Before we learnt to drink beer on the banks of the mighty Tugela, we drank oros and water while observing our elders drinking beer on those same rocks on the same bend in the river that gives the farm its name. Here’s an 8mm ‘cine’ movie taken back in the early 1960’s – before we followed suit in the seventies.
These were the days when Thankful and Grateful – as that incorrigible axis of evil or mirth Sheila-Bess-Georgie-Lettuce called Frank and Gretel Reitz – would have large soirees on the farm with the Swanies, the Kemps and others gathering ‘in their numbers.’
In the movie Gretel, Joyce, Mary and Isabel walk along that stunning driveway lined with (amIright here?) Grecian (Roman?) columns to the old double-rondawel thatched homestead. Then the drinking party moves down to the river where Gee and Kai pilot the motorboat and Barbara and Bess paddle in the shallows. Check out Doc Reitz’s old Chev OHS 71.
Kai once made the mistake – no, bold decision – to put the Lloyd cousin in charge of The Bend while he went off to murder sundry buffaloes and bambis in the Zimbabwean bushveld near Mana Pools.
I joined Lloyd one weekend. As an adviser.
Things did not go exactly according to a Reitz-like plan. Nor did things run like a well-oiled machine. It was more like a military operation.
Lloyd had managed to get the Chev pickup stuck between two gears. So when I got there it was parked in the lands. Immobile.
Some parts of the farm ran flawlessly, with Ross-Merr doing sterling work in the kitchen, making great big piles of delicious veggies. Lloyd had run out of meat and I had not brought any, and as we were now stranded for transport it was a healthy vegetarian diet for us.
Then Lloyd found a rifle and we went hunting for the pot, the Zunckel walking with that action he got from Mad magazine’s Don Martin, taking exaggerated stalking strides with his toes hanging downwards. Great sense of the ridiculous had Lloyd. He was playing great white hunter in Africa.
Ten metres from the house, high up in a pine tree a poor little dove was romantically asking “How’s father? How’s father?” and Lloyd drilled him. SHPLORT! If you weren’t a Mad Magazine fan, that was a Don Martin-type sound of a Cape Turtle Dove hitting the ground, morsdood.
The next meal Ross-Merr cooked had all the veggies, PLUS – a big meat dish covered with a lid. We opened the lid with a flourish, then peered closely before we spotted it – it looked like a plucked mossie had crash-landed in the middle of an empty swimming pool.
Next mishap: The big truck was accidentally reversed over a stack of irrigation pipes. That was not good. I saw big $$ signs, but when Kai got back he set about fixing them himself, cutting off the flattened sections, hammering thin pipes through them, then thicker ones until he had restored them to size, then welding them together again! They looked like they had cellulite, but they worked.
I’m sure we didn’t run out of beer though, so we weren’t completely disorganised.
Mandy’s reply on the 21st post reminded me of The Bend – that sacred pilgrimage site we would repair to as part of growing up and learning wisdom and wonder. Also drinking, puking and dancing. Especially drinking.
We searched the whole of Joburg all term long for girls and women and couldn’t find any, but on The Bend there was always a goodly gang of inebriated bright young future leaders and fine examples to our youth, dancing, hosing themselves and matching us drink-for-drink.
Some of the drinking was very formal, with strict protocol, enforced by some kop-toe okes who had already been to the weermag and wanted to show us lightweight long-hairs what DUSSIPLIN was all about. Louis was very disciplined under General Field Marshall Reitz as was I under Brigadier Field Marshall Stanley-Clarke:
Late at night important stuff would happen. This time it was inventory control. It became vitally urgent that we help Kai clean out old Dr Reitz’s expired medicines. Mainly by swallowing them. The muscle relaxants caused great hilarity as we pondered what effect they might have on our sphincters. Yussis you’d think with a resident pharmacist we’d be told the possible side-effects, but all we were told – or all we listened to – was “Fire it, Mole!” and down they went, chased by alcohol to enhance the effects. Highly irre-me-sponsible, but all done for research purposes.
Dr Prof Stephen Charles dispenses
The research was inconclusive. We fell asleep before any fireworks happened.
In those days we all shared one cellphone, which you didn’t have to carry in your pocket. It was already there when you got there, nailed to the wall so it couldn’t get lost and so everyone could overhear what you were saying. There it is:
I forget what this was, but it was important and Stephen Charles was giving it his rapt attention.
