Fine, thank you. I’m tucked up in bed already, waiting for the sister to bring my pain muti and eyedrops. They put a drop in my left eye and five minutes later another drop. Same eye. Only my left eye.
It’s 6pm. Early to bed, my Ma in frail care.
Do you sleep well?
Like a log. I’m warm and comfortable. And Kosie! I’ve been having the most wonderful dreams lately. Nice, happy dreams. I wake up smiling.
That’s so nice! Can you remember what they’re about, or are they too racy to repeat in polite company?
No, they’re about the farm. The wonderful farm, the beautiful view, the walks with my Dad. It’s all underwater now, of course.
The farm Nuwejaarsvlei on the Nuwejaarspruit. Now submerged beneath the waters of Sterkfontein Dam. About ’15 miles’ from Harrismith towards Oliviershoek Pass and ‘on the Witsieshoek road.’
I was eight years old when we left the farm.
That was 1936.
muti – medicine;
Kosie – my nickname; Ma pronounces it the Afrikaans way, Kuwa-see; unlike Annie and her friends who all called me Koosie, rhyming with pussy or wussy; True fact; Accounts for a lot?
Nuwejaarsvlei – New Year Marsh or wetland
Nuwejaarspruit – New Year creek or stream
Sterkfontein – strong fountain
Oliviershoek – the place of the Oliviers, a surname
Witsieshoek – the place of the Basotho chief Witsie who lived there from 1839 to 1856.
The pic shows Mom floating on the water above her old farm in 1990. Its somewhere in the background in this pic:
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. It was like Mecca.
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 (a Chinese or an 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
schlong – your mielie
koperasie – co-operative: socialist gathering of capitalist farmers
In JHB, a mate swears he heard me giving directions to the farm. I’m sure he’s mistaken, but Trevor John says: Swannie, I will never forget your directions to a farm in Harrysmith – 2 quarts of beer to the right turnoff; one pint to the next turnoff; and a small shot for the next left to the gate .
Sheila saw to it I had a party! As so often, Sheila saved the day. Back in 1976 before there were rules and the rinderpest was still contagious.
Des Glutz threw open his palatial bachelor home, Kenroy, on the banks of the mighty Vulgar River to an invasion of students from Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg. That’s because as a lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer he had his eye on some of those student teachers from Teachers Training College in PMB!
“Kindness of his heart” you thought? Ha! You know nothing about horny bachelor Free State farmers! Anyway, he owed me for managing his farm brilliantly when he went to Zimbabwe.
Sheila invited everybody – and everybody arrived!
Eskom had not yet bedeviled Kenroy so paraffin lamps, gaslamps and candles gave light. Music pomped out from car batteries. There was singing and much laughter. Except when Noreen, Jo and Ski danced their Broadway routine The Gaslamp Revue with Redge Jelliman holding the silver tray footlight staring in open-mouthed wonder at their skill. And of course, their legsnboobs – another lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer, y’know. Awe-struck silence reigned. For minutes.
There was also Liz and Mops and Jenny, Georgie, Mandy, Gill and Jill; Hell, we bachelors were in awe at almost being outnumbered – a rare event. We were so excited we got pissed and fell down. Timothy Paget Venning got so excited he walked all the way round the house smashing Des’ window panes to let in the night.
Poor ole Gilbert, Des’ personal butler, valet and chef – seen here in purple – and his men bore the brunt of the extra work!
He cooked and cooked, including a big leg of lamb which didn’t make the main table, getting scoffed on the quiet by ravenous would-be teachers under the kitchen table. Pity the poor kids who would have to grow up being taught all the wrong things by this lot in Natal in the eighties.
These would-be teachers and pillars of society were wild n topless:
Tabbo wore his tie so he could make a speech into his beer can microphone:
Funny how Glutz doesn’t feature in any pics! Where was he? We know he wasn’t in his bedroom cos the TC girls raided it and were in awe at the impressive collection of bedroom toys and exotic rubber and latex items in his bedside drawer. No stopping those TC girls!
Ah! Here’s Glutz – Sheila and Liz presenting Des a thank-you gift for hooligan-hosting:
The morning after dawned bright. Too bright for some . . .
