Andrew Newby - an inspiration and true friend
Yesterday evening I received a lovely accolade from one of the most genuine and multi-talented people I know. I wouldn't normally write love letters to old mates via my newly established blog but he prompted me by apologising for correcting an endnote.
My dear friend, this was always intended to be a living biography. The clue is in my title stolen in part from Clive James. All of our generation's memories are beginning to falter and you (and other good ous) are positively invited to correct me when my memoirs stumble and I start speaking kak..
An all too short interlude in which these splendid ous treated me to a sumptuously fab lunch on the verandah of one of their favourite cheesemakers on the outskirts of Paternoster on the Weskus. Andrew and Heidi Newby. Outspoken when injustices occur. Kind and generous to their friends and those less fortunate than themselves.
It is difficult to keep track of the Newby menagerie but there are definitely horses, sheep and dogs that I saw with my own eyes in Hopefield, nearby on the Weskus. Certainly cows in the plan. When we sat looking at the distant sea, however, they were in the midst of moving to greener pastures. Literally. Not enough grass in Hopefield so they have long since removed themselves lock stock and barrel to Deneysville on the Vaal River.
I was a little nervous about meeting Heidi for the first time. Her reputation had preceded her as intolerant of fools, posers and Kafkaesque bureaucrats. She also speaks at least 4 languages (and probably many more besides) absolutely fluently. The 4 I can name with confidence are English, Afrikaans, Spanish and German. Every now and then, when they need to build a new barn or something, Heidi sets off to Spain or Germany to do some translation work. I am confident that Mila, their daughter whom I haven't met yet, is hewn from the same granite.
Señor Newbs and I like to waffle a bit and had already done so over a 4-hour coffee break in Riebeek Kasteel a few days before, which had turned into lunch. So we'd already had about 6 hours of talking kak by the time we met Heidi on the stoep of the Afsaal Padstal. She had travelled there separately so she could attend to some business in Hopefield.
Why did I worry? The nettle was grasped and we were all swearing about our mutual exasperation with all poseurs, exploiters and incompetents within minutes of being seated with this vista, looking all the way to the sea.
Andrew and I had had a mountain to catch up on. Cycling, photography, journalism (the state of), food, pretentiousness in that industry, cheese and exploits over our much interrupted more than 40 years of shared past.
Our friendship started out on the Daily News in Durban where we were petrol heads together. We must have worked that out of our respective systems because our residual interest was in the characters involved rather than the machines they and we rode, drove or crashed.
His culinary skills became evident to me very early on in our friendship. The sequence of things is lost in this mists of time but:
1. I recall asking his advice on cooking a proper evening meal for R1 (mid 70s prices). I believe this was probably as a result of a debate with my first wife, Carmela, as to whether I'd be up to the task.
"Banj," he came back immediately, "you must make chili con carne."
"You what?" I exclaimed. I'd never heard of it.
"I'll give you the recipe."
2. Larousse was reputed to be his bedtime reading
3. He was mightily pissed off that he needed two incisions to debone a duck and there was some famous chef who could do it with one (it may have been 3 and two but you get the gist)
4. From a very young age he has always ground his own spices with a pestle and mortar and is a complete fundi on a number of traditional curries.
Between then and now he helped me procure a motorbike, nearly killed me by letting me ride his competition scrambler while my wife, Shelley-ann, looked on in horror and has fed me more fabulous anecdotes than I can remember. Coincidentally some of these involved the fact that S-a's grandparents lived next door to his and were great mates.
We share an enjoyment of odd odes and human interest yarns. He is the master of recording these and has written at least one novel that includes some examples of his own life's experiences. Best to read these in the original. This is beginning to sound like a sneaky attempt at my friend's biography. That would be a completely nugatory exercise as his autobiography will always be a better read when he gets around to joining up all his stories. In the meantime readers have a wealth of material to be getting on with by following a few links I have provided.
In signing off from my brief tribute to one of life's genuinely remarkable human beings, I know he will be embarrassed at the unsolicited attention. But he needs to know how much his stories are appreciated. They are full of compassion, when appropriate, while not being afraid to poke a stick at an angry cobra when bullies and conmen cross his path. His acerbic wit is as sharp as a razor and full-on confrontation is never avoided when he deems it necessary.
