Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 8_Nostalgia

Letter from a Student – 1977

I wrote a letter as a final year optometry student! Astonishing. When could one find the time? To sister Sheila, newly-qualified teacher in Empangeni in Zululand. My news was:

Passed my supplementary exams.

Started organising our Annual Ball at Carlton Hotel already.

I’m SRC chairman till July.

The mighty grey and grey Opel Concorde ‘needs a tjoon up.’

I may not make Rag Ball in Pietermaritzburg this year!

Unhappy with res in Doories; expensive, badly looked after, phones don’t work; fought with matron; moving into communal house 4 Hillside Rd in Parktown, where Glen Barker and Clive Nel stay. ‘Before I go, though, I’m going to raise hell to see if things’ll improve.’ (!)

Steve Reed, Cheryl Forsdick and I baby-sat for Bobby & Jill and Louis & Gail; ‘chaos for an hour, then not too bad. They enjoyed their evening; it had been a long while since they’d gone anywhere.’

Great parties; Braais; a Chinese Dinner-Dance; a cricket day; ‘played our first rugby match in our new kit – pitch black from toes to necks with the only white our optom badge on the pocket and our numbers on the back; Beat engineers 18-0.’

‘Went to the Vaal river for a weekend’s skiing; two of the guys had boats; stayed in a resort – lovely; went to a 21st in Pretoria; Generally busy except for work – work is suffering muchly; latest tests got 50% and 82% – the averages , thought were something like 80% and 95%.’

And all that was in a letter written 10th March!

Later that year:

Went to Pete Brauer and Terry Saks’ wedding in Pretoria. I was best man, had to get on my hind legs. My partner was the delightful Cheryl Forsdick; Lovely evening; Driving back with Clive Nel and the delightful Sandy Norts in Clive’s gas-guzzling white Mazda RX-2 we had a midnight head-on collision; Some drunken idiot turned straight into us on the highway! I was fine but the others got a bit battered, with Clive, driving, the worst. He’s in plaster and on crutches.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 3_USA 4_Optometry Johannesburg 5_Army days 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school sport travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

A Slice of Vrystaat

I was born in Harrismith in 1955, as was Mom Mary in 1928, and her Mom Annie in 1893. Annie thought “the queen” of that little island left of France was also the queen of South Africa (and for much of her life she was right!).

– annie watson – mary frances – peter frank –

To balance that, there’s this side of the family.

I attended the plaaslike schools in Harrismith till 1972. A year in the USA in 1973 as a  Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma. Studied optometry in Joburg 1974 – 1977. Worked in Hillbrow and Welkom in 1978. Army (Potch and Roberts Heights, now Thaba Tshwane – in between it was Voortrekkerhoogte) in 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980.

I stayed in Durban, paddled a few rivers, and then got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends and my Life With Aitch started. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.

‘Strue!! – These random, un-chronological and personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know that with one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt. Names have been left unchanged to embarrass the friends who led me (happily!) astray. Add your memories – and corrections – and corrections of corrections! – in the comments if you were there.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 8_Nostalgia

“Like God Clearing His Throat”

Me and Stephen Charles Reed, First Son of Clarens Vrystaat, were talking V8’s back in 2012 when he delivered that spot-on description of the sound they make as they roar off, windgat, into the distance.

I replied: Oh, I DO like that description! That’s GOOD! When you hear that at a traffic light you delay your take-off to hear that grumble-rumble-roar . .

– muscle car V8 – thanks daniel simon –

Remember the ole man’s V8 bus? Did you drive with me in Hillbrow? Floored it at a few robos. More like a Doories hobo clearing his Old Brown sherry-phlegm throat, but still impressive . . and neat for penniless students to windgat in. We blew a few okes’ doors off in the sprint to the next lights. ca1975.

– in Doories we drove it something like this –

Steve: I had forgotten but it comes back to me. Imported van, was it not? Is it still around? I can quite imagine you driving it around Doories and quietly being a bit of a wind gat. Aah, those halcyon days! Now it’s all about boring things like reliability, economy and resale value. Where has all the fun gone? Back to the van. Did your folks do a bit of touring in it? Or a lot? I am sure half the fun with them is kitting it out.

