*Fuzzy Photos and Unreliable Tasting Notes
Three amigos: (l to r) Tony Kinnear a.k.a. Spikey Norman (latterly shortened to Spike or Norman), Garnet Currie a.k.a. Groper, Yours truly a.k.a. Banjo. Picture by John Pauling.
I have to say I felt a bit glum after the dissolution of my partnership with Carmela. I didn't know what to do with myself and was overcome with an emptiness that took a while to put behind me. To be honest, I was lonely.
Our flat in Montpelier Road had two bedrooms and I prevailed upon Norman to enter into a sharing arrangement. It was a somewhat strange setup with a maudlin edge. We kind of felt that we were les étrangers from the world in which we found ourselves. We read weighty tomes and spoke of acquiring a small holding to share with dogs. We had occasional girlfriends (Norman more than I did) but there was a sense of being adrift in our late twenties. Maybe we'd stay bachelors into middle-age. All a bit dramatic and flying in the face of both of our underlying desires for the long stable partnerships that we have both enjoyed since those days more than 40 years ago.
1979 Gunston 500
The headline picture to this blog occurred in the middle of this period. Coming up to winter surf and an epic Gunston 500, South Africa's premier surfing event. The contest was held at the Bay of Plenty, opposite Dante's Cafe where we are seated in the photo. The waves at "Bay", as it was known to local surfers, could be pretty capricious and unpredictable, from minuscule to massive. The 1979 event started out massive on two fronts: the waves and the international contingent that was travelling to Durban to compete in the event. Particularly notable was the Hawaiian contingent, worshipped for their prowess in big waves.
First day of the Gunston and we were lurking at Dante's. The waves were immense. Not necessarily in sheer height as in some of the premier Hawaiian events but in sheer power, scary. Ours was a beach break and relatively close to shore, The swells were rolling in from a typhoon pushing against the Mozambique Current a few days earlier and which were now pounding the coast in Durban.
I was standing near the beach wall when one of the Hawaiian Team came out of the water exclaiming: "Man, it's sheer survival out there!" I believe it was Dane Kealoha, the eventual winner of the event.
A few solo ventures into the unknown
I went to a wedding on my own. It was a long way from home base in Durban; 140 km inland at Nottingham Road. I had agreed that Carmela should hold on to our Renault 5 until she set off for Australia. But I had my shiny new Honda Hawk and it was a sunny day and the wonderful Andrew Newby was getting married. It was a happy event among friends and I probably tarried a little longer than was sensible and eventually climbed back on my bike having substituted my leather sports coat for a supposedly toasty anorak.
I doubt I've ever been as cold as that. Not before and not after. Andy's wedding had been in the Natal Midlands at an altitude of around 1,500 metres, which can get way below freezing at night in winter. By the time I rolled into Durban I was stiff with it and could barely get off my bike. Back in the flat I thought I might thaw out now that I was at sea level. I soon realised that it wasn't going to happen without some corrective action and ran a piping hot bath and lay in it for 20 minutes before my torso became reacquainted with me extremities.
6Above (l-r): Helmet hair from riding my pride and joy to Nottingham Road for Andy Newby's first wedding; beginnings of a responsible adulthood - after the christening of my latest godson, Daryl du Plessis.
My next opportunity to wear my posh clobber also involved the bike and the christening of Daryl, son of my friends Jeremy (Gorgs) and Lynne du Plessis. Fortunately I didn't have to stray out of Durban and my body temperature remained stable.
Left: an official SFW tasting glass, left at our flat after one of the tasting evenings held in Oslo Court. I still have it after more than 40 years.
Having the bachelor pad in Oslo Court in Montpelier Road and having been introduced to a girl friend of Andrew Hathorn's who worked for Stellenbosch Farmers Winery (SFW) we happened upon a ruse for entertaining our friends with free wine. All we had to do was to guarantee a venue, a minimum number of eager subjects to attend a wine tasting (such a chore) and subject ourselves to being tutored for a short while and bountiful quantities of wine were supplied along with suitable glasses for the occasion. Our wine appreciation took a welcome fillip, too. To this day I reckon there are more than a few of those 70s guests who have continued the tradition.
The uncertainty continues
Having reverted to a proper surfboard after a short stretch as a paddle skier, a fair amount of time was spent with the two other amigos around Dante's. Working on an evening newspaper meant we started early and finished early. If there was an offshore wind, the late afternoons were spent in the sea at Bay. Otherwise we might venture to the "ladies" bar in the Butterworth Hotel, although another friend, Ivor Wilkins, and I twigged that we might just be becoming dissolute a little too young (following in the footsteps of the journos of old and more recently Hunter S Thompson and one or two of our colleagues). So surfing in the evening and heading out for a meal or a game of bridge afterwards became the norm.