Heidi is a more than able partner in making a difference in an uncaring world. Knowing this, I asked Andrew when we took our leave in the Cape last July, "don't you find it intensely frustrating trying to right society's wrongs?"
"We can't boil the ocean, Banj, but small things to improve others' lives do add up."
Eight months later, Heidi and Andrew were feeding hungry local people on the banks of the Vaal as South African lockdown commenced.
"The food must be nutritious," Heidi told Andrew as she sent him off with a specific list to procure provisions for the first banquet of curried dumplings.
I most strongly recommend reading the original stories. Inspiring, honest and told by a true storyteller.
PS: I have taken the liberty to insert Andrew's correction to the endnote, mentioned in the intro to this blog, in the comments to the appropriate blog. It relates to the accuracy of my recollections of the naming of one of Durban's most prominent hills.
 Good ou is a Seffrikkin expression for a good egg. Heidi and Andrew are unquestionable in this category
 Weskus is the local name for the Western Cape Atlantic Coast
 Andrew had been in the fine dining industry and hated the waste. I tried to persuade him that some of the restaurants in nearby Paternoster, Wolfgat in particular, shared his philosophy for humble beginnings and turning them into wonderful things to eat. I'm not sure I convinced him. You'll have to ask Andrew.
 Maybe even a fanatic.
 a) Some of his own words are part of his Facebook timeline; Andrew's contribution is filled with wonderfully eclectic headlines such as: "NO ROAST LAMB FOR MR JACKAL", "KATIE HOPKINS: FEAR, HATE AND OTHER THINGS", to name but a a couple.
b) There is also the website of the Newby Family Retreat, Heidi, Mila and Andrew's new venture with grass on the Vaal. .
c) He also has a current personal website that succeeds his earlier weskus site.
 Newbs, you will correct this quote, please? Readers who wish an accurate account would enjoy being redirected to the prime account. i.e. your own blog.
More than 50 years of drinking around the globe. Some of it louche. Some of it formal tasting. Most of it dodgy memory bytes recalling encounters with wine and the wonderful souls involved in making it, selling it and consuming it.
Dazed by a modern world that dismisses honest thought as “fake news”, Clive James’ recent demise spurred me to record some unreliable history while I was still able to recall any of it. Clive was an inspiration to many of us who wished to find the spot where literacy intersected with (often but not always hilarious) japes. Few have attained the heights of Unreliable Memoirs*, which crept up on us in the early 80s, gaining momentum as its author’s fame grew as a TV presenter.
Of course, I am not a TV presenter. Just a retired 70s reporter who looked up to a legend. When the Beeb re-ran the late legend’s Postcard from Sydney a few months ago and visited an old mate I found myself being reinvigorated. His friend was Len Evans, a winemaker in the Hunter Valley. I had dreamed of recording a few wine exploits when I retired. Some of Clive’s capers, albeit exquisitely drawn, had some parallels with my own.
Could I call it Unreliable Memoirs of Wine? I wouldn’t dare; I hope my current effort at a title doesn’t sail too close to that wind.
Returning to the “fake news”, it is my opinion that it is a liberally applied fake epithet used mostly by arseholes trying to wriggle off hooks of their own making. Sadly, if repeated enough by the biggest arseholes these things become adopted into our lexicon. Don’t get me started about “IMHO”. The H in that epithet is fake news itself in the vast majority of cases.
My anecdotes are mostly unsupported by fact. The opinions are my own and I consequently refuse to be humble about them. If anyone reading these texts is offended by this approach, please accept that they stem from the heart.
I may say I do/don’t like/approve of something/someone. It reflects a completely subjective but honest impression of my own. My friends, mostly those who call me “Banj/Banjo/Spook” etc. don’t do it to cause offence; well maybe just a little bit. I reserve the right to retaliate. Furthermore, if I opine that, for example, a wine/vista/plate of food/book was of less than 5-star quality, it has only been rated that way to leave room for creations that are perfect in every way.
Cheers Clive, a superb raconteur with a “colonial” dash of scepticism
Coming next: Early days. Humble beginnings and how digging around in the rapidly diminishing mental archives may or may not lead to some serious research into a thread linking cheap plonk with some truly splendid Chenin Blanc in the Cape today.
* © Clive James 1980
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