Twaalf Eiers

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.

Hillbrow.

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 of rush-hour motorists. Someone 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?”.

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twaalf eiers – a dozen eggs; rhymes with Alf Beyers;

hoerskool – school of ill repute;

kaalgat – naked as the day he was born;

 

 

 

House (mistress) Trained

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 in to the room adjacent to the housemasters conjugal apartment 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 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”. Fuck me! Catchy title, china! One can imagine flocks of proud alumni saying “I went to the College for Advanced Technical Education”.

But about 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 mevrous” and “ons sal dit nooit weer doen nies” and kak like that when Slabber – an old hand in his third year in res stepped forward and said “Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Hier’s vir jou ‘n dop” and poured her a large brandy.

Sarie melted like a marshmallow on a stick roasting over an open fire. 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 to. We helped her, and she turned a blind eye. The formula Chris Slabber had worked out 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.

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vatniekaknie – intolerant of rambustious student behaviour

doos – person lacking your clear insight

kak – uphill

Vuddafokgaanhieraan? – What gives, gentlemen?

jammer mevrous – apologies

ons sal dit nooit weer doen nies – perish the thought

Ag kak, Sarie, hier: Hier’s vir jou ‘n dop – Have a seat, ma’am

dop – libation. Actually no, any alcoholic drink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tshwane

Tshwane – Famous for the protection of its inebriates;

  • Home of the self-guided car
Few people know that Pretoria Boys High, Audi and Elon Musk were secretly piloting a new self-driving car in Tshwane when their test pilot pulled out of the program for reasons unknown, although rumour has it his wife gave him a thick ear one evening after golf. Details are sketchy, as is the test pilot, a Pretoria Boys High old boy. A PHB from PBH you could say. Some of the project’s left-over funds were spent re-building a school wall.
So that didn’t really work out.
  • Home of the amphibious canoe
OK, that didn’t work so well either, but at least there was no ongeluk thanks to the presence of two more responsible parties and the same long-suffering wife who took over the wheel of a high-powered vehicle at a crucial point when the inebriated one on the roofrack thought paddling the Dusi was as easy as running Comrades.
kayak roofrack
  • Home of the original toilet bowl airbag
This field project took place outside Tshwane city limits in rural Yeoville. It also didn’t really work so well as the protective airbag  failed to deploy until after the teeth had already chipped the porcelain. Work is continuing on developing a more robust alcohol fume sensor that triggers the bag. It seems the original sensor was simply overwhelmed by the overload and went phhht.t.t. and instead of inflating the bag it caused deflation in more areas than one.

 

  • Home of Gullible Stromberg Suckers

Although handicapped by the absence of any alcohol consumption, this project went surprisingly well, when the sucker in question paid a premium price for a piece of inert plastic to attach to his car’s sparkplug cable. The resulting marginal improvement in performance from sat to so-so was enough to impress another Tshwane deskundige into believing the scam. Both were so taken in they gave the old pale blue Cortina its first service and wax.Cortina stromberg

*

Interesting place, Tshwane, ancestral home of the australopithecine Tshwanepoels.

australopithecines

Wonderful stuff, booze

Booze opened wonderful opportunities for us as kids in the olden days. As our hawk-eyed parents became bleary-eyed and witty and hilarious, so their surveillance levels dropped and we could get on with doing more interesting things than we could when they were sober.

So it was at the MOTH picnic one year on the far bank of the mighty Vulgar river down in the President Brand park where, after a lekker braai and quite a few pots the folks were suitably shickered and plans could go afoot.

img565

The older boys formed a syndicate which consisted of them hiding and the younger boys being sent in to do the dangerous stuff. See if you can get us some beer from the pub, was the thinking. So (some of or all of) Pierre, Fluffy, Tuffy and I approached the MOTH barman Ray Taylor – as always alone at the bar, teetotal. The other old WW2 servicemen and their wives a little way off making a lot of noise. Uncle Ray, quiet as ever, was easily distracted by my accomplices and as he was being his kind and obliging self to them I slid a full case of dumpy beers off the makeshift bar counter and turned round, hugging it vertically straight in front of me against my chest. I walked straight away with my back to Uncle Ray into the darkness of the poplar and oak trees towards the river.