Me: Ja, a 1972-ish Ford Econoline with 302cubic inch V8. White. Automatic 3-speed. Imported direct from Detroit. They toured a bit, but the vehicle itself was the ole man’s interest. We had old faded-denim blue VW kombis before it and a big Toyota 22-seater after it. All with the seats removed and beds, stove and fridge fitted . . Now he has an ancient Jurgen camper VW kombi with the tortoise-on-the-back look. And tortoise-on-the-back speed.

– something like this –

When he was about eighty he took the ole lady off to Oranjemund on the Atlantic Ocean on the border with Namibia; then followed the coast southwards down to Cape Town; up the Garden route, into the old Transkei, into Natal up to Kosi Bay on the Indian Ocean on the border of Mocambique = the whole blerrie South African coastline. Mom found out on the way that that had been his goal all along!
They broke down at night in the Transkei between the coast and Umtata. Luckily Sheila had a friend in Umtata and luckily he roared off in the night to tow them in to his home.
Now at 89 he wants to buy another one. In an understatement he says, ‘This one is too rusty, but the 1800 Jetta engine is still FINE.’ He has his eye on a newer one, only 400 000 kms on the clock; Planning vaguely to head off into the wild blue yonder again. Heaven help the ole lady. She gets panic attacks at the thought, but soldiers on, providing the calm, rational common sense to the union as she always has. (They had been married about 52 years when they toured the coastline).

If only he was reasonable, like his son. Aitch and I hired a later-model Ford Econoline camper in San Francisco, California on honeymoon in 1988. We went to Yosemite, Big Sur, Golden Gate bridge and a bit north of that to some redwood trees. Fun way to go. Ideal for Oz, I’d think

Stephen: Wow – fantastic that he has that passion at 89. Of course I imagined your folks much younger. My ole man would have been turning 100 in September 2012! He would have loved all that. My guess is that they kept up too much of a social lifestyle to have money left over for exciting things like camper vans. To be buggering around tinkering with cars and vans at 89 your dad must be blerrie fit. Well done to him. Takes me two days to build up the momentum to clean my car!

Sorry to hear about your Kombi.

That trip round California including the big sur (now Keith Ballin country) sounds amazing. A lot of old-timers (i.e about my age) over here go and ‘do the lap’ round Australia. Would smaak to do it some day but in the meantime need to keep the nose to the grindstone. Which I know is the wrong attitude. Do it now!

– Aitch on honeymoon with that camper van –
– had to add this in – there’s Aitch again –

Me: You are absolutely right: Go now. Work again later. One thing okes agonise over is what vehicle to choose, and I think the actual answer is always ‘The One You Have.’ Just get into it and start driving. As for ‘What to take?’ – very little. Weight is the enemy. There’s very little you might pack that you can’t find along the way. Take less luggage and more money than you think.

A thought for both of us: Contact every little dorp optometrist en route and ask them if they need a locum. Tell them you’ll work a day or a week for them and house-sit while they have a holiday. Also always seek out the local birding fundi and ask him or her to take you to the local spots. Save time and see more.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The story started earlier when I told a tragic tale:

On Wednesday, July 18, 2012, pete swanepoel wrote: My fine VW kombi T5 bus went clunk after I dropped Jess off at school this morning, and suddenly no clutch, no gears, fokol.
Absolutely no problem, sir, said Alpine Motors when the AA tow truck dropped me off there, just give us twenty four grand and we’ll have it as good as old. I picked up a lil Suzuki to keep me going meantime. R200 a day while I ponder whether to fix or sell.

Later: The ole kombi lay down with its wheels in the air, and the quote to fix it went up to forty four grand, so I got me a Fraud Ranger last week. 2007 model, a mere 89 000km on the clock. So far I’ve only dinged it the one time. Smashed the rear lights against a pillar in a parking garage.

Steve reed wrote: A three liettah turbot diesel! Now you can pull out tree stumps. Anyway, he said (I paraphrase), dirty VW no longer deserves your patronage, the lying thieves.

Me: Exactly. Just don’t tell anyone the Ford’s front wheels just trundle along for the ride . . . it’s a high-rider, so it masquerades as a Four Four Four as Jessie used to call them.

Steve: It’s when the BACK wheels freewheel that it’s more shameful. Like my corolla. At the local Toyota dealer they had a genuine Glen Barker Toyota circa 1975-ish, mint condition; belonged to a little old dear living locally. Now that was a back wheel driver, I am almost sure. They had it in the showroom as an object of curiosity. 

