Power of music

The Power of Music
Stephen Dunkley

Driving in to Bethlehem the other day I put in a CD that my mate Jaapie had lent me called Springbok Hits, now I don’t know if you remember the Springbok hit albums from the 70’s and 80’s, but I grew up on them as well as the Scope magazine where I learnt that women had stars and triangles, “imagine my surprise when I saw my first naked lady”

Back to music, one of the songs on the CD is Peacemaker by and as it played, vivid memories of driving my Nana to Jan Smuts airport in the early 70’s after her first holiday to South Africa flooded my 2 brain cells. My Nana asked me to sing a song for her before she left so that she could remember me better when in England, I sang her a song which happened to be one of my favourites at the time and that was Peacemaker. As I drove and other songs played, I realised what power music has and what memories can be evoked when you hear a certain tune whether that emotion be happy or sad. Remember when at school in standard 7 or 8 if you adored some lucky lass or lad you would compile tapes to give to the love of your life and it would have all the newest love songs as well as old classics such as All out of love” by “Air Supply” and “Power of Love” by Jennifer Rush. I remember making a few of those myself, but the best was to receive one and you would sit for hours listening to the tape, conjuring up what she had meant when taking the time to compile the love offering. I got one once with only 1 song on it “Fifty ways to leave your lover” , I started to look for another girlfriend.

I have a number of songs that bring back specific memories when I hear them being played and they are “in no particular order”

“Brick in the wall” by Pink Floyd – Standard eight at Vaal High School in Vanderbijlpark, the song was banned by the Nationalist government due to political unrest. “we loved it”

“Butterfly kisses” by Robert Carlisle - My daughter Gabriella

“World in union “ by P J Powers - 95 world cup win

“You Raise me up” by various artists over the years - My wife Tania

“Some girls will” by Racy - First proper kiss with member of opposite sex at a party

“Back in Black” by ACDC – First time listening to heavy metal music

“Down Easter Alexa” by Billy Joe – driving out of Gibraltar with this amazing sunset and Billy Joel playing on the tape.

“The Page” by Bob Seger – Riding motorbikes with friends

Wild boys by Duran Duran – Tania and I driving in to Pilgrims rest on our first real holiday together and singing this song as loud as we could .

“Shackles” by Mary Mary - New years at Kiara Lodge with Doug and Nicole.

Those are my memories, do yourself a favour next time you hear that certain song that brings back the past for you try and remember other songs that have a special meaning, you may be surprised at what emotions are stirred and what recollections that you think you may have forgotten, flood back

“You can’t stop the music”

Through the looking glass

Through the looking glass

Was my 46th birthday on Friday and standing there in front of the bathroom mirror that same morning as a strong, handsome and full of p—s and vinegar 18 year old, I was a little taken aback when I saw this old man staring back at me, losing his hair, full of wrinkles and looking like my dad. The 18 year old asked the question “so what have you done with your life and what are you still going to do with the years that you have left”. It’s a question that I have had to think about as I have always seen myself as being “forever young” or as “the man” Bob Seger sings in one of his classic songs.

I was 18 didn’t have a care
Worked for peanuts, not a dime to spare
But I was leaning solid everywhere
Like a rock

My hands were steady
My eyes were clear and bright
My walk had purpose
My steps were quick and light
And I held firm to what I felt was right
Like a rock

Like a rock I was strong as I could be
Like a rock nothing ever got to me
Like a rock I was something to see
Like a rock

I stood arrow straight, unencumbered of all the hustlers and their schemes
And I stood proud I stood tall, high above it all
I still believed in my dreams

Twenty years now were did they go
Twenty years, I don’t know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Were they’ve gone

And sometimes late at night
While I’m bathed in the firelight
The moon comes calling a ghostly white
And I recall
I recall

Like a rock standing arrow straight
Like a rock charging from the gate
Like a rock carrying the weight
Like a rock
As we get older the dreams we wanted to achieve seem to slip by, because before we know it, the time we thought we had lots of suddenly becomes as the say in the classics “Few”. Achieve in the dictionary is defined as follows “to perform successfully, accomplish, to gain, win”

So what have I achieved in my 46 years on this earth and better yet what would my bucket list be for the years to come. I think its human nature to say, “Well I have not achieved much” and this was my initial answer. “I am also a glass is half empty type of person, so that was probably always going to be my response”. Sitting back and thinking about the question certain periods of my life flashed by and while I may not have had a life like Donald Trump, Bill gates or Oprah Winfrey it has not been that bad, in fact I would probably describe it as “worse than some better than many” I would have to say straight of that my biggest achievement was meeting and marrying Tania and through that we were then able to have a beautiful daughter. “I think Tania got the short end of the stick” to be honest with you, but hopefully I still retain some of that boyish charm that she fell in love with soooooooooooooooooo many years ago.

To be honest I think that to sit and write what all my perceived achievements have been would be boring, but I do believe that from having known Tania for 28 years and having been married for nearly 23 of those all that I have achieved has been because we have done it together or we have encouraged or nudged each other along and perhaps that’s what life is really about, finding your life partners and getting through the journey of life together be it good or bad.

