In the context of this memoir, rites of passage employed two parallel threads: Going Out; Avoiding parental control; Early stages of alcohol consumption. Oh, that's three. See what alcohol does! Actually there were more, including becoming a pseudo intellectual.
Before sex was invented
One of the wonderful aspects of being in the 40th year of a strong marriage is the trust that builds over time. I no longer feel the need to tiptoe around aspects of my earlier life as old friendships of mine have developed into new friends for my nuclear family.
So much so that when Shelley-ann (Shan), Kate and Garnet set about assembling dodgy anecdotes and pictures for a book to celebrate my 60th birthday Gillian came back with the headline above. I'll repeat the headline in the context of the anecdote in a later episode.
Matric dances. In my previous instalment (below) I described how Hilton boys were no longer allowed one of their own. What is more, there existed a rule of thumb (I am at a loss as to whose thumb) that male teenagers were less intellectually mature than their female counterparts; it seemed that a 2-4 year gap was appropriate when dating the opposite sex. There were several ironies in this situation. One of them was that we were legally entitled to drink at 18 while our dates were breaking the law if they joined us.
Consequentially, I was inviting young friends to my university balls before I'd ever been to a matric dance. I had to wait for a girl in matric to invite me before that could happen. (Actually, I wasn't even 18 when I was launched into tertiary academia as an Oppidani student.) This meant I had to be delivered to social gatherings, with my date, by a parent. How humiliating was that for a callow youth out to impress? In retrospect, it was probably a Good Thing. Given that 17-year-olds were not really equipped for the kind of frivolity that involved taking part in a speed drinking competition involving a metre of Castle Lager and then returning a ballgown bedecked 15/16-year-old at the end of the night would have been a high-risk undertaking.
Barbi came to stay (several times; I can't guarantee the pictures are contemporaneous). She would have been delighted to be transported in the Beach Buggy in her ball gown. It wasn't entirely practical (keep reading) ...
It couldn't have got much worse for my first ball. I had invited Barbi. Barbi had invited me to her sister's 21st earlier in the year. I had travelled from Durban (Durbs) to Pietermaritzburg on what was colloquially known as the Pullman, the bus that travelled the 80km between the two cities. Now Barbi had to get to Durbs and stay overnight. Then we needed to arrive at the Students' Union together. Dad was off somewhere in the family Valiant and Mum and I were left with our open-topped beach buggy. Barbi was totally relaxed with this but a subtropical monsoon intervened and we had to borrow a neighbour's VW Beetle. Helping one's date, complete with long dress, out of the Beetle and into the rain while Mum revved the engine frantically to prevent it from stalling was not quite the entrance I had hoped to make at my first big uni function. Actually, I needn't have worried. We had to dance under umbrellas as the union roof leaked so comprehensively that it merely sieved the downpour into a persistent drizzle. Also, Barbi thought it was a hoot and accepted future invitations to join my family in Durban. To top it all, our benefactor who had loaned us the Beetle was an architect who had designed some of the buildings on campus.
I'm not sure of the exact chronology of some of these anecdotes but I do recall having a fairly strong stomach when it came to regurgitating the excesses of alcohol consumption. Perhaps it would've been better if I had had a bit more experience in the matter.
It all started when a couple of us were at an obligatory army camp a way down the South Coast from Durban. We weren't allowed our own cars down there. It would've been too much temptation. I'm not sure I had my own car yet, anyway. We were allowed weekend visitors for a few hours on rest days, though. We weren't expecting any, however, when we heard the stuttering of the high-lift cam of what our attuned ears identified as a hotted up Mini Cooper S making heavy weather of the dirt road to the camp.
Gradually our mate, Phorsh, came into view from around the bend. He had just restored his steed and was running it in. It had seemed a good idea at the time to show it off to his two mates, Gorgs and me, at the camp. I think he was already regretting it when we bounded over to greet him.
We did a round of high 5s or whatever it was we did in those days. Gorgs looked at me and I looked at him. We were of one mind. Phorsh saw the exchange and started looking nervous. He was right to be.
"Seeing as you're here, Phorsh, old bean," one of us insinuated, having made all the appropriate admiring exclamations, "would you be able to take us back to Durbs?"
"But you don't have a pass to get out," he correctly pointed out, looking relieved.
"I'm sure we could come up with something," one of us retorted
"But the Cooper S barely got over the bumps in the road. And it's running in."
There were two of us and one of him, I'm ashamed to say, and he did capitulate gracefully. Now we had to concoct a story for Phorsh to deliver to the Staff Sergeant who was in charge of the camp at weekends. We came up with a preposterous lie on the basis that it would be more likely to succeed.
