What to do in Clarens

Having lived in Clarens for a number of years I often get asked “what as visitors to your village should we experience” My usual response is “how many days are you staying” as this determines the “to do”. The best is to spend a 3 day weekend in the village Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this I believe will give you a true perspective of what Clarens and surrounds has to offer with regards adventure, entertainment and relaxation in mind. If I was to be given a 3 day free pass in Clarens this is what I would do and recommend others to try it as well. “Oh I should tell you that its always better to share it with a friend or a loved one, this way you get to share the memories and have lots more fun”

Arrive in Clarens as early as you can in the morning and check in to the accommodation that you have chosen. After check in take a walk to the village square familiarise yourself with the surroundings and soak in the atmosphere. Start the day with a Breakfast at either The Artist Café, 278 on Main or Smokey Joes, to work the breakfast off you will have to go on a walking tour of Clarens that will bring the history of the village to life and allow you to climb the hills behind the Swartland for those panoramic views of Clarens, “don’t forget to take a camera” Friday afternoon is for Adventure If Summer I would go river rafting with Extreme or Outrageous Adventures, In winter a 35 meter, followed by a 90 meter Abseil at Bergwoning Adventures would be my choice. Friday evening is Jol time and a trip to Clarens without Happy hour at The Highlander, dinner at the Grouse and Claret before moving on to Friends for a night of music and meeting the locals is quite frankly a wasted trip.


If you have been at Friends the night before you may want to take a couple of headache tablets and head to Smokey Joes for a Breakfast and some of the best coffee in the village. Saturday morning is about browsing through the many interesting shops and art galleries and stopping in for a drink or two at one of the pubs, with Clarens Breweries being high on the list, they probably brew some of the best beers in the country and their cider is definitely the best. I love the Bibliophile on Church Street; this is probably one of the best bookstores around, with a varied selection and good prices. Lunch at the Valley cats is a must and then you have two choices, One is to take a drive to the Fertility Caves and if you are a photographer take photos of the countryside “this time of year is great due to the leaves turning colour” the other choice is watch a rugby game with a few locals. After a long day a romantic dinner for two at Vito’s Ristorante or Clementines is in order.

Today is lie in day, but you could surprise your loved one by taking a walk to the Millery, Clarens’s very own country bakery and buy freshly baked pastries, pick up the paper on the way home and relax in bed for a while. Sunday is watch the world go by day so perhaps a good idea would be to find a spot near to the square and make yourself at home, read the paper, chat, and drink a coffee or two. Two of my favourite spots for this are the Grouse and Claret and Vitos Ristorante. When were you last on a Picnic? well Sunday for my wife and I as well as a couple of good friends has become Sundowner/Picnic night and I would suggest that you go to the Art and Wine gallery to buy a bottle or two of wine and then head of to the Millery, again to buy bread, cold meats, cheeses and olives. Lunch needs to be taken at one of the many restaurants that have outside tables, from this vantage point you can see the comings and goings of the village. Sunday afternoon is the drive or bike ride, depending on what mode of transport you are using to Fouriesburg and back, fabulous road with stunning scenery and a visit to Clarens would not be complete without a drive on this road. A drink or a cup of coffee at the Fouriesburg country Inn will round off a great day, “but its not over yet” as a Picnic on Paraffin Kop or the mountains overlooking Clarens will ensure that a beautiful weekend has become spectacular.

With arms wide open

With arms wide open

Well the big news this week is to tell you that I have new Niece and her name is Amber Faith Mather, she was born on the 21st of April (yes another April birthday in the family, Happy Birthday Dad for the 22nd of April) and weighed in at 2.9 kgs, she is healthy “as is mom Nicky” and we are all sooooooooooo happy to have her join the Mather/Bewerton/Dunkley family. Amber was born in the land of the rising damp “England”, so most of the family will only get to see her later this year “HOPEFULLY”. I know Tania is SO PROUD of her little sister and would have loved to be with Nici on this big day.

Douglas like all new dads (and correctly so) will be walking on cloud 9 at the moment and no child is ever as beautiful or as clever as yours and that is true as all children are special and different in their own ways. The birth of Amber made me think about when Gabby was born, I do remember calling everyone under the sun (those were the days that cell phones were the size of bricks and when you charged them up the national electricity grid took a dip) and telling them we now had a daughter. I remember all the family coming to see Gabby at the Hospital and then taking her home to see Granny and Grandpa, Nana and Ganga, uncles and aunts etc etc and eventually the long drive back to Malaga Hotel and walking in to our house for the first time as a “Family, our own little family unit” that also belongs to a larger family. I am sure that Doug and Nici felt the same when they walked in to their house. While we are sad that we could not be with them on the birth of their first child ”Especially Tania” who as I have said wanted to be with her sister, it does not detract from the fact that Amber is now part of a larger family that have had trials and tribulations, ups and downs but have always been there for each other and Amber this is a great family you have been born in to, I know I can speak for everyone when I say we will always be there for you and will love you unconditionally. “Amber it was great to see you on Wednesday over Skype, even though you would not wake up, hopefully next time you will be awake and be able to see a blur on the screen J) “No photos as yet, so cannot put on Blog”

So did you make your mark on Wednesday, I as well as millions of South Africans that “actually live In the country did” and for those who did not “you wasted a vote” Its great to vote in a small village as you don’t wait that long and even the IEC officials know you and say Hi. Was great to see so many Clarenites at the polling station. I don’t know about you but I thought that the national ballot paper looked like an old scroll, I had to fold it 5 times just to get it in the box. With 26 parties on the ballot it was a large piece of paper, now I am not sure how good your eyes are, but I had to have a good look to find the party I wanted to vote for, so goodness knows how those people with bad eyesight managed to differentiate between the different parties. In fact I got excited because I thought my favourite Heavy Metal, “sorry, Classic Rock” group ACDC was looking for votes but it turned out to be the ACDP. With all the parties on the ballot paper Surely some of the parties will lose their deposit as I had not heard of some of them and I consider myself a reasonably informed person.

Had Breakfast with our Clarens family “yep Kath and Mark” on Wednesday morning at the Artist Café before we voted and we had a good laugh at the old sandstone pillars in the restaurant as being “Regte” Vrystaat (for those of you who are English speaking “Real Freestate”) “Home Grown Tannies” pole dancing props, we actually have a “Home Grown Tannie” living at the moment in Clarens “believe it or not” (see the picture of the pole, not the tannie). I have heard but cannot confirm the tannie is also called “Fatty Pan” or “the good the bad and the FUGLY”

The second edition of Clarens Connection electronic newsletter was sent this week and was well received, just like the first issue.

Well the bottle store that is being sold is in fact the one in the village itself and there is much speculation in the village as to why it has been closed since last Saturday, “many rumours as to why and what is happening”. I am sure by next week the story will be out and I will advise what has actually happened and yes there are of those who do actually know what happened “ The truth will set you free”

Ryan, Kirsten and family arrived late Wednesday night after a long trip from PE, great to have them here and I will be going to Greytown on Friday with Ryan to attend the mighty men conference.

