Play the Warsaw Concerto, demanded 99yr-old Louise at Mom’s retirement home today. Ooh, says Mom – eight years younger and has always respected her elders – I used to play it, but I don’t think I could play it now. You go right back to the piano now and try! ordered Louise.
Mom says she’s a real character. She had just finished playing ‘I Love Paris in the Springtime’ to the assembled mass of old bullets. Probably half a dozen of them.
How did the Warsaw Concerto go? I ask. Ta ta da da DUH! says Mom.
Here it is:
Who’s it by? I ask. Addinsell she says. Ay double dee and ends in double ell. I think it ends in double ell. I check: Of course it does. Richard Addinsell. Written for the 1941 British film Dangerous Moonlight, which is about the Polish struggle against the 1939 invasion by Nazi Germany.
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 220.127.116.11 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.
izilwane – (wild) animal/s. Phinda game reserve started as Phinda Izilwane – the return of the animals. We’ve been missing our monthly jaunts up to Zululand. Jessie asked yesterday ‘Dad, when can we go to Mfolosi again?’
One consolation: I have been added to the whatsapp groups that share sightings in Mkhuze and in Hluhluwe-Mfolosi reserves. Now the reserves are closed they’re sharing past pictures. Beautiful.
She’s reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. ‘I can’t follow the plot but I’m enjoying the descriptions of the Thames, the muddy banks, the river traffic . . ‘
Apparently there’s a Miss Haversham in the book – she was let down by her to-be on the day of her wedding – she stayed in her room – kept her wedding dress on – ate the wedding food. Mom says Annie called someone in Harrismith ‘Miss Haversham’ but can’t remember who. She had wild hair. I suggested Mrs Fitzgerald, but she couldn’t remember her.
She had a fall on her walk with her friend Barbara yesterday, but ‘went down gracefully and haven’t got a single bruise. I just lay down gently on the tarmac and waited till two ladies on the staff came out to help me to my feet.’ She hadn’t thought of the obvious, so I had to point it out: ‘Mom, they’ll all think you’d been drinking!’ That amused her.
After the fall the 91yr-old dear skipped her piano session, but today she got back to her usual schedule, and played before all three meals. She has found a few new songs to play, she says.
She told her friends the joke I had told her about the Las Vegas strip club that had a sign out for the lockdown period: ‘Clothed till 30 April.’ Says they enjoyed the joke. Asked if I had been to that strip club when I went to Vegas! I said ‘Ma-a! I went to see Petula Clark sing.’ She couldn’t remember who Petula Clark was! Wow! Those cells must have been blitzed in one of her TIA’s. It’ll come back to her. I’ll sing ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway Darling’ and she’ll be wow’d. She’ll also remember Petula always kept her clothes on.
As she does every time, she asked, ‘How are Jessie and Tommy? Send them my love’ (two of her grandchildren, 22 and 18 – my kids).
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
We are ten cousins from the four children of Ouma Elizabeth and Oupa Paul Fouche Swanepoel of Pietermaritzburg. Our cousin Liz Grundling-Fortmann in Camperdown passed away in 2018 and a gathering of family and friends took place in Camperdown where Liz lived most of her life, to salute a special lady.
Afterwards, I wrote to cousin Shirley Solomon-Miller in Seattle Washington, USA:
Hi Shirley – Well, Lizzie had an amazing memorial service in Camperdown! I was amazed at the number of people who turned out. There were five cousins – the ‘Uncle Pieter’ Swanies, Barbara Sheila & Koos, and the ‘Aunty Lizzie or Aunty Anne’ Grundlings, Jack and Marlene. The four generations present were beautifully represented by Mary, Barbara Mary, Linda Mary and Mary-Kate.
Lizzie’s son Zane and brother Jack spoke beautifully of her at the service. She sure was loved and admired. Dad said it was the biggest funeral he’d ever been to – and he’s been to a bundle! I arrived just on time and then waited for Sheila, hoping I’d be able to hang back and maybe even stand outside as I have at many a funeral and wedding, but they had kept seats for us! We were ushered to the very front row! Caught out!
