Happy Hookers FC

We thought it was a quite amusing name for our venture. FC of course stands for Fishing Club, which in itself is quite amusing, as we weren’t really fishermen. Most of us were amateur birdwatchers.

It was an idle suggestion which bubbled up during a few beers at the club after work. Henties Bay came up and how renowned it was for fishing and now there was no longer a war in Namibia, it was safely accessible. It wasn’t long before somebody said “let’s go there”.

Initially, we were a Production Manager on a gold mine, two Personnel (HR) superintendents and an accountant, all over 40 and not exactly athletic. We invited some young fellows who were actually fishermen and full of energy who could do the driving and heavy lifting.

After weeks of serious planning meetings over beers at the club, we departed.

It was a long trip, almost 1800 kms and most of us had never been to Namibia.

We travelled in two four wheel drive bakkies (utes in Australia) and those sitting in the back on our luggage, played long games of liar dice and slept a lot.

We had booked into a motel – no roughing it or camping had been one of our first rules. On arrival we prepared our tackle and planned what to do with our catches.

The next day, after breakfast, we drove to the area where the best fishing was to be had. No-one caught a fish all day. We retired early to drink beer and plan. The next day we went to Swakopmund to eat the legendary German Eisbein. The restaurant only had four left, so we had to draw straws. I lost and have never had eisbein since in protest.

The next day we drove out and saw an animated group of fishermen who were feverishly casting into a shoal of steenbras. We managed to catch two and a small shark. That was the sum total of our catch on the trip. It is a bleak country and the coast is covered in a fog belt, making everything grey.

Not a very succesful first trip, but we had quite a good time, drank some beer and there were no fights.

We decided that the next trip would combine fishing with birding. We travelled 1700 kilometers to Shakawe on the Okavango Delta in Botswana and had a marvelous time. We caught no tiger fish but bagged a few bream which we ate. The birdlife was wonderful.

The next trip was to Pafuri, 800 km away on the northern border of the Kruger National Park and the border with Mocambique. There was no fishing but the bird life was wonderful.

The following year, we went to Kosi Bay, only 780km away in kwaZulu. We saw quite a few birds, but caught no fish even though it was a legendary spot for grunter and kingfish.

It was hot, so we drank lots of beer.

At Morgans Bay on the next trip (about 900kms), two cold fronts passed over, so it rained the whole time. We only caught one small fish and we barbecued the squid and sardines we had bought for bait – it was wet, so we drank lots of beer

There was another trip to Pafuri as well.

All in all, we made six trips, travelling almost 14, 000 kilometres and caught at least ten fish.

It was, I believe, a very succesful association.

Fish after all are slimy and smelly….

A Magistrate’s curse in colonial times

Story suggested by Louis Boshoff Tuesday 23 March

In small towns in the colonies, the magistrate is often one of two senior government officials, the other is the District Commissioner. 

They are required to reside in large houses with large grounds, which if you are a young bachelor is a curse.

When I was appointed as Resident Magistrate in Mtoko in the North East corner of Rhodesia, the only furniture I possessed was my bed; my bedside table was a beer crate. I also had a hi-fi player.

I was given three weeks ‘ notice to move. All of a sudden I was required to furnish a 3 bedroomed house with a large sitting room and dining room. Then there were two acres of garden to keep neat. I was given three weeks’ notice and a day off to shop for furniture.

What to do? I didn’t have a girlfriend to advise me and Mum was still in Swaziland. My friends were beer drinkers and rugby players.

I went to an auction and bought a lounge suite, dining room suite, a bed, some bedside cabinets, some crockery and a tray full of cutlery.  There was also a set of Impressionist prints on boards which were quite good, so I took them to add colour to the walls.It took about an hour. 

Next door was a drapery shop where I bought some calico material for curtains, orange and green for the Irish flag. 

