Ancient Okes

Met old school chum Fluff in Bloemfontein for coffee. We were in pre-school together at Kathy Putterill’s home, went on to the Kleinspan school, then the Volkskool down the road, all the way to matric up in the high school on the hill below Platberg.

Great chat over coffee, followed by an ussie taken by Fluff (see above) – he remembers to actually take pictures. I too often remember afterwards!

Driving south-west out of Bloem towards the Groot Gariep river a beep on the phone and there was the image, sent by Fluffy.

I showed it to Jess and asked, “Can you believe we’re the same age?”

NO WAY! says my darling daughter, wide-eyed.

So how much younger do you think he is than me, Jess?

“Dad, I thought he was like, in his early fifties.”

No supper for you tonight! I laughed.


Pointedly explained to her that he is actually 68 and 13 days, whereas I am a mere 67. He is actually a full SIX WEEKS older than me, Jess!

NO WAY Dad! she dug her hole deeper.

Deja Bloody Vu

Can you believe it? The irresponsibility!

Tom is writing exams, writes five and decides he wants to write the last three when I can invigilate. The others have been invigilated by his tutor Langelihle and another third-year student Rebecca. So we settle on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

Except he arranges for Ryan to come around and the two of them beetle off gallivanting heavens know where and doing heavens knows what. So he only wrote the last three papers on Monday and Tuesday. Bloody hell! Who would DO something so irresponsible!?

Er, actually, maybe his father?

Back in 1972 I had four matric final exams, then a five day break before the last two. Me and Gabba took the gap and disappeared off to his farm behind the mountain after pulling in at the liquor off-sales on the way where he could legally buy grog, him being eighteen. Plus.

Gabba was a great friend to have, he had a car and lived all alone on his farm where he bought and sold cattle for a living – ‘speculated in cattle’ they called it. In matric! Cool! His farmhouse was a half-house. You picked your way over the rubble of the first half and entered by what used to be an inside door but was now the outside door of the remaining half.

We flattened the beer, which made us thirsty so we scrounged around and found a big old glass two-eared flagon of umqombothi on top of the fridge, fermenting quietly. We finished what was in there and phoned Frank on the party line. Frank was another bachelor alone on his farm nearby. What shall we do? we enquired of Frank, knowing that he would guide us wisely, him a few years older. Frank said “I’ve got beer, come!”

We finished that and Frank said “Let’s go to town”. Who were we to argue? We hopped into his car, I think a Datsun 1800 SSS, and roared off to town at terminal velocity, strong and clever. I remember a narrow bridge across a spruit approach and disappear in a blur with a loud WHUMP! in the middle of it followed by half a second’s silence –  airborne.

Gabba Frank car

In town we woke up the barman of the Royal Hotel down near the railway line. He grumbled a bit, but Frank was having none of it so he went off and reappeared with a case of dumpy beers. We then drove round to the R’s home and threw pebbles against an upstairs window. Penny opened the window, shimmied down the downpipe and we were OFF again on the dirt roads to the farm behind the mountain. At high speed. Invincible.

The next night back at Gabba’s place I phoned my Mom on the party line during a heavy thunderstorm and downpour. “Where have you been? Come home!” was the message but I said “What? Hard to hear you! I’ll be coming back tomorrow”. She said “Yes, rather don’t drive in this weather.” I said “Don’t worry, I’m the responsible type”.

I’m sure* Tommy wasn’t up to kak like that, so maybe he doesn’t take after his Dad.


umqombothi – traditional Zulu beer

spruit – stream

kak – mischief

*- not really sure


I Was Young and Foolish

Today twelve year old Tom comes home with a long face.

Hey, Tom, how was yr day?
Half good.
They confiscated my phone!
What? You actually took your phone to school?
How dumb was that?! *snigger*
Dad! Don’t rub it in! I’m suffering here!
*loud guffaws* followed by a sympathetic hug.

