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5_Army days 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia

Loopspruit Army Basics

  • – – – draft – work in progress –

So there we were ensconced on a farm outside Potchefstroom among raw rockspider seventeen year-olds, fresh out of high school from all over South Africa. We heard it had been a reform school for delinquents before we got there and turned it into a military camp. A SAMS base – South African Medical Services. “Loopspruit” or “Klipdrif” they called it. We’d been sent there for “army basics”. We were around twenty four, having delayed the joys of military life by studying to become optometrists. In hindsight, maybe we shoulda done the army first!? Time would tell . .

Our barracks was an old science lab. It still had the thick wooden workbench tops, the thick ceramic washbasins with fancy taps and the bunsen burner attachments. And best of all – vinyl tile floors! That flooring was to become our biggest asset . .

One young dutchman was big as an ox, quiet as a mouse. He sat listening to us twenty four year-old oumanne praating Engels in fascination. In many pockets of the old South Africa you could grow up hearing very little Engels.

Suddenly one day our man became famous! He burst into song, singing three lines: ‘Are you lonesome tonight? Are your brastrap too tight? That’s why you’re lonesome tonight!

He sounded unlike Elvis:

We hosed ourselves and gave him a new name: Jelly Tots. He didn’t really like it, but his name was Lotzoff, and we would see him and say ‘Lots and Lotzoff – JELLY TOTS!’ He learnt new words from us – and taught us a new phrase too: When frustrated he didn’t say “fuck’s sake”, he said “fuck’s fakes” so that became our phrase too.

Another character was as small as Lotzoff was big. He looked twelve years old and was a compact, muscular, good looking, perky, cute little bugger. He had a smattering of  Engels and preferred to use it. Some of the others refused to even try – Stoere Boere. His name? GT Jones! Pointless giving someone with so apt and memorable a name a nickname. GT Jones!

We were in the medics and we had to know all about ambulances. GT Jones called them ‘ambuminces.’ And so was born a new name for one of the meals in the mess. On ground beef days we would refer to the stuff plopped onto our plates by the bored chefs as ambumince  – which led in turn, naturally, to gruesome speculation on its origin!

Among the older, optometrist inmates:
Graham Lewis – A companion worth his weight in gold. Never fazed, always cheerful. Keenly aware of the hilarity of this fake existence we were leading. He’d been assigned to D Company. We were in A or C Company and we were chuffed when he got transferred to our (better, natch) company. We were good company and so was he! D Company’s barracks was one of the old residences. Wooden floors. A nightmare to clean. They would regularly get bollocksed for dirty floors after hours of scrubbing them, while we got praise for our vinyl floors after all we had done was sweep them. Typical army illogical unfairness. They would lose weekend passes and we would win bonus weekend passes based on the luck of the floors we’d been allocated! Once while we were away on a weekend pass . . .

Basics was, uh, basic. Get up in the morning, bugger around with your clothes and other domestic stuff like making your bed; Assemble in straight stripes; March; March; Trudge; Omkeer! Eat; March; March; Trudge; MakeeriePAS! Holy shit . . .

Dave Cooper was another worth his weight in gold. Always smiling, always upbeat.

Les Chrich, Les Davies, Les Miller, Okkie Oosthuizen, Rod Stedall, who else?

~~~oo0oo~~~

Loopspruit – walking creek; running stream;

Klipdrif – stony shallow river crossing or drift;

oumanne praating Engels – old men (24yrs) speaking English

~~~oo0oo~~~

  • still to come –

weeding duty

guard duty – grootjas, cold; threats if caught not looking sharp on duty; one flyswatter gets DB – the dreaded Detention Barracks

Puma helicopter demo / race / stretchers – we win!

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 3_USA 4_Optometry Johannesburg 5_Army days 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school sport travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

A Slice of Vrystaat

I was born in Harrismith in 1955, as was Mom Mary in 1928, and her Mom Annie in 1893. Annie thought “the queen” of that little island left of France was also the queen of South Africa (and for much of her life she was right!).

– annie watson – mary frances – peter frank –

To balance that, there’s this side of the family.

I attended the plaaslike schools in Harrismith till 1972. A year in the USA in 1973 as a  Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma. Studied optometry in Joburg 1974 – 1977. Worked in Hillbrow and Welkom in 1978. Army (Potch and Roberts Heights, now Thaba Tshwane – in between it was Voortrekkerhoogte) in 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980.

I stayed in Durban, paddled a few rivers, and then got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends and my Life With Aitch started. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.

‘Strue!! – These random, un-chronological and personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know that with one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt. Names have been left unchanged to embarrass the friends who led me (happily!) astray. Add your memories – and corrections – and corrections of corrections! – in the comments if you were there.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
5_Army days 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia

Army Daze & The Sangoma

When I was called up to the army in 1979 my friend Tabs Fyvie offered to deliver me to the (not so pearly) gates of Voortrekkerhoogte (or as Barks always insisted: Roberts’ Heights. Now thankfully at last it has a non-bullshit name: Thaba Tshwane!).

Off we went to Pretoria and sought out a pub. A kroeg, really – we were on the Central Gevangenis side of downtown Pretoria. A final drink before disappearing into uniform.
Many drinks later the 5pm deadline was approaching. Walking to the car we passed a sangoma’s emporium with enticing offers and claims written crudely on the window. Opportunity beckoned.

Turning in we were met by the great consultant himself. Tabs explained he would like to get rid of his paunch, and the man indicated this was a very minor thing which he could do with one hand tied behind his back. We were not sharp enough at that particular juncture to enquire how come he didn’t use it on himself . As in, y’know: “Physician, Heal Thyself .”

He reached for a metal rasp, took down a piece of bark from the many shelves behind him piled with bark, skins, leaves, string, dead animals, bottles of various sizes, seeds, skulls and who knows what else and grated off a pile of sawdust onto a newspaper, folded it up and said “Twenty bucks”.

Shit! Twenty Ront! In 1979! We were both pickled and we hadn’t spent that much on beer! Still, Tabs coughed up and the great man asked me my pleasure.

“I want to get out of going to the army”, I said, “Two years is too long, I’d rather dodge it altogether”. “Not a problem” he said, and “That is easy” he said. He whipped around, reached for the same metal rasp, took down the same piece of bark, grated the same amount into the next page of the same newspaper, folded it up and said – you guessed it: “Twenty bucks.”

We paid him quite solemnly, not wanting to damage or weaken the muti with any faint tinges of doubt and repaired to a nearby dive for two more beers to wash down the potion. It was vile, bitter and powder-dry, but we managed, one pinch at a time.

Well, it worked for me: Days later* I emerged from the army a free man – just like the man said.

* OK, 730 days later to be exact.

Tabs, I’m sorry to say, on the other hand, still had his little paunch. Maybe he’d harboured secret doubts? Or maybe the Sangoma had specialised in psychiatry rather than physiology? **

** Decades later Tabbo DID lose his paunch. He credits it to Tim Noakes’ eating plan, but I can’t help wondering . . . .


=======ooo000ooo=======

Peter Brauer wrote:

Clearly he mistakenly gave you the “slow release” version and probly just underestimated the dosage required for Tabs.


I replied: Or maybe it’s because we were “double blind”?


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Here’s the gumtree ad that reminded me of that day:

sangoma-capture