Pencil Thin Moustache

(draft)

Whenever I hear Jimmy Buffet singing Pencil Thin Mustache I think of my uncle Dudley, oops, my cousin Dudley.

Dudley Bain was a character and my cousin. I’d known him over the years when he used to visit his old home town of Harrismith, but really got to know him once I started practicing optometry in Durban. He was very fond of his first cousin, my Mom Mary – and thus, by extension, of me.

Dudley worked in the Mens Department of John Orrs in downtown Durban back when there was only downtown. Anybody who was anybody worked in downtown. Anywhere else was “the sticks”. Even in 1980 I remember someone saying “Why would you want to be out there?” when optometrists De Marigny & Lello opened a practice in a little insignificant upstairs room on the Berea above a small gathering of shops called Musgrave Centre.

Dapper, hair coiffed, neatly dressed, he had a pencil thin moustache and definite opinions. He was highly chuffed he now had a pet family optometrist to look after him when I first hit downtown and then Musgrave centre. Fitting his frame was a challenge as he got skin cancer and his surgeon lopped off ever-bigger pieces of his nose and ears until he had no ear one side and a tiny little projection on which to hook his glasses on the other side. He would come in for endless appointments “to see my cousin” – where’s my cousin? – for me to adjust his frames by micro-millimetres to his satisfaction. If the ladies said I was busy he’d get an imperious look, clutch his little handbag a bit tighter and state determinedly “I know he’ll see me”. They loved him and always made sure I saw him. He’d “only need a minute” just to adjust his frame, not to test his eyes, and half an hour later their knocks on the door would get ever more urgent. Then they’d ring me and I’d say “got to go”.

I would visit occasionally at their lovely old double storey home in Sherwood – on a panhandle off Browns Grove I think. Then they moved to an A-frame-shaped double storey home out Hillcrest way.

We had long chats while I was his pet optometrist and I wish I could remember more of them. I’ll add as they come floating back. (I’m trying to remember his favourite car). One thing he often mentioned was the sound of the doves in his youth. How that was his background noise that epitomised Harrismith.

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Dudley married the redoubtable Ethne, Girl Guides maven. I found this website, a tribute to Lady Baden-Powell, World Chief Guide:

Olave St. Clair Soames, Lady Baden-Powell, G.B.E., World Chief Guide, died in 1977. In 1987 her daughter and granddaughter, Betty Clay and Patience Baden-Powell, invited readers to send in their memories of the Chief Guide to The Guider magazine.

They wrote:-
Everyone who knew Olave Baden-Powell would have a different story to tell, but if all the stories were gathered together, we would find certain threads which ran through them all, the characteristics which made her beloved. Here are a few of the remembrances that people have of her, and if these spark off similar memories for you, will you please tell us?

Here’s Ethne’s contribution:
3 West Riding Rd., Hillcrest, Natal 3610, South Africa
When I was a newly-qualified teacher and warranted Brownie Guider in Kenya in 1941, our Colony Commissioner – Lady Baden-Powell – paid a visit to the Kitale Brownie Pack.  Due to an epidemic of mumps, the school closed early and Lady B-P was not able to see the children, but she took the trouble to find me and had a chat across the driveway (quarantine distance) for a short time.

A year later at a big Guide Rally at Government House in Nairobi, the Guides and Brownies were on parade, and after inspection Lady B-P greeted us all individually, and without hesitation recognized me as the Guider who had mumps at Kitale.  Each time we met in the future, she joked about the mumps.

My next encounter was some twenty years later, on a return visit to Kenya, in 1963, with my husband, our Guide daughter D. and our Scout son P.  We stayed at the Outspan Hotel at Nyeri where the B-Ps had their second home Paxtu.  We soon discovered that Lady B-P was at home, but the Hotel staff were much against us disturbing their distinguished resident.  However, we knew that if she knew that a South African Scout/Guide family were at hand she would hastily call us in.  A note was written – “A S.A. Scout, Guide and Guider greet you.”  Diana followed the messenger to her bungalow but waited a short distance away.  As lady B-P took the note she glanced up and saw our daughter.  We, of course, were not far behind.  Immediately she waved and beckoned us to come, and for half-an-hour we chatted and were shown round the bungalow, still cherished and cared for as it had been in 1940-41.