And so it happened that I accepted an invitation to dinner at the Queen's Tavern (a.k.a. the British Middle-East Indian Sporting and Dining Club), a classy curry joint alongside the racecourse in the Greyville area of Durban. One of those places where suits or blazers were de rigueur for men. I decided not to take a partner, which nearly ended up very badly, as several members of our 20-strong party had matchmaking ambitions for me.
As I entered the restaurant a group of my friends, collectively known as Deale, were standing at the bar (where else would you find them?). A particularly handsome young woman was holding forth and one of the Deale party interrupted her:
"Do you remember Mark Harrison?"
"Oh hello Mark Harrison," she responded before turning back to her audience.
I spied Charles Philips (a.k.a. Phorsh, heaven knows why) and wandered over to chat. I asked who the tall blonde had been.
"Oh that's Shelley-ann Deale," he responded.
'Hmm, last time I saw Shelley-ann she must have been about this high," I replied, holding my hand at about my own waist level. I had met her 8 years earlier in a Deale kitchen family soirée. She would have been about 11 years old then.
As I did this I looked down and this vision was crouched beneath my hand, smiling upwards.
"I know what you're saying!" she grinned. Turns out she'd regretted her original short response and had come over to make amends.
To cut a long story a little short, the Deale clan summoned me to sit between them and Shelley-ann. Patrick's partner Susie Haines (now more than 40 years a Deale) being at the forefront of this interception. Apparently my new friend was a little more tuned-in to what was going down and was distinctly discombobulated by the situation. Next thing she'd upended her curry on my new suit. In her embarrassment she'd eaten a mouthful of chillies and was blinded by tears. Deale done!
Not long afterwards the party dispersed and headed for the bars on Durban's beachfront. I offered Shelley-ann a lift. She was encouraged by her sibling group to accept and we all agreed that we were heading for the cocktail bar at the Edenroc Hotel. Turns out the Edenroc had become an old-age home and someone suggested the Bali Hai. Shelley-ann and I repaired to the Bali Hai. No-one else did. A clear set up. At this point neither of us was complaining.
Early the next week I suggested to Groper that I might have met someone a bit special. Groper knew Patrick Deale and approved.
That week the Curries and I had a long-standing arrangement to have dinner with Groper's sister and brother-in-law, Lorna and George Thomopolous. I had already arranged for a female friend to accompany me to this event and it was not Shelley-ann. But she was blonde.
But Groper had put two and two together and arrived at five:
"So how's Patrick?" he inquired of my partner for that evening.
"Who's Patrick," she inquired.
The rest is history with only the odd blip along the way.
The first blip being a short hiccough when Shelley-ann's beloved grandpa Eric died. Susie advised me to give her some space but then I received a phone call from Miss Deale inviting me to her 19th birthday celebrations on November 16, 1979. And so we had our first proper date.
Bye bye Oslo Cou(rt)
(My) subterranean flat in Durban was a bit of a legend. It had been our landing pad when Carmela and I had first returned from London, then a "bachelor" cavern for two divorcees and now it was going to be consigned to history.
Above: The entrance to the building in Montpelier Road with our cavern on the left - site of optimism, lighthearted bacchanalia, heartbreak and disappointments and then optimism again.
But first ... we had a few months left and a few parties to annoy and scandalise the neighbours.
My new love became part of that process, even though she never lived there. Mother Judy insisted that she should not move in before a proper marriage had formalised the relationship..
As Shelley-ann lived with her Mum just a few hundred metres down the road the obstacle was slightly academic and the return strolls to Chez Deale late of an evening added some frisson. "Drat" the cat, the adopted stray that couldn't meow, was often a chaperone when those short walks returning my girlfriend to home base played out. Then Drat would return home with me and retire to her perch on a high windowsill from whence she dive-bombed my toes if they dared wander from under the sheets.
Those who chose to be unkind failed to hide their scepticism at Shelley-ann's and my May to December relationship. Perhaps they weren't being unkind, just solicitous. The consequence was that we alternated between being inseparable and separable.
An example was Christmas Day 1979 when we were officially separable while each of us went our separate ways for the festive celebrations.
Norman and I spent Christmas Night in Oslo Court commiserating. We opened a bottle of malt whisky and sipped the last sip well into the morning of Boxing Day achieving a phenomenon ... consuming a whole bottle of whisky without getting drunk.
Love is often capricious during these formative stages and we were soon headed to Cape Town, lightly chaperoned by Shelley-ann's brother Martin, sister Kerry and my sister, Sue, who were on separate but parallel expeditions to ours in Cape Town.
Above: Cape Town awaits.
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