A week later and I'm running slightly behind. A birthday intervened and had to be celebrated in style. Given the theme of this series of blogs, "style" included exclusively SA wine shared with my "bubble". Cartology and seriously old dirt for the birthday boy and Die Kat se Snor and Paul Cluver for the Burgundians.
Added to that, my ex-boss and current friend sent me this message from America: "you know you are old when your age gets a full page in the Kama Sutra."
One step back before two steps forward
While signing off from episode 2 in this mini-series, it occurred to me that there had been a couple of anecdotes that had been leapfrogged but had some strong relevance to the narrative i.e. learning to appreciate (or not) alcohol and transport (definitely not contemporaneously) over one's formative years.
I'm cheating a bit here because I wrote these notes for a friend fairly recently and am now proposing to "retweet" them with one or two solicitous adjustments. They refer to a preposterous trip to Mapelane that was made with my Dad back in the 60s. Three men in a beach buggy embark on an epic journey to deepest Zululand. This should also shed some light on our reticence to subject Barbi's ball gown to being delivered to the ball in the beach buggy in a downpour (blogs passim).
We were to accompany members of the Hathorn clan to the notorious fishing destination over roads that were only fit for an ox and cart. Even discounting the stop at the Hathorn farm for “refreshments”, the journey took on epic proportions. The beach buggy wasn’t really man enough for the job and its lack of roof was to come back to haunt us later. In those days there were only a few clearings in the coastal bush for tents and not much else. Boz and I were teenage schoolboys and I think there were four men (Hathorns plus hangers on). I suspect the teenagers had to erect the tents while the older generation made a full-frontal assault on the Castle stock. Despite having sampled the delights of Castle and Klipdrift ourselves by that stage, it had only been in a clandestine way and Dad’s last vestiges of responsibility precluded us from their festivities. Boz can correct me if I’m wrong but the erection of the camp took a while and the eventual supper consisted of a makeshift braai with a smattering of sand-encrusted wors. I think we had been expecting succulent shad caught with our own hands.
We were then banished to the tent we were to eventually share with Dad. The Klipdrift consumption continued apace. We did have mosquito nets but all I can remember is, after about half an hour, Boz turning his inside out in a fit of rage and presenting it to me with a ball of crushed mozzies the size of a fist.
We were then driven by despair to go and stand in the shark-infested surf to get away from the pesky whining beasties, We felt quite sorry for ourselves by this stage.
An informal risk analysis eventually persuaded us to take on the mozzies rather than the sharks. After that, I can remember thrashing about on my camp bed growing increasingly resentful of our "superiors". At one stage there was a chorus from the campfire contingent: “And now one for the mozzies”. I remember glancing over in Boz's direction and seeing the blazing resentment in the eyes staring back at me.
At some stage, the Klipdrift anaesthetised the responsible adults and they repaired to their respective sleeping accommodations. Within minutes the snoring commenced. We would never have heard an approaching hippo.
I do remember leaving the tent after this point but my long term memory is hazy as to whether we made a raid on the Klipdrift. Maybe Boz has better recollection?
The final denouement came the next morning when the heavens had opened and it was decided to abandon any thought of our primary objective in going to this remote location, i.e. fishing.
We struck camp and loaded up the blue buggy.
I remember Dad boasting that it would probably float if required to do so. Well, he was probably correct. We hadn’t even traversed the seemingly endless track to the tarred road before it was evident that our transport was dangerously taking on water. Despite being soaked to the bone from the top, we were now being absorbed from below.
As we had spent the whole day travelling it started to get dark and one of us had the bright idea that we should seek refuge. But where? Was it in Mandini where we fetched up at the local SAP station? All I can remember is the ultimate humiliation of being refused a cell for the night. Another myth exploded about where to go in an emergency.
I don’t remember anything after that but Shelley-ann (a.k.a. Shan) and I did go back to Mapelane many years later and stayed with friends in a comfy Parks Board chalet. There were magnificent sightings of pelicans in the estuary to entertain us. I don’t think we even saw the estuary back in the 60s.