Anyway that noo car: You gonna be pulling something with that – other than chicks? Or putting some sort of enclosure on the back?  Forgot what they call it.

Me: Canopy. Maybe I’ll install a double bed mattress and dark curtains. You never know . . . it does exhibit strong chick-pulling tendencies.

Yeah, Glen’s Toyota! Green, it was. A Corona, I think. Definitely rear wheel drive. NX 106. His Dad still has NX 21 from when it was first nailed to their oxwagon when they arrived fresh in Natal to steal it from the Zooloos in the name of the Lawd.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

postscript: Steve did buy a bus! And he did convert it into a camper van! Proud of ya! He and Evil Voomin did a really neat job:

– the full Reed flock doing it in style – looking for flocks in the reeds –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

That car? A 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. 455 cubic-inch V8. That’s 7.5-liters in today’s money.

dorp – village

fokol – not much

Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia school

Serious Optometric Research

We were in second year and had just moved out of downtown Joburg and Eloff Street to the salubrious semi-suburban delightful area of Doornfontein which was once Joburg’s premier suburb where all the gold mining magnates and Randlords lived and built their mansions.

– that was a while ago, ’tis true –

So some final year students asked us to help them in their research for their – whatever.

They needed volunteers to see if blood alcohol levels affected your esotropia. We gave it a moment’s thought and thought that sounded like a HELLUVA good idea as it involved free drink and would provide valuable data and it involved free drink. We volunteered. None of asked ‘what’s esotropia?’

It was very formal. We had to – No, you can’t have a drink yet; Hey! Step away from the drinks table, we need baseline levels before you . . you have? Well, how many? SO many? Well, quick, come, let’s measure you before – Hey! Not another one . .

Well, give them their due, they tried their best and we did our best and it was a WONDERFUL evening filled with laughter and witty repartee and I don’t know if they got any data but we did get the promised drinks and they didn’t need to return any unopened bottles to the grog shop.

Quite a lot was learned, too. Like if you give a person who has had one too many even a little bit of vertical prism he will push the phoropter away and make barfing noises and run out of the clinic. That might come in handy to future researchers, and I give it here free for anyone to use.

– look at her – she’s obviously had a few –
Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia

My Wild Days – Stepping Out, Clubbing

Found this picture on the ‘net. It says “The Doors Nightclub Johannesburg”. It reminds me very strongly of my impression of an unusual night on the town with young Fotherby, back in the Jurassic.

Nightclub JHB

I was just as boring then as I am now. My idea of a good night out was find a pub, drink a lot, laugh.

Well, Fotherby thought there must be more to life than that – even though she was from Kimberley out – and so she announced one night that we were going to a nightclub.

A what? Of course I’d heard of them, but I didn’t think they allowed FreeStaters in. Shuddup And Let’s Go was the reply and also Don’t You Have Anything Better To Wear Than That?

You can’t believe it! I was wearing what I had worn since shortly after the rinderpest: Boring shirt, plain pants, brown shoes. What else would one wear?

Sighing, she lifted up my collar so at least I would look slightly different, mussed my flowing locks a bit and then ordered me to drive the grey and grey 1965 Opel Concorde to some dingy back street, somewhere near Joubert Park I think. Don’t park near the door, I was told. Even though we were in the grey and grey 1965 Opel Concorde. Amazing!

doornfontein-003

At the door the bouncers looked us over and because we looked suave and masculine – or maybe as we were with attractive nubile lasses – or maybe cos we paid – let us in. I can’t recall who else was with us – I only had eyes for the delightful Fotherby, of course. I remember an entrance hall and then a huge area filled with people, smoke and noise. Huge. Only later I realised the heavens were the ceiling. The ‘room’ could be as big as it was because we were actually sort of outdoors. Boys danced with boys and girls with girls and some mixed. Getting a drink was a mission. Why the hell would anyone want to go to such a place?, I thought.

I still think that.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Stephen Reed wrote: If I was there, the memory could well have fallen between the sizable cracks between the ears. I do remember one night coming down Smith / Wolmarans street  towards the Doories Res,  full to the brim with alcohol with you and Fotherby in the car and Forsdick I think. The Austin Apache was purring  along nearing it’s rather modest  V-max when you decided to pull up the handbriek as we went through the intersection with Steil Street or Gould street … Shrieks of protest from the back seat as the Apache battled to retain its composure . . On reflection, that may have been on the way back from a nightclub, but just as likely from the Dev or maybe Float-Building.