“So what’s on my bucket list”, “well the one activity that I would really like to do, would have to be a parachute jump, either by myself or preferably attached to someone else ‘I think they call it a tandem jump”, as I think it may be better not to die alone after jumping out of a perfectly airworthy plane should the parachute decide not to open. The rest of the list is as follows” (in no particular order)

1) Watching my daughter getting married to the man of her dreams
2) Riding route 66 on a Harley with Tania
3) Writing a book that people will actually buy
4) Travelling at the speed of sound
5) Beating Mark at squash
6) Making a difference in a total strangers life
7) Taking a year off and ride the bike all over this great country (again with Tania)
8) Riding from Cape Town to Europe (just watched the Long way down)
9) Growing old with Tania
10) Being the coolest granddad to my grandchildren
11) Watching a major sports event final live with my brother in law Ryan

Tunnel vision this week delivered vegetable/herb packs to a few of the restaurants to see what we will be able to do for them in the future regards herbs and vegetables, Tania, Kathleen and Liza did a sterling job and hopefully we now have some prospective buyers. From nothing the Tunnel has started to look like something and soon we should have the plastic installed. A lot of this is thanks to the hard work of Ryan and Lefu. I must say I am looking forward to the day that everything is running well and we can start with skills development with the locals and show others how to grow vegetables and make organic compost.

Party at Highlander on Friday night was great with good friends and we had a really Lekker time, always nice to spend time with people that mean a lot to you. The day was also great with phone calls from family and friends and a couple of surprise e-mails from people that I did not even know knew when my birthday was.

Heard that a number of people in the village had read my Blog “May old acquaintance” and one person in particular had really gone ape over the story, “Glad you enjoyed it that really made my birthday”, “you will be happy to know that I am busy writing a fairy tale and will hopefully post soon” The village was also like the Wild West on Friday with the Sheriff being busy with him allegedly taking possessions away from a restaurant and a bottle store.

We sort of came up with the beginning of a song and would like to share it with you

To the tune of ‘I shot the Sheriff”

“I saw the Sheriff but he didn’t have a drink you see”
“I saw the Sheriff and all he left me was a bottle of brandy”

Anyway have a great week and don’t forget to write down your bucket list.

May Old Acquantance

May Old Acquaintance
Stephen Dunkley

“Names and companies have been changed to protect the innocent”

Had an action packed week, with myself and Kathleen being fired from the local magazine and Tania resigning her job with a company, also owned by Godfrey due to him pressurising her at work, well Godfrey and his wanna be squeeze “the small man”, (“actually that sounds like a movie “Godfrey and the small man”.) Will be sorry, as it is their loss

So what led up to these dramatic events that saw 3 good friends being cast aside by the very person they stood by when his life partner of numerous years left him and left only a letter to say “Adios Amigo” To make a long story short we have not been fawning all over and sucking up to “small man” who was surprise made editor of the local magazine and made a HUGE “shall we say Blaps” and when it was pointed out that a standard five child could see the mistakes and that it was K-K, offence was taken. Anyway what is done is done, there are other plans afoot so that Kathy and I can still wrote for our 4 fans and who knows maybe a new magazine will rise from the ashes. Was nice to see the support of locals who feel that Godfrey has lost the plot. We did get a couple of good laughs out of this though and we may have a couple of T-shirts made

Sixty two does not go in to thirty four or “small mans” wise words that I am sure would have Confucius looking over his shoulder “We are born, we live and we die, but not always in that order”

So on to knew things what else was the village up to this week, the tunnel is coming on and we should have some radishes soon, we are also looking to start making compost. “The red headed stepchild” had a party braai on Saturday and we had one two many Jagermeisters. Looks like Dave and Barbara have sold their house and will be looking for a new one. Rugby was not to bad this weekend with a few decent results and the Proteas took cricket lessons after the 2 test defeats and they seem to have paid of with them looking like winning the 3rd test, however that has not been finalised as yet.

So nothing else to report, have a great week

Does it ever strike twice ?

Does it ever strike Twice ?
Stephen Dunkley

There is a joke amongst the golfing fraternity that if you are ever caught on a golf course in the middle of a storm, hold up your 1 iron, as not even God can hit a 1 iron. With a number of electrical storms this summer making there appearance in the Caledon valley, the winner having to be the storm that exploded over Clarens on the 22nd of December last year that sounded like a re-enactment of the storming of the Normandy beaches, or twenty thousand Harleys cruising down main street in Sturgis, South Dakota. The storm lasted for at least an hour and a half before moving off and then sneaked back for another session, I don’t remember getting much sleep that night as the sheets of lightning lit up the sky and the accompanying thunder rattled the window panes loose.

The next day my daughter asked me what lightening was and I stood there with a mouth full of teeth thinking of something clever to say “lets face it we never want to look like we don’t know the answers to questions our children ask……….how would that look”

We decided as a father/daughter project to go to Wikipedia and swot up on the subject and this is what we came up with. Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity, usually “but not always” accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms. Driven by the wind the ice and water particles in the cloud collide, they are then charged. The positively charged ice particles stay at the top of the cloud and the negatively charged rain droplets are usually found at the bottom of the cloud, this build up of negative charges then discharges to the earth in the form of lightning, a leader of a bolt of lightening can travel at speeds of 220 000 km/s “now that’s just a tad faster than Walter Siviters Triumph Rocket 111” and reach temperatures of 30 000 degrees Celsius, “this being nearly as hot as Mrs Patel’s world famous Bengal curry” that type of heat can turn silica sand into glass and is reputed to be five times hotter than the sun.

I was surprised to learn that you get the following types of lightning Cloud to ground, Ribbon, Staccato, Ground to cloud, Ball, Positive, Upper atmospheric, Sheet, Heat, Rocket Fork, Cloud to Cloud, Bead, Rocket, Sprites, Blue jets and last but not least Elves lightning. This led me to wonder what I had actually done at school, surely somewhere along the line I must have been taught this in Science, or perhaps I was just absent that day?

The World champion of getting hit by lightning is an American called Roy C Sullivan a US forest ranger in the Shenandoah national park, Virginia. Between 1942 and 1977 Roy was hit “wait for it” seven times by lightning and lived to tell the tale. Roy statistically was a very lucky man as seventy percent of all people struck do not survive. I believe that Roy was very much in demand at dinner parties, probably due to his sparkling personality. An interesting fact about Roy is that in 1983 well in to his seventies he committed suicide over the loss of a lady.

Worldwide there are sixteen million lightning strikes a year this means that the on average the earth is hit one hundred times per second on a daily basis. This summer I know of four occasions that lightning hit Clarens or close by, the square was hit twice, a house in Larola had part of its roof blown off and late November last year a local was passing through the cutting near to Mushroom rock and before you could say “Flash Gordon” a bolt of lightning hit the side of the hill and blew chunks of rock all over the road, I believe the foot pressed hard on the accelerator and after a large dop called a few friends to tell them about their adventure and near miss from the said bolt. The next day I went to have a look and took a couple of photos. “So there you have it a brief Science and general knowledge lesson that you also may have missed at school and can use if asked by your child, so what is lightning”

Dont mention the C word

“Don’t mention the C word”

When we want to Braai we never actually say the word, as it always seems to rain when we do, therefore we usually say “should we do a B word tonight” or “don’t mention the B word”. This Saturday we went camping with our “Clarens family” Mark and Kathleen and now we have a new saying “Don’t mention the C word” as on Saturday it poured down, thankfully the cloudburst happened just before we arrived as I think we would have been flooded out.

We had decided a few weeks back to go to Meiringspoort, that’s near Fouriesburg about 35 kms away from Clarens, so we loaded up the car, bakkie and trailer and hit the road, we knew it was going to rain for a while as we hit surrender hill and the clouds descended upon us, raining all the way to the campsite, we crossed a bridge that had seen the river burst its banks over it and negotiated the less than adequate road.

Ok so by now you know it rained, we picked a site that did not have to much water and a couple of trees to give us little protection, we set up the tents, put p the gazebos and got as comfortable as possible, got the food on the go and had a few drinks while talking about this and that. I really wanted to have a lekker fire and sit around it, but with the rain we mad the best of it under the gazebos. With Mark and Kath the conversation is never forced and we always seem to have fun. Mitchell “the red headed stepchild’s and Liza’s son also came with and while he made himself comfortable in the back of the bakkie , Gabby “that’s my daughter” made herself comfortable in a tent.

Bedtime was around 10pm and Kath had made mention that we would lie in till 9am in the morning and then we could get breakfast going. Ok well that was the plan! I don’t know about you but I am not a great camper, when I was a kid my folks caravanned a lot and that I enjoyed as it was an adventure, as an adult I have camped a few times in my life, with perhaps the most memorable being at the Bear Butte campground just outside of Sturgis in 1995. Saturdays nights sleeping arrangements while adequate, had Tania and I moving around on the blow up mattress every time one of us moved and as I said early on Sunday morning “as I think we managed to get to 6am and not 9am” was “that has to be the fourth worst night of my life” with the other three also “funnily enough” having to do with camping, those being 2 nights at the Dolphin Rally in September 2007 and a night we spent with a family of baboons in a cave on my friend Thys’s farm near Kiara Lodge, “but those are stories for another time”.

At least this morning the sun was trying to break through and it was not raining, after a cup of “Roffie” thinks looked up “for those not familiar with army speak, as Mark and Kathleen were in the SANDF and the navy, that is Coffee with a shot of rum, a “Broffie” is brandy and coffee and I am to scared to ask what a “Moffie” is. After the second Roffie and a lekker “free - range egg” omelette on rolls we decide to go for a walk. As is the norm we took camera’s “just in case there was something we may want to photograph, as Mark, Kath and I sometimes take a “few photographs”

Meiringskloof is very nice and while the walk was a tad squelchy from all the rain it was not over strenuous and we saw an old bushman’s cave, a holkrans and a couple of nice weirs and rock pools, one that now has two resident Crocs living in it, “not the round snouted Nile type”, “the R50, Mr Price plastic type”. Mark and I were looking to get down to a better position to take photos of the water cascading over rocks and one of my Crocs decided to go swimming, Mark bravely went Croc hunting but it got stuck in a eddy and try and he might it was lost forever, I thought well I cannot leave the left hand Croc on its own and sent the right hand one to keep it company. Mitchell and gabby also swam as much as they could over the weekend.

