Durban ca 1980 – I’ve been sent here by the army; I know very little about this Last Outpost of the British Empire, but my friend, fellow Free Stater Steve Reed, has been here almost a year so he knows everything. And he knows some girls.
The papers announced that some comet was due to approach Earth and – we extrapolated – threaten our way of life, our partying, our poison of choice – and perhaps even kill us. Or annoy us anyway.
We determined to protect ourselves and our favourite planet from this unwelcome alien intruder. Steve hired a beach cottage at Blythedale Beach on the Natal north coast and, as I know a lot more about warding off comets than I do about girls, I was happy to tag along with Stefaans and a bunch of his female friends and admirers. Supplied with adequate stocks of various powerful potions and elixirs to be taken internally we sallied forth. We also bought tinfoil.
In the self-catering kitchen we found plenty with which to arm and armour ourselves: Colanders, coriander, and pots and pans made good headgear. Braai forks, spatulas, braai tongs and wooden spoons made anti-galactic weapons. We warmed up our IQ’s by imbibing aplenty and so started a rip-roaring single-handed – the other hand was holding cheap and blithe spirits – Defend the Planet Party; which same ended successfully in the wee hours on the beach when a mysterious pale light appeared on the eastern horizon, over the sparkling Indian Ocean.
Was it perhaps Comet Aarseth-Brewington? Well, if it was, we made it saweth its arseth by our brewing and distillington.
Actually, it was more likely Comet Tuttle. There it is, below! It came back in 2007 but it knew better than to approach too close:
Only after recovering from my hangover did I realise another of the planned missions had once again been a complete failure: Snaring any girls. As so often, the booze had won and I’d dipped out. And they were kif . .
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.
Stephen Charles Reed sent a terrible picture of a recovering drunk back in the old days. Around 1980. He found this poor soul asleep on the covered veranda of his top floor flat in 10th Avenue off Clarence Road in Windermere, Durban and cruelly photographed him, him unknowing. Sleeping with his specs on so as not to have blurry dreams.
Later he accompanied the poor soul to the cafe on the corner for something to slake our Sunday morning cotton mouth thirst. En route we came across the Salvation Army on the pavement, gearing up their instruments, blowing the spit out, getting ready to go and blast a bracing dose of Christian ‘look sharp’ into some poor sinners’ ears. And we were convinced they’d marked us as just exactly the right type of sinners they needed.
Neatly – if severely – dressed in their fierce outfits, sensible shoes and soldier-looking hoeds they glared at us, fiddling threateningly with their instruments.
I could feel their accusing stares boring through the back of my head as I minced delicately past them, taking a wide – but not too wide – berth by stepping down into the gutter – where I belonged? – trying not to upset them in any way. Had they sounded the horn and hit the drum we might have capitulated and joined immediately. Thankfully a baleful stare was all we got and we made it past them. We eyed them out from a distance from the cafe door and returned to Stefaans’ flat once they’d parum-pum’d off a goodly distance down the road. Anyway, I’d already been saved a few years before, so there was no need for them to target me. Dunno about Stefaans – he looked like he needed a bit of salvaging.
They were like this menacing-looking mob, except there were more tannies with sensible shoes, like in the top pic:
hoeds – headgear; salute-worthy hats
tannies – aunties
parum pum – guilt-inducing tympanic torture
Ah! This is better! THIS is what they looked like – Beryl Cook captured them perfectly:
But to do it I needed a henchman. You can hike alone, but I’d really rather not, so I persuaded Stefaans Reed, The Big Weed, resident son of hizzonner the Worshipful Lord Mayor of Nêrens (aka Clarens) and fellow optometry student in Jo’burg to nogschlep along.
We sallied forth, rucksacks on our backs, boerewors and coffee and billy can and sleeping bags inside, up the slopes of Platberg, from Piet Uys Street, up past the Botanic Gardens, von During and Hawkins Dams, into the ‘Government forest’. The pine plantation. ‘Die dennebos.’ We could discern two types of pines. The type we liked had the long soft needles and made a good bed. We walked next to the concrete furrow that led water down the mountain into town. Often broken and dry but sometimes full of clear water, it made finding the way easy.
Halfway up we made camp, clearing a big area of the soft pine needles down to bare earth so we could safely light a fire.
Learning from our primate cousins we piled all those leaves and more into a thick gorilla mattress and lay down on it to gaze at the stars through the treetops. This was 1974, we were eerstejaar studente in the big smog of Doornfontein, Jo’burg. We had learnt to drink more beer, sing bawdy songs, throw a mean dart in a smoke-filled pub, hang out of friends car windows as they drove home thinking ‘Whoa! better get these hooligans home!’ and generally honed our urban skills. Now we were honing our rural skills. Wilderness ‘n all.
As we lay in our sleeping bags, burping boerewors and gazing through the pine fronds at the stars, we heard a loud, startling, beautiful sound.
