Fab Five Reunion

Larry visited from Ohio back in 1996. Pierre was in Harrismith; I was in Durban; Steph and Tuffy were living in Cape Town, so they won – we arranged to meet up as the Old Fab Five musketeers down in Kaapstad.

Larry Wingert had been Harrismith’s Rotary exchange student back in 1969 and had returned to South Africa twice before – once in 1976, down through Africa from Greece, mostly overland, all the way to Cape Town; and once in 1985, when he and I had done an overland trip from Maun in Botswana to Vic Falls in Zimbabwe.

Trish and I took him to Mkhuze game reserve:

– in Mkhuze –

and down to Cape Town:

– the Fab Five plus Rope – Pierre, Rope, Koos, Steph, Tuffy, Larry –

Steph took us to his Kommetjie beach house

This year 2020 Steph’s brother JP sent me pics of the magic pub in the beach house

– JP in Steph’s well-stocked pub –

and Tuffy entertained us royally at his and Lulu’s lovely home in Langebaan:

– Larry Lulu me and Tuffy –

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Asked what the Fab Five was, I had to think about it. We were a gentlemanly triple-AA gang Educational Club who would meet clandestinely after dark and do creative things to broaden our minds.

The one AA was for automobiles, which we would borrow under an intricate arrangement where the actual owners were not part of the bargaining process; we would then use these automobiles to go places;

The other AA was for alcohol, which we would procure under an intricate arrangement of dispatching a third party who could legally buy the stuff, to a bottle store other than my parents’ bottle store; this we would then imbibe for the purpose of stiffening our resolve. And for laughter and the third AA:

Action! Adventure! Anything but boredom.

– the SAAB re-enactment didn’t happen – we used Tuffy’s bakkie instead – Fab Five plus Frik – Steph Frik Pierre Tuffy me Larry –

One of the founding reasons for launching the august club was we suddenly had a Yank in our midst and we were really afraid he’d go back to the metropolis of Cobleskill, upstate New York and say there was nothing to do in Harrismith. The thought mortified us. We had to DO something!

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We were reminded how offended we were late one night on one of our adventures – this one not motorised – we were prowling the empty streets at night te voet – on foot.

And we spotted a policeman driving around drunk! Can you believe it!? That was OUR forte! What was HE doing driving around drunk like us!? So we indignantly phoned the copshop from a tickey box, reported him to the dame on laatnag diens and walked away feeling smug. Next thing we heard a squealing of tyres and the roaring of a Ford F150 straight six. It was him! She had obviously radio’d him and told him! Maybe they were an item!?

We started running as the cop van roared closer. It was the only thing making a noise in the whole dorp at three in the morning so we could easily hear where he was. We sprinted past the Kleinspanskool and as he came careening around the corner we dived under the raised foundations of Laboria – Alet de Witt’s big block of flats. We crawled through and out the other side, at Steph’s house. Steph & Larry went home as did Tuff, a block or two away. Pierre and I had a way to go yet, so we set off along Stuart Street – we could hear the fuzz in the grey Ford F150 with the straight six and the tralies over the windows roaring around in Warden Street. He never stood a chance of catching us. We were fleet of foot and we could u-turn within one metre!

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te voet – on foot; saving fuel for the environment

tickey box – street phone booth

dame on laatnag diens – lady on late night duty

Kleinspanskool – junior primary school

tralies – burglar bars

Holy Harrismith 1

An Israeli city tired of being confused with Nazareth, the iconic city next door where Christians believe Jesus was raised, is hoping to change its name, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Just three kilometres and a ten minute drive separate Nazareth Illit from its famous neighbour.

Oy Vey! Residents kvetsch they’ve had enough of people, including tourists, thinking that our city is part of Nazareth,” says a Nazareth Illit city spokeswoman. “The resemblance between the two names causes confusion.”

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Surely the answer is obvious? Change the name to Mecca or Salt Lake City or Varanasi, and the confusion will end – stat. No more loud pesky goyim wandering around in short pants looking for mangers.
People should consult me when they have problems.

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Now, Harrismith – no-one confuses us with our neighbouring town Bethlehem, a mere fifty minutes drive away if the potholes are fixed.

Bethlehem was famous for something at one time but then they couldn’t find three wise men so they lost the tender.

