Aitch needed a break and Barbara Jeff, LindiLou and Robbie agreed to have the kids on their Umvoti Villa farm. So off we went to a luxury stay in the Cathedral Peak Hotel. The breast cancer had spread to liver and bones and the treatments she opted for were severe. Here was a break from the punishing rounds of chemo. October 2010.
Trish went on some short walks. I went on a few longer ones and some bike rides.
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:
An old post from my pre-marriage blog vrystaatconfessions.com
My first recollections are of life on the plot outside Harrismith, playing with Enoch and Casaia, childhood companions, kids of Lena Mazibuko, who looked after us as Mom and Dad worked in town. I remember Lena as kind and loving – and strict!
The plot was was in the shadow of Platberg, and was called Birdhaven, as Dad kept big aviaries filled with racing pigeons, then later with fancy pigeons.
I was there from when I was carried home from the maternity home to when I was about five years old, when we moved into the bright lights and traffic of the 1955 Harrismith metropolis.
I remember suddenly “knowing” it was lunchtime and looking up at the dirt road above the farmyard that led to town. Sure enough, right about then a cloud of dust would appear and Mom and Dad would arrive for their lunch – meat and veg – and a siesta, having locked up the Platberg bottle store at 1 o’clock sharp. I could see them coming along the road and then sweeping down the long driveway to park near the rondavel at the back near the kitchen door. They would eat lunch, have a short lie-down and leave in time to re-open at 2 o’clock sharp. I now know the trip was exactly three kilometres door-to-door, thanks to google maps.
Every day I “just knew” they were coming. I wonder if I actually heard their approach and then “knew”? Or was it an inner clock? Here’s an old 8mm movie of the old green and black Ford Prefect on the Birdhaven circular driveway with big sister Barbara waving out the window – four seconds of action:
1. Birdhaven and ruins of our house; 2. Glen Khyber, Dougie Wright, Gould & Ruth Dominy’s place; 3. Jack Levick’s house; 4. The meandering Kak Spruit.
None of those houses on the left were there back then.
Back then the folks would buzz around in Mom’s Ford Prefect or Dad’s beige Morris Isis.
Our nearest neighbour was Jack Levick and he had a pet crow that mimic’d a few words. We had a white Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Jacko that didn’t, and an African Grey parrot Cocky who could mimic a bit more. A tame-ish Spotted Eagle Owl would visit at night. Our next neighbours, nearer to the mountain, were Ruth and Gould Dominy and Ruth’s son Dougie Wright on Glen Khyber. They were about 500m further down the road towards the mountain, across the Kak Spruit over a little bridge. Doug’s cottage was on the left next to the spruit that came down from Khyber Pass and flowed into the bigger spruit; The big house with its sunny glassed-in west-facing stoep was a bit further on the right. Ruth and a flock of small dogs would serve Gould his tea in a teacup the size of a big deep soup bowl.
Judas Thabete lived on the property and looked after the garden. I remember him as old, small and bearded. He lived in a hovel of a hut across a donga and a small ploughed field to the west of our house. He had some sort of cart – animal-drawn? self-drawn? Self-drawn, I think.
Other things I remember are driving out and seeing white storks in the dead bluegum trees outside the gate – those and the eagle owl being the first wild birds I ‘spotted’ in my still-now-ongoing birding life; I remember the snake outside the kitchen door;
I don’t remember but have been told, that my mate Donald Coleman, two years older, would walk the kilometre from his home on the edge of town to Birdhaven to visit me. Apparently his Mom Jean would phone my Mom Mary on the party line and ask “Do you have a little person out there?” if she couldn’t find him. He was a discoverer and a wanderer and a thinker, my mate Donald.
Bruno the doberman came from Little Switzerland on Oliviershoek pass down the Drakensberg into Natal. Leo and Heather Hilkovitz owned and ran it – “very well” according to Dad. Leo came into town once with a few pups in the back of his bakkie. Dobermans. Dad said I Want One! and gave him a pocket of potatoes in exchange for our Bruno. He lived to good age and died at 95 Stuart Street after we’d moved to town.
rondawel – pr. ‘ron-dah-vill’; circular building with a conical roof, often thatched;
spruit – stream; kak spruit: shit stream; maybe it was used as a sewer downstream in town in earlier days? Probably
stoep – veranda
donga – dry, eroded watercourse; gulch, arroyo; scene of much play in our youth;
This one on sister Barbara’s beautiful farm Umvoti Villa, on the Mispah side of Greytown. She’d seen a snake on the big homestead veranda, but then no, it wasn’t a snake. What was it? She sent some blurry pictures of the mystery serpent . .
