My Canadian Wooden Paddle

. . is a work of art.

Made of Beech, Birch, Cherry and Maple wood, it has a hollow laminated oval shaft, the oval at right angles so each hand has its own correct oval.

The blade is also laminated, then kevlar-clad and teflon-tipped.

Bruce the Moose Clark of Gauteng and Umko paddling fame was waxing lyrical about Struer sprinting paddles and that got me thinking about my Nimbus river paddle from Port Coquitlam in British Columbia. Not a racing paddle, not a flatwater paddle. A wild rivers work of art for slow-boating. See, I have an arrangement with rivers: I bring a boat to keep afloat, a paddle to keep upright. All forward motion must be provided by the current.

I ordered two from our trip leader Cully Erdman before we paddled the Colorado in 1984. Being left feather I didn’t want to risk being stuck up a canyon without a paddle.

Shit Creek

Dave ‘Lang Dawid’ Walker is also left feather so he used the second paddle for the twelve days. The river was running high so I didn’t touch a rock the whole 480km way. The only person I heard did touch a rock was Dave in Crystal and the gentleman he is, he immediately came to me to show me the damage: a slight scratch on the kevlar!

Bernie Garcin is holding my paddle in the top picture.

 

A Day At The Races

We were talking of our younger days when we occasionally, perhaps, got up to some light mischief which pedants might have regarded as slightly illegal. Such as hopping fences without having purchased tickets to see international sporting events at Ellis Park Joburg – rugby tests and tennis internationals. One of my fellow culprits named Stephen Charles Reed mentioned that we even ended up getting good seats. And that reminded me:

Talking of good seats: Do you remember when you took me – new in Debbin (Durban) and you an old hand, having emigrated down there a year or two before – to my first Durban July! The Rothmans Durban July Handicap?

Here’s the way I remember it:

We dressed up in the best we had and stood in a long queue to place a bet on the first race. Took forever. Then we rushed to the fence to watch the race and our horse was running in reverse and eventually had to be picked up and carried off half an hour after the race finished or it would still have been running.

Durban July horse race

Everyone then went back to the betting windows to queue again to place bets for the next race, determined to throw away their money.

This left the fence, crowded as hell a minute before, quite empty and we spotted a bench at the finish post. We scurried over and occupied it and made a very intelligent decision on the spur of the moment: We would not place any more bets, we would not move from that bench and we would spend all our money on champagne.

Best decision in the world! We saw everything, we didn’t waste our money, we got a liquid return on every cent we spent; we got delightfully pickled and awfully clever and we started making confident predictions on which nags would win. We had a system, based, I think on the deep bubbly-inspired insight “Usually It’s A Brown Horse.”

Soon people were coming up to us to inquire who they should bet on! They thought what with all the champagne and merriment that we were obviously winning and therefore knowledgeable. We freely advised them on how to invest their hard-earned cash by consulting the racing form guide – Give Beau Geste a bash! we’d say; or Sea Cottage looks good! What? Not running? Oh, try (check book): Lady Godiva! We took turns fetching more champagne.

A wonderful day at the races. ca1980. Edu-me-cational it was.

I seem to remember Steve had also convinced some lovely lass to tart herself up and accompany us in high heels? Wishful thinking? Our bench looked like this:

No – It was like this:

Rugby Heroes – or ‘Delusion’

Ode to a Tighthead Prop – Author unknown (but probly some Kiwi – they tend to wax forth after a few). The poem could also be called ‘Delusions of Grandeur.

It was midway through the season
we were just outside the four
and although I know we won it
I can’t recall the score.

But there’s one thing I remember
and to me it says a lot
about the men who front the scrum –
the men we call “the props”.

We won a lineout near half way
the backs went on a run
the flankers quickly ripped the ball
and second phase was won.

Another back then crashed it up
and drove towards the line
another maul was duly set
to attack it one more time.

