a lioness with a cub, and we’re staying here till Sunday 28th May, and will I visit when they get back to Ehlathini that day? – “Sure thing my love!”
At night they took turns standing guard while their colleagues slept.
Jess & Lydia being brave:
Lions roared in the dark nearby. This scared them, but not as much as harmless spider they found in the wooden camp back at base camp.
Jessie’s Team: She was one of the two teenagers. The rest ranged from low twenties to mid-thirties – and one aged 67.
The course proved very challenging, the lectures long (“and boring, Dad”) and Jess decided not to wait for the exams.
The books and notes were more extensive than I’d have predicted when I booked her on the course:
I skipped rugby in matric. Then I played one season of high school football in Oklahoma. When I got to Johannesburg I was ready to play rugby again, but as there was little sport at the Wits Tech, friend Glen joined Wanderers club. He had a car, so I joined him and off we would go in his Gran’s green 1969-ish Toyota Corona 1600 NX 106 to the field in Corlett Drive for practice.
I doubt there were 30 players in u/21 so we made the B side – probably by default; Games I remember were Oostelikes; Strathvaal; Diggers; None of these guys were delicate flowers.
At Strathvaal near Potchefstroom we played and lost and I was removing my boots at the side of the field when a senior coach asked me to please fill in for the senior 3rds – they were short. The game had already started so I laced up and waited on the sideline for a gap. I ran on as a scrum formed and they got the ball. Moving up from inside centre I went to tackle my man – and was carried off on a stretcher.
Who knows what happened, but at about five or six seconds it was the shortest game of any kind I’ve ever played! Those miners were built like brick shithouses and liked them nothing more than some explosive contact! Here’s one of the more nimble Strathvaalians skopping daai bal:
Glen’s Mom died. She had been a bit spaced out the last few years, Alzheimers-like, but physically better than Denis. However, as can happen, she has gone before him. He too is not 100% with-it in his mind. He is also frail, in a wheelchair and couldn’t attend the memorial service at Selborne. The family had a gathering for him at La Domaine in Hillcrest where he and Faye have been for the last decade or so.
Glen & family flew out, and his three sisters and brother were there, all married with kids. The service was held in the Umzinto church that Faye was baptised in 82yrs ago, and that they had been married in, about sixty years ago. Denis had it moved brick-by-brick and tile-by tile and stained glass windows and wooden pews, pulpit ‘n all to Selborne about 12yrs ago for their 50th wedding anniversary and they had repeated their vows in it. ‘Mazing! Denis always had such a shrewd and imaginative eye: Selborne needed a chapel for weddings, he’d have had to build one, and this was just so much better than a new building with no history!
My shadow – and that of the motley crew I knew from Umzinto cricket days (when in absolute desperation they would ask me to be the tenth man, unable to find eleven, and I would make a duck, drop a catch and do very well at lunch and in the bar afterwards) – didn’t darken the door. We politely allowed it to fill up and stood outside under the trees. Anticipating this, they had placed speakers outside so we could hear what was going on inside, and a marquee with chairs for old bullets. Heard all the hymns (or both of them) in stereo as the insiders and the outsiders sang at different speeds. And in different keys. All Things Bright & Beautiful and Awesome Wonder.
Glen, Jane, Denise & Sharron spoke, as did a few of the grandkids. They did really well. Hats off to them! A friend of Faye’s told a lovely story of how she would do anything for Denis, but drew the line when he went through a brief spell of supporting the National Party. He asked her for a cake for their meeting and she told him he could bake his own bloody National Party cake! I can imagine Denis himself telling that story with great delight!
Saw a number of old Highflats, Dumisa, Umzinto, Durban, Tegwaan gang and Umdoni/Pennington district faces that I recognised. We all looked the same, but as though someone had stuck a bicycle pump in our rings and pumped us up a bit. I even got a few of the names right. Ali was an exception to the pump rule: She’s still as slim as ever. There were a few others who hadn’t expanded, too. I told them I was worried about them.
I remember Faye as a wonderfully warm and welcoming person with a mischievous smile and a wicked sense of humour. Playing tennis. Organising. Hosting. Driving a Citroën. At speed.
Faye & Denis Barker fostered or adopted a third daughter Sharron Baker, from the Ethelbert Children’s Home yonks ago. I met her when she was studying nursing and I was in the weermag. Met her again here at Faye’s funeral. She has two daughters – also adopted from the ECH! The younger one, I’d guess around 17, was there with her.
Me: Faye & Denis Barker adopted a third daughter, Sharon, from the Ethelbert Children’s Home yonks ago. I’m not sure of the details or the arrangement, as she kept her surname Baker – close enough! Taciturn Barks didn’t speak about her much, but I met her when she was studying nursing and I was in the weermag. Met her again at Faye’s funeral. She has two daughters – also adopted from the ECH! The younger one (I’d guess around 17) was there with her.
Dave Hill: Special people the Barkers. I remember so well being deposited at Kearsney from Kitwe in 1967. 12 years old and I didn’t know anyone. My dad introduced me to Denis, they were in the same class, and Glen. Every long weekend, half term etc I went to Umzinto where we played on the farm and Denis taught me to water ski on Ifafa lagoon, can you believe that? I’m talking about the lagoon! They knew how hard it was for me and looked after me whilst I found my feet. I’ve never forgotten that. Years later I drilled the first boreholes at Selborne for Denis and over the years have returned there to drill others. Denis always made a fuss of me at the Selborne Farmers Classic which I have played for years, sadly now played at Mndoni due to politics that Denis was embroiled in at some point with the Germans. We have kept in touch for years via email which he hasn’t been able to do for years now, and he proudly sent me a signed copy of his book “Zulus at Bay”. All of us cant believe that he has outlived Faye and Glen told me yesterday how frail he is and how he needs 24/7 care. Luckily they can afford it. Funny how the world goes round.
