Sheila has just had a treasure chest smuggled to me by James, Mignon’s husband. A dozen books, old letters, a diary of her 1985 trip taking Mother Mary right around those small islands which made such a damn nuisance of themselves in the era they call the Breetish Empire Daze. Of course, they’d just say ‘The Empire.’
So where to start among these riches, which could take ages to sort through?
I now know that in November 1957, a concert to raise funds for the Harrismith hospital was held in the ‘Kerksaal’ (that would have to have been the saal of the moederkerk in the middle of town, otherwise it couldn’t have just been called ‘kerksaal’).
Mom Mary played this piano solo – Rustle of Spring by Christian Sinding. Close your eyes and listen:
. and in March 1957 at an earlier concert – also funds for the hospital – Mignon’s Mom Mona du Plessis played Chopin’s waltz in E minor. Close your eyes:
At the March concert, Mary also sang with Mona and Esther Mouton in a ‘vocal trio,’ and in another trio with Trudy Else and Esther, they sang ‘Come To The Fair.’
Mary also played Cecile Chaminade’s ‘Pierette’
Lucky Harrismith! To have these talented ladies perform for them. Our Moms! All their numbers would, of course, have been better than the motley youtube crew I’ve shown you above!
Also in the treasure chest: My letters from America, from Veld and Vlei, from the army in Potchefstroom, and to Mom and Sheila in the UK. Lots of work!
Oh – and under all this good old stuff there was a bottle of champers and a bottle of red! Sheila and James run a proper smuggling ring!
A gathering of a flock of du Plessis is always a very special occasion. Not an orderly occasion. Not a quiet occasion. Just very special. Mignon, Jean-Prieur and Jacques-Herman celebrated their Mom Mona’s wonderful ninety years of Mom, Music and Magic at a wonderful venue outside Harrismith – where I forgot to take any pictures! If anyone has any, please share a few – especially one of that magnificent pub of Rob’s! – but also of the people, of course!
People poured out of the woodwork from far and wide. Austin, Texas; Vancouver, Canada – even Marquard, Free State!
We almost didn’t get there:
. . but get there we did.
Later we found out we – me, sister Sheila and old Harrismith friend Zelda Grobbelaar – were stuck there – the Ford needed big repairs – so Bess put us up in her lovely home:
When we didn’t show up at the du Plessis gathering that evening, I texted them:
My car got locked up in a ballet studio among the tutus.
– that part was true, check it out:
. . and I got plied with strong liquor by three gorgeous chicks and clean forgot about any other friends I might have.
Oh, that part was partly true as well.
Thank goodness the Ford went vrot. It was diagnosed with terminal head gasket, whatever that means. I thought it was premature after only 300 000kms, but the upside was this meant we got an extra twenty four hours in the dorp the metropolis. We visited all and sundry, had supper with Bess; had breakfast and bought rusks at Something Lekker owned by a local lass; and then we lunched with the du Plessis clan while they ran around organising that Mona be laid to rest next to her husband and their Dad Pollie, who has been waiting patiently in the Harrismith cemetery for Mona to join him for decades. Patiently? Maybe.
I can just hear Oom Pollie. After he’d got over his joy he would comment on the very smart coffin, worried about the price. He’d relax when he heard it was made by Oom Jan, gratis and for niet. Then he’d harumph that it took Mona joining him for the grass to be mowed round his grave. Then he’d sing Hello Dolly!
To get back to KwaZulu Natal, we hired a brand new Toyota Corolla at Harrismith Avis – of course our dorp has an Avis! Not only that, look at this: They’re the reigning champions!
We visited Georgie Russell; and Mariette Mandy at The Harrismith Chronicle where she had already written about the gathering for her wonderful hundred-and-plenty-year-old local newspaper. I’ll post that when I get it. I’ll also link to any other reports of the day I can find. And add pictures.
. . . after a suitably polite interval I think Oom Pollie would also murmur hopefully, ‘Did you bring any cigarettes?’
Late Monday afternoon, after we’d left, the family carried out Mona’s wishes
Driving home in a brand new car where all the knobs work was a novel experience – and hey! it had six forward gears! That brought back memories of another Toyota thirty two years earlier . .
Two weeks later I was joined by good friend Allister Peter to drive back to the dorp in the rental to go and fetch my Ford Ranger from Riaan who had fixed it up like new! We bumped into John Venning at the coffee shop – and it turns out these two old bullets are fishing n drinking chinas from way back – apparently there’s a thing called The Grunter Hunt down in the Eastern Cape and they have indulged. And frolicked.
Today Mother Mary took a break from playing the piano. She suddenly remembered a time Mona du Plessis came to her after a ‘do’ at the town hall. These memories come and go so she must tell them as she thinks of them.
Mona said to me – says Mary – “While we were at the town hall Kosie took the kombi, loaded up the de Villiers kids and drove to Joan and Jannie’s where our kids were. Then they all got in – Mignon, Jean-Prieur, Sheila, everybody and they drove up and down Hector Street!”
Of course I remember doing stuff like this – I loved “borrowing” the kombi – but I don’t really recall any specific accomplices! I spose it looked a bit like this: