If you’re writing an olden days blog you run out of material. Only so much happened from when I was born till I met Aitch, which is the timeline of this blog. My Born, Bachelorhood and Beer blog. So there’s recycling. Here’s a post I wrote in 2014, slightly updated:
In high school we had an older mate who was in the Free State koor. He was famous in Harrismith for that. You could say he enjoyed Harrismith-Wide fame. His nickname was Spreeu but we called him Sparrow. Everyone knew Sparrow – Chris Bester – was one of ‘Die Kanaries – Die Vrystaatse Jeugkoor.’ Fame! Travel! Bright lights! Girls threw their broekies at the kanaries! OK, maybe not.
One day a buzz went round school that Septimus – apparently he was the seventh child – Smuts, Free State Inspector of Music was there – here! in Harrismith, city of song and laughter – to do auditions for new members for this famous koor.
We were there! Me and Gabba. Neither known for having the faintest interest in warbling before (my membership of the laerskool koor a distant memory). Nor any other form of culture come to think of it, other than the fine art of rugby. Gabba was a famous – beroemde, kranige – rugby player, having been chosen for Oos Vrystaat Craven Week in Std 8, Std 9, Std 9 & Std 10. Strong as an ox, great sense of humour, good heart.
People were amazed: “What are YOU ous doing here?” they asked as we waited in the queue. We just smiled. We’d already missed maths, biology and PT.
Septimus was a dapper little rockspider full of confidence. He gave Gabba exactly three seconds and sent him packing. Gave me ten times longer and said ‘Nice enough, but no range.’ So back to class we went, crestfallen look on our dials, mournfully telling our mates and the teacher that we COULD NOT understand how we’d been rejected and there must have been some kind of mistake. Tender-rigging, maybe? Maybe our voices were taken out of context?
The teacher raised his eyebrows but we stuck to our story: It had been a longtime deep desire of ours to sing for our province and the rejection cut us deep.
It became mine & Gabba’s standing joke over the decades that followed. Every time we met we’d have a laugh and then he’d update me on our athletics records: his for shotput and mine for the 100m sprint. Mine was eventually beaten. Gabba said ‘hier’t n nuwe oukie gekom wat soos die wind gehol het.’ His shotput record probably still stands, as far as I know. It was a mighty heave.
Decades later research has uncovered what Septimus was looking for. If only we had known! Here’s the criteria they were looking for in aspiring choristers in the late 60’s:
We may have scored E’s and F’s on most, but on 188.8.131.52 Intelligence and Dedication we surely got an A? Also if we’d known that Septimus the choirmaster had ‘n besondere liefde vir die gedrae polifonie van Palestrina se koorkompetisies,’ we’d have practiced that shit.
spreeu – starling, but mistranslated as sparrow
Die Kanaries – the canaries
Vrystaatse Jeugkoor – Free State Youth Choir; it must be confessed we would mock it as the Yech Choir
broekies – panties; maybe bloomers
beroemde, kranige – famous, outstanding
Oos Vrystaat – Eastern Free State; our neck of the woods
hier’t n nuwe oukie gekom wat soos die wind gehol het – a new guy arrived who ran like the wind
‘n besondere liefde vir die gedrae polifonie van Palestrina se koorkompetisies – fuck knows
First we went west from Oklahoma, to New Mexico. I went with the Manars in Tom’s luxury (I really should know what that car was) towing their blue Willys Jeep, quite a recent model. We drove to Red River, to Granma Merrill’s cottage in the valley south of town.
After a wonderful stay with a huge gang of the very best people, Jim n Katie Patterson took me and Dottie Moffett to Las Vegas from Red River, New Mexico in their silver-grey Ford LTD.
We drove via Colorado where we caught a steam train from Durango north to Silverton.
Then we drove through Utah, visiting Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park:
In Vegas we stayed at The Stardust on The Strip. It boasted (natch) the ‘biggest neon sign in the world’! I learnt to gamble. I learnt to win. I battled to lose. Dottie was a good luck charm! I kept on and on gambling, determined to lose. Finally as dawn approached we were $10 down. We’d paid our dues and could go to bed.
Jim n Katie took us to a show! We saw Joan Rivers being delightfully rude and Petula Clark warbling away – also Joan warbled a bit and Pet told a joke! I saw Jim slip the doorman a cri$p note to get us good seats! We got great seats.
After Vegas we stopped off at The Grand Canyon: We stared down at this awesome sight from the lookout on the south rim. We only had a few hours there, so we were just look-see tourists. Suddenly I couldn’t stand it! I just had to get down there. I started running down the Bright Angel trail. Dottie joined me; she was fit – Oklahoma’s number 2 tennis player! It’s about 10km to the river. I’d give us an hour to get down, I thought. The run was easy on a well-maintained track with the only real obstacle being the ‘mule trains’. Every now and then we’d have to step off the trail and let a bunch of mules pass, sometimes with a steep drop inches away. We made sure we were always on the upside!
At first it was all open desert trail, but at Indian Gardens I was surprised by the amount of greenery in the Canyon. From the rim it looks like all desert, but in the protected gorges there was water, green shrubbery and even some tall trees.
In about an hour we got to just above the river. I stared in awe at the swiftly-moving blue-green water. I had never seen such a large volume of clear water flowing like that. Our South African rivers mostly run small and muddy and I wasn’t expecting clear water. Right then I thought I MUST get onto this river! I’d been kayaking for a few years, but if I’d been asked I’d probably have said on a raft, little knowing that eleven years later I would kayak past that very spot, under that same bridge in 1984 on a flood-level brown river! *(see below)*
The hike back out was steep, but hey, we were 18yrs old! Cross-country running had been my favourite obsession the year before, so no (or an acceptable amount of) sweat!
Then we headed home by and large followed the old historic Route 66 – the new I40. Flagstaff Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, back to Oklahoma. To Apache, and then Katie and I drove the delightful Dottie on to Ardmore.
I learned later:
They tell you Do Not try to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day!
The 10km climb down Bright Angel is about 1000m vertically, and every metre down you’re going back about 100 000 years in geological time!
The name Colorado was for its muddy colour and its clarity is in fact an undesirable artifact because of Glen Canyon Dam upstream;
Jim Patterson has since hiked rim to rim through the canyon a number of times – he made it an annual pilgrimage. The last I heard was when he was 70!
Footnote – Eleven years later, in ’84, I arrived under that bridge in my kayak:
The level was high, and the Little Colorado poured brown floodwaters into the Colorado, so the water wasn’t running clear.
Sometimes Umzinto would get kinda desperate, and after casting around far and wide would eventually consult telephonically: ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Fraid so. ‘OK, well then if there really is no-one else, ask your mate Swanepoel.’
So Glen Barker would say ‘Pete, can you play for us again this Sunday?’ And I’d always say Sure thing! cos . . LUNCH! The ladies of Umzinto and district and the staff of the Umzinto country club knew how to make lunch, and for a bachelor with buggerall to do that Sunday anyway, whattapleasure.
So I’d borrow white trousers, wear a white work shirt and drive south down the notorious South Coast, full of rokers, weed smokers, fishermen, retired Vaalies and dodgy farmers; and do sterling service for the 100yr-old august olde Umzinto Cricket Club. The usual: I’d get a duck in the morning, drop a few catches in the afternoon and enjoy a very good lunch with a few beers in-between. It was Win-Win-Win all round. Everybody was a winner: Me, the Umzinto team, and the opposition.
Mom Mary Swanepoel made costumes for a fancy dress event in the Harrismith town hall ca.1959. We were living on a plot Birdhaven in the shadow of Platberg just a kilometre east of the edge of town on the forestry road.
Some thirty years later, big sister Barbara in the middle on the left, made costumes for her kids Linda and Robbie in a re-enactment ca.1986. They were living on a farm Shukela Estates outside Greytown.
At the time our Oupa was visiting us from Pietermaritzburg. Paul Fouche Swanepoel, grandpa of Peter Frank – me.
Now we await Linda’s move – I’ll bet she’ll repeat the re-enactment with her two, Mary-Kate and Dawie VII – they’ll be third generation ‘gypsies.’
A memorial stone. This story started in Pietermaritzburg, grew in Pretoria – and ended up here:
The beautiful delta of the Skagit River in North-West Washington state! Up on the Pacific coast; up near Canada; not too far off the exact opposite side of the world. Here’s where South Africa lies if you could look right through the world from Above the Pacific Ocean:
It happened like this:
My dear cousins: On Sunday August 11 my family and I are holding a memorial for my mother. When she died so unexpectedly in March 1974 I was a long way away. I did not participate in any of the funeral arrangements and I did not attend the funeral.
After cousin Lizzie died I had a “conversation” with Koosie and he asked me where my mother was buried and I realized, to my shame, that I did not know and have not since been able to find out.
So on Sunday, a day before her 109th birthday and 45 years after she died, I am symbolically bringing her home to me and to my family. We have chosen for her headstone a rock we collected from a nearby river and it will pass from me, to my daughter, to my grandson and beyond in ongoing commemoration.
Please send your prayers and loving thoughts our way and join us in recognition of Adriana Wilhelmina Swanepoel Solomon, my beloved mother and your Auntie Janie.
Much love to you all, Shirley
dear Cousins: Thanks and appreciation to all of you for your thoughts
and prayers. We spent a heartfelt couple of hours together talking
about Adriana and the Swanepoels. Warren was not with us as he is
visiting friends in Nebraska. We looked through the old shoebox of
pictures and told the old stories that, by this time, are part of the
family cannon and are probably quite richly embellished. We laughed,
we teared up, we remembered other family members who are no longer
with us. We brought out the big Atlas and checked out where exactly
South Africa is, we took down the pictures that have been on the wall
for years and examined them more closely: the four Swanepoel siblings
taken when Pieter was around two, the montage of the ten cousins that
I cherish, the wedding picture of my parents. All in all, it was a
lovely time, topped off by my reading the kind and thoughtful
messages that you sent us. Our love from our family to yours.
Hi Shirley, What a beautiful gesture. Our thoughts will be with you on Sunday. I can still remember the time that my dad went to Aunt Liz’s funeral and ended up having to bury two sisters. He was so sad at the time. May they all rest in peace. Love from us. Solly
That’s beautiful Shirley. My thoughts are with you and I have put a reminder on my phone. I’ll drink a toast Sunday! ( I did – Jerepigo!). Auntie Janie will enjoy Washington, the Northwest and the river, I’m sure! Love, Koos – P.S. The last time I saw her was 1973 in Apache, Oklahoma and friends took a polaroid picture:
Dear Shirley, You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers today. May your commemoration bring the peace in your heart that you so long sought for. Remember, those we so dearly love, don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Love you all, Johan
Dear Cousin Shirley, Thank you for sharing the family memorial for your mother with your cousins. May your family be richly blessed for placing her at the centre of your lives on this day.
Although 10 200 plus miles separate us, know that we will be with you in heart and spirit on this memorable occasion. To this end, a proverb, a prayer, a photo and a couple of fond memories for you.
An appropriate Hebrew proverb: Say not in grief ‘she is no more’ but live in thankfulness that she was.
A prayer for the occasion: Lord of all, we praise you for Aunty A who rests peacefully in your presence. Give all who remember her grace to follow in her footsteps as she followed the way of your Son. Thank you for the memory of Aunty A who you unexpectedly gathered to you. May our memories of her lead our hearts from the things we can see to the unseen things we trust you for. Lead us too until we enter the eternal rest you have prepared for us. We ask this in your precious name Lord. Amen.
A photo of the Swanepoel sisters taken in Camperdown when Aunty A visited. Two ladies who remain dear to me to this day.
A couple of fond memories of a lady with class: Aunty A was the only Aunt I knew – I can’t remember meeting any of my Dad’s sisters. Aunty A was always very kind to me. When given our first pass from the Air Force Gymnasium in 1964 it was Aunty A who collected me to spend a delightful Sunday in their home at 54?Prospect Street, Hatfield, Pretoria. It only occurred to me much later why she and Uncle Solly gave me a spare box set of King Lear long-player records with the subtle suggestion that it would improve my English! Clearly Mathematics and Science was my forte and not languages. After having qualified to give flying instruction at Central Flying School Dunnottar and trying to be an officer and a gentleman whilst vigorously courting the East Rand chicks, it was Aunty A who suggested that taking them to ballet shows at the Aula Theatre at Pretoria University would impress them favourably. She accompanied us on occasion but didn’t seem too impressed with the company I was keeping at that stage. Aunty A helped me select and purchase a 1968 painting of the artist Christiaan Saint Peter Nice one Sunday afternoon at the Magnolia Dell. This artist has since passed on but subsequently became well known and his paintings continue to grow in value. The painting hangs in the study serving as a reminder of the good times we spent together. Aunty A was not just classy but fun-loving too. Travelling together from Pretoria to Camperdown in my recently acquired MGB GT (before entering the Free State where the traffic cops always laid in wait for unsuspecting speedsters) I can’t quite remember whether it was Aunty A who wanted to know how fast this thing can go or me who wanted to show her? Other than with my lady companions, Aunty A was truly impressed with what the MG could do given that it was a sporting offspring of her Morris Cowley which she used to drive hell-for-leather down Burnett Street heading for the City. Her memory remains indelible in my mind.
