. . you can’t go home! You can’t go back to Botswana! Who’s going to help me keep Tom in his place!?
Tumisang Lekoni studied hospitality at the International Hotel School up the road from us and she and Tom became good friends. Twenty two pounds ringing wet and four foot two (I exaggerate!), she has a lovely strong voice and is one of the few people who can get a word in edgeways when Tom is off on a monologue.
You spoilt Tom rotten, helping him with his chores after a full day’s work in which he’d mostly sat on his bottom!
We’ll miss you big time Tumi. Our little valley is emptier without you.
Here we see Tom ‘Not Dropping His Phone’ – cos ‘I never drop my phone, Dad, it just breaks!’
It’s a real challenge. This having to navigate the world surrounded by dof friends.
I wrote to my ‘friends’ – it might have been early one morning; they might not have been fully awake: -original message- Subject: Where’s that? From: Pete <email@example.com> Date: 06/06/2011
I was embarrassed that I had never heard of Sanya, a city that looked bigger than Durban, with huge bridges, high buildings, man-made islands and world-class resorts. It’s China’s southern-most city. Well, today I tested Midi Yan’s eyes and he and his brother had never heard of Sanya either! OK, they are from Tianjin in the North, which is thousands of km’s away, but it made me feel a little better that they also hadn’t heard of this city in their own country.
Bruce – after reading with one eye? – wrote: Pete I`ve been there with you IN A BOAT – Legend of the Sea = tHERE AFTER THE BOAT DOCKED IN VIETNAM AT HA LONG BAY WHERE WE WENT ASHORE AND DRANK BEER
Janet wrote: So, Pete, it’s just the memory that’s going…
Rita wrote: That too!
I tried to straighten them up: Don’t be dof, people, I was embarrassed THEN that I had never heard of it. When the “Chinas” came to visit me last week I told them I’d been there and THEY had never heard of it. THEY said ‘Where’s That?’ So I didn’t feel so bad about not having heard about Sanya BEFORE I went there. Get wif ve program.
Rita persisted: Well clearly, you were not clear.
Steve backed her: ‘Fraid thats the way I saw it too. Sharpen up Koos.
Janet made things worse: Hair today gone tomorrow????
**** SIGH ****
confession: I may have tidied the language of my posts ever so slightly to make my point clearer here . . . in order to emphasise their dofness, see . .
Plaintive request from a colleague whose new practice name was challenged by – let’s politely say misguided – colleagues who claimed to have registered the same name before – even though they had never used it, nor had any use for it:
Please come visit me if Classic Eyes puts me in jail … I have my name reserved and they say they have the name reserved ….
I’ll paint a box of wine brown and pretend its my briefcase – then I’ll “forget it” in your cell.
I am pro- profanity. I believe it’s good; I believe they are often descriptive, useful and helpful words.
When given the old (erroneous) line that people who use swearwords have meagre vocabularies, great comedian George Carlin was indignant. He said “I know LOTS of words. I just happen to like fuck”.
I’m reading a change-your-lifestyle book by John Parkin called Fuck It – Do What You Love. Except he writes it f**k it. I think that’s pointless (he probly did it for commercial reasons. I can understand that. Unlike me, he actually sold a lot of books and if you want to sell on the American market you probably have to sugar-coat reality). Everyone knows f**k means fuck, even the youngsters whose eyes and ears people are ostensibly shielding. I dunno why the acceptance of one and shock-horror of the same thing. After all, f**k = fuck, for fuck’s sake.
While I was writing a book (Yes! Here it is Umko 50 Years) I read a number of books on river paddling. Most were written the usual way, but Rob Gouldie described his partner as ‘having a hip deformity causing him to walk like a windscreen wiper;’ he wrote how his exhausted partner nearing the finish of the Dusi Canoe Marathon asked his permission to rest saying, ‘I’m fucked! Can I trail my paddle so it looks like I’m steering?’ He also spoke about climbing through barbed wire fences ‘without hooking your nuts,’ and how Dusi runny guts had them ‘crapping through the eye of a needle.’ And I loved it. I thought that’s how one should write a book, just as you speak around the campfire. Don’t be fake; Don’t be faux-coy; Don’t be prissy. So I kept the “fucks” and the “foks” in my book uncensored. “Customary Paddling Language,” I called it when people objected and suggested I use asterisks. I declined. My book would have no f*cks, no f*ks. It would have the real fucks and foks.
I also believe (of course I’m biased!) that people who swear are on average more trust-worthy, so I think Granma Crews made a mistake in the early seventies in Apache Oklahoma when she didn’t buy a fridge from Stanley Wright. Stan could hardly say a sentence without saying “son of a bitch,” “sonbitch” or “sumbitch”. It was his “whatchacallit”. Some people say “Let’s load that baby up” where Stan would say “Let’s load that sumbitch up”. And he was on form the day Granma went to his shop. They had just about clinched the deal when he said his last sumbitch and Granma Crews decided she’d had enough, slammed the fridge door shut saying “Well you can keep the sumbitch!” and stalked out on Stan who was probably left wondering what he had possibly said to get that reaction! Goodness! He had never heard old Ma Crews speak like that before!
Lauren Martin writes in the link below that if you’re feeling down or doing something wrong, fucking good friends give it to you straight – they don’t water shit down! As for all you honest, trust-worthy people who don’t (often) swear: Start now. Increase gradually. I’m trying to. Update: Successfully . . .
Swearwords are good, descriptive, helpful words, and the criticism of them reminds me of the (equally ignorant) criticism of rap music. I did some reading on rap when Tommy first started getting into it. I must find that bit about the language rappers use. (to come . . . )
Ah, here it is: Back in 2011, New York-based data scientist and designer Matt Daniels thought of Shakespeare’s much-touted vast vocabulary and wondered how rap singers’ vocabularies compared. So he charted how many different words Shakespeare used in comparison to contemporary hip-hop artists. It turns out that a good handful of rappers use a greater vocabulary than Shakespeare did, for the same sized block of lyrics.
Daniels doesn’t draw the conclusion that today’s rappers are more creative and poetic than Shakespeare, but the implication hovers (and the Washington Post said it out loud – see link below).
If you’re wondering who has a bigger vocabulary — Shakespeare or rappers — here’s the quick answer in purely numerical terms. Rapper Aesop Rock used 7,392 unique words, and Wu-Tang Clan used 5,895 – against Shakespeare’s 5,170 unique words.
Daniels used a sample size of 35,000 words per artist. For the rappers, their first 35 000 words; for Shakespeare the first 5,000 words for these seven of his works: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, As You Like It, Winter’s Tale, and Troilus and Cressida. For author Herman Melville, he used the first 35,000 words of Moby Dick.
Now before old goats start leaping to Shakespeare’s defence (and reflect on Why The Fuck you’re doing that anyway!?), just Stop. Pause. Think. And admit that this info is surprising, and probably went against many oldies’ prejudices and SHOULD give them pause for thought. Rappers are our 21st century poets. You don’t have to like them, and today’s youth don’t have to like Willy Shakespeare.
I’m off on a four-day weekend to Ndumo, abandoning the kids. Charles and Barbara Mason have very kindly invited me on their regular annual trip.
Leaving for school today, Tom spots we’re alone, no-one in earshot.
Gives me a big hug, leans his head against my chest, “I’m going to miss you Daddy. Don’t get hurt.”
Then he looks me in the eye with a grin, “Don’t get drunk, don’t get high, don’t get the munchies” he says and saunters off to school.
Ndumo was great. Dry but lots of birds around camp and the pans walks beautiful as always.
Special sights: Skeins of gyppos and spurwing overhead; A thermal of pelicans soaring; Retz’s & white helmetshrikes, nicators, tinkers, honeyguides and honeybirds, a trogon, robins, apalii, ‘peckers, spoonbills wading, glossy ibis, lots of others.
A glimpse of a suni in the sand forest was special too. Lots of crocs, heard the hippos but didn’t see them.
There are seven huts at Ndumo and there were 14 people plus me, so friends Charles and Chris moved an extra bed into their bungalow, shipped their wives off to the next door chalet and there I was, the newly-minted pensioner among the established pensioners. And probly the best-behaved. This lot had known each other for far too long and were teenagers all over again. Dermott Beck from Bergville in the 50’s knew the Reitz’s and had been operated on under chloroform by Dr Frank Reitz in Harrismith – as had I some 12yrs later!