Just got back from the Mighty men conference and Wow it was big, I doubt that I will ever again see so many men together (mainly Afrikaans men) in one place and with no Rugby, Formula 1, Alcohol or Pole dancing involved. Estimates as to how many men attended range from 130 000 to 230 000, I do not know how many men there were on that farm Shalom, but I do know this it was Huge. I also have to admit that I did not shower this weekend either, firstly because the times were awkward and the water cold water only, secondly I did not feel like hopping around naked with a bunch of guys that I hardly know, but perhaps the clincher for me was that Tania had packed a pink towel, “pink towel, shower, naked guys, I am sure you get the picture”

The trip down by bike with Ryan was uneventful, with only the last 16kms on dirt road proving to be a challenge, 1200cc Triumph road bikes were not built to do dirt and forestry roads. We set up camp and the group next door to us invited us to eat with them, “What fantastic people” and we were really very fortunate to have met them. I am not sure if its true but to me it felt like the majority of the men there were white and Afrikaans speaking, this surprised me somewhat as I would have thought those attending would have been from English speaking backgrounds, especially if you take Angus’s heritage in to account. On the subject of Angus I am between and betwixt on whether or not he is as good as so many make him out to be, charismatic yes, but there were times when I felt that his talks were a little staged. “I also found it very strange not to see a woman over the weekend” and while I was not here to mingle with strange women, it just did not feel right to me, but again that’s just my opinion.

Ok So you did not like it I hear you say, “No that’s not entirely true, I do not think I had a life changing experience as many others may have had but I did enjoy the weekend and I am definitely not sorry that I had the opportunity to experience the 3 days. “So what did you get out of it”? “Ok let me count the ways and in no particular order”

1) I met 12 South Africans (Black, Indian and coloured) that just re-affirmed to me that I am correct in saying South – Africa is a great country and together we can make it even better no matter what our backgrounds, colour or political affiliations. Kevin and crew you have made me so proud to be South – African “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you”

2) I must honour and respect my wife more than I do and tell her more often that I love her and that I am proud of her. I should also tell my daughter more often than I do, that I love her and stop nagging her about small things.

3) I got to spend quality time with Ryan, “that was awesome” and while he may “perhaps” be a little disappointed that I have not embraced the whole Mighty Men concept, I did “well I think so anyway” make some headway with my relationship with Jesus. “Ryan I do know that I have a long way to go, but I need to thank you for inviting me this weekend, my eyes were opened to certain aspects that are missing from my life and I will certainly make an attempt to rectify them”

4) South Africans “if we work together and not just play lip service to wanting the country to work” can make a difference. This is perhaps the message that I took away this weekend. I am going to try and make a difference in my family this will hopefully make a difference in my community that in turn will affect the province and eventually the country.

On perhaps a negative note I have to wonder with so many Afrikaans men at the conference, why relationships between white and black South – Africans are not what they should be and why, with so many people who are supposed to be living by the word of God that we have so many problems in the country, perhaps I am being naïve, but these are thoughts that I did have over the weekend.

Well that’s it for this week and I hope that you have a great Freedom day.

Back to the future

I thought that I would have a little fun and came up with this

Its 2012, two years after South Africa have won the football world cup on home soil, the B.E.E Protea’s as well as the Springboks are ranked number one in the world, beating all with consummate ease, the Rand/Dollar exchange rate is 16 to 1 in South Africa’s favour and the white population has tripled with all the ex-patriots/economic mercenaries flocking back to the country from England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to earn rands and going over to the UK for cheap holidays to buy electronic goods and have there babies there. The country has recently found the worlds largest oil reserves in the little town of “Net een windpomp wat werkfontein” and the new restaurant opened in Clarens called “Sosumi” leads the world in mopani worm/beetroot and garlic cuisine and is jointly run by great friends and local entrepreneurs Mr Bruce Weyers and Mr Michael Scheepers. Ok so I am exaggerating a tad. “But it could happen”

What is sure, is that in 2012 Clarens will be 100 years old and in a mere three years time what will Clarens look like? If we look at the last six years the pace of change in the village has been phenomenal and if the pace continues then it is possible that Clarens will be completely changed and perhaps even I will be complaining about development and the “bloody tourists”. I thought it would be fun to make a few predictions regards Clarens in 2009 and in 2012 you can look at this blog and see if I was “Nostradamus” like in my predictions or I fell flat on my face, like most soothsayers usually do. I mean lets be honest how many of these people who predict the future and events are filthy rich? If I had a superpower like that I would be the wealthiest person in the world, “buy oil”, “sell oil” bet on who will win the world cup, the list is endless.

1) The Clarens Golf and Trout estate will almost double in size as there will be another 150 houses built on the course that is adjacent to the Fouriesburg road. And you will be allowed to fish on the estate. The local conservancy will grow from strength to strength with the promised fees that residents pay each year to ensure the sustainability of the Ranger project.

2) The Royal Maluti Golf course will have been re-sold at least three times to investors who initially believe it’s a great idea, but who soon come to the conclusion that being so close to the Lesotho border with marauding hordes on the doorstep is in fact not such a excellent “selling point”. The one house on it will have to be re-built on a weekly basis due to the bricks cement etc ending up across the Caledon river

3) Main street will see a upsurge in retail development with stand or homeowners selling there properties at huge profits (even more so than now), there will be at least one more filling station near to the bottom of main street, the two stands across the road from Valley cats are perfect for that.

4) The new 70 roomed Protea hotel will be such a success in bringing in international coach tours for 1 or 2 day stays that a petition from shop owners will be handed in to the municipality to ensure that there will be at least one more hotel bringing in busloads of cash. Another four story 120 roomed multi million rand hotel will be built opposite the square, with the chrome, glass and lime coloured structure being welcomed unanimously by all residents, ‘Even Nancy”

5) The water, electricity and sewage systems will not only work but actually surpass what is needed for the newly declared mini-city and the municipality will provide world class service to all residents of the village. All roads will be tarred and the streetlights will work

6) The houses on the golf course perched up on the hill as well as the houses on Eagles view will not have slipped down the mountain as predicted by the village doomsayers, however the dormant volcano Mt Horeb will create a scare when in 2010 wisps of smoke are seen to emerge from it by a local prone to exaggeration, the local Afrikaans newspaper that usually takes this persons word as gospel will spread panic with reports from a local geologist that the end of the world is nigh. On proper inspection it is found that two sheep herders where actually having a Braai and all those that left town in a panic come back to find the editor of the local Afrikaans newspaper and the geologist tarred and feathered

7) A younger generation of residents will sit on important decision-making structures in the village (sorry mini-city) and projects that are usually just talked about at monthly meetings will actually get done.

8) The entrance wall of the village will be changed after repeated attempts to have it upgraded over the last 25 years, this due to the younger generation taking over the committee that was setting up its 49th sub-committee on the subject.

9) The square will still not be utilized to the advantage of the village (sorry mini-city) and will look exactly as it does today.

