Friday, December 29, 2017


Well knocking on the mid-seventies, I can tell you all that it's not too pleasant. 

Muscles ache with regularity, cuts, bruises, fractures and the common cold and flu take more time to leave your ageing body than they did in your youth.

I've always been a DIY-er., and even now I try, but the numerous times I have fallen foul of the surroundings I was working in, increases with each attempt.

Ladders and roof and gutter work are definite" No-Nos" and even trimming the bougainvillea is beginning to give more scratches than it used to.

Gardening is still a passion but wielding the fork and spade is not as easy as it used to be. Soil sifting and mixing with manure is still a doddle and can be done seated if all the necessary ingredients and tools are within easy reach. With spring in full swing in the southern hemisphere, it's a job on my list of things to do.[ 

My grand-pa used to make me do the job as a youngster and I have not forgotten how to prepare the right clay, loam, manure, sand mix for the seedling trays.

The right mix is the key for the germinating seeds to build strong roots and makes transplanting so much easier and successful. And if you water with his pigeon-shite mixture or worm wee-wee you're bound to have healthy seedlings, that will give an abundant and tasty crop.

I still do the occasional electrical job either around the house or for a friend. 

Recently I found myself in Groot Marico, a small hamlet in the North-West province of South Africa. I was taken there by a friend, Allen, who wanted me to put in three new double plug & plates and repair a couple of bedside lamps.

The jobs were finished before the sun set. Allen told me we were to visit a neighbour on the adjacent plot. The neighbour, Johann, had asked Allen to buy a frozen snoek for a braai we were going to have that evening.

For those of you who don't know a snoek is a sea fish that is caught mainly by the Malay fishermen of the coast round Cape Town. It's been described as the South African barracuda.

Groot Marico is named after the river that flows through it and the name was made famous by the writings of Charles Herman Bosman and the one-man re-enactments of his stories by the late thespian, Patrick Mynaard.

All his tales are set in the surrounds of Groot Marico, an area he describes as: "There is no other place I know that is so heavy with atmosphere, so strangely and darkly impregnated with that stuff of life that bears the authentic stamp of South Africa."

The area's other two claims to fame are its legal and illegal mampoer stills, and and its equally dubious rows of the Cannabacaea plants that are seasonally harvested and sold giving many of the locals a healthy income and lifestyle.
Many growers of the weed have turned their love of getting high into a highly profitable business either by selling the weed itself or extracting the highly sort-after cannabis oil.

Slowly but surely, we are definitely heading towards the legalization of the use of cannabis for medical use.

When this happens, many growers may join the legal distribution network even though this will involve a lot of red tape and the receiver of revenue. An entity that puts the fear of God in all of us.

When it came to payment for my second electrical job I was asked to do, this time for Johann the following morning, I decided that the R of R would not get a look in and choose the barter method.

Johann had asked me to insert a new 30amp breaker in an external  distribution board and link it up to run a new borehole pump; normally a 500 Rand job.

I have no idea of the going price of dagga, the weed or the extracted oil, so I asked for a bank sachet of dagga and enough oil to last me a month. Johann obviously thought this was a good deal. He smiled and said, "Give me a minute." And he departed.

On his return he passed me a bulging plastic back sachet of dagga and a large jam jar filled to the brim with oil. What disturbed me though was the greyish sediment that lay at the bottom.

"You can drink the clear oil, and also use it as a rub on your skin. The stuff at the bottom is frankincense and myrrh. Great healers, aches pains, cuts and bruises."

"Right, time for a drink, Scotch or Irish?"

"Irish please."

"A man after my own heart. You and Allen can get the braai fire going while I get the toots."

After the sixth or seventh double Irish Johann announced the snoek and sweet potatoes were ready for consumption. A large sheet of clean cooking foil was laid out on the outside bar and the crispy snoek was placed atop, sprinkled with roughly crushed peppercorns, sea salt and the juice of a freshly picked garden lemon was squeezed. This caused minor eruptions as it hit the cooked surface of the fish. I peeled back the cooking foil off my sweet potato and tucked in. It was superbly divine, tender and succulent and the flavour was enhanced by a light smear of homemade apricot jam. This was Johann's suggestion and it worked a treat!

He opened a bottle of cooled dry South African white wine and in under half an hour eighteen ravenous fingers had laid bare the cooking foil leaving the fishes skeletontonial bones to be tossed onto the dying braai fire embers.

We returned to our camping chairs around the fire, wood was tossed on it, the second bottle of Jameson's was opened, and I suddenly realized why Charles Herman Bosman had so loved this area. The smoke curled gently upwards, fire-flies danced in the distance over the running spruit/stream, and the whole magical scene was enhanced by musical tweets of the night-time crickets.

The Bosman flavour filtered through embellishing our fire side conversation which encompassed religion, politics, ex-wives, past and present lovers, children and of course many jokes which certainly would not find themselves on either the air waves or the internet.

One such would be classed as racist in the new South Africa but would be classed Ok if the word "Zulu" was changed to "Irish".

You all know that Neil Armstrong was not the first human to land on the moon? No?

When he took that first step he looked across the sea of tranquility and saw a bunch of black African men sitting there surrounded by wheelbarrows, picks, spades, and cement mixers. He bounded slowly across to them. " Hi guys.  I'm Neil Armstrong, I'm supposed to be the first human on the moon. What the fuck are you doing here?"

The largest 6 foot 4 Zulu took a slow drag on his cigarette, a hefty quaff of his Carlsberg larger and said slowly, "We do fuck nothing - - till the boss arrive!!"

It is totally beyond my comprehension that if the hero in this joke was either Irish or a Polack it would not be considered racist, but in this age of political correctness I apologise to anyone I have offended.

I also apologise for meandering off my opening statement.

Old age certainly restricts the playing of my youthful addiction to a forty-five-minute session on a squad court. I also no longer go to a gymnasium, so my only physical activity is either gardening or doing handyman jobs around the house or for friends.

Cleaning the swimming pool is now a dangerous business for my rickety joints, and I must employ help to scoop out the leaves and suction-pump the sediment off the sides and bottom.

It is a labourious and boring job as when you clean, no matter how slowly you do it, some of the sediment is disturbed, clouding the water and making it difficult to see which area you have already swept. I try to be very methodical, starting at one side and going carefully round the pool, but there is always some interruption, a telephone rings, or someone, usually a manure seller in summer or an innocuous and disheveled beggar in winter at the back gate. No matter how meticulously you position the brush, so it will not slip into the pool, it always does. This requires that I start again, but by now the water is far too cloudy, so the whole operation is suspended till the following day.

All in all I have to surmise that the older one gets the longer time it takes to do anything. I’m sure all you older readers will agree. I have learnt however as long as I still enjoy the work and I can stand back and be proud of what I have accomplished, life must go on till the reaper makes his call.

C’est la vie!!!

No comments: