4_Optometry Johannesburg, 8_Nostalgia

“Like God Clearing His Throat”

Me and Stephen Charles Reed, First Son of Clarens Vrystaat, were talking V8’s back in 2012 when he delivered that spot-on description of the sound they make as they roar off, windgat, into the distance.

I replied: Oh, I DO like that description! That’s GOOD! When you hear that at a traffic light you delay your take-off to hear that grumble-rumble-roar . .

– muscle car V8 – thanks daniel simon –

Remember the ole man’s V8 bus? Did you drive with me in Hillbrow? Floored it at a few robos. More like a Doories hobo clearing his Old Brown sherry-phlegm throat, but still impressive . . and neat for penniless students to windgat in. We blew a few okes’ doors off in the sprint to the next lights. ca1975.

– in Doories we drove it something like this –

Steve: I had forgotten but it comes back to me. Imported van, was it not? Is it still around? I can quite imagine you driving it around Doories and quietly being a bit of a wind gat. Aah, those halcyon days! Now it’s all about boring things like reliability, economy and resale value. Where has all the fun gone? Back to the van. Did your folks do a bit of touring in it? Or a lot? I am sure half the fun with them is kitting it out.

Me: Ja, a 1972-ish Ford Econoline with 302cubic inch V8. White. Automatic 3-speed. Imported direct from Detroit. They toured a bit, but the vehicle itself was the ole man’s interest. We had old faded-denim blue VW kombis before it and a big Toyota 22-seater after it. All with the seats removed and beds, stove and fridge fitted . . Now he has an ancient Jurgen camper VW kombi with the tortoise-on-the-back look. And tortoise-on-the-back speed.

– something like this –

When he was about 80 he took the ole lady off to Oranjemund on the Atlantic Ocean on the border with Namibia; then followed the coast southwards down to Cape Town; up the Garden route, into the old Transkei, into Natal up to Kosi Bay on the Indian Ocean on the border of Mocambique = the whole blerrie South African coastline.
They broke down at night in the Transkei between the coast and Umtata. Luckily Sheila had a friend in Umtata and luckily he roared off in the night to tow them in to his home.
Now at 89 he wants to buy another one. In an understatement he says, ‘This one is too rusty, but the 1800 Jetta engine is still FINE.’ He has his eye on a newer one, only 400 000 kms on the clock; Planning vaguely to head off into the wild blue yonder again. Heaven help the ole lady. She gets panic attacks at the thought, but soldiers on, providing the calm, rational common sense to the union as she always has. – They had been married about 52 years when they toured the coastline.

If only he was reasonable, like his son. Aitch and I hired a later-model Ford Econoline camper in San Francisco, California on honeymoon 1988. Went to Yosemite, Big Sur, Redwoods, Golden Gate bridge and a bit north of that. Fun way to go. Ideal for Oz, I’d think

Stephen: Wow – fantastic that he has that passion at 89. Of course I imagined your folks much younger. My ole man would have been turning 100 in September 2012! He would have loved all that. My guess is that they kept up too much of a social lifestyle to have money left over for exciting things like camper vans. To be buggering around tinkering with cars and vans at 89 your dad must be blerrie fit. Well done to him. Takes me two days to build up the momentum to clean my car!

Sorry to hear about your Kombi.

That trip round California including the big sur (now Keith Ballin country) sounds amazing. A lot of old-timers (ie about my age) over here go and ‘do the lap’ round Australia. Would smaak to do it some day but in the meantime need to keep the nose to the grindstone. Which I know is the wrong attitude. Do it now!

– Aitch on honeymoon with that camper van –
– had to add this in – there’s Aitch again –

Me: You are absolutely right: Go now. Work again later. One thing okes agonise over is what vehicle to choose, and I think the actual answer is always ‘The One You Have.’ Just get into it and start driving. As for ‘What to take?’ – very little. Weight is the enemy. There’s very little you might pack that you can’t find along the way. Take less luggage and more money than you think.

