Rust in Vrede means Rest in Peace. Rust in Warden was anything but peaceful on account of an invasion of hooligans from the Last Outpost of the British Empire – a flock of unruly wimmin studying to be teachers back in March 1976. It took us gentlemen from behind the boerewors curtain in the salubrious Johannesburg suburb of Doornfontein to bring some decorum to this rustic spot.
Rust, meaning ‘rest’ was Tabs Fyvie’s farm in the Warden district with a lovely empty farmhouse which we colonised, spreading sleeping bags on the wooden floors. Overflow slept on the lawn. Beers, ribaldry and laughter. Tall tale telling . .
. . can’t remember eating . .
And thanks to sister Sheila we have 1976 pictures!
Now we know why, when you have had a few too many, your lumpy laughter can be so spectacular . . .
Check out ‘bevshots‘ where some dude had a sudden thought – probly while suitably under the affluence of incohol. BevShots® are photographs of alcohol under a microscope. These high-quality photographs of your favorite beers, wines, cocktails, liquers and mixers were taken after they had been crystallized on a slide and shot under a polarized light microscope. As the light refracts through the beverage crystals, the resulting photos have naturally magnificent colors and composition. Just like we had a naturally magnificent complexion, and erudite verbal composition while it was in our veins on its way to our brains where it belongs. Cheers!
These pics explain why sometimes when you shoot a cat, it turns out to be a whole Bengal Tiger.
Improve your vocabulary: Don’t just say ‘vomit,’ use descriptive terms and synonyms: sidewalk pizza; burp cubed; spew; lumpy laughter; technicolor yawn; shoot a cat; chunder; upchuck; barf; vomit; hurl; ralph; brauer; purge; puke; hork; honk; buick; regurgitate; throw up; belch your boerewors; toss your cookies; lose your lunch; toss a pavement pizza; perform peristaltic pyrotechnics; paint the town red . . and yellow-green, orange and pink; calling Ralph on the big white telephone; pray to the porcelain god; grocery yodel.
It was advice from my chairman and as a new, fairly young member, I trusted him implicitly. You add sherry to your beer, said Allie Peter with a knowing nod. When we got to the bottle store in Cradock he spotted me at the till with a dozen Black Labels and a bottle of Old Brown Sherry.
‘No, Swanie,’ he came with more advice, ‘Get Ship Sherry. You can get TWO bottles for the price of one Old Brown.’ As a new, fairly young member, I trusted my chairman of the Kingfisher Canoe Club implicitly, so I dutifully swopped my bottle for two Ship Sherries. This decision was going to reverberate . .
At Gattie’s townhouse (that’s Malcolm Phillips Esq. to you) we stood around with cans of beer in our hands, topping them up with sherry every so often. It worked a treat and was a marvelous idea. I could see my chairman had been around and knew a thing or two. The mix seemed to enhance my paddling knowledge and experience vastly.
Much later that night I was busy expounding on some finer point of competitive paddling – probably on how one could win the race the next day – when I realised in mid-sentence, with my one finger held high to emphasise that important point I was making, that I was completely alone in Gattie’s lounge. Everyone had buggered off to bed and I had no-one to drink with. I looked around and found a corner, downed the rest of my berry mix and lay down to sleep. It was carpeted, I think.
Later I remember through a slight haze seeing Gattie asking if his prize bull was being slaughtered, but when he saw it was only me kneeling and hugging the porcelain bowl, he said ‘Oh’ and went back to bed. The porcelain bowl had amplified my sounds of slight distress like a large white telephone, waking him up in his bedroom far down the other end of the house.
It must have been a good clearing out as I felt fine when we left for the Grassridge Dam and the start of the marathon in Bruce Gillmer’s kombi a few hours later. Dave and Michelle were there and I spose some other hooligan paddlers and I’m sure my boat was on the roofrack. After a few km’s there was an ominous rumble and I knew I had a little lower intestinal challenge; which would have been fine – and some fun – if there hadn’t been a lady – and a real lady she is, too – in the bus.
I had to warn them. It was soon after a famous nuclear disaster, so I announced ‘We need to stop the bus or there will be a Chernobyl-like disaster on board.’ Bruce was a bit slow to respond, so it was only when the waft hit his own personal nostrils that he pulled over smartly and let me release the rest of the vapour at the roadside. Ah, that was better. With the pressure off I was fine again. I did notice I wasn’t talking so much about winning the race though.
The grumbling re-occurred on the dam, making that start the roughest I have ever endured. The wind and the waves on Grassridge Dam were worse than any rapids I have ever paddled. I was very glad to carry my boat down to the Fish River – leaving the dam stone last, I’m sure.
The river was plain sailing and the rest of the day a pleasure.
That night I sipped daintily at plain beer. I was beginning the long slow process of learning to think carefully when considering advice freely given by sundry Chairmen of Kingfisher Canoe Club.
My dates don’t tally. I thought I did the 1983 Fish, but Chernobyl was in 1986. I must have done the 1986 Fish. All I know is, the rinderpest was still a thing . .