Baden-Powell house Nyeri Kenya

It was easy to understand her great longing to keep returning to this beautiful peaceful place, facing the magnificent peaks of Mount Kenya with such special memories of the last four years of B-P’s life.  From her little trinket-box, Lady B-P gave me a World Badge as a memento of this visit which unfortunately was lost in London some years later.  Before leaving Nyeri we visited the beautiful cedar-wood Church and B-P’s grave facing his beloved mountain.

My most valued association with Lady B-P was the privilege and honour of leading the organization for the last week of her Visit in March 1970.  Each function had a lighter side and sometimes humorous disruption by our guest of honour.  The magnificent Cavalcade held at King’s Park, PieterMaritzBurg deviated from schedule at the end when Lady B-P called the Guides and Brownies of all race groups to come off the stand to her side; they were too far away.  A surge of young humanity made for the small platform in the centre of the field where she stood with one Commissioner, a Guide and three Guiders.  Without hesitation, Gervas Clay (her son-in-law) leapt down from the grandstand two steps at a time and just made Lady B-P’s side before the avalanche of children knocked her over.  Anxious Guide officials wondered how they were going to get rid of them all again.  The Chief Guide said to them, “When I say SHOO, go back to your places, you will disappear.”  Lo, and behold, when she said “SHOO, GO back!” they all turned round and went back.  You could hear the Guiders’ sighs of relief.

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Steve: Hilarious – I reckon every family worth its salt should have had an uncle like that. Something for the kids to giggle about in secret at the family gatherings while the adult dads make grim poker faced humorous comments under their breath while turning the chops on the braai. And for the mums to adore the company of. Good value.

And funny Steve should mention that! Sheila remembers:

“After Annie’s funeral, in our lounge in Harrismith, Dudley was pontificating about something and John Taylor muttered to me under his breath ‘Still an old windgat.'”

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Family tree:

(Sheila to check): Dudley was the (eldest?) son of Ginger (Stewart) (eldest?) son of Stewart who came out to Harrismith from Scotland in 1878. My gran Annie Bain Bland was Stewart’s sister, so Mom Mary Bland Swanepoel and Dudley were first cousins.

Mfolosi Wilderness Walk

The Umfolosi Wilderness is a special place. Far too small, of course, but its what we have. I’m reading Ian Player’s account of how Magqubu Ntombela taught him about wilderness and Africa and nature. The idea of a wild place where modern man could go to escape the city and re-discover what Africa was like was born and actioned.

My first trail was ca 1990, when I went with Dusi canoeing buddies Doug Retief, Martin & Marlene Loewenstein and Andre Hawarden. We were joined by a young lass on her own, sent by her father, who added greatly to the scenery:

What a beauty! 'Our' 19yr old D___ (Donna?); Martin Lowenstein on right
Martin peers; I grimace; We’re both thinking of the gorgeous Donna next to me!

A good sport, she took our gentle teasing well.

We went in my kombi and some highlights I recall were:

Doug offering “bah-ronies” after lunch one day. We were lying in the shade of a tree after a delicious lunch made by our guides: Thick slices of white bread, buttered and stuffed with generous slices of tomato and onion, salt and black pepper. Washed down with tea freshly brewed over a fire of Thomboti wood. Doug fished around in his rucksack and gave us each a mini Bar One (“bah-ronie”, geddit?). Best tasting chocolate I ever ate, spiced as it was with hunger and exertion.

After the five-night trail we went for a game drive on the way out of the park. Needing a leak after a few bitterly cold brews I left the wheel with the kombi trundling along amiably and walked to the side door of the kombi, ordering Hawarden to take over the driving. Not good at taking orders, he looked at me, waited till I was in mid-stream out of the open sliding door and leant over with his hiking stick and pressed the accelerator. The driverless kombi picked up speed and I watched it start to veer off-road, necessitating a squeezed premature end to my leak and a dive for the wheel. Thanks a lot, Hawarden!

Pleasure,’ he murmured mildly. Hooligan!

