I wrote a letter as a final year optometry student! Astonishing. When could one find the time? To sister Sheila, newly-qualified teacher in Empangeni in Zululand. My news was:
Passed my supplementary exams.
Started organising our Annual Ball at Carlton Hotel already.
I’m SRC chairman till July.
The mighty grey and grey Opel Concorde ‘needs a tjoon up.’
I may not make Rag Ball in Pietermaritzburg this year!
Unhappy with res in Doories; expensive, badly looked after, phones don’t work; fought with matron; moving into communal house 4 Hillside Rd in Parktown, where Glen Barker and Clive Nel stay. ‘Before I go, though, I’m going to raise hell to see if things’ll improve.’ (!)
Steve Reed, Cheryl Forsdick and I baby-sat for Bobby & Jill and Louis & Gail; ‘chaos for an hour, then not too bad. They enjoyed their evening; it had been a long while since they’d gone anywhere.’
Great parties; Braais; a Chinese Dinner-Dance; a cricket day; ‘played our first rugby match in our new kit – pitch black from toes to necks with the only white our optom badge on the pocket and our numbers on the back; Beat engineers 18-0.’
‘Went to the Vaal river for a weekend’s skiing; two of the guys had boats; stayed in a resort – lovely; went to a 21st in Pretoria; Generally busy except for work – work is suffering muchly; latest tests got 50% and 82% – the averages , thought were something like 80% and 95%.’
And all that was in a letter written 10th March!
Later that year:
Went to Pete Brauer and Terry Saks’ wedding in Pretoria. I was best man, had to get on my hind legs. My partner was the delightful Cheryl Forsdick; Lovely evening; Driving back with Clive Nel and the delightful Sandy Norts in Clive’s gas-guzzling white Mazda RX-2 we had a midnight head-on collision; Some drunken idiot turned straight into us on the highway! I was fine but the others got a bit battered, with Clive, driving, the worst. He’s in plaster and on crutches.
The Class of ’77 had a wee gathering at Zena’s place. The lies we told!! ‘You’re looking younger’n evah DAHling!’ Yeah, right!
Actually, none of that. A lot of truth was spoken. Which led to a lot of laughter.
Zena laid on a wonderful spread and we sat around a colourful table on her Sandton patio.
Schoeman smuggled in some gin n meths in an expensive bottle; Zena provided wine and buckets she said were gin glasses – old soaks have all sorts of tricks! Brauer provided beer; I just drank.
The afternoon whizzed past and all too soon we had to shuffle off to take our other meds.
We should do this every forty three years.
Is a gathering of presbyopes a parliament of presbyopes? I think we were more a chuckle of presbyopes. While searching I did find these: an unhappiness of husbands . . a tedium of golfers . . and – not being one – I made up . . a yawn of grandparents.
Earnest and diligent students eagerly absorbing the maths being taught in a chalkdust-filled classroom overlooking a little park on the corner of De Villiers and Rissik streets back in 1974, will be pleased to hear that said classroom has been restored – chalkdust and all. Also the window ledge.
When City Prop’s Alec Wapnick and Jeffrey Wapnick – well-known for their revitalization efforts in Pretoria’s inner city – saw the historic early 20th century Wits Technikon building, they not only realized the potential for restoration but also the opportunity to create a distinct node for learning and education. Alec had the vision to purchase the Wits Tech buildings, and Jeffrey had the foresight to restore and redevelop them to a standard way beyond the basics.
The project is in line with City Property’s comprehensive approach to inner cities, encompassing all the elements of everyday life, from working, to living and shopping, to schooling.
Established as a technical institution in 1903 to support the city’s flourishing gold mining industry, the building fronts onto Eloff, Plein and De Villiers Streets. It will continue to educate. The west block was already occupied by Johannesburg Polytech the east block will house Basa Educational Institute, an inner city school with excellent credentials, which was looking for a new home. Its focus is on the melting pot that is inner city schooling in Johannesburg today, something that dovetails well with City Property’s holistic approach to local development. They teach in all eleven official languages, as well as a number of others, including Portuguese.