The first race in 1982 attracted 77 paddlers in 52 boats. 37 boats finished the race, as the thick willows and many fences on the upper stretches of the river took their toll. It was won by Sunley Uys from Chris Greeff, the first person to shoot Cradock weir in the race.
In those days, the race was held on a much lower river, 13 cumecs (roughly half of the current level!) and it started with a very long – over 50km – first day. The paddlers left the Grassridge Dam wall and paddled back around the island on the dam before hitting the river, eventually finishing at the Baroda weir, 2,5km below the current overnight stop. The paddlers all camped at Baroda overnight, before racing the shorter 33km second stage into Cradock.
Stanford Slabbert says of the first race “In those days the paddlers had to lift the fences – yussis! remember the fences! – and the river mats (fences weighed down by reeds and flotsam and jetsam) took out quite a few paddlers. Getting under (or over) them was quite an art”.
“I recall one double crew”, says Slabbert. “The front paddler bent forward to get under the fence and flicked the fence hoping to get it over his partners head as well. It didn’t. The fence caught his hair and pulled him right out of the boat and they swam!”
Legends were already being born. Herve ‘Caveman’ de Rauville stunned spectators by pioneering a way to shoot Marlow weir. He managed to reverse his boat into the chute on the extreme left, and took the massive slide back into the river going forward, and made it!
The field doubled in 1983, as the word of this great race spread. 145 paddlers in 110 boats. It was won on debut by Joburg paddler Niels Verkerk, who recalls, ‘It was a very long first day, especially as the river was not as full as it is now (it was running at 17 cumecs in 1983). Less than half the guys shot Keiths, which was not that bad as the hole at the bottom wasn’t that big.’
At a medium level, the lines at Soutpansdrift were also different. The weir above Soutpans was always a problem, as there was no chute, no pipes. At the bottom of the rapid, the only line was extreme left, underneath the willow tree – yussis! remember the low-hanging willow trees! – and then a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid hitting the rocks, where the spectators gather like vultures.
A visit to Tuffy, then stationed on the Bluff in Durban with Recce Battalion was a happy reunion. There he was in uniform and me with long hair, his student mate from Harrismith. He introduced me to his sergeant ‘Vingers’ Kruger and all his comrades and announced we’d be partying tonight.
We started off at the famous / notorious Smugglers Inn off Point Road and had a good few there, warming up to a fun night on the tiles. On our way out, en route to a nice place one of the guys knew where ladies would remove their tops with sufficient encouragement, we heard shouting – screaming really – in the alley next to the entrance to Smuggies: ‘You’re married to my sister and here I catch you fucking a man!’ We didn’t wait to hear the fellow’s explanation for his errant behaviour – the other side of the story, y’know, in fairness – but there were some smacking sounds.
Later outside another nightclub a few insults thrown around started a fight between some of the short-haired soldiers and a group of longer-haired ‘civvies’. In the interests of transparency, one of our boys had started it. It soon developed into a brawl and the cops were there in a flash. They took no nonsense and a number of prisoners, throwing anyone near the fighting indiscriminately into the back of the black maria. Which was grey, not black. I tried to explain how very innocent I was, having hung back and danced around the edges of the fight, but was told to fokkin keep quiet and shoved into the van.
As we huddled uncomfortably and with foreboding with some of the okes who minutes before had been throwing punches at us – OK, for me, potentially anyway – I saw through the mesh window Sersant Vingers having a quiet word with the cop in charge. Probably something about fellows-in-uniform, our obvious innocence, how little we’d had to drink, how the blackguards had attacked us, look at their hairstyles and other good, if biased, points. The cop in charge nodded and approached the door of our van. As Vingers pointed out his men – we all looked the same in civilian clothes – the cop brusquely shouted ‘You, you and you! OUT!’ Thankfully Vingers included me among ‘his’ men. Any friend of Tuffy’s was a friend of Vingers’.
Once Vingers had counted his men he trooped us back into the club with a grin for a victory drink, with lots of congratulatory slaps raining down on his back. ‘Justice’ had been served.
You give some old bullets the internets, and what happens? – A bunch of unlikely and involuntary ‘soldiers’ turn to reminiscing . .
One fine day in October 2018 I walked into work and my practice manager Raksha said, ‘A lady wants you to phone her. She says she thinks you were in the army with her brother Derek Downey.’
That must be Avril! I said.
Well, that brought back a flood of memories and led to this garbled line of correspondence from a whole bunch of ancient friends who I’m very worried about. I think they’re all going senile. Seems I’m about the last sane one amongst us!
I wrote: Do you guys remember the Durban boys on the offisiers kursus back in ’79? – Derek Downey, Rheinie Fritsch and Paul (‘no KIDDING!?‘) Goupille? They all begged to be sent to Durban-On-Sea after the officers course, citing important sport events, tragic family happenings, weeping needy girlfriends, Springbok surfing training, etc. I, on the other hand, asked to go to the Angolan border in South West Africa. ‘Die Grens’.