10) The Clarens Mountain Estate’s first phase will be sold out and the second phase will become such in demand that prices will soar and it will become the premier property hot spot in the country.

Well that’s it, see you in 2012 to see if any or all of the 10 predictions came true.

Paint the town red

This week started with a bang as 8 of us met at the Millery and shot the C#*P out of each other with Ollie’s new paintball guns, the adrenalin was pumping the breath was short and we were on the lookout for the opposing team who were intent on capturing the flag. Honours were shared with each team winning a game. A few bruises and scrapes were worth the fun and can’t wait to do it again. This new sport in Clarens will be added to “what you can do” when in the village and I am sure it will be a winner.

I see that a local rag that promotes women to be licentious did not come out last Friday or this one as it usually does, perhaps the people decided that a little decorum was perhaps necessary over the Easter weekend or maybe, “just maybe” they have got the hint from the locals who feel that it is nothing but toilet paper. As I have probably mentioned in a previous Blog Donve Fullard brought out a newspaper called The Mountain Post and I am sure it made other publishers in the village sit up and think that perhaps the tourists to the village don’t want to see rubbish and read how people in the village are not getting leg over or if one does then it usually they get an electrical appliance or a new set of underwear. With the rumoured new magazine also going to be hitting the streets in a few months time “well that’s the talk in the village” it will be interesting to see the dynamics as the monopoly will then have been broken and perhaps, just perhaps publications that actually do justice to the village will be printed and sold. Paranoia seems however to be setting in as people are being accused of working for new publications before they have left another, “so childish”

Well Friday was Tania’s last day at work and she was given a lunch to say thanks for all of her hard work over the last few years, I am surprised that it happened to be honest but happy that it did, it’s the very least that Tania deserved for all her hard work over the years. Tania has been approached by a number of people in the village who would like her to work for them, so lets see what comes up “Tania would be an asset to any business. I also know Tania will also do well with Crafty stuff as she is determined to make it succeed and works hard at it.

I hear that one of the Bottle stores in the village is for sale “Eeeny Meeny Minny Mo” which one could it be I wonder, if it’s the one that I think it is then perhaps the person is selling to leave the village. “could the village be so lucky one wonders” ? I always find it interesting that people come to the village and have the attitude “we will show you “yocal locals” how to do business and promptly go about alienating the very locals they need to support them and turn a profitable business in to a loss making one, seems the same may have happened here, funny thing is the one who crash and burn are usually the ones that brag how much money they have made in the past in the corporate world or as commodity traders, marketing guru, communications expert or some other high powered job, It would seem its harder to run a business in a small village that to be a whiz kid in the “real world”. I was told many years ago by an old Clarenite that Clarens has a way of getting rid of the flotsam, sometimes its quick other times it takes a while longer.

Ok so what else has been going on in the village, no more street fights between bored Octogenarians like last week that saw a car window smashed and charges laid, I wonder why we have not thought of hosting bare knuckle fights on the square

So the approx 16000 Expats got to vote a week before we as tax paying, skill contributing and patriotic South Africans. Cant tell you how that warms the cockles of my heart “NOT” trust that we did not inconvenience to many of them by making them take the effort to drive or even walk to the polling station, perhaps next time they can petition the court to have a South African representative come to their house or place of work and actually make the cross on the ballot paper for them. I Still want one of these people to tell me that if the exchange rate was not in their favour they would be living in the countries that they feel are better than South Africa, ‘METHINKS NOT” I have been impressed by the lack of inter party fighting this elections, lets hope this continues and that as South Africans we respect that all of us have different ideas and opinions and that we can vote for who we want without having to be worried that some thug is going to beat you up because you do not vote for the same party.

The new Electronic newsletter “Clarens Connection” came out on Thursday morning and the response for those who have received it has been very good, I am sure that it will go from strength to strength, many comments have been made about the fact its positive and that there are no longwinded self opinionated diologue about sex or the lack thereof.

A football match between Protea Hotel and the Artist Café team took place on Wednesday at the local soccer stadium, Protea started of really well but succumbed to the expertise of the other team and lost 5-2, the game was played in good spirit and we look forward to other challenge matches in the future.

Going to Mighty Men conference next weekend with My Brother (in law) Ryan and I must say I am looking forward to it, have to admit its not the type of gathering I would usually go to but when Ryan asked if I wanted to go a few months back, my immediate response was yes, so who knows I may just come back a better man than I left. Looking forward to spending some time with Ryan, will let you know what it was like when I get back.

Friday night we met at Vitos restaurant, The Red headed Stepchild is working there now and we went fro one drink, a few drinks and diner later we got home to see the Protea’s fall apart in the last one day game.

Gabby was bitten again on the first day of School by a spider, has been to the doctor and has been given muti, hopefully its not another Sac spider bite, as the last one cost a “few rand” to sort out, but I mean what are the odds to be bitten by a spider on the first day of school 2 times I a row ?

Just finished reading a great book called 19 with a bullet, set in the early 80’s, it’s the true story of a young SA boy who joined the Parabats and his experiences on the Border fighting SWAPO and FAPLA. Granger now lives in the USA, I had the pleasure of e-mailing him and he seems like a lekker guy. If the military is your thing then this is a book I recommend.

Nicky will have her baby in the “land of the rising damp” the next couple of weeks, wonder if he/she (don’t know if a boy or a girl, “I say it’s a boy”) will be a South African or a British citizen, hopefully a SA citizen, seems that England in a few years time could be another province of Afghanistan or Pakistan or any of those other Extreme Muslim strongholds.

“Have a great week and don’t forget to make your mark” X

Clarens Brewery

One could almost feel the trouble brewing in the village recently when the rumour spread that Clarens Brewery operating from Clementines restaurant had closed down and no longer would locals and visitors alike be able to quench there thirsts on there refreshing blend of beers and cider. I immediately called Natalie from Ash Creek farms and she assured me that the brewery was not closing down, only re-locating. “As per the norm whoever heard the story first got it horribly wrong” A collective sigh could be heard “Its true, I heard it myself”

It was then I decided that someone needed to record the recent history of this micro - brewery as well as its welcoming owners, so over a few brews and perhaps just one or two ciders I eventually got the information I needed. Having initially set up at Witblitz in December 2005 with a 150 litre brewery Natalie and Stephan Meyer decided to move to Clementines some six months later and upgraded to a 300 Litre brewery, soon finding themselves brewing more and more often as the appreciation for craft beer grew amongst locals and tourists alike as I type this the brewery is now brewing over 2000 litres per month and the demand just seems to be growing.

