There’s a beautiful patch of coastal forest left in Durban, hanging on as development happens all around it. Strolling around in the forest and on the fringe with sister Sheila and friend Jules, we heard a host of birds, saw a few and took pics of a few of the plants and creatures that would sit still.
Next visit we walked through the forest to the deck overlooking the river.
The big old album is hitting the recycling bin. I have recorded all the pictures.
Home after our lo-ong honeymoon and some surprise welcomes:
Also in 1988 we had a big optometry conference in Durban. As part of the hosting committee I produced a daily newsletter. Then I became president of the optometric association at the end of the conference.
Friends at the conference – and an induction (Brauer says they induced me):
I dragged some non-canoeing friends out to the Umgeni Valley. I wanted to see the valley for a last time before Inanda Dam drowned it forever. The river was rather shallow – um, VERY shallow! We dragged for miles!
We visited the folks in Harrismith, clambered the slopes of Platberg and sang around the piano:
Bernie & Karen Garcin got married in Empangeni – George Stainton and I were his best men.
In between all the scurrying we lived in our lovely Whittington Court one-bedroom apartment in Marriott Road, and I think I occasionally did a bit of work. Sheila reminded me that she lived there for two years after we bought our house in Westville.
Another of our frequest visits to Hella Hella. And a visit to the Hills on Melrose farm, Mid Illovo.
Sheila kept a diary in high school. It’s amazing reading such detailed notes of long-forgotten happenings. Last time it was a trip up Mt aux Sources. This time it’s a winter trip to the warm sub-tropical south coast of KwaZuluNatal by a family of Vrystaters.
Pennington, Monday 5 July: – Walked to the beach alone. Stayed for a while. Walked home (± 1 mile – the distance from our beach cottage to the beach). Left for Hibberdene with the whole family. Elsie & Richard Scott were there. Barbara went with them. Went on to Port Shepstone. Went to see Upsie Sorenson, a friend of Dad’s. Walked around a bit in town. Spoke to Lilly du Plessis. Went to Margate. Spoke to Philly and the whole Mikkers family. Swam in the sea with Philly. Went to Port Shepstone to the Sorensons. Chatted to Upsie and his daughter Ingrid. Had tea. Stopped at Park Rynie went to Scottburgh. Bought stuff. Came back to Umdoni Park/Pennington. Went to the café. Went to Uncle Joe Geyser’s sister’s house near our cottage. Met Danie & Pearly (Geyser) du Toit and Pieter Geyser. Went home, had supper with Mom, Dad and Koos. Bathed. Went for a drive. Came back. Barbara & Richard were here. He left. Chatted to Barbara.
Tuesday 6 July: – Had breakfast with the family. Walked to the beach with Mom & Barbara. Swam in the rock pool. Went to the café. Walked to the Caravan Park. Spoke to the Macgregors. Met Glenda & Joan Brand. Went to the beach with them. Spoke to Denise Brand, Glynis and Brian Fisher. Went for a walk alone. Sat on the beach alone. Walked to the café. There were six guys there on three motorbikes. They had met Barbara. They said they are having coffee at our place. They gave me a lift home on the buzz bike. Had lunch with the family. Then the guys, Mike, George, Charles, Terry, Dogs and Kevin arrived. Sat and chatted. Went down to the beach with them. Nine of us on three bikes. I was with Terry & George. Went to the café. They brought us home. Stood and chatted outside. Went to the Happy Wanderers Caravan Park at Kelso with the family. Sat at the boys tent. Had supper in the café. Chatted to them all in the café. Went to Park Rynie with Terry on the buzz bike, Barbara went with Mike. They brought us home. Chatted for a long time. They left. Mike brought Koos back.
Pic of us three taken in Harrismith around about then:
oops, posted this a bit late, but what’s a couple days after fifty years!?
vrystaters – citizens of the province of song and laughter – the Free State
The old man gave up his workshop in Ivy Road with great regret about a year ago. Now he has finally finished enclosing the front porch of his cottage to use as his new micro-workshop, where he hopes to do a bit of wood-turning, make some clocks and some mosaic pictures.