After the walk we had wors rolls and chops and just chilled until we arranged a “back yard” cricket game with a few of the kids in the camping site and had some great fun, the girls Tania, Gabby and Kathleen sat and watched while knitting and if there was a particularly good shot or catch then a Mexican wave would be forthcoming. We packed up and left at round 3pm and got home in the rain. Great weekend with “family” and we are planning another camping trip in April to Bergwoning, near Golden Gate, I will also be camping at Greytown 24th – 26th of April with Ryan, “my Boet” at the Mighty Men conference, they are expecting 220 000 men this year, I must say when Ryan asked me if I wanted to go I was in two minds, but I am really looking forward to spending time with him and to experience Angus Buchanan “the faith like potatoes guy”. “Who knows it may just be the weekend that I get to see what I am perhaps missing in my life regards faith and my relationship with the Lord”



I took a trip to Gauteng on Wednesday to see a man about a pony. I took the 1200 Triumph and must say that while I do enjoy riding the bike, riding in Gauteng in peak hour traffic is for the birds and to make it more interesting it rained as well. With the Gautrain being built and highways widened it’s a nightmare, I actually don’t know how people do that on a daily basis, they must all be on Prozac. Rush hour in Clarens is 6 cars 2 dogs, 3 geese (“you laugh”, see photo) and a chicken “every now and again” and usually he is just checking to see if he can actually cross the road! I did come up with a new adventure activity that we will be able to offer 2010 world cup tourists, that being a pillion ride on a fast moving motorcycle during peak hour traffic, “preferably with some rain thrown in”, believe me after that, bungee jumping, abseiling and shark diving will seem tame in comparison

But I digress, I left at six am from Clarens and while winter is not yet upon us it was a little Japanese (for those who don’t know “there was a nip in the air”) one of the things I like about riding is that you are alone with your thoughts, no cell phone and no distractions other than mist, potholes, cows, goats sheep and your occasional Guinea fowl, you are pretty much alone”. “Just you and nature”. Riding solo is not always the best especially on long trips but today I realised that even if you do ride alone you are in fact in the company of yourself and depending on the time of day the position of the sun and what direction you are riding in, you always have someone riding next to, in front of and behind you, I had a great conversation with myself today and myself even showed me the thumbs up at one stage.

Once Shadow and I got bored with each other’s company my mind wandered for some reason to when I was a kid “and that was a while back, unless of course you speak to Tania as she is always telling me to stop acting like a sixteen year old”. I started to think about summer holidays and how great they had been. One summer in particular stands out and that would have been the summer of 79 “just ten years on from Bryans Summer of 69” I was 16 years old, I had transport that did not need my legs to power it, I had a job at a local steakhouse, so with money in the pocket a Honda SS 50 between the legs I was King of the world.

I had just started listening to ACDC after having been an ABBA fan, “yes I admit I was a huge ABBA fan, as is my 12 year old daughter today, due to that great movie Mama Mia. Disco was big, New Wave and Punk music was starting to make its mark and while I cannot remember any song in particular I can say that the music from the late seventies and the eighties was perhaps the era’s that some of the best music has come from, not that today’s music is bad, but lets see how much of it they will be playing on radio 30 years from now. A lot of the eighties music is making a comeback and many an old tune can be heard on the airwaves. Disco was strong with Saturday Night Fever being one of the hit movies giving John Travolta his big break with Mad Max an apocalyptic biker movie that saw Mel Gibson in a starring role also hitting the screens, I managed to sneak in to that one at a movie house in Vereeneging and it was action filled, violent and had big motorbikes in it, what more could a 16 year old with a 50cc want ?

Summer of 79 I had a girlfriend called Heidi and Lazlo “my best mate” and I would spend many hours at the house emptying the fridge of food and cool drink and terrorizing her little brother, Lazlo was also trying to get a date with Heidi’s younger sister, ‘sorry cannot remember names” when we were not at Heidi’s we were at Lazlo’s, who lived just across the road and he had a pool, so we had a few pool parties with a number of mates that would come over and we would have a “pool party” I am sure a few beers were consumed and an illicit cigarette or two smoked as well. Lazlo had a round pool so we used to have a few guys run round and round the pool and create a whirlpool and then someone had to take the pool cleaner pole and literally try to pole vault over the whirlpool. If you landed in the middle of the pool it was a bit of a struggle to get out. Vanderbijlpark had a massive public pool with diving boards and we would also hang out there and dare people to jump of the highest board that sometimes ended with a sore back or legs from not hitting the water right. One guy our age could actually dive from that height, it was something that I was not going to try.

If I was not working a night shift at Prime-Rib then we would usually go to the German club and especially over the weekend have a couple of beers and listen to the Oompah band. Those days’ two beers had you tipsy, three drunk and four alcohol poisoning. Skateboards were still the rage and we shredded a few pools over the summer as well. A few pools had to be emptied and I am sure when the owners of them came back from their Christmas Holidays they may not have been happy with seeing their “well used pools”, “I did not say I was choir boy” So what did you do on your 16th Summer when you look back do you get a smile on your face, like I have now or was it just another summer ?

De La Rey

Jacobus Hercules de la Rey
1847 - 1914

“De La Rey, De La Rey sal jy die Boere kom lei” these are the words of a popular Bok van Blerk song that had the country in a tizz last year (that being 2008). But who was de la Rey? And what is his claim to fame?