But what makes an IT specialist and a Systems Engineer decide to make beer and open a brewery and how did it all start I asked eagerly quaffing down my second English Ale. Natalie explains. Having established our apple and cherry orchards just outside Clarens eight years ago a decision was made to try our hand at brewing cider in an attempt to use the culls out of the orchard, “bet your thinking what’s a cull, (I’m right aren’t I) “Cull is fruit that cannot be used as it has either fallen on the ground or has some sort of a blemish that makes it unsellable” Having no brewing experience did not deter them and they joined the Worthogs club of micro brewers and started the slow process of trial and error, with cider only being brewed in the winter they had to brew ten or so trials and hold the best results over to the next year. Over the next four years their friends where subjected to the worst rotgut imaginable, however they persevered and three years ago came up with the correct blend that is today perhaps one of the nicest ciders I have ever had the pleasure to drink. Red Stone cider named after the Rooiberg mountains in whose foothills the apples flourish is a delicious refreshing blend made from culinary apples, totally opposite from a traditional cider that is made from crab apples, it is brewed on the farm once a year in May so that only the freshest apples are used.

Ok I slurred “just a little” that’s the cider taken care of, what about the beer?. This time Stephan takes up the story, Natalie and I are both ardent beer drinkers and during our apprenticeship at Worthogs we sampled some of the best craft beer that this country has to offer, in fact one of Worthogs brewers has won the Tri-nations competition between SA, Australia and New Zealand for the last two years (perhaps the Bokke should start drinking craft beer). We decided to try our hand at brewing beer and started out by brewing full grain beers with a 40 litre brewery, having had the experience brewing cider and with the knowledge picked up at Worthogs we where able to offer our friends a much more palatable product and decided that we should give it a go commercially, establishing a brewery in Clarens was the obvious choice, especially since we considered it an ideal addition to the villages many tourist attractions, also it was to become the first commercial micro brewery in the Free State.

The move from Clementines to the Highlander centre was a decision made to give the brewery more exposure and give us more space to brew, Clementines will still be an outlet selling our beer and cider “as the garden area at Clementines is perfect as a beer garden”, explains Natalie, while Stephan pores me another beer. So apart from the Red stone cider what beers are you brewing at the moment I remember to ask. Our standard beers are a Blonde ale, which is a refreshing full bodied ale with a biscuity after taste, there’s a traditional English ale with a lovely caramel finish and then we have a creamy stout with roast coffee flavours. Clarens Brewery are also looking at having seasonal beers from time to time, such as the Weiss beer now for sale. If you have never tasted Weiss beer do yourself a favour and do just that, the taste buds wont know what has hit them.

Future plans for the shop are to stock imported beers from Belgium as well as beer paraphernalia and memorabilia, at the moment the shop is open on weekends only, but this will change once licence restrictions relax. All the beers as well as the ciders on tap are also available in bottles for either personal use or as gifts to family and friends. Even though the brewery only moved premises late last year business is brisk and if you are in the village, a visit to this micro – brewery is a must, just ask any of the locals where the Highlander centre is and enjoy a hand crafted beer or cider, you wont be sorry.

I always enjoy researching my articles for the blog, be it crawling through bat infested caves or climbing up mountains, but I have to say this was probably one of the most enjoyable assignments I have had for many a year, the telephone call to my wife to ask her to come and collect me was however not as pleasant, “but that’s another story”

Being an Exhibitionist

Hope that you all had a Lekker Easter weekend and if you still believe in the Easter Bunny that he brought you some Chocolates.

Today was Tania and my 23rd wedding Anniversary and I would like to share with you the words that Tania wrote in my letter “We have had lots of ups and downs, good times and bad, but we have been through them together – and that’s what marriage is all about – and I am glad that I am married to you” “Well Tania I am the lucky one and hope that we have 50 more anniversaries”. Today is also my Nana’s birthday and Tania’s mom’s birthday, so Nana and Mom Have a Happy Birthday and remember we love you lots.

Saturday was a busy day with the Easter market in the village and both Kathleen and Tania exhibiting. I was at Pam Goldings looking to try and market the Mountain Estate, had a couple of leads and had one gent who I had to take for a drive round the estate, he seems interested, so hold thumbs that he decides to buy. I am really enjoying the opportunity to work at the Estate and hopefully I will be able to sell a few stands in the next year.

Many of the locals are raving about Donves’s newspaper, it seems to have hit the spot and confirms that the village needs a sophisticated, positive publication; I hope that she goes from strength to strength.

The Cheetah’s actually won a rugby game and it was against the Sharks, no one was more surprised than myself, I had even put a bet on the sharks betting the Cheetahs, so Mark and I really enjoyed that, Kathleen on the other hand was not to impressed. We are still at the bottom of the log and will probably remain there, however we now have more points than a samoosa, so that at least is an improvement

“Ah I nearly forgot”, Mojo’s a gallery in the Clarens meander had an exhibition that had its opening on Saturday and after the rugby Mark and I met Tania and Kath as they had both been asked to exhibit their Mosaic, I had also been asked to display a few photograph’s that I had framed. Tania sold 2 pieces before the exhibition had started and when we went to Friends restaurant for their legendary Chicken strips and cheese sauce. I saw a young couple walk in with one of my pictures that was at the gallery (old petrol pump and milk can in black and white), I had a smile from ear to ear, “what a feeling to know that a photo that I took is going to be hanging on someone’s wall, that’s just awesome”. I had a few compliments one from a local artist about my photos who told me that I have a great eye and he likes my style. Well that’s another thing I can add to my CV. Tania also did very well selling a clock and a mirror.

This week saw a few re-enactments of the last Rocky Balboa movie; there must be something in the water, as agro seems to be stalking the older set in the village. I will not use names as I may end up at the lawyers, or as Gollum s Brother likes to call it “taken to the cleaners”.

Well that’s about it for this week, I would like to leave you with a piece of advice ‘Nothing Succeeds, like a Parrot”

Battle of Naauwpoort Nek

One of the greatest feelings I can get whenever I have been away from the village for a time, “especially if for a day or two” is to turn on to the R712 from Bethlehem and see the Maluti and Rooiberg mountains in the distance, as I travel past taxi rock and see Mount Horeb getting nearer my foot automatically seems to press harder on the accelerator or my hand twists the throttle of the Triumph 1200 further back just so that I can see my beloved village that little bit faster, driving past the fields of Cosmos, sunflowers and mielies waiting to be harvested and seeing the bales of grass being harvested to feed livestock over the coming winter months, gives me a sense of pride in my province and community and know that my wife was right in telling me that Clarens is where we are meant to be. Coming through Naauwpoort Nek you get a glimpse of the village in all of its grandeur especially now with the Lombardy Popular’s leaves changing colour , but no matter what time of the year or the weather conditions I never fail to get goose bumps at seeing her. Why you say is he going on about the drive from Bethlehem to Clarens and the Naauwpoort Nek, well the pass through Naaupoort Nek and Titanic rock in particular have bore witness to shots fired in anger both during the Basotho wars of 1865 and the Boer war of 1899 – 1902. The Nek however is probably best known and closely associated to actions taken by Paul Kruger and his Commando in 1865 that saw Clarens being named in honour of him in 1912 at the proclamation of the new settlement.