Luckily a lone lady camping in a pup tent on her way to Mocambique joined us – making me only the second-youngest in camp.
We are able to do
I finally managed to contact Ndumu main office on 035 591 0058 and spoke to Bongani as Mr Chris was off.
Also cell numbers (never answered!!!) 072 672 8508 and 082 799 1491
Bongani suggests that we bring our own water 5 – 10 litres per person / couple as they do not always have enough for sale – we are able to boil water for drinking if supplies run out.
We are able to do a Pongola bird walk, a pan walk to Shokwe or Njamithi, the rhino walk area has been very dry but depending on the rain situation we may be able to walk there.
Take comfortable shoes, hats, water bottle, sweets, binoculars, camera, bird, tree or flower books, reading matter
Cost of Landrover trip: R240
Cost of walks R120
Cost of trip in own vehicle with game guard +- ????
In the past we’ve tried to do at least an early morning and an evening game drive during our stay, but it is optional (usually one a day) or however many you wish to.
Enjoyable to do a walk a day.
It is also lovely to just sit in the camp and watch the birds.
Please bring your OWN TORCHES
Can stop at an Ultracity / or Mkuze for lunch if you wish on the Friday
The previous times we’ve been at Ndumu we worked in pairs overseeing the catering etc per day which enables us all to have ‘time out’.
We used to buy the food for everyone and costs were shared – but the past two times we allocated meals to the 4 people overseeing the catering per day and we all took different items. It worked well as we each have a fridge in our unit to store food.
There is a cook and washer up who are quite adequate – Jabulani and Ginger. If you prefer you could do some pre-cooking at home and the cook could do the rice / potatoes / vegetables / salad or whatever.
Those on duty need to give the cooks the meat / vegetable etc before we go off for walk or landrover trips in the afternoon. They need to be requested to make a fire on the ‘braai night’
Whoever is providing the dinner for the evening also provides the serviettes, dessert or chocolates and candles if so desired.
Lunches – simple – suggest either cold meat or tuna mayo / salad / rolls / cheese or whatever (can use ‘heat and eat’ breadrolls or ciabatta)
THANKS FOR PAYMENT RECEIVED AGES AGO
For 1 chalet for 2 people: Fri and Sat night R700 per night x 2 nights = R1400
Ditto Sun and Mon nights R560 per night x 2 nights = R1120
Total = R2520
ie per person for the 4 nights R1260 or per couple R2520
The cheaper 2 nights are with pensioners discount.
Not sure if anyone has arranged to go to Tembe Elephant Park after Ndumu or for a game drive whilst we are at Ndumu – distance from Ndumu probably 35 minutes travelling
Tel: 039 – 9732534 0826 512 868
Spoke to Claudette (Westville) 031 – 2670144 who does the accommodation bookings.
Info R35 per vehicle R30 per person if in 4 x 4 able to do a ‘self drive’ otherwise to book at least 24 hours before with Claudette –
Cost R800 for landrover / for 8 – 10 persons and R100 per person – would be met at the gate. Drive 11am – 2pm
HAVE A LOOK AT TEMBE WEBCAM OR ZULCAM ON THE INTERNET – BEST TIME BETWEEN 11AM AND 3PM WHEN THE ELEPHANTS ARE AT THE WATER HOLE.
Please – none of the above is cast in stone and we are all flexible and open to any other suggestions.
As I settled in the seat of the Delta Air plane en route to Texas and the Gulf I read in the newspaper that I’d scooped up where someone had abandoned it, that the one thing I did NOT want to be doing was flying over Easter.
When is Easter? I asked the stewardess. ‘Tomorrow’ she chirped brightly.
Change of plan Aitch, I announced: We’re going to Oklahoma instead of the Gulf. I explained and showed her the newspaper (airport congestion, overbooked flights – us on a cheap Delta pass). Aitch had been dreading going to Apache: ‘They’ll all know you and I won’t know anyone and I’ll feel left out and . . ‘
But now she had to face her fears. As soon as we landed at Dallas-Fort Worth we booked the next flight to Lawton Oklahoma, heading back north instead of carrying on south. There was just enough time if we scurried. Aitch decided she’d skip the loo and go once we were airborne. Mistake. It was a narrow little propeller plane like this, two seats a side, a narrow aisle, no airhostess, no loo. Ooh!