After the preacherman had finished Dad (95 then) leaned over and in his loud deaf voice he complained the service had been way too long. I indicated HUSH and he says ‘Can they hear me?’ Yes! I nodded, so he – no handbrake – says ‘Well, the last time he was subjected to such a long sermon was by dominee Ras in Harrismith.’ That was about fifty years back. See, people forget he’s there for the food!
And the Camperdonians laid on a feast – tea and coffee and tons of food – and then they said we must follow them home for a braai!
We all gathered at Auntie Lizzie and Uncle Con’s old home (and Lizzie’s home ever since) and had a lovely gathering and braai and then Sheila followed me and we drove home in the dark on that very busy N3 road to Durban – the road that runs right past Lizzie’s garage and petrol station. When we got home I phoned Sheila to check she was in – she was already in bed!
We agreed on what a really lovely bunch of people Lizzie had around her, her son and daughter, their spouses and kids were all so friendly, hospitable and helpful to all of us, some of whom – like me – they have seen very seldom indeed.
I saw Aunty Lizzie and Uncle Con’s graves and was surprised to find she didn’t have Elizabeth in her name! She was Anna Naomi, and Con’s nickname was Sarge. I did know a lot of people called her Aunty Anne. We only called them Uncle Con and Aunty Lizzie! Sheila says it was something about Dad’s nickname for her – ‘Skinny Lizzie” or something. Surprised me.
Another surprise: Lizzie was affected by emphysema after smoking for years – even when she was sick she ‘cut down to one a day.’ And there was her daughter Lisa smoking! I had to chuckle! Us humans!
Other pics were taken. I’ll send as I get them. I see mine have very few people in them! Just Sheila and Jack on the back stoep. – Lotsa love – cousin Koos
Some time before, Shirley and I had spoken of her Mom, Liz’s aunt, Adriana ‘Janie’ (pr. ‘Yahnee’) Swanepoel-Solomon who died in 1974. Shirley had held a ceremony on the Skagit River up north of Seattle where she lives.
Luckily nine of the cousins had managed to get together not long before – I think in 2014?
Recently it was Liz’s birthday. Cousin Solly in New Zealand reminded us, and Liz’s kids Zane and Lisa and their partners Bridget and John sent a pic of the flowers they had placed at her plaque:
I was trying to attract birds, but down came a spider. I think he’s a bark spider, but he could be a different kind of orb web spider. Bark spiders also spin big orb webs and my birdfeeder perch makes a great platform for an aspiring award-winning web spinner.
At first I thought it was an empty carapace from something that had hatched and flown, like a dragonfly. But then he moved . .
I got the remote setup working again: Canon on a tripod, targeted on the tap birdbath in the shrubbery, and viewfinder on my cellphone. Then I waited. The same problem I noted before is still evident: my attention span.
Eventually a rare bird strolled by and seemed quite interested.
Hours later the underbrush eagle, who today has been playing a Klaas’ Cuckoo, came for a shower.
Later an Olive Sunbird arrived and then two White-Eyes – both blending too well with the background and too quick for my camera – just blurs and water droplets! That’s another challenge: the delay between my finger firing the button on my phone and the camera firing – I’d guess near a quarter second. So the bird has often flucked or flitted – or at least changed his pose!
I made a .gif of the pics and – 😉 – froze the lil bird in mid-moon for three frames!
Lockdown has given us the opportunity to share pictures of birds and mammals and insects and other creatures seen. And plants, which I’ll show in another post. Thanks to the lovely gang of Palmiet Rangers for sharing these! I’m afraid I don’t know all their full names, but the top pic was by Roy Smith, and Roger Hogg took all these bird pics; the butterfly, scorpion and mamba are Sun’s.