Like most Clarenites I know a little about the battle of Naauwpoort Nek and I would surmise that most visitors to the village walk past the monument on the square commemorating the battle and at least look at the names of the five Boers that died. I was always under the impression that the battle was fought in the Nek itself and that the Boers where securely laagered just beyond it when the Basotho attacked, but according to information I unearthed recently this is not entirely true. After the attack on a group of Trek Boers near to the present day Harrismith by the Batlokwa (Wild cat people) tribe led by a fierce Chiefteness called Mantatisi , a commando of three to four hundred men under the command of Paul Kruger where dispatched by the South-African Republic (ZAR) on the 9th of September 1865 to take clean up the “moordenaarsnes” (murderers nest) at Witzieshoek, this they did pushing the Basotho through the Golden gate and near to the present day Clarens on the 28th of September the Commando decided to make camp for the night on the farm Boshoek. What the history books do not tell us is that it was late (approx 10 pm) when they arrived and it was a particularly cold and miserable evening and contrary to all normal military practices of the time a laager was not set up with men sleeping in the wagons where they stopped and some even sleeping in a nearby donga, the horses where not hobbled, this could have been a costly mistake as early in the morning of the 29th under the cover of darkness and a light rain Basotho warriors under the command of two chiefs, Lesoeana and Slanggaal fell upon the unsuspecting Boers, killing five in the initial confusion, the unhobbled horses fled and under very difficult circumstances the commando managed to re-group and drive the Basotho back through Naauwpoort Nek, (two kilometres away) inflicting heavy casualties on the fleeing warriors. The pursuing Boers wanted to chase the Basotho through the Nek, but Paul Kruger had a grudging respect for the Basotho and knew that they could have an ambush set up on the Clarens side of the Nek that could have seen more deaths on the side of the Boers.

The word was sent out and more men came to join the Commando from Bethlehem, Paul Roux, Senekal as well as other nearby settlements and within two days there where a large number of well armed men that drove the Basotho out of the valley. The five Boers where buried where they died with only three graves still being visible today, it is thought that two of the men where exhumed by loved ones some years later and buried on family farms somewhere in the Transvaal Republic. The monument that stands on the square today was originally erected on the site where the battle took place and near to where the men where buried, it was unveiled on the 16th of December 1895 in front of a large crowd, the monument was moved to coincide with the silver jubilee of Clarens in 1962 and was re-unveiled by the then State President, the honourable C R Swart. Sadly all that remains today is a badly overgrown graveyard with a rusty fence and gate as well as few sandstone pillars that at one time I presume formed the enclosed area where the monument stood. A couple of years ago Neil van Schalkwyk unearthed the sign post that showed the way to the monument and moved it to his farm so that it wont be lost forever.

So next time you drive through the Nek, take a moment to stop, take in the view and reflect on the past.

An offer you can't refuse

Over a Cuppuccino at Smokey Joes, Carlo Di Mezza,“ A local who was actually born here” brought up the subject of Italian prisoners of war and their contribution to the Eastern Free State and Clarens/Bethlehem in particular. I left thinking that this would be a great story and immediately headed home and Googled “Italian prisoners of war in South Africa”. After reading number of pages and finding a couple of books in my library at home, I soon realised that this story would need to be in two parts, one being on the relationship between Italians and South Africa prior to the Second World War and the other on the contribution those prisoners who came to South Africa made in the Caledon valley

In the 17th and 18th century there was only a small number of Italians in South Africa, this was to change in 1880 when numbers increased due to the Gold Rush South Africa experienced, not all Italians that came to the country were labourers among them were shop owners, doctors and lawyers and is estimated that by 1900 between three to four thousand Italians had made South Africa home. When South Africa became a union in 1910, the building industry boomed, with Cape Town and Pretoria having to be provided with public buildings. Many Italians were involved with the building of the Union buildings between 1910 –1912 as stonemasons, bricklayers and decorators

After the great depression South Africa the early1930’s saw a boom in the industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors and the Italian community also flourished with the following families leading the way

1) Carleo – (Mechanical industry)

2) Lupini – (Building materials)

3) Gallo – (Railroad construction)

4) Rossi, Lambardi and Beretta – (Farming)

Not many people are aware that a number of Italians were also involved in the building of the Voortrekker monument in the late 1930’s, there was also involvement with the laager wall as well as the casting of the Van Wouw statue of woman and child in front of the monument. The twenty-seven panel marble fresco was chiselled from Italian marble in Italy and shipped to South Africa, “just as a matter of interest the panels weigh over one hundred and eighty tons. An interesting fact from this research is the story of the Italian hero at the battle of Bloukraans. An Italian lady called Theresa Viglione was a trader camping near to the trekkers to do business. On the 17th of February 1838 she risked her life to warn the Boers of the attack, her warning saved lives and after the attack she also helped nurse wounded children, this drew great respect from the Boers. Her bravery and compassion is honoured by being depicted on panel 15 that show the trials and tribulations of the Great Trek.

South Africa played a huge part in wresting the East African Colonies from the grasp of the Italian Empire and the restoration of the Emperor Haile Selassie to his throne in Addis Ababa, vast numbers of Italian prisoners of war (P.O.W) taken in North Africa were detained in South Africa. In February 1941 the first P.O. W’s landed in Durban, as more men were taken prisoner there numbers increased. The South Africans were not ready or organized for this large influx and after a initial amount of confusion and disorganization order was restored. A camp was established forty kilometres from Pretoria called Zonderwater, (near to present day Cullinan) that was to become the largest P.O W camp throughout the Allied territories, to put it in to context in 1942 Zonderwater was as large (white population wise) as the town of Benoni, by December 31st 1942 the camp had over sixty seven thousand men living in it, by the time it closed in 1947 apart from the accommodation for over one hundred thousand men, it also boasted a huge hospital, seventeen theatres, sixteen soccer fields, six tennis courts, eighty bowling alleys, seven fencing halls, volleyball fields, boxing rings, gymnasiums, sports clubs and almost thirty nine kilometres of roads within the camp itself.

From the beginning accommodation for both camp staff and prisoners was in tents and a vast tent town arose virtually overnight, later solid accommodation in the form of huts were built of clapboard, brick, concrete and corrugated iron, the labour used being that of the prisoners themselves. At its height the camp consisted of fourteen blocks, each block having four camps, in addition there was also a transit camp, disinfectant camp and a hospital that had one thousand six hundred beds, making it at the time one of the largest hospitals in South Africa.

A large area of irrigated and un-irrigated land next to the camp, all that had been fallow ground was put under cultivation and within a short period the farm was producing a wide variety of vegetables, including field crops, all used for the feeding of the P.O.W’s. The camps also looked after the prisoners religious, sporting educational and social needs with the camp assisting in educating over ten thousand illiterate Italians, as well as teaching many more useful trades that they could use after the war.

To relieve the camp numbers the SADF decided to allow certain prisoners (those with essential skills) to be released in the care of South Africans who would provide jobs for them. Four thousand South African employers responded and provided employment (mostly in the agricultural sector), many coming to the Eastern Free State and the Caledon Valley in particular; with over a thousand being allowed to remain in the country after the war had ended. I cannot wait to research this subject here in Clarens and find buildings that were actually built by Italians, some who became part of the Community, such as the Di Mezza’s.

