The wonderful African Jazz Pioneers were appearing at the RAINBOW Jazz Club in the Pinetown taxi rank! Could NOT miss the opportunity. HAD to go and experience their wonderful sound and vibe. The only time I’d heard them live was years before, at Sun City.
At Ben Pretorius’ Rainbow Restaurant they serve their beers in ‘quart’ bottles, about 750ml in the shade. What can you do? I ordered a small Castle. I wasn’t boycotting SAB that night (could only have done so by going teetotal and that was not gonna happen). Then I noticed the guys next door were drinking Black Label and saw theirs was 5,5% alcohol while Castle was only 5%, so I ordered a Black Label next. No use wasting time and effort drinking and not getting full value.
But hey! Some okes were drinking Milk Stout quarts – and theirs was 6% alcohol! I smoothly oozed over to Milk Stout and then stuck with it. I’m not the kind of person who would mix his drinks. All the while the African Jazz Pioneers were playing their seductive swinging special jazz. Between sips we would stand up and dance like umLungus amongst them who really could sway and jive, hoping we were unobtrusive.
Many milk stouts later we might have been asked to leave, last song, last round and all that sad stuff. Tell you what! Let’s gate crash Mike Lello for a ‘last drink’ on our way home! Good Idea! Who’s driving?
The delightful and hospitable Lellos were sober and just sitting down to supper when we staggered in. Feeling slightly hungry, I sat in Mike’s chair and polished off his supper. Feeling a slight need for a leak and maybe a small burp, I meandered down the passage and here’s where people start to embellish the story.
Who has a white flokati rug in a loo anyway? Loo carpets are usually short-haired and much closer to a milk stout colour. In my experience.
Anyway, what’s a flokati? enlightenment: A flokati rug is a handmade shag wool rug. Making flokatis is a long-time tradition of the Vlachs in the Pindus mountains. The natural color of a flokati rug is off-white, but they may be – and SHOULD be! – dyed different colors. The entire rug is wool, including the backing from which the tapered shag emerges. After the rug is woven, it is placed in the cold water of a river to fluff the shag. They continue to be handmade in the mountains of Greece and are regarded as desirable in American modern decor and children’s rooms. ~~~oo0oo~~~
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:
and down to Cape Town:
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
and Tuffy entertained us royally at his and Lulu’s lovely home in Langebaan:
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.
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!
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!
te voet – on foot; saving fuel for the environment
You can tan me hide when I’ve died, Clyde, and hang it up in the shed. ‘Cos I have developed a quite – not a very, but a quite – thick skin. I meet Bruce for a beer at The German Club, which has become a bit more like an Old Rhodesians Club. This is some years ago.
I think Bruce phoned ahead and asked to speak to the chairman. The man who’d answered said ‘Chairman? Ve’s all blutty Chairmans HERE!’ I think he did, but I’m not sure.
I’m with TomTom who sticks out a bit in this euro-centric, deathly pale, colonial atmosphere. There are some stares. Tom has a blue lollipop which he pops into my empty beer bottle and raises every now and then for a suck, which looks like a swig! Ah, well, we’re used to stares.
Hell, in the years since then its got way more challenging and my skin has thickened even more. I have an Epic Epidermis. Since I became a Mom, I have loitered around many a lingerie department asking store ladies to please measure Jess and make sure she gets a good bra fit. I have discussed panty sizes with skeptical shop mamas. I am quite used to ‘Ja, Right!’ looks . . I just give a huge smile, make a joke, ask nicely, act matter-of-fact. Most people are just fine. Some are simply magic and ‘adopt’ Jess and take her under their wings for a brief while. They’re the STARS!
Where they act weird I just let it go. It’s like a duck’s water off my back.