Well, all three of them were sent to Die Grens and I went to Durbs. To Natal Command, the famous ‘Hotel Command’ headquarters right on the beach on Marine Parade with the waves of the warm blue Indian Ocean lapping gently at the feet of the soldier on guard at the front gate. Who saluted me when I arrived! I was so astonished I missed the salute back. I forgot I was now a Loo-Attendant, no longer a Kakhuis Offisier (KO).
Inside, I was shown to my quarters and told to put my shoes outside the door – of my own private room! No more bunking with you smelly lot.
I thought the shoes thing must be some sort of ritual or tradition, or maybe a hygiene thing; But the next morning the blerrie things were brightly polished! ‘Twas like a miracle! I had a batman!
I also reported to this motley crew of kakhuis offisiers that our friend private* Graham Lewis – he who belonged to the wrong company at Loopspruit and then joined us – promotion – and promptly proceeded to fuck up our pristine floor in a misguided effort with dribrite polish and a rotary floor polisher – was alive and irrepressible.
brought them up to speed on the Private’s Progress:
He’s done some amazing things post-war that you will not believe and you will think I’m talking kak but I’m TELLING YOU. Our Private Graham Lewis:
married; Can you believe that? But more: To a lovely and very
good-looking lady! Who tolerates his foibles. It’s astonishing!
– got rich; Swear! And not from smousing spectacles. He became a landlord after being skopped out of a shopping centre; it’s a wonderful tale of success and couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. When I phone there now I ask for the Wicked Landlord and they put me straight through to him;
– started running; his mates used to run the 89km Comrades Marathon while he drank beer and they made the mistake of mocking him, so he pulled on an old pair of tennis tackies – unlaced – and entered the Comrades unbeknown to them and beat the lot of them!
– did the 120km Dusi Canoe Marathon; He got into a canoe and fell out; then got in again and fell out again, then entered a race and didn’t finish. So I said to him, come, Lewis! Lemme show you. I took him on a race on the Tugela near Colenso. We finished last, but we finished; Then he entered Dusi and finished and he did it quite a few times after that.
– decided running on KwaZulu Natal hills was too easy so he ran from the bottom of the Drakensberg to the top of Mt aux Sources up the chain ladder and then down the Gulley on a rugged track for about 55km on a balmy day; And the next year he did it again. Barmy day. He’s gone a bit mashugana I’m afraid.
* private? were we privates or riflemen? I can’t remember. If we were riflemen, can we become cannons one day, like dominees can?
Lunch Corporal (equal to a Texas General) Dhhhavid Cooper wrote:Luitenant – I’ve been meaning to reply for a while.
Firstly, luitenant Swaneveer – you’re a damn good writer and your blogs are hilarious. Why have you been hiding your talents under a bosvark?
Secondly, Makeerdiepas Les kept us smiling and “always looking on the bright side of life” with his voluminous aka “audible” mirth. **
Thirdly, I was most impressed with KO Lewis’ resurrection as a first rate floor officer to an even finer specimen of an officer in the running, so to speak. We should all be so lucky.
royalties, meagre as they were, were all blown in one night of wine,
women and song – at least I think they were. Maybe the ‘women’ part
is just wishful thinking. Memories at 63 are not what they used to
– I do remember one conversation with you KO Swaneveer that still
makes me pack up laughing when I think about it . . it related to “a
few polite thrusts” . .
I do remember the Durban boys – Les Chrich was filling me in on the ballesbak time you and he had fighting for the homeland at Hotel Command.
times – good memories.
** Les’ laugh led to a corporal once telling him “Hey, jy moet uit, uit, uit lag, nie in, in, in!”
I wrote again: That really cracked me up, Lunch Corporal Cooper! Whattasummary!!
My real talent lay in talking about hiding under bushels rather than
diving under same. Most ladies would watch wide-eyed as I
deteriorated until eventually I’d be on the floor, last drink on my
chest, one finger held high, still trying to make a point but a
Ah well, it was a good contraceptive. I changed my first nappy at age 43. And even then I contracted out the actual pomping to Child Welfare.
You’re quite wrong about Hotel Command. It was rugged. We suffered. I was told to report for duty as adjutant at the medics HQ in the 25-story Metal Industries House, two blocks back from the beachfront. Tenth floor.
The first day was taken up in making sure I had a parking spot for my sleek grey and grey 1965 Opel Concord OHS 5678 and that my office was suitable, window overlooking a park, now the Durban City Lodge. Couldn’t even see the sea. Hardship.
The next day I checked my desk, covered in brown manila files. One said Lt X was to leave Osindisweni Hospital and report to Christ the King Hospital the next day! I phoned him to tell him. “Wow! Thanks!” he said, “Usually we don’t get any notice at all!”. The next said Lt Y was moving in a week, he was bowled over that someone had told him so far in advance. The files had been on the desk for ages; they were covered in stof. The previous adjutant was a PF – a career soldier – and he was damned if he going to spoil those blerrie civvie doctors, who did they think they were!? He was a funny oke dressed in white with a strange title, it’ll come to me now . . Petty Officer. That’s it, Petty Officer! What a weird name compared to me: LIEUTENANT! You could salute a lieutenant. Who’d salute a petty officer? OK, true, I was a 2nd Lt. Only one pip, but that oke at the gate did salute me.