After a long saga of great criticism about the poor work ethic of Maritzburg builders, largely endured by Sheila who has stuck with him through thick and thin, he finally has what he wanted. When he announced it, Barbara and Sheila swooped in, fetching all the stuff he had stored at his friend Johan’s workshop and moved it into his lounge, forcing his hand. Suddenly he had to stop moaning and get to work.
Slowly, slowly he moved it all into the workshop. This meant he could no longer get in there. So today he tells me he’s going to move half of it back into the lounge while he puts up five shelves, whereupon he’ll move it all back and he will then be able to get into the workshop and start doing his thing. Except he can only do three shelves, the bottom two he’ll have to have done as he can’t bend down to do them. Ons sal sien if he can complete his first project before he turns 99. The race is on.
The feature pic shows the old Montgomery-Ward desktop wood-lathe he wanted to use. He may have bought a better one since then? He spoke about it a lot.
The WARDS Powr-Kraft Model 9WFD Number 2002 Factory 952, made in USA by Montgomery-Ward. Seems ca.1930 – 1940.
Mother Mary (85 in 2013) went into Pick ‘n Pay looking for smoked hocks to use for making soup.
Two delightful ladies behind the butchery counter looked at her curiously when she asked for smoked hocks.
“What?” they asked “Smoked ‘ocks?”
“Yes,” she replied, “Smoked hocks.”
“No, sorry, we don’t have smoked ‘ocks.”.
“But I bought some here last month and made the most delicious soup!” Mary protested mildly.
The two of them looked at each other, turned to Mother Mary and the one said decisively, “We have never had a smoked ox in this shop.”
Friend Rita in Cape Town remarked: Reminds of the time I ordered two de-boned chickens. When I went to fetch them, the ladies at the cash desk were having a big discussion about my chickens. Eventually, one said, ‘Madam, we can’t let you have these chickens – they are flat!’
We are ten cousins from the four children of Ouma Elizabeth and Oupa Paul Fouche Swanepoel of Pietermaritzburg. Our cousin Liz Grundling-Fortmann in Camperdown passed away in 2018 and a gathering of family and friends took place in Camperdown where Liz lived most of her life, to salute a special lady.
Afterwards, I wrote to cousin Shirley Solomon-Miller in Seattle Washington, USA:
Hi Shirley – Well, Lizzie had an amazing memorial service in Camperdown! I was amazed at the number of people who turned out. There were five cousins – the ‘Uncle Pieter’ Swanies, Barbara Sheila & Koos, and the ‘Aunty Lizzie or Aunty Anne’ Grundlings, Jack and Marlene. The four generations present were beautifully represented by Mary, Barbara Mary, Linda Mary and Mary-Kate.
Lizzie’s son Zane and brother Jack spoke beautifully of her at the service. She sure was loved and admired. Dad said it was the biggest funeral he’d ever been to – and he’s been to a bundle! I arrived just on time and then waited for Sheila, hoping I’d be able to hang back and maybe even stand outside as I have at many a funeral and wedding, but they had kept seats for us! We were ushered to the very front row! Caught out!
After the preacherman had finished Dad (95 then) leaned over and in his loud deaf voice he complained the service had been way too long. I indicated HUSH and he says ‘Can they hear me?’ Yes! I nodded, so he – no handbrake – says ‘Well, the last time he was subjected to such a long sermon was by dominee Ras in Harrismith.’ That was about fifty years back. See, people forget he’s there for the food!
And the Camperdonians laid on a feast – tea and coffee and tons of food – and then they said we must follow them home for a braai!
We all gathered at Auntie Lizzie and Uncle Con’s old home (and Lizzie’s home ever since) and had a lovely gathering and braai and then Sheila followed me and we drove home in the dark on that very busy N3 road to Durban – the road that runs right past Lizzie’s garage and petrol station. When we got home I phoned Sheila to check she was in – she was already in bed!
We agreed on what a really lovely bunch of people Lizzie had around her, her son and daughter, their spouses and kids were all so friendly, hospitable and helpful to all of us, some of whom – like me – they have seen very seldom indeed.
I saw Aunty Lizzie and Uncle Con’s graves and was surprised to find she didn’t have Elizabeth in her name! She was Anna Naomi, and Con’s nickname was Sarge. I did know a lot of people called her Aunty Anne. We only called them Uncle Con and Aunty Lizzie! Sheila says it was something about Dad’s nickname for her – ‘Skinny Lizzie” or something. Surprised me.
Another surprise: Lizzie was affected by emphysema after smoking for years – even when she was sick she ‘cut down to one a day.’ And there was her daughter Lisa smoking! I had to chuckle! Us humans!
Other pics were taken. I’ll send as I get them. I see mine have very few people in them! Just Sheila and Jack on the back stoep. – Lotsa love – cousin Koos
Some time before, Shirley and I had spoken of her Mom, Liz’s aunt, Adriana ‘Janie’ (pr. ‘Yahnee’) Swanepoel-Solomon who died in 1974. Shirley had held a ceremony on the Skagit River up north of Seattle where she lives.
Luckily nine of the cousins had managed to get together not long before – I think in 2014?
Recently it was Liz’s birthday. Cousin Solly in New Zealand reminded us, and Liz’s kids Zane and Lisa and their partners Bridget and John sent a pic of the flowers they had placed at her plaque:
An old post from my pre-marriage blog vrystaatconfessions.com
My first recollections are of life on the plot outside Harrismith, playing with Enoch and Casaia, childhood companions, kids of Lena Mazibuko, who looked after us as Mom and Dad worked in town. I remember Lena as kind and loving – and strict!
The plot was was in the shadow of Platberg, and was called Birdhaven, as Dad kept big aviaries filled with racing pigeons, then later with fancy pigeons.
I was there from when I was carried home from the maternity home to when I was about five years old, when we moved into the bright lights and traffic of the 1955 Harrismith metropolis.
I remember suddenly “knowing” it was lunchtime and looking up at the dirt road above the farmyard that led to town. Sure enough, right about then a cloud of dust would appear and Mom and Dad would arrive for their lunch – meat and veg – and a siesta, having locked up the Platberg bottle store at 1 o’clock sharp. I could see them coming along the road and then sweeping down the long driveway to park near the rondavel at the back near the kitchen door. They would eat lunch, have a short lie-down and leave in time to re-open at 2 o’clock sharp. I now know the trip was exactly three kilometres door-to-door, thanks to google maps.
Every day I “just knew” they were coming. I wonder if I actually heard their approach and then “knew”? Or was it an inner clock? Here’s an old 8mm movie of the old green and black Ford Prefect on the Birdhaven circular driveway with big sister Barbara waving out the window – four seconds of action:
1. Birdhaven and ruins of our house; 2. Glen Khyber, Dougie Wright, Gould & Ruth Dominy’s place; 3. Jack Levick’s house; 4. The meandering Kak Spruit.
None of those houses on the left were there back then.
Back then the folks would buzz around in Mom’s Ford Prefect or Dad’s beige Morris Isis.
Our nearest neighbour was Jack Levick and he had a pet crow that mimic’d a few words. We had a white Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Jacko that didn’t, and an African Grey parrot Cocky who could mimic a bit more. A tame-ish Spotted Eagle Owl would visit at night. Our next neighbours, nearer to the mountain, were Ruth and Gould Dominy and Ruth’s son Dougie Wright on Glen Khyber. They were about 500m further down the road towards the mountain, across the Kak Spruit over a little bridge. Doug’s cottage was on the left next to the spruit that came down from Khyber Pass and flowed into the bigger spruit; The big house with its sunny glassed-in west-facing stoep was a bit further on the right. Ruth and a flock of small dogs would serve Gould his tea in a teacup the size of a big deep soup bowl.
