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A Slice of Vrystaat

I was born in Harrismith in 1955 as was Mom Mary in 1928 and Gran Annie in 1893. Annie thought “the queen” was also the queen of South Africa. Elizabeth, not Pieter-Dirk.

To balance that, there’s this side of the family.

Attended the plaaslike schools in Harrismith till 1972. A year in the USA in 1973 as a  Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma. Studied optometry in Joburg 1974 – 1977. Worked in Hillbrow and Welkom in 1978. Army (Potch and Roberts Heights, now Thaba Tshwane) in 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980. Stayed in Durban and got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.

‘Strue!! These random personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know: With one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt.

Lloyd Zunckel R.I.P

Lloyd’s sister Filly wrote from Zimbabwe:

Lloyd sadly passed away in the early hours of August 3 2016 from a brain bleed –

huge shock to us all and especially his partner who could not wake him for his tea.

John and I held a memorial service for Lloyd in our garden and we were

overwhelmed by the 150-plus friends who came to bid him farewell.

I wrote:
Hi Filly
Dammitall I am so sorry to hear of Lloyd’s passing! So so sad.
He and I had a helluva good time together in Herriesmif. We clicked and just shared a similar outlook on life, the universe and kop-toe dutchmen.
It wasn’t long, but it was a great friendship while it lasted.
Thinking of you
Love

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What a lovely guy from the bestest, funnest, hilariousest, lekkerest part of my youth. Lloyd Zunckel arrived in Harrismith from the metropolis of Bethlehem and switched the lights on. A breath of fresh air. He was kind, genuine, modest, charming, and a barrel of laughs. He just couldn’t do maths. Or English or science or any of that shit. But man, could he do life! LIFE! He loved life; and he loved people.

Things I remember with Lloyd:

What a tennis player!

A bit of golf. I would ride my dikwiel fiets to the hostel, pick up Lloyd and a golf bag and with him on the cross-bar, cycle to the country club where we’d while away the hours “playing golf”. Sort of. On the bike we would sing – him way out of key, me melodiously:

“Let the spidnight mecial.

“Line a shite on me

“Let the spidnight me-ecial

Line a helluva lotta shite on me . . “

Me and my mate Lloyd! There was this and this and this.

What we didn’t know was this – from his amazing sister Filly:

I don’t know if any of you or his other mates were aware but Lloyd was hugely dyslexic – not really recognized way back then.  Lloyd hid it under his happy-go-lucky facade and was told throughout his schooling he was stupid and lazy and all sorts. Lloyd in actual fact did not matriculate and eventually left school in 1973 being 19 without getting higher than Std 8. He went off to the army in 1974 for 18 months. 

He married in 1979. Things went pear-shaped on our farm in Bethlehem with them partying and spending everything they had. My dad Fred bought him a Bayer agency and they moved to Pongola in Natal. Then to White River where his business was thriving and they were very successful but for some unknown reason his wife was very keen to move to the Cape – George and Wellington – and after a few years they were living way above their means. The marriage fell apart and Lloyd owed hundreds of thousands of Rands. He moved alone, with nothing but a bakkie my dad bought him, to somewhere near Pongola and we lost touch.

I eventually tracked him down, no car – written it off when he was two sheets to the wind. He was living on a verandah with a woman who was also homeless. A great friend of ours Dave Kahts drove me down to find Lloyd. It was his 50th birthday – and he looked awful.

My wonderful husband John told me to settle all his debts and bring him to Zim to live with us. Problem – he had no passport, so we sorted that and brought him here where John gave him a job in Mozambique. Sadly the farm invasions had started in Zim a few years earlier and we were hanging on to ours with every muscle in our bodies, but eventually lost it.

Things fell apart for all the farmers who moved to Moz, so Lloyd came back to live with us until he met Shana. He moved in with her – they were together for eight years, a rocky relationship, but they did love one another and she had a home and Lloyd did the cooking and oversaw the gardening – he was happy there 😀 .

And that’s that 😘

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Another song (reminded by his big mate Steve Reed);

Steve expostulated: Lloyd having no musical talent? That’s rubbish Fil.  Lloyd did a pitch-perfect rendition of:

“The doctor came in, stinking of gin”  

And sometimes he even added the next line:
“and pro-ceeded to lie on the table”
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Actually, there was a third he would warble off-key:
“Christ you know it aint easy
“pum pum per-um
“you know how hard it can be-e . . .
“pum pum per-um
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dikwiel fiets – eco-friendly tranportation

My Famous Friends – #1

Tuffy has hit the bright lights. School friend and class mate Mariette van Wyk edits a lovely magazine Atlantic Gull down in the Dryest Fairest Cape.

Mariette vWyk's Atlantic Gull

She got the fascinating life story (well actually, snippets of it!) of Irené John Joubert out of him recently.

Tuffy Famous

Fascinating thing is, Tuffy DID this stuff, Chuck Norris acts it out.

Here he is in those far-off days when you could see his chin and not his forehead:

I see Tuffy says he has no trouble in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo as “with my honest face, people just love me”. What I want to know is: How do they see his face?

Well, now that his cover is bust, his anonymity lost, learn more about Tuffy being a domkrag and then tackling an unsuspecting ox here

and head-on colliding with a hill here

and streaking and under-age drinking here

and how he practiced going on long journeys before he went to Afghanistan here

and purloining illicit swag here

and he played rugby for a little dorp and beat Grey College here .

create-3

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Chuck’s going to have to lift his game. Also, and anyway, Harrismith had another Chuck Norris.

http://atlanticgull.com/chuck-norris/

Good Lord, Deliver us!

I really needed to take a hike, I really did.

But to do it I needed a henchman. You can hike alone, but I’d really rather not, so I persuaded Stefaans Reed, The Big Weed, son of hizzonner the Worshipful Lord Mayor of Nêrens (aka Clarens) to accompany me. Sucker, he agreed.

We sallied forth, rucksacks on our backs, boerewors and coffee and billy can and sleeping bags inside, up the slopes of Platberg, from Hector Street, up past the Botanic Gardens, von During and Hawkins Dams into the ‘Government forest’. Pine forest. We could discern two types of pines, I’m sure there are more, but the type we liked had long soft needles and made a good bed. We walked next to the concrete furrow that led water down the mountain into town. Often broken and dry but sometimes full of clear water, it made finding the way easy.

Gibson Dam furrow
The furrow on top

Halfway up we made camp, clearing a big area of the soft pine needles down to bare earth so we could safely light a fire.

Learning from our primate cousins we raked together a huge pile for a gorilla mattress and lay down to gaze at the stars through the trees. This was 1974, we were eerste jaar studente in the big smog of Doornfontein Joburg. We had learnt to drink more beer, sing bawdy songs, throw a mean dart in a smoke-filled pub, hang out of friends car windows as they drove home thinking ‘Whoa! better get these hooligans home!’ and generally honed our urban skills. Now we were honing our rural skills. Wilderness n all.

As we lay in our sleeping bags, burping boerewors and gazing through the pine fronds at the stars, we heard a loud, startling, beautiful sound.

I was wide-eyed wide-awake! WHAT on EARTH was that!? I knew it had to be a night bird, but what? Which one?

In the dark I scribbled down a picture of the sound. This is what it sounded like to me and I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget it:

sonogram-fiery-necked-nightjar

I didn’t know I was drawing a “sonogram” – I’d never heard of that.

When I got back home I looked through my ‘Birds of South Africa – Austin Roberts’ by  G.R. McLachlan and R. Liversidge, 1970 – and found there was a nightjar that said “Good Lord Deliver Us” and I knew that was it. The Fiery-Necked Nightjar – some call it the Litany Bird*. I loved it, I love it, I’ll never forget it and it’s still a favourite bird.

Here you can hear it as we heard it that night.

Fiery-necked nightjar_2.jpg

Next morning we hiked on, past the beautiful eastern tip of Platberg – ‘Bobbejaanskop’ – and down round Queen’s Hill through some very dense thicket, across the N3 highway, back into Hector Street and cold beer.

Sheila in the cosmos
Dense thicket in foreground

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  • Thanks xeno-canto.org for sharing birdsounds from around the world.
  • Those pine trees may be Pinus patula – soft leaves, not spiky. Comfy, but still an invasive pest, though.
  • *A ‘litany’ is “a tedious recital or repetitive series. ‘a litany of complaints’ – a series of invocations and supplications – “Good Lord, Deliver us!”

The Catholics can really rev it up:

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.

– This is one-twelfth of the Catholic Litany, there’s eleven-twelfths more!

Holy shit!!

Nêrens – nowhere, or Clarens in the Free State, named after Clarens, Switzerland to which that coward Paul Kruger fled cowardly after accusing my brave great-great Oom of cowardice. Ha!

Scotty of Harrismith

What a lovely surprise! A story about ‘Scotty’ of 71 Stuart Street Harrismith on Harrismith’s best blog, deoudehuizeyard.wordpress.com.

We grew up at 95 Stuart Street. 1961 to 1973. About a kilometre west of us was Scotty’s sandstone cottage, set forward, almost on the pavement. Miss Helen M Scott she was. I seem to remember she gave extra lessons in her cottage. English.

71 Stuart St Scotty's House

She and Mom were very fond of each  other and we all loved Scotty as she was always friendly and kind – and she baked her famous butterfly cupcakes and was generous with them! Like these, just better, of course! We called her ‘Scotty’ – like we called our gran ‘Annie’. Just Scotty. Just Annie. Lovely people.

Scotty butterfly cakes.jpg

She retired from teaching but went back for one year in 1966 when she taught sister Barbara English at the Hoer Skool.

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Do go and have a look at what Sandra and Hennie of deoudehuizeyard are doing for Harrismith tourism and heritage.

 

Desperately Seeking Miss Estcourt

We were camping in the Estcourt caravan park on the banks of the Bushman’s River when we heard there had recently been a beauty pageant in the dorp. The crown had been awarded. A Miss Estcourt had been chosen, and she was in town.

But where!? Our source of this local knowledge was Doug the Thief, who had heard it from a local.

This was her lucky weekend! She could choose from four handsome, willing and able bachelor paddlers. Well, willing, anyway:

She could choose from Bernie & The Jets’ yellow helmet, Swanie’s white helmet or Lang Dawid’s blue helmet. Doug the Thief had disappeared, nowhere to be found. Oh, well. His helmet’s loss.

We focused on preparation for the search, gaining bottled IQ points and suave wit before setting out in the Jet’s white Ford Escort which we thought the best vehicle to impress Miss Estcourt Sausages with. Look! Miss Estcourt Sausages, we’d say. We came courting you in an Escort! HaHaHa! She’d collapse laughing.

Bernie Ford Escort
Like this, just white

We eventually tracked down her flat in Estcourt’s only highrise building and knocked on her door on the top floor (also the third floor).

From inside came a deep man’s voice: FUCK OFF! it said. It was Doug the Thief’s voice, the swine.

Doug Eskort sausage

Tennis Champs

The pinnacle of my tennis career came when I beat a Springbok tennis player in a tournament at the Wanderers in Jo’burg.

Of course, it helped that my playing partner was Free State junior champ Alick Ross, a brilliant left-hander who carried me all the way.

Also, it helped that the ‘Springbok tennis player’ was actually our opponent’s DAUGHTER, not he himself. So the truth is Alick and I beat Ilana Kloss’ FATHER in an early round of a doubles tournament back in 1974.

Here’s Ilana, who we didn’t beat:

Ilana kloss

Oh, well, it sounded good for a while there . . .

Unlike me, Ilana went on to greater heights, winning a Grand Slam title, the US Open doubles, with Linky Boshoff two years later. Her Dad had probably passed on a few things he learnt from me.

Us.

OK, Alick.

Welkom OFS

I emigrated from Hillbrow and Parktown to Welkom, Free State. The joke goes “I spent a year in Welkom one weekend”.

In about April 1978 Kurt Eggmann, optometrist in the city centre near the famous horseshoe – the dead-centre of town, asked me to work for him. Yes, please, I said. In Hillbrow Graham Bennetto had said he didn’t have enough work for me – he had “let me go” – so I drove off in my grey and grey 1965 Opel Rekord in a south-westerly direction, crossed the Vile river and arrived in Welkom, city of sin and laughter.

Got myself a big ole empty flat through the Thornes – father and sons estate agents – who became firm friends. Andy & Evyn, and Dad Wally. I bought a double bed, a couch and a fridge, you don’t need anything else. I left behind the lovely communal house at 4 Hillside Road in Parktown and a lovely lady SSS the beautiful Fotherby. I was all swoon and sigh, but the Pru in her soon sorted me out and made me realise life moves on!

I loved the work – I was much busier than I had been in Hillbrow, doing a far wider range of challenging cases. One of my first patients was a keratoconus patient I fitted with her first rigid contact lenses and she saw beautifully as she hadn’t in years!

Kurt was a character, ex-Swiss squash champion. He had two mates who were also ex-Swiss champions in various disciplines besides drinking and carousing – cross-country running and skiing, I believe. They would meet annually and preen, drink and carouse. He had an old Merc and a beautiful Beechcraft Bonanza India Mike Alpha. He kept a little car at  the airport in JHB so when he flew there he had transport.

Winter solstice in 1978 we had a boys night in Kurt’s sauna with Kurt and Johnny Hardman the lawyer; We sat drinking in the heat till it became unbearable, then plunged into the freezing open air pool. Then back into the sauna . . . It’s good for you, they say . . .

Kurt once asked me to drive his Merc to Joburg while he flew there. I took a young lady pilot with instrument rating along – she was probably going to fly the Bonanza back at night. The Merc got tired in the metropolis of Parys and we had to spend the night there while the local mechanics got it back on its feet again. A few months earlier the Barclays bank manager in Hillbrow had pressed a credit card on me – a ‘barclaycard’ – over my protestations that I didn’t need it. Well, that night I did – I paid for both hotel rooms and the car repair as my first credit card transactions.

Memories of people: Kurt’s receptionists, Elsabe and La Weez; Kurt’s lovely wife Barbara; The shapely Maria; The shapely pharmacist Fick or Frick; Elsie Campher’s shapely blonde varsity friend; Kurt’s friend Johnny Hardman the lawyer; McMahon the shapely lass, a student at Rhodes University; The mafia tenderpreneur builder / truck transport brothers who wore matching thick Safilo frames and bought matching yellow Lamborghinis; Ralph Guard the other optom.

Swanning around in my grey-and-grey Opel Rekord Concorde the Welkom ladies must have swooned. Surely.

Opel Rekord 1965 interior_2.jpg

And this is just the FRONT bench seat.

I was due in the army for national service in July but Kurt spoke to the local Nat MP and swung it so I only started in January the next year. Strings. Who said corruption is a new invention?

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Around 1967 – long before my time there – the Welkom manne decided that the Welkom / Johannesburg road was too dangerous to travel on, and learnt to fly. Together with his great friends Wally Thorne and Heinie Heiriss, Kurt bought a Cessna 182 Skylane, ZS – DRL and operated the aeroplane in an association known at “HET – Air” – Heinie, Eggmann & Thorne. I got this off Barbour & Thorne’s website.

When I was there in 1978 Kurt owned a Beechcraft Bonanza – India Mike Alpha. Here’s a recent internet pic:

Beechcraft Bonanza - ZS-IMA - Kurt Eggmann