I asked for clearer shots, but by the time she went back to try and get them, the ‘problem’ had been solved! No more snake. Barbara was happy: ‘All gone for breakfast. My problem solved . . no stomping . . no moving . . no doom!’ (spray – aargh!)
Barbara had noticed the ‘snake’ was actually a whole bunch of ‘worms’ marching in line, nose-to-tail. So had the hens and they proceeded to munch them tail to nose.
Here’s the ‘snake’:
A closer look at its ‘head’:
. . and here’s what I found out: They’re Fungus Gnat larvae! Each one is tiny and leaves a mucousy slime trail, and they gather together to move. Here’s a single one, looking a bit like a small slug:
. . and here’s the even tinier gnat next to 1mm marks:
Mom was on furlough from the home – Azalea Gardens. Sheila fetched her and Barbara, Linda, Tholo and the two terrors Mary-Kate and Dawie and I joined them at 16 Ivy Road in Lincoln Meade, Pietermaritzburg.
What a lovely day – a great lunch, fun with the kids and ending with a surprise: ancient movies from our youth taken in the sixties with Dad’s 8mm movie camera. Sheila had arranged and paid for hours of old footage to be put on a memory stick! Dad says he had a small Canon movie camera first; I only remember his Eumig camera.
As we were leaving Tholo spotted a birds nest right above the car door with two little chicks begging, and showed Mary-Kate.
After everyone left I waited till I could spot the mother: a Cape White Eye.
See the top pic: When the old man moved out of earshot – which means six inches away – Linda murmured to me sotto voce, ‘Here’s the man always telling others to get dressed early mornings: still in his jarmies at noon.’
What a lovely braai we had at Umvoti Villa today. I was so chuffed Jess came along – with friend Jordi. Linda and Dawie hosted us and Sarah and Rob joined. Mom and Dad were there, and sister Barbara.
Plus flocks of kids: Emma, Matthew, Mary-Kate and Dawie. What a great bunch, they had a really good day, much laughter and scampering, feeding horses, riding on a quad bike, driving Sheila’s car, playing golf and eating.
We had a delicious meal and lots of catch-up.
Jess and Jordi loved being with the little ones – and I didn’t get any pics of them – nor of any of the other adults! Oh, well, here’s one of Jess before we left:
I don’t do DIY. I was going to say except for our wedding, but on reflection, I also did that the way I do everything: Stand back and watch as others do it all, encouraging and applauding while trying to save money.
What I did do was buy the booze and fill Mike Lello’s Isuzu Trooper and trailer with it and drive it out to Barry and Lyn’s farm Game Valley Estates at the foot of the well-known Hella Hella on the Friday. Lots of rain, muddy roads. It had been a wet summer following the huge September 1987 flood.
Like most bachelors when they do fall, I headed off cheerfully to meet my fate, all my own advice forgotten, marching singing to the gallows!
Luckily Saturday cleared up. I always sing ‘The robots change when I go thru, the clouds dissolve and the skies turn blue, and EVERYBODY loves me baby – – – what’s the matter with you!?
And the clouds did dissolve . . It got Sunny. Then Hot. Then Scorching, Humid, Sultry. It felt like all the rain of the big flood was trying to get back up into the clouds.
Barry’s big old 4X4 Ford F150 gave people a tug up slippery Hella Hella Pass so they could get to their lodgings at the nearby Qunu Falls Lodge. The Brauers, the du Plessis, the Reeds, the Schoemans, the Stoutes, the Stewarts. The Hills live nearby. Family stayed in the concrete A-frame lodge on the farm.
The sauna was pitched on the lawn under the Hella Hella mountain.
The Porters were linked up to ESKOM but just because ESKOM has arrived does not mean that when you throw a switch with a flourish that anything will happen. And so it was on our wedding day that ESKOM was feeling a bit off that day and we were without krag, power, lights and fridges.
Enter David Hurle Hill !! He roared off in his bakkie and fetched a huge diesel generator on a trailer. David is a Drrrillerr and will drill you a borehole. In fact his company motto is ‘On The Hole Our Work Is Boring.’ He linked up and threw a switch with a flourish and nothing happened.
She was not wekking, as David Hurle Hill would say.
Enter Enea Spaggiari !! All the way from Italy via Kenya and Petit outside Benoni. He climbed up onto and over and under the trailer and fiddled with wires and threw a switch with a flourish and Let There Be Light! Music! and Cold Beers!
