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 . .

Seeking to Dodge Salvation

Stephen sent a terrible picture of a recovering drunk back in the old days. Around 1980. He found this poor soul asleep on the covered veranda of his top floor flat in 10th Avenue off Clarence Road in Windermere, Durban and cruelly photographed him, him unknowing. Sleeping with his specs on so as not to have blurry dreams.

Koos Steve flat ca1980
Me – innocent

Later he accompanied the poor soul to the cafe on the corner for something to slake our Sunday morning cotton mouth thirst. En route we came across the Salvation Army on the pavement, gearing up their instruments, getting ready to go and blast a bracing dose of Christian ‘look sharp’ into some poor sinners’ ears

We were convinced they’d marked us as just exactly the right type of sinners they needed. Neatly – if severely – dressed in their fierce outfits, sensible shoes and soldier-looking hoeds they glared at us, fiddling threateningly with their instruments.

I could feel their accusing stares boring through the back of my head as I minced delicately past them, taking a wide – but not too wide – berth by stepping down into the gutter – where I belonged? – trying not to upset them in any way. Had they sounded the horn and hit the drum we would have capitulated and joined immediately. Thankfully a baleful stare was all we got and we made it past them. We eyed them out from a distance from the cafe door and returned to Stefaans’ flat once they’d parum-pum’d off a goodly distance down the road. Anyway, I’d already been saved a few years before, so there was no need for them to target me. Dunno about Stefaans – he looked like he needed a bit of salvaging.

They were like this menacing-looking mob, except there were more tannies with sensible shoes, like in the top pic:

salvation army

hoeds – headgear

tannies – aunties

parum pum – guilt-inducing tympanic torture

Eyewitness Account

Thanks to coincidence, luck and connections, I have an eyewitness account to the time my good friend Tuffy fell out of a helicopter!

Chris Greeff is one of the most connected people I know. He mentioned that John Lee is a parabat. I said: My two schoolmates did parabats in 1971 (Pierre du Plessis) and around 1975 I’d guess (Tuffy Joubert). He asked: Tuffy Joubert – that became a Recce – and raced Rubber Ducks with Maddies?

I said Yep. He’s a Harrismith boykie. So Chris sent me a pdf file: Read page 10, he said.

Interview – Major Peter Schofield by Mike Cadman 21 August 2007

Reconnaissance Regiment – Project Missing Voices

Schofield on arrival at Recce base on the Bluff in Durban:

Then I had lunch and went looking for the climbing course. Now, it wasn’t a very long walk but I walked along the length of the camp where there was a helicopter hovering at about a hundred feet. And I stopped on the edge of the hockey field where this was taking place and watched this, and out came a couple of ropes and a couple of guys came whizzing down in sort of abseil fashion. And a couple more came whizzing down sort of abseil fashion. And a couple more.

Then one came out, and came into free fall. And he literally, he got hold of the rope a little bit, but he just fell a hundred feet flat on his back wearing a rucksack and a rifle. And I didn’t even bother to walk over to him, I thought, He’s Dead. He can’t fall that far and not be.

And obviously the ropes were cast off and the chopper landed. They whipped him into the chopper and flew away. I didn’t know where to, but it was in fact to Addington Hospital, which is about three minutes flight away. And, I thought well this must be quite something of a unit, because basically they carried on with the rest of the course as though nothing had happened.

I thought, Well, I better introduce myself to the senior people here and see what’s going on. So I walked over and met the senior members of the course, and it was being run by a bunch of senior NCOs and I was impressed by the lack of concern that anybody showed for the fact that the guy had just fallen a hundred feet from a helicopter. A guy called (Tuffie?) Joubert. And Tuffie is still alive and kicking and serving in Baghdad right now.

And I said, What the hell are you doing? How did he fall over there? They said, Well nobody’s ever done it before. I said, OK, show me what you’re doing. And they were actually tying the abseil ropes direct to the gearbox of the rotor box in the roof, I think it was, in the Puma. Which gets to about a thousand degrees in no time flat. So if they had gone on long enough, they’d have broken at least one if not all four of the ropes with people on them. I said, Well let’s change that. And anyway you’re not abseiling properly so let’s send the helicopter away and let’s do some theory on abseiling and then we’ll go and do it off a building or something that stands still for a while before we progress to helicopters.

Then I went back to report to the commanding officer, John Moore, that I wasn’t really terribly satisfied with the way things were proceeding on this climbing course. He said, Oh well, have you done it before? I said Yes, I’ve done a hell of a lot of it, I was a rock climbing instructor apart from anything else. And he said, OK, well take over, run the climbing course. So I did just that. And again I was so impressed with the fairly laid back attitude of everything.

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me & Tuffy Joubert in his Durban recce days

Tuffy Joubert (right) with me in his Durban recce days

I told Tuffy and he replied in his laid-back Recce way:

Good morning Koos,

Trust to find you well; This side of the coast we are all well and we think we have everything under control.

Maj Peter Schofield was a Brit, he was part of the Red Devils if I recall correctly; came to South Africa and joined the Recces. His first day at work on the Bluff he had to take over the Mountaineering Course that included abseiling. As he walked out to see what was going on, “Yes, I fell out of the helicopter”. He was not impressed.

He lived in Harrismith for a few years after retiring, Pierre knew him. He passed away a few years ago here in Cape Town.

No I have not heard or seen his talk.

Lekker dag verder, enjoy and go for gold – Groetnis – Tuffy.

 

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’s an eyewitness account of his famous plummet from a chopper.

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

 

Tuffy’s older brother Etienne remembers him getting his nickname like this: In the very English environment of the Harrismith Methodist church some soutie made the mistake of calling the French masculine name Irené the English feminine name Irene in Sunday school and promptly got dondered right then and there by said Irené. And hence the nickname Tuffy was born.

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 .

.

 

Chuck’s going to have to lift his game. Also, and anyway, America can forget toughness, Harrismith also had another Chuck Norris.

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Thanks Mariette for the article!

.

Added: And how Tuffy tricked me here.

Reassuring Words – and Famous Patients

In 1980 the army relieved me of my post as adjutant for the Natal Medical Corps and sent me to work for the provincial ophthalmology department in Durban run by the Nelson R Mandela school of medicine based at King Edward Hospital. This meant I worked at the three racially-segregated hospitals.

King Edward VIII in Umbilo (for the healthily pigmented):

RK Khan Hospital  in Chatsworth (medium pigmentally blessed):

Addington on the beachfront (pale, pigmentally deficient):

At KE VIII we had our own building, at RK Khan and Addington we shared. Addington OPDB (Out Patients Department B) was for legs and eyes. My mate Bob Ilsley in orthopaedics would say “I’ll get them to walk straight, you get them to see straight”.

Resident ophthalmologist Pat Bean was a character. Surfer dude at heart. And heart of gold. “You got cat tracks, mummy”, he’d say at RK Khan. “Cat tracks. Terrible things those cat tracks. Must give you ‘PRATION. Not sore ‘pration. Over one time, you go home next day no pain see nicely” he would reassure.

(‘cataracts’ – ‘operation’)

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The nurse in charge of the clinic most days at KE VIII was Staff Nurse Anita Lekalakala, another character of note. One day she picked up a card for me, glanced at the name, grinned and called out loudly to the packed waiting room:

Miss Grace Kelly! Calling Princess Grace Kelly!

And in shuffled old Mrs Grace Cele, leaning on her walking stick.

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(36yrs later Anita still comes to me for her glasses)

What a Mess!

“Kom, kom, kom! Vyf Rand elk. Brings your money! Five Rands. I’m going to town. E’ gat do’p toe”. Town being Ellisras or Thabazimbi. The civilian staff sergeant from the Cape was shouting in that well-known accent – or eccent, ek sê. He was organising a whip-around to augment the army rations he had been issued as mess sergeant on our Commando camp out in the bushveld somewhere north of Pretoria. We were playing ‘Field Hospital Field Hospital’.