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Thirty years later Andre Hooligan Hawarden wrote:

“Hey, remember that cool walk we did in the game reserve when you had the tape recorder and we attracted the owl? Then next day we lay on the bank of the Umlofosi river and watched the vultures coming down for a lunch time drink and a snooze? That was a wonderful experience. I’ve never forgotten it.”

Satchmo, Theunis and Mary

Schoolfriend Mariette (van Wyk) Greyling responded to my post on Mom’s 90th birthday:

Please wish your mom happy happy from me (if she still remembers me). The daughter of TP who taught them to sing “and the dogs say goodnight” – Louis Armstrong.

My dad was crazy about ol’ Satchmo. He would have loved seeing this. I got my love for music from him. Those last three weeks that he and my mom spent with me on a remote farm in the Cederberg in December 2006 I introduced him to U2 and Pink Floyd. He was smitten. So my last Xmas gift to him was U2’s Rattle and Hum and Pink Floyd’s Division Bell.

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I said:

Oh, Mary will remember you alright! We only had a few families we’d hang out with, kuier with and sing with, and for a happy while that was Theunis and Martie van Wyk. They both still often talk about the factory and the characters who worked there. Stan Moseley was one. I learnt recently that Petra Bissett worked there a while. That factory your Dad ran was a HUGE part of Harrismith in its day. Luigi Bellato worked there. He, Luigina and sons Claudio and Ennio were great family friends of ours.

Tell me more about “goodnight” – I remember Satchmo singing Hello Dolly and What a Wonderful World . . .

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I phoned Mom;

Mother Mary; Mary Methodist. She never ceases to amaze!
I said : Do you remember going to Theunis and Martie van Wyk’s home and listening to Louis Armstrong?

I didn’t have to say another word.

Mary said:

I heard it just yesterday! Someone played me Satchmo singing “What a Wonderful World” just yesterday! It was so good hearing it again after all these years.
Theunis had a record player and he used to play it loud and Satchmo said
“and the dogs say goodnight” instead of “and the dark sacred night”! Mariette was in your class and then there was Anita and Boeta.
And you know Martie’s really not well; She just cries and cries.

I asked: Where did you hear about Martie? She said:

Oh, Dossie Farquhar tells me everything. She’s in the same home in Bethlehem. She is Dossie de Villiers; She has two sons in Bethlehem, Neil and someone. Dossie is from Scotland, of course. She phoned me for my birthday and she’s also turning ninety this week so I’ll phone her on her cell. No-one sends cards anymore. I got four cards: Yours from Jessie and Tom; Sheila’s that you all signed that was originally a card to Sheila from Annie (in 1974). And two others. I got lots of phone calls instead.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWzrABouyeE

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(the dogs say goodnight about 45secs in)

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Mariette:

Your mom is incredible! What a pin-sharp mind! Goodness. If only my mother could speak to her it would mean the world to her. None of her old friends have been in touch. I mentioned to you that I dread the twice weekly phone calls because she just cries and cries. One-way conversation.  But she is trapped  inside a body with no motor functions – only has hearing and a fairly sharp mind. Binswanger’s Syndrome.  

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Mariette:

Mary on piano, Pieter, Martie, Theunis, Hugo and Linda Wessels in a semi-circle around her. All well-oiled, singing What a wonderful world, but my dad said the last line should be ‘and the dogs say good night’, instead of the usual ‘and the dark sacred night.’ Then they would hose themselves, singing it again and again. More raucous hilarity. Me in my room busy with world-important affairs trying to get to grips with Goethe’s Sturm und Drang works, plus they were upsetting my poor dog Nikki. I think I was at that very self-important teenage stage. Couldn’t believe adults were so mal.

They loved those evenings. Theunis was so enamoured with your mom’s piano playing. Wanted me to to emulate her. Afraid those were my Led Zeppelin years, so please, no wishy washy jazz for me.

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Ah, I had just sent you the email above and then I saw yours.

One of the enduring warm memories I have of childhood is my Mom on the piano surrounded by dronk friends. Her maximum intake was one brandy and ginger ale. ONE!

They called themselves The Goor Koor. Other members were Albertus and Margie Badenhorst, Steve and Hester Schreiber; Jack and Isobel Kemp; And many others over the years.

We’d get sent to bed and I would wait a while and – unable to resist – crawl on my tummy hard against the wall all the way down that long passage and lie just out of sight outside the lounge door; listening; fascinated.

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When not surrounded by alcohol fumes and cigarette smoke – remember how they used to smoke like chimneys indoors!? ashtrays all over the place! – Mary would play classics.

Then of course every week she would dutifully practice the hymns she’d be playing on Sunday.

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I too, took piano lessons! Or ‘lesson’. I went to Miss Underwood in my rugby boots. When the next lesson time came I dodged it.

She phoned home – 260 – and Barbara answered, calling me to the phone. She heard the conversation thus:

“Yes Miss Underwood; Yes, Miss Underwood; Yes, Miss Underwood”

**click**

I’M NOT GOING!!

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Nor did I ever attend another lesson.

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Early Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars won’t need steering wheels one day.

Car, Self-Driving

Reminds me of thinking WTF? at the wheel of my puke-green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon on the corner of Musgrave Road and St Thomas near the Robert E Lee nightclub of old after hearing a loud thump left rear. What could that be? I asked my companions, but them being drunk they just thought whatever it was it was hilarious. Irresponsible passengers!

Either the pavement had leaned forward and caught the wheel and whipped the tyre off the rim, or the self-driving car had irresponsibly cut the corner. Nothing to do with me, but now I had to try and change that tyre while planet earth was rotating dizzyingly all round me irregardless. Peugeot having not yet perfected the self-changing tyre. My companions were only a handicap, giving raucous and useless advice. They’d been drinking.

And do you think the planet would just cool it for a minute and rotate and revolve less vigorously while I wrestled with the diplopia, the wheel and the swaying? No, in fact I swear it accelerated somewhat. Probably a Chandler wobble happened just then, moving the wheel about 9m from where I was trying to change it. It happens every 433 days.

Being a superb handyman and able to handle my liquor, and by leaning my forehead against the wheel-arch, I got the wheel changed and we staggered into the Robert E Lee and ordered a round, the drunks still telling me what I coulda, shoulda.

In the morning I staggered to the window in Wakefield Court Doctors Quarters in Durban’s Point Road area to look down at the Peugeot parked below in Prince Street. That feeling of relief that it was there and the mystery as to how it got there. Auto-pilot. Who needs Elon Musk?

1974 Peugeot OHS 5688_2
This colour – but a handsome French wagon like the feature pic –        OHS 5688

Of course I no longer do that shit. In fact the last time I acted irremesponsibly was LONG ago in Mocambique after a few mega R&R’s (rum n raspberries). I was much younger. Must be eight, nine years ago. And I wasn’t driving. A drunk driver on the sand roads in the dunes was trying to shake me off the roof of his 4X4.

So why can’t my kids just skip this portion of their lives? I ask. I also ask critics of self-driving cars, ‘You really think cars can do a worse job than some of us drivers?’

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My first R&R actually astonished me, true. The barman in Ponta da Oura (you guys will remember his name) filled the 500ml beer tankard with ice then poured cheap rum out of a plastic bottle to 1cm from the top. NO! I laughed, Whoa! Not so much! He looked at me in genuine concerned sadness and said “It is too late. I have already poured it”. I understood then, as I watched him add a splash of Schweppes raspberry. This was how it played in Ponta. I girded my loins. It would have to be done.

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Part of Earth’s wobble may be our fault for driving around aimlessly at night burning up fossil fuels! Seems since 1899, the Earth’s axis of spin has shifted about 10.5 meters. Seems a third of the shift is due to melting ice and rising sea levels, particularly in Greenland. Another third of the wobble is due to land masses expanding upward as the glaciers retreat and lighten their load. The final portion is the fault of the slow churn of the mantle, the viscous middle layer of the planet.

 

Bugged by Bugs in a Red Bug in Canada

north america map

Stage Three (in yellow on the map) of my Great North American Road Trip started in Cobleskill in upstate New York, where Stage Two had ended.

A red VW Bug swept up the drive and out poured three lovely Okies and an Aussie. Sherry Porter, owner of the Bug and twins Dottie and Dale Moffett. Sherry had been a favourite high school teacher of the girls in Ardmore a few years prior. Jonathan Kneebone was an Aussie, a character, say no more. Liked a beer.

We headed north to the Canadian border. At the border the man leaned in, asked “All American?” and was about to wave us through when Jonathan and I said “Um, no”. “Australian” said Kneebone and the man made to step back again and wave us through when he registered what I had said. “Uh, come with me please sir. I need to check your passport,” he said. An hour later we were off again – to Montreal. That’s where you see Dottie sitting on the grass.

On to Ottawa where we bumped into Indira Ghandi on a state visit to Pierre Trudeau. She chose to arrive while we were staring at some government building or other. I’m not sure I’ve seen another head of state in the flesh ever. Oh well, one’s enough.

Somewhere around here I dinged Sherry’s car! “I’ll drive!” I shouted as we headed for the pub. I promptly reversed and BANG! I got out and saw to my great relief – how horrible was this!? – that I’d hit a huge Dodge pickup with a bumper a yard deep; not a scratch on it! Poor Sherry’s prize VW wasn’t so lucky. I wrecked her left rear fender and light and I had no money to pay for the damage. DAMN!! Sherry of course was an absolute star about it, bless her!

Dottie, Dale, Jonathan, me and Sherry in Sherry's Bug: Canada here we come!

Then Toronto, Waterloo and up around Lake Superior, Sudbury, Sault St Marie, Thunder Bay. What a sight Superior was! Biggest stretch of fresh water imaginable. For a Vrystater, awe-inspiring! We camped en route wherever we could squirrel away for free. Only once were we shoo-ed, but by a Mountie with a big hat, so it was worth it!

Canada Mountie, Patrol Car

Here we used a rock for a mattress. We had just woken up but Kneebone was already being Australian!

Me, Dottie, Dale & Jonathan Kneebone (can you guess where from?) in Canada
Me, Dottie, Dale & Jonathan Kneebone (can you guess where from?)

Once we stayed in an old railway station converted to a sort of backpackers, the track ripped up and turned into a trail. Then we needed to go canoeing. When in Canada, canoe! So we hired two boats in Quetico National Park, Lake of the Woods (take all these names with a pinch of salt; these are 45yr-old memories!). Internet pictures of the area:

After one night we turned back and ran, tails between our legs! We had spent the day trying to dodge dark clouds of midges and no-see-ems, or black flies. When you ran your hand through your hair it came out covered in blood. That night we pitched the tents on an island in a cloud of mozzies. We lined up with our kit, zipped open, dived in and zipped up immediately. So fast that we only had fourteen million mosquitoes in the tent, a fraction of what was hovering and zeeeee-ing outside! Ama-azing! Canada sure has bugs!!

But what beautiful country:

Lake Woods 3

As we’d cut our canoe trip short we decided to carry on into Manitoba, but Canada is vast, so we soon cut back and headed south for the US border at International Falls, into Minnesota, across the Mississippi River where its still quite small and headed south for Iowa, where I had to leave the gang.

My host family from Apache Don & Jackie Lehnertz were up there and would be driving me back to Apache via Iowa, Missouri and Kansas on Stage Four. I’m afraid I slept a lot of that trip!

map Road Trip USA Home to Apache 1973

 

 

Road Trip Out West

Jim n Katie Patterson, wonderful host family in Apache took girlfriend Dottie Moffett and I on a special trip out west, driving across the Texas panhandle to New Mexico, where Jim’s Mom Merrell had a cottage outside Red River in the Sangre de Christo mountains.

Granma Merrill's Cottage outside Red River
Granma Merrill’s Cottage outside Red River

Here we stayed with the gang – the wonderful group of Apache friends the Pattersons hung out with: Manars, Hrbaceks, Mindemanns and Paynes.

After a terrific stay there, we headed off to Vegas in their Ford LTD via Colorado and Utah

Colorado1973 (4).JPG
The LTD, with Dottie Moffett, Katie and Jim Patterson

In Colorado we rode a historic steam train from Durango north to Silverton.

Then via Utah, where we visited Bryce Canyon and Zion NP.