Portraits from the period portray a man of strength, “dark with shaggy eyebrows” wrote the Times History, “Great aquiline nose – mark of old Huguenot or Spanish blood – deeply lined face and a vast bushy beard….he would make a striking model for some warrior prophet of the Old testament”

Respected by his own countrymen and Briton alike, he received the highest of accolades from Milner himself “he is a remarkably fine fellow, and a man, every inch of him: and one of whom any country in the world might feel justly proud”

His story is remarkably similar to that of another Boer hero and close friend de Wet. As a young man he worked as a transport rider that also saw action as many of his generation did in the Basuto wars. He was very religious, but had no real formal education, again like those men of his generation he seemed to have a natural instinct for understanding people and like de Wet he was chosen to visit Europe after the second Boer war and like de Wet would also become embroiled in te 1914 rebellion that was to bring him to an inappropriate end.

He was a fervent Nationalist and two days after war was declared he was amongst the first who fired the first shots. As the military adviser to Pieter Arnoldus Cronje he planned and led the attack at Kraaipan where a train was derailed. On the 28th of November under the command of Cronje fought against the great Lord Methuen at Tweeriviere on the Modder River. De la Rey stated afterwards that he was one of the bravest soldiers England chose to place against me.

His two sons Koos (16) and Adriaan (19) fought with their father and it was at Tweeriviere that Adriaan was mortally wounded, De La Rey although wounded himself he carried his son to the hospital at Jacobsdal, but soon after they arrived Adriaan died. In the same week Lord Roberts son Freddie was to die at Colenso and in later years this drew the two men together.

At Magersfontein De La Rey’s military genius was evident, although he was not at the battle there can be no doubt that the victory was due to him. The construction of a twenty kilometre defence line – part stone sangars, part earthwork fortifications, part trench- rendered the Boers almost invisible. The Times History described the trench making as “One of the boldest and most original conceptions in the history of the war” The theory that De La Rey was in fact the originator of trench warfare and the barbed wire system is not true as this system had previously been used at Modder river and trenches had been used in warfare since the 16th century and British military manuals of the 19th century detail in great length various types of entrenchment. The victory at Magerstfontein had a deep effect on some of Britons elite regiments such as the Black Watch and the Seaforth Highlanders.

His next mission was to halt John Denton Pinkstone French’s advance on Colesburg in january 1900 however he was unable to complete this task as he was sent to Paardeberg to rescue General Cronje, after this incident he was promoted to Assistant Commandant-General for the Western Transvaal. Here he was to have some huge successes in the face of Stiff British resistance and his commando raids in particular troublesome to the British and Lord Methuen in particular was focused on wiping out the Boer General and his men

When proposals for peace were bandied about in June 1901 De La Rey was perhaps one of the most zealous “bittereinders” and he vowed to fight to the last man. With the introduction of Kitchener’s scorched earth policy and the erection of the blockhouse system vast areas of De La Rey’s “hunting” grounds became no go zones. Even with the lands being burnt and the net closing in on De La Rey and his men he still managed to achieve successes, such as the one on February the 25th 1902 when his commando galloped down on the British at Ysterspruit and devastated the British killing fifty eight and seizing half a million rounds of ammunition.

Not soon after, with a force of some seven hundred men he launched an attack on his bitter rival Lord Metheun at Tweebosch. Attacking from the rear he caused panic and a stampede of mules and oxen, many British soldiers fled, it was perhaps one of Britons worst defeats in the guerrilla campaign. Not only was Lord Methuen captured by De La Rey, two hundred men were killed and over six hundred captured. Lord Methuen while a bitter rival was treated with the utmost respect by De la Rey and he was sent to Klerksdorp to receive medical treatment for wounds he had acquired during the battle. A little known fact is that De La Reys wife ‘Nonnie” cooked a chicken with gravy and patties for Lord Methuen.

Kruger himself approved of Lord Methuens release “Boers must behave like Christians to the end, “he declared, hastening to add…….however uncivilised the way in which the English treat us may be”

With peace on the horizon. De La Rey was called to Pretoria and was one of the signatories to the peace treaty, soon after he left for Europe and then to Ceylon to persuade the Prisoners of war to return to South Africa and take the oath of allegiance. In 1908 he was a delegate in the National Convention and he was to become a Senator in the Union parliament. Initially he had supported Louis Botha but when he split from Hertzog in 1914 De La Rey found himself torn between his former comrade and the Union of South Africa

He disagreed with Smuts and Botha when they decided to invade South West Africa as he regarded the plan as one that would only further the British cause. De La Rey had planned a mass armed protest in Pretoria and in September met with an old friend General Beyers and together they travelled by car from Pretoria to Potchefstroom. On the journey they approached a police roadblock and thinking it had been set up to arrest them they ordered the driver to drive through it, there was a shot and the bullet pierced De la Rey’s heart and he died in his old comrades arms.

Many suspected that he had been assassinated, but it would seem that it was a stroke of fate; it was however a strange and bizarre end for one of the Boer wars best Generals. Smuts who had known him intimately acknowledged him as ‘One of the whitest and noblest souls that ever lived”



Party, dop and chop, picnic and party that is what we have done four out of five days. Been pretty hectic, even if I say so myself.

