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1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal

Victor Simmonds, Artist

Dad: “Victor Simmonds was a lovely chap and a very good artist. He was a little man, grey, a lot older than me. What? How old? Well, I was probably 35 then and he was grey. He was probably 50. He lodged with Ruth Wright on the plot next door to ours, Glen Khyber. I doubt if he paid them any rent, they were probably just helping him out. He moved to the hotel in Royal Natal National Park where they allowed him to sell his art to the guests and that probably paid his rent.

“He was a hopeless alcoholic, unfortunately. He used to come to me begging for a bottle of brandy late at night, his clothes torn from coming straight across to Birdhaven from Glen Khyber, through the barbed wire fences. I said ‘Fuck off, Victor, I won’t do that to you,’ and sent him away. I wish I had bought one of his paintings. Sheila found these paintings he gave me for nothing. He said he did these as a young student. As I took them he said ‘Wait, let me sign them for you.'”

– maybe a self portrait? –
– nude with amphora? –
– semi-nude with two amphorae? –
– maybe the Kak Spruit at Glen Khyber? – possibly –

So I went looking and found a lot of his work available on the internet. Once again Dad’s memory proved sound. Victor was born in 1909, thus thirteen years older than Dad:

Victor Simmonds’ work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $126 to $256, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2012 the record price for this artist at auction is $256 for South African landscape with two women carrying wood, sold at Bonhams Oxford in 2012.

– South African Landscape With Two Women Carrying Wood –
– shrubs beside a cascading stream –

I knew this scene! To me this looks like the stream above the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal National Park – So I went looking and at lovecamping.co.za I found this:

– spot on!! – an image locked in my brain for maybe thirty / forty years! –
– sunset, poplar trees, a river – the Wilge near Walton farm? –

A number of his paintings are available for sale. I’d love to see his ‘The Gorge, Royal Natal National Park, Showing the Inner Buttress and Devils Tooth’ but I’d have to subscribe for one day at 30 euros! That one was apparently painted in 1980, so he kept going for at least 23 years after he stayed in our neck of the woods. That would have made Victor around 70 and his liver a resilient organ.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Dougie Wright

. . and over the hills lay long fields of barley and of rye

and through the fields a road runs by . . .

Douglas Wright Esq would wax poetical after a few beers, quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson out on the Vrystaat vlaktes. I spose that’s what happens if you get sent to a soutpiel school in the colonies.

I see now he was misquoting Tennyson – or maybe I misremember and he was spot on? Anyway, I prefer his version. It’s hardwired in my brain now.

In my mind’s eye dear ole Dougie is wandering across the veld with a shotgun in the crook of his arm, deerstalker on his head, waxing forth . . . .

Old Harrismith Warden.jpg
Fifth from the right wearing a black beret

The rest, L to R:

Tony Porrell, Koos Swanepoel, Nev Shave, Charlie Deane, Dirk Odendaal, Ian Fyvie, Rob Spilsbury, Nick Leslie, Doug Wright wearing the black beret, John Venning, Mike Curnow, Tabs Fyvie and Guy Kirk

~~~oo0oo~~~

Other Dougie things I remember:

  • ‘Let’s play Bok Bok Staan Styf! Hoeveel fingers op jou lyf?’
  • We must play pennetjie!’ – urgently suggested after a few beers. We never did.
  • His fox terrier — (name?)
  • His cottage on Glen Khyber, their plot in the shadow of Platberg, away from the big house. It was right on the verdant banks of a little stream that flowed down from Khyber Pass into the beautiful Kak Spruit as it tumbled down from Platberg on its way to the Wilge River. Glen Khyber was below Platberg’s steep, narrow, stony Khyber Pass.

Sheila remembers:

  • Doug’s story about Tabs Fyvie when Tabs was little: Dougie asked him “Did you have any rain?” and Tabs answered “Not much but they were big drops”.
  • How we used to walk to Glen Khyber from Birdhaven and wake Doug up in his cottage (him probably hung over) and Barbara would show him her whispy ponytail at eye level as he lay in bed and say “Look Doug, my ponytail!”.
Birdhaven

1. Birdhaven – the ruins; 2. Glen Khyber – Doug’s cottage the green roof;

3. Jack Levick’s plot; 4. Kakspruit

~~~oo0oo~~~

soutpiel – English-speaking South African; said to have one foot in SA, the other foot in England, his penis hanging in the sea, so ‘salt penis’

Bok Bok Staan Styf! Hoeveel fingers op jou lyf? – weird game where you jump on each others’ backs! amiright?

pennetjie – game where you scratch a hole in the ground and use a stick to prevent your opponent from tossing his stick into the hole; amiright?

Kak Spruit – Shit Creek; Stream flowing down from the top of Platberg past Dougie’s plot Glen Khyber, then past our plot Birdhaven