Through the eyes of a child


By Stephen Dunkley

This is my story about the Boer war “some now call it the South African war of 1899 – 1902” and the times my family and I lived through, my name is tannie Susan Laubscher, I live in Heilbron and I am now 94 years old. “You must forgive me if I sometimes get the sequence of events incorrect or the names muddled up, but it was a long time ago”

When the Boer war broke out in 1899 I was only seven years old, and lived on the family farm Grootgeluk in the Bethlehem district with my father Willem, my mother Martha, brothers Andries, Jacob and Danie as well as my sisters Annie and Phoebe. For many days after war was declared there was a sense of anticipation in the air, everyone was talking about it, and even the children were drawn into the excitement, even though we did not really understand what war was about or what the consequences would be to us as well as many other Boer families

The local Commandant “Langman” Hannes de Wet sent word to every farm in his jurisdiction, that all men over the age of sixteen had to join the Commando. Each man was to ensure he had a horse, saddle, bridle, arms and ammunition as well as eight days provisions. The household was very busy with everyone assisting in getting everything together, so that the men would be ready on time to join up with the Commando. The next day my Father and brothers Jacob and Danie said their farewells and rode off to the muster point, just outside of Bethlehem

After the excitement of the past few days, to see my father and brothers leave was very sad and perhaps then, even as a small child it dawned on me that I may never see them again. My older sister Annie (10) and I tried to keep each other amused, and to cheer up the rest of the family. My mother was sad for many days, and would often cry, Annie and I wondered why we were not crying, and we tried as hard as we could to cry, when this did not work we took a small bottle of Lennon medicine and rubbed some of it in the corner of our eyes, it burnt, the tears running down our cheeks.

I do not know when or where the first battle took place, but I do remember my mother saying that the Commando had to protect the border between Basutoland and the conquered territory, in case there was an attack from that direction. Soon after that I heard my mother telling my ouma that the Commando had been split up, and sent to different parts of the country. My father and brothers were lucky in that they could still get away from the Commando from time to time, to see to things that needed doing on the farm, Danie however was sent to assist near the Cape border, and was involved in a battle near Colesburg. We did not hear from him for a long time, and my mother was worried that he had been hurt. Eventually a letter did arrive “I still have it, old and yellowing” we were so happy to hear from him. In his letter Danie hoped that we were all doing well at home, and he told us that he was on the way to Bloemfontein, to try and stop the British from taking over the Free State, Danie also explained that he was part of a large Commando, nearly one thousand men, and that they have one hundred and six British prisoners travelling with them. The rest of the letter was about people on the Commando that we knew from the area and general news.

My youngest brother Andries (14) was very upset that he could not go and fight the Khaki’s like his older brothers and father, and that he had to sit at home with the women. One day Andries just disappeared from the farm, and even the servants could not, or would not tell us where he had gone, or what had happened to him. Eventually one old man broke down and said that klein baas Andries had told him not to say anything, but he was hiding in the barn loft repairing his saddle and reins and putting together the items he needed to join the Commando. Soon after my father came home for a brief visit to see how the family was doing, and my mother told him what Andries was up to, my father said that Andries should go with him on Commando, as he could at least keep an eye on him, Andries was ecstatic when my father told him the news, and so it was that my 14 year old brother ‘like many others his age and even younger” went to war to fight the Khaki’s.

While the men on Commando lived a frugal life on the veld, the old men, women and children that stayed at home did not have it easy. We were lucky in that we never fell into English hands and therefore we never experienced the concentration camps. We had lookouts posted to tell us if the British were approaching, and fled in to the surrounding hills and stayed there until they left. Sometimes we were caught off guard and the English troops would ask us where the men had gone, and if we had seen any Boers in the area, they were always polite, and at no time did they try to harm us, this had happened to other farmers wife’s and children in the area. Later when they had orders to round up the women and children, and to burn crops and houses, we would hide in the mountains, sometimes for many days at a time. We had a large cave on the farm that was well hidden in a kloof, and had big bushes in front of it, so even if we lit a fire at night there were no tell tale signs of smoke and flames to give our hiding place away. We took some items from the farmhouse to make the cave more comfortable, and we also hid many things, such as the stove “this we covered in grease, and buried” so that if the British did burn the house down, or loot it we would not have lost everything. Near to the cave was a crystal clear stream that we used for household chores.

At night we were safe, as the British never looked for women and children at night, due to them being scared of Boer attacks, this had happened many times in the past, so the British rarely ventured from their camps at night. Life was not easy in the cave, but I imagine it was a hundred times better than having to endure the hardships of a concentration camp. At the start of the war we still had loyal servants to assist us on the farm and in the cave, but as the war dragged on, many of them fled to Basutholand. Due to the fact that prior to my father and brothers joining the Commando, they had harvested a large wheat crop, we never went hungry, this allowed us to survive throughout the war, and my mother also helped other families as well as Boer patrols that passed by. We often helped our mother to make bread and rusks, this was also given to whoever needed it and on many occasions we were visited by Commandos from further afield than the Free State, and these men also received rusks and bread. My mother also planted Tobacco and this was also given to passing Commando’s who really appreciated receiving this luxury item. One day we heard a huge noise and only later found out that the British had blown up Oom Theron’s mill to stop him from milling corn for the Commando’s to use.

In Bethlehem there was a printer who printed a local newspaper called the ‘Skoorsteentjie” and everyone was always anxious to get a copy, to see what was happening in the war, and to see if there had been any casualties from the local Commando. When the British occupied Bethlehem, the editor “Oom Naas Muller loaded the press on to his horse cart and fled to Oom Loors Serfontein’s farm “Snymanshoek”, and hid the press in a cave in the mountains, and for the rest of the war Oom Naas printed the Skoorsteentjie there. Many men used the Snymanshoek cave as a refuge and were able to give Oom Naas up to date information regarding the war.

We also had access to sheep, and planted vegetables, as I have already mentioned we were lucky and never went hungry. Slaughtering the sheep however was not easy for my mother, my oldest sister Phoebe only had one hand (I will explain later how this happened), and my other sister Annie was a brave and determined person, she always seemed to take it upon herself to do the hard work that needed doing, such as carrying water, chopping wood and making fire, Annie was also adept at carrying items on her head, something she had learnt from the servants on the farm. Annie also took it upon herself to slaughter a sheep or goat should the need arise, Phoebe would hold the animal down and Annie would cut its throat. Initially life in the cave was not easy, and took some getting used to, but we adapted and it became home. As the war progressed it seemed to get worse for the Boer army, initially there had been many successes, but as the British became more organised, and more men landed in the country the tide started to turn and the Commandos found the going tough. Prisoners, such as the four thousand that surrendered to General Hunter, were shipped of to Ceylon for the rest of the war, women and children were also sent to camps, that the British hoped would crack the resolve of the Boer men in the field.