Thursday was an “End of Summer, hello winter” party at Werners place, situated at the stables. A number of Clarenites turned up for this little SoirĂ©e and as usual the weather was really crap, always seems to be like that when we have a party at Werners, the weather may not have played along but the company was great and the food even better (Chicken Potjie).

Saturday we got an invite to Lawrence and Sherry’s place for a bring and braai or as we like to call it a Dop and a chop, that was nice only a few people, we got away early but some others who shall remain nameless over indulged and paid for it the next day.

Sunday was a sundowner picnic with Kathleen and Mark just outside of town that was really nice with stunning views from the top of Clarens, the Golden Gate, Mount Horeb and the Maluti’s. The hill is called Paraffin Kop because in the days of Yore residents of the village tried to dig for oil as they said you could smell it when you dug in to the ground, In those days anything that was flammable was called paraffin, hence Paraffin Kop

Monday was Kathleen’s birthday and again a multitude of people turned up to have a wee PAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRTAY. Rained but otherwise another nice evening, again not there to late as gabby had school the next day.

In between that

On Friday we stayed at home and chilled

Saturday and Sunday Tania was on the square selling he mosaic, soaps and other items and had a bumper day on Sunday. Sunday Afternoon Gabby and I took a ride to Fouriesburg with Dave Green and Ralph Raubenheimer.

It may seem to some people that all we seem to do in the village is party, well they may not be wrong as we have just been invited to a “civilised party for Jeremy’s 30th birthday party. “Thirty I cant even remember when I was thirty”

This weekend we are going to camp at Meiringskloof in Fouriesburg on Saturday night, more about that later.

General De Wet

General de Wet

1854 - 1922

By Stephen Dunkley

When over four thousand Boers under the command of General Marthinus Prinsloo gave themselves over to the General Hunter at Surrender hill on the 20th of July 1900, General De Wet who at the time was Commandant General for all Free State forces had this to say “Horrendous, murder against the government and the nation”

I recently came across a very interesting book on General De Wet and found him to be a fascinating man whose fame came to an ignominious end in 1914. Born Christiaan Rudolf de Wet in 1854 he is probably still to this day regarded as the most romantic of the Boer Generals: a daring guerrilla leader who’s exploits thrilled locals and the world alike. Like many of his contemporaries, his education was patchy, mostly from part time teachers who visited the farm from time to time. What De Wet lacked in education he more than made up for with common sense, natural leadership abilities and an instinctive understanding of people. At fourteen when his mother died he took responsibility with his father for running the farm and at twenty seven was the acting Commandant of Heidelberg. He took part in the first Boer war battle of Laings nek where he commanded two hundred men, this however like many other Boer men was not his first taste of battle, for at the age of eleven he had ridden out to do battle with the Basuto.

The courage that was to make de Wet a legend was already visible in the 1st Boer war and at Majuba he was one of the first to swarm the flat topped peak and defeat some of Britain’s best soldiers. A few years after the first Boer war that he moved in to politics and was elected to the Transvaal Volksraad, soon after he moved to the Free State he was elected to its Volksraad. De Wets politics could be described as progressive, even liberal, his achievements as a political leader were marked by his strong efforts in developing the transport system, especially the railways. At the start of the second Boer war in October 1899 both he and his son Kotie were called up as privates to the Heilbron Commando, after its commandant fell ill De Wet was elected in his place and found himself in charge of six hundred men.

His first success was an attack on British possessions near Ladysmith with only half of his Commando at the end of the engagement two hundred British troops had either been killed or wounded another nine hundred captured with the added bonus of one thousand rifles and twenty cases of ammunition being seized. President Steyn of the Free State was highly impressed and soon after De Wet was notified of his appointment as Fighting General under Piet Cronje. After Cronje’s surrender at Paardeberg De Wet found himself faced with an enormous task of having to stop General Lord Roberts and his massive advance. Despite huge efforts by both De Wet and De La Rey at Rietfontein and Abraham’s kraal the British advance on Bloemfontein could not be stopped. Soon after the occupation of Bloemfontein De Wet told his men to take leave and re group in ten days time. General Joubert berated him for this to which De wet replied, “I cannot catch a hare with unwilling dogs”. The men who reassembled were the toughest of the lot and De Wet knew that with the men he wanted and the freedom to conduct a war the British would at first not know how to counteract he would become a law unto himself. After a number of sweeping raids against the British that showed what could be achieved with a highly motivated mobile force he became the commander of the Free State forces, totalling about eight thousand men who concentrated on destroying supply lines, disrupting communications and using devastating hit and run tactics. After what was probably the most successful raid in the whole war, that saw his force attack three garrisons at the same time and kill or capture over seven hundred British soldiers and capture provisions valued well over one hundred thousand pounds, Lord Kitchener was determined to break De Wet’s resistance and raised a massive force to hunt him down.

By June 1900 Bethlehem was the only town of any consequence that had not been occupied by the British, fifty thousand troops under the leadership of five Generals descended on the town. For two days De Wet and his large force of men stood firm, however the forces ranged against him were to great and he together with President and Mrs Steyn as well as their entourage travelling with him headed towards the Brandwater basin, while the British rested and re-grouped the Boer forces debated amongst each other whether or not they should defend the basin or make there escape.