The restoration of the Wits Tech building was something of a labour of love for the Wapnicks, whose long history of restoring architectural beauty show they believe that buildings are themselves works of art, to be shared and enjoyed. A lot of work had to be carried out. The building had been vacant for several years, with the result that fittings had been stripped, the structure itself vandalized and left in a state of disrepair. Architecturally, it was originally designed in the classic Greek revival style, an aesthetic that was popular in Johannesburg at the time: the nearby Supreme Court building is a good example of the same vintage. “The neo-Classical style is very typical, very ornate and a reference to renaissance architecture,” says City Property project manager Anita du Plessis. “It has been designed on a breathtaking scale in a style specific to the time.”
She points to the three different architectural orders used in the building concept: the plain Doric columns on the ground floor, to the distinctive scrolled Ionic columns on the first floor, to the leaves of the Corinthian columns above.
Original fittings, like the marble floors, have been carefully restored and repaired; the original viewing panes in the doors were replaced with safety glass; and the stained glass windows were repaired.
Although the grand architectural style needed to be restored, a key outcome for the project team was an updated space suitable for a contemporary user. For this reason, practical, modern features were worked into the project. For a start, the building is now compliant with all the modern building standards and criteria.
The entrance hall and atrium are equipped with security systems, while the air of a tranquil and dignified place of learning has been carefully maintained. The large, bright airy classrooms with sash windows create a positive learning environment, while the solid structure of the historic property blocks out the noise of the city.
Fellow Wits Tech alumnus 1974 – 1978 Steve Reed wrote: Hope they keep the alternative entrance to Kleinman’s classroom – the ledge along the outside…
Steve is speaking of our chalk-dust encrusted 1974 maths lecturer here who lectured in a classroom overlooking the little park on the rear of the building – the front being on Eloff Street. Some wicked students climbed out the windows onto the window ledge before Kleinman got to class. Once he was there they climbed in one by one, each waiting until he got going with his lecture before interrupting him mid-sentence by climbing back in and greeting him cordially. Must have been the B (rauer) class.
“We are the custodians of these magnificent buildings and it is our responsibility to return them to their former glory,” says Wapnick.
These okes are eye pasiente of Brauer’s. Wonder if he’ll claim he gave them their vision and foresight . .
The Comrades Marathon’s Quadruple Green Number is awarded only to people who are certifiably crazy. The award – and membership of that exclusive club – means you have run the 89km Comrades ultra-marathon at least forty times! Holy shit!!
Wietsche Van Der Westhuizen
– – – – – David Williams – – – – –
Johann Van Eeden
Boysie Van Staden
Dave ‘Jesus’ Williams is a Kingfisher Canoe Club stalwart who has helped run the Umkomaas canoe marathon for about the same number of years he’s been shuffling the Comrades. He’s done it all: Driving trucks, pitching tents, digging toilets, rigging toilets on trucks, buying food, preparing food, serving in the pub, listening to paddlers gaaning aan about how scary THEIR race was; you name it, Jesus has done it. And with aplomb and with a smile. He was there 36ys ago when I did my only Umko and patiently served us rowdy hooligans with beer after beer at the overnight stop until there were only two okes left drinking – me and Chris Greeff. Eventually we got tired of people rudely shouting at us to ‘Shut Up, They Were Trying To Sleep,’ so we staggered off to our sleeping bags on the grass under the big marquee. There was a small difference between me and the man I’d been matching beer for beer till late that night: He was actually leading the race and duly went on to win the singles the next day. I finished in eventually-th place.
I last saw Dave Jesus at the 2016 Umko – he was driving the beer truck and selling beer at the prize-giving. We had a good chat. He had given me good stories for the Umko 50yrs book, but now I mainly wanted to know about the Comrades. About HOW MANY? about WHY!? and about ARE YOU MAD?!
He couldn’t really explain, but all he talked about was beating other ous. So even though his finishing time was stretching out compared to his best days, he always had goals and people to beat. Then his “battle” was against Tilda Tearle (she who actually won the damn thing one year). He beats her, then she beats him; how and when, Dave describes in great detail – “I was leading for 30km and then my knee started to hurt and I heard she was catching up to me” etc etc. He remembers every yard, every pace, every change of fortune, good or bad. In Comrades as well as all the other races he does, he always has some or other bet or goal or competition going on with his comrades in running. That’s what keeps him going. That, and the insanity.
A lovely modest oke. But quite mad – he has also run 100km around a 400m athletics track and has run 100 MILES, too. He also runs a cross country race from Royal Natal National Park up to Witsieshoek, along the road to the car park then up to the foot of the chain ladder, up the ladder onto the Amphitheatre, down the gulley and back to National Park campsite. About 50 rugged cross-country kilometres with a huge altitude gain that makes the Harrismith mountain race look like a short flat stroll.
The Studley Tool Chest: Made out of mahogany, rosewood, walnut, ebony, and mother of pearl.
Henry O. Studley (1838–1925) was a carpenter, organ and piano maker, who worked for the Smith Organ Co. and later for the Poole Piano Company of Quincy, Massachusetts. He is best known for creating the famous Studley Tool Chest, a wall hanging tool chest that cunningly holds 218 tools in a space that takes up about a metre by half a metre of wall space when closed.
I wrote about this in Feb 2014. I got responses:
Steve Reed wrote: In his entire married life, Henry Studley only came inside the house at mealtimes and to sleep. Otherwise he was out in the shed. Must have had a bag of a wife.
Me: Or just his pri-horities right ?
Talking about living in the shed: Did I tell you my ole man bought himself a new lathe? Brand-new wood lathe with a 1m gap between the headstock and the tailstock. The headstock can swivel so he can turn bigger bowls – and turn them sitting down. Says he can’t die now for at least three years to justify the purchase and to finish the chisel handles and tables he has in mind . . . ninety one and counting . . .
Went to visit the other day. Their tenants have left and I found the ole man in the second house on top of a stepladder, muttering that they’d left their curtains up. Bitched good-humouredly when I took over and removed the rest of the curtains: ‘What do you think? I’m too old to climb a stepladder?’ Uh, yes, Dad.
Now he wants to buy a new kombi – with the old lady’s money! Goat . . .
Peter Brauer wrote: I’m with your old man on this one. Want a job done properly… do it yourself
Me: Want a job done properly, procrastinate till it no longer needs doing . . most peaceful*, cost-effective method I’ve found.
*under the new regime. Under the old regime this method was NOT peaceful . .
Brauer: I don’t know what procrastinate means, but stuff it, I’ll find out tomorrow.
Ode to a Tighthead Prop – Author unknown(but probly some Kiwi – they tend to wax forth after a few). The poem could also be called ‘Delusions of Grandeur.’
It was midway through the season we were just outside the four and although I know we won it I can’t recall the score.
But there’s one thing I remember and to me it says a lots about the men who front the scrum – the men we call “the props”.
We won a lineout near half way the backs went on a run the flankers quickly ripped the ball and second phase was won.
Another back then crashed it up and drove towards the line another maul was duly set to attack it one more time.
The forwards pushed and rolled that maul They set the ball up to a tee the last man in played tight head prop and wore the number “3”
The ball was pushed into his hands he held it like a beer then simply dropped to score the try – his first in 15 years.
Then later, once the game was done he sat amidst his team he led the song and called himself the try scoring machine.
But it wasn’t till the night wore on that the truth was finally told just two beers in, he’d scored the try and also kicked the goal.
At 6 o’clock the try was scored by barging through their pack he carried two men as he scored while stepping ’round a back.
By seven he’d run twenty yards out-sprinting their quick men then beat the last line of defence with a “Jonah Lomu” fend.
By eight he’d run from near half way and thrown a cut out pass then looped around and run again no-one was in his class.
By nine he’d run from end to end his teammates stood in awe he chipped and caught it on the full then swan dived as he scored.
By ten he’d drunk a dozen beers but still his eyes did glisten as he told the story of “that try” to anyone who’d listen.