Back when I was seventeen or eighteen I became an American farmer – a certified Future Farmer of America and I can still hear how Mr. Schneeburger would say EFFIFFAY in Ag Shop class. In Ag-ricultural work-Shop I craftily constructed a rotating cattle feeder made of a 55gal drum, mounted on a wheelrim on an axle that would always turn away from the wind thanks to an angled weather vane on top. Thus keeping the cattle feed dry in all weather. Clever, hey!? Trouble was my birdshit welding. So it fell over in the first little breeze. Still, the thought was there and I was – maybe – on my way to greater things. Redemption? I have been found wanting as a farmer on more than one occasion.
I went to hog shows – where the winner wouldn’t be looking quite so pleased with himself if he read what his mistress had planned for him on her placard:
I planted peanuts in Fort Cobb – well, watched some Mexican fellas do it anyhow. I sprayed something on Jim’s lands. I drove in Walter & Pug Hrbacek’s – or was it Gene & Odie Mindemann’s? – airconditioned cab of their big combine harvester or tractor (yeah, a farmer should remember which it was!) with an eight-track tape sound system overhead. Remember them?
My farming career peaked when I took part in the big annual roundup, catching, de-horning, castrating, branding and inoculating the bull calves. I was pulled in to the gathering and closely watched to see if this boy from Africa knew anything. At all. Well, by then they actually knew I didn’t, but I was good for a laugh! When I first got to Apache the local cowboys asked me if I could help them round up 18 cows. The maths nerd in me answered, ‘Yes, of course. – That’s 20 cows.’ (actually, that’s a Jake Lambert joke, but not far off the truth!).
As the feverish activity took place I hovered around, just out of helpful range. Then we went home to wash up and joined up again to eat the produce and wash it down with beer. I was better at that. It was my first ‘mountain oyster fry’.
It was like this, but in Walter and Pug Hrbacek’s barn, not at a church, and not in Texas:
They’re delicious, and they smell good – unlike the smell of burning cowhide from the branding! – but I found them best fried and covered in batter. You don’t really want to see them, especially not raw. I only ate the well-battered ones. They also get better with each ice-cold beer!
Recently I found out they do it better in Montana where they add a competitive eating of bull balls, or “Rocky Mountain oysters” and they throw in women’s hot oil wrestling, a women’s wet-T-shirt event, and a men’s “big ball” competition – basically a men’s “wet thin white underwear show”. Sounds like fun, huh?!
They make good products too, good merchandise: One for an insecure man, and how useful is this one for a lady who has a dick of a boss? The Under-Desk Scrotum Stress Ball.
Tom is writing exams, writes five and decides he wants to write the last three when I can invigilate. The others have been invigilated by his tutor Langelihle and another third-year student Rebecca. So we settle on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Except he arranges for Ryan to come around and the two of them beetle off gallivanting heavens know where and doing heavens knows what. So he only wrote the last three papers on Monday and Tuesday. Bloody hell! Who would DO something so irresponsible!?
Er, actually, maybe his father?
Back in 1972 I had four matric final exams, then a five day break before the last two. Me and Gabba took the gap and disappeared off to his farm behind the mountain after pulling in at the liquor off-sales on the way where he could legally buy grog, him being eighteen. Plus.
Gabba was a great friend to have, he had a car and lived all alone on his farm where he bought and sold cattle for a living – ‘speculated in cattle’ they called it. In matric! Cool! His farmhouse was a half-house. You picked your way over the rubble of the first half and entered by what used to be an inside door but was now the outside door of the remaining half.
We flattened the beer, which made us thirsty so we scrounged around and found a big old glass two-eared flagon of umqombothi on top of the fridge, fermenting quietly. We finished what was in there and phoned Frank on the party line. Frank was another bachelor alone on his farm nearby. What shall we do? we enquired of Frank, knowing that he would guide us wisely, him a few years older. Frank said “I’ve got beer, come!”
We finished that and Frank said “Let’s go to town”. Who were we to argue? We hopped into his car, I think a Datsun 1800 SSS, and roared off to town at terminal velocity, strong and clever. I remember a narrow bridge across a spruit approach and disappear in a blur with a loud WHUMP! in the middle of it followed by half a second’s silence – airborne.
