Old Man’s SWA Memories

The ole man’s first visit to South West Africa was by train in 1939. The trip cost six pounds return. His father being a railway man, he probably got a good family-rate deal. He would have ‘entrained’ here. where Oupa worked:

Pietermaritzburg station – Oupa’s workplace

. . crossed all of South Africa to Upington, then passed through Keetmanshoop, Rehoboth and Windhoek:

Keetmanshoop station
Rehoboth station
Windhoek station

.. and arrived at his destination station: Okahandja. The last stretch on a narrow gauge line.

Okahandja station

He remembers a lovely wooden dining car, wooden tables, wooden carriage walls. Maybe like this?

His destination was his uncle and aunt’s farms. His aunt Isabel and her husband Theunis van Solms farmed on Engadien or Engadine. They did a lot of hunting.

‘Skiet hom!’

The farms were clustered east of Okahandja – about fifty miles east, he says.

One farm called Nooi Bremen – Was originally owned by a German Count someone – a scion of the Staedtler pencil family and fortune. Or was it the Faber-Castell pencil family? They had more counts.

Daantjie’s farm Uitkyk – original name Onjombojarapati (meant ‘giraffe fell in a hole’)

Sarel’s farm Hartbeesteich – he left his father (or got kicked off the farm?) when he couldn’t stand the abuse any longer. Was sent away with nothing, but rounded up 600 cattle and drove them off to a widow’s farm near the village of Hochveld, 70 miles ENE of Okahandja, where he farmed for her and with her. When she died he bought the farm. Hartbeesteich. ‘teich’ = German for pan.

Japie’s farm was a dry farm; he drilled eighteen holes but never struck water. Dad can’t remember ithe name of the farm.

——-ooo000ooo——-

Duelling Banjous

As we left Mother Mary today – at the Retirement Village, not the old-aged home, says Dad; He used to call them old aged homes and be very anti but now suddenly they’re OK and they’re retirement villages cos he has just made an offer on a cottage there, deciding at age 96 that it might be time before too long that he may, perhaps, have to move in there one day – we were energetically flagged down by an old blue-rinse biddy sitting in a smart white sedan outside the frail care section.

“Oy! Are you ignoring me?” she shouts, waving her hand in Dad’s direction. He, of course, doesn’t hear her, so I look in the open driver’s window across at her in the front passenger seat and she waves me aside. No, not you, she indicates with a dismissive wave, the bald gentleman; Well, the bald gentleman with the white hair; OK, the bald gentleman with the white hair and the walking stick.

Oh. So she doesn’t mean me.

He sticks his head in the window. “Were you going to walk right by me?” she asks. Hello! He smiles, switching straight into charm mode; Who are you? Ooh, she thinks, some doubt creeps in. “Aren’t you . .” she starts and hits a geriatric blank. Staring at him, knowing she knows him but has just lost his name right now. It’s on the tip of her tongue. “Um, aren’t you . .” she repeats. Who are you? he repeats.

They reach out to shake hands – instinctive, cos if you’ve been to Maritzburg College and St Annes or Epworth and lived through a world war that’s what you do. So they’re now holding hands both being furiously pleasant and both trying to figure out who the hell this other person is.

She changes tack: “I bet you I’m older than you,” she says.

YUSSIS! That MAKES his day! He’s had a bit of a rough day with his idiot son who doesn’t know when to shut up and just nod him yes, so this – THIS – is a godsend. He jumps up in the air, clicks his heels and leans right in to the car. The click might have been his teeth.

I’ll bet you you’re not! he challenges. “I bet you I am,” she repeats confidently. I’ll bet you . . how much you wanna bet? he says. They’re still holding hands and staring into each others eyes. It’s getting ‘Yes I am; No you’re not!’ stuck, so I chip in. How about one Rand? I suggest. “Well, I only have ten Rand,” she fibs. I’ll take you on, he says, How old are you? She leans back and puffs out her bosom and announces triumphantly “Nearly ninety ONE.”

WELL! Victory is his! He wriggles with glee and says I’m . . no. This is my son Koos. Koos, you tell her how old I am! The old goat is 96 in the shade, I say. She deflates, he puffs up. He smoked her! Blew her doors off! Left her in his dust! They’re still holding hands. He rubs it in: I prefer to say I’ve got four years to go to a hundred.

I walk off, leaving them to their embarrassment and awkward ending. Well, nice to have met you, he says. “Yes, indeed,” she says, even though neither cagey old codger has divulged their name yet. The only name we have out of this joyful meeting of long-lost strangers so far is “Koos.”

As the old man leaves she outs when he’s ten metres down the drive with “So sorry to have mistaken you; Sorry to be a bother.” That St Annes politeness training is deeply embedded. Of course he didn’t hear it. Ten metres is way out of range. Anyway, his face was wreathed in such a wide smile his ears were probably blocked by the wrinkles. This avenged the stinging loss he’d suffered at the College reunion.

