John Newby was an LLB attorney and a CA accountant, wine connoisseur, boyfriend of the lovely Heather – and a crayfisherman. A very capable and interesting fella. He would shove his scrawny frame into a wetsuit and disappear under the waves among the rocks and emerge with crayfish. Which he would then very generously cook and share with his fellow inmates at 72 Hunt Road, our communal house on the Berea in Durban.
I always knew when a crayfish treat was coming cos he’d walk into my room, mumble an apology, roll back the carpet and disappear under my floor. He’d emerge covered in cobwebs clutching a dusty wine bottle or two talking French and flowery poetical words which I took with a pinch of salt. Some people are just like that and you tolerate them while quaffing their wine.
But lo! As with everything he did, Newby wasn’t bullshitting. We suddenly found out he had won the Natal wine-tasters guild sniffing and spitting finals and was off to represent us at the nationals in Cape Town! I mean I always thought of myself as an oenophile but that was in a volume sense, not so much as a critic.
So now we were rooting for him! We always knew he was a connoisseur, we now said. We had helped him train, we said. My memory is that he won that tasting too and Hunt Road thus had an SA champion under our roof; I would take this 38yr-old self-serving memory with another pinch of salt, though. Or a swallow of chablis.
I was looking thru Dan Palatnik’s Digital Garage (well worth a visit) and an old Willys Jeep reminded me of Leibs and Achim lying under their old Jeeps in the backyard of our communal home at 4 Hillside Road, Parktown. Mainly they were banging out rust and stuffing V8’s under the bonnets.
Achim went on to do a lot of off-road rallying in Brits, where he ran his optometric practice with his bream, wife and former lecturer Eva the dispensing optician. On the side he ran a garage to tjoon up his racing 4X4’s and fit divorce pipes, one of which eventually got him. Maybe she kicked him out for getting grease on the contact lenses?
Inmates of 4 Hillside I remember are:
– Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire. As students we fitted Leibs with silicon permawear contact lenses! He drove an Alfa Romeo;
– Granger Grey. Grey VW Beetle;
– Donald ‘Coolsie’ Collins. (“You take off your clothes, I’m just having a shit . . ” to part-time girlfriend ‘Vaalwater’);
– Mike Doyle, girlfriend Michaela or ‘Shale’. Old blue LandRover;
– Clive ‘Nel’ Nel. A book could and should be written. “Dee dee dee BARKER!! baap”. Endured by the wonderful and long-suffering Sandy Norts. White Mazda RX2;
– Glen ‘Barks’ Barker. Another book. Green Toyota Corona;
– Gerald ‘Gelard’ the Malawian butler with ambitions of becoming a tycoon. Hurt that we thought mowing the lawn was in his portfolio. He called CoolsieBoss Donut.
Friends-of-4-Hillside included: – Jos, another teacher who lived nearby. Not tall, with high-plus specs, an Alfa and a lovely girlfriend; – ‘Norbs’ Norbury. Yet another educator. Big black beard. Norbs imitated Charles Fortune to perfection at the Wanderers cricket ground, entertaining the inebriated crowds on the grassy banks as he waxed lyrical about the clouds and the birds while blissfully ignoring the fall of a wicket. Would sing loud John Denver: “You Philip My Dentures . . . “;
Other memories: Sitting in the crowded little TV lounge watching the news and Dorianne Berry came on to read the news wearing a strapless top, the camera only showing above it. “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Dorianne’s berries”, was the call. Disappointed.
Lying under the grey-and-grey Opel fixing the drum brakes before going to Port Shepstone. Now, who the hell would drive 700km in a car whose brakes I had fiddled with!? Turns out a few students, including the delightful Cheryl Forsdick;
The delightful SSS Featherbed Fotherby was a welcome visitor to 4 Hillside in one of the few lucky – and brief – periods I ‘had a girlfriend’!
Steve Reed wrote:Granger – never forgotten. Mostly for his height-enhancing shoe-stuffing for weight watchers meetings; I’d forgotten that! Granger flopped into one of our overstuffed, undersprung TV room chairs one night and wheezed as he reached down and removed his shoes, removing a fat wad of newsprint from each shoe. ‘And now, Grange?’, we asked. ‘No, we had a weigh-in tonight and I didn’t want them to give me a low target weight‘, he said, quite seriously, matter of fact. We collapsed when we realised what that entailed! He was cheating the system – and himself!
Pete Brauer wrote:More vivid nostalgic memories of Granger Grey shoving quarts of Black Label down his throat;
I remember Granger Grey (6ft 4 high, 4ft 6 wide) getting home late one night, well-oiled with a placid beam on his face. He joined us students braaiing on the lawn next to the pool and started eyeing the sizzling meat. Borrowing one ale after the other he got progressively more glass-eyed and we watched in awe as he swayed, Obelix-like, WAY past a normal centre of gravity then slowed to a halt, jutting chin way forward, eyes on the tjops n boerie and then SLO-OWLY swayed back to upright, then way back, with his beer resting on his boep till he was leaning 450 backwards and HAD to see his arse but halted, hovered and started the slow sway forward again. Musta been the size eleventeen shoes that held him upright!
We had to hurriedly clear the braai and endure his hurt look. Imperative to be tough and take evasive action when Granger got near food though: Gerard the Malawian butler on steak days would cook the veggies and spuds and put the seven big steaks on the wall above the fridge in the 4 Hillside kitchen. Strict house rule: Whoever cracked first had to divide the veg into seven equal portions and only then could he cook his own steak and eat.
Granger got home early one day and did just that. Then he had just ONE more steak ‘cos, hey! maybe someone wouldn’t be coming home and that would be a waste. Then he had another . . . .
As he finished the seventh and last steak he was overcome by remorse and panic. He hopped in to his long-suffering grey VW Beetle and hared off to Fontana in Hillbrow and bought two roast chickens off their rotisserie to replace the looted steaks. Alas, on the way home one of the chickens clucked seductively and persuasively and he ate most of that before finally plonking one lonely fowl on the wall for us to share.
Granger. Heart of gold. He had bigger brothers, one called Tiny. He read Ayn Rand and thought she was on to something.
Steve Reed again:The legend that I subscribe to is that the famous Vespa scooter that ended up on the bottom of the 4 Hillside Road pool originally belonged to a bird called Terry who later married Keith Taylor. Keith’s brother Ian Taylor [who became a Doctor] had apparently commandeered Terry’s scooter and somehow it had ended up at 4 Hillside where it met its famous fate. Of course, the story may be the result of the effects on Terry of the third bottle of pinot noir on a cold Auckland night.
Vespa scooter reminds me of Keith Ballin zipping along, specs and moustache peering out from under his helmet, scarf trailing behind him in the breeze!
I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine.
Nostalgia: A device that removes the potholes from memory lane.
Vaalwater – name of young lass from the distant metropolis of Vaalwater
tjoon – tune-up in this case; sometimes ‘explain’
braai – barbecue
tjops n boerie – red meat sacrificed over an open flame
boep – stomach
‘Twas at 4 Hillside that a knock came at the front door. We knew it was a stranger as no-one knocked at the front door. Actually, no one knocked, you just walked into the kitchen door.
It was a pink-faced balding chap and he asked for Peter Swanepoel.
We found out later from Madeleine what had transpired: A pink-faced balding chap walked into the School of Optometry and enquired at reception: Who’s your BEST optometrist? When Madeleine asked Um, Why? he said I want to employ your best final year optom student. Stifling a grin Madeleine said, Actually most of them already have jobs, they’re nearly finished their exams. Oh, said the pink-faced balding chap, So who hasn’t got a job yet?
The rumour that he then went on to ask OK, then who’s your WORST student? is just that: A vicious rumour.