Our OC – that’s Officer Commanding – was a dapper 5ft tall Captain dressed all in white, complete with white cap and white shoes. Hilarious! What koptoe soldier would dream of wearing white shoes at Loopspruit in Potchefstroom!? Just imagine what the Gotchefstroom stof would do to them! He was Captain Mervyn Jordan. Naval Captain, mind you, which – if you’d read your notes on offisiers kursus – was equal to two Commandants in a brown uniform.
Once I cleared my desk, Captain Jordan – a helluva cool oke, by the way – suggested I commandeer a jeep and reconnoitre the hospitals under my command (none of which words he used, I’m just feeling uncharacteristically military here). My battlefield / sphere of influence lay between the blue Indian Ocean in the east and the high Drakensberg and Lesotho in the west; and from the Mocambique border in the north to the old Transkei in the south, which was also another country, remember? Three foreign states and a deep ocean surrounded me. Besides Christ the King and Osindisweni my other hospitals were called Appelsbosch, Emmaus, Hlabisa, Madadeni, Manguzi, Mosvold, St Appolonaris, ens ens.
Luckily I’d read my notes on offisiers kursus unlike you lot, so I filled in a DD99 form for the Jeep and a DD45 form for petrol and a DD78 form for accommodation, and – who’m I kidding? I knew DDbuggerall. Some PF pen-pusher did it all for me.
then disaster struck!
Before I could leave on my grand tour, driving my OWN Landrover all over Natal, peering over the border into three foreign countries including Transkei, an order came through on a DD69 assigning 2nd Lieutenant me and 2nd Lieutenant Les Chrich to Addington Hospital as resident oogkundiges. Instead of driving around visiting the odd nun and some okes in uniform at Zululand hospitals, I was ordered to move into Addington DQ – doctors quarters – across the road from the nurses res.
Did you catch that? Are you paying attention? We soldiers were ordered to live next door to a NURSES RESIDENCE. In which six hundred – that’s 600 – nurses in white skirts, silly little white hats and pantihose waited for us to come and service them under the Definitely Desirable DD69 conditions. Their eyes. Focus, you ous!
What could we do? Orders are orders. It was hell; We served. We suffered. We were barracked right next door to the DQ Pub, The Cock and Bottle. The Cock and Bottle was Mecca and Nirvana and Heaven. Every one of the superb six hundred – that’s 600 – knew The Cock and Bottle. Sure, some knew to avoid it, but others said Meet You There!
It was much like Alfred, Lord Tennyson had predicted:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into The smoke-filled Cock and Bottle
Rode the six hundred.
We were each given our own flat. Not a room, an apartment. Bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and entrance hall. High ceilings; Hot and cold running blondes. Seriaas. Ask Les. I shit you not.
Our first big bash was arranged by a New Zealand couple, two of the twenty-some housemen – these are practicing doctors in the literal sense of ‘practicing’ – they didn’t know WHAT they were doing, so they practiced. These two delightful Kiwi appy-quacks’ surname was actually Houseman, funnily enough. Lovely folk; they organised a raucous Priests and Prostitutes night in the Cock and Bottle.
The fishnet stockings! The see-through tops! The high heels! The micro skirts! I thought I’d died and gone to Mecca Nirvana Heaven! I wore a white dog collar (actually just a white shirt back-to-front) and a blue houndstooth holy Irish jacket made by a tailor in Dublin which I’d inherited from a drunk Irishman one FreeState night, which slayed the ladies. I think. They thought I was a catholic father. Much later that night I was on the floor, last drink on my chest, one finger held high, still trying to make a point but a touch incomprehensible.
But there was a big difference now: Nurses! Kind, nurturing souls moved to take up a caring profession. They didn’t step over you and walk out on you like a Jo’burg or Kimberley or Rustenburg chick at the New Devonshire Hotel or the New Doornfontein Hotel might. No! They would pick you up and sling your one arm over their shoulder and take you to bed, tuck you in saying Tut Tut. Or ‘Shine up, Chicken Legs’ if their name was Peppy. This is true! They were angels. Better than angels, as they had a devilish streak. If they diagnosed the need, they would sometimes even hop into the sickbed with you in order to apply pelvis-to-pelvis resuscitation. Swear! Dedicated! The prize for Best-Torn-Fishnet-Stockings-Of-The-Night went to Viv the Admin Angel and guess who Viv took home that night? Quite a few party-goers. But guess who she sent home LAST? Sure, she’d had a few, but died-and-gone-to-heaven! Swear!
The weermag had actually posted us to fuckin’ heaven, I swear! Probably by mistake, but we were not complaining. Hey! you can ask 2nd Lt. Leslie LadyLover&Charmer Chrich; I shit you not, I’m not exaggerating! Tell them, Les. We did our duty.
This was brought back to mind recently when I was listening to my new favourite band Tuba Skinny. Sure you can listen, but MAINLY watch the fishnet stockings in the background! That’s Viv, and that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Meantime – decades later – a reunion took place in the Fairest Cape attended by old soldiers Stedall, Chrich, Miller and Cooper.
I wrote: Great, Rod! So at your reunion, were there a few tales of how we won the war? Like: ‘PW Botha: My Part In His Downfall’? You, Cooper, Chrich and Miller must have told a few lies about what a terribly hard time we had? I was a normal person before that 1979 weermag year. Also, what’s the name of that song we sang so well, and why didn’t it go platinum?
Rodney Stedall wrote: I think it was Piano Man
I wrote: That’s right! It was. How could I forget!? Here’s one version. not anything like as good as ours:
Which brings us to the second question, why are we not earning royalties from sales of our version? Who has the Master Tapes? Do you think that cunning corporal c.H.ooper filched the funds? Corruption is rampant and I think we should investigate.
Was there another song? Shouldn’t there be more royalties?
Also, what happened to that young female luitenant in her tight browns that Cooper and I used to eye? The only female on the base under half a ton? Do you think she’s wearing browns a few sizes larger these days? These are important questions and someone should demand answers . .
Dhavid Cooper wrote: Howzit Luitenant Swanefeer homse geweer! Would have been such a hoot to have you with us in the Cape!!
Regarding corruption (see The Early Years – my new upcoming book on corruption by Snyman and Verster) – money had to be made when it could – and the stage had to be set for the future of the country . . apparently we did too good a job . .
However, the most memorable event – besides the shapely looty you alluded to – was the well-serenaded, fine-looking lass who stole our hearts that one summer beer-filled night . . . Irene!! Do you remember . .?
We sang “Irene, Goodnight, Irene Goodnight, Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene . . . I’ll see you in my dreams” — and that’s exactly what happened . . we never saw her again except in our dreams!
you’re well pal… be lovely to catch up again sometime….Rod,
maybe a weermag reunion sometime.
Les Miller wrote: Pete – Thank you so much for this. I killed myself laughing while reading it. Brings back forgotten memories. Good ones!
MaakkeerdiePAS! Lick-yak, lick-yak, omkeeeeeer!
I wrote: Hey Les – What a good laugh! Carefree days. Give some testosterone-fueled youths guns, bullets and beers and what could possibly go wrong, huh?
offisiers kursus – learning how to gippo exams; or, officers course; the first of multiple steps leading to the rank of Admirable
Die Grens – the border; usually the border between Angola and South West Africa, where we shouldn’t have been in the first place; In Natal my borders were Mocambican, Transkeian, Lesotho-an – oh, and also Swazi-like, plus there was the boerewors curtain keeping us safe from the Transvaal; Border, by the way, not as in ‘south of the border’ as sung by Cooper which (I suspect, how would I know?) was a panty-line border;
kakhuis offisier – candidate officer; KO or CO; aspirational;
kak – bullshit; crap;
smousing – peddling; which is better, one or two? I’ll take the tortoise shell one;
lunch corporal – half a corporal; one stripe; lance corporal; an onder offisier;
pomping – the brief, active part of conception and procreation, preceding the long slow hatching part and longer, slower raising part; seldom immaculate;
koptoe – delusional;
luitenant – lieutenant; some of us became one-pip lieutenants, a massive promotion from KO; but still, it has to be confessed, only half a lieutenant;
bosvark – biblically, a bushel; otherwise an armoured vehicle; you wouldn’t want to hide under either;
makeerdiepas – mark time; march aimlessly in one spot, raising dust so all your shoe shining was vir fokol; going nowhere; mind you, all marching is aimless and going nowhere;
vir fokol – to no avail;
omkeer – you know where you thought you were going? turn around now and go back;
ballasbak – literally, sunbaking your balls; leaning back comfortably with your groin aimed at the sun and your legs spread; a frequent activity between brief, but recurring, sessions of ‘hurry up and wait’; modern practitioners call it perineum sunning; Hey! Don’t laugh! Crazy delusionists say it ‘strengthens organs, improves ya libido, regulates circadian rhythm, boosts ya mental focus, and increases ya energy! So point ya ring at the sun, man! Ballasbak! It must, for safety, be pointed out that the weermag way of doing it was usually with trousers on!
oogkundiges – uniformed personnel highly skilled in the gentle art of gazing deep into nurses’ eyes;
Steve Reed visited SA from Aussie. He’s a Vrystaat boykie, mainly Bethlehem and was the mayor of Clarens – the first son actually – so was on a visit home.
Him: When visiting my bro in Johannesburg we had plenty of jams and preserves all from ‘Annies Kitchen’ in Harrismith. Wouldn’t be the famous Ann Euthimiou from Harries, would it?
Me: No, not the gorgeous young Annie the Greek, another Annie from Harrismith, a contemporary of my gran – who was also Annie.