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Bethlehem alumnus Stephen Reed wrote: It is also common knowledge that they had trouble finding a virgin.

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Me: Which is surprising. When you look at Beflehem ous and Beflehem tjieks you’d fink there’d be some life-long virgins there.

The answer, one supposes, is alcohol.

Wonderful stuff. I know it has personally come to my rescue on more than one occasion.

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Later: They did change the name. The village is now to be known as Nof HaGalil (the Galilee view), OK? When next you’re in Israel and not looking for Jesus, ask for Nof HaGalil.

Victor Simmonds, Artist

Dad: “Victor Simmonds was a lovely chap and a very good artist. He was a little man, grey, a lot older than me. What? How old? Well, I was probably 35 then and he was grey. He was probably 50. He lodged with Ruth Wright (later Ruth Dominy) on the plot next door to ours, Glen Khyber. I doubt if he paid them any rent, they were probably just helping him out. He moved to the hotel in Royal Natal National Park where they allowed him to sell his art to the guests and that probably paid his rent.

(This was on the slopes of Platberg, the mountain that overshadows Harrismith Free State).

“He was a hopeless alcoholic, unfortunately. He used to come to me begging for a bottle of brandy late at night, his clothes torn from coming straight across to Birdhaven from Glen Khyber, through the barbed wire fences. (Mom and Dad owned a bottle store, liquor store, in the town). I said ‘Fuck off, Victor, I won’t do that to you,’ and sent him away. I wish I had bought one of his paintings. Sheila found these paintings he gave me for nothing. He said he did these as a young student. As I took them he said ‘Wait, let me sign them for you.'”

– maybe a self portrait? –
– nude with amphora? –
– semi-nude with two amphorae? –
– maybe the Kak Spruit at Glen Khyber? – possibly –

So I went looking and found a lot of his work available on the internet. Once again Dad’s 98yr-old memory proved sound. Victor was born in 1909, thus thirteen years older than Dad.

Victor Simmonds’ work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $126 to $256, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2012 the record price for this artist at auction is $256 for South African landscape with two women carrying wood, sold at Bonhams Oxford in 2012.

– South African Landscape With Two Women Carrying Wood – Golden Gate area? –
Shrubs beside a cascading stream

I just knew this scene! To me this looks like the stream above the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal National Park – So I went looking, and at Love Camping I found:

– spot on! – an image locked in my brain for fifty years! –
– sunset, poplar trees, a river – the upper Wilge? –

A number of his paintings are available for sale. I’d love to see his ‘The Gorge, Royal Natal National Park, Showing the Inner Buttress and Devils Tooth’ but I’d have to subscribe for one day at 30 euros! That one was apparently painted in 1980, so he kept going for at least 23 years after he stayed in our neck of the woods. That would have made Victor around 70 and his liver a resilient organ.

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This post was seen by old Westvillians Tony and Elesa Willies in Canada, who wrote in the comments. Elesa sent a pic of her and her folks taken 43 years ago in the same ‘shrubs beside a cascading stream’ spot above Mahai campsite in RNNP!

– Elesa with her folks Peg and Ivor Willies – right there! –

And Tony sent a Victor Simmonds painting called ‘Harrismith’ (wish I knew where this was done – maybe near Sunnymede on the banks of the Wilge river, looking away from the river towards Platberg?):

– one of 4 Victor Simmonds bought by Ivor Willies, architect in Westville in the 50s and 60s – – now owned by his son Tony and daughter Elesa in Canada –

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I asked Dad if he could remember more. Just these (mainly sad) memories: – He was a lovely little man – small, frail even; I don’t think he ate much – he drank too much; – Ruth Wright probly gave him some grub, she was a lovely woman (he stayed in a cottage on their plot);
– His pub was the Grand National in Warden street – quite a walk from the plot next door to us. He never had a car, nor even a bicycle; – I wish I had asked him to give you kids drawing or sketching lessons – I could have paid him a bit. He never had any money;
– I fear he probably died penniless and got a paupers burial;
(thankfully this was probably overly pessimistic as it turned out, as Victor was still painting some twenty years later, as shown by Helen who commissioned a painting of the Amphitheatre from him in 1980, just before she emigrated to Australia – see her comment).

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Two more from the “early student paintings” he gave Dad. Both are marked ‘Harrismith ca.1946’ – but by who? Not by Victor himself.

