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.

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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.

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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. SMASH and tinkle. It must have been tempered glass, as there were millions of tiny pieces!

Gabba Glass Flagon

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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

Number plate like Slabber’s

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

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

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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

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This * jumping thing seemingly became a habit.

Round The Bend

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.

The Bend Old Drugs

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:

Bloody bottle shrunk!

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.

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;

glossary:

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

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;

4 Hillside Road Parktown

“4 Hillside” was a lovely big old communal house in Parktown, Johannesburg run by teachers (or former teachers) in the Hillside Road cul-de-sac on the corner of Empire Road. Hillside was a leafy lane completely engulfed by big old London Plane and Jacaranda trees, a lovely quiet spot, right on busy Empire road but isolated from it thanks to being a ‘straat loop dood’ and having a big water furrow servitude with a lane of trees on our Empire Road boundary. The house was a lovely old white single story gabled family home with a circular driveway that had seen better days.

The inmates in this fine establishment were:

Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire – Alpha Romeo, sort of red, I think. Yellow?

Mike Doyle and Shale – faded blue Land Rover before the word Defender was invented. Or needed.

Granger Grey – always searching  – grey VW beetle. Six-foot-plenty he was shaped like Obelix and towered over all of us. The only time he looked normal-sized was when his younger brother ‘Tiny’ visited and towered over him.

Donald  ‘Coolsie’ Collins – and various, including part-timer the slender ‘Vaalwater’ – VW beetle, I think.

Jos Den___ and the lovely Brenda – Alpha Romeo.

Hangers-on included the inimitable Norbs – was he Norbert someone or someone Norbert? I forget. A bearded character who would mimic Charles Fortune the cricket commentator to a T and have the crowd on the grassy knoll at Castle corner in stitches as he chose the most exciting moment (and cricket has few of those) to talk about the birds, the trees and the shadows falling across the ground. I still sing Norbs’ John Denver song “You Philip My Dentures . . Like a Knight in a Florist . . .”

The house was run by our Malawian butler, chef and character, the smiling Geraald or ‘Gerrard’, whose ambition was to be a tycoon. He called Coolsie ‘Boss Donut’ (for Donald). Never forgave us for thinking his duties included lawn mowing. Decent people would have hired a gardener and placed him under Gerrard’s command.

You would think teachers would have brains, but no, they allowed an optometry student into their hitherto blissful existence: Clive Nel of Kokstad and the ever-suffering Sandy Norton. Clive was allowed in as he offered to take a run-down tin shed annex and convert it into habitable quarters. And he did just that! Soon the shed was carpeted in fine vintage carpets, Rembrandts and Monets on the corrugated walls and makeshift shelves stocked with fine wines. He was generous with his wine was Nel so soon the teachers were (very) happy to have him! Also Norton was an asset which (almost) balanced Nel’s faults. White Mazda R8 CCW some numbers. I’m not kidding except for the Rembrandts and Monets.

The rot having set in, the next student to sully the joint was the inimitable Glen Barker, non-farming, hard-golfing sugar and jersey cow farmer from Umzinto and Dumisa. Green Toyota Corona NX 106, inherited from Gran. They also had NX 101 and 102 and 103 and 104 and 105 – you get the picture: Old money in the Umzinto and Dumisa district. NX was for “Alexandra County”, Glen would remind us, knowing that behind the boerewors curtain we didn’t have counties, we had “distriks”.

Nel & Barks

Nel & Barks – changing 4 Hillside forever . .

Then they let me in – grey and grey Opel Rekord OHS 5678. I was given a shoe cupboard next to the spare bathroom and the second back door. So now it was down to four teachers and three students – a delicate balance.

Leibs was ‘doing up’ an old Jeep Station Wagon in the backyard. Mainly that meant squeezing a V8 engine into it. – (internet pics). This bad habit brought another optom student in as a day visitor. Achim Scholtz who would have been more welcome if he’d brought the fine German dispensing optician Eva along. But she was too wise to get greasy under the Jeep. Achim parked his Jeep next to Leibs’ so they could get greasy and talk ball bearings together.

jeep-wagon-jpg jeep-wagon_2

Others, less talented, also got involved in unorthodox car-restoration at 4 Hillside, but of a very different, alcohol-fuelled nature!

The problem of seven men all wearing boring black socks was ‘solved’ by building a long narrow wooden shelf in the passage where all socks were placed after washing. Sort them out yourself. Some of the holy ones would grow mould on that shelf.

The problem of feeding seven hungry men was solved by Gerrard cooking and placing the food in the oven. First man to crack and start eating had to divide the food onto seven plates and only then was he allowed to eat. This led to lots of circling around and cagily watching while pretending to be unconcerned, hoping someone else would crack first and do the tedious division under intense scrutiny.

On steak nights the potato and veg would be in the oven, the uncooked steaks high up on a shelf. This led to the memorable night when Granger cracked first. He was ravenous, so he divided the veg into seven and cooked his steak and ate it. Then he ate just one more. Then one more and then he finished the seventh and last steak and was overcome by remorse. Jumping into his grey VW TVB beetle (vanderBijlpark) he roared off to Fontana in Highpoint in Hillbrow, bought three roast chickens off their famous rotisserie to make good for his sin, and rushed back, flattening only one whole chicken by himself en-route.  This caused him to reflect, so he joined Weight-Watchers and became a regular at the weigh-in report-backs. Getting back from his initial weigh-in he sank down onto the couch in the TV room with a huge sigh. Reaching down to his shoes with difficulty, he removed a thick wad of newspaper from each. He had made himself taller so the nazis at Weight-Watchers would give him a higher target weight!

Dorianne Berry used to read the news and one night she came on in a strapless dress. The camera stayed above the dress line making her look maybe naked! The bachelors got all excited “Hey! Maybe we’re going to see Dorianne’s berries!”. The camera zoomed out and disappointment set in.

We had a student braai next to the pool one night and Granger arrived home pickled and ravenous and came over for a beer. Staring hypnotically at the meat on the fire he started swaying. We formed a wall round the fire, keeping a close eye on the large man as we knew he had needs. His eyes glazed over and we watched in fascination as his swayed in gravity-defying fashion! He swayed forward till you just knew he was going to platz on his face, then slowed, stopped for long seconds. Then swayed back till he passed vertical and leaned backwards where you just knew he going to crack the back of his skull but no, the pendulum slowed, then stopped. A long pause and the cycle repeated. Musta been his big feet. An amazing spectacle was Big Granger!

The old house is gone now – Hannover Reinsurance’s expensive headquarters now fill the space! Bah!

hannover re 17 Empire.jpg

Ah! I see I wrote a similar post another time. Oh well, its different – memories change! We improve with age . . .