Bryce Canyon small

In Vegas we stayed at The Stardust on The Strip. I learnt to gamble, I learnt to win. I battled to lose. Dottie was a good luck charm! I kept winning small amounts so kept on and on gambling, determined to lose. Finally as dawn approached we were down by a considerable fortune – $10 – and could go to bed.

We saw Joan Rivers being delightfully rude and Petula Clark warbling away (also Joan warbled a song and Pet told a joke!). I learnt a Vegas rule when saw Jim slip the doorman a cri$p note to get us a good table!

StardustSign1973
1973 Vegas strip scene

After Vegas we stopped off at The Grand Canyon: We stared down at this awesome sight from the lookout on the south rim. We only had a few hours there, so we’re just look-see tourists. Suddenly I couldn’t stand it! I had to get down there.

I started running down the Bright Angel trail. It’s about 10km to the river. I’ll give myself an hour, I think. The run was easy on a well-maintained track with the only real obstacle being the ‘mule trains’. Only once I had to step off the trail and let a bunch of mules pass. I made sure I was on the upside!

Bright Angel trailhead
Bright Angel Trail seen from the South Rim. Grand Canyon NP, Arizona.

At first it was all open desert trail, but at Indian Gardens I was surprised by the amount of greenery in the canyon. From the rim it looks like all desert, but in the protected gorges there’s green shrubbery and even some tall trees.

Indian Gardens Grand Canyon.jpg

In well under an hour I got to just above the river. I stared in awe at the swiftly-moving blue-green water. I had never seen such a large volume of water flowing clear like that. Our South African rivers mostly run muddy and I wasn’t expecting clear water. Right then I thought I MUST get onto this river! I’d started kayaking a couple of years before, but if I’d been asked I’d probably have said on a raft, little knowing that in eleven years time I would kayak past that very spot, under that same bridge in 1984 on a flood-level river!

bridge grand canyon.jpg
1973 on foot

The hike back out was steep, but hey, I was 18yrs old! Cross-country running had been my favourite obsession the year before, so no (or an acceptable amount of) sweat!

In ’84 I arrived under that bridge in my kayak. Here our supporting rafts heave to:

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (27)
Same bridge eleven years later in a kayak

Then we headed home, by and large following the old historic Route 66 – the new I40. Flagstaff Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, and back to Oklahoma. Me to Apache and Dottie on to Ardmore. What a wonderful trip!

I learned later:

  • The name Colorado was for its muddy colour and its clarity is in fact an undesirable artifact because of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell upstream;
  • The 10km climb down Bright Angel is about 1000m vertically, and every metre you’re going back about 100 000 years in geological time!
  • They tell you Do Not try to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day!
  • Jim has hiked the rim to rim hike through the canyon a number of times since – an annual pilgrimage – the last time he did it he was 70!

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***most pics off the ‘net – I’ll add my own when I find them!***

Road Trip with Larry USA

My four-stage 1973 road trip started in Apache Oklahoma. We drove down in the Ford LTD in Stage One to stay with Mama and Papa Hays, Katie Patterson’s folks, in Shreveport Louisiana. There we ‘visited’, played golf and ate superbly. Larry and his sister Ginny joined us, having driven down from Cobleskill NY and we got ready for Stage Two of my Great North American Road Trip: Heading north-east in a grey Volkswagen Bug.

Ginny, Katie, Mama Hays, Jimmy, Papa Hays, Larry, Mary-Kate in Shreveport LA
Ginny, Katie, Mama & Papa Hays, Jimmy, Larry, Mary-Kate – Shreveport LA

One more passenger meant we needed a U-Haul carrier on the roof.

Larry VW Bug Shreveport

I remember surprisingly little about this trip north-east! We left the Red River and crossed the Arkansas River near Little Rock; I remember camping:

Larry VW Bug Camping

I remember crossing the mighty Mississippi River in or near St Louis, where the Missouri joins it;

The only thing I remember clearly is hoping my ID would be checked at the door when we went for my very first legal beer at a TGIF bar in Missouri (it wasn’t).

And I remember getting to Larry’s hometown Cobleskill, a beautiful little town in upstate New York, and meeting his parents.

The Wingert's place in Cobleskill NY

That’s a really vague and sketchy recollection of a magic route! Larry doesn’t remember much more. He’s going to ask his sister Virginia.