16 Ivy Road

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.

Linda lifted Mary-Kate up high and she took the world’s best picture for a five-year-old!

After everyone left I waited till I could spot the mother: a Cape White Eye.

——-ooo000ooo——-

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.’

Giving advice he’s good at.

——-ooo000ooo——-

Is This A Chisel?

So the old man buys 24 pfeil carving chisels from a fellow woodworker for R500. He already has carving chisels, but this is a bargain he can’t resist. He’s fully aware of the value of pfeils – “the best in the business”. His mate probably wasn’t!?

He makes a box for them, adding value:

chisels and carry case – ole man in the background

They gather dust. Years later, he sees an ad in one of his woodwork magazines:

R7000 for 12 !!

Whoa! So now they’re on the market. R7500 for 24, and the case is free! It’s a bargain, Koos!

I advertise them on gumtree and get an offer: R6300. R6300? No Way! R8000 like I said and not a penny less!  Sigh. You paid R500 and you said R7500 Dad. Yes, but they’re worth R14 000! Don’t you agree?! There was one other query by a keen woodworker, but he didn’t follow up with an offer. So that sales effort died out.

Now it’s five months later, and he’s a seller again. I have offered them – 24 plus the case and a woodcarving book – to the same two enthusiasts who replied last time, contacting them directly. Now at R4500 negotiable. Let’s see what happens first, death or taxes.

——-ooo000ooo——-

Done deal: I have R4500 in my bank account and the chisels have been whisked off to Somerset West by a courier company! I now await the regrets and the what-ifs.

Umvoti Villa Xmas

Went to the farm for boxing day as ninety-year-old Mom had suffered three or four TIA’s starting early xmas morning. Very distressing. Couldn’t remember if she’d had xmas or not and could not at all remember opening pressies with the great grandkids.

She recovered well and was fine later, but weak – and often worried about what she was thinking or saying. “Ooh”, she said, “I almost asked you ‘How’s Trish?’, but she died, didn’t she?” Dammitall, sad.

Meantime, of the ten people staying there, seven fell prey to the collywobbles and some vomiting. Talk about Jingle Bowels.

.

Also, one poor rooster got shot for xmas due to excessive enthusiasm. Poor bugger was probably just singing a desperate poultry carol, praying that he wouldn’t be the one invited to the festive table!

——-ooo000ooo——-

Taylor chirped rudely: The poor cock must have been full of lead so watch out for heavy metal poisoning. Maybe that’s what is jingling in your bowels?

The Forgotten War in Italy – 1944

Dad talking about the Second World War.

He was with the Eighth Army who landed in Italy in 1943 and worked their way up the East coast, the Adriatic Coast. The more famous battle was up the West Coast, the Mediterranean coast, so the advance up  the East coast was called “The Forgotten War”.

Here he is, 94 in the shade, telling soldier adventure tales. They had roared off in a Jeep looking for the Yanks. Then he goes on to talk about breeding pigeons. Like Darwin!

After pigeons he started moaning about his tenants, so I cut him off!

=========ooo000ooo=========

The “Forgotten War” – up the Adriatic Coast of Italy

The 8th Army continued fighting along the Adriatic coast; sadly this created the need for cemeteries at Ancona 1029 burials, Castiglione South African, 502 burials; Montecchio 582 burials; Gradara 1191 burials; Coriano Ridge 939 burials; Rimini Gurkha 618 burials; Cesena 775 burials; Medola 145 burials; Forli 1234 burials plus a cremation memorial for nearly 800 Indian servicemen; Ravenna 955 burials; Villanova 955 burials; Villanova Canadian cemetery 212 burials; Faenza 1152 burials; Santerno Valley 287 burials; Bologna 184 burials; Argente Gap 625 burials; Padua 513 burials.

Fighting along the Adriatic section of Italy was quite intensive and continuous from Bari in the south to Milan in the north. The CWGC estimate that the Commonwealth lost nearly 50,000 dead in Italy during World War II most of whom lie buried in 37 war cemeteries, and over 4000 soldiers whose graves are not known but remembered by name on the Cassino memorials. Almost 1500 Indian servicemen, whose remains were cremated, are remembered on three memorials in various cemeteries.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the 8th Army had a difficult time fighting the Germans over very difficult terrain along the Eastern Adriatic coast of Italy.

german tank

The Mediterranean side of Italy was extensively reported on. Maybe it was because the American 5th Army proved to be more attractive to the news editors – or they had better PR?! More journalists? They certainly had more money.

=========ooo000ooo=========

The Canadians also fought on the Adriatic coast and have documented it here.