A mudfight! said some bright spark – Sheila, no doubt – so Des arranged transport to the mighty Vulgar river.
After the weekend I roared back to Jo’burg in my brand-new 1965 two-shades-of-grey-and-grey Opel Rekord Concorde deluxe sedan, four-door, grey bench-seated, 1700cc straight-four, three-on-the column, chick-magnet automobile. My first car! Watch out Doornfontein!
Thanks Mom & Dad! And thanks for the party, Sheils and Des! Before we left, Mom tickled the ivories while the TC gang belted out some songs:
The old man organised the numberplate OHS 5678 for me. The man at the Harrismith licencing office said “Oom, are you sure you want an easy-to-remember number for your son? Don’t you want one that’s hard to remember?”
Dogs accomplish mating by a unique physical way and process. Unlike most other mammals, the dog’s penis has a large bulbous enlargement at the base. When the dog’s penis enters the vagina of the bitch, it must go through a muscular ring or constriction of the external opening of the vagina. The moment the penis is through, the pressure of the tube on the reflex nerve center causes a violent thrust and the dog clings to the bitch with all his strength. The swelling of the bulb prevents the dog from withdrawing his penis.
Dogs remain hung in this manner for on average twenty minutes. The male turns around and faces the opposite direction from the bitch. While the two are hung in this manner, they may get their nails into the dirt and pull with far more than their own weights, stretching the penis amazingly. Do not be alarmed when they pull this way; neither dog is being hurt. As the valve relaxes, the blood leaves the penis, usually from the bulb part first, and allows the enlarged penis to slip out.
I didn’t know this when I first saw it on the Fyvie’s Gailian farm and I watched in fascination. It did seem a bit like, after the passion, they had turned their backs on each other and were like:
I can’t believe this; He doesn’t write, he doesn’t call;
Will she still respect me in the morning . . . ?
And Hector Fyvie said, deadpan: “Locked in Holy Matrimony”.
Another famous dog knot featured our first dog’s father:
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! I was ‘Rust’-y.
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!
As always, Sheila has the details:
This was taken on 1 September 1974, at a shoot at the Fyvies’ farm ‘Rust’ near Warden. According to my 1974 diary, we had had a wonderful party at Nick & Anne Leslie’s farm ‘Heritage’ the night before – “Had delicious supper. Danced. Sat & chatted” – most of us spent the night there, then moved over to Rust the next day, where the guys “shot about 60 fowls.”
This was taken on my grandparents’ Frank and Annie Bland’s farm, Nuwejaarsvlei in the Harrismith district, eighteen miles out on the road to Witsieshoek. The farm is now under Sterkfontein Dam. The solid sandstone stables (‘five loose boxes’) were more stable (!) than the house, which was a long thin prefabricated structure bought from the British army on Kings Hill when they left town in 1913, eleven years after the end of the Boer War. Frank bred race horses. For a while . . .
Frank had the prefab carted out to the farm, then cut off a portion of the long house so they only lived in four rooms: A lounge, a kitchen and two bedrooms. They bathed in a zinc bath in the kitchen while Frank showered with cold water in a reed enclosure outside. Bath water was heated in paraffin tins on the coal stove. Lighting was by lamplight. The toilet was a long-drop outside under trees along a path of white-washed stones leading from the kitchen door.
Here’s older sis Pat pushing Mother Mary in the pram in the farmyard. See the stables in the background.
Frank started to build a big stone house from sandstone quarried on the farm. Built on a slope it was level with the ground at the back, but ended in a high drop in front, which never did get the steps that were to lead up to the big veranda. The walls went up and the kids would roam around the big house, four bedrooms, big rooms, big kitchen but Mom says “no bathroom.” The roof never went on. The builder wanted many sheep (Mom thinks 200!) to do the roof and Frank balked at that / couldn’t afford it.
Other buildings on the farm were a workshop, Frank’s office and a garage for his yellow ‘Erskine’ tourer. It had open sides; when it rained you put up side flaps.
Later Frank bought a 1936 Chev Standard – perhaps like this one, but ‘light brown’:
Mom Mary remembers cousin Janet leaving the door open after she and older sister Pat had jumped out just before Frank drove into the garage. The door, she says, was “damaged forever.”
The Nuwejaarspruit runs from Nuwejaarsvlei down to the Wilge river downstream of Harrismith and then into the Vaal Dam. Sterkfontein dam was built on the spruit and drowned the farm under Tugela river water pumped up from KwaZulu Natal. You would now have to scuba dive in the clear water to see the farmhouse. The pictures are taken from roughly above the farm looking back towards Harrismith’s long Platberg mountain with Baker’s Kop on the left:
They called the hills on the farm ‘Sugar Loaf’ and ‘Horseshoe’. Mom loved the walks they would undertake with Dad Frank.
Annie also always drove. Frank said she always drove too fast. Years later the younger crowd John Taylor and Mike ___y said she should speed up – “to the speed limit”!!
Then the Blands moved into town – the metropolis of Harrismith – ca1939 to start a petrol station and garage, having lost the farms. In September 1943 had a colosistectomy for gallstones’ performed by GP Dr Frank Reitz. Mom went to visit him in hospital on her fifteenth birthday, 18 September. He died two months later, aged fifty. The next year when Annie needed an op she sent Mary off with Granny Bland to stay with Mrs Jim Caskie – ‘a huge fat lady’ – in the Echoes Hotel in Durban.
While in Durban they saw a movie “This Is The Army.”
Luckily Annie came through the ordeal intact.
Nearby farm neighbours on Kindrochart were the Shannons, George and Belle, with son Jack, a few years older than Pat and Mary. The Shannons also bred racehorses and achieved forever fame when they won the Gold Cup with their horse Rinmaher.
When Jack had outgrown his Shetland Pony his parents suggested to him that he give it to the Bland girls on Nuwejaarsvlei. He looked dubious but his parents encouraged him.
“Will you do that?” they prodded him.
“Yes, but not with pleasure” said Jack.
Recently Sheila found a pic of Jack – probably on that very pony!
Peter Bell (or Hastings-Bell) became a pilot in the Rhodesian airforce and tragically went missing in action in WW2.
Decades later, here’s Mary in 1990 cruising above Nuwejaarsvlei in a boat the ole man built, with her old family home somewhere underwater below her:
The Erskine was an American Automobile built by The Studebaker Corp. in South Bend, Indiana from 1926 to 1930.
Way back in high school we spent a night in an old sparsely furnished Drakensberg farmhouse with no ceilings and a tin roof.
We accompanied Klein Kerneels Retief to his Dad’s winter grazing farm Sungubala below Oliviershoek Pass and were left on our own overnight. Adventure! The skies were overcast and soon there were deep rumblings and flashes of lightning. A heavy rain started falling followed by hailstones. The Drakensberg storm built up until it was a roar and we couldn’t hear each other at all – not even shouting into your ear from an inch away was audible above the tinroof fandango. We jumped a foot high when a massive crack of thunder clapped half an inch above the roof. The loudest bang I’d ever heard.
The next day we explored the soaked veld and ouhout thickets above the house and came across a well-endowed woman lying naked on a huge stone in the woods! Stunning! She sported huge shapely boobs and was a wonder for the eyes of lustful teenagers. She was gorgeous! OK, she was made of stone, but hey, what else did we have?
I have often thought of her over the years and started thinking I may have imagined her but then I read of the stone carvings of the Drakensberg and determined to go and find her.
I took the kids and we stayed at The Cavern, lovely old-style ‘Berg hotel. They loved it.
Beautiful things in the grounds – also flowers
Asking around, one of their guides said he knew where my statue was and he’d take me there. I packed a rucksack, he packed lunch and off we went for the day, leaving the kids behind. They could not WAIT for me to GO! DAD! as they had discovered an amazing secret: If you gave any hotel employee your room number he or she would give you anything you wanted under the sun. They had discovered the key to endless riches.
When my guide and I got to the little valley in the foothills where he said the statue was it didn’t look right. It didn’t feel like the place I remembered from – uh, 40yrs ago. But there she was: A maiden with luscious boobs carved in stone.
But this lady was standing up, not lying down on a rock in a seductive pose. There is another statue, I told him. This is not the statue I saw. Its beautiful, and thank you, but she is not the lady of my dreams. Ah! He knew where the other one was. It was on private property and he couldn’t take me there. Back at the hotel I asked around and they showed me a picture.