De Wet was against the defence of the basin as he felt it could become a trap eventually De wet with over two thousand men and President Steyn were to slip passed the British near to Retiefs Nek in the direction of Kroonstad. De Wet had decided that they needed to escape from this trap so that he and his men could keep fighting.

Not many people are aware “I certainly was not” That his brother Piet had in fact surrendered to the British on the 19th of May 1900 and offered Lord Roberts his assistance in persuading other Boer fighters in the field to do the same “including his brother” when he tried to persuade Christiaan to do the same in a long letter defending his actions. De Wet flogged the man that brought the letter and sent him back with a message that he would shoot Piet “like a dog” if he caught him. De Wets attacks continued during the war and together with his Chief scout Danie Theron became part of Afrikaans Folklore. He may have continued his war of attrition indefinitely, tying up a large British force, had it not been for many Burghers tiring of the war and to put on a united front he decided to agree and sign the treaty of with other Boer leaders, this he signed as an acting member of the Government of the Orange Free State

In July 1902 De Wet left for Europe to raise funds for the Boer cause and while on this trip wrote a best selling book called “Die Strijd tusschen Boer en Brit” Upon his return fro Europe he again entered politics, the old soldier spirit In him and his strong nationalist feelings led him and his six sons to join a commando with the object of protesting against the countries involvement in the first world war. The Memel Commando was one of the first to take up arms and seventy men accompanied General Christiaan De Wet who had come to live on a farm just outside the town, to Vrede. Towns were occupied and property damaged, before government forces of Louis Botha and Jan Smuts got the upper hand and In a couple of skirmishes near Winburg in early November. Of the eleven thousand rebels, one hundred and ninety were killed, eleven from Memel.

De Wet was on the run again, he managed to evade his pursuers until late November 1914. After he was captured and was jailed at The Fort in Johannesburg, he was charged with high treason in June 1915, he was found guilty and sentenced to six years imprisonment and a two thousand pound fine, six months later he was reprieved and the fine paid for by sympathisers. Broken mentally and physically, he withdrew from politics and spent his last years in poverty and pain that many say was a pitiful decline for the old fighter. He died on February the 3rd 1922 and was buried at the foot of the Woman’s Monument in Bloemfontein, despite the over-riding political issues De wet was given a state funeral. Telegraphing his widow on the day of his internment Prime Minister Jan Smuts wrote kindly of De Wet saying: “A prince and a great man has fallen today”



Jeremy Clarkson

Every city needs a snappy one-word handle to pull in the tourists and the investors. So, when you think of Paris, you think of love; when you think of New York, you think of shopping; and when you think of London – despite the best efforts of new Labour to steer you in the direction of Darcus Howe – you think of beefeaters and Mrs Queen.

Rome has its architecture. Sydney has its bridge. Venice has its sewage and Johannesburg has its crime. Yup, Jo’burg – the subject of this morning’s missive – is where you go if you want to be carjacked, shot, stabbed, killed and eaten.

You could tell your mother you were going on a package holiday to Kabul, with a stopover in Haiti and Detroit, and she wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But tell her you’re going to Jo’burg and she’ll be absolutely convinced that you’ll come home with no wallet, no watch and no head.

Jo’burg has a fearsome global reputation for being utterly terrifying, a lawless Wild West frontier town paralysed by corruption and disease. But I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the past three years and I can reveal that it’s all nonsense.

If crime is so bad then how come, the other day, the front-page lead in the city’s main newspaper concerned the theft of a computer from one of the local schools? I’m not joking.

The paper even ran a massive picture of the desk where the computer used to sit. It was the least interesting picture I’ve ever seen in a newspaper. But then it would be, because this was one of the least interesting crimes.

“Pah,” said the armed guard who’d been charged with escorting me each day from my hotel to the Coca-Cola dome where I was performing a stage version of Top Gear.

Quite why he was armed I have absolutely no idea, because all we passed was garden centres and shops selling tropical fish tanks. Now I’m sorry, but if it’s true that the streets are a war zone, and you run the risk of being shot every time you set foot outside your front door, then, yes, I can see you might risk a trip to the shops for some food. But a fish tank? An ornamental pot for your garden? It doesn’t ring true.

Look Jo’burg up on Wikipedia and it tells you it’s now one of the most violent cities in the world . . . but it adds in brackets “citation needed”. That’s like saying Gordon Brown is a two-eyed British genius (citation needed).

Honestly? Johannesburg is Milton Keynes with thunderstorms. You go out. You have a lovely ostrich. You drink some delicious wine and you walk back to your hotel, all warm and comfy. It’s the least frightening place on earth. So why does every single person there wrap themselves up in razor wire and fit their cars with flame-throwers and speak of how many times they’ve been killed that day? What are they trying to prove?

Next year South Africa will play host to the football World Cup. The opening and closing matches will be played in Jo’burg, and no one’s going to go if they think they will be stabbed.

The locals even seem to accept this, as at the new airport terminal only six passport booths have been set aside for non-South African residents.

At first it’s baffling. Why ruin the reputation of your city and risk the success of the footballing World Cup to fuel a story that plainly isn’t true? There is no litter and no graffiti. I’ve sauntered through Soweto on a number of occasions now, swinging a Nikon round my head, with no effect. You stand more chance of being mugged in Monte Carlo.