Here’s wishing you every success and many happy memories of the day! With love, Cousin Jack G
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 optometry students 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 Teachers 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: That’s Kokstad, where his Dad sold Massey Ferguson tractors to the boere. 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 the Brauer-Saks wedding of the year.
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 a TJ 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 – ?? Craig?
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. Again.
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 – Big 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. The Seventh Steak – quite biblical, actually. 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 ingeniously 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. So we always had a choice: Clean or Matching.
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!
While staying at 4 Hillside Road Parktown we prepared for the holidays. I was taking the delightful Cheryl Forsdick down to Port Shepstone in Natal where she was meeting her folks, the redoubtable Ginger, fierce platinum-haired mine manager of renown, and Mrs F.
It was the grey and grey Opel Concorde OHS 5678’s longest trip and at the last minute I started to worry about the brakes. They weren’t the best. So I toddled off to the spare parts place and bought what they said would fix them.
The day before we were to leave I stripped the drums and put in the new shoes. Does that sound right? It was a fiddly job and took ages to get right, the springs kept springing. Testing them entailed many trips up and down Hillside Road under the closed arch of the big old London Plane trees. Luckily it’s a cul-de-sac. Jamming on brakes I would go screeching into the left gutter, then I’d go home and adjust the whatevers and then go slewing into the right gutter. Then beertime came and it had to be good enough.
A raucous year-end party ensued and unfortunately Brauer had invited himself. So even more beer than normal was swallowed and cleverer and cleverer.
In the wee hours he spotted the grey and grey Opel Concorde sitting sleekly in the driveway, poised for its long journey to that last outpost of the British Empire. His drink-addled brain (brain?) had recently been thinking (thinking?) about the Mercedes “pagoda roof” sports car classic and he decided my car needed a conversion, so he danced on the roof in his old blue suede shoes (think I’m kidding? I’ll show you a photo). And the more us sensible people told him to stop the more he danced. You know how he is.
He thought he was doing this – and in fact had the cheek to suggest I should pay him for enhancing the Opel:
But in fact he did this (actual footage):
I had to lie on my back on the seat and push up the roof with my feet the next morning so we could sit in the thing for our southward safari. I was careful to use the brakes as little as possible all the way through the Vrystaat vlaktes, down van Reenen’s Pass and on to the sparkling Indian Ocean where the sharks (but not yet the Sharks) were awaiting their annual dose of Vaalie flesh.
. . . in Las Vegas in 1973 ! Whoa! Can that be true? When she died recently, I went searching for details of her Vegas show way back then.
She was 40yrs old already – and she was delightfully rude. She and Petula Clark were double-billed at Caesar’s Palace:
Hollywood Reporter – August 1, 1973 – Bravo Sid Gathrid of Caesar’s Palace for giving the summer crowds one of the freshest, brightest and most entertaining bookings of the year in the lady stars Petula Clark and Joan Rivers. Destroying the old hand-me-down Strip myth that two females are artistically incompatible and or have ineffectual drawing power, Pet and Joan’s opening string of standingroom-only crowds found the duo irresistible. There’s a delightful mix-up of interplay of the stars’ talents; Petula does comedy bits and Joan sings! The “raid” on the other’s forte only adds to the evening’s abundance of style, polish and charm.
Color My World / You Are the Sunshine of My Life / Don’t Sleep in the Subway / Beatles medley: Something / Penny Lane / All You Need is Love / You and I (from Goodbye Mr. Chips) / I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love / Your Cheatin’ Heart / You’ve Got a Friend / I Don’t Know How to Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar) / What the World Needs Now / Downtown —————————————- ——————————
I went with wonderful Oklahomans Jim & Katie Patterson, magnificent host family of Apache Oklahoma, and very special lady Dottie Moffett of Ardmore Oklahoma, who had been a Rotary exchange student to Cape Town the year before. Clever Katie saw we were keen on each other and arranged for Dottie to join us!!