Africa, Family & Kids

The Goatitudes 5. Say WHAT!

Mom has a bad spell so I visit her in frail care in PMB Sunday. While I was there she had a much worse spell, fading, then going far-away-staring-eyed and then collapsing, limp as a ragdoll. This after she’d played the piano then ate supper and drank a cup of tea. I caught her and lowered her into her chair, holding her upright. Sister Rose is there in a flash and leans her way back, getting her head low and her arms up. Of, course, low blood pressure! I should have thought of that. I was thinking TIA, not low BP.

We lift her onto a wheelchair and then into her bed. Rose jacks up the foot of the bed to get her blood flowing to her head. Whenever we talk to her, dear old stalwart always-keen-to-please Mary responds, but very faint and random words, no connection to what we’re asking. She falls asleep, blood pressure is improving, pulse is strong throughout and blood sugar levels fine. Sister Rose monitors regularly.

I spend the night with Dad in their home so I can visit her the next morning. Monday 7am I make tea before we visit Mom. Dad arrives sans teeth and hearing aids, talking a blue streak as always. I can safely ignore the muffled patter. He takes a sip of tea and then realises: ‘Damn! My teeth.’ I point at his ears. He comes back, teeth in and intelligible, one hearing aid in. Not that he needs to hear me. He just needs me to hear him and nod him yes. I wonder why he only puts one ear in, the other he puts on the table.

At Mom’s (she’s much better, but definitely not right) he can’t hear. ‘What? Wait, let me put my other hearing aid in, and then say that again.’ Skoffels around in his ear, in his jersey pockets. Then his pants pockets. Then his shirt pocket. Oh hell, he must have left it at home.

Tuesday night he phones me. He heated the soup that Sheila had made for him, microwaved it for two minutes, nice and hot. In swallowing the last spoonful he bit down * crunch * on something.

Yep

The missing hearing aid.

~~~~~oo0oo~~~~~

He says he phoned Mom to tell her of the hearing aid drama. She has been hugely involved in the saga and frustrations of his hearing aid devices and his moans about useless audiologists over the last decade.

She sounded much better, he says. Then, sadly, she piped up: ‘I didn’t know you wore a hearing aid!’ says dear old Mom.

Africa, Family & Kids, Free State, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Victor Simmonds, Artist

Dad: “Victor Simmonds was a lovely chap and a very good artist. He was a little man, grey, a lot older than me. What? How old? Well, I was probably 35 then and he was grey. He was probably 50. He lodged with Ruth Wright on the plot next door to ours, Glen Khyber. I doubt if he paid them any rent, they were probably just helping him out. He moved to the hotel in Royal Natal National Park where they allowed him to sell his art to the guests and that probably paid his rent.

“He was a hopeless alcoholic, unfortunately. He used to come to me begging for a bottle of brandy late at night, his clothes torn from coming straight across to Birdhaven from Glen Khyber, through the barbed wire fences. I said ‘Fuck off, Victor, I won’t do that to you,’ and sent him away. I wish I had bought one of his paintings. Sheila found these paintings he gave me for nothing. He said he did these as a young student. As I took them he said ‘Wait, let me sign them for you.'”

– maybe a self portrait? –
– nude with amphora? –
– semi-nude with two amphorae? –
– maybe the Kak Spruit at Glen Khyber? – possibly –

So I went looking and found a lot of his work available on the internet. Once again Dad’s memory proved sound. Victor was born in 1909, thus thirteen years older than Dad.

Victor Simmonds’ work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $126 to $256, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2012 the record price for this artist at auction is $256 for South African landscape with two women carrying wood, sold at Bonhams Oxford in 2012.

– South African Landscape With Two Women Carrying Wood – Golden Gate area? –
Shrubs beside a cascading stream

I just knew this scene! To me this looks like the stream above the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal National Park – So I went looking, and at Love Camping I found:

– spot on! – an image locked in my brain for forty or more years! –
– sunset, poplar trees, a river – the Wilge? –

A number of his paintings are available for sale. I’d love to see his ‘The Gorge, Royal Natal National Park, Showing the Inner Buttress and Devils Tooth’ but I’d have to subscribe for one day at 30 euros! That one was apparently painted in 1980, so he kept going for at least 23 years after he stayed in our neck of the woods. That would have made Victor around 70 and his liver a resilient organ.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Family & Kids, Life, Motorcars_Automobiles, Nostalgia, Student Life

Workshop Swansong. Wait, a Curtain Call

Its ongoing. There’s even less stuff there, but some stuff is going to have to be pried from his tight reluctant fingers, maybe?

– “No, that’s hardwood for Gavin. He wants to make knife handles . . ” –
– “You must take these, they were Oupa’s . . ” –

The awl and the hand drill brace were Oupa’s in Boom street in PMB. The screwdriver and needle-nose pliers on the right were issued to Dad by the General Post Office when he started as an apprentice electrician in 1938. He had to climb up telephone poles with those in his pocket. Here’s the GPO vehicle he’d drive around in, fixing the phones! They didn’t bother with parcels and letters, no! That was old-school! They were the high-tech side of the Post Office: The telephones!

By the way, everything has a correct name. The screwdriver is a ‘perfect handle’ screwdriver. That’s a specific kind of screwdriver.

– the camera probably a box brownie held at waist level? –
– happy apprentices under jovial Wally Coleman –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Today I learnt Mr Buckle didn’t shoe horses. No, he was the blacksmith, upholsterer and wagon-maker. Charlie Rustov shoed horses. He was a few rungs lower down the totem pole, and the only farrier in town. He had a high-pitched voice and would say ‘Nee man, Mnr Swanepoel, daai blerrie hings gaan my skop!’ when I took my stallion in to be shod. Dad would buy horses, school them, then sell them for a much higher price. I made more on horses than my post office pay.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

‘Nee man, Mnr Swanepoel, daai blerrie hings gaan my skop!’ – No man, Mr Swanepoel, that blerrie stallion is going to kick me!

blerrie – bladdy

bladdy – bloody; no blood though, just a swearword

Africa, Family & Kids, Motorcars_Automobiles, Nostalgia, Travel, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

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——-

Africa, Family & Kids, Life

The Goatitudes 2. Duelling Banjous

As we left Mother Mary today – at the old aged home Retirement Village – 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. Anyway, as we’re leaving we’re 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! Annihilated her. 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.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Food

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——-

Africa, Life

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.