Freedom was soon to appear over the horizon in the form of a rebuilt VW Beetle but it still remains for the beach buggy to be laid to rest along with a schoolboy obsession, drawing surfboards.
Actually, I built and/or modified a few of the latter, too, often aided and abetted by the likes of Boz. He reminded me this week that his reward for helping rebuild the VW chassis of the blue buggy had been "sitting in the backseat ie wet seat all the way while father and son hunkered down behind the windscreen" during "that horrendous return trip" from Mpelane. May I embrace this opportunity to formally thank an old friend for his fortitude.
On the other tack, the first board was a monster. More than 10 feet long. None of us had a driver's licence (for a car) when it (the board) was first launched at Addington Beach and no self-respecting bus driver was going to accommodate it on a bus. Furthermore it would have been totally uncool to have been delivered, avec board, with a parent in evidence. Eventually it was Dad who took me down to Addington. This was a mixed blessing. He didn't retire gracefully but sat on the beach making mental notes while I surfed, and gave me a full critique as I emerged from the water. The critique was NOT flattering.
Deale family avec Maman at around the time yours truly was being given a verbal battering by his father. I wonder if my future bride, Shelley-ann (Shan), aged about 8 here, had picked up on this and decided I was weird from then on. You can see the gesture: "What is that weirdo doing over there?" While mother and sister look on indulgently and the brothers are sympathetically too cool for school.
Anyway, Dad was always reflective after such moments and made his amends. He administered a block of flats nearby and when the developer asked if his sons could store their surfboards in the basement, a large bell in rang in Dad's head.
"Better still, why don't you build a custom hut in a corner of the parking area. You can keep a key for your sons and I'll keep one for my son and his friends."
Given the size of surfboards in those days, Boz and I used to carry mine from hut to beach, surf, put the board back in the lockup and stroll into town for movies and a bus. We may or may not have found a dodgy Castle vendor along the way.
The hut eventually passed into history and many duplicate keys were made. Who knows how some of the key-holders provided the wherewithal to purchase these. It was not my place to ask.
That board went through several incarnations from monster plank to 8 ft pintail in which I reshaped its bum, made a reasonable fist of smoothing it out nicely and then topped it off with a gold/bronze spray-can job so it looked like a demented wasp. It worked well though.
It then went on to become a 5-ish ft twin fin that turned on a tickey (we used to say strange things like that in those days; nowadays nobody knows that a tickey was a threepenny bit. Not even the Poms have heard of one). Nonetheless the board fitted inside the car, which was about the only way to make it go it a straight line. It was bright yellow and I eventually gave it to Shan's cousin, before he was in any way related to me.
And so to the last days of the beach buggy. Soon to be replaced (for Dad anyway) by an Italian sports number. If I'm to be more exact, it was a GTV (i.e. Gran Turismo Veloce). I guess that meant you could tour around in style and at great speed. I wasn't going to be allowed near it, not in the short term, anyway.
The blue buggy's send off also happened with some style and perhaps too much velocity. A friend of Dad's (Gordon, the maker of the fibreglass body in Durban) took pity on my impecunious state. He had been approached by a modelling agency who was procuring props for a cigarette advertisement. The agency had sold its services to whoever it was who made Life cigarettes. It was a brand that was briefly popular and then disappeared without trace. I blame the logo, which had a faux badge, complete with latin motto: "Vita Magna Est." Classy stuff. Not. I'm sorry but which advertising "executive" came up with that? I did some marathon training at a later stage with some guys from a club with a Latin motto, Semper in Excretia. That was bad enough but at least it was tempered with a certain wry humour.
But how do you encapsulate life being great in a glossy picture for the back cover of Scope magazine? Ag no fine, you just get a bunch of scantily clad beautiful people, take them to the beach, and stuff them into the sporty vehicle of the day. At least the Lichtaffen on the job were awake. Most beach buggies at the time were sort of gold coloured and wouldn't create much of an impact against the sands of Durban's golden mile.
Result. We had the only blue one in Durban at the time. Always canny, Gordon negotiated for me to be paid the the going rate as a supermodel and the buggy came too. Also, I was the only one allowed to drive it. In fairness to me, I did have some skill in that department being a self-styled pseudo-intellectual adventurer.
The Lichtaffen were keen to have some action shots. All the beautiful people were crammed into the buggy and we did some circuits of the dunes adjacent to the Snake Park. The airborne shot was the last straw. The beautiful people (most of them fellow students) declared they'd never get in a vehicle with me EVER AGAIN. That is why the ad on the back of Scope is more cheesy grin than action.
The fee was welcome and we all went our separate ways. For me the money meant I could pay off my last instalment for repairing buggy damage (Blogs passim). The others probably needed the money, too.
I can't even say an appropriate Slàinte to Gordon as he was teetotal.
There are two things that disturb me about the first picture of the two above. Why was I lying on the road to take it and why was I wearing those extremely naff sandals? "Because you're weird," Shan pronounced this week, viz. 50 years later. "Always have been," she concluded.
Driving, dating and drinking before sex was invented
Why am I introducing my first car in the same breath as the consumption of alcohol?
Because dating and drinking were completely separate entities. Younger readers might find this concept weird for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the belief, fostered by our mothers, that young women did not drink. Apart from being complete kak, why did I swallow this myth?
Essentially, drinking in our late teens occupied a complete dichotomy. We either went out drinking with our mates or we went on dates ... we were yet to combine the two.
I have subsequently learned that the reverse was happening on the other side of the fence. Gillian, a friend I dated back in the day, revealed fairly recently that she and Jane used to procure a bottle of vodka and drink it after school while my aunt and uncle were at work. How were the adults not aware that this was going on? Reminds me of the time I was lying under the bedspread in my room having a surreptitious smoke when I heard someone outside my closed door. Quick as a flash I tucked my cigarette-bearing hand under the cover just before Dad entered the room. He didn't often linger but he did this time. "Just came in for a chat," he said. The still-lit cig smoke started to visibly billow through the coarse weave of the spread and I could feel the heat nearing my fingers.
Before a complete disaster occurred, Dad left the room.
"Thank Christ for that," I exclaimed to myself under my breath. "He didn't notice!" I wrenched the window open and removed the evidence, smoke and cigarette butt, while congratulating myself on my presence of mind.
What would we have done without Sen Sen to disguise our nefarious activities. The moment anyone came anywhere near me reeking of licorice I knew immediately that they were either disguising alcohol or smoke. Often both. Our parents were so naïve.
When the occasional mother of a friend of interest finally allowed her young and innocent daughter to be spirited off in my newly renovated Beetle, there tended to be a curfew involved. Often an itinerary had to be provided containing more detail than a visa application for foreigners travelling to the USA. Movies were OK for evening dates but every parent knew to the nanosecond how long it would take to return from the cinema to the home doorstep. Chaperones helped a bit, in the form of a sister or a friend, but weren't always infallible in gaining permission for an afternoon interlude.
At one point, Viv and I hatched a cunning plan. She had been tie-dyeing the odd teeshirt and confessed to wanting to try a batik. Batik bedspreads were de rigueur at the end of the 60s along with bullfighting posters. Dad (literally with his own hands) had built me an annex at the end of the family home complete with study, shower and sleeping area leading to an enclosed courtyard. The decor was quite trendy and required batik bedspreads to go with the matador posters. Weekday afternoons for at least a fortnight were spent at either Viv's house or mine, creating this one-off designer bed linen. When Viv came to my house, our friend Mandy came along too. In the picture above, Viv is weighing up her artistry while Mandy ensures a safe environment.
What I hadn't realised until almost half a century later was that there was a spy ring emanating from the campaign office of the Durban North Progressive Party. Vida, Mum and probably Joan, all of them extraordinarily intelligent women who had been confined to sorting polling cards alongside each other, hatched their own Cambridgian consipracy to keep things interesting. Mum never broke the Official Secrets Act to me. I suspect Joan didn't, either, to Robbie. He, Mandy, Viv and I (none of whom were part of SMERSH) were part of a band of "Young Progs" and occasionally lent a hand putting up posters for the forthcoming election, blissfully unaware that we were being watched at every turn.
Maybe I should have suspected something because Viv was still allowed out when Mandy had better things to do than accompany us on batik making expeditions.
After Vida confessed all to her daughter more than 40 years later, certain clues seem to click into place. Mum's sewing room had a good view of our garden and they must've recruited my four-year-old brother, Paul, as the pesky super-spy who could move around the hidden corners of the garden with great stealth, only to pop up at unexpected moments. Mostly when we were taking a brief break from batikery in the courtyard.
Sadly, no-one can confirm these allegations as the Cambridge trio are no longer with us and Mandy and Paul died tragically young.
In this day and age I am mortified by the bullfighting posters (Viv had nothing to do with those) but the Batiks were pretty cool despite the matching Spanish motif.
As far as the booze went, we couldn't afford too much booze so it was easier to have a Castle or glass of wine at home with than to venture too far in the car. As I have mentioned, Gillian provided evidence that skullduggery was happening elsewhere ... a story corroborated by others, including the mother of my child. They weren't drinking Babycham, either.
My "fourth" surfboard, and my only shop bought one, was a big wave board. Unlike its predecessor, it was all but impossible to wrench off a straight line. I bought it towards the end of the 70s and it was never a great success and for all I know still mouldering away in the basement of a block of flats in Felix Dlamini Road.
Next time: An explanation of sex not being invented.
 Shan insists that this lockup achieved a cult status as "Tekwen". That must have been after my time because I don't have any recollection of that name.
 Well, there was the occasional skilled tradesman in the form of plasterers, plumbers and electricians and the unskilled and unpaid labour, viz. moi.
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