I was wide-eyed wide-awake! WHAT on EARTH was that!? I knew it had to be a night bird, but what? Which one?
In the dark I scribbled down a picture of the sound. This is what it sounded like to me and I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget it:
I didn’t know I was drawing a ‘sonogram’ – I’d never heard of that.
When I got back home I looked through my ‘Birds of South Africa – Austin Roberts’ by G.R. McLachlan and R. Liversidge, 1970 – and found there was a nightjar that said “Good Lord Deliver Us” and I knew that was it. The Fiery-Necked Nightjar – some call it the Litany Bird. I loved it, I love it, I’ll never forget it and it’s still a favourite bird.
Next morning we hiked on, past the beautiful eastern tip of Platberg – some call it ‘Bobbejaankop’ – and down round Queen’s Hill through some very dense thicket, across the N3 highway, back home and a cold beer.
Those pine trees may be Pinus patula – soft leaves, not spiky. Comfy. Still an invasive pest, though.
A ‘litany’ is a tedious recital or repetitive series; ‘a litany of complaints’; ‘a series of invocations and supplications‘;
The Catholics can really rev it up – Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us. God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us. – and this is one-twelfth of the Catholic Litany, there’s eleven-twelfths more! Holy shit!!
Nêrens – nowhere, or Clarens in the Free State, named after Clarens, Switzerland to which that coward Paul Kruger fled cowardly after accusing my brave great-great Oom of cowardice. Ha! Who actually stayed and fought the war, huh?
nogschlep – kom saam; accompany
boerewors – raw beef wurst; just add fire
dennebos – pine plantation; plantations are not forests!
Stephen Charles Reed was the laat lammetjie son of Vincent and Doreen Reed. Vin and Dor. Butch was the big black Labrador in residence.
Vincent was hizzonner, the Lord Mayor of Clarens, so although Stevie was by a long shot not their first son he WAS the First Son of Clarens.
In the holidays I would ring up Oom Lappies Labuschagne at the Harrismith sentrale. He would say ‘seker‘ and patch me through to the Clarens telephone exchange – their ‘sentrale‘. The operator lady would answer with a chirpy “Clarr-RINSE”!
Three Four Please. Seemed somehow wrong that their number was 34. I mean, Vincent was the Mayor. Surely it should have been One Please?
Anyway, Three Four Please.
“No, Stevie’s not there, he’s at the Goldblatts, I’ll put you through”.
Old Clarens, before the rush. Here’s the Reed’s store.
laat lammetjie – afterthought child, unplanned, not to be confused with unwanted
seker – sure
sentrale – telephone exchange
Zena Jacobson wrote:
Can’t remember Steve, did your family own the garage? I remember your dad being the mayor though. And I remember the craziest dog I had ever seen called Dennis – a cross between a Labrador and a dachshund or something! I also remember the “centrale” telephone exchange lady, who kept interrupting every three minutes to tell you how long you have been talking, and one day I got irritated, and said something like “aw shut up!” and she scolded me for being so rude! I was mortified!
You should see Clarens now! Although I haven’t been back, it’s the central art and antiques weekend getaway in the country. Quite the arty place, with hotels, B&Bs and coffee shops by the dozen.
AND – they have a brewery! One of my favourite newer tales of Clarens involves young Rod Stedall. He and Karen bought a stand, built a lovely sandstone cottage, made a good income from it for years, had some lovely holidays there and then sold it for a handsome profit. Boom! I stood and watched as all this happened, thinking “That’s a great idea, I should do something about that”, and doing buggerall. Rod then bought a house in the bustling metropolis of Memel, thinking that would be the next big Vrystaat thing and I thought “That’s a great idea, I should do something about that!” Yeah, right.
OK, Memel didn’t happen in Rod’s time here (he offered to sell me the Memel house when he was leaving for Noo Zealand), but guess what: SANRAL are talking of bypassing Harrismith and running the new N3 past Memel. Boom time! Bust for Harrismith, it would be, though.
Terry Brauer wrote:
Clarens is one of my favourite getaways in SA. Who’d have thought, Mr Reed?! We stayed in that wonderful home with the Stedalls. Had we not owned San Lameer we’d have considered buying it. Fabulous place. Fabulous hosts.
Pete, join the Brauer investment club. Fail. Epic fail every time.
A brief history: Clarens, South Africa, was established in 1912CE and named after the town of Clarens in Switzerland, est around 200CE, where exiled Paul Kruger, who some think a hero of South African independence from Britain, died in 1904 after fleeing there. He fled there – yes, fled, like ‘ran away’, a coward – after calling my great-great uncle – who bravely fought the whole war against the thieving British to the bitter end! The swine!
A company wanting to establish a village in the area bought two farms: Leliehoek from Hermanus Steyn in 1910/11 and Naauwpoort from Piet de Villiers, situated near the Titanic rock. The two farms were divided into erven, and these were offered for sale at fifty pounds sterling apiece.
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?”).