He returned a few hours later with a big sack of onions, cooking oil and a vark of cheap white wine – a 25l plastic spug-spug. So instead of plain bully beef and boiled spuds we had a varkpan full of fried bully beef, spuds and onions, like bubble-n-squeak, and a fire-bucket filled with over half a litre of semi-soetes for our supper. Much better. We considered the matter carefully and then all agreed one could actually quite easily call him a gourmet chef, and gave him a Michelin star.

His vark was unlike the one on the left. Also actually unlike the one on the right. It was a big, floppy, papsak bag – like a very large colostomy bag.

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One of the civvies on camp was Rod Mackenzie, trainee-ophthalmologist and lovely mensch from Durban who I would soon meet again and work with for years, first in hospitals and then in private practice. That was after the weermag in their wisdom sent me to Durbs as adjutant to the medics in the various KwaZulu hospitals.

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E’ gat do’p toe – Capetonian toothless way of saying I’m Going Shopping

vark, spug-spug – large plastic container filled with fine, rare vintage wine, if you ask me

varkpan – metal army-issue eating and cooking pan

fire bucket – metal army-issue drinking and cooking bucket

semi-soetes – fine, rare vintage wine, if you ask me

papsak – scrotum-like but transparent, unlike the army

weermag – war machine

It Was Like a Military Operation

Bouncing around on the back of a Bedford we would roar to a halt in the veld. Well, really the mixed thornveld and woodland somewhere north of Pretoria, which should properly be called Tshwane, ancestral home of the Tshwanepoels to which we have land claim rights. But that’s another (important) story. In a cloud of dust. We were a highly mobile, highly efficient ‘Field Hospital.’

Seeking the shelter of trees so as not to be too visible to the enemy, and to have the shelter  of trees, we would leap eagerly to the ground, pitch our big tents and carry in the stretchers, placing them in neat rows one left and one right. Then up would go the drip stands, each with a drip hanging down. Sundry balsaks and trommels would be lined up and unpacked and in no time we’d be ready to receive the wounded, the sick, the lame and the lazy who had been drilled or scared by the kommuniste nearby, us being an advance field hospital. We were much like this:

field hospital

Well. In theory.

In reality the only thing that happened with any sense of urgency was the roaring to a halt by the Bedfords in a cloud of dust. After that there would be consultation and various opinions about whether the tents should be lined up like this (maybe east-west) or like this (maybe west-east). And how could we put it here? Look at this big stump in the ground here. The neat rows would be more haphazard and boiling water for tea would be accomplished before any drip stands were placed. It was like a military operation.

Which is seldom like this:

Army marching.jpg

And more often like this: A strategic planning session in the bush.

army-ballasbak

The most organised of the troops was Rhynie Fritsch. From Durban, natch. As the lorry stopped he would step off with his blanket over his shoulder and his paperback in his hand and immediately stroll off till just out of sight but still well within earshot for a ballasbak. As the Bedfords started up again after we had struck camp and packed up he would reappear in time to clamber on, miffed that us workers hadn’t kept him any tea. Everyone loved ole Rhynie so you could only admire his gippo‘ing.

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balsaks – literally scrotums; big all-purpose canvas bags; used as seats, wardrobes, pillows, etc;

trommels – big all-purpose tin trunks; used as seats, bedside tables, cupboards, etc;

kommuniste – vaguely-defined bad ous who refused to believe we were The Chosen Race;

ballasbak – ball-baking; sitting or lying back in the sun, basking with your crotch exposed to the warm rays. The sunglass fella is doing it well, the other two not bad. In the barracks you’d usually be leaning against a wall, hidden from the corporal’s sight. On a camp the corporal might be next to you, doing it better than you; an early form of solar recharging;

gippo‘ing – wisely dodging what you were meant to be doing. The opposite of volunteering; Probably slang from the Egypt campaign in WW2?