Please Release Me Let Me Go!

July 1970. The All Blacks were on tour. We had gone to Bethlehem – surely the only town in the world where a big sign saying FAKKELHOF welcomes you as you drive in? – to see them play. Bryan Williams, the first Maori allowed to play in South Africa (inconveniently fast, handsome and popular) scored a try in his first game in an All Blacks jersey. I think our Dawie Fourie played against them. Check the Bethlehem news with more coverage of the pomptroppies than the rugby: “en daar was rugby ook”: We got klapped 43-9, so the rugby was just an afterthought!

Now they were playing Free State (or Vrystaat) in Bloem and my mate Jean le Roux and I decided we needed to go and see the game. We hitch-hiked, arrived in time and watched the game. Let’s conveniently forget the score. You know how those All Blacks are.

After the game we realised it was getting dark and cold. We had made zero plans or arrangements, so we made our way to the police station, told our tale of need and were met with excited enthusiasm and hospitality. NOT. We were actually met with indifference and ignored. Eventually one konstabel saw us and asked, “Wat maak julle hier?” and we told our tale again. He said nothing but fetched some keys and beckoned us to follow him. “There’s a ladies cell vacant”, he muttered, letting us in and locking the door behind us.

Toilet in the corner with no cistern, no seat and a piece of wire protruding through a hole in the wall: the chain. Four mattresses with dirty grey blankets. Lots of graffitti, mostly scratched into the plaster. Yirr, some vieslike words! We slept tentatively, trying to hover above those mattresses, which were also vieslik, and woke early, eager to hit the road back to Harrismith. After waiting a while we started peering out of the little hole in the door, hoping someone would walk past. Then we called politely with our lips at the hole. Eventually we started shouting – to no avail. After what seemed like ages someone came to the door. Thank goodness!

“Please open up and let us out, we have to hitch-hike back to Harrismith”, we said, eagerly. “Dink jy ek is vokken mal?” * came the voice and he walked off. We realised it was probably a new shift and no-one knew about our innocence!

We had to bellow and yell and perform before we eventually could get someone to believe us and let us out.

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* Do you think I’m crazy?

vieslik – disgusting

Rocky Horror in Senekal, Vrystaat

1971: Rugby in Bloemfontein, Springboks vs the Frogs.
After the game, Tabs, Des, Raz, Stervis and I are driving back when the kroeg (no way you could call it a pub) in Senekal beckoned.
By the time the barman threw us out Des had bonded deeply with one of Senekal’s left-behinds and when we suggested we leave for home rather than go home with Deliverance for a braai, Des told us in no uncertain terms that WE could go but HE was not leaving his lifelong mate (of three hours) in the lurch.

ONE fing we must NOT do, we were told when we got to the small house on the wrong side of Senekal, is wake his wife. Lemme tell you carefully, you must not, no marrer whut you do, wake my wahf, you hear?

Wooden floors, five drunk ous stumbling around, I started to think this goon doesn’t actually have a wife, and if he does she’s in pieces in the chest deepfreeze. Which is where Conan is, scratching around and hauling out what looks like a roundish, rock-hard lump of blood in a plastic checkers.
Des, we should go, this is going to take forever.
It’s like Des told us: WE can go, but HE’s not leaving his lifelong mate.

Eventually a fire gets going – sort of – and the icy red lump piece of deceased wife sits on it, refusing to melt. (Another recollection is the oven was turned on and the lump placed in there. Exact facts are hazy). It’s midnight in June in Senekal, Vrystaat. It’s not hot.

Meantime, Jack Nicholson has found some dop and we have to drink, and luckily this puts him to sleep and mellows the Glutz so we’re able to persuade him to make a bolt for it, hitting the Senekal dirt roads till we find the tar to Harrismith. (Another recollection has the Wildman pulling out a gun and taking potshots as the getaway car spins madly down the driveway).

Bliksem!

To this day I can experience that weird, out-of-body sensation of “WTF are we DOING here? Am I in a bad movie or in a bad dream?!”