Hector and Stella, Ian and Bev and Tabs – all or some of them! – built a large dam on the Swartspruit, a tributary of the Wilge river on Ian and Bev’s farm Sarclet.
The Fyvie’s Balmoral dam – If you build a dam you need a boat and Tabs found one in Howick, going cheap. As always, Tabs needed a side-kick to join him on his ventures and I was more than willing. We fetched the wee boat in Howick. I wrote about that misadventure here.
Later Tabs got a bigger boat, ‘The Pheasant Plucker’ with a V6 inboard motor and a Hamilton jet. The name likely affirmed for certain Anglicans that an earlier decision they’d made was right.
I once embarrassingly beached it when the motor cut at speed; I aimed to roar close to the starting point then fling then gear lever into reverse, causing a huge wave and hugely impressing the impressionable gorgeous ladies present! Well, none of that.
I landed up high and dry next to the cars parked on the bank; I learnt that when the engine cuts in a Hamilton Jet there’s no steering, no brakes, no nothing. Without that plume of water thrusting out the back, there’s no direction! Suddenly you’re a passenger; you’re no longer the skipper.
Ah, we had many a pleasant day next to the dam, gently mixing petrol, beer and water into a cocktail of fun and laughter. Thirsty work, though. After – apres ski – we’d have to repair to Gailian for drinks:
We had a few gatherings in the long, wide and high Gailian lounge / dining room / bar with the smooth parquet floor. For a while this lounge was shenanigan-central for the Harrismith Jet Set. While the Stella cats were away the lightly inebriated mice came out to play.
Luckily Hec & Stella Fyvie would regularly gallivant off to Kruger Park and other places in their yellow and white kombi. ‘Don’t worry,’ Tabs would say, ‘We’ll look after the place;Enjoy yourselves.’
I would nod.
One such evening* is engraved in the memory bank. ‘Twas a dark and starlit night after we had sat all afternoon seeing to it that the sun set properly, and fine-chooning ourselves to a well-honed pitch, like a master-crafted musical instrument. A lute, perhaps. A flute, perhaps. By carefully choosing our poison by percentage alcohol multiplied by millilitres consumed we had manipulated our PE Factor** to a wonderfully advanced state where we were erudite, witty, charming, sparkling company – and wonderful dancers.
Especially wonderful dancers.
The theme for the evening was high-speed langarm, and we whizzed around the lounge to loud classical waltzes at ever-increasing speeds on that slick polished parquet wooden floor till centrifugal force spun us out onto the veranda, onto the lawn and across it to the swimming hole in the dark, thutty metres away; back over the lawn and round the dance floor again. To tremendous applause. I personally did a few laps with Lettuce Leaf which were wondrous in nature. Strauss would have been proud of his waltz that night. Jet-fuelled ballroom dancing par excellence.
Some people didn’t get the langarm memo though, and arrived in punk outfits. No names, no packdrill, but Des had a safety pin through his earlobe and Timothy Leary one through his foreskin and these two pins were joined in holy matrimony by a chain. Never before have two ballroom dancers been so synchronised, Des leading and Tim not daring not to follow. After that performance they even named a band N Sync.
Before the sun rose there was snoring and long after the sun rose there was still snoring and that is how Aunt Stella found us when she returned unexpectedly to find Des and other bodies in her double bed. On seeing his Aunt Stell, Des spun onto his tummy, burying his face into the pillow. Des has always believed if you hide your head in the sand maybe the problem will go away.
But this time he shouldn’t have: Written in bright red lipstick on his back was “FUCK! PUNK! PUNK!!”
*This tale might be an amalgam of a few blurry evenings, skilfully blended and spiked;
**PE Factor – Personality Enhancement Factor; Found to various degrees in all bottles of hooch;
langarm – two or more perpetrators remain attached by various body parts and run around more or less in time to music they normally would not listen to, while pumping the outermost arms up and down; unlikely to work sober.
This critical observer might have been watching us at Gailian that night, although he was actually talking about the 1815 season in Brussels:
Whenever they get together the severest etiquette is present. The women on entering always salute on each side of the cheek; they then set down as stiff as waxworks. They begin a ball with a perfect froideur, then they go on with their dangerous ‘waltz’ (in which all the Englishwomen join!) and finish with the gallopade, * a completely indecent and violent romp. – Rev. George Griffin Stonestreet
Gallopade: A lively French country dance of the nineteenth century, a forerunner of the polka, combining a glissade with a chassé on alternate feet, usually in a fast 2/4 time. Sounds about right, huh? I think that’s what we were doing. Indecent and violent romps bedondered.
Recently Des went viral – no, no, in a good way. Thanks to great backing from sister Val, he put what he learnt at Gailian to good use. Roomerazzit he got extra points for his broek and his dancing shoes: