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 in1967.

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!

 

 

 

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Happy Hooleydays?

I received a ‘happy holidays’ non-Christmas card from a switched on friend and curled my lip in mild disdain. Why must a Christian First World tradition be modified into the New Age One Size Fits All practice?

It stuck in my craw…!

But like a burr on a blanket, it scratched. So I thought I’d scribble a blogbleat to vent my discomfort. I started giving the practice some thought.

Wikipedia tells me that Christmas cards were first produced for sale in the 1840’s by a founder of the Penny Post in England. Hmm! A marketing ploy!?

first xmas card
The First Christmas Card

 

Most emphasized merriment and happiness with scant religious tones that pervaded most cards in my Christmases in the latter part of the 20th Century.

incwala tromboneBut thinking about it more, I recall the Incwala holiday in mid-December in Swaziland – when the King was purified and the First Fruits were celebrated.

This common African ritual has been re-formulated in the US as Kwanzaa, an African American cultural commemoration and promotion of sound African communal principles.

Yule was an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples, later supplanted by the term Christmas tide.

Iranian people celebrate the night of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice as, “Yalda night“, which is known to be the “longest and darkest night of the year”. In this night all the family gather together, usually at the house of the oldest, and celebrate it by eating, drinking and reading poems. Nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are particularly served during this festival.

menorah

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and it remembers the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In 2017, Hanukkah is from in the evening of Tuesday, 12th December until the evening of Wednesday, 20th December.

omisokaŌmisoka (大晦日)—or ōtsugomori (大晦)—is a Japanese traditional celebration on the last day of the year. Traditionally, it was held on the final day of the 12th lunar month.

The origins of Hogmanay may be derived first footingfrom Norse and Gaelic observances, including gift-giving and visiting homes of friends with special attention given to the first-foot, the first guest of the new year.

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December.

wassail

Wassailing was drinking an old English toast during the custom of carolling; Mumming was an old English practice of dressing up and partying, probably originating in the old Roman Saturnalia of mid-winter.

hollyHolly, ivy and mistletoe were used in celebrations of the Winter Solstice Festival to ward off evil spirits and celebrate new growth.

My conclusions after this brief socio-historical analysis are that:

  • The Christmas period is celebrated in many non-Christian cultures for reasons other than commemorating Christ’s birth.
  • Christmas cards are just commercial dross with no special intrinsic significance
  • People all over the world celebrate and feast at this time
  • For whatever reason, this time of year is a time to gather and feast with loved ones and rejoice in new life, first fruits and forget the evils of the past year.

Sorry to say, but the way the inclusive, bunny hugger, non-discriminatory world is going Christmas Day will soon be re-named Universal Happyday or some such anodyne label.

Whatever! – It’s a good time for a hooley or two!

Happy Hooleydays to y’all!

May y’all find some time to wassail with your cobbers, rejoice in the good things of life and be thankful._hooley_time

African Odyssey

 

We took off from Perth at 20 to midnight and landed in Joburg at 10 to five – but flew for 11 hours overnight, during which sleep was elusive.

Immigration was quick and impassive, baggage delivery slow but effective: all there and undamaged. Customs alert and easy going. Friends beaming at the gate – AT 5H30 ON SUNDAY MORNING!! Such love!

Car hire…eish! system is down… but sorted and 4 suitcases, 4 hand luggage squeezed in and away we go. At garage exit, we are stopped by a slovenly policeman. (Rat smell!) – kept cool and stared him down, he checked driver’s licence and let us go: Welcome to Africa!

Things have changed and we got lost in Boksburg North and stopped to listen to hadedas and then arrived at Bridie’s. Last home of Mum and Dad, with same furniture, curtains, vases. Watched the rugby test, specially recorded: boring draw! Grand breakfast.

Little snooze and in walk Jeff and Gail, besties from the ou dae! Beer and braai and a bietjie wyn! Heart full as I thought we might miss them.

Early bed – to awaken at 2am – ain’t jet lag grand!

Lingering, languid lunch with Jen and Rich – awake at 2 am again! Aaarghh!

 

It was about here that I realised this could turn into an epic requiring undue perseverance by my faithful few readers, so ……. I wrote a sort of travelogue poem, condensing our trip while trying to cover itinerary, cast list and feelings about what we saw and did.

