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?
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!
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.
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
Asseblief manne – stop it, you hooligans!
Die Perel – the city of Paarl in the western cape province; average of eighteen teeth per head
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.
Ponte loomed above us. It was still being built then.
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!
They wanted us to have a good time and they fed us with many many craft beers and ordinary beers. Come and enjoy the Rand Easter Show, they said in 1976. Well in those days it was that or this:
We glanced at the displays and the arena – cows were moo’ing and plopping, horses were made to jump over things – but most of the day was spent in the friendly beer halls where the only answer to “May I have another beer?” was “Of course you may!” We ended up sparkling with wit and bonhomie.
After dark it all shut down and we wandered towards the car park eating ice cream cones the TC girls from Maritzburg – up to visit the handsome Doornfontein crew – had bought us (hoping to sober us up?). We passed some horse trailers and the rear end of Gonda Betrix’s horse stared us straight in the eye. Like this:
It was too much to resist and our artistic instincts took over: Lift the tail, place ice cream dollop on the O-ring and then the horse made the mistake of clamping its tail down hard, cementing the deal. I spose a shiver ran down its spine, but it stayed pretty calm considering, just dancing a little – in pleasure maybe? Thoughts of animal cruelty DO cross my mind now but they didn’t reach my addled brain at the time.
We shuffled off. Who drove that night? Hopefully the ladies. Sheila, Noreen, who else? Anyway we safely arrived at Stephen Charles’s flat in Yeoville and had another beer as we were inexplicably thirsty.
Noreen said to me “I’ve run a bath, you go ahead”. Very thoughtful of her! I shucked my kit and jumped in and immediately went right through the ceiling! Which wasn’t ceiling board as Steve’s flat was not on the top floor. It was concrete. She’d run the hot only and my (future) wedding vegetables were parboiled. Took days before they were ready to be molested again. In fact, the damage may have been permanent: I ended up adopting kids twenty two years later after waiting twelve years before risking getting married.
Subject: The Hotel Devonshire – famous again
Sent: 23 May 2011
I see the “rapture” crazies chose the Dev to await the end of their world.
In some ways the Dev was the beginning of mine!
“Buite die Devonshire-hotel in Braamfontein, waar Suid-Afrikaanse aanhangers van die wegraping-kultus saamgetrek het om op die eindtyd te wag, het hulle vir oulaas mense op straat probeer oortuig om by hulle aan te sluit.” (Rapport newspaper)
In some ways the beginning, yes. But in many ways fuckin’ close to the end. No doubt the reason why they chose it – for symbolic reasons . .
And come to think of it . . .
How we survived some of those lightly-inebriated evenings in our um, almost roadworthy jalopies . . .
Maybe THAT’S the miracle they’re referring to!
I have a clear thutty-year-old mental picture of laughing at some oke hanging out of the left rear window of a car spray-painting it with chunder in Wolmarans Street. I’m in another car, witnessing the sight. (Our car probably full of sober okes on their way back from Shul. Probly a Friday).
Who and whose car is mentally blurry, though. Beige colour. Thin exhaust pipe.
Austin Apache, maybe?
steve reed wrote:
Ah that dapper little beige beauty. Memories of crossing Nugget Street on Wolmarans at high speed when Swain Pull has a flash of genius and yanks up the handbriek, Barely a murmur of “Oh Pete” from mesdames Fotherby and Forsdick on the back seat as we 360. Thank heavens in 1977 the ABS EBD BA and ESC all kicked in after the 5th beer. Only one airbag in the vehicle in those days however.
I learnt that trick from Pierre du Plessis. He used to do it in his old lady’s little Ford Prefect. Difference, I suppose, was sober and in Harrismith’s quiet streets where we knew the cops by name.
And speaking of chundering: Pierre himself threw a mighty one outside Bergville after a wedding to which we had not been invited, but had partaken in. Thoroughly. Luckily it was his own Datsun 1200 bakkie in which he was a passenger.
Light green. The bakkie. The other was multi-colour yellowish.
I do remember partaking in an engagement party to which we had not been invited at a little Drakenberg resort. Arrived just as the happy couple were having a post party nightcap with the family. The bloke’s fiance took quite a fancy to us rough boys [we fancied through our drunken haze] and one of us asked her to dance. The blokes family got into an angry huddle and declared the party over – stat. We were sadly abandoned and the generator was switched off leaving us sad creatures to polish off all their left-over booze in the dark. We seemed not to mind this too much.
Remember the Hotel School okes?! Disgraceful. Was it them who auctioned the chicks?
Hold on! Another sudden flashback picture: “Nugget” – short, wild hair and an Irish-looking beard. Poes-dronk through the beer-splatter in the Dev.
Remember him? Got his name, it was said, when he rolled down Nugget Hill, blind as only the thoroughly drunk can be.
He had a huge mate Syd Someone (Oertel?), who did civil engineering between beers.
I may have met both these characters through Pierre, who also did civils – inappropriate name if ever there was one – at Wits Tech, remember? Another bloke was called “Irish”.
One would have thought these brain cells would have been obliterated ages ago.
steve reed wrote:
To me the most worshipped oke in the Dev was the bloke from hotel school who could drink a quart of Castle standing on his head.
(Ah, such tertiary skills!)
“Buite die Devonshire-hotel. . . . ” – Outside the Dev a rapture cult of crazies gather to be swept up to heaven bang on the appointed hour. Nothing happened. Funnily enough, none of them had given their possessions to charity . . . they musta had faith like potatoes.