The forwards pushed and rolled that maul
They set the ball up to a tee
the last man in played tight head prop
and wore the number “3”

The ball was pushed into his hands
he held it like a beer
then simply dropped to score the try –
his first in 15 years.

Then later, once the game was done
he sat amidst his team
he led the song and called himself
the try scoring machine.

But it wasn’t till the night wore on
that the truth was finally told
just two beers in, he’d scored the try
and also kicked the goal.

At 6 o’clock the try was scored
by barging through their pack
he carried two men as he scored
while stepping ’round a back.

By seven he’d run twenty yards
out-sprinting their quick men
then beat the last line of defence
with a “Jonah Lomu” fend.

By eight he’d run from near half way
and thrown a cut out pass
then looped around and run again
no-one was in his class.

By nine he’d run from end to end
his teammates stood in awe
he chipped and caught it on the full
then swan dived as he scored.

By ten he’d drunk a dozen beers
but still his eyes did glisten
as he told the story of “that try”
to anyone who’d listen.

His chest filled up, as he spoke,
his voice was filled with pride
he felt for sure he would be named
the captain of that side.

By nights end he was by himself
still talking on his own
the club was shut, the lights were out
his mates had all gone home.

And that’s why I love my front row –
they simply never stop
and why I always lend an ear

when a try’s scored by a prop.

——-ooo000ooo——-

This try was much like our mighty prop Hubby Hulbert’s try in our epic match against the InjunKnees. Do you recall? ca. 1975

Hubby found himself lying down for a brief rest on the ground under a mass of other bumsniffers when an oval object appeared next to him and he placed his hand on it. The ref went wild and indicated we had managed to beat the InjunKnees, a team no-one thought would be beaten.

We were dressed in our all-black jerseys, black shorts, black socks with OPTOMETRY in front and  ZEISS in white on the back. To show our appreciation to our jersey sponsors after a few beers – also kindly sponsored by them – we would shout “ZEISS ist Scheiss!”  I’ll admit, sometimes we weren’t impeccably behaved.

That game against those InjunKnees: We had spent 79 mins desperately defending our tryline when some scrawny scrumhalf type happened to get the ball by mistake and hoofed it as hard as he could in the opposite direction of where we’d been back-pedaling all day. Those days his hair colour matched the colour of our jersey; Nowadays the bits that are left match the colour of our logo

We got a line-out near their line, Hubby fell down, the ball fell next to him and he inadvertently became a match-winning hero. He’ll call it a tactical move.

I forget if he gave a speech afterwards in the Dev but we wouldn’t have listened to him anyway. We’d have sung ‘How The Hell Can We Buh-LEEEV You!?’

The game was played on the Normaal Kollege grounds in Empire Road, Jo’burg. We shouted for our hosts as we waited for them to finish their game so we could trot onto their field and display our brilliance. Up Normaal!! we shouted. Ab-normaal!

——-ooo000ooo——-
On 2018/12/11 Peter Brauer (he of scrawny scrumhalf fame) wrote: Classic example of how bashful props become more truthful / eloquent when their throats aren’t parched.

——-ooo000ooo——

bumsniffers – forwards; the tight five; the slow; the engine room; the brains trust; depends who you ask

InjunKnees – engineers; they had a T-shirt slogan ‘six monfs ago I cooden even spel injineer and now I are one’

Normaal Kollege – anything but

Harrismith & District Gymkhanas

Dad remembers the gymkhanas he took part in and so enjoyed in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.

They were held in Harrismith, Eeram, Verkykerskop, Mont Pelaan and Aberfeldy; and on the farms Appin near Swinburne, Primrose near van Reenen, and Maraishoek.

The entry fee was one pound per event – and prize money was less than the entry fee!

Events included Tent pegging; Sword and ring; Sword; Lance & ring; Potato & bucket.

Races were the bending race, we’ll need to ask him what that was; and the owners race, where the owner him or herself had to ride, no hiring a jockey!

Regular participants he recalls are Manie Parkhurst Wessels; Bertie van Niekerk; Kerneels Retief; Richard Goble; John Goble; Kehlaan Odendaal; his son Adriaan and his daughter Laura; Laurie Campher; Hans Spies and his kids Hansie, Pieter and Anna.

Dad says he was the only non-farmer riding! Kerneels was usually his partner.

gymkhana-tent-peg

**  internet pics  ** If anyone has some real Harrismith district gymkhana pics I’d sure love to display them – with full acknowledgment of course.

=======ooo000ooo=======

Here’s footage from a gymkhana in Cape Town in 1940. With hilarious Pommy-ish commentary.

Possible Lost Opportunity

In the shadow of old Platberg this weekend I sat down to lunch with an array of superb swimmers at my table. On my right was Sonja du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Lyn du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Pierre du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer. And that got me thinking of the days I’d line up next to the pool and on my right there’d be nobody. Nobody.

That’s because I’d fought (and easily won, you’ll see why) for the right-most lane in the shallowest part of the pool at swimming lessons. On my left was Francois vd Merwe, coming up to my navel; and on my left was Deon Joubert, coming up to my navel; and then some even shorter girls; That blerrie whistle would shriek, they’d dive in and I’d jump in – bravely; I’d sink to the bottom – very bravely – then kick powerfully in the direction of the distant other side of the pool. We were swimming breadths. The older kids – some of them as old as my younger sister Sheila and the even-younger Sonja – would swim lengths.  A few kicks off the bottom and much spluttering and gasping later I’d finally get to the blessed sanctuary of the other side of the pool just short of an asthmatic panic attack, sometimes even earning a podium place – well, if there were absentees due to coughs and colds and Harrismith’s notorious cold weather.

At about the same time I was also not a rugby player. I was in the u/11 second team it’s true, but that’s because there were 29 players and number 29 clearly deserves his place in the second fifteen-man team, nê? So although you could honestly say I was there on merit, there are also lots of other things you could say and I caused poor Giel du Toit much sadness and despair. But at the end of the season, a long season in which he had given me much encouragement and sympathetic ‘moenie worries nie’, he did an amazing thing. He did not say ‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ No. What he actually did, I swear, this is Giel’s gospel and it is amazing. He had a rush of something to somewhere and he made me captain of the u/11B team for the last game of the season.

So there I was two days later, in Vrede, barefoot in orange, holding the ball and running onto the field at the head of an orange line of fourteen laaities doing something I almost never got to do: Holding the ball.

The rest is history: I scored the winning try against the olde enemy; I grew five inches that summer; the next winter I was the tallest oke in the u/13 team; and I scored the winning try against Grey College in the last game of that amazing season. So although Giel may have fluked it and definitely didn’t have anything to do with my growth spurt; and although he may have thought that was going to anyway be my last rugby game ever, he nevertheless changed something in my brain that day. It didn’t last long, but was fun while it did.

And thinking about this long-forgotten little tale, sparked off by sitting amongst those swimmers which, let’s be honest, may have sparked off a Caster Semenya-like debate had DNA testing been available – I mean did they have mermaid genes? dolphin genes? – made me think something else: Why didn’t Joan and Joyce think of something that could have sparked me off Mark Spitz-like? I dunno: Maybe choose me to hand out the oranges at half time at a gala or something equally inspirational?

Makes you think. Joan and Joyce may have missed a big one here.

=======ooo000ooo=========

nê? – just nod; except, not about the netbal

‘moenie worries nie’ – tut tuts

‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ – Look, you don’t have a talent for rugby, OK? maybe you can sing?

laaities – athletes of note

=======ooo000ooo=======

Sheils & Bess.jpg

Two Length Swimmers at the scene of the torture

 

What a Lovely Reunion!

