Uh, Correction, Mrs Bedford!

** recycled post ** updated **

In 1969 a bunch of us were taken to Durban to watch a rugby test match Springboks against the Australian Wallabies. “Our” Tommy Bedford was captain of the ‘Boks. We didn’t know it, but it was to be his last game.

Schoolboy “seats” were flat on your bum on the grass in front of the main stand at Kings Park. Looking around we spotted old Ella Bedford, – “Mis Betfit” as her pupils called her – Harrismith English teacher and the captain’s Mom – hence our feeling like special guests! – up in the stands. Sitting next to her was a really spunky blonde so we whistled and hooted and waved until she returned the wave.

Tommy Bedford Springbok

Back at school the next week ‘Mis Betfit’ told us how her daughter-in-law had turned to her and said: “Ooh look, those boys are waving at me!” And she replied (and some of you will hear her tone of voice in your mind’s ear): “No they’re not! They’re my boys. They’re waving at me!”

We just smiled, thinking ‘So, Mis Betfit isn’t always right’. Here’s Jane. We did NOT mistake her for Mis Betfit.

jane-bedford-portrait

Mrs Bedford taught English as second language. Apparently anything you got wrong had to be fixed below your work under the heading “corrections”. Anything you got wrong in your corrections had to be fixed under the heading “corrections of corrections”. Mistakes in those would be “corrections of corrections of corrections”. And so on, ad infinitum! She never gave up. You WOULD get it all right eventually!

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After:

In matric the rugby season started and I suddenly thought: Why’m I playing rugby? I’m playing because people think I have to play rugby! I don’t.

So I didn’t.

It caused a mild little stir, especially for ou Vis, mnr Alberts in the primary school. He came up from the laerskool specially to voice his dismay. Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! he protested. That was optimistic. I had played some good rugby when I shot up and became the tallest in the team, not because of real talent for the game – as I went on to prove.

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Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! – Don’t give up rugby. You should become our ‘second Tommy Bedford’

Please Release Me Let Me Go!

July 1970. The All Blacks were on tour. We had gone to Bethlehem – surely the only town in the world where a big sign saying FAKKELHOF welcomes you as you drive in? – to see them play. Bryan Williams, the first Maori allowed to play in South Africa (inconveniently fast, handsome and popular) scored two tries in his very first game in an All Black jersey.

Check the Bethlehem news: ‘en daar was rugby ook’ – with more coverage of the pomptroppies than the rugby!

We got klapped 43-9, so the rugby was just an afterthought! You can be sure there’d have been much more rugby coverage had we won!

Rugby writer Terry McLean said: Paul Roos XV was, bluntly, a nothing team. Dannhauser and Fourie had good stances as locks in the scrummage. Lyell at No 8 had bags of pace which he used much too little and Burger, a hooker of some note, took a heel from Urlich, though he lost five in the process. But behind the scrum Froneman was an obsessive kicker and Kotze at fullback defended principally by making meaningful gestures from a distance.

And McLook said: I get heart burn (sooibrand) just reading remarks like this; it has always been one of the most irritating and frustrating things for me about South African rugby. As a provincial player you get one opportunity in your life to play against an international team so why would you waste the opportunity by constantly kicking the ball away. Secondly, it totally eludes me why selectors would pick individuals for a team if that individual does nothing else than kicking. If you want to kick a ball go play soccer.

Later the Silver Ferns played Free State (or Vrystaat) in Bloemfontein and my mate Jean le Roux and I decided we needed to go and see that game as well. We hitch-hiked to Bloem, arrived in time and watched the game.

Hitch-hiking flip.jpg

Let’s conveniently forget the score. You know how those All Blacks are.

1970 Free State -All Blacks.jpg

After the game we realised it was getting dark and cold. We had made zero plans or arrangements, so we made our way to the pulley staasie, the cop shop, told our tale of need and were met with excited enthusiasm and hospitality. NOT. We were actually met with complete indifference and ignored. Eventually one konstabel saw us and asked, ‘Wat maak julle hier?’ and we told our tale again. He said nothing but fetched some keys and beckoned us to follow him. ‘There’s a ladies cell vacant,’ he muttered, letting us in and locking the door behind us.