So I arrived in Mtoko and was taken on a grand tour by the departing magistrate: Police, Prison, District Commissioner and army HQ. Ex officio, I was appointed as Chairman of the local Sports Club. This was awkward as until then in the city, I had enjoyed the anonymity and freedom of an ordinary man in the street beer drinker…

The best advice I had been given was to engage a reliable man of all trades. Thankfully, I was introduced to John, a regal grandfather who introduced himself as Tickey (I am embarrassed to say I have forgotten his surname; I called him Baba which means father).

He was a real gentleman’s gentleman and cared for me as if I was a prince and not a dissolute bachelor with paltry, shoddy possessions and no woman. I gave him money and he bought food and fed us, telling me when we needed more. He fed the dogs and cleaned the house, removing the occasional reptile and washing and ironing. He took my curtain material to the local tailor and I had curtains in two days.

He would not do the garden, but fortunately a gang of prisoners would come up occasionally to cut grass and weed. Some became quite familiar and greeted me in a friendly fashion, even though I had sent them down.

So there were blessings to accompany the curse.

Rain on an old tin roof

Story suggested by Linda Owen Guy                    Thursday 11 March

Pitter….. patter….. pitter….. patter…. pitter…. patter.

Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitter-patter

Rain falling  is a rhythmic pattering sound, like a lullaby it can help people fall asleep quickly. The brain unconsciously relaxes and produces alpha waves, close to the state of our brain when we sleep.

People listen to rain as white noise. Have a go, click the link – listen to the rain while you read!

Sitting under a tin roof, the first drop is a SPLAT! Followed by further splats and then a steady roar, making conversation difficult; anyway splashes will drive you inside.

As the  rain tails off we get an array of sounds:

pitter-patter.

drip-drop.

rat-a-tat.

splatter.

tap tap

pitter patter

pitapat.

pat

drip, drip, drip  …drip

After rain a strong earthy smell arises. It is rich and fecund, catching the back of your throat and prompts idle thoughts of becoming a farmer. Petrichor it is called.

The sun breaks through clouds. The tin roof goes skcilc, skcilc as the roof metal stretches in the warmth.

The Green Hand of Overdale

Story suggested by Keith Struwig 8 March Monday

The little boys at our boarding school, juniors ranging in age from seven to twelve, lived in Overdale House. They were under the care of a young Scotsman who was diligent but strict in his exercise of care.

Each morning the prefect awoke the boys with a little bell. No lolling in bed was permitted. All faces were to be washed in cold water (there was no hot); shoes polished, hair brushed, beds made before breakfast. Their appearance and clothes trunks were inspected. Then they were marched off to breakfast.

The housemaster ensured that the senior boys allowed them to get some food at meal times, but like all boys, they were always ravenous.

Every second night they were marched to Duncan House for a bath. On the intervening day grubbiness and dirt were to be removed under the cold water tap at the back, in the shade of the oak trees.

Lights out was at nine o’clock, with only the prefect’s light left on until later. The toilet was an outhouse, under the oak trees and it was very dark out there. But little boys were well aware of the horrible embarrassment and miserable disgrace awaiting those who wet their beds… so braved the dark.

Unfortunately, an idle, wicked prefect, who shall remain nameless, was struck by a brainwave.  He knew how to stop the littlest boys waking him in the middle of the night to take them to the loo, which he was under instruction to do. 

One winter night, just before lights out, he idly inquired if anyone had heard anything the previous night, like tapping on the window. No-one had. He admonished them all not to investigate if they ever did hear it. 

It could be “the hand” that was tapping…. 

He said he had been told by Sikwini, the Head Waiter, that many years ago, a man had slipped and fallen into the saw pit and his left hand had been sliced off. He was rushed to hospital but bled to death on the way. His hand had been forgotten in the panic and it is thought that Fly the school dog had stolen it. 

Now, it was said, usually at full moon the hand came to find its owner….

Boys were dumbstruck and everyone of them slept with their head under the blankets. No-one woke the prefect. 

Over the following days, any visits to the outhouse after dark were done before lights out, in company of at least two others, who took turns to wait outside while business was completed. Nobody moved after lights out.

Inevitably there was a sudden increase in incidents of bed-wetting, surprisingly including one or two older boys.

The canny young Scotsman conferred with the Matron (soon to become his wife) and she spoke to some of the younger boys. She soon extracted the legend of “the hand”, which had now become green and “scrabbled at the tops of windows and would strangle anyone who saw it and they would become ghosts of Overdale too….

Once such terrifying seeds have been planted, they grow unchecked and become rooted, despite pronouncements from the housemaster and the matron and a recant by the demoted prefect.

That is why, until Overdale was no longer a dormitory, chamber pots were used at night.

Everyone who was a boarder at St Marks knows the story and the duty monitors who fetched the cocoa at night always gave Overdale a wide berth, especially around full moon.

Cradle Rock

Story proposed by Tim Jackson Mon 1 Mar

This singular hard rock formation can be seen as an icon representing the ethos of St Marks School in the 1950’s and early 60’s.

The cluster of large granite boulders near the top of a steep slope, looked like a cradle. It nestled on the mountain in full sight of the school, a daily reminder of the challenge it posed every year.

St Marks was a small school with the boarders comprising the majority of pupils. Day bugs made up about a quarter of the school and were generally regarded with a slight sneer by boarders, who had no doubts that they represented the core and backbone of the school.

In keeping with the times, discipline was severe: corporal punishment for boys was administered by the Headmaster and his Deputy, all housemasters and prefects and sub-prefects. One had to be very diligent and careful not to commit some infraction incurring cuts – strikes with a cane, coathanger or in some cases a cricket bat.

Early morning runs in winter and swims in summer were compulsory. As were the cross-country runs after school in summer – about 4 miles of dust, then mud. If you were slow you had a very muddy bath. 

But the real glory was a test of toughness, witnessed by the whole school. It was  a fast cross country scramble across the valley through a gum forest, up the rockstrewn side of Malunge mountain, to seize the cup, placed on top of Cradle Rock.

All boys took part and points were awarded to your sports house depending on your time. To gain points you needed to complete the course in about 20 minutes.

We all ran barefoot in those days, helter skelter down from school, over the golf course bridge, then a choice had to be made. Either shorter but steeper and rougher, straight up through the trees and over the rocks, or around the side on the road past Jimmy’s Pool, then striking right up the hill, longer but faster. 

Michael Connolly won in ‘64 and Mapipa Long in ‘65. I believe the record time was about 14 minutes.

In the mischief and mayhem after year end exams and break-up day, some gentlemen who remain nameless, climbed the mountain under cover of darkness.

There they beautifully enhanced the front facade of Cradle Rock by painting in large white letters “Queens”.

Just in time too, as in 1967 the sports house was re-named Taylor to honour Miss Tilly Taylor, who had served the school for over 20 years.

The Cross of Lorraine, from our school badge, was painted large on the vertical rockface a few hundred yards away on the  same mountain, after Gordon Highlanders painted their badge there.

Those are some memories inspired by the Cradle Rock .

The paint on the rock has faded now and most of the trees are gone; there are houses quite close. But Cradle Rock endures.

(* To see a photo of the view of the rock taken from the school, go to the webpage by clicking the Title)

Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis, of course!

Farouk – Floppy and Fearless

Story proposed by Amory Cobbledick  

The names of our pets reflect the world at the time of naming. So when my Shetland pony, Pikkie (Afrikaans for little one) had a foal, my father christened him Timoshenko, after a World War 2 Russian General.

Our neighbours in the late 1950’s, got a dog and he was christened Farouk. I assume something about this large bull mastiff must have brought to mind His Majesty Farouk I, by the grace of God, King of Egypt and the Sudan.

The name means “the one who distinguishes between right and wrong”. Not a good name for this dog who struggled to make that distinction; nor I believe, could his namesake.

 Farouk was of 10/16 Circassian 3/16 Turkish 2/16 French and 1/16 Albanian descent – in other words a real mongrel. Ruki, the name we called the dog, was pure-bred, but also behaved like a mongrel.

The Bullmastiff breed was bred to tackle and pin a poacher that comes onto private land which was sometimes awkward.