Pierre & Erika, Jacquie, Pikkie and me. Joined by the much younger Bonita who is seeking a single, life-long, male partner and who got much invaluable advice from us wiser, more experienced – OK, old – toppies. Mainly: “Don’t”.

We had gathered in the old home town to run the annual Harrismith Mountain Race, and some us even did just that. In fact, we even won one of the trophies on offer!

Harrismith Mtn Race 2018 (46)

Pierre and I? Well, we gave much invaluable advice as wiser, more experienced – OK, old – ex-participants on that subject, too. Mainly: “Don’t”.

We were joined in the advice department by Lyn & Sonja du Plessis, Ina van Reenen and James Bell – all in the giving afdeling, none of us in advice-receiving.

Harrismith Trip

We had to wait in the post-race chill for prize-giving to receive our trophy:

Harrismith Mtn Race 2018 (1).jpg

OK, its true that Jacquie Wessels du Toit did all the actual winning per se, but still, it felt like a team trophy.

The weekend started off chilly, a full table-cloth blanketing the mountain and a fresh east wind-in-the-willows, as seen in this picture, but it ended off perfect, as per the top picture, taken on Sunday from the top of Kings Hill. The robots changed when we drove thru, the clouds dissolved and the sky turned blue . . . . and everybody loves me baby, what’s the matter with you?

Harrismith Mtn Race 2018 (6).jpg

Saturday night at Chez Doep was delicious fresh home-made mushroom soup and bread ala Erika with light smatterings of alcohol and layers of sage advice (yep, more of the same), all of which was ignored. Bonita still seeks Prince Charming and Pikkie and Jacquie are going to run again.

Hulle wil nie luister nie.

=======ooo000ooo=======

Hulle wil nie luister nie – invaluable advice spurned

invaluable – Of great value; costly; precious; priceless; very useful; beyond calculable or appraisable value; of inestimable worth; See?

Cycling the Free State Vlaktes

Sheila asked:

Hi Koos. What make were our bikes? Something with an R. Ruttludge? Rudling?

I answered, ‘Rudge’. The same Rudge ridden by the English King.

‘Strue!

Sheila’s and Barbara’s were red, mine was blue. Given to us by Mom and Dad around 1960 to 1965, I’d guess. We were certainly in the Kleinspan School and Barbara would have started there in 1958 or 1959, Sheila in 1961 or 1962 and me in-between those dates. They made the less-than-one-mile trip to school and back a breeze. We’d park them under cover at school in special bike parks with a slot in the concrete for the front wheel to go in and metal hoops to hold them upright.

Ours were WAY more basic than the one above though. Only a back brake, no gears, no cables, no light. They did have a little L-shaped attachment in front of the handle-bar where we could attach a battery-powered square silver torchlight.

bicycle_Rudge_badge

The company Rudge-Whitworth Ltd. Coventry, England

Certainly one of the prominent makers of the classic British era … Eventually bought by Raleigh in 1943, the Rudge name takes a rightfully prominent spot in England’s cycling history.

Dan Rudge built the first Rudge high bicycles in 1870. In 1894 Rudge merged with the Whitworth Cycle Co to form Rudge-Whitworth. They made an excellent reputation for themselves over the next twenty years for producing a full range of beautifully made machines with many clever and unique features. They were ridden by King George V and family. See? There it is! Royal bums sat on seats just like ours!

The name was finally killed sometime in the early 1960s in Britain but may well have been used in export markets later.

Later on, in high school, I got a bigger black ‘dikwiel’ bike – a ‘balloon tyre bike’ – tougher more adventurous! Somewhat like these:

bicycle_1897-RUDGE-WEDGE

I asked Pierre: Can you remember what we called our dikwiel bikes? Each one had a nickname. His reply:

Bolts, Schlump and Arrii

Like yesterday

Recall the first mountain bike race now known as MBR’s down Queens hill and Tuffy whipping out the barbed wire fence.

Regards

Pierre