His chest filled up, as he spoke, his voice was filled with pride he felt for sure he would be named the captain of that side.
By nights end he was by himself still talking on his own the club was shut, the lights were out his mates had all gone home.
And that’s why I love my front row – they simply never stop and why I always lend an ear
when a try’s scored by a prop.
This try was much like our mighty prop Hubby Hulbert’s try in our epic match against the InjunKnees. Do you recall? ca. 1975
Hubby found himself lying down for a brief rest on the ground under a mass of other bumsniffers when an oval object appeared next to him and he placed his hand on it. The ref went wild and indicated we had managed to beat the Injun-Knees, a team no-one thought would be beaten.
We were dressed in our all-black jerseys, black shorts, black socks with OPTOMETRY in front and ZEISS in white on the back. To show our appreciation to our jersey sponsors after a few beers – also kindly sponsored by them – we would shout “ZEISS ist Scheiss!” – I’ll admit, sometimes we weren’t impeccably behaved.
That game against those Injun-Knees: We had spent 79 mins desperately defending our tryline when some scrawny scrumhalf type happened to get the ball by mistake and hoofed it as hard as he could in the opposite direction of where we’d been back-pedaling all day. Those days his hair colour matched the colour of our jersey; Nowadays the bits that are left match the colour of our logo. You can see a recent pic of him here.
We got a line-out near their line, Hubby fell down, the ball fell next to him and he inadvertently became a match-winning hero. He’ll call it a tactical move.
I forget if he gave a speech afterwards in the Dev but we wouldn’t have listened to him anyway. We’d have sung ‘How The Hell Can We Buh-LEEEV You!?’
The game was played on the Normaal Kollege grounds in Empire Road, Jo’burg. We shouted for our hosts as we waited for them to finish their game so we could trot onto their field and display our brilliance. Up Normaal!! we shouted. Ab-normaal!
~~~o0oo~~~ On 2018/12/11 Peter Brauer (he of scrawny scrumhalf fame) wrote: Classic example of how bashful props become more truthful / eloquent when their throats aren’t parched.
bumsniffers – forwards; the tight five; the slow; the engine room; workhorses; honest men; no fancy haircuts; dodgy ears; the brains trust; depends who you ask
InjunKnees – engineers; they had a T-shirt slogan ‘six monfs ago I cooden even spel injineer and now I are one’
Normaal Kollege – anything but
2020 – a 1977 letter cropped up. Maybe the only letter I wrote in 1977! To sister Sheila. In moving home and tidying up she found it:
I was looking thru Dan Palatnik’s Digital Garage – well worth a visit – and an old Willys Jeep reminded me of Leibs and Achim who had developed the bad habit of lying under their old Jeeps in the backyard of our communal home at 4 Hillside Road, Parktown. Mainly they were banging out rust and stuffing revived V8 engines under the bonnets. Leibs was a handsome schoolteacher at Roosevelt school – why ‘Roosevelt?’ One of the highlights of 4 Hillside was when his girlfriend visited. The delightful Claire was a huge favourite among the bachelors. What a sweetie. Leibs was a myope like me (shortsighted) and happily allowed us to practice our contact lens skills on him, trying out all the latest lenses. We practiced and he got free lenses: Win-Win!
Achim parked his Jeep next to Leibs’ so they could get greasy and talk ball bearings together. Achim went on to do a lot of off-road rallying in the dodgy metropolis of Brits, where he ran his optometric practice with his bream, wife and former lecturer, Eva the dispensing optician aus Austria or Germany. On the side, Achim ran a garage to tjoon up his racing 4X4’s and fit double divorce pipes. One of those eventually got him. Maybe Eva kicked him out for getting grease on the contact lenses?
Inmates of 4 Hillside:
‘4 Hillside’ was a lovely big old communal house in Parktown, Johannesburg run by teachers and 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. Big hydrangea bushes against the walls; we’d greet them Hi Granger!