We were always scared that we would be caught by the British and sent to a camp. Five or six families in the area worked together, and we had a system in place where we could always go and hide, should we be discovered. British patrols increased; often we had to move quickly to another cave so that we would not be discovered. One time we fled to Witkraans and while we were there we heard that the previous week five families had been caught there and sent to a concentration camp. It was at this cave that we nearly died of exposure due to heavy snowfalls, making a fire was nearly impossible as the wood got wet, and we had fled in a hurry leaving our warm clothing behind. I remember one occasion when our neighbour tant Marie Schoeman decided to go home, and see if she could find a cow to slaughter, this she did and I cannot tell you how good that meat tasted on the braai, for a moment we forgot that there was a war on and the women chatted as if they where in their voorkamers.

On another occasion a little boy decided that he was going to steal some wors that was hanging on a tree near to the cave, and as he was stretching across a branch to reach it, he slipped and fell into a thorn bush, his feet were so full of thorns that he had to sit with his feet in that air, and all the children sat around him and pulled the thorns out. At the beginning of the war we always seemed to have money, and my mother decided to hide most of it away, this was mainly due to the fact no shops were open, so we could not use it anyway. My mother packed the money in a steel box and buried it in the floor deep inside the shearing shed. This was retrieved after the war and helped us immensely to get the farm up and running again.

As I mentioned earlier my sister Phoebe only has one hand, and perhaps it is best that I explain how that came to be. The war had been on for about a year and a half, and a number of Commandos had been forced to surrender, the biggest being the surrender of four thousand men by General Prinsloo, in the conquered territory halfway between what is now known as Clarens and Fouriesburg. It was here that my father was taken prisoner, he and many others where marched to Bethlehem, put on trains to Durban, and from there shipped to Ceylon. My mother and her friend tant Betty Rautenbach decided to take a chance, and see if they could make contact with their husbands near to the Ashrivier, they took with them eating utensils and money, while they were away, my sisters and our friend Lettie Rautenbach stayed in the cave. Near to Naauwpoorts Nek, a British camp had been established and one of our servants who was sick decided to seek medical attention from the doctor, around the perimeter of the camp the British had placed booby traps (dynamite caps) so that the Boers could not surprise them, should they launch an attack.The servant after she had seen the doctor, thought that the caps looked pretty and brought some home, where she laced them on a wall in the sun, that afternoon, Phoebe and Lettie decided to climb a koppie near to the house to see if they could see British or Boer patrols, on the way they passed the wall with the pretty doppies, Phoebe took a few, put them in her dress pocket, and while they were walking she was throwing one of the doppies from one hand to the other, just as she was about to catch it in her left hand, it exploded, throwing her to the ground, when she sat up all her fingers and half of her hand was missing, and the left side of her body looked like it had been shot with birdshot. Twenty to thirty years later her husband would still pull small pieces of lead out of her arm. Phoebe was lucky that she was wearing a kappie, and that at the moment of the blast she turned her head otherwise she may have lost an eye. Lettie who was walking next to Phoebe had her clothes scorched, and she also had some shrapnel wounds in her legs and hands, Lettie got a huge fright and ran away in to the veld, Phoebe at this stage was also in shock and had not even realised the extent of her wounds.

Phoebe stumbled home and as she tried to open the front door the blood pumped from the wound all over the door, it was only then that she realised that she was badly wounded. Phoebie shouted for Annie who immediately on seeing the wound did not hesitate, she ripped up a sheet to use as a bandage, and poured vinegar on the wound, the vinegar luckily stopped the flow of the blood, Lettie soon after came back to the house, and together we realised that a doctor was needed to save Phoebe’s life. We knew that at the British camp there was a doctor, “but how do we get a message to him?” I could not write and Lettie’s wounds did not allow her to write a letter either. We had to send a servant to a neighbour to ask her to write a letter to the British, asking for the help of a doctor. The letter was delivered, and Dr Turner came to the house with his assistant, and immediately decided that what remained of the hand had to be amputated. Not having his instruments with him, meant that he had to send his assistant back to the camp to collect them, as well as chloroform and bandages, however when he arrived back my sister’s condition had deteriorated to such an extent that Dr Turner realized that he could not operate on my sister in her condition.

That afternoon my mother came home, disappointed that she had not been able to see my father, as he had been taken to Fouriesburg. When she saw Phoebe she almost fainted, my mother had not seen my father and then this. My mother sat up with Phoebe all night, and the British doctor was very helpful, but would still not operate as he felt my sister would not survive. During the night the hand bled more and dripped in to an enamel basin, my mother realised that unless she tried something drastic my sister would die. In desperation mother then made up an old Voortrekker concoction that included turpentine and put it on Phoebe’s hand, the bleeding stopped. The next day even though Phoebe was weak Dr Turner decided to operate. Phoebe was put on the dining room table, and had her hand amputated, my mother was very worried, and it was thought at one stage that we may even lose Phoebe.

It was a miracle that she survived this accident and operation, but survive she did. I believe that this was also due to Dr Turner, he had helped us even though the Boers and the British were at war, we would forever be grateful to him for saving Phoebe’s life. Every day for two weeks he rode from the camp to the farmhouse (about 8 miles) to look at the wound and to dress it. Soon after this the British camp was moved and the last day he came to see Phoebe and attend to her wounds, my mother was so overcome with emotion that she could not tell the doctor how much his assistance was appreciated, “I think he knew”. My mother insisted that we give him something to say thank you, and he asked if he could have the Kudu horns on the front stoep, my mother gave them to him with the greatest of pleasure. The doctor also gave my mom a letter; it was a sort of passport, so that my mom could take Phoebe to the doctor in Bethlehem, when she needed attention. About ten days later my mother took Phoebe to the doctor, but it was such a hassle that we never went again. At about this time the British had also started to take women and children from the farms and put them in camps, so it was a stressful period. “I think my mother was very brave”

Phoebe soon learnt to get by with only one hand and in fact she soon was like a normal person with two hands. Later Phoebe married Hans Naude, and became a loving mother and a hardworking wife. Phoebe was able to make, jams, bake and she was a great cook, it was perhaps her needlework that made us realise that Phoebe could and would do anything a two handed person could do. My mother was worried that she had not heard from my father since his capture, she had written to him about Phoebe’s accident so it must have been a very stressful and worrying time for her. One day a letter did arrive from Ceylon, it was from my father ‘I still have that letter”, and he wrote that he was busy fashioning a false hand from wood for Phoebe, and that he would send it as soon as he could, the hand did arrive, but it was impractical to use, however the wooden hand is still in the family and Phoebe’s youngest daughter Judith has it in her possession.