Me: Problem is sometimes our carefully stored and index’d memories are filed on exactly the grey cells targeted for destruction by that particular binge. Of course, sometimes that’s a happy occurrence – don’t always want to remember everything.

As you know, one of my oft-repeated mantras is the trouble with marriage is wimmin have such good memory glands; or – as I prefer to put it – we have much better filters; discretion!

And as I once told you, that particular handbriek trick was a Pierre du Plessis invention. We used to pile into his Mom Joan’s Ford Prefect for a lift home from swimming lessons. As we piled in we’d all say a loud and cheerful HI BEAM! to the light on the dash that said hi beam.

Then he’d wait for just the wrong moment – usually where Joan had to drive around the inconvenient Moeder Kerk – and yank up the handbriek so the car would do a sideways slither to her consternation. Trouble is, she had such a sense of humour and loved ole duP so much she could never actually get cross with him!

So we never learned.

~~~oo0oo~~~

handbriek – handbrake; a car handbrake, not . . . forget it

shuddup – domineering wimmin talk

grey cells being murdered by grogmight not be true!

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia school sport

Doories Daze

On 2018/12/18 Stephen Reed wrote: Had a late afternoon chat with Kevin ‘Stanrey Kraarke’ this afternoon . .

( that would be a phone call across the Tasman Sea )

I replied: Ah, good to hear the ancient old bullet is still alive!!

Hoezit Kev!!? ( I have cc’d him here)

I can’t think of Doories without thinking of you, the green TAV 5556 Datsun from the metropolis of Grootfontein, the chocolate Alfa Romeo; and old Krazalski, Wartski, What-ski? – those are wrong – what ‘ski was he, your boss?

– Doories student cars – and Ponte; Check out our salubrious quarters –

I can still see the meticulous care with which you changed the crunchy, notchety gears in the Alfa, and taught me if you open the window you must also wind down the rear window three inches, then the breeze won’t muss your hair.

Often when driving I remember your sage advice: WATCH OUT for an old toppie wearing a hat! Mostly nowadays I see the old toppie wearing a hat in my own rear-view mirror! Gives me a bit of a start every time: Who’s that fuckin old fart? Oh, OK – only me . . . . As for Forever Young! I think we still are! Well, I think we should keep imagining that!

Oh, and we musn’t forget the outbreak of Dobie’s Itch in the Doories Res!! Kev rushed back to work and got going amongst the pots and stills and fires and wooden ladles and other witchcraft paraphenalia he and Wartski used to keep in their secret Doories factory and came back with a double-strength potion stronger than anything Dumbledore could have made, and CURED the dreaded ballache!! He was our hero!!

Stephen Reed wrote: By gosh, we had a few laughs.

Another one: Sunday morning, Kevin having a sleep in – eyes closed …

Are you sleeping Kevin?

Kevin: one eye slightly opens, ‘No No … Just coasting . . ‘

I wrote: Ha HA!! I’d forgotten these! Exactly right!!!

PS: We were so lucky Stanley-Clarke decided to stay in Res that extra year while he re-wrote ?pharmacology? I mean, he could have stayed with any one of a dozen beautiful chicks. They all wanted his moustache! And we would never have met him. It turned into a magic, unforgettable year, and he was no small part of that!

Stephen Reed wrote: Bullshit.

HE was lucky to have had US there.

Bloody boring time he would have had otherwise . . .

I wrote: Ja!! Too True My Bru!

And now here’s the man himself:

Kevin Stanley-Clarke wrote: Kia Ora both of you; What a wonderful surprise hearing from the DOORIE BRO’s in particular the very Articulate Rhodes student Mr Koos Swanepoel himself, from Harrismith; and the attention-to-detail Mr Stevie Reed the boat builder raconteur himself from a little town in the free state that eludes me at this time!

This really made my day – thank you both for all the very happy memories and to think I could have missed that wonderful year if I had passed Pharmacology first go – and to think it was 45 years ago which has basically passed in a flash.

My boss in the very clandestine factory in Doories was Mr Pogeralski – so Pete, the grey matter is still intact;

As for that ointment which I prepared it was Whitefields ointment aka “Ung acid benz co.” Had I given that to you today I would be in serious trouble with “Health and safety”, “Quality and risk”, “Public safety”, you name it! But it certainly works.

Yes, and how can we forget the times we all went to the Jeppe Street post office to use their services “pro bono” utilizing your unbelievable skills with ‘the long tickey” to gain access to their phone lines – Hello World.

Also will never forget the rugby test at Ellis Park “pro bono” an absolute blast – thank you both for the wonderful memories that always bring a smile to my face. Which was it? –

British & Irish Lions27 July 1974Ellis Park, Johannesburg13–13Draw
All Blacks18 September 1976 Ellis Park, Johannesburg15 – 14 South Africa

And Stevie, can you remember the movie we went to on a Saturday morning at the Cinerama we saw “Papillon” ??

I could go on forever – The Dev ? The Bend ? and many more. May leave that for another day.

Take care both of you and please keep in touch

Kakite Ano

Dee Student aka ‘Giscard . . . d’Estaing’ – Kevin Stanley-Clarke