We landed in Lawton after dark and she made it. We set off further north for Apache in a rental car. Apache: My hometown for a year as a Rotary exchange student in 1973. Arriving on the Patterson’s farm outside town we saw a ‘yuge’ SA flag waving from the flagpole! Jim had borrowed an oversize flag from the SA consulate in Houston to welcome us!
Jim & Katie Patterson, the loveliest couple in the whole of the USA were just the same as ever!
They welcomed us with open arms to their beautiful and comfortable ranch house and it was as though we hadn’t been apart for fifteen years (during which time I had received exactly two letters from them. ‘Well, Peter’ said Jim with his crooked grin and twinkling eyes, ‘We didn’t want to flood you with correspondence’).
Katie took Aitch on a night drive in the pickup looking for owls. Both girls were suitably lubricated plus they took extra stocks of their tipple. They had the windows down and were hooting weird owl calls and hosing themselves. When they returned they were laughing uncontrollably, leaning against each other for support. They had seen a possum snuffling around and Aitch was fascinated – she always LOVED the little night creatures. Katie followed it offroad into the fields, keeping it in the headlights. When it stopped she manoeuvred so it could best be seen and whispered to Aitch “Shall I kill it?” She was surprised at Aitch’s distraught look of horror. Then she twigged: “No, no, not the possum! I meant the engine!”
They collapsed laughing when they both “saw it” and were still laughing helplessly when they got back home where Jim and I were watching ‘the ballgame’ – Basketball I think; OU I think.
One morning I woke up to breakfast in bed. It was 1st April, my birthday – thirty three young today – and Aitch delivered a tray of goodies!
Jim n Katie arranged a lovely barbecue poolside and invited my best mates from high school back in 1973. Jay Wood and Robbie Swanda had made the year unforgettable and here they were again, also with wives now; Robbie wearing the Optometry rugby jersey I had given him in 1984 when I visited after kayaking down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.
Jim even unwrapped the Caddy convertible from its winter covering weeks earlier than usual and presented Aitch with the keys. She drove as far as the gate and then said ‘I think you must drive now Koos.’
All I got was this old tractor that I had driven for Jim back in ’73.
OK, in fairness, he also gave me the keys to the Chevy Suburban you can see in the background with the door open. Which was so much fun I missed the Rotary meeting! Now THAT was embarrassing! Unforgivable! Everyone was forgiving / understanding (‘well, you ARE on honeymoon, after all’) but that REALLY was a major gaffe! Damn! Fifteen years later and ten thousand miles away I have ONE meeting to remember and I forget it! *blush!!* We were out in the countryside looking for a Vermilion Flycatcher and I just clean forgot. We did see a lot of birds that day.
Well, our five day trip to Apache stretched to a week. Wherever we went all I got was an elbow in the ribs as the local inhabitants shoved me aside and crowded around Aitch. Every now and then one would mutter over his shoulder at me: “Now you look after this gal, boy! Y’hear?” Aitch’s dread of going to “my” hometown had turned into a reluctance to leave “her” hometown!
After ten days I sat Aitch down and said “Now listen girl, we still have things to do, places to go and people to meet. We can’t stay in Apache forever!” She was having a ball, reveling in the attention and she and Katie were getting on like a house on fire. I suspect on all their jaunts when they would breeze off in the Lincoln saying “Ya’ll stay home and watch the ballgame, y’hear?” that Katie was teaching her how to manage me and telling her how she managed Jim. Aitch obviously soaked up the lessons! It was Katie who had asked me as a seventeen year old back in 1973: “Peter, who do you think chooses the marriage partner?” Following my confident (wrong) answer she put me straight, telling me how, when Jim arrived for his first day of work at the bank in Oklahoma City she had turned to her friend and announced “I’m going to marry that man!”
So it was very reluctantly that Aitch agreed that I could book for the next leg of our extended honeymoon.
PS: I forget if it was on honeymoon in 1988 or after the Grand Canyon trip in 1984, but I needed a haircut and went to the local barber, Rotarian Oscar Caldwell. He and his wife Sonia ran the shop. I had dodged them back in 1973, letting my hair drop down onto my shoulders. Their son Dallas was in my second senior class (I did three matrics: HS, second half of one in Apache, then first half of the next one in Apache).