Ruki was also called Slobber Joe on account of the copious saliva slobber he produced. This young dog was very big, undisciplined and randy – he tried to knock down any running thing – and then he would mount and hump it, which could be embarrassing or hilarious, depending on your viewpoint.

It happened frequently to all of us. I can remember being paralysed with laughter when it happened to others and absolutely mortified when it happened to me.

Invariably, the subject of his affections was covered in slobber. He also hated horses but was otherwise quite friendly stupid.

While talking about dogs and embarrassment, I will share an agonising experience, if you promise not to tell. Sir Brian and Lady Riva Marwick came to say goodbye to my brother Tim and I at our boarding school, St Marks. Sir Brian was the retiring Resident Commissioner of Swaziland and an old family friend. As briefed, we were waiting, polished and clean in front of Duncan House, when the Austin Princess with fluttering flag rolled up. We could hear the whispers and scuffles of the boarders peering through windows and doors.

Sir Brian and Lady Riva alighted and bade their adieu’s and we blushed and mumbled. Just then Fly, the school mongrel arrived to see what was going on. Unbeknown to His Excellency, Fly cocked his leg and piddled against his tall grey flannelled leg.

Immediately Tim and I gasped and snorted and squirmed and bit our lips; while the audience erupted in poorly suppressed giggles. It was sheer agony.

Fortunately Lady Riva had seen what had happened and hustled him into the car and away. Oh dear! That was extremely painful and funny.

My Dad’s dog Bessie, a red bull terrier kept us in line: she was patient and wise and more sensible than any of us.

Sometimes on Sundays, we would go on a hike into the mountains around Mbabane, taking Farouk and Bessie to look after us.

Mum wrapped tomato sandwiches in greaseproof paper and we would take Daddy’s army haversack and water bottle and off we’d go climbing the hill behind the Police camp. Bessie would lead the way and try to curb Ruki’s exuberance.

We must have made an inspiring sight: three small barefooted boys in large hats accompanied by a towering mastiff and led by a grey muzzled bull terrier.

One terrible day, we met an old grey horse and Farouk went for it, leaping up and biting its throat.

It galloped off bleeding from the throat and we fled. We heard it was found dead and lived in terror for many days…

I don’t recall any other adventures with Farouk, so maybe he was moved to an area where there were no horses and people didn’t mind being knocked over and humped!

I also cannot think of that dog without a grin!

Sing out loud

My earlier blog today was unoriginal and bleak.

I cast about for a happier note and was rewarded with a memory of The Happy Wanderer https://youtu.be/UPfGL0tDP30

We were taught it at Primary School and it filled us with glee, especially as we exaggerated the faldera ah-ha-ha-ha-ha bit, every time.

Our little gang sang it when we played pirates in our wonderful pirate ship HMS Avocado Tree

Nostalgia and sentiment

Heaven knows that I, and at least one of my brothers and two of my daughters, are blubbers. Partings and reunions, happy endings and the triumph of love are all guaranteed to start the drip, sniff, drip of tears.

In our part of the world, fortunately some miles away, forests are burning with a natural vigour and lethal beauty, filling our screens with orange and our skies with smoke. People are reluctantly forced to flee, leaving their all behind. Their faces filled with conflicting elation at escaping, wonder at the awful consumption of the fire and despair at having lost everything; grubby survivors express their gratitude and resilience. Such a wonder in dire times. They thicken one’s throat every time.

A local animal carer posted an appeal for soft toys for orphaned koalas to cling to. We responded that we had a bear or two which had been ignored for some time who were willing to serve.

Herself offered up Oswald, who was a bear she had asked to accompany her on a long road trip when moving from the North Island to join me on the unknown, distant South island. I didn’t know him very well. He is quite a big fella, able to see over the dashboard so he could keep an eye on the road as they drove.

I gave a sigh of relief as that meant that I didn’t have to give up Hadley Alexander, who had been my bear for about the last 30 years. He has a tartan ribbon, but I am unable to discern which clan it represents.

A few days before collection, a dinosaur, moose and a chimp were added to the volunteer crew. They were anonymous soft toys, selected to entertain and be ripped up by a young chewy puppy, but who had escaped that ordeal.