He took his cellphone to school and was busted. School rule: The phone is confiscated for the rest of the term! I laughed like a drain – even harder when he manfully tried to smile ruefully. Damn, Tom! I know Dad.

Tonight was Jessie’s school art exhibition and music and food evening. All three of us went, and Tom had to tell everyone who wanted to hear about his misfortune. Give him his due, he took it like a trooper. He knew he had blundered and was loved and the suffering was his alone.

Tomorrow’s Saturday and I’m working, so just before bed he comes to me with puppydog eyes and asks to please use the iPad tomorrow. I say, I dunno Tom, do you think we can give irresponsible, non-learning, non-listening type of people any treats whatsoever?

He implores: PLEEZ Dad, work with me! I’m hurting! I was young and foolish then, he says, I have matured, I’m a new person now! he beseeches.

A ten-hour turn-around.

20140831_152100 no more selfies


Hip Hop Life Lessons

Entrepreneurs’ Day at school. Kids are selling samoosas, boerie rolls, sweets, cupcakes, biryani. What are you going to do, Jess?

“Me and Aik are going to give dance lessons, Dad. Hip Hop”.

OK. She made a poster, cut a CD, cleared a classroom.

And nobody showed up. I hung around, thinking Oh well, every outcome is a lesson. We learn something from everything.

Wendon Entrepreneurs (1)

Then her teacher said “Jess, you need loud music!” Jess had been waiting for her first customer before starting the music (she’s so polite, this one!).

“Dad, I need the car keys”, she shouts. Out the gate to the car and back with a CD.

Loud music and the customers rolled in. Well played, Mrs Gooding!

They made R440 profit!

Wheels and Status

Car spotting and car bragging is a (very) competitive sport at Tom’s school. Every day I hear tales of Ferraris and Range Rovers taking kids to school and the sad lament of what the isikoroskoro we drive means to his standing.
We usually park far from the school (I let him walk the last few hundred metres) but yesterday I parked right outside the gate and poor Tom got bust: His mates spotted the Ford Ranger double cab. Worse: It’s only 4X2.
This morning we parked far away again as he told me they ragged him mercilessly. “We saw your Dad’s Bhugatti, Thomas!” they said with great delight.

the wish Bhugatti–   reality Ford

– – – – – – 883Kw                                        103Kw

Ah well, he has inflicted pain, he has to learn to take pain.


Tom’s headmaster committed suicide. At the school. He was found by a caretaker. It has rattled my two profoundly.

Aitch had befriended Eugene when his wife was also suffering from cancer, and then more so when she died, about two years before Aitch died. They were in a home bible study class with the Methodist dominee Ian Howarth.

Tom & Jess both asked me “What would happen if you died, Dad?” and Jess asked me “Dad, would you ever commit suicide?”

Shit! shitshitshit!

I have told them how much I love them and all about what I have arranged for the house and live-in care and so on, and also re-assured them no way I would do myself in. We had some good chats.

What a bliksem. Eugene was a more mature man than many of the teachers at Tom’s school, and a steadying hand. I fear Tom will catch more flak at school for a while.

Football Turnaround – So Glad You Could Leave!

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!

– amazingly, Coach Hulett could manage without me! –

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 . . .

I watched them home and away whenever I was free.


A Slow Walk, My China

Way back in around 1962 Donald Coleman and I walked home from school. The Harrismith Kleinspan School.

It was about a mile and we set off around 1pm. When we got home we got the “Where have you been!?” treatment. Apparently it was 5pm already and getting dark and cold. Well, we wouldn’t have known and anyway, we’d had a lot to talk about and Donald had a box of matches, so we had stopped and made a little fire of plane tree leaves in the sandstone gutters of Stuart Street. These gutters used to channel water from Platberg to town according to Blanche Hawkins, local historian.

Fast forward to 2014 and 12yr old TomTom asked me if he could walk home from school today. It’s about 4km and school ends at 2pm. When I got home at 5pm he had just got in and Cecelia and Carla had been worried: “Where had he BEEN?!”