This one showcases the reason we’re here! Bird pics and green hawk moth Roger; Citrus Swallowtail butterfly Elize Taylor; White-barred Emperor at bottom, vervet and stick insect mine; Big moth on white is Cay Hickson’s; I don’t know who shot the bushbuck nkonka, but believe it was in their garden in David Maclean road – let me know pls!
. . and lastly, when one of these grows up they want to be the other one:
Shepherds’ cottages in Lesotho are often quite primitive affairs, used itinerantly as their flocks graze in that area; then moving on to pastures new, where – especially in winter – a new shelter may be built, or an old one re-roofed with available grass or shrubs.
We enjoyed their hospitality there when we went up to celebrate the new chef at the castle above serve his first formal meal. A lovely experience!
CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO From the film “Sun Valley Serenade” (1941) (Lyrics: Mack Gordon / Music: Harry Warren)
Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo? Track 29, boy you can give me a shine. I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo, I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare. You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four, Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore; Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer Than to have your ham and eggs in Carolina; When you hear the whistle blowing eight to the bar, Then you know that Tennessee is not very far. Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rolling, Whoo,Whoo, Chattanooga there you are. There’s gonna be a certain party at the station, All satin and lace, I used to call funny face. She’s gonna cry, until I tell her that I’ll never roam, So Chattanooga Choo Choo, won’t you choo choo me home!
Recorded by: Glenn Miller & His Orch. (vocal: Tex Beneke & The Four Modernaires) – 1941 Glenn Miller & His Orch. (Film Soundtrack) – 1941 Cab Calloway & His Orch. – 1941 The Andrews Sisters (with Vic Schoen & His Orch.) – 1941 Johnny Long & His Orch. (vocal: Paul Harmon) – 1941 Kurt Widmann Mit Seinem Orch. (vocal: Ruth Bruck) – 1941 Carmen Miranda with Bando da Lua (feat. in the film “Springtime In The Rockies”) – 1942 Bill Haley & His Comets – 1954 The Modernaires – 1954 Karel Vlach & His Orch. – 1955 Ray Anthony & His Orch. – 1956 Al Saxon (with Ken Jones & His Orch.) – 1959 Cyril Stapleton & His Orch. – 1959 Ray Charles – 1960 Martin Denny – 1960 Ernie Fields Orch. – 1960 Oscar Peterson (Instr.) – 1960 The Checkmates – 1961 Floyd Cramer (Instr.) – 1962 Si Zentner & His Orch. – 1962 Hank Snow – 1963 The Tornados (Instr.) – 1963 The Shadows (Instr.) – 1964 The Fabulous Jokers – 1965 Harpers Bizarre – 1967 Billy Strange (Instr.) – 1968 Joe Loss & His Orch. – 1969 Syd Lawrence Orch. – 1969 Ted Heath & His Orch. – 1972 Enoch Light & The Light Brigade – 1973 Haruomi Hosono – 1975 James Last & His Orch. – 1975 John Hammond – 1975 Joe Bob’s Nashville Sound Co. – 1976 Vic Lezal’s Professionals – 1976 The Dooley Family – 1976 The Million Airs – 1976 Tuxedo Junction – 1978 Rita Remington – 1979 Taco – 1985 Denis King – 1986 Mercedes Ruehl (feat. in the film “Big”) – 1988 Asleep At The Wheel – 1988 Barry Manilow – 1994
Also recorded by: Sammy Davis Jr.; Teresa Brewer; Tony Rizzi And Pacific; Larry Elgart & His Manhattan Swing Orch; Johnny Bond; Boston Pops Orchestra; Harry Connick Jr.; Ray Conniff; Bette Midler; Matt Monro; Jimmy Caro; Udo Lindenberg; Xavier Cugat; Stéphane Grappelli; Rick Van Der Linden; Al Russ Orch.; Rune Öfwerman Trio; Ron Russell Band; Harry Roy; Klaus Wunderlich ….. and many, many more.