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 was always a goodly gang of inebriated bright young future leaders and fine examples to our youth, 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 General Field Marshall Reitz as was I under Brigadier Field Marshall 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. Yussis you’d think with a resident pharmacist we’d be told the possible side-effects, but all we were told – or all we listened to – was “Fire it, Mole!” and down they went, chased by alcohol to enhance the effects. Highly irre-me-sponsible, but all done for research purposes.

The Bend Old Drugs

Dr Prof Stephen Charles dispenses

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, and as our driver had his foot flat we knew we’d get there quickly. So it was alright.

Taking mielies to the koperasie silo. No airbags.

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;

glossary:

kop-toe okes – taking themselves seriously; which made them more hilarious

weermag – again might, as in ‘we might have to go there again’; involuntarily

mielies – maize, corn, sometimes schlongs

koperasie – co-operative, socialist gathering of capitalist farmers

21st on Kenroy

Sheila saw to it I had a party! As so often, Sheila saved the day.

Des Glutz threw open his palatial bachelor home, Kenroy, on the banks of the mighty Vulgar River to an invasion of students from JHB and PMB. That’s because as a lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer he had his eye on some of those student teachers from PMB!

“Kindness of his heart” you thought? Ha! You know nothing about horny bachelor Free State farmers! Anyway, he owed me for managing his farm brilliantly when he went to Zimbabwe.

Eskom had not yet bedevilled Kenroy so paraffin lamps, gaslamps and candles gave light. Music pomped out from car batteries. Noreen, Jo and Ski danced their Broadway routine The Gaslamp Revue with Redge Jelliman holding the silver tray footlight staring in open-mouthed wonder at their skill. And of course, their legsnboobs – another lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer, y’know.

Koos 21st Kenroy 2.jpg
Reg Jelliman gaslight engineer dreams harem dreams – Nor, Mandy, Jill & Liz

There was also Liz and Mops and Jenny, Georgie, Mandy, Gill and Jill; Hell, we bachelors were in awe at almost being outnumbered – a rare event. We were so excited we got pissed and fell down. Timothy Paget Venning got so excited he walked all the way round the house smashing Des’ window panes to let in the night.

 

Poor ole Gilbert, Des’ personal butler, valet and chef, bore the brunt of the extra work! He cooked and cooked, including a big leg of lamb which didn’t make the main table, getting scoffed on the quiet by ravenous would-be teachers under the kitchen table. Pity the poor kids who would have to grow up being taught all the wrong things by this lot in Natal in the eighties.

They were wild n topless:

Koos' 21st.jpg_cr

If the bachelors had been there, we’d have politely averted our eyes. Right!!

Tabbo wore his tie so he could make a speech into his beer can microphone:

Koos' 21st Tabs Koos

Funny how Glutz doesn’t feature in any pics! Where was he? We know he wasn’t in his bedroom cos the TC girls raided it and were in awe at the impressive collection of toys and rubber items in his bedside drawer. No stopping those TC girls!

After the weekend I roared back to Jo’burg in my brand-new 1965 two shades of grey and grey Opel Rekord Concorde deluxe sedan four-door, full-bench-seated, 1700cc straight-four, three-on-the column chick magnet motorcar. My first! Watch out Doornfontein!

koos-opel-1976
21st birthday present! A 1965 Opel Concorde DeLuxe 1700 in sophisticated tones of grey and grey.       Note my reflection in the gleaming bonnet!

Thanks Mom & Dad! And thanks for the party, Sheils!

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The old man organised the numberplate OHS 5678 for me. The man at the Harrismith licencing office said “Oom, are you sure you want an easy-to-remember number for your son? Don’t you want one that’s hard to remember?”

 

 

Communicating, Clarens-style

Stephen Charles Reed was the laat lammetjie son of Vincent and Doreen Reed. Vin and Dor. Butch was the big black Labrador in residence.

Vincent was hizzonner, the Lord Mayor of Clarens, so although Stevie was by a long shot not their first son he WAS the First Son of Clarens.

In the holidays I would ring up Oom Lappies Labuschagne at the Harrismith sentrale. He would say ‘seker‘ and patch me through to the Clarens telephone exchange – their ‘sentrale‘. The operator lady would answer with a chirpy “Clarr-RINSE”!

Three Four Please. Seemed somehow wrong that their number was 34. I mean, Vincent was the Mayor. Surely it should have been One Please?

Anyway, Three Four Please.

“No, Stevie’s not there, he’s at the Goldblatts, I’ll put you through”.