Judas Thabete lived on the property and looked after the garden. I remember him as old, small and bearded. He lived in a hovel of a hut across a donga and a small ploughed field to the west of our house. He had some sort of cart – animal-drawn? self-drawn? Self-drawn, I think.
Other things I remember are driving out and seeing white storks in the dead bluegum trees outside the gate – those and the eagle owl being the first wild birds I ‘spotted’ in my still-now-ongoing birding life; I remember the snake outside the kitchen door;
I don’t remember but have been told, that my mate Donald Coleman, two years older, would walk the kilometre from his home on the edge of town to Birdhaven to visit me. Apparently his Mom Jean would phone my Mom Mary on the party line and ask “Do you have a little person out there?” if she couldn’t find him. He was a discoverer and a wanderer and a thinker, my mate Donald.
Bruno the doberman came from Little Switzerland on Oliviershoek pass down the Drakensberg into Natal. Leo and Heather Hilkovitz owned and ran it – “very well” according to Dad. Leo came into town once with a few pups in the back of his bakkie. Dobermans. Dad said I Want One! and gave him a pocket of potatoes in exchange for our Bruno. He lived to good age and died at 95 Stuart Street after we’d moved to town.
rondawel – pr. ‘ron-dah-vill’; circular building with a conical roof, often thatched;
spruit – stream; kak spruit: shit stream; maybe it was used as a sewer downstream in town in earlier days? Probably
stoep – veranda
donga – dry, eroded watercourse; gulch, arroyo; scene of much play in our youth;
Sheila worked at Fugitives Drift Lodge with David and Nicky Rattray for a while and met many interesting people and characters from all over the world. She should write about the weird folk she met – the judges and military men and colonial types and rich folk and historians and chief constables and all the other titles the Breetish Empire invented.
While there, she organised for the five of us – her old Swanie family from Harrismith – to have a family weekend there with her as our guide. One afternoon she took us out to the Isandlwana battlefield in a Landrover and got lost. Her sense of direction was imperfect, but she was unfazed and soldiered on like a lost Pom fleeing a battlefield. She had the Buffalo River on her left (or was it right?) and was headed in a direction she thought might get us somewhere sometime. Don’t panic.
So we’re bouncing over the veld, Sheila driving the ponderous old Defender, and our 85yr-old ‘ole man’ sitting in the back getting fidgety.
After a while the bouncing got to his ancient bones and he groaned and – forsaking the old stiff upper lip – moaned about the bumpiness – sort of a geriatric ‘Are we there yet?’
Sheila whipped round and said, “Keep quiet and sit still. Don’t make me come back there and sort you out!” then grinned triumphantly and crowed, “I’ve waited fifty years to say that!”
Monica said ‘Don’t worry Mary you needn’t play today,’ but I protested: No Way, Ma! You have to play! How else will you earn your keep? So she gamely fired up her stootoot – isithuthuthu – and beetled off to the dining room where her friend ‘Mauritius’ was in her wheelchair, waiting for supper.
She rocked straight into Somewhere My Love, so fast that I missed it. I video’d her next song, ‘It’s Only Words’ (what’s it called?); and she said ‘Supper Time’ but I pleaded One More Please; Play for your supper.
What was that? I asked at the end of it. ‘Deep In My Heart’ she said – and then I’m so sorry I stopped filming, as she said, ‘It’s by Sigmund Romberg from The Desert Song’ and she told me more, that I can’t recall, but that ‘it was beautiful; very special’ I do remember.
I went looking . . .
Ah, here’s the trailer: You can see why Mary would have loved it back in 1954! Many of the songs are familiar; she played them; the reel-to-reel tape played them; and the Goor Koor sang them – all in the lounge at 95 Stuart Street in the Free State village of Harrismith!
And then the best song: The Drinking Song from The Student Prince! Sung in the movie by Mario Lanza.
It was a sad fact. The Umgeni was going to be dammed. Again. The fourth big dam on its course from the Dargle to the sea. Many people love dams. I hate them. They ruin the valleys and change nature for ever. Dams wipe out species – many before we even discover them; they flood huge areas of wetlands, riverine forest and grasslands; they displace people and affect everything living downstream. Large dams hold back not just water, but silt and nutrients that replenish farmlands and build protective wetlands and beaches. If you love rivers, dams are the enemy – the disease that kills. Dams don’t just change the river valleys in our waterways, they obliterate them. Yet people love them.
So the Umgeni was going to be dammed and damned; and I wanted a last paddle on that part of the river which was destined to be for ever gone.
So I rounded up some boats and some non-paddling friends in August 1988. Come and paddle a part of the famous Duzi Canoe Marathon course, I said. And the suckers fell for it! Geoff Kay, Mike and Yvonne Lello, Pete Stoute, sister Sheila; and wife Trish joined me in the valley. Some brought some kids, and some valley kids joined us.
We launched the boats with fanfare, breaking a bottle of champagne on each one’s hull (OK, not really) – AND:
They didn’t float! The river was so shallow they hit the bottom, even thought their draft was like two inches!
Oh well, it turned out to be not a paddle but a trudge. And – literally – a drag. But fun nonetheless!
I stared at the banks and the valley walls as I trudged. Soon yahoos would be racing outboard motors here. Soon this life and interesting variety all around us would be drowned forever.
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.
After everyone left I waited till I could spot the mother: a Cape White Eye.
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.’
The recipe: Fifteen glorious people and forty glorious kilometres of wide open sandy beaches of the Zululand or Maputaland coast. Years earlier I had hiked a section of the Wild Coast, far to the south.
Ten of us were walking; two were guiding – Jabulani and DC walking up and down the dunes ahead and behind to keep an eye on us; two drivers for our vehicles to pick us up at the end of the first and third days; and then there was one Shirley Carey: She plotted and arranged, cooked and drove, organised and made it all happen – well done Shirley! It was a great start to what I hope becomes a thriving ‘slackpacking’ enterprise: Introducing people to a magic, less-traveled part of the coast in adventurous, laid-back yet laid-on and comfortable style. Put-Foot-Shirl in her optical blur Toyota sped us around to and from the hike start and end-points, and looked after us in style!
The vistas were spectacular, the weather varied from perfect to overcast and a cool stiff following breeze to a constant ‘irrelentless’ steady headwind on the last day. Thanks to a few overnight showers and spring tide the sand was hard and we didn’t get sand-blasted. We also had no scorching hot Zululand temperatures, for which I was grateful and relieved. Anyway, we pushed on irregardless under interesting skies.
The recipe also included great meals, snacks and puddings, enough alcohol and plenty ice. Come to think of it, it was quite saintly of us to leave the kitchen and hit the beach – we could easily have lurked in comfort! Another ingredient was laughter; lots of laughter; loud peals of laughter. Some ribald humour too; you wouldn’t expect that from ladies, would you? Nor snorting with laughter! But it was all there. It would be fascinating to know how many laughs-per-kilometer there were. ‘Many’ would be a conservative estimate.
Now one would think if you went to a remote Maputaland beach, sallied forth in a 4X4 then walked fourteen km without seeing another soul on a deserted beach, that Retail Black Friday would have been escaped and no – zero, none – purchases would have been made. But one would be wrong. These ladies set off after a sweet potato and bought a dress! It’s a mysterious and powerful force, retail:
I find beaches fierce and exposed; trudge, trudge; I find forests peaceful and protective; peer here, peer there. On the Zululand Beach Waddle you get both: Wide vistas of sand and water with moving clouds, trudge trudge; balanced by the green peace of the forests and all the little things hiding in them; even a Jan’s Shovel-snout, a seldom-seen nocturnal burrower who lives just below the loose sandy surface, eating gecko eggs; he was dead; we wouldn’t have seen him alive, he’s shy like me; and also polite. Unlike some ladies I could mention; who were not only irrelentless irregardless, but also irreverent, christening me ‘Hef’ for the duration!