I knew where he’d been. His journey was double mine and he’d taken one less hour. Why, he’d almost hurried home! And no matches, so how could I complain? You have fun, my boy? I asked. He’d stopped en route to buy a pie, a packet of jelly tots and an energade drink.

New Schools ! (2).JPG


Feature pic: Me, Anne, Donald & Sheila in Platberg’s shadow

Jessie “in the wars”

Just in the last couple weeks Jessie has had three trips to the dentist, a flap of loose skin in her cheek, (I have to peer inside and tut-tut) –

Two teeth removed to prepare for braces!

. . slammed her finger in a drawer, needed lower back massaging and stubbed her toe. Badly.
She’s loving it.

Demands lots of attention from Dad and announces she cannot possibly go to school. “I’m in the wars, Dad”.
I agree. Take three weeks off and lie in bed, Jess, we’ll bring you your meals.

At which she sighs and demands “WHY NOT!?” as she knows that means fugeddaboudit.

But secretly she’s so chuffed at the impressive bandaging I did of her toe (binding it to the one next door) that she can’t wait to get to school to milk maximum sympathy, one school shoe, one pink slop.

Wild horses wouldn’t keep her home.

Kof kof grin

Jessie’s desperately ill. Can’t move. She’s suffering badly from unfairness: Lots of her friends have stayed at home sick this winter and she hardly EVER has.

You haven’t even coughed, I say, dismissing her request firmly.

So that’s that.

I’ve just made her tea in bed and she’s settled in for the day, earphones on, smiling.
Gives a feeble cough every now and then to appease the ole man.

Tugela or Umgeni?

Nicole,Jessie,Carla And Jessica,Grace,Nicole,Jessie And LackinAs the school principal left the Grade Naughty and Grade One gala, a group of bigger kids (boys, all) flocked around her:

“Who won!? Tugela or Umgeni??”

“Well, children, actually, in this gala we didn’t focus on winning or losing, but on participating. The little children swam to take part and have fun, and where there was competition it was the classes against each other, not Tugela against Umgeni.”

“What did it say on the blackboard?”

“Well, the points of the red and blue houses were not tallied.”

Here one little blond-haired fella piped up politely but determinedly:

“Yes, but who won anyway?”

The Prison Lady

I went to hand over the cash we had raised after the first school swimming gala to the bursar. Livingstone school, around 2011.

TomTom accompanied me.

Livingstone Walkathon (8)
Much counting and signing and Tom showing off his swimming “medals” with Rick making all the right noises from behind the hatch at the bursar’s office.
As we left, Tom says to me: “We call her the Prison Lady. You see all the bars she’s behind? Look, even her door has burglar bars!”
Oh, I said, I wonder if she has to sleep in there all night?
“No”, he says airily, “she has her own keys”.


When I told Rick about this, she told me how one little kid had peered at her through the bars and asked:
“Do you have food?”

Yay! Study leave! Freedom!

Dad, I’ve got tomorrow off for study leave!  “Can we go to the Pavilion?”, says Jess, pulling my leg, rattling my cage and testing my alertness.

Luckily I twig she’s revving me and I say, “SURE, dear! Let’s spend the whole day there and spend LOTS of money!’

Tom pipes up in the background: “He’s saying no”.


2012/11/04 Brauer wrote:

What her Dof Dad seems to have overlooked is that she might be majoring in sociology and there’s no better place to do research than at the Pavilion.


Oh, she’s definitely majoring in sociHology. She and Rita Durban went shopping to Pavilion today. When I got home she was hopping up and down: All those clothes she’s been on at me about for AGES she’s finally got!
And is she CHUFFED!?
I had a fashion parade tonight. Mostly shorts, baggies and short tops.

She has one dress. I think she has worn it once.
She wore beautiful black slacks and a short salmon-coloured top to her cousin’s wedding.
She dances here all day every day, but wouldn’t dance at the wedding.
My Jess.

Her main focus now is her 15th birthday party. This Saturday. Dancing disco with boys, then a sleepover, girls-only.