Her grandson Leon Strachan was one year ahead of me at Harrismith se Hoerskool. Lived on a farm, but his gran lived next door to us in town. He hopped over the fence one day ca.1965 to come and moer me for my insults. He was giving me a good and well-deserved whipping when younger sister Sheila came to my rescue, jumping on his back and beating him wif a bamboo, putting him to flight.
A first-class fella, he has written four books about Harrismith. I have one, Sheila has loaned me two more, and I have borrowed the fourth from Leon himself. He and his wife Elsa farm on Nesshurst, south of Harrismith on the Natal border. He grows and harvests black nightshade (nastergal – Solanum nigrum) and makes that mauve jam with black berries we called masawba – more correctly umsobo or sobosobo. They also make lots of other jams ‘in season.’
They branded it ‘Annie’s’ after his rooinek gran. Like me he had an Afrikaans side Strachan that originated in Scotland, and an Engelse side Davie. ‘Twas his rockspider gran Strachan what lived next door to us.
info from the defunct harrismith.co website:
Op Nesshurst met sy allemintige dam groei en besproei Leon en Elsa Strachan nastergal wat hulle in die plaasfabriek inmaak om die wyd-bekende Annie’s konfyte met die veelkleurige etiket met twee tarentale op te maak. Jare lank reeds sien ‘n mens nou oral in die land die bekende flessies met nastergal en tot soveel as twintig ander soorte konfyt. Die beroemde Annie’s konfyte van Nesshurst. Nastergal (Solanum nigrum) dra bossies klein, ronde bessies wat donkerpers is wanneer hulle ryp is.
My translation: Leon and Elsa Strachan make lovely jams (American: jellies) on their farm Nesshurst near the Free State / KwaZulu Natal border. Probably their most famous one uses Solanum nigrum berries, European black nightshade. Although parts of this plant can be toxic, the real deadly nightshade is a different plant. The good one’s berries are a dull, powdery, dark purple in bunches, the deadly one has single glossy black berries.
Steve:Well it was blerrie lekker konfyt. And he obviously did not moer any significant amount of sense into you from what I have been able to observe since ca.1974.My eldest brother Doug (68) looks after his health, having had a couple of stents a few years ago. He cycles furiously (the Argus, the 96.4 or whatever long races are going) and golfs twice a week. His one weakness is for the blue cheese, crackers and Annie’s preserves, accompanied by bottomless refills of post-prandial brandy, port, or whatever other alcohol comes to hand. I spent seven nights with them and woke up with a headache on all seven mornings. He woke me up fresh as a daisy with heart-stopping strength coffee every day. Most mornings I was in an arrhythmic state as a result. He couldn’t understand what the hell was wrong with me.
Harrismith se Hoerskool – Harrismith High School
moer – thump; but when Steve said it: educate
Rooinek – English-speaking; Pommy; uitlander; often preceded by fokn
Engelse – English, but usually not from England; more ‘not Afrikaans’; Like when any new product or gadget impresses, someone might say admiringly/mockingly ‘Dis wonderlik wat die Engelse kan doen,’ even if the gadget was made in Sweden
blerrie lekker konfyt – bloody nice jam
Dis wonderlik wat die Engelse kan doen – this is a nifty new gadget
The pics of the museum on Nesshurst are from Harrismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard.
Original message from Etienne Joubert in 2014 – (translation below)
Good morning all you Harrismith followers!
Who was Paul de Witt . . ?? . . Skande gemaak vir Harrismith se mense.
KAAPSTAD – ’n Predikant en bekende restaurateur in Hentiesbaai is Maandag in die vroeë oggendure deur doeanebeamptes met sowat 11 400 witmossels en 20 kg calamari in sy besit by die Vioolsdrift-grenspos vasgetrek.
Ds. Paul de Witt (63) het die twee spesies, wat albei beskerm word, sonder vervoerpermitte in sy Nissan X-Trail van Kaapstad na Hentiesbaai vervoer.
De Witt is omstreeks 01:30 deur die polisie voorgekeer en sy voertuig is deursoek. Verskeie sakke vol mossels met ’n geskatte waarde van R11 400, en ’n sak met 20 kg calamari is agter in sy voertuig gevind.
De Witt is deur die eenheid teen georganiseerde misdaad in hegtenis geneem en daar is beslag gelê op sy voertuig, sowel as die sakke seekos.
De Witt is ’n boorling van Harrismith.
I immediately contacted my mate Steph de Witt:
Hey Steph – I vaguely remember a Paul de Witt. Who and what was he op Herries? He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar! Cheers – Koos
On 2014/07/08 Steph de Witt replied:
Koos! Dis my bloedfamilie, my own cousin !!
Me:Fokkit I can still live with the witmossel-steel part, but the DOMINEE part? THAT’s the skande!
Eina! and Skande! – ouch! and scandal!
A Harrismith old boy who became a preacherman was caught smuggling protected seafood – mussels and calamari – from South Africa into Namibia.
