Wits Rag

Someone with a better memory must clear up the haze. I remember building a ‘float’, acting silly and reading Wits Wits. There has to be more detail than that?

Someone else probly spiked my beer . . .

Wits Rag_Float parade

Note the dreaded collection tins! We had to shake them to raise funds for our optometric clinics in Riverlea, Alexandra and Doories!

4 Hillside Road, Parktown Joburg

I was looking thru Dan Palatnik’s Digital Garage (well worth a visit) and an old Willys Jeep reminded me of Leibs and Achim lying under their old Jeeps in the backyard of our communal home at 4 Hillside Road, Parktown. Mainly they were banging out rust and stuffing V8’s under the bonnets.

Willys Jeep 1947.jpg
Somehow, theirs never looked this complete

Achim went on to do a lot of off-road rallying in Brits, where he ran his optometric practice with his bream, wife and former lecturer Eva the  dispensing optician. On the side he ran a garage to tjoon up his racing 4X4’s and fit divorce pipes, one of which eventually got him. Maybe she kicked him out for getting grease on the contact lenses?

Inmates of 4 Hillside I remember are:
– Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire. As students we fitted Leibs with silicon permawear contact lenses! He drove an Alfa Romeo;
– Granger Grey. Grey VW Beetle;
– Donald ‘Coolsie’ Collins. (“You take off your clothes, I’m just having a shit . . ” to part-time girlfriend ‘Vaalwater’);
– Mike Doyle, girlfriend Michaela or ‘Shale’. Old blue LandRover;
– Clive ‘Nel’ Nel. A book could and should be written. “Dee dee dee BARKER!! baap”. Endured by the wonderful and long-suffering Sandy Norts. White Mazda RX2;
– Glen ‘Barks’ Barker. Another book. Green Toyota Corona;
– Gerald ‘Gelard’ the Malawian butler with ambitions of becoming a tycoon. Hurt that we thought mowing the lawn was in his portfolio. He called Coolsie Boss Donut.

Friends-of-4-Hillside included: – Jos, another teacher who lived nearby. Not tall, with high-plus specs, an Alfa and a lovely girlfriend; – ‘Norbs’ Norbury. Yet another educator. Big black beard. Norbs imitated Charles Fortune to perfection at the Wanderers cricket ground, entertaining the inebriated crowds on the grassy banks as he waxed lyrical about the clouds and the birds while blissfully ignoring the fall of a wicket. Would sing loud John Denver: “You Philip My Dentures . . . “;

Other memories: Sitting in the crowded little TV lounge watching the news and Dorianne Berry came on to read the news wearing a strapless top, the camera only showing above it. “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Dorianne’s berries”, was the call. Disappointed.

Dorianne Berry

Lying under the grey-and-grey Opel fixing the drum brakes before going to Port Shepstone. Now, who the hell would drive 700km in a car whose brakes I had fiddled with!? Turns out a few students, including the delightful Cheryl Forsdick;
Brauer irresponsibly dancing on the roof of that same Opel at the late-night farewell end-of-term party held at 4 Hillside.

The delightful SSS Featherbed Fotherby was a welcome visitor to 4 Hillside in one of the few lucky – and brief – periods I ‘had a girlfriend’!

Steve Reed wrote: Granger – never forgotten. Mostly for his height-enhancing shoe-stuffing for weight watchers meetings; I’d forgotten that! Granger flopped into one of our overstuffed,, undersprung TV room chairs one night and wheezed as he reached down and removed his shoes, removing a fat wad of newsprint from each shoe. ‘And now, Grange?’, we asked. ‘No, we had a weigh-in tonight and I didn’t want them to give me a low target weight’, he said, quite seriously, matter of fact. We collapsed when we realised what that entailed! He was cheating the system – and himself!