It was a teacher digs. Educators. 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 long-suffering Sandy Norton. Norts. 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 such an asset that she almost balanced Nel’s faults. White Mazda RX2 rotary-engined gas guzzler with CCW plates: Kokstad (where his Dad sold Massey Ferguson tractors). I’m not kidding here – except for the Rembrandts and Monets. Clive ‘Nel’ Nel. A book could – and should – be written. “Dee dee dee BARKER! baap”. “Howdy Norts!” Endured by the wonderful and long-suffering Sandy Norts. His white Mazda RX2 – high speed, high consumption rotary-engined boy racer, ended up in a head-on collision after Brauer’s wedding.
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, with some anthirium hothouse culture thrown in. 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 never tire of reminding us, knowing that behind the boerewors curtain we didn’t have counties, we had ‘distriks.’ The first NX 106 plate had been nailed to their ossewa when the first very Reverend Barker arrived aus England to bullshit, rob and confuse the poor happy heathens.
Then they let me in – Vrystaat boykie with a grey and grey 1965 Opel Rekord OHS 5678. I was given a shoe cupboard next to the spare bathroom and the second back door. So now the digs had deteriorated down to four teachers, three students, a Malawian and a Norts – a delicate balance.
– Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire. As students we fitted Leibs with silicon permawear contact lenses! And we ogled the gorgeous Claire. He drove an Alfa Romeo. Was it a horrible brown colour?
– Granger Grey was a teacher too. He drove a dove-grey VW Beetle; TVB plates.
– Donald ‘Coolsie’ Collins. Teacher. Coolest of the gang. There was some pottery in his family background, I seem to recall. He had various girlfriends, all of whom were reminded not to get too serious. One was‘Vaalwater’ who was famously told to ‘take off your clothes, so long, I’m just having a shit . . ‘
– Mike Doyle, ex-teacher, now a cement mogul; lovely girlfriend Michaela or ‘Shale’. Old blue British Land Rover 5-door station wagon; a healthy cynic, he loved the great outdoors.
– Gerald or Gerrard – ‘Gelard’, pronounce Jell-laahd, the Malawian butler with ambitions of becoming a tycoon. Deeply hurt and offended that we thought mowing the lawn was in his portfolio. Decent people would have hired a gardener and placed him under Gerrard’s command. He called CoolsieBoss Donut. Anyone who asked him to do anything he considered unreasonable, he would defer to Boss Donut.
Friends-of-4-Hillside – not quite inmates – included:
– Jos, another teacher who lived nearby. Not tall, with high-plus specs, an Alfa Romeo and a lovely girlfriend Brenda;
– ‘Norbs’ Norbury. Yet another educator. Big black beard. Norbs imitated Charles Fortune to perfection at the Wanderers cricket ground, entertaining the inebriated crowds on the grassy banks as he waxed lyrical about the clouds and the birds while blissfully ignoring the fall of a wicket. Would sing loud John Denver: ‘You Philip My Dentures . . . Like a Knight at the Florist;’
– A Demmler oke – ??
Sitting in the crowded little TV lounge watching the news and Dorianne Berry came on to read the news wearing a strapless top. The camera carefully stayed just above her dress line making her look maybe naked! Horny bachelorness ran rampant: “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Dorianne’s berries”, was the call. The camera zoomed out and disappointment set in.
Lying under the grey-and-grey Opel fixing the drum brakes before going to Port Shepstone. Now, I ask you: Who the hell would drive 700km in a car whose brakes I had fiddled with!? Turns out a few students, including the delightful Cheryl Forsdick;
The delightful Triple SSS – Sexy Susan Staniland Featherbed Fotherby – was a welcome visitor to 4 Hillside in one of my lucky – and brief – periods I . . . ‘had a girlfriend’! Far and few between, they were.
Steve Reed wrote:Granger – never forgotten. Mostly for his height-enhancing shoe-stuffing for weight watchers meetings;
Pete Brauer wrote:More vivid nostalgic memories of Granger Grey shoving quarts of Black Label down his throat;
I remember Granger Grey (6ft 4 high, 4ft 6 wide) getting home late one night, well-oiled with a placid beam on his face. He joined us students braaiing on the lawn next to the pool and started eyeing the sizzling meat, staring hypnotically. Borrowing one ale after the other he got progressively more glass-eyed and we watched in awe as he swayed, Obelix-like, WAY past a normal centre of gravity then slowed to a halt, jutting chin way forward, eyes on the tjops n boerie till you just knew he was going to platz on his face; and then SLO-OWLY swayed back to upright, then way back past upright, with his beer resting on his boep till he was leaning 450 backwards and HAD to see his arse and crack his skull; but again he halted, hovered, and started the slow sway forward again. Musta been the size eleventeen shoes that held him upright! We formed a wall round the fire, guarding the tjops n boerie, and keeping a close eye on the large man as we knew he had needs.
We had to hurriedly clear the braai and endure his hurt look. Imperative to be tough and take evasive action when Granger got near food
Mealtimes for Seven Lads and a Norts
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 scrupulously fairly 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 – a dividing wall, actually. This led to the memorable night when Granger cracked first. He was alone at home and he was ravenous, so he divided the veg into seven and cooked his steak and ate it. Then he ate just one more. After all, someone might not be coming home that night, you never know. Often someone would skip supper. Maybe they lucked out with a chick, who can tell? Then one more, and then he finished the seventh and last steak and was overcome with remorse.He was a very good man, Granger Grey and he had a heart of gold. So remorse he felt.
Jumping into his grey VW beetle – TVB for Vanderbijlpark, home of ISCOR, Boipatong and Sharpeville – he roared off to Fontana in Highpoint in Hillbrow, bought three beautiful golden-brown roast chickens off their famous rotisserie to make good for his sin – he was atoning bedonderd – and rushed back, flattening only one whole chicken by himself en-route.
This caused him to reflect. He had wobbled before, but this was a seismic wobble. 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 low – low cos it was broken – couch in the TV room with a huge sigh. Reaching down to his shoes with difficulty, he wheezed as he removed a thick wad of newspaper from each shoe. ‘And now, Granger?’ we asked. ‘No, we had a weigh-in tonight and I didn’t want them to give me a low target weight,’ he said, quite seriously, matter of fact. We collapsed when we realised what that entailed! He had made himself taller so the nazis at Weight-Watchers would give him a higher target weight! You gotta love Granger Grey! Not only for doing that, but for the complete openness and honesty with which he ‘crooked!’
Granger. Heart of gold. He had bigger brothers, one called Tiny. He read Ayn Rand and thought she was on to something.
The problem of seven men all wearing boring black socks was ingeniuosly solved by someone who fitted 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.
Steve Reed again:The legend that I subscribe to is that the famous Vespa scooter that ended up on the bottom of the 4 Hillside Road pool originally belonged to a bird called Terry who later married Keith Taylor. Keith’s brother Ian Taylor [who became a Doctor] had apparently commandeered Terry’s scooter and somehow it had ended up at 4 Hillside where it met its famous fate. Of course, the story may be the result of the effects on Terry of the third bottle of pinot noir on a cold Auckland night.
Me: Vespa scooter reminds me of Keith Ballin zipping along, specs and moustache peering out from under his helmet, scarf trailing behind him in the breeze!
I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine – (Lou Reed)
Nostalgia: A device that removes the potholes from memory lane – (Doug Larson)
Vaalwater – name of young lass from the distant metropolis of Vaalwater
tjoon – tune-up in this case; sometimes ‘explain’
braai – barbecue
tjops n boerie – red meat sacrificed over an open flame
boep – stomach; paunch
‘Twas at 4 Hillside that a knock came at the front door. We knew it was a stranger as no-one knocked at the front door. Actually, no one knocked, you just walked into the open kitchen door.
It was a pink-faced balding chap and he asked for Peter Swanepoel.
We found out later from Madeleine what had transpired: A pink-faced balding chap walked into the School of Optometry and enquired at reception: Who’s your BEST optometrist? When Madeleine asked Um, Why? he said I want to employ your best final year optom student. Stifling a grin, Madeleine said politely, Actually most of them already have jobs, they’re nearly finished their exams. Oh, said the pink-faced balding chap, So who hasn’t got a job yet?