And there she was, exactly as I remembered her:
Well, almost exactly. Um, I must confess I did NOT notice that she had wings back then, nor that she had clothing. I was remembering naked bunnytail more than dressed wings. Hey, Testosterone! Vrystaat! 1970! No internet! Very few Playboy magazines! Cut me some slack here!
The Story of the Stone Ladies – a tale was told of a reclusive sculptor who fell in love with a trader’s daughter and sculpted these rocks in homage to her. She was a Coventry. We had Coventry twins Glenda & Glynis in Harrismith who came from a Drakensberg trading family. And I think I see a resemblance . . .
Later I found this in a book by Rowan Philp, Rediscovering South Africa: A Wayward Guide. “There are two boulders hidden deep in a Drakensberg forest which tell a near-Shakespearean tale of obsession, genius, and revenge. Completely unsign-posted, they feature magnificent, life-size sculptures of the same nude, full-breasted woman, painstakingly carved by her lover fifty years ago. The story begins when Willie Chalmers, a wandering artist with a wildly unkempt beard, came to the area from the Kalahari in the 1930’s to learn more about Bushman paintings from a farmer’s daughter, Doreen Coventry. He fell in love with her and spent fourteen months carving her likeness into a flat sandstone rock on her farm, adding a halo and the face of a child alongside. He called it Spirit of the Woods.
But some of his younger in-laws saw him as a con man and a parasite at the family homestead, and at the height of the row, Coventry’s nephew hiked up to the sculpture in a rage and smashed off the nose. So, some say, Chalmers began a second Spirit of the Woods, this time in a secret location almost completely enclosed by other boulders, sometimes working for weeks without a break.”
ouhout – Leucosidea sericea; mountain shrub and tree
I’ve been farming all day so I’m an old hand already. We have to go count the sheep now, and when Hector Fyvie says “You know the difference between a ram and a ewe, right?” I almost scoff, but I’m polite. I say “Sure, Uncle Hec”.
So hundreds of sheep are herded past us in an orderly fashion, not too fast, not too slow. Obviously I have been given the easier job – counting the rams – as there are only a few sheep with horns compared to the many, many ewes.
“How many did you get?” asks Hec, deadpan. “Seventy nine”, I say confidently. “Oh”, he says, looking a bit worried, “There shouldn’t be that many”. Tabs is having a much harder time concealing his mirth and I realise I’ve been had!!
You’re meant to look between their legs! Not on their heads.
Oh, the shame! Exposed as a townie-poephol! Got to hand it to Uncle Hec, the master of quiet, understated humour. I still blush when I think of it, but of course he was very gentle on me and gave me a whisky that evening, as always. Just not as stiff a tot as the one he poured for Aunt Stell.
I’m a farmer. I know I’m a farmer because I have the keys to the bakkie and instructions on how to run a dairy.
The instructions were flung at me outside the door to the Platberg Bottle Store in Warden Street along with the bakkie keys as the car taking Des and Tabs to Jan Smuts airport roared off. They were late and could miss the departure of their flight to Harare and on to Mana Pools on the Zambesi.
Were they written instructions? No, shouted instructions. The three-second short course on the finer aspects of dairy herd management: “You’ll be fine! The bakkie’s parked in Retief Street.”
O-kay! Let’s see: What did I get wrong? I ran out of feed for the cows, then bought the wrong feed at the mill and it was made clear to me I’d have to go back and change it; I had the farmhands look at me in amusement once they realised just how little I knew; I had Des’ horse King realise he had a novice on his back when I took him for a daily morning ride; And I had a cow get stuck in labour with a breech calf. I had to phone Kai to come up from Bergville to sort that out.
What did I get right? Well, I ate breakfast every morning. Quite well. Gilbert presented me with a plate with one egg, one rasher of bacon and one slice of toast, arranged identically on the plate each morning at 6am sharp. That I was good at.
Decades later my nephew Robbie told me dairy farming was all about managing your pastures. Hell, don’t tell Des, but I didn’t given his grass one glance all week.
The picture is Kenroy but there were no ladies on the gate when I was farming.
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.