Time and again I was told I could buy an AK47 for 100 rand – about £7. But when I said, “Okay, let’s go and get one”, no one had the first idea where to start looking. And they were even more clueless when I asked about bullets.

As I bought yet another agreeable carved doll from yet another agreeable black person, I wanted to ring up those idiots who compile surveys of the best and worst places to live and say: “Why do you keep banging on about Vancouver, you idiots? Jo’burg’s way better.”

Instead, however, I sat down and tried to work out why the locals paint their city as the eighth circle of hell. And I think I have an answer. It’s because they want to save the lions in the Kruger National Park.

I promise I am not making this up. Every night, people in Mozambique pack up their possessions and set off on foot through the Kruger for a new life in the quiet, bougainvillea-lined streets of Jo’burg. And very often these poor unfortunate souls are eaten by the big cats.

That, you may imagine, is bad news for the families of those who’ve been devoured. But actually it’s even worse for Johnny Lion. You see, a great many people in Mozambique have Aids, and the fact is this: if you can catch HIV from someone’s blood or saliva during a bout of tender love-making, you can be assured you will catch it if you wolf the person down whole. Even if you are called Clarence and you have a mane.

At present, it’s estimated that there are 2,000 lions in the Kruger National Park and studies suggest 90% have feline Aids. Some vets suggest the epidemic was started by lions eating the lungs of diseased buffalos. But there are growing claims from experts in the field that, actually, refugees are the biggest problem.

That’s clearly the answer, then. Johannesburgians are telling the world they live in a shit-hole to save their lions. That’s the sort of people they are. And so, if you are thinking about going to the World Cup next year, don’t hesitate.

The exchange rate’s good, the food is superb, the weather’s lovely and, thanks to some serious economic self-sacrifice, Kruger is still full of animals. The word, then, I’d choose to describe Jo’burg is “tranquil”.

Do you remember

Do you remember ?

Chance e-mail from my wife to a client led me to find my old school mates and while I have never really been one for reminiscing and reunions it was really good to hear from Graeme, Delia and Stewart. If I am honest I have over the years occasionally thought about school friends and what they are up to now and if they are pursuing a career that they had planned for or dreamt about at school, “are you”? “Am I” ?

My initial career path was to become a fighter pilot in the SAAF, however you needed three brain cells for that job so with only two I chose the next best thing, I wanted to be in the hospitality business, this primarily being because in standard eight, while living in a Vanderbijlpark I got a part-time job at a steakhouse called “The prime Rib”. It was my first real job and I earned a huge R2.50 per shift, with a free meal and a T-shirt thrown in. “I was hooked”

I decided to send an e-mail to my three school mates for some info as to their present day careers and if it was what they had wanted to do while making career choices at school. Graeme got back to me, “Thanks Bru”……. Delia and Stewart were obviously busy :-) and here is what he had to say.

“ I wanted to be navy diver at school, this however was not to be, I also thought about being a marine biologist, but my dad dissuaded me as he said there was no money in it. I got involved in the publishing business and I do enjoy it, however if I was to win the lotto or have a chance to choose my career again, it would be as a marine biologist”.

So at the moment I am an Estate agent, “did I ever think it was something I would do ?………. “Definitely not”, coming back to Clarens however has made me think out of the box and do jobs or work I would not normally have even considered doing or even thought was capable of, indulge me for a moment while I list what I have done in Clarens to keep the home fires burning.

Hospitality industry
Taken away refuse during a municipal strike
Sold wood
Sold horse manure
Garden service
Taught at local school
Ran a tuck shop
Worked as an extra on a advert
Written stories for local tourist magazine
Taken people on walking tours
Busy with a tunnel to grow herbs and vegetables
Looking to make compost
Looking to use flies that were made for trout in another way to make money
Exporting of skins and African items to Iceland (in the pipeline)

So while I may not be earning the big bucks or living in the lap of luxury and stashing away the dollars, yen or pound by working in a foreign clime so when or if I do eventually come back to SA will be able to buy a house or start a business in a fraction of the time most other hard working South Africans who live in the country take a lifetime of hard work to achieve, “I have learnt a hell of a lot by living and working here”. I also must make mention that Tania has also worked hard and she is busy getting Crafty stuff up there so that we can live in the lap of luxury and take that overseas trip that we would love to take Gabby on.

Pretty excited this week as my good mate Paul Els author of “We fear naught but God” and Umgulumbashe, both great reads laid out my book for me and now I feel it looks like a book, so want to get cracking on it, get it finished, source what photos I want to use and ask Keith to edit for me, “Please Dad”. My last Blog had names of good friends that had I written about, but to my embarrassment forgot to include the following gents.

Mr Paul Els
Mr Manuel Ferreira
Mr Jonathan Pittaway
Mr Alberto Morais

All four gents I have met through the book “Phantom of the Forest”, people who have given unselfishly of their time and have assisted me in this project and have become firm friends. Thanks guys for all that you have done for me and for the assistance when I have needed it.

I am busy on a story about bikers and biking at the moment and have just had dad (Keith) edit a story or me called Through the eyes of a child, a couple of people have said its not bad so I will put on the Blog for you to read and you are more than welcome to give comments.

Well that’s it for this Blog, “Ciao”
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