Old Clarens, before the rush. Here’s the Reed’s store.

clarens2.jpg

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laat lammetjie – afterthought child, unplanned, not to be confused with unwanted

seker – sure

sentrale – telephone exchange

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Zena Jacobson wrote:

Can’t remember Steve, did your family own the garage? I remember your dad being the mayor though. And I remember the craziest dog I had ever seen called Dennis – a cross between a Labrador and a dachshund or something! I also remember the “centrale” telephone exchange lady, who kept interrupting every three minutes to tell you how long you have been talking, and one day I got irritated, and said something like “aw shut up!” and she scolded me for being so rude! I was mortified!

You should see Clarens now! Although I haven’t been back, it’s the central art and antiques weekend getaway in the country. Quite the arty place, with hotels, B&Bs and coffee shops by the dozen.

I wrote:

AND – they have a brewery! One of my favourite newer tales of Clarens involves young Rod Stedall. He and Karen bought a stand, built a lovely sandstone cottage, made a good income from it for years, had some lovely holidays there and then sold it for a handsome profit. Boom! I stood and watched as all this happened, thinking “That’s a great idea, I should do something about that”, and doing buggerall. Rod then bought a house in the bustling metropolis of Memel, thinking that would be the next big Vrystaat thing and I thought “That’s a great idea, I should do something about that!” Yeah, right.

OK, Memel didn’t happen in Rod’s time here (he offered to sell me the Memel house when he was leaving for Noo Zealand), but guess what: SANRAL are talking of bypassing Harrismith and running the new N3 past Memel. Boom time! Bust for Harrismith, it would be, though.

Terry Brauer wrote:

Clarens is one of my favourite getaways in SA. Who’d have thought, Mr Reed?! We stayed in that wonderful home with the Stedalls. Had we not owned San Lameer we’d have considered buying it. Fabulous place. Fabulous hosts.  Pete, join the Brauer investment club. Fail. Epic fail every time.

Fire! Fire!

We had asbestos heaters on the walls in our Louisa Street residence in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. The res was in the shadow of the not-yet-completed Ponte tower – the 50-story residential cylinder up on the hill that became famous and notorious for varying reasons over the years.

Late one night we woke up to yelling and cursing. Thick smoke billowed into our room, so we rushed out to see wassup. Glen Barker and Louis Slabbert’s room was on fire! Glen’s clothes, his bedside table, the linoleum floor and the ceiling were ablaze. We soon put it out and, coughing and spluttering, opened up the windows and doors to let the acrid, foul smoke escape.

To the amazement of the non-smokers amongst us, Louis then sat down on his bed, lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply!

Someone Burst His Eardrum

The Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education chose a rugby team to play in the inter-college festival down in Durban-by-the-Sea and they didn’t choose me.

So I had to choose myself and find my own way down so as to be able to add to the fun and laughter and educational and character-building value of such gatherings. And the imbibing contest, which was actually my forté but – for some reason – they didn’t have a drinking span. Strange.

So we had to compete informally, yet enthusiastically. I spose because there were no officials officiating our match we lost sight of the time and forgot to arrange accommodation n stuff, so when it became very late we looked around and found we were in someone else’s hotel – the salubrious Killarney – and we were trying to scrounge floor space to kip on.

What's that? Someone burst his eardrum . . hip hip hip hooray!

Schoeman and the delightful Fotherby were 100% legal and official and had a room and we made merry in it, perhaps too much because someone marched in and very rudely demanded that we shurrup and also that we leave. I stepped forward to help this rude gentleman right upon which he – a man of few words – explained the situation to me by unleashing a mighty klap on my left eardrum, shattering the peace. I immediately understood what he was on about and agreed to leave the premises forthwith.

All the way down the stairs this burly and persuasive gent’s lips were moving but I couldn’t hear a word he said. I was deaf as a post.

He was like:

Zulu Security Guard

I was like:

drunk

Don’t worry, compassionate people, I found a place to sleep (as in the photo on top). The next day my empathetic “friends” were singing to me – to the tune of “The Sun Has Got His Hat On” –

“Someone Burst His Eardrum! Hip Hip Hip Hooray!!”

Shits. Luckily I couldn’t hear them.

Ice and Fire

They wanted us to have a good time and they fed us with many many craft beers and ordinary beers. Come and enjoy the Rand Easter Show, they said in 1976. Well in those days it was that or this:

We glanced at the displays and the arena – cows were moo’ing and plopping, horses were made to jump over things – but most of the day was spent in the friendly beer halls where the only answer to “May I have another beer?” was “Of course you may!” We ended up sparkling with wit and bonhomie.

After dark it all shut down and we wandered towards the car park eating ice cream cones the TC girls from Maritzburg – up to visit the handsome Doornfontein crew – had bought us (hoping to sober us up?). We passed some horse trailers and the rear end of Gonda Betrix’s horse stared us straight in the eye. Like this:

Horses ass

It was too much to resist and our artistic instincts took over: Lift the tail, place ice cream dollop on the O-ring and then the horse made the mistake of clamping its tail down hard, cementing the deal. I spose a shiver ran down its spine, but it stayed pretty calm considering, just dancing a little – in pleasure maybe? Thoughts of animal cruelty DO cross my mind now but they didn’t reach my addled brain at the time.

We shuffled off. Who drove that night? Hopefully the ladies. Sheila, Noreen, who else? Anyway we safely arrived at Stephen Charles’s flat, Greenwich Village, Becker Street in Yeoville and had another beer as we were inexplicably thirsty.

Noreen said to me “I’ve run a bath, you go ahead”. Very thoughtful of her! I shucked my kit and jumped in and immediately went right through the ceiling! Which wasn’t ceiling board as Steve’s flat was not on the top floor. It was concrete. She’d run the hot only and my (future) wedding vegetables were parboiled. Took days before they were ready to be molested again. In fact, the damage may have been permanent: I ended up adopting kids twenty two years later after waiting twelve years before risking getting married.

I could have done with some of that ice cream.

International Darts Champs

One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein we were playing darts. In the New Doornfontein Hotel pub.

Actually to be more exact, we were engaged in a very important international darts championship tournament, and we were in the final. We had made it through to the final by skill and courage. And imbibing. See, it was The Official Inebriated World Darts Championships of The World. Our opponents were the Sicilian Mafia who had materialised out of nowhere, tapped one of us on the shoulder and announced darkly in a sinister growl: “We play you next”. That’s how they got into the final. We didn’t dare to do anything but nod nervously.

It was like:

mafia darts

We were not fooled when during the important ceremony of ‘diddle for middle’ they missed the bull’s eye by about three metres and we hit bull to go off first. We knew they were simply lulling us into a false sense of security and had in fact wanted us to go first as part of a dastardly plot. This plan was executed faultlessly as we continued to whip they asses and beat them by a mile in all three rounds. Something was afoot. We got even more nervous when they appeared to accept their defeat in good spirit and retired to a corner of the bar conversing – sinisterly for Sicilians – in Portuguese and Joburg English.

Our lives were saved that night in that we ordered beers when the barman called ‘Last Round!’ and the Mafia didn’t. So at closing time the Mafiosi left and we stayed behind to finish our drinks, huddled in a corner as far away as we could get from the door in case it suddenly shattered and splintered under sustained machine gun fire.

The barman then escorted us out the back. Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen past the chest freezers and out the back door into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein which was even darker than the unlit streets. Then out that side gate visible on the far left into Height Street.

New Doornfontein Hotel side exit

We scurried home to our lavish quarters in the plush Doories residence of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education a few blocks away, keeping to the shadows. It was all shadows.

Once safely inside we opened the large door of the old off-white Westinghouse with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on it in cokie pen. Finally we, The Official Inebriated World Darts Champions of The World, could relax.

fridge.jpg

Suddenly the smell of frying bacon filled the room . . . (to be continued)

The Louisa Street Massacre

I once got mugged in Louisa Street. By Louisa Street.

Lightly inebriated, I was walking back to res from a trip to Hillbrow to spend some of my Barclays Bank student loan.

The normally dark and deserted Louisa Street in Doornfontein was dark and crowded, with parked cars lining both sides of the road. The Arena Theatre across the road from res had a show on.

Quite unexpectedly, Louisa Street suddenly leapt up and smacked me right in the face, breaking my glasses.

For some unfathomable reason it was very important that I gather all the little shards of glass from my shattered lenses, so – as luck or Murphy would have it – I was on my hands and knees when the theatre ended and happy patrons streamed out into the street, their minds filled with the moral of the story (or more likely, flashes of boobs and skin – the few shows we went to had actresses acting daring) to find their cars and drive home to more salubrious areas of Johannesburg. The Arena was surrounded by vacant lots and abandoned houses, so they were probably in a bit of a hurry because of the shady reputation of the neighbourhood – and here was proof!

I was not to be put off my search though, so people had to walk and drive around me, grovelling searching diligently in the middle of the tarmac. Next minute someone bent over me and said “What’s your name?”. The affrontery! It was Mnr “JJ” van Rensburg of the Doornfontein koshuis who  was trying to help by getting one of his charges out of harm’s way. “Shwanepoel” I slurred. I spelt it out in case he didn’t know: “S – W – A – N – E – P – O – E – L” .

Explaining that I probably didn’t need to gather every tiny piece as the School of Optometry would likely replace my lenses for me, he coaxed me back to the safety of the res grounds. He was weird, but had a good heart, ole JJ. We gave him sleepless nights.

Doornfontein Louisa St specs.jpg
“Ah! Here’s another little shard . . . “

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