A thought for both of us: Contact every little dorp optometrist en route and ask them if they need a locum. Tell them you’ll work a day or a week for them and house-sit while they have a holiday. Also always seek out the local birding fundi and ask him or her to take you to the local spots.

The story started earlier when I told a tragic tale:

On Wednesday, July 18, 2012, pete swanepoel wrote: My fine VW kombi T5 bus went clunk after I dropped Jess off at school this morning, and suddenly no clutch, no gears, fokol.
Absolutely no problem, sir, said Alpine Motors when the AA tow truck dropped me off there, just give us twenty four grand and we’ll have it as good as old. I picked up a lil Suzuki to keep me going meantime. R200 a day while I ponder whether to fix or sell.

Later: The ole kombi lay down with its wheels in the air, and the quote to fix it went up to forty four grand, so I got me a Fraud Ranger last week. 2007 model, a mere 89 000km on the clock. So far I’ve only dinged it the one time. Smashed the rear lights against a pillar in a parking garage.

Steve reed wrote: Three liettah turbot diesel. Now you can pull out tree stumps. Anyway, he said (I paraphrase) dirty VW no longer deserves your patronage, the lying thieves.

Me: Exactly. Just don’t tell anyone the Ford’s front wheels just trundle along for the ride . . . it’s a high-rider, so it masquerades as a Four Four Four as Jessie used to call them.

Steve: It’s when the BACK wheels freewheel that it’s more shameful. Like my corolla. At the local Toyota dealer they had a genuine Glen Barker Toyota circa 1975 ish, mint condition; belonged to a little old dear living locally. Now that was a back wheel driver, I am almost sure. They had it in the showroom as an object of curiosity. 

Anyway that noo car. You gonna be pulling something with that – other than chicks? Or putting some sort of enclosure on the back?  Forgot what they call it.

Me: Canopy. Maybe I’ll install a double bed mattress and dark curtains. You never know . . . it does exhibit strong chick-pulling tendencies.

Yeah, Glen’s Toyota! Green, it was. A Corona, I think. Definitely rear wheel drive. NX 106. His Dad still has NX 21 from when it was first nailed to their oxwagon when they arrived fresh in Natal to steal it from the Zooloos in the name of the Lawd.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

postscript: Steve did buy a bus! And he did convert it into a camper van! Proud of ya! He and Evil Voomin did a really neat job:

– the full Reed flock doing it in style – looking for flocks in the reeds –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

That car? A 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. 455 cubic-inch V8. That’s 7.5-liters in today’s money.

dorp – village

fokol – not much

4_Optometry Johannesburg, 7_Confessions, 8_Nostalgia, school

Serious Optometric Research

We were in second year and had just moved out of downtown Joburg and Eloff Street to the salubrious semi-suburban delightful area of Doornfontein which was once Joburg’s premier suburb where all the gold mining magnates and Randlords lived and built their mansions.

– that was a while ago, ’tis true –

So some final year students asked us to help them in their research for their – whatever.

They needed volunteers to see if blood alcohol levels affected your esotropia. We gave it a moment’s thought and thought that sounded like a HELLUVA good idea as it involved free drink and would provide valuable data and it involved free drink. We volunteered. None of asked ‘what’s esotropia?’

It was very formal. We had to – No, you can’t have a drink yet; Hey! Step away from the drinks table, we need baseline levels before you . . you have? Well, how many? SO many? Well, quick, come, let’s measure you before – Hey! Not another one . .

Well, give them their due, they tried their best and we did our best and it was a WONDERFUL evening filled with laughter and witty repartee and I don’t know if they got any data but we did get the promised drinks and they didn’t need to return any unopened bottles to the grog shop.

Quite a lot was learned, too. Like if you give a person who has had one too many even a little bit of vertical prism he will push the phoropter away and make barfing noises and run out of the clinic. That might come in handy to future researchers, and I give it here free for anyone to use.

– look at her – she’s obviously had a few –
1_Harrismith, 4_Optometry Johannesburg, 5_Army days, 7_Confessions

Smuggies. And Justice.

A visit to Tuffy, then stationed on the Bluff in Durban with Recce Battalion was a happy reunion. There he was in uniform and me with long hair, his student mate from Harrismith. He introduced me to his sergeant ‘Vingers’ Kruger and all his comrades and announced we’d be partying tonight.

We started off at the famous / notorious Smugglers Inn off Point Road and had a good few there, warming up to a fun night on the tiles. On our way out, en route to a nice place one of the guys knew where ladies would remove their tops with sufficient encouragement, we heard shouting – screaming really – in the alley next to the entrance to Smuggies: ‘You’re married to my sister and here I catch you fucking a man!’ We didn’t wait to hear the fellow’s explanation for his errant behaviour – the other side of the story, y’know, in fairness – but there were some smacking sounds.

Later outside another nightclub a few insults thrown around started a fight between some of the short-haired soldiers and a group of longer-haired ‘civvies’. In the interests of transparency, one of our boys had started it. It soon developed into a brawl and the cops were there in a flash. They took no nonsense and a number of prisoners, throwing anyone near the fighting indiscriminately into the back of the black maria. Which was grey, not black. I tried to explain how very innocent I was, having hung back and danced around the edges of the fight, but was told to fokkin keep quiet and shoved into the van.

like this, just newer; and grey; with mesh windows

As we huddled uncomfortably and with foreboding with some of the okes who minutes before had been throwing punches at us – OK, for me, potentially anyway – I saw through the mesh window Sersant Vingers having a quiet word with the cop in charge. Probably something about fellows-in-uniform, our obvious innocence, how little we’d had to drink, how the blackguards had attacked us, look at their hairstyles and other good, if biased, points. The cop in charge nodded and approached the door of our van. As Vingers pointed out his men – we all looked the same in civilian clothes – the cop brusquely shouted ‘You, you and you! OUT!’ Thankfully Vingers included me among ‘his’ men. Any friend of Tuffy’s was a friend of Vingers’.

Once Vingers had counted his men he trooped us back into the club with a grin for a victory drink, with lots of congratulatory slaps raining down on his back. ‘Justice’ had been served.

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 4_Optometry Johannesburg, 7_Confessions

Pedestrian Knocked Down!

I arrived back in town for the weekend from JHB – 1976 or 1977 – in my shiny new grey and grey 1965 Opel Rekord I’d got from Mom and Dad for my 21st.

Saturday morning I phoned Tabbo. What’s happening in the City of Sin and Laughter? The usual. Nothing. Come on out to the farm. Gailian.

I roared out of Piet Uys street into Stuart street, up Bester street into Warden street on a sunny Saturday morning, heading west with the sun behind me. I pass Annie’s Caltex garage, I pass Stewart Bain’s Town Hall, I pass the beautiful Badenhorst gebou on my left (it’s on the right in the picture). One of our metropolis’ three traffic lights is green so I proceed. I notice a fellow on my left who seems a bit under the weather. He walks forward as if to cross against the red. I move out wide but he then stumbles into a run and I hit the brakes but I also hit him! Shit! I’ve hit a pedestrian! Right in front of the Methodist Church nogal!

I’ve screeched to a halt, horrified, and I hop out. He’s lying about 5m in front of me in the middle of the oncoming lane. His hat is on my bonnet, his carton of sorgum beer is 2m in front of the bonnet, his shoes are 5m past where he’s lying!

Before I can even think where to phone from, Joseph Bronn is there. He saw the whole thing and has already phoned the cops and an ambulance, thank goodness. They’re there in no time and the fellow is taken off to hospital. The cops take names and statements and let us go.

From Gailian I phoned the hospital. Already they know who he is and where he works – on a farm, he’s in town shopping but it seems he decided to do a bit of celebrating too. He seems fine but he’s very drunk so they’re keeping him overnight for observation. The next morning I phone again – he has left already. Don’t worry, he was OK.

Phew! That slow-motion tableau will never be erased. I can see him looking up at me at the last second and hear the thump even today. The car: A small smooth dent in the bonnet, which I never repaired. It would get other dents in time.