He was an interesting character: My sister remembers him as one of a gang of ‘naughty / rude’ boys as a teenager. As does happen with some naughty / rude boys, he became a preacher. But as less often happens, a preacher who operated a pub. He sold salvation on Sundays and booze from Mondays to Saturdays! Like, ‘create your own sinners.’
His pub obviously needed seafood so he ‘fetched’ some from across the border – illegally. And got caught.
Sadly, he died in a car wreck soon after!
Steph: Poor fella died in a motoraccident on Friday afternoon, can you believe it ?!
Me: No!! That's very sad! Dammitall. Jammer ou Steph - do you know his vrou and family?
Steph: Ja, had a sad but interesting innings, will keep you posted.
Subject: Paul de Witt
Hey Et – Steph has just informed me that Paul died in a car accident on Friday.
Dammitall. From sudden fame / notoriety to tragic end.
Yo ....that's sad, my condolences if you make
contact again. But at least we know he's gone
to Paradise, where there's lots of white & black
muscles & of course, calamari .........!!
Cheers - Et
Vraagtekens oor kroegdominee se storie
Tragically, Steph never did keep me posted. Our dear friend Steph also died in a car accident ten months later!
We had a few gatherings in the long, wide and high Gailian lounge / dining room / bar with the smooth parquet floor. For a while this lounge was shenanigan-central for the Harrismith Jet Set. While the Stella cats were away the lightly inebriated mice came out to play.
Luckily Hec & Stella Fyvie would regularly gallivant off to Kruger Park and other places in their yellow and white kombi. ‘Don’t worry,’ Tabs would say, ‘We’ll look after the place;Enjoy yourselves.’
I would nod.
One such evening* is engraved in the memory bank. ‘Twas a dark and starlit night after we had sat all afternoon seeing to it that the sun set properly, and fine-chooning ourselves to a well-honed pitch, like a master-crafted musical instrument. A lute, perhaps. A flute, perhaps. By carefully choosing our poison by percentage alcohol multiplied by millilitres consumed we had manipulated our PE Factor** to a wonderfully advanced state where we were erudite, witty, charming, sparkling company – and wonderful dancers.
Especially wonderful dancers.
The theme for the evening was high-speed langarm, and we whizzed around the lounge to loud classical waltzes at ever-increasing speeds on that slick polished parquet wooden floor till centrifugal force spun us out onto the veranda, onto the lawn and across it to the swimming hole in the dark, thutty metres away; back over the lawn and round the dance floor again. To tremendous applause. I personally did a few laps with Lettuce Leaf which were wondrous in nature. Strauss would have been proud of his waltz that night. Jet-fuelled ballroom dancing par excellence.
Some people didn’t get the langarm memo though, and arrived in punk outfits. No names, no packdrill, but Des had a safety pin through his earlobe and Timothy Leary one through his foreskin and these two pins were joined in holy matrimony by a chain. Never before have two ballroom dancers been so synchronised, Des leading and Tim not daring not to follow. After that performance they even named a band N Sync.
Before the sun rose there was snoring and long after the sun rose there was still snoring and that is how Aunt Stella found us when she returned unexpectedly to find Des and other bodies in her double bed. On seeing his Aunt Stell, Des spun onto his tummy, burying his face into the pillow. Des has always believed if you hide your head in the sand maybe the problem will go away.
But this time he shouldn’t have: Written in bright red lipstick on his back was “FUCK! PUNK! PUNK!!”
*This tale might be an amalgam of a few blurry evenings, skilfully blended and spiked;
**PE Factor – Personality Enhancement Factor; Found to various degrees in all bottles of hooch;
langarm – two or more perpetrators remain attached by various body parts and run around more or less in time to music they normally would not listen to, while pumping the outermost arms up and down; unlikely to work sober.
This critical observer might have been watching us at Gailian that night, although he was actually talking about the 1815 season in Brussels:
Whenever they get together the severest etiquette is present. The women on entering always salute on each side of the cheek; they then set down as stiff as waxworks. They begin a ball with a perfect froideur, then they go on with their dangerous ‘waltz’ (in which all the Englishwomen join!) and finish with the gallopade, * a completely indecent and violent romp. – Rev. George Griffin Stonestreet
Gallopade: A lively French country dance of the nineteenth century, a forerunner of the polka, combining a glissade with a chassé on alternate feet, usually in a fast 2/4 time. Sounds about right, huh? I think that’s what we were doing. Indecent and violent romps bedondered.
Recently Des went viral – no, no, in a good way. Thanks to great backing from sister Val, he put what he learnt at Gailian to good use. Roomerazzit he got extra points for his broek and his dancing shoes:
Alf Beyers, son of the Hoof of the Hoerskool in Petrus Steyn OFS, struck enormous good fortune on leaving the village and striking out for the big smoke of lower Doornfontein, Johannesburg, city of sin and laughter. It was akin to winning the lottery.
He was allocated me as his room-mate.
Dropping our suitcases on the sticky deep purple linoleum floor we immediately headed off to Nirvana, a place we had heard about for years. A place our mothers warned against with such dire foreboding that we knew we had to find it.
We heard they sold liquor in Hillbrow and we had fresh pocket money, so off we went with the gang of new students in the Doories res of the Wits Tech for Advanced Technical Education on our first night in Joeys, 1974, in search of pubs and nightclubs. Vague names waft around in my head now: Summit? Idols? Sands Hotel?
Most of us returned late that night, but there was no sign of Alf. He had landed up in the Johannesburg General Hospital, a victim of alcohol poisoning. The docs assured him it wasn’t bad liquor, it was simply too much good liquor.
The ill-effects wore off quickly and the potential for fun endured. On another occasion when we’d had a skinful Alf indulged in a bit of streaking under the Harrow Road flyover, appearing completely kaalgat to the amusement and delight of rush-hour motorists. Some were so impressed they called the cops and Alf roared up the stairs and hid in the smallish free-standing cupboard in our room, which actually overlooked the spot where he’d been parading!
When the hullabaloo died down he appeared with a huge grin on his face, still buck naked and inquired innocently “Looking for me?”
twaalf eiers – a dozen eggs; rhymes with Alf Beyers;
hoerskool – school of ill repute;
Hoof of the Hoerskool – in charge of that place; influential position
kaalgat – naked as the day he was born;
Dodgy history lesson: Grand Central Station, in the metropolis of Petrus Steyn, situated on the banks of the mighty Renoster:
Willie the housemaster of the Doornfontein residence of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education was a good ou. In the fickle lottery of life he drew the short straw when we moved into the large, highly-prized room adjacent to the housemaster’s conjugal apartment on the corner of Louisa Street and St Augustine Street that he shared with his long-suffering wife.
Willie tried his best. We ignored him.
You couldn’t really ignore the real boss of the res, Sarie Oelofse though. She was fearsome. When we checked in to res on day one as fresh new arrivals in 1974, she made it very clear that she vatniekaknie.
Let us pause briefly right here to think about what sort of doos would christen a place a “College for Advanced Technical Education / Kollege vir Gevorderde Tegniese Onderwys”. Fuck me! Catchy title, china! One can imagine flocks of proud alumni saying “I went to the College for Advanced Technical Education.”
But back to onse Sarie: She was tall, had been through some husbands, and was crowned by a snow white mop on top. No one would dare give her kak, we thought. Then we met Slabber. Sarie marched into our room one day in our first week as inmates in first year and asked in her strident voice, “Vuddafokgaanhieraan?” We were drinking against the rules and making a happy, ribald commotion against those same rules.
We were ready to capitulate and come with all sorts of “jammer mevrou’s” and “ons sal dit nooit weer doen nie’s” and untrue kak like that when Chris Slabber – an old hand, in his third year in res – stepped forward and said “Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Kry vir jou ‘n dop,” and poured her a large brandy.
Sarie melted like a marshmallow on a stick roasting on an open fire. Reminded me of that Christmas song by Nat King Cole. She sat down, smiled coyly and lost all her authority in one gulp. It was wonderful. From then on, we wagged the dog. We continued to show her huge respect while doing whatever the hell we wanted. We helped her, and she turned a blind eye. The formula Chris Slabber had worked out while living over the road in the old St Augustines Street cottages worked like a charm. It needed regular dop provision, of course, but that was no PT: Whatever we were drinking we would just pour Sarie some and she would remain completely reasonable and amenable.
It was what you could call win-win. Educational, in fact.
vatniekaknie – intolerant of rambustious student behaviour
doos – person lacking your clear insight
kak – uphill
Vuddafokgaanhieraan? – What gives, gentlemen?
jammer mevrou’s – apologies
ons sal dit nooit weer doen nie’s – perish the thought
Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Kry vir jou ‘n dop – Have a seat, ma’am
dop – libation. Actually, any alcoholic drink
Another lady lived off the premises, just outside our windows in St Augustine Street. Her name was Agnes and the poor thing would attempt oblivion by swallowing methylated spirits. ‘Riding The Blue Train,’ a wild and dangerous ride. When going strong she would rant and rave and give us plenty of lip with some choice foul language. We would shout out the window: AG SHURRUP AGNES! and she would come right back with FUCK YOU YOU FUCKEN POES! Feisty, was ole Agnes. Sleeping rough in winter, she and her companions would huddle around whatever they could set alight for some warmth. One night she must have got a bit too close to the fire and then belched. A fatal meths burp roasting on an open fire. Reminded me of that Christmas song by Nat King Cole. ‘Twas the end of Agnes. The police mortuary van came to take her on her last wild ride.
Many decades later – 2020 – I was misled into drinking a lot of wine into the wee hours at Mike Lello’s lovely home overlooking the Palmiet valley. Mike had also stayed at the Doories res, about five years before me, and Sarie Oelofse had been his House Mistress too. He had fond memories of the old duck, including gently carrying her to bed. And then leaving her there, dead drunk! So not what you were thinking. He stayed in her wing of the establishment, down at the bottom end, under the same big roof as the dining room. They got on so well, indeed, that Sarie even attended his and Yvonne’s wedding, how’s that!