This expedition was supremely relaxing, but there was one very tough part of the trip: Driving out on the last day with four outspoken, astute, well-read and opinionated ladies as ballast in my non-4X4. I made the mistake of telling them we were going to drive on the Most Beautiful Road in Africa. When we finally got onto it and it was a little bit bumpy, swervy, twisty, sandy and their ballast started shifting, they twisted the story to say I had said “The Best Road in Africa”! So with every spin and rock and roll and wobble it was “Oof! So this is the best road in Africa? I’d hate to see the worst!” and other helpful comments.
There’s Put-Foot-Lizelle in the bottom pic disappearing into the distance in her Landrover which – amazingly – didn’t get stuck. Oh, hang on, it did once. We had to dispatch Musa to find her.
And here’s that demanding committee in my poor Ford Ranger, discussing tactics:
Usually I’d end with a sunset pic, but we were drinking Cactus Jack, Six Dogs Blue Gin, Bubbly, Red, White and Rose wine, genuine Italian-made Lemoncello Ramaccio Pace and other stuff by then, so the sun had to set all by its own self. Here’s a rock pool pic instead: Oh! I’ll follow that with a blurry bird pic by Lou. You’d think with my binocs, telescope and bird book that we would have seen more than a few Sanderlings and a handful of Kittlitz’s plovers! – (BTW, the pics are from everyone – thanks!)
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:
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.
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.
We zoomed over the spot where Mom estimated her old farmhouse was – on Nuwejaarsvlei, where she grew up.
I think Mom’s Bland farm Nuwejaarspruit is under water about here.
Do not text and drive. It’s called Distracted Driving and it’s dangerous.
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.
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.
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
I must tell you about a wonderful trip we went on recently (well, back in 2015 actually) to Deepest Darkest Zoolooland.
It was actually a rugged and challenging course in which we were required to survive under tricky conditions, with carefully thought-out obstacles and challenges put in our way by the amazing outfit called:
. . who led us astray boldly into the back roads of wild Zooloo territory where we watched and learned as he reached out to locals to see if they knew where they were.
This capable and entertaining master tour guide dropped us off at the beautiful Ngoye Forest for the next phase, handing us over to our next capable leader:
. . who led the convoy boldly into a forest. Fully equipped, this part of the course led us carefully through: – Correct equipment – Packing for an expedition – The use of snatch ropes and tow ropes – Handy stuff to always have in your 4X4 (axes, bowsaws, forest vines & lianas);
You had to be really young and superbly fit to survive, and we WERE and we DID! Covered in the mud and the blood and the beer, we emerged smiling from the forest, much the wiser.
Both tours were excellently victualled, lots of sweet and fortified coffee, sarmies, fruit, biscuits, biltong and more. Those who brought deckchairs thinking they would sit back and gaze serenely at the tree tops were optimists in the mist. Someone came up with an idea as we were leaving to go on a completely different kind of trip next time with this sort of outfit:
But NAH! – we enjoyed the first two so much that we’d book with them again. Unforgettable (and NOT, as Don muttered “unforgiveable”)!!
It was amazing and a whole lot of fun with great people.
(Slightly) more boring version:
We did go to Zoolooland on a birding trip ably guided by Don Leitch. He did get us a wee bit off-course, and he did stop to speak to some local people, for which he got some leg-pulling.
We did get blocked by fallen trees in Ngoye forest and here’s the thing: Among all the rugged pilots, 4X4 experts and farmers among us, NOT ONE had brought along a tow rope or any decent rescue equipment! It took an accountant with a pocket knife to fashion a tow rope out of a liana that eventually saved our bacon. ‘Strue.
I will stand by my story and I will protect my saucers, even if they were in their cups. Here Sheila shows the total rescue equipment we managed to rustle up; and there’s the tow rope fashioned from a forest liana that saved the day.