Oscar and Sonia (both pronounced Oh! – Oh! scir and S Oh! nyuh) were full of beans and shit and could stir.
I walked into the barber shop and said to him while he slaved over some oke’s scalp – in my best Okie accent – ‘I have a complaint! I had my hair cut here in 1973 and I’ve never bin satisfied!’
He stopped snipping, stared at me over his specs, eyes widened and he said “Peedir!”
That I remembered. What I hadn’t remembered was a prank I played on Oscar back in 1973. Sister Sheila recently (2020) returned the letters I had written the family back then.
Oscar loaned me a projector to give a slide show and I asked if he wanted it back tomorrow. ‘No,’ he said, ‘That’s too late.’
I said How’s midnight tonight? ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’d prefer 4 in the mornin’.
We left it at that. I gave my talk. With me was my good Apache mate Robbie and fellow Rotary students Eve from Durban and Helen from Zim. We went back to Robbie’s house and jol’d. Then at 3.15am, we drove out to Oscar and Sonia’s farm outside town in Robbie’s Mustang. I knocked persistently and Oscar dragged himself to the door where I said Hope I’m in time! I thought you might be wanting to show some home movies?
He blinked, gulped, then fell right in: ‘Yes, Yes,’ he says ‘I did. Come right in.’ He led us in shaking his head muttering ‘This Boy’s Alright, isn’t he?’
He and Sonia then insisted we sat down and proceeded to show us way too many slides with total bullshit commentary : ‘This is a picture of Mars taken on our second trip there . . ‘
Robbie and I were hosing ourselves, Eve and Helen were falling asleep. Sonia then announced it was actually Oscars birthday, so we sang him HBD and left after 4am!
Bernie Garcin (Bernie and the Jets), Doug Retief (Doug the Thief), Dave Walker (Lang Dawid) and me at Fig Tree Sandbank campsite, one of the planet’s most beautiful spots.
Three plastic (or ‘tupperware’) Perception Dancers and one Quest in 1984 and 1985 – we went both years. In those early days old-timers would still mock plastics, saying ‘tupperware keeps turkeys fresh’ but we knew the joy of not having to schlep fibreglass patch kits along and just smiled!
At the time Greg Bennett was sponsoring and competing in, a motorised rubber duck race down the Tugela (sacrilege!!). In ’84 he had Jerome Truran as crew, in ’85 Rip Kirby. We used Greg’s bakkie to get to Ngubevu. Who fetched us at Jamieson’s Bridge?
On one of the trips bare-breasted maidens flashed us. We saw a Landrover parked on a hill on the left bank, then saw some swimmers in the river, who ducked down as they saw us. As we passed two of the girls popped up their lily-white tits to huge approval. They were like this except the water was brown. And they had no cozzies on:
Four-man Hole was soon after that and I crowded into a Bernie-occupied eddy straight after the drop and punched the nose of my Quest into his ribs. Being Bernie he didn’t even wince, but I knew it had hurt.
The current swept us past them, but the mammaries lingered on.
Overnight at the duck race camp the sponsors Lion Lager thought we were competitors so their beautiful beer hostesses liberally plied us with ale. OK, lager. When they ran out I rummaged in the boats and found wine papsaks we used for flotation and squeezed out the dregs. Karen the gorgeous, voluptuous newspaper reporter (remember the days when they wrote stuff on paper?) covering the event for The Natal Mercury held out her glass and as I dispensed I gave her the patter: “A good wine. Not a great wine, but a good wine, with a delicate bouquet”. She shook her mug impatiently and said endearingly “I know fuckall about flowers, I’m in it for the alcohol,” and I fell deeply in love. My kinda dreamboat lady in shape and attitude. She was like . .
Dave too, was smitten as one of the comely lager hostesses joined him in his laager and treated him to sincere sleeping bag hospitality above and beyond the call of duty, ending the session with a farewell flash of delightful décolletage as she kissed him goodbye in the morning.
As we drifted downstream we sang:
The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous
The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous
The landlord had a daughter fair
Lily-white tits and golden hair
Inky Pinky parlez vous
We sang to the resident goats: I ain’t afraid of no goats
I never really learnt to be circumspect. I tend to blurt. So what would you like to do now your second chemo spell is over, Aitch? We’d gone snorkelling at Mabibi on the Zululand coast after the first. A six hour drive in a 4X4.