Here is a link to the poem, which I called Second generation Souties

 

 

The Happy Hookers Fishing Club

(This is an extract from my upcoming book on my years at Vaal Reefs Exploration and Mining Company – most of those 14 years were pretty rough; but there were some happy times too)

Maurice (James) and I and Denis Simpson started talking about a fishing trip to Henties Bay in Namibia. We constituted a fishing club and soon had an eager group planning the trip. Henties was on the West Coast in Namibia and was renowned as a fishing mecca.

Bossie Boshoff, Peter Turner, Alistair Barr and Andries Oberholzer were some of our fellow hengelaars – some were quite serious about fishing, others were mainly there for the beer (no names, but you can guess)

Most of us were amateur fishermen, but enjoyed the associated conviviality and the 4000 km round trip across Botswana and Namibia was a great success – some of us even caught some fish! Maurice and I were also keen bird watchers.

We were joined by Bushy Going from TEBA (the mines employment bureau) which was a major coup. TEBA had fully equipped and serviced manager’s houses in very remote areas of Southern Africa and we managed to visit 3 of the most exotic and exciting of these camps.

Shakawe was on the banks of the Okavango River, near the Caprivi Strip.tigerfish                carmine B eaterThere were boats, wonderful tiger and bream fishing and a rainbow array of birds and wildlife.  There were also crocodiles and hippos…

That trip alone deserves a separate book.

Kosi Bay was situated in a kwaZulu Natal reserve about 200 metres from the Kosi Bay estuary – the only house for miles. We caught no fish over 3 days!

narina-trogon.jpgPafuri is a private rest camp at the northern tip of the Kruger National Park where the Narina Trogon was spotted.

Peter Turner’s family had a house in Morgan’s Bay on the Transkei Coast.fresh-calamari.jpg    We caught only one fish between the two cold fronts that passed over dumping rain by the ton.

We were forced to eat our bait (squid/calamari) – quite good actually! (although our powers of discrimination were somewhat diminished…)

These fishing trips entailed many planning meetings and conviviality and provided great stress relief, during quite tough times.

Going back to Africa

I must confess to mixed feelings now.

It has taken some time to get to this point. Nearly twenty years in fact.

This has been quite a sudden realisation; not so long ago I wrote a poem about returning my spirit to Africa, where I grew up and where 10 generations of ancestors are buried:

Journey

Like a boomerang, we go forwards to go back

to our hearts home where our mum’s wombs rest.

From light to dark and smooth to shoddy.

People simple but direct, not so friendly.

But it’s the home of our heart and soul,

darker Africa, so far and so near.

The warm people now despondent

about unrealised comforts, leached away by lazy overlords,

Maybe blamed on us, who give, build and take.

 

Where I die, twirl a thorn twig,

catch my ghost and take it home,                                         

like a boomerang, back from where we came,

to the bosom of the family we left.

Then maybe I will rest.

 

Now our near family is here, not there. Without a doubt, feelings are mixed.

But now I feel as if I am leaving home, not going home.

I am happy and sad.

(The picture is a twig from the Umlahlankosi tree that can be used to carry the spirit of the deceased from the place of death to a new resting place).

The magic of Edward Lear

One of the sweetest things happened recently: our daughter confessed that  she always associated Edward Lear’s poem: The Owl and the Pussycat with us, her Mum and Dad. The connection had been made via two photos of us dancing: one at a school dance and the other at our wedding.

It is a wonderful poem with delightful images of traditional love rituals.

pea green boat

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”

Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl, 
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?”

 They sailed away, for a year and a day,                                 piggy ring
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?”
Said the Piggy, “I will”
turkey marriedSo they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

by light of moon

Serendipitously, I quoted from Edward Lear’s Jabberwocky in my wedding speech which I related as my father’s advice on getting married:

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! 
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun 
      The frumious Bandersnatch!” 

 

We must never discard the magic interwoven in our memories nor disregard the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

 

Old Friends

Last week I wrote of the passing of a kinsman and how my world seemed to shrink, but the warmth of our association remains.

This week I write about old friends with whom my wife and I spent time over the weekend.

Old as in ‘older than us’ from where we lived before, who are still good friends.best old ones

We were neighbours and shared a love of plants, summer lunches, sometimes heated discussions, poetry and word plays. We shared similar Southern African origins and discovered that we were almost related, with a sister and an uncle romantically linked for a  while.

alphabet friendsThe word “friend” comes from Old English “frēond”, which is actually the present participle of “frēogan”, which means “to love” and “to honor”.
a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

Synonyms: 1. comrade, chum, crony, confidant. 2. backer, advocate. 4. ally, associate, confrere, compatriot.

Tick all boxes!

goodbye friend