Sometimes farming interfered with the serious part of the weekend and then we would be of great help to Kai. We’re taking his mielies to market here. Don’t know what he would have done without us. Airbags and seatbelts were not highly essential in those daze, as we were usually well internally fortified, and as our driver had his foot flat we knew we’d get there quickly. So it was alright.
Taking mielies to the koperasie silo. No airbags.
Back: Me; Kevin Stanley-Clarke (now a Kiwi); Glen Barker (now an Oz). Front: Pierre du Plessis; Steve Reed (a Kiwi in Oz); Lettuce Wood-Marshall (Chinese or Oz?); Dave Simpson;
kop-toe okes – taking themselves seriously; which made them more hilarious
weermag – again might, as in ‘we might have to go there again’; involuntarily
mielies – maize, corn, sometimes schlongs
koperasie – co-operative, socialist gathering of capitalist farmers
On Tabbo’s Warden farm “Rust” (mine host Tabbo is second from right, yet another ale in hand).
None of those guineas were killed by me (second from left) with my old man’s cheap Russian shotgun, even though the barrel was smoking. A marksman I am not!
Kai Reitz once tried to cure my handicap of not being able to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. On his farm, The Bend on the Tugela river outside Bergville, he gently lobbed up big sandclods in a ploughed field and I filled the air surrounding them with birdshot. Then they plonked to earth. Thud! Unharmed.
It was for naught – he had to give up.
With the last two shells Kai took the shotgun. I hurled two empty shell cases as hard as I could. Blap! Blap! he hit both of them. Bang went the gun and bang went my chance of using faulty Russian alignment as an excuse.
Bloody guineas better watch out, I’ll bring my mate next time!
We would meet on The Bend, Kai’s paradise on the Tugela outside Bergville. The guys from Doories in Johannesburg studying to be optometrists and engineers at the Wits Tech and the gals from NTC in Pietermaritzburg, studying to be teachers of the future fine upstanding youth of SA. We would meet specifically to practice setting a good example.
We’d sing and dance, play loud music, down many beers, fall in love, salute General Armstrong the whisky bottle, dance, laugh, swim in the river, jump off the dam wall, have a ball, dance, laugh, recover and start all over again. In hunting season some of us might shoot a few guineafowl.
Sundays we’d load up and go back to school like responsible students. Speronsible, as Lloyd Zunckel would say.
On this occasion Lettuce Leaf loaded up the off-yellow Clittering Goach to head SE back to PMB and Spatch loaded up the beige Apache and Scratchmo loaded the green VeeDub to head NW back to Joeys. We decided to help Lettuce pack out of the kindness of our hearts, slipping a dead guineafowl in amongst the girls’ suitcases. Ha ha! That’ll give them a surprise when they get back!
Here Scratchmo chunes the Clittering Goach’s under-bonnet-ular bits, pretending he knows what’s going on to impress Lettuce:
Back in Johannesburg later that Sunday night, we couldn’t wait to phone them from the nearest ‘tickey box’ or public phone.
How was your trip? Fine.
How were your suitcases? Fine.
How was Lettuce’s boot? Fine.
Oh! Um, was there anything unusual in the boot? No. Why?
DAMN! We suspected Scratchmo Hood Simpson, and interrogated him accusingly: Are you so in love that you removed the fowl to spare the girls the smell? No, it wasn’t him. But, but . . someone must have removed it. Damn!
Oh, well, it was a great idea for a prank! Pity it failed . . . .
A week later we got a parcel slip:
A parcel from PMB awaits your collection at the General Post Office in Jeppe Street.
It was big and quite heavy and read: Contents: Musical Instrument.
Unwrapping layer after layer of paper and one plastic bag after another we unveiled: THAT GUINEAFOWL! The girls had suckered us! We had been (in 21st century-language) SERVED!
Hummed? It honked! It ponged! – that was obviously their “musical instrument” clue! Heave! Vomit! Yuk!
So what to do with it? Holding it at arms length we carried it out. It was 5pm rush hour. Traffic backed up under the Harrow Road flyover. Innocent hard-working people on their way home. A little plumber’s bakkie looked easy, so as the light turned green we deposited the offending deceased foul fowl discreetly on his loadbed. He’d have an interesting mystery when he got home!
We then made our way to the nearest tickey box. We had a concession phone call to make to PMB.