Toilet in the corner with no cistern, no seat and a piece of wire protruding through a hole in the wall: the chain. Four mattresses with dirty grey blankets. Lots of graffiti, mostly scratched into the plaster. Yirr, some vieslike words! We slept tentatively, trying to hover above those mattresses, which were also vieslik, and woke early, eager to hit the road back to Harrismith. After waiting a while we started peering out of the tiny little peephole in the door, hoping someone would walk past. Then we called politely with our lips at the hole. Eventually we started shouting – to no avail. After what seemed like ages someone came to the door. Thank goodness!

‘Vaddafokgaanhieraan?’ he asked. ‘Please open up and let us out, we have to hitch-hike back to Harrismith,’ we said, eagerly. ‘Dink jy ek is vokken mal?’ came the voice and he walked off. We realised it was probably a new shift and no-one knew about our innocence! They were these ous:

SA police 1970

We had to bellow and yell and perform before we eventually could get someone to believe us and let us out.

And then:

Hitch-hiking

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FAKKELHOF – doesn’t sound like welcome; sounds like go forth and multiply; literally Torch Court

‘en daar was rugby ook’ – oh, there was some rugby (after ooh’ing about all the ancillary pomp)

pomptroppies – drum majorettes

klapped – pasted; smacked

Wat maak julle hier? – what are you doing here?

vieslik – disgusting; sis

Vaddafokgaanhieraan? – Can I help you gentlemen?

Dink jy ek is vokken mal? – Do you think I’m gullible?

Rocky Horror in Senekal, Vrystaat

1971: Rugby in Bloemfontein, first test Springboks vs the Frogs, the French. We drove over in Tabs’ car to watch. Apparently:

. . . this test is remembered for a famous tackle by Bourgarel on a charging Frik du Preez. If I remember correctly Frik was charging all cylinders firing down the touchline; on his way to what look like certain try. Bourgarel, however, had other plans the French wing came from the side fly tackling Frik; dumping him unceremoniously over the touchline to the disgust of the crowd, who even came-up with a chant for Bourgarel as a consequence. I won’t repeat the chant here but it rhymed with his name. 

1971 French side - 1st test Bloemfontein.jpg

After the game, Tabs, Des, Raz, Stervis and I are driving back when the kroeg – no way you could call it a pub – in Senekal beckoned.
By the time the barman threw us out Des had bonded deeply with one of Senekal’s left-behinds and when we suggested we leave for home rather than go home with Deliverance for a braai, Des told us in no uncertain terms that WE could go but HE was not leaving his lifelong mate, of three hours, in the lurch.

ONE fing we must NOT do, we were told, also in no uncertain terms, when we got to the small house on the wrong side of Senekal, is wake his wife. Lemme tell you carefully, you must not, no marrer whut you do, wake my wahf, you hear?

Wooden floors, five drunk ous stumbling around, I started to think this goon doesn’t actually have a wife. Conan meanwhile, is scratching around in the chest deep freeze. He hauls out what looks like a roundish, rock-hard lump of blood in a plastic checkers packet, and suddenly I get a clear image: He DOES have a wife and she IS in the house! In that deep freeze! In fact, he’s offering us a piece of her for a braai!

Des, I urge, we should go, this is going to take forever. But it’s like Des told us: WE can go, but HE’s not leaving his lifelong mate.

It’s midnight in June in Senekal, Vrystaat. It’s not hot. Eventually a fire gets going – sort of – and the icy red lump piece of deceased wife sits on it, refusing to melt. An alternative hazy recollection is the oven was turned on and the lump placed in there. Exact facts are in dispute among us hostages decades later.

Meantime, Jack Nicholson has found some dop and we have to drink, and luckily this puts him to sleep and mellows the Glutz so we’re able to persuade him to make a bolt for it, hitting the Senekal dirt roads till we find the tar to Harrismith. Stervis has a better hazy recollection of the Wildman pulling out a gun and taking potshots at us as the getaway car spins madly down the driveway. Luckily the resulting dust plume obscures us from view and saves our lives.

Bliksem!

To this day I can experience that weird, out-of-body sensation of “WTF are we DOING here? Am I in a bad movie or in a bad dream?!

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I had visited Senekal once before under happier circumstances.