In addition to travelling to North Eastern Kwa-Zulu/Natal to masquerade as mosquito and shark bait, Boz and I had to rely on Mums and Dads to transport us to otherwise inaccessible parties. In those days helping us to break the law was infra dig. Flying pigs would have aided and abetted us to smuggle a Castle or five to a youthful gathering before our parents would have countenanced such a thing. All very sensible but rather socially limiting. Dad once drove a bunch of us up to Hilton for a party at Susie's parents' house, more than 60 miles, and then performed the cred-limiting crime of arriving to fetch my friends and me at 11PM. The selfishness of it. Not only did it invite my friends' contempt but it happened on more than one occasion that I'd just met someone interesting at 10:55. Such a callow youth I'd become under the influence of grog and sophistry.
Salvation came in the shape of two older friends, Pete and Ted. Actually, really just Pete because Ted didn't have his own car. But Pete had a clapped-out Renault Dauphine in which he transported us over similar distances. I felt pretty bloody sophisticated the first time Pete and Ted arrived to fetch me from my home in Durban to head off to a party in Richmond, a distance of some 120 km (same hostess, Susie, whose Mum was a teacher at our sister school). It rains a lot on the East Coast of South Africa and a downpour was nearly our nemesis. Shortly after dark the torrential rain started suddenly. Pete turned on the windscreen wipers and began to peer through the windscreen rather more tentatively than I (and probably Ted) felt confident with. The windscreen wipers weren't too effective.
Which was a mere inconvenience with what happened next. First one wiper flew off into the pitch black night, shortly followed by the other. Pete's only option was to reverse up the hard shoulder and see if we could spot them with the assistance of the pretty dim headlights. I believe despair might have crossed all of our minds by the time some brighter lights approached from behind. Fortunately the white Dauphine was pretty recognisable. The approaching lights were attached to the front of Fozzy's Dad's car ... might have even been a Valiant. Mr Fozzy was transporting the rest of our crew to the same party. We were recognised and suddenly had a search party with effective lumination. We all arrived safely with tales to tell.
It would have been a fool's errand to attempt to return that night so Susie suggested we sleep on the floor of their farmhouse unbeknownst to her Mum. Her Mum was the first up in the morning and, upon entering the sitting room, pronounced calmly: "So that'll be 12 coffees and 12 breakfasts, then."
I eventually reached the age of consent and pretty quickly obtained my driver's licence and almost as quickly managed to inflict damage on both the Valiant and the Beach Buggy. On both occasions the vehicle was filled with young people, it was raining and I was showing off. My only saving grace was that I hadn't been drinking. I couldn't really afford such a luxury; even less so when I was repaying Dad for the damage inflicted on the parental vehicles. In both cases the damage was of the kerb-nerfing variety so no-one was hurt and the damage was (costly for me but) relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.
There was brief excitement one evening a month or so later when Dad came home and announced he'd bought a car on my behalf.
"We need to go and fetch it in the morning," he added
"That's brilliant Dad," I enthused.
"We'll have to stop off at Bill's place on the way for a tow bar."
"Why do we need a tow bar?" I asked in some trepidation.
"It is Yvonne's Beetle. The engine's blown up in Pietermartizburg. We need to tow it back. I'll drive the Valiant and you can steer the VW."
And that was how I drove the first 80 km in my first car. After Dad and I had rebuilt the engine I was genuinely grateful. Freedom at last.
Coming soon: Before sex was invented part 3. Discovering new horizons
 Current UK guidelines passing themselves off as legislation are that two nuclear families can associate a little more closely provided they've declared themselves a "Bubble" provided they comply with government "advice".
 For the purists, the wines are identified in a little more detail here. I do like Burgundy BTW. We also didn't drink it all on Wednesday. Some still going: 2016 Cartology from Chris Alheit, a Chenin Blanc with a little Semillon added; 2016 seriously old dirt from Vilafonte, a Red Blend with a bit of magic; 2017 Die Kat se Snor Chardonnay, 2017 Paul Cluver Village Pinot Noir. No tasting notes at this stage. More to come when we get to that stage in history.
 Not yet in use ... for a later explanation
 The wife of of one of Dad's business partners
 Blowing up isn't as drastic as it sounds ... back in the day it meant that the car could go no further without major mechanical repairs.
 This was a pretty middle-class view of freedom at the time, more akin to mobility. Let's not forget that more than 80% of the population of South Africa was not free in any way. Nonetheless, public transport from where we lived and where I needed to go was virtually non existent without a long walk, a bus and another long walk. When I eventually moved to London in the mid-Seventies I found public transport one of the most liberating attractions.
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