Six foot four inch Pete Stoute was running the Comrades Marathon, that foolish 89km exercise in torture held annually in KwaZuluNatal, when suddenly he heard a shout from around knee-level: “Yiss, Stoute, hoezit?”
He looked around, nothing. He looked down: There was Skim, short and round as a beachball, choofing alongside. Skim du Preez, kranige scrumhalf of the great Optometry rugby team of 1975.
Skim! What the hell are YOU doing here! he exclaimed. No, Stoute, I thought I must do this thing, seeing I’m a boykie from Dundee, said Skim. – Dundee pronounced “DinDear,” the Afrikaans way – it means ‘steenkool.’ Stoute pronounced ‘stotah,’ the Afrikaans way – it means naughty.
They chatted a few minutes and then Skim said, Oh Well, Be Seeing You and ran off into the distance!! Left the long-legged Stoute in his dust!
As often, one of my dodgy history lessons: Dundee, pronounced DinDear, is the famous site where British army troops, tired of being shot through their red coats and their white helmets, finally wore khaki uniforms for the first time in battle. I wonder if their commander Major-General Sir William Penn Symons KCB still wore his red coat that day, though? He got shot in the stomach and died three days later as a prisoner of war in Dundee.
These Boers would know: The caption says they were ‘watching the fight’ that day! Like a movie!
The British claimed a ‘tactical victory’ in the battle. Here’s the actual scorecard – a lesson whenever you read battle reports. To the Poms, this (as they were informed by their jingo press) amounted to a tactical victory:
British casualties and losses – 41 killed, 185 wounded, 220 captured or missing; Boer casualties and losses – 23 killed, 66 wounded, 20 missing. So – Total count 446 down vs 109 down, but “we won.”
And so the dispatch goes back to Mrs Queen in Blighty (perhaps sent by jingo war correspondent Winston Churchill?): “We won a tactical victory, Ya Majesty.” Maybe he at least added “Um, send reinforcements” – ?
Always remember that one thing all military outfits do without fail . . is lie.
stoute – the Afrikaans pronunciation “stotah” as in kabouter; it means ‘naughty.’
kabouter – Snow White and the seven kabouters
choofing – running like a gazelle
kranige – capable; brave; gallant; dashing
scrumhalf – not only a scrumhalf – see the comments
No – yes
DinDear – Dundee; coal-mining village; not in Scotland
steenkool – coal; or stone coal; you can’t say just ‘kool’ cos that would mean cabbage
One bit of detail you omitted was that not only was Skim a kranige scrumhalf but that he doubled as a kragtige prop as well. I cant recall (m)any Bok squads that included versatility players who doubled in these two positions.
Skim and I once did an army camp in Warmbaths as part of the medics corps. There were a few other optometrists on that camp, but only Skim had some bogroll on his shoulder denoting “candidate officer”. He slept in the officers’ tent with a some IQ-laden specialists of every sort (brain surgeons and the like). All the specialities were used in their field during the course of the day but the SANDF knew not what they could do with a CO optometrist. As a result Skim lay on his stretcher all day, reading books of dubious quality and content. After hours, when the IQ brigade returned to barracks for some relaxation, they had a dart board for some, whereas the more intellectual ones entertained themselves with chess and bridge.
When they were short of a darts player, Skim glanced up from his enthralling literature and volunteered to play. Not surprisingly, he proceeded to whip the backsides of the upperclass, as we would have expected, upon which he returned to his stretcher.
When “Bobby Fischer” was called away from his titanic, drawn-out battle with his adversary, who asked if anyone was interested, Skim volunteered to stand in and play against the local “Boris Spassky”. As expected, this was met with hesitation, reluctance and skepticism. It wasn’t long before Skim was declaring “checkmate, mate” to his indignant superior.
The bridge players never gave it a thought to look Skim’s way when one of their players was called away, but the never-bashful lad kindly offered to help out. Needless to say he came up trumps against the gobsmacked opposition and celebrated with his “thuttieth” beer for the day.
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I love people who are quietly capable. As an alcohol-fuel’d bloviator, I admire them. And then when they drink just as much as me and STILL quietly go about their business! Well . . respect!
Another thing about Skim. In 1976 television arrived in South Africa. Also bank loans for students. Easy to get and easy long-term payback system. Get money today, pay back ONE day. We all took a bank loan and invested in alcohol and nightclubs. Skim took the full R1000 of the loan and bought his single Mom back in ‘DinDear a TV set. He was a mensch, was Skim.
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