I noticed that Oswald had been withdrawn from the group; parting had been too hard.

After a delay in collection over Christmas, a new date was set. Bravely, I asked Hadley if he was willing, and he unhesitatingly raised his paw and growled his assent. So I wrote his name on a label and took him to the collection point.

As I walked out the door, I found that my feet were sticking and a tear trickled … I couldn’t let him go!

Oswald and Hadley

How do we sophisticated beings explain this sentimental attachment to things? Doug Larsen said Nostalgia is what takes the rough edges off the good old days – maybe that’s what it is.

Could you give away your teddy bear?

We are history makers

I must confess to being addicted to Downton Abbey, which my wife and I have binge-watched over the last few weeks.

I revel in the furnishings and costumes and displays of the times. The fashions and the cars have been wonderful. The treatment of the themes and developments of the day and the changing technology, culture and traditions has been well done.

In perspective, the series covers approximately the period from my father’s birth year in 1910 to just before the Great Depression. To think that at the start, there were no telephones and motor vehicles were new-fangled.

How lucky students of history have this rich live display of the times to better understand the context and concepts of values and societal change … and how close we are to history as it happens.

Yikes!! That is a sobering thought! So much has happened since my Dad was born … 

In his lifetime:

  • the horse largely disappeared
  • there were two world wars, his father served in one and he in the other.
  • the atom was split
  • a man stood on the moon
  • telecommunication enslaved the world
  • the degradation of the world was accelerated by oil.
  • the balance of power moved eastwards

I think what we are left with is that change is constant and it is better to anticipate it and embrace it, rather than resent and deny it.

Martin Luther King was wrong: we are the makers of history; we are not its product. Its time we accepted this.

 

Sentiment and the distortion of memory lane

Before you read on let me give you due warning: it is soppy, sentimental, sappy stuff….!

I was idly wondering the other day about the influence that music had on my life and started recalling songs and how old I was when they impressed me.

For some unfathomable reason the first one that came to mind was:

Two little Boys  – I recalled it as the source of some sort of comradely

heroi2 little boysc ideal and thought that I must have been extremely young and immature to think so. Rolf Harris sang it in 1969 when I turned 18!

last farewellAnother in the same heroic genre that appealed to me was Roger Whittaker’s The Last Farewell  That came out in 1971 when I was already a quasi-hippy student! What was I doing listening to such establishment warrior class stuff?

Then I remembered a real tear jerker which used to reduce me to tears when I heard it. I thought it was lucky that in Founders House the hit parade was after lights-out so no-one could see me snivelling. When I checked, I found my memory had deceived me again. The song was: Honey  Number 2 on 23 June 1968 LM Hit Parade. I was 16 and playing First XV rugby! – What a toughie!

I began recalling my all time favourites and the number one was a sophisticated piece of music – it must have been in my student years in the 70’s … wronggg again : Procul Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale came out in 1967, when I was still a schoolboy.

francoise

I was pretty close with All over the world by Francoise Hardy which came out in 1966 and New York Mining Disaster 1941 by the BeeGees in 1967.

Another of my ‘own’ choice of singers was Barry McGuire – I remember playing Eve of Destruction and Masters of War to my Mum – it made her weep and I had to stop. That was about 1969.

Of course, I have forgotten about the Simon and Garfunkel songs, which we used to sing in the school bus on long trips back from rugby games; like I am a rock and Sounds of Silence; my favourite was probably For Emily wherever I may find her

Heavens! I was such a sook!

I musn’t forget my pre-teen years and the influence of my older brother and sister and my parents. My Dad loved Gilbert and Sullivan so it was all The Mikado and HMS Pinafore operetta stuff with a bit of Bach, Mozart and Tschaikovsky thrown in: Jesu Joy, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Piano Concerto No 1 and Handel’s Messiah and Water Music.

Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Boone, Elvis and Cliff also come to mind – so a fairly eclectic exposure, I suppose.

I am still a sook and weep every time I hear Danny Boy for goodness sake!