The rumour that he then went on to ask Oh. OK, then who’s your WORST student? is just that: A vicious rumour.
He made me an offer I couldn’t understand; I haggled the pink-faced balding chap up by a full R100 a month – that was 20% – and I had a job in Hillbrow! This Vrystaat boykie would be testing unsuspecting eyes in Highpoint in Hillbrow for a while – in fact, for the foreseeable future! Geddit!? We lasted three months before I fired him.
The old house is gone now – Hannover Reinsurance’s expensive headquarters now fill the space! Bah!
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. An heirloom purchased months before in a Yeoville junk shop. 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 eventful evening 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
Very few people realise just how good the Stromberg is. One of those very few is Brauer. He knows, as he invested a large portion of his student fortune in one at The Rand Easter Show one year (or was it the Pretoria Skou?).
We watched a demonstration in fascination. I mean EVERY time the good honest salesman hooked in the Stromberg the engine ran sweetly and WHENEVER he unhooked the Stromberg it spluttered and farted. Brauer was SOLD. He just KNEW this was the answer to his faded-blue Cortina with faded-black linoleum roof’s problems. Instead of taking it for a long overdue service and changing the oil, water, filter and spark plugs, he would sommer just fit a Stromberg. What could possibly go wrong go wrong, and who could doubt this:
Here’s an email thread that sparked the discussion of the amazing Stromberg phenomenon:
2015/08/30 Steve Reed wrote:Re: Fat takkies
Further proof that nothing stays the same. From our youthful past, it was always a “given” that the back takkies would be fatter than the front …Specially if you have the windgat version. Now the Audi RS3 has em 2cm fatter in the front than the back if you have the windgat version.
Really…I am getting too old for all this. Do they have to mess with everything?
Me: Yep. Because they can . . .
I remember the mindset change I had to undergo when diesels started getting status. Ditto when auto boxes started making more sense than manual? Had to quietly swallow a few ‘definite’ and ‘absolute’ statements made in ignorance!
One of my fascinations has been looking up when the first ____ (whatever) was ever fitted or used in a car.
First electric car – 1881 in France
First patent for seat belts – 1885. But still not compulsory when we grew up and STILL not compulsory throughout the USA today. Politicians in many states wouldn’t dare vote for such a law!
and so on – almost always WAY before I would have guessed !
Brauer: A glaring omission has been noted from your ”when was it first fitted” list:
THE FAMOUS STROMBERG
Do you recall how I had Alan Saks (the great car fundi) going on this one . . ?
Me: I do. Didn’t we see it some show or other? A great demonstration. If it had been a religion I’d have converted. I would be a Strombergie now.
Who would think Pretoria would have a skou!? What is there to show?
So Alan was not an all-knowing deskundige after all?! Even HE could learn a thing or two?
Brauer: The one and only Pretoria Skou. ca 1976. Alan had driven my Cortina a few days prior and was subjected to the stop/start lurching. He had many remedies and suggestions. I obviously thanked him for his advice, BUT ALSO ENLIGHTENED HIM re: THE NEWLY PURCHASED SOLVER-OF-ALL-CAR-PROBLEMS . . . THE STROMBERG. Remembering the “God-ordained” visit to the Skou and that Stromberg stand where we witnessed the justifiably impressive presentation of a product that should have outstripped Microsoft in sales.
To which he chuckled and shook his head in disbelief. I hauled it off the floor behind the driver’s seat to show him. I remember a few choice expletives . . “complete f…ing piece of sh-t” etc etc.
So that weekend I started installing said Stromberg, which involved a rare opening of the bonnet (a procedure I normally advise against to any motoring enthusiast). For starters (no pun intended), after glancing at the oil coated sparks, I thought that while the bonnet was open I might just clean the sparks and set the gaps. Before removing the Stromberg off it’s familiar position of lying on the floor behind the driver’s seat I thought I’d take the Cortina for a spin to see if it still could go after my risky DIY service.
