Such a pleasure to meet weirdos who prove I’m normal. Friends Petrea and Louis – speaking of weirdos – cracked me an invite to an early morning visit to Bill Oddie’s house in David Maclean Drive to spot some twinspots. To do some twin spotting.
Actually Roger and Linda Hogg’s home – what a beautiful garden! I didn’t take a picture, damn!
Now, looking at birds is normal, of course, as is drinking good coffee. Here are some of Roger’s bird pics. No, I’ll show you the weird part later. His daughters must die of embarrassment. I now can prove to my kids how normal I am.
Here’s the part that pleased me:
Here’s the real Bill Oddie, a crazy Pom. I got to know about him when Aitch bought me his ‘Little Black Bird Book’ cos she agreed with his assessment: ‘Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting, boorish, pedantic, unsentimental, arrogant and – above all – envious’.
And here’s an embarrassing discovery: I’ve seen lots of twinspots, but I thought this one in Roger’s garden was a first for Westville. When I went to add them to my life list, I saw that I’d twin-spotted twinspots in my own garden! In 1999 at 7 River Drive!
Petrea’s response was sharp, as always: ‘How wonderful to suffer from Sometimers. Every bird is a lifer! And anyway, ‘normal’ is a setting on a dryer.’
British birding – we should realise how lucky we are!
What do you do? I ask the old soldier sitting in my chair. I’m a musician in the army band he says. Aha! Cool! What do you play? asks I.
The Saxophone, he says. The best of all the instruments! I flatter. How long have you been a soldier? Not long, he says, I joined a couple years ago and I’m just about to retire on a small army pension. What did you do before?
I was saxophonist in big bands. I toured the world. Mario Montereggi’s Big Band? I ask. Yes, indeed, I played with Mario.
And then he drops the big one:
I was with the African Jazz Pioneers for years. Wow! African Jazz Royalty in my chair!!
He might even have played with Mario at my fiftieth, where Aitch surprised me by getting Mario’s small ensemble to blow me away:
Just in case anyone was thinking Aitch only had Mom’s Day, I gotta tell ya – not at all!
She had her birthday 6 January; She had her second birthday 6 July “‘cos it’s unfair my birthday is so close to Christmas, everyone used to give me one present, and my day was lost in the Xmas/New Year hype”. Right.
Then she was really big on the kids’ joint birthday 11 December, making that a big day, plus the two separate parties she would organise for them, there being a four-year age gap. I tried to combine it after she was gone – whatta disaster!
Then she always remembered the day we met, 27 August, I think. We would celebrate that. Also wedding anniversary 27 February. Celebrate.
Then CHRISTMAS!! An Aitch Day if ever there was one! She was BIG on Christmas. Much planning, buying and the whole house had to be changed: Xmas decorations – putting up the tree was an event! – Xmas crockery, Xmas coffee mugs, Xmas lights, Xmas pictures on the walls, all other paintings had to come down. Mantelpieces would be festooned.
Then she had Mothers’ Day when the kids made a big fuss – she’d see to it. And last but definitely not least there was All Fools Day, April Fools Day – my birthday. You won’t believe how she went to town. She’d get a Big Brass Band to play!
was going too fast, but we were late and I could see miles ahead
along the sweeping roads on the hillsides of Lesotho. A speck of dust
would show up then disappear as we rounded a hill, then reappear
later a bit nearer, but still far away. Eventually a car would
materialise, turn into a white bakkie and sweep past in a cloud of
were hastening to get to Sani Top after entering Lesotho near
Ficksburg, and zooming over Khatse Dam after waiting a while for the
brakes to cool so they’d work again after too much sight-seeing
braking down the steep decline to the dam. Little Jessie and Tom
strapped in the back and me and Aitch in front. The Dizzis were
waiting for us and Aitch hates keeping anyone waiting and especially
the Dizzis, so I was putting foot, it’s true.
As I rounded one more bend at dusk my eyes widened and the donkey’s eyes widened much more. Huge, in fact as he stared at his impending doom. The look in his eyes was quite fatalistic, and he was rooted to the spot, massive bundle of sticks and bushes loaded on his back and sticking out more than his body width on both sides. On the left a high bank, on the right a cliff plummeting down to the river valley far below. Swerving was out of the question, as was hard braking, so I manual-ABS’d, slowing down as much as I could without endangering us.
As we hit the poor ass I probably closed my eyes. WHACK! A sickening bang. Dead, I’m sure. Kombi messed up. I stopped and hopped out thinking: You don’t stop and get out. For safety you keep moving. Like hell.
walked into a wall of cussing and swearing and remonstrating in high
seSotho. What the hell did I think I was doing and who the hell was
going to pay and where the hell was I headed in such a hurry and how
the hell was he going to . . . I hardly heard him. I was staring past
him at the donkey walking away minus its load, seemingly none the
worse for wear! I was so relieved I actually giggled and had to bite
immediately launched into a sincere and abject apology oft-repeated
and completely ignored. I apologised for speeding, endangering,
carelessness, being younger than him, and for breathing. I was sorry
that he’d have to catch his donkey and I regretted that he’d have to
do all the loading all over again. I was getting nowhere and the
tirade was warming up and getting more creative. I saw I wasn’t
getting through, so I returned to the kombi and fetched R200 and
pressed it into my tormentor’s hand.
It was like switching off a radio. He was COMPLETELY satisfied and what were we talking about a minute ago again? A last apology and off we went. We still had a long way to go.
was a sequel the next morning as we headed back into Lesotho on the
same road. There was my man again, so I gave him a cheery wave. He
was with a mate and he pointed at us jabbering away, grinning
excitedly. We had fun imagining what he was saying. All
complimentary, we agreed.
So we enter the 19km event at Karkloof on our pushbikes. Me n Jessie.
Aitch n Tom are going to do the 10km.
We head off and Jess does well, stays on her bike on some gentle uphills, no pushing.
Riding up one hill after 4 or 5 km we hear a whooshing sound, and a wheezing and a loud shoosh and huh and a muttered curse and I realise its not a train or a wind turbine, it’s an oke saying “Spekkies – howzit?”. Young David Hill, peaking this early. He’s let himself go, as they say, since last season when he did Tuli in Botswana and was a shadow of his former self, and is paying the price. Finds his bike has lost all its former zippiness.
We rode together a while, but then gravity took over and off went Hill downhill at an ever-increasing speed on his high-tech multi-shock softail plenty thousand Rand special just when Jess ran out of steam and decided to chill a bit.
After another few kays I realised I was probably leading my category and was in for a podium finish and a prize: First SLOBO home (Seriously Lazy Old Bald Optometrists division). Jess was OK on the downhills (if rather cautious) and slow on all uphills – including some sections of “Dad, come back and push my bike for me”. Even so, I thought I had the win in the bag and was rehearsing my acceptance speech when, with much creaking and panting, an OLDER, BALDER optometrist pulled up next to me and called out “Swanepoel!”. It was young Graham Lewis, who, although MUCH older than me, was probably competing for my crown! I tried to delay him but he was eager to move on, so – although I could have blown his doors off – I let him go (on his twenty year old, unsprung bottle store delivery fiets, with his knees whizzing past his ears his seat was so low) as I had to wait for Jess. Ah, well, silver medal, I thought.
Meantime, back at the 10km, Aitch was waiting for 24yrs of trouble on six legs – Tom and the Bainbridge twins Peter and Philip. And waiting, and waiting. Hordes of cyclists passed her as she looked back in vain. Fifty, sixty of the slowcoaches they had been ahead of went past. “Have you seen three little boys?” she eventually started asking. Someone had: “I saw three little guys lying down in the grass near the drinks table chatting away” said an observant soul. Back went Aitch to roust them out and get them back on their wheels. “We were talking, Ma” was the explanation.
Just before prize-giving I had a thought and scurried over to have a quiet word with the officials. “First SLOBO home: Swanepoel” came the announcement over the tannoy system, and I stepped onto the podium to receive gold – to tremendous applause. Lewis had been disqualified, and quite rightly so. He’s running the Comrades ultra-marathon again this year, which quite clearly ruled him out on the important “SL” part of the category. Justice had prevailed.