After the 1983 Berg River Canoe Marathon ended in Velddrif, we stopped in at Boet & Anna Swanepoel’s smallholding outside Malmesbury, about 50km north of Cape Town. Boet was Dad’s older brother. Mom and Sheila had seconded me on the race, driving my Cortina to each of the three overnight stops.
I’d forgotten this visit, remembering only an earlier 1977 visit with Larry Wingert, but Sheila had pictures! And there I am, sticking up above Uncle Boet’s head, watching the activity from a safe distance, hands in pockets. Probably too tired and cold to help after the four-day freeze I had just endured? Or lazy? I do know my hands would not have appreciated hoisting hay bales after 240km of holding a wet paddle!
We won’t mention child labour, nor overloading, nor our way of saying “I loaded the Chev with hay” rather than “I had the Chev loaded with hay”, OK?
The bakkie: My research suggests this was a 1955 Chev 3200 ‘Task Force’ 3/4 tonner. Probly with a bit more than that onboard!
How brave was that!? The longer I have teenagers of my own the more I admire my Mom and her quiet courage and fortitude back in the ’70’s! The thought of giving my teenage son my car and allowing him to disappear (it would be in a cloud of dust and tyre smoke) on a three week jaunt fills me with querulous whimpering. (I’ll do it, I’ll do it, but only ‘cos Mom did it for me).
Larry Wingert was an ex-Rotary exchange student to SA from Cobleskill, New York. He and I had been on a previous Road Trip USA in 1973; now he was teaching English in Athens and had flown to Nairobi, then traveled overland down to Joburg where we joined up and hitch-hiked to Harrismith. There, Mom parted with the Cortina keys and we drove to PMB then on to Cape Town. We took ten lazy days in going nowhereslowly style back in 1976.
Wherever we found a spot – preferably free – we camped in my little orange pup tent. In the Weza Forest we camped for free; In the Tsitsikamma we paid.
Driving through the Knysna Forest we saw a sign Beware of the Effilumps.
So we took the little track that turned off nearby and camped – for free – out of sight of the road in the undergrowth. Maybe we’d see a very rare Kynsna elephant? Not.
In Cape Town we stayed with Lynne Wade from Vryheid, lovely lass who’d been a Rotary exchange student too. She played the piano for us and I fell deeply in love, then disappeared on yet another beer-fueled mission. Coward. We also visited the delightful Dottie Moffett in her UCT res. She had also been a Rotary exchange student to SA from Ardmore, Oklahoma and was now back in SA doing her undergraduate degree. I was in love with her, too.
We headed for Malmesbury to visit Uncle Boet and Tannie Anna. Oom Boet was on top form, telling jokes and stories and laughing non-stop. That evening he had to milk the cow, so we accompanied him to the shed. Laughing and talking he would rest his forehead against the cow’s flank every now and then and shake with helpless mirth at yet another tale. Meantime, this was not what the cow was used to. It had finished the grain and usually he was finished milking when she had finished eating. So the cow backed out and knocked him off the stool, flat on his back, bucket and milking stool upturned. He took a kick at the cow, missed and put his back out. Larry and I were hosing ourselves as we helped him up and tried to restore a semblance of order and dignity.
Back at the house we gave Oom Boet and Aunt Anna a bottle of imported liqueur to say thanks for a lovely stay. It was a rather delicious chocolate-tasting liqueur and it said haselnuss mit ei. It was only a 500ml bottle, so we soon flattened it. It looked something like this:
“Ja lekker, maar ag, dis bokkerol, Kosie – Ons kan dit self maak!”
Larry and I decide to call his bluff. In the village the next day we looked for dark chocolate and hazelnuts, but hey, it’s Malmesbury – we got two slabs of Cadbury’s milk chocolate with nuts.
Oom Boet is bok for the challenge. He dives under the kitchen sink and starts hauling things out. He’s on his hands and knees and his huge bum protrudes like a plumber’s as he yells “Vrou! Waar’s die masjien?” Anna has to step in and find things and do things as he ‘organises’. She finds a vintage blender and – acting under a string of unnecessary instructions – Aunt Anna breaks eggs and separates the yolks, breaks chocolate into small pieces. Boet then bliksems it all into the blender and adds a fat dollop of a clear liquid from a label-less bottle. “Witblits, Kosie!” he says triumphantly. He looks and goois more in, then more. Then a last splash.
It looked like this, but the goo inside was yellowy-brown, not green. And it had a layer of clear liquid overlaying it nearly to the top.
He switches the blender to ‘flat-out’ with a flourish and a fine blend of egg yolk, chocolate and powerful-smelling hooch splatters all over the kitchen ceiling, walls and sink. He hadn’t put the lid on! And it was like a V8 blender, that thing.
Vroulief starts afresh, patient and good-humoured as ever. We mop, we add, he blends, and then it’s ready for tasting at last.
And undrinkable. That aeroplane fuel strength home-distilled liquor was just too violent. We take tiny little sips, but even Oom Boet has to grudgingly admit his is perhaps not quite as good or as smooth as the imported stuff. We add sugar, more chocolate and more egg yolk, but its only very slightly better, and still undrinkable.
Ten years later I still had the bottle and despite offering it to many people to sip as a party trick, it was still three-quarters full!
If we had marketed it we’d have called it Oom Boet se Bokkerol Haselnuss mit Eish!
I visited Oom Boet and Aunty Anna in a Ford Cortina again in 1983. The top featured pic with the old Chevy pickup was actually taken then.
haselnuss mit ei – hazelnuts with egg
“Ja lekker, maar ag dis bokkerol, Kosie – Ons kan dit self maak!”- Nice, but we could make this stuff ourselves!
“Vrou! Waar’s die masjien?” – Wife! Where’s the machine?
bliksems – throws
witblits – moonshine
goois – throws
Oom Boet se Bokkerol Haselnuss mit Eish! – the same stuff except very different
She actually did. My sister Barbara’s granma lived at 131 Boom Street Pietermaritzburg.
Right across the road was this school. Going to the Afrikaans school would have meant a bus ride, and Oupa was frugal.
And so started the ver-engels-ing of Dad. The rooinek-erisation. Pieter Gerhardus became ‘Peter’.
*ver-engels – Anglicisation
*rooinek – Boer word for Poms – anyone from ‘England’ – any of those islands left of France. Literally ‘red necks’ – but not American rednecks. NB: This excluded those Irishmen who fought for the Boers against the plundering, wicked, invading, looting Poms. Even though Irishmen can have very red necks.
From here (the way I understand it) they all went to Havelock Road Primary; Yanie the oldest went on to matriculate at Girls High; Lizzie the second child went on to Russell High School adjacent to the little school across the road, leaving in Std 8 to go and work; Boet finished Std 6 at Havelock Road and got his first job at Edel’s Shoe Factory, his second in Howick at Dunlop. On the way back one day he crashed his motorbike and injured himself badly. Lizzie arranged a bursary for Dad the youngest to go to Maritzburg College where he left in April in his matric year to join the post office as an apprentice electrician.