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Another wonderful Eastern Free State and Drakensberg artist found a post I wrote on Little Switzerland – a special place in his and his family’s lives. Enjoy Alan Kennedy’s paintings here.

Please Call The Police

‘Please call the police; my friends are fighting and I’m very worried.’

The sound of a young woman’s voice early Saturday morning on my gate intercom. Luckily the intercom was in one of its working phases. They’d had a party, she said. Funny, I hadn’t heard anything. Sometimes the parties are really loud. I dialed 10111, explained, gave my name and address and the man said ‘I’ll send the police there’ which I found re-assuring. He said ‘I’ll send them’ not ‘I’ll tell them.’

Later the same lovely voice very politely checking ‘Did you phone the police? I’m so worried!’ I asked Are You Safe? Do you want to come in? To be behind the gate? ‘No, I think I’m safe,’ she replied, which I didn’t find overly re-assuring.

A short while later the gate again, ‘Thank you so much, they’re here,’ followed by three more Thank You So Much-es.

As far as I can recall, that’s the first time I have ever called the cops!

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I spose I must have called them back ca.2004 when we had our only robbery – in 10 Windsor Avenue while we were out. Aitch’s Zeiss 8X32 binoculars and her wedding and engagement rings were gone. Typical Aitch, she replaced the binocs only.

Wait! Once when we were young . .

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Drah Julah – A Dodgy Aussie Thing

2013/07/14, steve reed wrote:

We are having Dry July here in Australia. Something like Movember – a national fundraising thing.

Seriously, I did try to do Dry July (but just for my own health, I did not sign up to be sponsored). Took the remaining beers out of the fridge and put them in the cupboard so they would be warm and unpalatable.

So far I have managed to do only the week nights, and I have not touched the warm beers. But something made me pick up a couple of barossa valley reds on the way home Friday night (just in case we have visitors, see?). Then, only AFTER that, while I was in the kitchen slicing up some cabbage, a sneaky voice reminded me that this red wine can, nay SHOULD be consumed at room temperature . .

So the rule has been modified. ONLY on weekends, and only with food.

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Advice followed.

Swanepoel wrote:

I view such daft things with deep suspicion. They are positively Hassidic- or Taliban-like IMNSHO. Tom would say “Dad, that’s dodge” (meaning dodgy).

Thank goodness you have decided to be sensible. Like our rule that you could not drink while driving on tar – solved by putting the two left wheels on the gravel shoulder . . . and BTW, shelf-temperature often brings out some of beer’s more subtle flavours and undertones . . . and um, notes, sub-notes, something . .

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Brauer wrote:

Hey. For numerous reasons you should not throw the Hassidics and Taliban into the same pot. But when it comes to consuming the nectar they are P-O-L-E-S apart. The Taliban says it’s verboten. The Hassidics consume it in HUGE quantities particularly on the Holy Sabbath when they get bored cos they aren’t allowed to do anything else. It gives ‘The Holy Spirit’ a whole new dimension . .

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Learnt something. Like the Catholics drink real booze and us poor Methodists were given grape juice! Scandalous. I stopped going to communion.

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Footnote: Thankfully four July’s have passed since this alarming little episode and not a word from Reed about this dangerous would-be trend.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

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.

Ethanol Doggie

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.

Homer alcohol

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.

Cheers!!

– – 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!

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A Matric Result

When we arrived here Lovemore was nine years old, cute as hell and a regular visitor to swim in the pool or skateboard on the driveway. As he grew up we’d see him whenever he needed help, but less often to swim as he grew too cool for frolicking. Always friendly and helpful old Lovemore. That’s him on the right at Jessie’s 11th party – Pinetown Gym.

Ten years later he’s now more often called Mfundi, has written matric and the morning after the results this week he comes knocking, looking like death warmed up. “Pete I’m very sick, I don’t know what’s wrong” he says. “I’m worried” he says.

I think I know what’s wrong, I say. I heard you guys last night. You drank too much. You have alcohol poisoning, I say. I give him some cooldrink and some breakfast and some mirth. The mirth he finds a bit hard to swallow.

“Yes”, he says “It’s true. But I don’t know why I feel so terrible. I only drank the good stuff, Glenmorangie, Hennessy Cognac and Johnny Walker Black.”