Pete Brauer wrote: More vivid nostalgic memories of Granger Grey shoving quarts of Black Label down his throat;

I remember Granger Grey (6ft 4 high, 4ft 6 wide) getting home late one night, well-oiled with a placid beam on his face. He joined us students braaiing on the lawn next to the pool and started eyeing the sizzling meat. Borrowing one ale after the other he got progressively more glass-eyed and we watched in awe as he swayed, Obelix-like, WAY past a normal centre of gravity then slowed to a halt, jutting chin way forward, eyes on the tjops n boerie and then SLO-OWLY swayed back to upright, then way back, with his beer resting on his boep till he was leaning 450 backwards  and HAD to see his arse but halted, hovered and started the slow sway forward again. Musta been the size eleventeen shoes that held him upright!

We had to hurriedly clear the braai and endure his hurt look. Imperative to be tough and take evasive action when Granger got near food though: Gerard the Malawian butler on steak days would cook the veggies and spuds and put the seven big steaks on the wall above the fridge in the 4 Hillside kitchen. Strict house rule: Whoever cracked first had to divide the veg into seven equal portions and could only then could he cook his own steak and eat.
Granger got home early one day and did just that. Then he had just ONE more steak ‘cos, hey! maybe someone wouldn’t be coming home and that would be a waste. Then he had another . . . .

As he finished the seventh and last steak he was overcome by remorse and panic. He hopped in to his long-suffering grey Beetle and hared off to Fontana in Hillbrow and bought two roast chickens off their rotisserie to replace the looted steaks. Alas, on the way home one of the chickens clucked seductively and persuasively and he ate most of that before finally plonking one lonely fowl on the wall for us to share.

Granger Fontana chicken

Granger. Heart of gold. He had bigger brothers, one called Tiny. He read Ayn Rand and thought she was on to something.

Steve Reed again: The legend that I subscribe to is that the famous Vespa scooter that ended up on the bottom of the 4 Hillside Road pool originally belonged to a bird called Terry  who later married Keith Taylor. Keith’s brother Ian Taylor [who became a Doctor] had apparently commandeered Terry’s scooter and somehow it had ended up at 4 Hillside where it met its famous fate. Of course, the story may be the result of the effects on Terry of the third bottle of  pinot noir  on a cold Auckland night.

Vespa scooter reminds me of Keith Ballin zipping along, specs and moustache peering out from under his helmet, scarf trailing behind him in the breeze!

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I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine.
(Lou Reed)

Nostalgia: A device that removes the potholes from memory lane.
(Doug Larson)

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Vaalwater – name of young lass from the distant metropolis of Vaalwater

tjoon – tune-up in this case; sometimes ‘explain’

braai – barbecue

tjops n boerie – red meat sacrificed over an open flame

boep – stomach

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‘Twas at 4 Hillside that a knock came at the front door. We knew it was a stranger as no-one knocked at the front door. Actually, no one knocked, you just walked into the kitchen door.

It was a pink-faced balding chap and he asked for Peter Swanepoel.

We found out later from Madeleine what had transpired: A pink-faced balding chap walked into the School of Optometry and enquired at reception: Who’s your BEST optometrist? When Madeleine asked Um, Why? he said I want to employ your best final year optom student. Stifling a grin Madeleine said, Actually most of them already have jobs, they’re nearly finished their exams. Oh, said the pink-faced balding chap, So who hasn’t got a job yet?

The rumour that he then went on to ask OK, then who’s your WORST student? is just that: A vicious rumour.

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.

Twaalf Eiers

Alf Beyers, son of the Hoof of the Hoerskool in Petrus Steyn OFS, struck enormous good fortune on leaving the village and striking out for the big smoke of lower Doornfontein, Johannesburg, city of sin and laughter. It was akin to winning the lottery.

He was allocated me as his room-mate.

Dropping our suitcases on the sticky deep purple linoleum floor we immediately headed off to Nirvana, a place we had heard about for years. A place our mothers warned against with such dire foreboding that we knew we had to find it.

Hillbrow.

We heard they sold liquor in Hillbrow and we had fresh pocket money, so off we went with the gang of new students in the Doories res of the Wits Tech for Advanced Technical Education on our first night in Joeys, 1974, in search of pubs and nightclubs. Vague names waft around in my head now: Summit? Idols? Sands Hotel?

Most of us returned late that night, but there was no sign of Alf. He had landed up in the Johannesburg General Hospital, a victim of alcohol poisoning. The docs assured him it wasn’t bad liquor, it was simply too much good liquor.

The ill-effects wore off quickly and the potential for fun endured. On another occasion when we’d had a skinful Alf indulged in a bit of streaking under the Harrow Road flyover, appearing completely kaalgat to the amusement of rush-hour motorists. Someone called the cops and Alf roared up the stairs and hid in the smallish free-standing cupboard in our room, which actually overlooked the spot where he’d been parading!

When the hullabaloo died down he appeared with a huge grin on his face, still buck naked and inquired innocently “Looking for me?”.

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twaalf eiers – a dozen eggs; rhymes with Alf Beyers;

hoerskool – school of ill repute;

kaalgat – naked as the day he was born;

 

 

 

House (mistress) Trained

Willie the housemaster of the Doornfontein residence of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education was a good ou. In the fickle lottery of life he drew the short straw when we moved in to the room adjacent to the housemasters conjugal apartment that he shared with his long-suffering wife. Willie tried his best. We ignored him.

You couldn’t really ignore the real boss of the res, Sarie Oelofse though. She was fearsome. When we checked in to res on day one she made it very clear that she vatniekaknie.

Let us pause briefly right here to think about what sort of doos would christen a place a “College for Advanced Technical Education”. Fuck me! Catchy title, china! One can imagine flocks of proud alumni saying “I went to the College for Advanced Technical Education”.

But about Sarie: She was tall, had been through some husbands, and was crowned by a snow white mop on top. No one would dare give her kak, we thought. Then we met Slabber. Sarie marched into our room one day in our first week as inmates in first year and asked in her strident voice “Vuddafokgaanhieraan?” We were drinking against the rules and making a happy, ribald commotion against those same rules.

We were ready to capitulate and come with all sorts of “jammer mevrous” and “ons sal dit nooit weer doen nies” and kak like that when Slabber – an old hand in his third year in res stepped forward and said “Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Hier’s vir jou ‘n dop” and poured her a large brandy.

Sarie melted like a marshmallow on a stick roasting over an open fire. She sat down, smiled coyly and lost all her authority in one gulp. It was wonderful. From then on, we wagged the dog. We continued to show her huge respect while doing whatever the hell we wanted to. We helped her, and she turned a blind eye. The formula Chris Slabber had worked out worked like a charm. It needed regular dop provision, of course, but that was no PT: Whatever we were drinking we would just pour Sarie some and she would remain completely reasonable and amenable.

It was what you could call win-win.

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vatniekaknie – intolerant of rambustious student behaviour

doos – person lacking your clear insight

kak – uphill

Vuddafokgaanhieraan? – What gives, gentlemen?

jammer mevrous – apologies

ons sal dit nooit weer doen nies – perish the thought

Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Hier’s vir jou ‘n dop – Have a seat, ma’am

dop – libation. Actually no, any alcoholic drink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best Man (confessions about . . )

My Best Man, I have always said, is one of the most honest upright people I’ve known. I’ve said this for many years. It isn’t strictly true.

One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein, shortly after having been crowned The Official Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World, the story of which famous victory has appeared in print elsewhere, we were smuggled out of the bar in secret to avoid a massacre by the vengeful forces that had lost to us in the final.

Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen, past the chest freezers and out the back door into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein. Out into that dark night.

Through the kitchen. Did you get that part? Through the hotel kitchen. Past a number of chest deep freeze cabinets. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the lids lifting, a hand reaching in and a packet being shoved under an old jersey. The jersey was probably part of the uniform of the new Official Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World.

When we got to the safety of our large and lavish room in the plush Doories residence a few blocks away we were highly relieved and thankful to have survived. So we reached into the huge old off-white Westinghouse we had inherited with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on the door in black coki pen and calmed our nerves. Poor old Willie the housemaster came round to ask us to Please turn down the sound, manne, my wife is trying to sleep.