"Staff," I blurted as the three of us crashed through the entrance to the adjutant's tent. He looked up, a bit surprised to see two rookies in khaki overalls accompanied by a civilian in teeshirt and jeans.
Sensing we had Staff marginally on the back foot, Gorgs took the baton: "We've been robbed. Our mate has driven all the way from Durban to give us the news. The 3 of us share a flat, you see, and the insurance need all of us to provide an inventory."
Luckily Phorsh did have a flat of his own and was able to provide an address. We'd won Staff over and checking the address would be too much of a hassle on a late Saturday afternoon.
"Just be back by midday tomorrow," he conceded signing the paperwork.
As the Mini grounded on the umteenth bump under the weight of three tall young men we could hear Phorsh muttering under his breath.
"Don't worry, old buddy," Gorgs said, sensing we'd already used up all our chips, "come to my folks' place and we'll find a more suitable lift back in the morning.
That was only the start of things in a most eventful day. It turned out when we arrived at Gorgs' house that we'd all been invited to a party at a friend's house nearby. Bring your own booze.
Where was I going to get the required libation. Turned out there was an off-licence en route and they sold Tassenberg in what we referred to demijohns. They contained half a gallon of wine and had a convenient finger loop on the neck so they could be conveniently flung over one's shoulder. Convenient AND stylish.
Actually rather more dorkish than stylish, especially when you took into account the purple residue 60s Tassies (as it was affectionately known) left on your teeth for days to come. I don't remember that much about the proceedings except that our party host lived with his parents and they had a large house containing a nursery school. I found this out when I first needed a lavatory and was directed through a door into a toilet facility with seemingly endless rows of tiny white bowls. At that stage the Tassies was only working on my bladder so the mini flushers were perfectly adequate for a male person on his knees.
The large house had also been recently refitted with pale carpets. A fact I discovered when the Tassies insisted on returning from whence it had entered. I cringe to this day when I remember the first time I barfed from alcohol use. What a place to learn. I don't remember anything between being ushered out of the door and arriving back at camp.
To this day, however, I do know my hosts were extremely gracious about the travesty and mayhem. In fact it was only a few years ago that Alan invited me to stay at his own house and we shared a mightily fine bottle of red with succulent steak to prepare us for a bike race the next day.
Right. I've demanded your attention for too long and sex hasn't come anywhere near being invented yet. Not that I'd tell you if it was when we pass that point in my narrative, which is supposed to be about unreliable tasting notes. Tassies was cheap and fulfilled a purpose and we'll leave it at that.
Back to matric dances
So it was that, while my cohort was too impecunious to become too lush, I was reasonably seasoned in the art of drinking at social occasions by the time I came to be invited to matric dances. I'm not claiming to have had many invitations but I do have some very short tasting notes to share.
I had become accustomed to beer and the occasional cane spirit and bitter lemon but these were not too likely to be welcomed in schools. Particularly those schools in the Protestant or state sector.
I did find, however that convent dances were altogether more family friendly affairs. Mum and Dad came too (not mine, obviously - the person's inviting me to the dance). To encourage a more congenial atmosphere parents were allowed a glass or two of wine. If a small sip found its way past a student's lips, blind eyes were turned. Perfect. Happily my cousin Jane was by now installed in one of these convents and found it a tad more accepting of her happy go lucky outlook on life.
I did attend one or two convent dances but the one I remember the most was the final year for the lovely (myself not included) people above. I was Louise's date for the night. Sadly I am now out of touch with her but remain friends with Gillian and would unquestionably still be having laughs, and wine and vodka, with Jane were she still alive. Shan liked the picture of me at the somewhat psychedelic dance with Louise and her mum, Shirley, and had pinned it on our cork-board. S-a also went to a convent and remembers hip flasks at her matric event.
Coming next: Before sex was invented part two, bit about the buggy and getting my own car
 More of of this will emerge over this and future blogs. For e.g. Carmela and both of her lovely daughters have visited us in the UK and Kate has been out to stay with them in Sydney. Viv has hosted us on more than one occasion as you will already have read in the Classic Blog part of my Roaminations. Gillian has visited us in Oxfordshire ... more of this in the opening part of this episode.
 The Fleur-de-Lys private party did not count
 The same sister who was mentioned in the the 6th instalment of my Karoo Pub Crawl (in Classic Blogs) as having been a friend of the artist, Helen Martins. Actually there are two points of coincidence between the two ... perhaps you'll be able to spot the next one, too.
 Shan's cousin
 New and rebuilt cars had to be "run in" gently for about 1,000 miles in those days. It allowed the moving parts to bed in and loosen up a bit.
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