4_Optometry Johannesburg, 8_Nostalgia, 9_KZN, travel

Scotland the Brave 2

Scottish doctors. A delightful lot. The female of the species that is; I prefer them female. The guys with their kilts, beards and medical sporrans full of scalpels and aspirins, not so much. I mean, how do they scrub up with all those areas to disinfect? No thank you, give me the ladies. A few years before I had fallen deeply in love with a Scottish doctor and now I was told as I got onto the Pilatus ‘flying doctor’ aircraft something like the one above to fly to Charles Johnson Hospital in rural Nquthu that a Scottish doctor – actually medical student, same as the topless surfing ‘doctor’ in Durbs – would be shadowing me to learn about eyes. I was the volunteer optometrist on this ‘flying doctor’ type trip.

Before we landed we flew low over a small ragged-looking airstrip with an old Dakota parked near a big double-story homestead. Our pilot told of a famous inyanga or sangoma who got so well known and in such demand that he had to travel all over. Like house calls. Eventually road travel was no longer feasible, so he got a Dakota and a pilot to extend his reach. I’ve searched for him now, but can’t find anything about him on the ‘net! I’ll keep searching, his sounds like a fascinating story. Meantime, I’ll fantasize:

As I was settling in and unpacking my equipment in the Charles Johnson hospital outpatients department . . .

. . a whirlwind blew in! My Scottish doctor student! She was six foot tall, her smile was six foot wide and she demanded in a broad Scottish accent: “Teach me about eyes!” She was like this:

What a lovely day. We tested plenty eyes, talked non-stop, had lunch together and once again I fell in love with a Scottish doctor! Sadly she decreed dreadlocks would not suit me. To this day I think she was mistaken. They could have provided much-needed cover-up.

——-ooo000ooo——-

  • The pic is not my second Scottish doc, just as the numbis in the last post weren’t that Scottish doc’s. It’s of a Scottish student who reminds me of my doc who, like her, was born in Edinburgh of Nigerian parents.

sangoma – a practitioner of ngoma, a philosophy based on a belief in the amadlozi – the ancestral spirits;

inyanga – concerned mainly with medicines made from plants and animals;

numbis – breasts

——-ooo000ooo——-

While I search for ‘my’ sangoma, read about this one that Hugh Raw reminded me about; from the fascinating village of Lusikisiki, home of the Shy Stallion:

——-ooo000ooo——-

So pleased to confirm again that I ain’t imagining this shit! My mind is strong. My mate Hugh Bland, photographic historian and fifth cousin tells me thus: Your info on the Nyanga at Nqutu is correct, but I can’t add any more info than you have. His house or mansion is on the right about two kms outside Nqutu coming from Dundee.

Charles Johnson?

Charles F. Marquart Johnson was a transport rider who became a teacher who became a priest who became a bush dentist. Opportunist, perhaps? After the the Anglo-Zulu wars he decided to stay on in Zululand, having apparently been asked by one of the chieftains, Hlubi, to be a teacher. He became a priest, then archdeacon of the area. With the nearest medical facility being at Dundee, a difficult 52 km journey away, he also involved his mission station at Masotsheni in helping the local people with their medical problems. He was, by Anthony & Margaret Barker‘s account – they ran the hospital for years – a formidable holy tooth puller.

Anthony & Margaret Barker

Anthony Barker had a lovely isiZulu nickname: ‘Umhlekehlatini’ -‘He laughs in the forest’ – referencing his frequent laughter and his bushy beard.

The Barker’s mobile clinic 1960
4_Optometry Johannesburg, 5_Army days, 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers, 8_Nostalgia, 9_KZN, sport

Scotland the Brave

Two delightful Scottish medical students arrived at Addington hospital. They were here to “do their elective” they said. We didn’t mind what they were doing, we were just happy they were in Darkest Africa and drank beer. Always a better chance if a lady will drink alcohol.