Where? The Great Barrier Reef? But that’s in Oz, m’dear! You do? Um, what I meant to ask was: What, reasonably-speaking, would you like to do?
So I scurried off to do my homework. Costs, flight times, travel time to the reefs, what we could afford. With trepidation I showed her two alternatives: The Great Barrier Reef in Oz vs Madagascar, where we would live aboard a yacht, plopping overboard to snorkel whenever we wanted to.
Phew! She chose Madagascar – and LOVED Madagascar. “My BEST holiday ever!” she enthused afterwards.
We shared the boat with a delightful English couple, Dickie and Claire, with their two blonde girls Sonja and Natasha. Easygoing and relaxed, it was a blissful getaway. They were chilled and accommodating, and so were we. The crew, too, were wonderful folk, friendly, capable, and good chefs! Skipper Bert, chef ___ and teenage deckhand ‘Mowgli,’ who fascinated our Jessie.
It was Aitch, so homework was still done, naps were still taken, routines were kept as far as possible:
Played football in Apache Oklahoma in ’73 for the Apache Warriors. The coaches did their best to bring this African up to speed on the rules and objectives of gridiron. We played two pre-season warm-up games followed by five league games. And lost all seven encounters!
Myself I was kinda lost on the field, what without me specs! So here’s me: Myopically peering between the bars of the unfamiliar helmet at the glare of the night-time spotlights! Hello-o! Occasionally forgetting that I could be tackled or blocked even if the ball was way on the other side of the field! Ooof! Hey, what was that for?
At that point I thought: Five more weeks in America, five more games in the season, football practice four days a week, game nights on Fridays. I wanted out! There was so much I still wanted to do in Oklahoma and in preparing for the trip home. I went up to Coach Rick Hulett with trepidation and told him I wanted to quit football. Well, he wasn’t pleased, but he was gracious. We were a small team and needed every available man, how would they manage without me?
By winning every single one of the last remaining five games, that’s how!!
Coach Hulett won the Most Improved Coach Award and the team ended up with one of their best seasons for years!
I like to think the turnaround was in some small way helped by the way I cheered my former team-mates on from the sideline at the remaining Friday night games! Ahem . . .
Security is not me. We have just come off a long spell in which my gate motors
have been disabled so all you had to do was slide the gates open manually
and stroll in. This followed a two year spell in which we had no burglar guards
(after the renovations).We now do have burglar guards again because insurance wouldn't cover us
in the unlikely event. And then I decided last week that getting out of the car to
slide open the gates is only fun when you have 12- and 16-yr old slaves riding
with you. Which is not always. Also, finding four knee-high neighbourhood kids
who have drifted into the house unannounced staring at you as you get out of
the shower must stop.So I say to to the gate man "While you're fixing the gates, can you fix my
intercoms? I want friends to be able to open them without buzzing and waiting.
I want to give them a code so they can simply punch it in and Hey Sesame."No problem he says and "fixes them".By replacing them with keypads, so now the ONLY way you can get in is by
knowing the code. We can't speak to anyone at the gates, they can't buzz us
and we can't open the gates without a mobile remote (which is kept in the car).So its MORE like Fort Knox in some ways, not less. Except already all the
neighbourhood kids know the code (which is 1234). So much for keeping THEM out!Bloody hell . . . I'll be starting over this week. There's got to be a way . . .Maybe I'll just stand at the gate . . .
Later: All fixed now. Friends and neighbours can breeze in using their codes (the last four digits of
their own cellphone numbers).
Everyone else can buzz, we can hear them on intercom and buzz them in.
Glen’s Mom died. She had been a bit spaced out the last few years, Alzheimers-like, but physically better than Denis. However, as can happen, she has gone before him. He too is not 100% with-it in his mind. He is also frail, in a wheelchair and couldn’t attend the memorial service at Selborne. The family had a gathering for him at La Domaine in Hillcrest where he and Faye have been for the last decade or so.