Under the suspension bridge the receivers of stolen goods waited (Etienne Joubert, a Brockett and a Putterill, I seem to recall), took the loot and told us to move along then. We were too young to be allowed to partake.

Etienne remembers: “I remember this incident well. We drank them on the river bank upstream. We had female company as well, but best we do not dwell on that subject. There was also unhappiness about the brand that was procured………

Dear old Uncle Ray with his Alsatians….Twice I went on walks with him up our beloved Platberg!! He was an interesting man, who behind a façade of dullness was very wise!!

Stories like this bring back a thousand other memories……!! Cheers vir eers, Et

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Another memory of the far side: Roaring around the dirt roads between those big trees in Dr Dick Venning’s blue Triumph and in his Land Rover, Tim Venning at the helm. Hell for leather, running commentary all the way, huge grin on his face.

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Uncle Ray was attacked by baboons on one of his Platberg walks. Not sure if his dog/s were with him, but he said he fought off the babs with his walking stick. We were told he had suffered “shell shock” in the war.

River Trip Swinburne – Harrismith

Fluffy Crawley and I were dropped off in Swinburne on the banks of the Mighty Vulgar in the grounds of the Montrose Motel with our open red and blue fibreglass canoe. We were aiming to head off downstream, camp overnight and finish in Harrismith the next day.

But we bumped into Ian Grant who persuaded us to spend the night at Montrose. Jock & Brenda agreed to let us sleep in one of the rondawels. As evening fell Ian was up to mischief as always, and soon after dark one of the petrol attendants snuck up and slipped us a litre bottle of brandy. Ian organised a bottle of cream soda and we were set for nonsense. After a couple of quick shots I suggested we hang around and let the alcohol take effect and let the laughing begin, but as I was in the bathroom taking a leak I overheard Ian mutter “Fuck him, I’m drinking the lot!” so I  came out and said “Pour!”

Well Ian was first and I stuck a bucket under his chin as his technicolor yawn started. Just then I heard HURGH! from Fluffy so I grabbed the little wastepaper bin from the bathroom and stuck it under his chin. It was a lumpy laughter duet.

Early the next morning I woke Fluffy and said “Come!” and we carried the boat to the river and launched it onto the muddy waters. Well, actually “launched” it because it touched bottom. The river was so low we didn’t even get our shoelaces wet! A long spell of carrying the boat on our shoulders, stopping for a hurl, carrying a while till another stop for a chunder ensued till we found deeper water and a settled stomach and could paddle home.

Fluffy remembers: “The river was terribly low and we did a lot of foot work crossing or by-passing the rapids. We made it in one day, no overnight stop. Your Dad picked us up in town.”

railway bridge wilge river

 

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Dave Walker tells of a Tugela trip or race with Clive Curson when they broke and had to carry their boat for miles. They christened their trip Walkin’ an Cursin’.

Mine with Fluffy Crawley would be Walkin’ and Crawlin’.

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Safety First, Old-Style

I was telling you earlier that the Road Safety slogan in days of yore was Friends Don’t Tell Friends They Can’t Drive Because They’re Drunk Because Then Friends Would SHOW Friends How They Actually Drive Very Well When They’re Drunk, Thank You Very Much and this was proven half true one night when I told Tabs he was too drunk to drive and the best thing to do was to let ME drive.

It was true I had been with him all night drinking in Bessie Reitz’s garage opposite the town hall and he could have said the same of me, but it was me talking.

Tabs was perfectly rational and amenable about the suggestion. “Tell you what”, he said, “I’ll drive to the top of 42nd hill and then you can drive”. I was perfectly rational and amenable about that suggestion and we set off down Warden Street. At 190mph.

