When we grew up outside Harrismith ca 1959 we couldn’t use the lounge. The lounge was filled edge-to-edge by an upside-down speedboat. The old man built his first speedboat in this lounge, shown below many decades later:

1990 Birdhaven Mum, Dad & Sheila

Younger sis Sheila, in the picture with Mom & Dad, says he also built that fireplace.

Then, after we’d left home and Mom & Dad had retired, he developed another urge to build a boat. Luckily this time in a boatyard with the help of boat builders.

1990 April Dad's newly built boat0002

On a cold winter’s day ca1990 we took it, shiny new, for a spin on Sterkfontein Dam outside Harrismith: Me, Dad, two Eskimos and a semi-eskimo.

Trish eskimo, Mom eskimo, Dad, Sheila semi-eskimo

1990 April Sterkfontein 50002
Dad, Mom, Trish & me – pic by Sheila

We zoomed over the spot where Mom estimated her old farmhouse was – on Nuwejaarsvlei, where she grew up.



Insomnia, Somnambulism & Theatre

The old man has good news about a great discovery for people who can’t sleep.

He can’t sleep: “I only fall asleep around 2am and then sleep for a few hours” he complains.

I visited overnight recently and urged him to take the sleeping tablets he had. Mom gave one to him and he carried it around. No, he’d take it later, not now.

We all went to bed.

At 3am I’m woken by Mom: The ole man is wandering around the house wide awake and shouting at the people out on the lawn who are carrying away his furniture! He’s hallucinating. “Peter there’s no-one there” says Mom patiently. “Well then who do you think I’m talking to?” he replies belligerently, shining his torch out the window and shouting to the imaginary chair thieves; “Speak up! I can’t hear you!”

So that didn’t work.

Now he has a potion. “It’s made from two flowers. One flower is from Europe. It’s herbal, so it should be mild.” Ja, I think, cyanide is herbal, Dad. “It’s homeopathic I think,” he says. Ja, I think.

So now he phones me to give me the amazing news about his new discovery: It works!

“I took them and nothing happened. But the pharmacist said they’d take time to work. And then wragtig, they did work last night! I fell asleep around 2am and then slept for a few hours.”

Ole Mans 90th crop.JPG

Then he said “I hear you owe me some money?”

Ja? I say.

“I hear I gave you quite a show the night you slept here.”

Ja, I say.

“Don’t you think you should pay for such a good show?”

The cheque is in the post, I say.


wragtig – true’s bob

A Cure for Texting n Driving

Do not text and drive. It’s called Distracted Driving and it’s dangerous.

Especially now.

My old man aged 95 and eight months in the shade took himself off to Wartburg and got his drivers licence renewed for a further five years. He will still be driving legally on a street near you at the age of 100 years and eight months.

Look sharp!


Old driver

Herb Zunckel drove his grey Morris Minor in Bergville till he was over ninety. People would see a seemingly driverless Morris approaching with only some knuckles gripping the steering wheel visible. He said he’d never had an accident. People would mutter ‘that’s cos we scatter out of your way!’ Sheila and Mandy called him Herbicide.


Old driver_2

Kevin Stanley-Clarke’s 1974 ouman driving advice to us younger guys newly-arrived in Joburg: Watch out for old toppies wearing hats!


ouman – he was older, wiser
toppies – older, wiser ous, maybe driving on memory

The Ancient Marinades

So the old man went to Maritzburg College for their 150th anniversary 1863-2013* on Saturday. Sheila ignored his protests and arranged it all, including getting free tickets. He’s 91 and was in the 1938 matric class when College was a mere 75yrs old. He bailed out around April and went to work for the GPO – general post office – then off to the war as soon as he could.

Wonder what memories were swirling around here? Walking up to your familiar school entrance seventy five years after your last walk up that path.

PGS Maritzb College (2)
PGS Maritzb College memorial

He thought he’d be the oldest there, but he was trumped by the only other chap from the 1930’s: 97 year old Cyril Crompton – Matric 1933!!

Cyril Crompton (97) and Pieter Swanepoel (91)
– how’s that head of hair!? –

Cyril had driven down from JHB on his own! – watch out on the roads!
He’s driving back on his own tomorrow, but will be stopping off in Underberg to play bowls.

My old man believes in much activity. He does woodwork and metalwork, making clocks, furniture, mosaics and turning wooden bowls, etc; Drives around buying stuff at auctions, butcheries, SPCA sales, etc. Talks about selling stuff, but seldom gets round to it – too busy buying stuff!

He firmly believes “keeping busy” is the reason for his longevity.
So he asks the older Cyril: What do you do to keep busy?
Cyril: Oh, a bit of gardening. The rest of the time I drink beer.

Cyril gave the old man a book he wrote on the war. They were both in North Africa and Italy. In his book “For The Adventure Of It” he writes how he survived the Battle of Sidi Rezegh, one of the most costly in lives in South Africa’s history.  He was captured, the ship was torpedoed and he was taken on a death march from eastern Germany – now Poland – away from the advancing Russian Army.  A gripping story.

Later, the school put their mugs on a mug:

– mug says 2016 so I have some dates mixed up –


Sheila read and vetted my post:

All spot-on except for the free tickets. Lunch was R140 pp. The organisers wore sworn to secrecy. Cyril was delightful, flirting with me throughout. I sat between him and Dad. We all loved the whole day. Will write a proper report which I’ll send Robbie Sharratt plus a pic of Dad and Cyril. Love Sheila

– Dad in 1937 –
– the 1937 U/15 athletics champion donates some wood-turned trophies to his alma mater –

Footnote: Cyril lost his drivers licence due to failing eyesight at 99, played bowls till he was 100, then passed away. Dad has renewed his drivers licence at ninety five and eight months, valid for five years!


Read a lovely article in the Sandton Chronicle about Cyril when he turned one hundred. In it he says “My secret to a long life is Castle Lager and cane spirits, my two favourite drinks.” Funny that: For years we listened to Dad expound how the secret to him not being as bad as other drinkers was cane spirits and water. The colour in brandy and whisky was somehow bad, as were mixers – according to him.

– read about his book at Echoing Green Press