Glen & family flew out, and his three sisters and brother were there, all married with kids. The service was held in the Umzinto church that Faye was baptised in 82yrs ago, and that they had been married in, about sixty years ago. Denis had it moved brick-by-brick and tile-by tile and stained glass windows and wooden pews, pulpit ‘n all to Selborne about 12yrs ago for their 50th wedding anniversary and they had repeated their vows in it. ‘Mazing! Denis always had such a shrewd and imaginative eye: Selborne needed a chapel for weddings, he’d have had to build one, and this was just so much better than a new building with no history!
My shadow – and that of the motley crew I knew from Umzinto cricket days (when in absolute desperation they would ask me to be the tenth man, unable to find eleven, and I would make a duck, drop a catch and do very well at lunch and in the bar afterwards) – didn’t darken the door. We politely allowed it to fill up and stood outside under the trees. Anticipating this, they had placed speakers outside so we could hear what was going on inside, and a marquee with chairs for old bullets. Heard all the hymns (or both of them) in stereo as the insiders and the outsiders sang at different speeds. And in different keys. All Things Bright & Beautiful and Awesome Wonder.
Glen, Jane, Denise & Sharron spoke, as did a few of the grandkids. They did really well. Hats off to them! A friend of Faye’s told a lovely story of how she would do anything for Denis, but drew the line when he went through a brief spell of supporting the National Party. He asked her for a cake for their meeting and she told him he could bake his own bloody National Party cake! I can imagine Denis himself telling that story with great delight!
Saw a number of old Highflats, Dumisa, Umzinto, Durban, Tegwaan gang and Umdoni/Pennington district faces that I recognised. We all looked the same, but as though someone had stuck a bicycle pump in our rings and pumped us up a bit. I even got a few of the names right. Ali was an exception to the pump rule: She’s still as slim as ever. There were a few others who hadn’t expanded, too. I told them I was worried about them.
I remember Faye as a wonderfully warm and welcoming person with a mischievous smile and a wicked sense of humour. Playing tennis. Organising. Hosting. Driving a Citroën. At speed.
Faye & Denis Barker fostered or adopted a third daughter Sharron Baker, from the Ethelbert Children’s Home yonks ago. I met her when she was studying nursing and I was in the weermag. Met her again here at Faye’s funeral. She has two daughters – also adopted from the ECH! The younger one, I’d guess around 17, was there with her.
Me: Faye & Denis Barker adopted a third daughter, Sharon, from the Ethelbert Children’s Home yonks ago. I’m not sure of the details or the arrangement, as she kept her surname Baker – close enough! Taciturn Barks didn’t speak about her much, but I met her when she was studying nursing and I was in the weermag. Met her again at Faye’s funeral. She has two daughters – also adopted from the ECH! The younger one (I’d guess around 17) was there with her.
Dave Hill: Special people the Barkers. I remember so well being deposited at Kearsney from Kitwe in 1967. 12 years old and I didn’t know anyone. My dad introduced me to Denis, they were in the same class, and Glen. Every long weekend, half term etc I went to Umzinto where we played on the farm and Denis taught me to water ski on Ifafa lagoon, can you believe that? I’m talking about the lagoon! They knew how hard it was for me and looked after me whilst I found my feet. I’ve never forgotten that. Years later I drilled the first boreholes at Selborne for Denis and over the years have returned there to drill others. Denis always made a fuss of me at the Selborne Farmers Classic which I have played for years, sadly now played at Mndoni due to politics that Denis was embroiled in at some point with the Germans. We have kept in touch for years via email which he hasn’t been able to do for years now, and he proudly sent me a signed copy of his book “Zulus at Bay”. All of us cant believe that he has outlived Faye and Glen told me yesterday how frail he is and how he needs 24/7 care. Luckily they can afford it. Funny how the world goes round.
Dave Simpson: Hi David and Pete, Thanks for these amazing stories of two wonderful people, but of course none of it comes as a surprise as we know they have hearts of gold. Pete thanks for explaining the mystery of the third daughter. Thanks also for Glen’s telephone number. I managed to get hold of him yesterday – no need to guess where he was – playing the 18th at Durban Country Club with Robert. He does return home today. David, Selborne in all its forms, the stud and then the golf development, was certainly a labour of love for Denis. Although I did not get to know the full story, the Kraut at Selborne must be an asshole of extreme proportions. He was undoubtedly a source of great anguish for Denis. Hopefully this is all in the past for him.