Tabbo had a green two-door Datsun SSS 1800 (Geoff Leslie called it his “Triple Ess Ess Ess”) and that thing fucked off went fast. We flew up Forty Two Second at a hell of a rate of knots and I was highly relieved when Tabs pulled over as promised and I proceeded forth at a more sedate pace.

Datsun 1800 GL Coupe
Soon after, I turned into Gailian and the road took a sharp left and I didn’t. Changing down into second I let out the clutch but I hadn’t taken my foot off the gas, so we leapt forward into the only deep ditch in the area. Tabbo bit a huge chunk out of the dashboard. I was OK as the steering wheel stopped me. Seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet (or the wearing of seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet **). So speed hadn’t been the problem after all – it was the sudden stop that dented Tabbo.

Fortunately for us, Pierre had followed us out and took us to hospital where the local vet stitched up Tabbo’s lip and he ended up looking quite handsome after that.

The sudden stop and the hospital afterwards were NOTHING. We now had to face the hard part: Telling Stella. They were in bed in the dark, we couldn’t see them, we could just hear Stella. She asked if we were OK. Hector was silent.

** I looked it up: The first U.S. patent for automobile seat 
belts was issued to Edward J. Claghorn of New York in 1885.

Woken by the Tamboekie

Harrismith was not richly endowed with pubs. It had a few kroegs, but pubs, not so much. So before the Holiday Inn brought mid-West America to the Vrystaat vlaktes, we were forced to drink and drive.

In those days the Road Safety slogan was Friends Don’t Tell Friends They Can’t Drive Because They’re Drunk Because Then Friends Would SHOW Friends How They Actually Drive Very Well When They’re Drunk, Thank You Very Much.

Not as snappy as Speed Kills but nevertheless a very valid slogan.

Favoured watering holes were Little Switzerland on the Oliviershoek Pass and, because after a skinful you want to actually negotiate a whole mountain pass, the Royal Natal National Park Hotel.

The undoubted King of Harrismith District Mobile Imbibing was Rob, whose surname will remain a secret because he became sensitive to this well-deserved reputation earned during his lengthy youth later when he was probably telling his own kids to BEHAVE themselves. And Speed Kills, and Wipe Your Feet, and Two Drinks is Enough, and Abstain until you’re Married, you young Spilsburys, and other things he would not have told them if any old, knowing friends were around listening to him.

I mean, his rollovers (how many, Spilsbury?) culminated in his lying on his neck on the roof of Steph’s white VW Beetle and when Steph said “Rob! Are you OK?!” he murmured “Shh! My favourite tune is playing” as he adjusted the radio tuner which had gone off a touch as the vehicle bollamakissied.

VW Beetle rolled

Speaking of pubs, booze, cars and road safety:

The Catholics have it all wrong when they appoint Saints.

I mean NOT ONE of the barmen who put up with our shit has been nominated as far as I know – and they should be. They really deserve sainthood. Like the Little Switzerland barkeep who watched as we emptied the fine display of pampas grass in the foyer, stuck the stalks up our naked rears, set fire to the fronds and ran around the hotel corridors where innocent paying guests were slumbering, yelling “Flaming A’s! Call the Fire Brigade!” A pram was commandeered in the mock fire-fighting response – enough, fiasco.
Also a sainthood for Mother Mary, who loaned me her grey 1970 Ford Cortina to take an Aussie Exchange student there one night.

cortina 1970 

On the way back I thought I heard faint snoring and a swish-swish-swish sound from far away. I woke up to find I was going along at a fair rate with tamboekie grass hitting the windscreen, Yabsley the Oz asleep on the seat next to me. I slammed on the anchors and got out to look. I didn’t have a clue if I’d gone off on the right or the left of the road, but following our track back through the long grass we found the road (above the pass, thank goodness), reversed and wend our way home much soberer. Had I killed Michael Yabsley I’d have changed the course of Aussie politics, as he went on to become an MP and the Aussie Liberal Party’s federal treasurer.

I do tell my kids to BEHAVE themselves, but I have a hard time keeping a straight face.