Africa, Canoe & Kayak, Life, Nostalgia, Sport

R.I.P Linda Grewar

Linda Grewar was a Kingfisher paddler from back around 1990. She and Bernie Garcin paddled really well – a number of mixed doubles podium finishes on the Dusi, Fish and Umzimkulu. Then she buzzed off ‘overseas’.

In May 2016 Bernie gave me Linda’s address, so I wrote  to her:

Hey Linda! – LONG time no hear!
Meantime I have freely been using your name in vain in the Umko book we put together for this year’s 50th running of the marathon and for a story on an Umko trip Bernie and I did where you helped us out with driving. MOONS ago!

Last I heard you were out East teaching English, now I hear you’re in England. I’m glad, as in my considered opinion, a lot of Englishmen could do with being taught English proper!

Me I’m raising kids at my age, they’re 18 and 14 now.

I haven’t paddled for ages, but I have bought a new boat (no logic involved; actually, keep it secret, I’m planning a big comeback). Be careful when you look at the pics of me and Bernie with my new boat – you may get a fright!

bernie_detox1.jpg

Saw Greg Bennett yesterday. He’s well. Thanks to the Umko book project I have seen or spoken to a lot of the old paddling guys in the last year that I hadn’t seen for ages. Allie Peter, Mike Frizelle, Ernie Alder and various other maniacs are currently trudging south down the whole Wild Coast. Three to four weeks from the bottom end of Natal, ending in East London or Kei River or somewhere down there in Darkest Eastern Cape.

Fill me in on your movements since – when? – about 1990!?

Cheers now – Love to you – Pete Swanie

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Linda replied: Hi Pete – So good to hear from you after so long. Yes, I was out East, in Taiwan. I then also taught English in Slovakia and Czech Republic before ending up here in the UK. I live in Esher, Surrey and was teaching fairly close by, in Surbiton. As Karen probably told you, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer in January- one hell of a surprise, as you can imagine. So far, I have had a course of radiotherapy and have had four sessions of chemo. Obviously I have not been able to work since I have been ill and things are quite hard financially.

Is it possible to buy hard copies of the Umko book? My brother is keen to get one and he can buy me one at the same time! Those days are but a distant memory now . . . All the best – Love, Linda

Me: Dammit. Dammit! What a bliksem! Bloody cancer! Good luck with your treatment. Hope it goes well.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

** May 2018 – Bernie contacted me to tell me Linda had passed away. Dammit. Bloody cancer.

Canoe & Kayak, Life, Sport

Chernobyl Gas Leakage

April         1986: Disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the Ukraine.
September 1986: Disaster in the Gillmer’s old kombi near Cradock en route to the Fish.

The trouble started with Black Label beer and Ship Sherry. I had wanted to buy a bottle of Old Brown, but I had fallen amongst thieves and my chairman was in the bottle store with me. “No man Swanie”, said Allie Peter, “Buy Ship Sherry. Then you can get TWO bottles”. Who was I to argue? He was a Kingfisher heavy, he was a Eesin Kayp local and I was blissfully unaware that this decision would not turn out to be in my medium-term best interests.

The night at Gattie’s place was a lot of fun and I clearly remember that clever feeling as I decanted more Ship Sherry into my bottle of Black Label. There was an aura of invincibility at one stage, but eventually – as happened too often in my youth – I looked around mid-sentence and found I was lonely. There was no-one else still vertical. I had no more friends. I dutifully (why does one DO this!?) downed the last of my blend and found a floor to lie down on.

Very soon after this I heard a loud noise. It sounded like someone was slitting the throat of Gattie’s prize bull. I knew vaguely that it was actually me and the loudness was due to the porcelain bowl echoing my distress. Gattie came to check, but seeing that it wasn’t one of his bulls protesting lustily, went back to bed.

Very soon after this it was morning. I was fine, but on the way to the race in the light blue Gillmer bus there was a low rumbling and some inner turmoil and I considerately thought to warn the inhabitants of the kombi of the pending gaseous pollutant. “Open the windows! There’s been a Chernobyl-like disaster” I shouted. They looked at me uncomprehendingly for half a second. And then the green cloud hit their nostrils, and they understood.

The hardest part of the Fish River canoe marathon – by far – was keeping my upchuck behind my tonsils on the dam we were cruelly forced to navigate before we were allowed to start the real paddling. Once on the river all was hunky dory and I ambled downstream in my white Sabre at my usual blistering pace (equal to the current) with frequent stops to stretch my legs or tie my shoelaces.

That night I ignored Allie’s advice and stuck to plain Black Label. Much safer.