Iona coaches her daughter: Make all the big decisions, but make him think he made them . . . Aitch: Ha Ha I already do that . . .
Then the usual stuff, the ominous music from Jaws: Tun Tun Ta Da!;Tun Tun Ta Da! What? Oh, the wedding march. The father of the bride looks like he’s having having second thoughts; Guys are thinking hm hm hm who’d a thunk this day would arrive?; Ladies are smiling – they seem to enjoy weddings; Aitch saying – ‘Honour? OK; – Obey? Are you mad!?’ and so on. The usual kak.
Then the cake, made by Lyn’s talented friend with a green frog couple in tux and wedding dress – probly a strongylopus and an arthtroleptis. In the heat they keeled over. We should have got a pic, but something like this, just green frogs and not from alcohol:
Then The Lies! You just can’t trust some people. Ten years prior to this I had done a very good job being his best man and if he had paid attention he’d have learned something. Like, to stick to the flattering truth and not tell scurrilous alternative truths that nobody wants to hear. At least nobody called the object of your attentions wants to hear them . . .
Followed by The Truth!, plain and unvarnished:
At last, we could change into shorts and relax and party.
Later came The Getaway:
Which took a while, handicapped as we were. We wore getaway kit appropriate for our intrepid honeymoon. We were headed for Deepest Darkest America.
On the Monday friend Allie Peter flew over Hella Hella in a helicopter and took pics of Rapid No.5&6 looking downstream and then back upstream:
Twenty Five Years Later – 28 Feb 2013 – I wrote to friends:
Crazy, innit! 25yrs ago today Aitch and I got hitched down in the Hella Hella valley in a fun DIY game farm wedding. She made it to 23yrs of married bliss (OK, she might have had something to say at this point . . ) and one month short of 26yrs together. We celebrated that 25yrs-together milestone in August 2010.
Thinking of all you good peeps that made our wedding so memorable – that’s the bachelor days before, the day itself, and the 25yrs since!
Lotsa love – Pete – and now Jessica & Tommy!
BTW, Lyn and Barry Porter of Hella Hella also died in 2011: Lyn in January – also breast cancer; Barry in April – hospital infection; And then Aitch in July.
Dave Hill: I remember it well – I ‘nipped’ home to fetch my generator when the power went off.
Pete Stoute:Remember the week-end like yesterday! Struggling up the other side of Hella Hella to the Qunu Falls hotel in the mud and rain – Dave Hill saving the day with a BIG generator.Will have an extra glass of vino this evening – great mates and good times.
Sheila Swanepoel:Those pics are great. What a wonderful record of a very special day. I remember the incredible heat and how you, Pierre and Pete sneaked off and changed into shorts straight after the ceremony. And how the phone kept ringing in the middle of the ceremony in the house. Linda was flower girl, Robbie was so proud of his brand new red “tight”
. . and Jeff kept putting off going to change, saying that he was charge of the antelope on the spit – he dithered for so long that there was no time to change and that pleased him no end. Bess & I sneaked down to the pool for a kaalgat swim and found Iona had beaten us to it!
Steve Reed: Will always remember the weekend; a great occasion. I think it was thanks to Mike and Yvonne in the 4×4 that we traveled safely back through the mud to our lodgings. Fond memories – raising a glass tonight to all of you!
I remember Brauer chasing a tight deadline speech writing – wise.
Pete Brauer:Damn. Been holding my breath during this stroll thru memory lane hoping that no-one noticed at the time or that no-one would still remember that poor last-minute effort.
Terry Brauer: Steve nothing has changed! PB has his own website called lastminute.com
Steve Reed:Speech was excellent. Not many can compose a wedding speech while putting on a tie with the other hand. Besides, Swannie probably tasked Brauer with the job as he was getting dressed himself.
Terry Brauer:Yip Brauer remains an orator of note and Swanepoel continues to notify me he is coming to stay usually on the day when he lands in Pretoria – 😀 Those old dogs ain’t gonna learn new tricks but love them both! T
Pete Swanie:I had prepared well in advance.
Brauer procrastinated and ignored my two rules: Keep it short; and NO LIES.
Pete Brauer:If I stuck to the latter rule the first would have fallen into place quite easily.
Tanza Crouch: Thinking of you, Aitch, Tommy and Jessy at this time. My spider days at Hella Hella are very special to me and Aitch, Barry and Lyn were very special people.