Then an interesting aroma started to fill the room: BACON. Being fried on the two-plate hot plate. By My Best Man.

THAT’s what had been lifted from the chest deep freeze of the New Doornfontein Hotel. Illicitly. And THAT’s who had dunnit. Did I mention he has a small trace of Jewish blood running through his veins, making this not only a crime, but also a sin?

It was delicious.

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I had hidden this confession, but then I got a confession from the perpetrator here and so now it has gone public, to be read by both my followers.

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As we revved up on another evening after a night’s carousing, we rollicked as poor old Willie the housemaster asked us Please to behave manne, my wife is trying to sleep. Another bright idea took hold: Converting the hostel angle-iron bed into a fold-away stretcher. You can’t bend angle-iron, but he had done a year’s engineering before he started optometry, so through persistence and focused dedication, he did. His skilful panel-beating expertise is depicted in the big pic *.

The sheer force of this exercise bumped the bed against an heirloom 5-gallon glass flagon with two ears. SMASH and tinkle. It must have been tempered glass, as there were millions of tiny pieces!

Gabba Glass Flagon

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Barks sometimes inexplicably went to bed early. Something about a good night’s sleep. One night we got home handsome and clever and Barks had locked his door. Which was his right, except the Fridge Over Troubled Waters was in his room, and the beer was in that fridge. When we failed to rouse him Chris Slabber said “Hold My Beer and Stand back!” and next minute BA-BLAM! he shot off the doorlock! It seems people from Die Perel with CJ numberplates carry small arms with them in case of moeilikheid. I didn’t know that. Access to refreshment obtained. Like the bloody Wild West!

Asseblief manne, said poor housemaster Willie, My wife is trying to sleep. We felt for him.

CJ Paarl numberplate
Number plate like Slabber’s

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You’ll have a positive outlook on this if you remember:

“Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars” – Stephen Fry

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Asseblief manne – stop it, you hooligans!

Die Perel – the city of Paarl in the western cape province; average of eighteen teeth per head

moeilikheid – shit

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This * jumping thing seemingly became a habit.

Round The Bend

Mandy’s reply on the 21st post reminded me of The Bend – that sacred pilgrimage site we would repair to as part of growing up and learning wisdom and wonder. Also drinking, puking and dancing. Especially drinking.

We searched the whole of Joburg all term long for girls and women and couldn’t find any, but on The Bend there were always a goodly gang of inebriated bright young future leaders dancing, hosing themselves and matching us drink-for-drink.

Some of the drinking was very formal, with strict protocol, enforced by some kop-toe okes who had already been to the weermag and wanted to show us lightweight long-hairs what DUSSIPLIN was all about. Louis was very disciplined under Gen Reitz as was I under Brig Stanley-Clarke:

Late at night important stuff would happen. This time it was inventory control. It became vitally urgent that we help Kai clean out old Dr Reitz’s expired medicines. Mainly by swallowing them. The muscle relaxants caused great hilarity as we pondered what effect they might have on our sphincters.

The Bend Old Drugs

The research was inconclusive. We fell asleep before any fireworks happened.

In those days we all shared one cellphone, which you didn’t have to carry in your pocket. It was already there when you got there, nailed to the wall so it couldn’t get lost and so everyone could overhear what you were saying. There it is:

Bloody bottle shrunk!

I forget what this was, but it was important and Stephen Charles was giving it his rapt attention.

Sometimes farming interfered with the serious part of the weekend and then we would be of great help to Kai. We’re taking his mielies to market here. Don’t know what he would have done without us. Airbags and seatbelts were not highly essential in those daze, as we were usually well internally fortified. Taking mielies to the koperasie silo. No airbags.

Back: Me; Kevin Stanley-Clarke (now a Kiwi); Glen Barker (now an Oz). Front: Pierre du Plessis; Steve Reed (a Kiwi in Oz); Lettuce Wood-Marshall (Chinese or Oz?); Dave Simpson