Tim Elliott told me an interesting tale at the funeral: He went to play squash at Westville and his partner didn’t pitch. Glen was there and his partner was a no-show, too, so they played a game. Upshot was they ended up sharing a ‘digs’ in the top half of a rented double-story house in Windmill road near Musgrave centre. Then Tim got married to Sue and kicked Glen out, taking over the digs for his newly-married home. What you call: Nuptial bed? Later the newly-weds went on a weekend to Tendele in the ‘Berg and Tim invited bachelor Glen along (not to Sue’s great delight). On the way they stopped at Notties for a beer which turned into enough beers so that when they told the barman they were on their way to Tendele in Royal Natal National Park he said “Sorry for you, the gate closes at 6pm”. So they had to overnight at Notties unplanned. Enough beers emboldened Glen to say hello to a spunky-looking chick in the pub he might not have been in, with a mate he might not have met. And she turned out to be Ali the Kiwi!! He’s a mighty lucky man, young Glen – Ali is a star!!
Me again: I water ski’d once with Barks at Ifafa lagoon and remember it as a wide deep lagoon. I hear it has silted up? I tried to go there a couple weeks ago while staying at Happy Wanderers, but a resort now has the whole riverfront, there’s a big gate blocking the road. The weeds were so high I couldn’t get a good look at the river from the road. Denis gave me a signed copy of his other book: Umzinto Cricket the first 100 years.
Another memory: Selborne was Vernon Crookes’ place (Glen always referred to him as “Vernon the Villain” – I spose there was a story behind that!). Glen took me to Linton Hall once, Sir Frank Reynolds, rival sugar baron’s home across the road from Selborne. The daughter Jane was there at the time. She lived half the year in this huge castle-like place, and the other half in Scotland. She showed us around the house, up the tower, into the bedrooms, the huge lounge with elk antlers over the fireplace, the big old empty kitchen with a steel table in the middle (no fitted cupboards). It looked sad and run down and uninhabited. It obviously spoke of great wealth, but she didn’t seem to able to rustle up a drink easily – maybe the butler was off-duty? (not that she wasn’t friendly and accommodating, just it didn’t seem like a home, I guess). I’m sure the change to boutique hotel changed that – for good and bad.
On 29 January 2014 I wrote to “Glen & Ali Barker” firstname.lastname@example.org I said Glen, Here are some of the stories that have been doing the rounds. Correct us where we have gone wrong!! Cheers P
And Glen responded – SIX YEARS later! On 2020/05/31 Glen Barker wrote: Hi Pete, Just going through old correspondence. Slight correction. Sharron was never adopted but spent a Christmas with us aged about eleven or twelve, then following Christmas, then every school holiday and so became part of the family. Her elder sister we met after she left school. She became an SAA air hostess and married pilot Tim Thane who got a post with Singapore Airlines then Cathay where he’s still an instructor in Hong Kong. Their two boys went to Kearsney and my folk were the “grandparents”. Sharron married Dave Coetzee and they adopted Tarryn who went to the UK and now is in Sydney so we see a lot of her, and Terry who is now married to DA leader John Steenhuisen. They have a four year old daughter. Saw them at both folks’ funerals and Emma’s (Jane’s daughter) wedding in 2016. Sharron and Dave have recently moved to the UK. Chow, Glen.
Me: Ah, OK. Very interesting bunch! Your folks then, “adopted” them, which is what I actually meant. I knew they weren’t Barkers. I have “adopted” many kids over the years – and even adopted two! My current crop are four little girls aged 3 to 8 who worship Jessie!
On a boys getaway weekend to Manteku on the WildCoast my kombi makes it easily down to Drifters’ camp, though I do think Uh! Oh! as we drive down, Might be interesting getting out!
Five glorious days later we pack up and head out. But it has rained and the hill is too much for the kombi. What now? We’re the only vehicle in miles. “No problem” says our Drifters camp manager. “I’ll get some oxen”.
Oh, the shame! My ‘friends’ roar with laughter and start preparing. To lighten the kombi? To attach the tow rope? To clear big rocks away? No. None of the above. TO TAKE PICTURES!!
To this day I am reminded of this by these helpful ‘friends’. If I mention any car trouble they helpfully tell me: “Check for ox shit in the axles”.