Dave Simpson: Hi David and Pete, Thanks for these amazing stories of two wonderful people, but of course none of it comes as a surprise as we know they have hearts of gold. Pete thanks for explaining the mystery of the third daughter. Thanks also for Glen’s telephone number. I managed to get hold of him yesterday – no need to guess where he was – playing the 18th at Durban Country Club with Robert. He does return home today. David, Selborne in all its forms, the stud and then the golf development, was certainly a labour of love for Denis. Although I did not get to know the full story, the Kraut at Selborne must be an asshole of extreme proportions. He was undoubtedly a source of great anguish for Denis. Hopefully this is all in the past for him.
Tim Elliott told me an interesting tale at the funeral: He went to play squash at Westville and his partner didn’t pitch. Glen was there and his partner was a no-show, too, so they played a game. Upshot was they ended up sharing a ‘digs’ in the top half of a rented double-story house in Windmill road near Musgrave centre. Then Tim got married to Sue and kicked Glen out, taking over the digs for his newly-married home. What you call: Nuptial bed? Later the newly-weds went on a weekend to Tendele in the ‘Berg and Tim invited bachelor Glen along (not to Sue’s great delight). On the way they stopped at Notties for a beer which turned into enough beers so that when they told the barman they were on their way to Tendele in Royal Natal National Park he said “Sorry for you, the gate closes at 6pm”. So they had to overnight at Notties unplanned. Enough beers emboldened Glen to say hello to a spunky-looking chick in the pub he might not have been in, with a mate he might not have met. And she turned out to be Ali the Kiwi!! He’s a mighty lucky man, young Glen – Ali is a star!!
Me again: I water ski’d once with Barks at Ifafa lagoon and remember it as a wide deep lagoon. I hear it has silted up? I tried to go there a couple weeks ago while staying at Happy Wanderers, but a resort now has the whole riverfront, there’s a big gate blocking the road. The weeds were so high I couldn’t get a good look at the river from the road. Denis gave me a signed copy of his other book: Umzinto Cricket the first 100 years.
Another memory: Selborne was Vernon Crookes’ place (Glen always referred to him as “Vernon the Villain” – I spose there was a story behind that!). Glen took me to Linton Hall once, Sir Frank Reynolds, rival sugar baron’s home across the road from Selborne. The daughter Jane was there at the time. She lived half the year in this huge castle-like place, and the other half in Scotland. She showed us around the house, up the tower, into the bedrooms, the huge lounge with elk antlers over the fireplace, the big old empty kitchen with a steel table in the middle (no fitted cupboards). It looked sad and run down and uninhabited. It obviously spoke of great wealth, but she didn’t seem to able to rustle up a drink easily – maybe the butler was off-duty? (not that she wasn’t friendly and accommodating, just it didn’t seem like a home, I guess). I’m sure the change to boutique hotel changed that – for good and bad.
On 29 January 2014 I wrote to “Glen & Ali Barker” firstname.lastname@example.org I said Glen, Here are some of the stories that have been doing the rounds. Correct us where we have gone wrong!! Cheers P
And Glen responded – SIX YEARS later! On 2020/05/31 Glen Barker wrote: Hi Pete, Just going through old correspondence. Slight correction. Sharron was never adopted but spent a Christmas with us aged about eleven or twelve, then following Christmas, then every school holiday and so became part of the family. Her elder sister we met after she left school. She became an SAA air hostess and married pilot Tim Thane who got a post with Singapore Airlines then Cathay where he’s still an instructor in Hong Kong. Their two boys went to Kearsney and my folk were the “grandparents”. Sharron married Dave Coetzee and they adopted Tarryn who went to the UK and now is in Sydney so we see a lot of her, and Terry who is now married to DA leader John Steenhuisen. They have a four year old daughter. Saw them at both folks’ funerals and Emma’s (Jane’s daughter) wedding in 2016. Sharron and Dave have recently moved to the UK. Chow, Glen.
Me: Ah, OK. Very interesting bunch! Your folks then, “adopted” them, which is what I actually meant. I knew they weren’t Barkers. I have “adopted” many kids over the years – and even adopted two! My current crop are four little girls aged 3 to 8 who worship Jessie!
As students 1974-1977 we would frequent the Casa Blanca roadhouse at the foot of Nugget Hill below Hillbrow when the pocket money arrived from home. Squeezed into Joz’s VW Beetle or Steve’s beige Apache or Bobby’s Mini Cooper S or Glen’s green Toyota, we’d ask the old Elvis-looking guy with a cap, flip-up sunglasses and whispy whiskers for a burger n chips plus a coke; Or a cheeseburger chips n coke 70c, or – as Steve Reed reminded me – “if we were flush, the Dagwood with everything including the runny fried egg. Sheer luxury. Messy, but worth it!”
I don’t have a pic of the Casa Blanca, but here’s the Doll House in Highlands North and the Casbah in Alberton so long:
Every so often you’d be asked “Move forward” and you’d inch forward to make room for new arrivals behind you, till you reached the “finishing line” where you handed back the tray the Elvis look-alike waitron had clipped to your half-rolled-up window and drove off under the big sign on the wall: QUIET. HOSPITAL.
Many years later (OK, twenty six years later!) work took me back to Jozi and I had time to kill in my hired car so I drove around Doories and Yeoville and Hillbrow. Lunchtime I pulled in to the Casa Blanca and I SWEAR there was the exact same oke who had served us twenty six years earlier, with his SAME cap, his SAME flip-up shades and his SAME whispy whiskers! Astonishing!
I told him cheeseburger chips n coke and how long have you been here?
“Thirty six years” he said “but I’m just filling in now”.
Charged me 70c. Plus twenty six years-worth of inflation.