In town we woke up the barman of the Royal Hotel down near the railway line. He grumbled a bit, but Frank was having none of it so he went off and reappeared with a case of dumpy beers. We then drove round to the R’s home and threw pebbles against an upstairs window. Penny opened the window, shimmied down the downpipe and we were OFF again on the dirt roads to the farm behind the mountain. At high speed. Invincible.
The next night back at Gabba’s place I phoned my Mom on the party line during a heavy thunderstorm and downpour. “Where have you been? Come home!” was the message but I said “What? Hard to hear you! I’ll be coming back tomorrow”. She said “Yes, rather don’t drive in this weather.” I said “Don’t worry, I’m the responsible type”.
I’m sure* Tommy wasn’t up to kak like that, so maybe he doesn’t take after his Dad.
. . . to actually stop and think WTF and HOW TF and holy guacomole!
An oke from Pretoria who had the misfortune to be sent to Pretoria Boys Hah – and thereby dip out on a decent, co-ed, normal, non-pervy upbringing* – has just sent his car (which he happened to be involved in the design and making of himself) into deep space.
He took his own car, put David Bowie on the audio player, wrote DON’T PANIC ala Douglas Adams from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy on the dashboard screen and fired his fuckin own aut OUT INTO SPACE!
Up into orbit around the Earth, then out towards Mars, but past Mars so that a red convertible will now be orbiting the Sun for the next billion years! Obviously Pretoria Boys High was focused elsewhere in the 80’s while the rest of SA was keen on a big anti-littering campaign.
And there it goes, actually jolling in space, the first open-top car to ever cruise with the whole of Earth showing up outside the window, then fade away in the rearview mirror as Mars grows bigger. As far as picking up chicks goes, its odds are no worse than Pretoria in the 80’s.
If you had told me this in the Doories pub I’d have told you:
Shut The Fuck Up and
Sit The Fuck Down
(I got that from my new millenium kids)
This is so amazing I can personally only think of ONE WAY in which it could have been made even more awesome:
If they’d fired a grey and grey Opel Concorde Rekord-breaker up with a slightly balding oke behind the wheel drinking Black Label and singing Lou Reeds’ Walk on the Wild Side on the playa and ALICE’S RECTUM written in lipstick on the windscreen – now THAT . .
THAT woulda trumped this.
Not a convertible, a convert-ed – it would have a roof, but same would be dented cos of some maniac jumping on it with a space suit on.
On board the red sportscar is something very special.
The Arch – pronounce ‘ark’ for archive – library, created using a new technology, 5D optical storage in quartz, developed by Dr. Peter Kazansky and his team, at the University of Southampton, Optoelectronics Research Centre. The disks are written by a femtosecond laser on quartz silica glass. Data is encoded digitally using plasma disruptions from the laser pulses. Arch 1 is smaller but this new medium is expected to soon achieve a storage capacity of 360 Terabytes – 7000 Blu-Ray Disks! – per 3.75 inch disk of quartz, and is stable for at least 14 billion years under a wide range of extreme conditions. Today this is the best way to store data for billions of years in space.
The Roadster will orbit the Sun for at least millions of years and will likely be the oddest object in the solar system, and thus the perfect place to put an Arch library so that it can be noticed and retrieved in the distant future.
*maybe not. An interview in Rolling Stone tells of an abusive father, two marriages, two divorces, six kids – where does he find the TIME for all this!?
** We had an ancient goat of a Pommy optics lecturer named Frank Duro who would say “Alice’s Rectum” when anyone fussed. He meant “Alles sal Regkom” – all will be well.
Geoffrey Kay, birding optometrist, ‘ornithoptometrist’?, put together a trip to Namibia in 1986.
We landed in Windhoek, picked up a VW kombi and rigged it up with a nice big hebcooler in the back. Ice, beer, gin & tonic. Now we were ready for any emergency.
West to Daan Viljoen game park where a lion’s roar welcomed us that first night. On through the Khomas Hochland into the Namib Desert. Then on to the Atlantic Ocean at Swakopmund. On to Spitzkoppen; Usakos; Erongo Mountains; Karabib; Omaruru; Otjiwarongo; and Outjo;
Then up to Etosha: Okakuejo, Halali and Namutoni camps. In Etosha we saw a very rare night ‘bird‘; Seldom seen.
Then on to Tsumeb; the Waterberg; Okahandja; And back down to Windhoek.
Geoff Kay, Jurgen Tolksdorf, Jill Seldon, Mick Doogan, Me & Aitch; Three optometrists and three normal people.
We spotted 200 bird species that week! Also a new mammal for me: The Damara DikDik.
Jurgen Tolksdorf newbie birder spotted many birds for us with his keen eye. “What’s that?” he’d say. In Etosha one night we woke up to the b-b-b-b-bhooo of a white-faced owl near our tents. We shook everyone awake and grabbed our torches and binocs and went to look for it. Except Jurgen. He said “A WHAT?” and rolled over and went back to sleep with a snort. We searched in vain and got back to bed very late, disappointed.
After a short sleep, on our way back from breakfast we met Jurgen who had risen late after a long night’s sleep and was now on his way to eat. While we chatted he looked up in the tree above our heads and said “What’s that?”.
We sweated in the dust, mopping our brows with dirty red bandanas. The bull calves didn’t like what we were doing, but we had to do it. We wrestled them to the ground, us wranglers, hog-tying their feet before de-horning them and branding them in a cloud of smoke. Burnt flesh smells filled the air. Then it was out with a sharp, clean knife and off with their nuts, deftly. Yep, we castrated ’em. The royal ‘we’ mind you, they wouldn’t let a rank amateur like me do that. Lastly we injected them, and then we untied ’em.
They didn’t like it. They stood shakily, wondering what the HELL had happened (now, if you tell anyone I wrote about a bull calf’s feelings I’ll deny it. Us cowboys don’t do emotion, but I’m setting it down for the record, see). Earlier that day they had been romping in the pastures without a care in the world, and now WHAM! No horns, no nuts, and pain in three places!
That evening we gathered in the barn out near the Hrbacek’s place (near Boone, I think, west or SW of town) for a mountain oyster fry. Copious amounts of beer washed down the delicious deep-fried and battered ‘oystures’, round, oval and all sizes from marble-sized to about a No. 8 pool ball size. Those last calves had obviously been born early – well before the roundup.
At least we were discreet. In Texas the sign where a church was holding a mountain oyster fry shouted: “COME HAVE A BALL WITH JESUS” !
Another cowboy day out on the range was horseback riding with Jim Patterson and his Dad Buck Patterson. Everybody had to call him Buck, nothing but Buck. A bit like my gran in Harrismith was Annie, nothing else. But I called him Granpa Buck and he allowed me to!
I wrote home that I was kitted out with horse, hat, boots, cattle and dust; we rounded up the cattle, corralled them, separated Jim’s from Buck’s, then the calves from their mamas. They’d been on the wheat fields, so they had the runs and I got cow poo everywhere, even in my hair. Got home half an hour before I had to present a talk. Made it!
I tried. Well, I made a less-than-worthy attempt. My heart wasn’t in the training. I could never quite see the glamour or ‘worthiness’ of shuffling furtively round the dark streets long before sunrise, but I gave it a go. I even tried the flaming hot running shorts Phil Greenberg gave me in the hopes I’d speed up a bit.
I joined a club – maybe that’s where I went wrong? I joined Westville with their red & white hoops ‘caterpillar’ outfit whereas historically I was more suited to be a black-&-white Savage with a Zulu shield, knobkierie and spear on my chest. Years before, I had been Savage No. 451, so maybe I should have stuck to that? Westville gave me number 159738b or something – I don’t think they valued me like Savages did. That probably put me off my stride a bit.
Anyway, I shuffled and I shuffled and I ran all the races including two 42km marathons.
Here’s an example of a ‘short’ training run in windy, hilly Westville, starting at our home. We took turns hosting our short runs at our homes, with tea n cake served afterwards. This is the run I worked out for the training team:
Walk up River Drive
R into Elvira
R into Rockdale across highway bridge
R Severn – down
L Rockdale – UP for 500m !!
Back all along Rockdale
R Tweed – Done 4km at this point
L Thames – down
R Conway – down
L Constance Cawston – UP & UP
L Somerset – UP & UP (becomes Frank)
L Cochrane (becomes Cleveland – UP) – 6,5km
R Rockdale (that’s right, Rockdale again !)
R Broadway – UP
L Neville – 8,6km
L Westbrook – down, then UP
L Harrison – UP
R River – 11,5km
Then eventually the big day arrived and I hadn’t arranged anything so I took myself off to Maritzburg to my folks. Early the next morning my Mom dropped me off at the start – long before sunrise. More dark streets – but now with crowds of lunatics milling around the red brick city hall.
Some guy crowed like a rooster and a gun went off in the dark and nothing happened. Minutes later still nothing had happened. The chatter of the would-be runners had changed to an excited murmur but nothing else had changed. Eventually we started shuffling at a very slow pace, slower even than my training pace, and some long time later we crossed the START line. The START line! I was tired already! I think I was in Batch ZZZZ.
That’s when I started thinking fu-uck! and I’m afraid that thought didn’t really leave me all day. I knew my pace was slow by the people around me: None of the runners looked like young skinny blonde Wits students, nor like Russians – and if they did look African they looked larger and rounder than me. Also the few spectators about weren’t saying ‘Well Done!’ or ‘Go! Guys!‘ NO, Instead they were saying Move Along! in a rather critical, nagging tone of voice, I thought. No ‘You’re looking good!’s Weird that.
This was confirmed when I passed under a banner that said ‘HALFWAY’ – Half way meant I only had 3km (Plus a Marathon) to go. Springbok rugby captain Wynand Claassen recklessly shot off a gun which left gunpowder residue on my scarlet Westville Running Club shorts. Well, if that wasn’t a pointed ‘Move Your Arse’ hint! Who the hell did he think he was? He had run the race but he’d never won the race, his father had.
En route I caught up with a few long-lost friends: Jacques-Herman du Plessis from Harrismith days; Rheinie Fritsch from army days. Also Aitch and 5yr-old Jessie and 1yr-old Tommy met me in Botha’s Hill for a family reunion. They were all a bit cool though, a bit offish, I thought: after a while enjoying standing and chatting to them they all said, ‘Haven’t you got something to do today?‘ and sent me on my way.
So I shuffled and I shuffled and then my spirits rose at a sudden thought! I started to think maybe there had been a collective coming to their senses, as there were no other runners around nor any spectators. Maybe I had got the wrong day? Or maybe everyone had just gone home to a hot bath and a cold beer?
But no, the spectators returned. Trouble is they were all packing up their deckchairs. And so the slow torture continued. Shuffle, shuffle. Suddenly a few cops jumped in front of me holding reflective tape as I shuffled under the N3 below 45th Cutting, just before the onramp (usually an offramp) onto the Berea Road section of the N3 into town.
Go Home, they said, We need this road for tomorrow’s traffic. You’ve had eleven hours, they said, and you’ve only done 82km. Where have you BEEN?
So I went home to a hot bath and a cold beer. Look, about this heading: Actually, you can call me Comrade, I’d love that, but only in a liberation sense, not in a shuffling sense.
So now I’m also guilty of this: “How do you know if someone has run a marathon?”
“They’ll tell you.”
The guys in my pics are Dave Williams, Kingfisher and Savages mate; and Dave Lowe, Westville runner; Both have done OVER FORTY Comrades – 41 and 42 respectively to be precise. That is Seriously Certifiable! I told Dave ‘Jesus’ ‘John Cleese’ Williams just the other night at Ernie’s wake “You know you can stop now, right?” and he said no, he failed to finish last year for the first time ever, so this year he’s going to repeat his 42nd Comrades. Bleedin’ ‘ell!