Shit a brick . . it flew! (“why the hell didn’t I do that long ago!?” rolling through my thoughts as the apparently turbocharged Cortina used our sedate suburban streets as its new-found race track).
After getting back home I parked the car and almost forget what I’d started . . THE STROMBERG.
I quickly installed it on-line on the main spark lead and couldn’t wait for Alan’s visit that arvie. Chucked him my keys and said he should take the Cortina for a spin to see if he could tell if the Stromberg had made any diffs . . . The rest is folklore history . . he was stunned into silence, well for at least 3 minutes – but a Saks record nevertheless.
Steve Reed chipped in: You will laugh out the udder side of your face when you read these glowing endorsements. I think I am going to buy one online right now.
Me: Brauer, you forgot to put in the most important feature of the Cortina: The colour. What colour was it?
(I read about a popular radio talk show in the States: Two brothers had a “Car Experts” show. People would phone in and ask about the problems they were having with their cars. Long technical details of what the clutch and carburetor and shit were doing and where the smoke was coming out of etc etc – and the one brother would ask “Tell me: This Corvette of yours: What color is it?”).
Tshwane – Interesting place, Tshwane, famous for the protection of its inebriates.
Home of the Self-Guided Car
Few people know that Pretoria Boys High, Audi and Elon Musk were secretly piloting a new self-driving car in Tshwane when their test pilot, one PH Brauer, Esq, pulled out of the program for reasons unknown, although rumour has it his wife gave him a thick ear one evening after golf. Details are sketchy, as is the test pilot, a Pretoria Boys High old boy. A PHB from PBH you could say. Some of the project’s left-over funds were spent re-building a school wall. You’d think they would speed up the research, cos some people really do need to have their steering wheel removed – as in the top picture.
So that didn’t really work out.
Home of the Amphibious Canoe
OK, that didn’t work so well either, but at least there was no ongeluk thanks to the presence of two more responsible parties and the same long-suffering wife who took over the wheel of a high-powered vehicle at a crucial point when the inebriated one on the white Ford Cortina roofrack, one PH Brauer, Esq, thought paddling the Dusi was as easy as running Comrades.
Home of the Original Toilet Bowl Airbag
This field project took place outside Tshwane city limits in rural Yeoville on the second floor of a two-storey buidling. It also didn’t really work so well as the protective airbag failed to deploy until after the teeth of the main character in the act, one PH Brauer, Esq, had already chipped the porcelain. Work is continuing on developing a more robust alcohol fume sensor that triggers the bag. It seems the original sensor was simply overwhelmed by the overload and went phhht.t.t. and instead of inflating the bag it caused deflation in more areas than one. Some left-over shards of porcelain from the shattered toilet were used as a temporary stop-gap in the teeth gaps. Thutty years later they were still there and he was still saying he’d go for the permanent crowns ‘soon.’
Home of Gullible Stromberg Suckers
Although handicapped by the absence of any alcohol consumption, this project went surprisingly well, when the sucker in question, one PH Brauer, Esq, paid a premium price for a piece of inert plastic to attach to his car’s sparkplug cable. Or fuel pipe. Or windscreen wiper cable. It doesn’t matter where you clamp it. The resulting imaginary marginal improvement in performance from sat to so-so was enough to impress another Tshwane deskundige – a brother-in-law of the original sucker – into believing the scam. Both were so taken in they gave the old pale blue Cortina its first service and wax.
Home of a Future Dynasty
Interesting place, Tshwane, ancestral home of the australopithecine Tshwanepoels, where we have land claims we haven’t exercised. Yet. But we know the area well from having lived there for many generations, eating various antelope and picking berries. Also Terry’s famous roast and extra veg cos some people don’t eat their vegetables.
ongeluk – smash; prang; crash; motor vehicle accident
sat – farktap – sluggish+; very sluggish; unimpressive
farktap – not well
deskundige – ‘like Des’; spurt; eggspurt; would-be expert; given to calling things ‘kak’