~~~oo0oo~~~

Notes:

Ellis Park “pro bono” – Less than fully legal entry to the rugby stadium for a test match; ahem . .

The Jeppe Street post office and the Hillbrow “pro bono long tickey” – Less than entirely legal as well, say no more . . . ahem . . There were consequences! I got a phone call in the holidays in Harrismith from the GPO: Are Your Name Swanepoel? Did you phone a number in Oklahoma? I meekly coughed up for sundry long-distance international ‘trunk calls’!

Aside: While shaking a tin collecting money for our eye clinic charities outside the big old Jeppe Street Post Office one year, a pigeon shat on my shoulder. I took that as an omen from above and went and handed in my tin.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia school

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 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?”

=======ooo000ooo=======

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;

——-ooo000ooo——-

Dodgy history lesson: Grand Central Station, in the metropolis of Petrus Steyn, situated on the banks of the mighty Renoster:

Petrus_Steyn_Train_Station_ruins

Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia school

My Best Man (confessions about . . )

My Best Man, I have always said, is one of the most honest upright people I’ve known. I’ve said this for many years. It isn’t strictly true.

One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein, shortly after having been crowned The Official Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World, the story of which famous victory has appeared in print elsewhere, we were smuggled out of the bar in secret to avoid a massacre by the vengeful forces that had lost to us in the final.

Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen, past the chest freezers and out the back door into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein. Out into that dark night.

Through the kitchen. Did you get that part? Through the hotel kitchen. Past a number of chest deep freeze cabinets. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the lids lifting, a hand reaching in and a packet being shoved under an old jersey. The jersey was probably part of the uniform of the new Official Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World.

When we got to the safety of our large and lavish room in the plush Doories residence a few blocks away we were highly relieved and thankful to have survived. So we reached into the huge old off-white Westinghouse we had inherited with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on the door in black coki pen and calmed our nerves. Poor old Willie the housemaster came round to ask us to Please turn down the sound, manne, my wife is trying to sleep.

Then an interesting aroma started to fill the room: BACON. Being fried on the two-plate hot plate. By My Best Man.

THAT’s what had been lifted from the chest deep freeze of the New Doornfontein Hotel. Illicitly. And THAT’s who had dunnit. Did I mention he has a small trace of Jewish blood running through his veins, making this not only a crime, but also a sin?

It was delicious.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I had hidden this confession, but then I got a confession from the perpetrator here and so now it has gone public, to be read by both my followers.

~~~oo0oo~~~

As we revved up on another evening after a night’s carousing, we rollicked as poor old Willie the housemaster asked us Please to behave manne, my wife is trying to sleep. Another bright idea took hold: Converting the hostel angle-iron bed into a fold-away stretcher. You can’t bend angle-iron, but he had done a year’s engineering before he started optometry, so through persistence and focused dedication, he did. His skilful panel-beating expertise is depicted in the big pic *.

The sheer force of this exercise bumped the bed against an heirloom 5-gallon glass flagon with two ears. An heirloom purchased months before in a Yeoville junk shop. SMASH and tinkle. It must have been tempered glass, as there were millions of tiny pieces!

Gabba Glass Flagon

~~~oo0oo~~~

Barks sometimes inexplicably went to bed early. Something about a good night’s sleep. One night we got home handsome and clever and Barks had locked his door. Which was his right, except the Fridge Over Troubled Waters was in his room, and the beer was in that fridge. When we failed to rouse him Chris Slabber said “Hold My Beer and Stand back!” and next minute BA-BLAM! he shot off the doorlock! It seems people from Die Perel with CJ numberplates carry small arms with them in case of moeilikheid. I didn’t know that. Access to refreshment obtained. Like the bloody Wild West!

Asseblief manne, said poor housemaster Willie, My wife is trying to sleep. We felt for him.

CJ Paarl numberplate
– CJ number plate like Slabber’s –

~~~oo0oo~~~

You’ll have a positive outlook on this eventful evening if you remember:

“Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars” – Stephen Fry

~~~oo0oo~~~

Asseblief manne – stop it, you hooligans!

Die Perel – the city of Paarl in the western cape province; average of eighteen teeth per head

moeilikheid – shit

~~~oo0oo~~~

This * jumping thing seemingly became a habit.

Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 8_Nostalgia

Fire! Fire!

We had asbestos heaters on the walls in our Louisa Street residence in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. The res was in the shadow of the not-yet-completed Ponte tower – the 50-story residential cylinder up on the hill that became famous and notorious for varying reasons over the years.

Doories cars - and Ponte
Doories cars – and Ponte

Doories res and view
Doories res and view

Late one night we woke up to yelling and cursing. Thick smoke billowed into our room, so we rushed out to see wassup. Glen Barker and Louis Slabbert’s room was on fire! Glen’s clothes, his bedside table, the linoleum floor and the ceiling were ablaze. We soon put it out and, coughing and spluttering, opened up the windows and doors to let the acrid, foul smoke escape.

To the amazement of the non-smokers amongst us, Louis then sat down on his bed, lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply!

Dave Simpson, Louis Slabbert at Wilge River swing, Harrismith;

Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions

International Darts Champs

One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein we were playing darts. In the New Doornfontein Hotel pub.

Actually to be more exact, we were engaged in a very important international darts championship tournament, and we were in the final. We had made it through to the final by skill and courage. And imbibing. See, it was The Official Inebriated World Darts Championships of The World. Our opponents were the Sicilian Mafia who had materialised out of nowhere, tapped one of us on the shoulder and announced darkly in a sinister growl: “We play you next”. That’s how they got into the final. We didn’t dare to do anything but nod nervously.

It was like:

mafia darts

We were not fooled when during the important ceremony of ‘diddle for middle’ they missed the bull’s eye by about three metres and we hit bull to go off first. We knew they were simply lulling us into a false sense of security and had in fact wanted us to go first as part of a dastardly plot. This plan was executed faultlessly as we continued to whip they asses and beat them by a mile in all three rounds. Something was afoot. We got even more nervous when they appeared to accept their defeat in good spirit and retired to a corner of the bar conversing – sinisterly for Sicilians – in Portuguese and Joburg English.

Our lives were saved that night in that we ordered beers when the barman called ‘Last Round!’ and the Mafia didn’t. So at closing time the Mafiosi left and we stayed behind to finish our drinks, huddled in a corner as far away as we could get from the door in case it suddenly shattered and splintered under sustained machine gun fire.

The barman then escorted us out the back. Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen past the chest freezers – take note, I am not mentioning the chest freezers for nothing here – past the chest freezers: they will feature again at the end of this story, those chest freezers – and out the back door. As I hurried through the kitchen I thought I had seen some movement of the one chest freezer lid out of the corner of my eye . .

Then we were outside – into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein which was even darker than the unlit streets. Then out that side gate visible on the far left into Height Street.

New Doornfontein Hotel side exit
– a recent picture showing the New Doories has been nicely renovated since our day – also doubled its number of stars – bloody looxury now –

We scurried home to our lavish quarters in the plush Doories residence of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education a few blocks away, keeping to the shadows. It was all shadows.

Once safely inside we opened the large door of the old off-white Westinghouse with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on it in cokie pen. Finally we, The Official Inebriated World Darts Champions of The World, could relax. Another beer . .

fridge.jpg

Suddenly the smell of frying bacon filled the room . . .

and then . .