One of them asked me if I surf, which is a terribly unfair question to ask a Free Stater by the sea. It puts great pressure on us and reveals our secret fear of that-big-dam-that-you-cannot-see-the-other-side-of. Ask us when there’s no sea within miles and we can tell a good story, but the sea is right on Addington’s doorstep. “Even better” I said casually, leaning against the bar in The Cock and Bottle on the first floor of Addington doctors’ quarters, “I paddle-ski.”

Ooh, will you show me? she asked, which put great pressure on me. “Come to my flat in Wakefield Court after work” I ordered and she meekly nodded. Wakefield was part of doctors’ quarters, over the road from the hospital. After work I hared off to Stephen Charles Reed and borrowed his Fat Boy paddle ski, threw it in my green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon OHS 5678 and hared back to Prince Street in time to casually say “Hop in” as she arrived. Addington beach was right there and I proceeded to give lessons in the surf. Little did she know it was like the drowning leading the drowned. I’d help her on, hold her steady, time the waves and say “Now! Paddle!” and she’d tumble over like a Scottish person in the warm Indian Ocean, time and again. One wave was better than the rest, nicely obliging and masculine, and it did something like this:

Marvelously, she didn’t notice for a while until I blurted out “God you’re gorgeous!”. Following my grinning gaze, she giggled and hoicked her boob tube top up over her boobs from where it was sitting around her waist. *Sigh* I cherish wonderful mammaries of that day . .

4_Optometry Johannesburg, 5_Army days, 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers, 7_Confessions, 8_Nostalgia, 9_KZN

Memories Military

You give some old bullets the internets, and what happens” – A bunch of unlikely and involuntary ‘soldiers’ reminisce . .

One fine day in October 2018 I walked into work and my practice manager Raksha said, ‘A lady wants you to phone her. She says she thinks you were in the army with her brother Derek Downey.’ That must be Avril!, I said.

Well, that brought back a flood of memories and led to this garbled line of correspondence from a whole bunch of ancient friends who I’m very worried about. I think they’re all going senile. Seems I’m about the last sane one amongst us!

I wrote:

Do you guys remember the Durban boys on the offisiers kursus back in ’79? – Derek Downey, Rheinie Fritsch and Paul (‘no KIDDING!?‘) Goupille? They all begged to be sent to Durban-On-Sea after the officers course, citing important sport events, tragic family happenings, weeping needy girlfriends, Springbok surfing training, etc. I, on the other hand, asked to go to the Angolan border in South West Africa. ‘Die Grens’.

Well, all three of them were sent to Die Grens and I went to Durbs. To Natal Command, the famous ‘Hotel Command’ headquarters right on the beach on Marine Parade with the waves of the warm blue Indian Ocean lapping gently at the feet of the soldier on guard at the front gate. Who saluted me when I arrived!

Inside, I was shown to my quarters and told to put my shoes outside the door – of my own private room! No more bunking with you smelly lot.

I thought the shoes thing must be some sort of ritual or tradition, or maybe a hygiene thing; But the next morning the blerrie things were brightly polished! ‘Twas like a miracle! I had a batman!

——-ooo000ooo——-

I also reported to this motley crew of kakhuis offisiers that our friend private* Graham Lewis – he who belonged to the wrong company at Loopspruit and then joined us – promotion – and promptly proceeded to fuck up our pristine floor in a misguided effort with dribrite polish and a rotary floor polisher – was alive and irrepressible.

I brought them up to speed on the Private’s Progress:

He’s done some amazing things post-war that you will not believe and you will think I’m talking kak but I’m TELLING YOU. Our Private Graham Lewis:

– got married; Can you believe that? But more: To a lovely and very good-looking lady! Who tolerates his foibles. It’s astonishing!

– got rich; Swear! And not from smousing spectacles. He became a landlord after being skopped out of a shopping centre; it’s a wonderful tale of success and couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. When I phone there now I ask for the Wicked Landlord and they put me straight through to him;

– started running; his mates used to run the 89km Comrades Marathon while he drank beer and they made the mistake of mocking him, so he pulled on an old pair of tennis tackies – unlaced – and entered the Comrades unbeknown to them and beat the lot of them!

– did the 120km Dusi Canoe Marathon; He got into a canoe and fell out; then got in again and fell out again, then entered a race and didn’t finish. So I said to him, come, Lewis! Lemme show you. I took him on a race on the Tugela near Colenso. We finished last, but we finished; Then he entered Dusi and finished and he did it quite a few times after that.

– decided running on KwaZulu Natal hills was too easy so he ran from the bottom of the Drakensberg to the top of Mt aux Sources up the chain ladder and then down the Gulley on a rugged track for about 55km on a balmy day; And the next year he did it again. Barmy day. He’s gone a bit mashugana I’m afraid.

And other stuff. Like this and this near-death experience.

* private? were we privates or riflemen? I can’t remember. If we were riflemen, can we become cannons one day, like dominees can?

Lunch Corporal (equal to a Texas General) Dhhhavid Cooper wrote:

Luitenant – I’ve been meaning to reply for a while.

Firstly, luitenant Swaneveer – you’re a damn good writer and your blogs are hilarious. Why have you been hiding your talents under a bosvark?

Secondly, Makeerdiepas Les kept us smiling and “always looking on the bright side of life” with his voluminous aka “audible” mirth. **

Thirdly, I was most impressed with KO Lewis’ resurrection as a first rate floor officer to an even finer specimen of an officer in the running, so to speak. We should all be so lucky.

Fourthly, royalties, meagre as they were, were all blown in one night of wine, women and song – at least I think they were. Maybe the ‘women’ part is just wishful thinking. Memories at 63 are not what they used to be.

However – I do remember one conversation with you KO Swaneveer that still makes me pack up laughing when I think about it . . it related to “a few polite thrusts” . .

I do remember the Durban boys – Les Chrich was filling me in on the ballesbak time you and he had fighting for the homeland at Hotel Command.

Fascinating times – good memories.

** Les’ laugh led to a corporal once telling him “Hey, jy moet uit, uit, uit lag, nie in, in, in!”

——-ooo000ooo——-

I wrote again:

That really cracked me up, Lunch Corporal Cooper! Whattasummary!!

Talent? My real talent lay in talking about hiding under bushels rather than diving under same. Most ladies would watch wide-eyed as I deteriorated until eventually I’d be on the floor, last drink on my chest, one finger held high, still trying to make a point but a touch incomprehensible.

Ah well, it was a good contraceptive, I changed my first nappy at age 43. And even then I had to contract out the actual pomping.

You’re quite wrong about Hotel Command. It was rugged. We suffered. I was told to report for duty as adjutant at the medics HQ in the 25-story Metal Industries House, two blocks back from the beachfront. Tenth floor.

The first day was taken up in making sure I had a parking spot for my sleek grey and grey 1965 Opel Concord OHS 5678 and that my office was suitable, window overlooking a park, now the Durban City Lodge. Couldn’t even see the sea.

The next day I checked my desk, covered in brown manila files. One said Lt X was to leave Osindisweni Hospital and report to Christ the King Hospital the next day! I phoned him to tell him. “Wow! Thanks!” he said, “Usually we don’t get any notice at all!”. The next said Lt Y was moving in a week, he was bowled over that someone had told him so far in advance. The files had been on the desk for ages; they were covered in stof. The previous adjutant was a PF – a career soldier – and he was damned if he going to spoil those blerrie civvie doctors, who did they think they were!? He was a funny oke dressed in white with a strange title, it’ll come to me now . . Scallan! Petty Officer Scallan. Petty Officer! What a weird name compared to me: LUITENANT! You could salute a luitenant. Who’d salute a petty officer? OK, OK, I was a 2nd Lt. Only one pip.

Our OC – that’s Officer Commanding – was a dapper 5ft tall Captain dressed all in white, complete with white cap and white shoes. Hilarious! What koptoe soldier would dream of wearing white shoes at Loopspruit in Potchefstroom!? Just imagine what the Gotchefstroom stof would do to them! He was Captain Mervyn Jordan. Naval Captain, mind you, which – if you’d read your notes on offisiers kursus – was equal to two Commandants in a brown uniform.

Once I cleared my desk, Captain Jordan – a helluva cool oke, by the way – suggested I commandeer a jeep and reconnoitre the hospitals under my command (none of which words he used, I’m just feeling uncharacteristically military here). My battlefield / sphere of influence lay between the blue Indian Ocean in the east and the high Drakensberg and Lesotho in the west; and from the Mocambique border in the north to the old Transkei in the south, which was also another country, remember? Three foreign states and a deep ocean surrounded me. Besides Christ the King and Osindisweni my other hospitals were called Appelsbosch, Emmaus, Hlabisa, Madadeni, Manguzi, Mosvold, St Appolonaris, ens ens.

Luckily I’d read my notes on offisiers kursus unlike you lot, so I filled in a DD99 form for the Jeep and a DD45 form for petrol and a DD78 form for accommodation, and – who’m I kidding? I knew DDbuggerall. Some PF pen-pusher did it all for me.

But then disaster struck!

Before I could leave on my grand tour, driving my OWN Landrover all over Natal, peering over the border into three foreign countries including Transkei, an order came through on a DD69 assigning 2nd Lieutenant me and 2nd Lieutenant Les Chrich to Addington Hospital as resident oogkundiges. Instead of driving around visiting the odd nun and some okes in uniform at Zululand hospitals, I was ordered to move into Addington DQ – doctors quarters – across the road from the nurses res.

Did you catch that? Are you paying attention? We soldiers were ordered to live next door to a NURSES RESIDENCE. In which six hundred – that’s 600 – nurses in white skirts, silly little white hats and pantihose waited for us to come and service them under the desirable DD69 conditions. Their eyes. Focus, you ous! What could we do? Orders are orders. It was hell; We served. We suffered. We were barracked right next door to the DQ Pub, The Cock and Bottle. The Cock and Bottle was Mecca. Every one of the superb six hundred – that’s 600 – knew The Cock and Bottle. Sure, some knew to avoid it, but others said Meet You There!

It was much like Alfred, Lord Tennyson had predicted:

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into The smoke-filled Cock and Bottle

Rode the six hundred.

We were each given our own flat. Not a room, an apartment. Bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and entrance hall. High ceilings; Hot and cold running blondes. Seriaas. Ask Les.

Our first big bash was arranged by a New Zealand couple, two of the twenty-some houseman – these are practicing doctors in the literal sense of ‘practicing’ – they didn’t know WHAT they were doing, so they practiced. These two delightful Kiwi appy-quacks’ surname was actually Houseman, funnily enough. Lovely folk; they organised a raucous Priests and Prostitutes night in the Cock and Bottle.

The fishnet stockings! The see-through tops! The high heels! The micro skirts! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! I wore a white dog collar and a blue houndstooth holy Irish jacket made by a tailor in Dublin which I’d inherited from a drunk Irishman one FreeState night, which slayed the ladies. I think. They thought I was a catholic father. Much later that night I was on the floor, last drink on my chest, one finger held high, still trying to make a point but a touch incomprehensible.

But there was a big difference now: Nurses! Kind, nurturing souls moved to take up a caring profession. They didn’t step over you and walk out on you like a Jo’burg or Kimberley or Rustenburg chick at the New Devonshire Hotel or the New Doornfontein Hotel might. No! They would pick you up and sling your one arm over their shoulder and take you to bed, tuck you in saying tut tut. Or ‘Shine up, Chicken Legs’ if their name was Peppy. This is true! They were angels. Better than angels, as they had a devilish streak. If they diagnosed the need, they would sometimes even hop into the sickbed with you in order to apply pelvis-to-pelvis resuscitation. Swear! Dedicated!

The weermag had actually posted us to heaven. Probably by mistake, but we were not complaining. Hey! you can ask 2nd Lt. Leslie LadyLover&Charmer Chrich; I shit you not, I’m not exaggerating! Tell them, Les.

——-ooo000ooo——-

Meantime a reunion took place in the Fairest Cape attended by old soldiers Stedall, Chrich, Miller and Cooper.

I wrote:

Great, Rod! So at your reunion, were there a few tales of how we won the war? Like: ‘PW Botha, My Part In His Downfall’? You, Cooper, Chrich and Miller must have told a few lies about what a terribly hard time we had? I was a normal person before that 1979 weermag year. Also, what’s the name of that song we sang so well, and why didn’t it go platinum?

Rodney Stedall wrote:

I think it was Piano Man

I wrote:

That’s right, it was. How could I forget!? Here’s one version. not anything like as good as ours:

Which brings us to the second question, why are we not earning royalties from sales of our version? Who has the Master Tapes? Do you think that cunning corporal cHooper filched the funds? Corruption is rampant and I think we should investigate.

Was there another song? Shouldn’t there be more royalties?

Also, what happened to that young female luitenant in her tight browns that Cooper and I used to eye? The only female on the base under half a ton? Do you think she’s wearing browns a few sizes larger these days? These are important questions and someone should demand answers . .

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Dhavid Cooper wrote:

Howzit Luitenant Swanefeer homse geweer! Would have been such a hoot to have you with us in the Cape!!

Regarding corruption (see The Early Years – my new upcoming book on corruption by Snyman and Verster) – money had to be made when it could – and the stage had to be set for the future of the country . . apparently we did too good a job . .

However, the most memorable event – besides the shapely looty you alluded to – was the well serenaded, fine looking lass who stole our hearts that one summer beer-filled night . . . Irene!! Do you remember . .?

We sang “Irene, Goodnight, Irene Goodnight, Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene . . . I’ll see you in my dreams” — and that’s exactly what happened . . we never saw her again except in our dreams!

Hope you’re well pal… be lovely to catch up again sometime….Rod, maybe a weermag reunion sometime.

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Les Miller wrote:

Pete – Thank you so much for this. I killed myself laughing while reading it. Brings back forgotten memories. Good ones!

MaakkeerdiePAS! Lick-yak, lick-yak, omkeeeeeer!

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I wrote:

Hey Les – What a good laugh! Carefree days. Give some testosterone-fueled youths guns, bullets and beers and what could possibly go wrong, huh?

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offisiers kursus – learning how to gippo exams; or, officers course

Die Grens – the border; usually the border between Angola and South West Africa, where we shouldn’t have been in the first place; In Natal my borders were Mocambican, Transkeian, Lesotho-an – oh, and also Swazi-like, plus there was the boerewors curtain keeping us safe from the Transvaal; Border, by the way, not as in ‘south of the border’ as sung by Cooper which (I suspect, how would I know?) was a panty-line border;

kakhuis offisier – candidate officer; KO or CO; aspirational;

smousing – peddling; which is better, one or two? I’ll take the tortoise shell one;

skopped – kicked out;

mashugana – batty; barmy;

dominees – canons, preachers, priests, imams, rabbis, gurus, archbishops, dob-dobs, pontiffs, cardinal sin, swami, ayatollah, blah blah; liars;

lunch corporal – half a corporal; one stripe; lance corporal;

pomping – the brief, active part of conception preceding the long slow hatching part; seldom immaculate;

koptoe – delusional;

luitenant – lieutenant; some of us became one-pip lieutenants, a massive promotion from KO; but still, it has to be confessed, only half a lieutenant;

bosvark – biblically, a bushel; otherwise an armoured vehicle;

makeerdiepas – mark time; march aimlessly in one spot, raising dust so all your shoe shining was vir fokol; going nowhere; mind you, all marching is aimless and going nowhere;

vir fokol – to no avail;

omkeer – you know where you thought you were going? turn around now and go back;

ballasbak – literally, sunbaking your balls; leaning back comfortably with your groin aimed at the sun and your legs spread; a frequent activity between brief sessions of ‘hurry up and wait’;

oogkundiges – uniformed personnel highly skilled in the gentle art of gazing deep into nurses’ eyes;

weermag – war machine; us;