Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Who You Gonna Call?

For a while I was an obstetric ambulance driver.

A short while. Early one morning in 1983.

So Wendy wakes the Reed and announces it’s time; Stacey the firstborn is on her way and they need to get to the hospital sommer right now. Oka-ay, now where did the Reed put his car keys?

Searching for stuff when you’re not completely calm is fruitless. Rather phone Koos. Who comes roaring around the corner into 10th Avenue, Berea, Durban, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa at three ay emm in the grey and grey 1965 Concorde deluxe four door column shift Opel. Or was it my puke-green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon? Memory fades and it could be either. Anyway, it’s a good thing we have vehicles like this for times like these. Spacious bench seats. Ample boep-room between seats.

I whisk them off to the hospital in no time. Efficiently. The robots change when I go through, the clouds dissolve and the sky turns blue . . thanks, Don Maclean. The Concorde is stable around the corners, swift on the straights.

Wendy was in the ward long before 4am the way I remember things.

Stacey, on the other hand, appeared in that ward only at about 6pm that evening. She’s still laid back.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Decades later we discussed the details.

May 2021, Steve Reed wrote: Was it from there (Whittington Court) that you made your pre-dawn mercy mission to the obstetrics department on 8th June 1983? Possibly not, because you bought that flat in 1984 or were you renting it before then?

Me: Memories dim and are very malleable. Mine is of getting into my puke-green Pukealot stasiewa OHS 5688 outside my residential hotel on the Berea – or perhaps the Communal house in Hunt Road.

Wie weet?

But not Whittington.

Where did I drive to? I remember Debbin North, but no more detail except I dimly see a flat, not a house? Where were you when Stace was born?

Steve: We were living in 10th Avenue – a little duplex near Greyville a few streets up from Windorah. You visited us there after Stacey was born. I remember your living in a flat not very far away …  closer to what was Berea Road. I remember it being pretty spartan – Were you sharing with someone?

I think it may have been your Opel that you came round the corner on two wheels but memory murky. Maybe it was the Pukalot.

I had been spray painting a cot for Stacey’s arrival. Slammed the tip up garage door  shut and went to bed with  all keys locked inside the garage.   Another set of keys had been left at work in Durban North. Somehow I had no key for either of our cars.

Me: Ah! I might have been staying with Dave Thorrington-Smith in his flat near Botanic Gardens.

So you took Stace home to 10th Avenue? Amazing. I was convinced I roared across the mighty Umgeni River. In the stasiewa, I thought, cos I was imagining being an ambumince driver.

Steve: At 5am you took a moer of a lot of waking up… but damn I was happy to see you. Bliksem!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions

Safety First, Old-Style

I was telling you earlier that the Road Safety slogan in days of yore was Friends Don’t Tell Friends They Can’t Drive Because They’re Drunk Because Then Friends Will SHOW Friends How They Actually Drive Very Well When They’re Drunk, Thank You Very Much and this was proven half true one night when I told Tabs ‘Listen, I think you’ve had a few too many and the best thing to do is to let ME drive.’

It was all Bess Reitz’s fault. She was buggering off to America and insisted we drink beer at the Holiday Inn . .

Bess farewell 1974

. . and that we then repair to her garage opposite the Town Hall to drink beer. We were all sad to see her go so we had drunk more than usual.

It was OK though, the cops wouldn’t catch as us we had a lookout in the tree on the pavement outside the garage in the form of John. Where a normal person would climb up a tree till the branches started thinning, John climbed up into the twigs till his head popped out from the very top and kept a 360° lookout shouting ‘Where are the coppers!?’ and ‘The coast is clear!’ and ‘Ahoy!’

Now it was true I had been with Tabs all night drinking and he could have said the same of me, but it was me talking, making my sensible suggestion. And anyway Pierre agreed with me and said he’d fetch me from Gailian after I’d delivered Tabbo safely home.

Bess farewell 1974_3
– and Bessie would have vouched for my condition –

Tabs was perfectly rational and amenable to my eminently sensible suggestion. ‘Tell you what,’ he said, ‘I’ll drive to the top of forty two second hill and then you can drive.’ I was perfectly rational and amenable to that suggestion and we set off down Warden Street.

At 190mph.

Tabbo had a green two-door Datsun SSS 1800 (Geoff Leslie had famously called his red Datsun 1600 his ‘Triple Ess Ess Ess’) and that thing fucked off went fast. We touched the tar twice on the way down Warden street and flew up 42nd Hill at a hell of a rate of knots. I was highly relieved when Tabs pulled over as promised and I took over, proceeding at a more sedate pace.

Soon after, I turned sedately into Gailian and the road took a sharp left and I didn’t. Changing down into second I let out the clutch but I hadn’t taken my foot off the gas, so we leapt forward into the only deep ditch in the veld for miles around. Tabbo bit a huge chunk out of the dashboard. I was OK as the steering wheel stopped me from doing the same. Seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet. Or more accurately, the wearing of seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet *. OK, the wearing of seatbelts hadn’t yet become popular.

As it turned out, speed hadn’t been the problem after all – it was the sudden stop that dented Tabbo.

Fortunately for us, Pierre was right behind us and took us to hospital where the local vet stitched up Tabbo’s lip and he ended up looking quite handsome after that. As the doc said Vasbyt Tebs, he said ‘Hit it Doc!’ but gripped my hand tightly as he said it. It was True Valour in the face of adversity.

The sudden stop and the hospital afterwards were NOTHING. We now had to face the hard part: Telling Stella. They were in bed in the dark, we couldn’t see them, we could just hear Stella.

She asked if we were OK. Hector was silent.

~~~oo0oo~~~

* I looked it up: The first U.S. patent for automobile seat belts was issued to Edward J. Claghorn of New York not long before our escapade. In 1885. So we weren’t used to them yet.

~~~oo0oo~~~