If life had not been hard enough with the outbreak of war, my father being taken prisoner, and Phoebe losing her hand, we got word that my brother Jacob had been killed. The commando had been in a fight with the British near to Langberg and Jacob was wounded, the bullet tore through his right hip and came out near to his spine, damaging his stomach on its way through. His Friends helped Jacob on to his horse, and in great pain he rode four miles to the nearest house, this being Mr Bruwer’s house near Uitdraaipad, who at great risk to himself and his family took Jacob in, and assisted him as best they could. The next day Oom Henk le grange came to give my mother the news, she left immediately to be with him, Grootgeluk was almost thirty miles from the Bruwer’s house. Mother only arrived there late that night, and was very weak from the journey. For five days and nights my mother nursed Jacob but it was all in vain, just before he died he said to mother that he was losing his sight and hearing, please say your goodbyes, Jacob also asked my mother to sing “safely in Jesus’ arms”; while she was singing Jacob died. Jacobs’s death on top of everything else my mother had to endure nearly killed her, she was particular fond of Jacob, and his death was like a stab in the heart. Transporting the body home to the farm was a terrible journey, with my mother having to hide from a British patrol, still to this day I am not sure how my mother survived all of those deprivations.

Jacob was buried in the family cemetery, the coffin was made from old furniture, and this my mother, my sisters and I had to help with, “how did we survive those times” when we managed to finish the coffin, we had to find a way to make it black, as this was the tradition “you were buried in a black coffin”. My mother found a tin of black powder in the shed, which my father used to mark the sheep, this we mixed with oil and painted the coffin. On the day of the funeral, the Commando that Jacob had fought with arrived at the farm, to assist in digging the hole, and to give Jacob a military funeral, their help and support meant so much to my mother. After Jacob’s coffin had been lowered in to the hole, eight members of the commando fired a shot from their rifles; my mother collapsed with sadness and had to be carried to the house.

We had always been a religious family but I am not sure how our faith stood up to all the setbacks, soon after we had buried Jacob we received news, that our youngest brother Andries had also been wounded in a skirmish with the British. The bullet had stuck him in the shoulder, but exited from his shoulder blades and he was able to ride to safety and not fall into British hands. He was cared for by a local family, who cleaned and dressed his wound, and sent him on his way, the family if found to have assisted Andries, would have been thrown out of their house, and sent to the concentration camps. Andries made his way home and received more treatment from mother. After he was strong enough he rejoined his Commando who were holding Retief’s Nek against the British, here he spent a few weeks, and when he could get leave he would come home and help where he could.

Not far from Retief’s Nek the British set up a barbed wire blockade over the road, which was linked to a Blockhouse that had been built to keep an eye on Boer movements. On the wire the British hung little bells, and if someone were to touch the wire this would alert the men in the Blockhouse, who would then sound a general alarm. Andries and a few of his friends from the Commando decided one night to cross this barrier, two men held the wire taught while another cut it, and the two men then gently placed the wire on the floor ensuring the bells did not chime. Andries slipped through the wire and past the blockhouse, to come home, collect food and provisions but not until mother had fed him with homemade bread, and a home cooked meal. Early the next day before the sun had started to rise, Andries left and made his way back to the Commando, he rode away with the rifle slung over his left shoulder, not thinking to check if it was loaded or not, about 10 miles from the house a shot went off, and the bullet shot him under the shoulder and out the top of the shoulder.

We had just finished breakfast when my mother sat up, is that not your brother Andries coughing, we all got up from the table looked out of the front door, and sure enough it was Andries, his shirt full of blood, he was not even able to climb off the horse by himself, we helped him down and in to the house, my mother despite her initial shock, took off his bloodstained clothing and sat him up in the bed. The wound bled profusely and we had nothing in the house to stop the blood, not even turpentine to put on it, I heard my mother scream ‘why us Lord, have this family not sacrificed enough for this country, why do you make us suffer so.” My sister Annie told my mother not to worry, that she would go to the nearest farm and find help. Annie arrived back later that day with a tannie from a neighbouring farm, whose name I cannot remember. My mother said to her “what can we do to help Andries” She said I remember when we were children and one of the family had a bad cut and it bled very badly, my mother went in to the garden and picked peach tree leaves, she then ground them into a paste and rubbed it on the wound, the bleeding stopped almost immediately, we all ran into the garden and picked leaves that were then ground in to a paste and smeared on the gunshot, and before long the bleeding had stopped. I think the plant also assisted in ensuring the wound did not get infected. Many of the old people from those days, myself included still believe in the use of peach leaves. During the remainder of the war when medical supplies were non-existent we used many Voortrekker remedies. Andries recovered and again joined a local commando and was to see out the war as a bittereinder, the youngest of the family fought the longest and hardest against the British, Andries refused to speak English and always held them responsible for the suffering that our family endured during the war.

Danie who was captured sometime after my father, never received as much as a scrape during the war, although during a heated battle somewhere near Lindley a bullet went straight through his hat. After the war my father and brother came back from Ceylon, and we had to re-build the farm, the house had been slightly damaged by fire, but we were luckier than some as the monies we had buried had not been found, and this allowed us to start over again. And so this is how my family endured the Boer war of 1899 – 1902.

Taken to the cleaners

Being taken to the Cleaners

I have had a lot of reaction from my Blog “may close acquaintance” . It would seem I have become so popular that some people even have my Blog as a link on their computers to see what or who I am writing about, “even Gollums brother and Schmiegel” are reading it. So what’s been happening in the world of the village idiot this week?

Well first let me say that I wait with baited breath for the new locally based magazine to come out as I am sure it will be the most perfect to date with all the I’s dotted, T’s crossed and not a grammatical error to be seen. If I was the editor of any magazine or newspaper that had been slated the month before I would hire an English professor to ensure that all was well with the editorials and articles . So I am sure that this issue will be just perfect. I have had a number of people asking me if I can continue with the stories I used to do for Speckled Bean on my Blog, so at least once per month I will do just that. I would like to say thanks to all the locals who have said they will miss my articles, “it’s much appreciated”

It will be interesting when the new magazine comes in to town from what I can gather its, still a few months away from becoming a reality so that will give the rest of us a head start with regards layout and content. Clarens is just awash at present with people looking to start up electronic newsletters “Yes that would be myself and a few other Clarenites”, Its going to be called Clarens Meander by POSOTIVE PUBLICATIONS, Don Vey is starting up a newspaper I believe will be called the Mountain Post and will from what I can gather concentrate on the arts in Clarens, Tshweu has Kgubestwana News (he is really doing well) and now there is also a Caledon News/Photostat copy of the Eish electronic news, its causing a stir in the village but they do admit they want to cause a reaction and stir controversy and already with the 2nd issue that seem to have just done that, cannot however see how they got 5 people to write in to say how great it is , pity none of the names are locals or people that one could probably contact, “but hey I may be wrong”

SEX seems to be the favourite topic of Caledon News at present with the editor basically saying that all women are Sluts and if they want anything from a man they just lie on their backs and “hey presto” you get what you want, I know many ladies who definitely do not fit this bill and I certainly have more respect for my wife and women in general to think that this is how they operate, but as they say “if the shoe fits” then your more than welcome to wear it.

I see that the overseas voters vote on the 15th, as you may well be aware I am not in favour of those South Africans who want to make a home of a foreign country and contributing to that country’s economy having the vote and making decisions for people who live in this country, I see some are even complaining that they will have to travel to vote, Sorry to inconvenience you “should we send you money for petrol as well”?

Started a new job on the 1st, its to run and sell stands on the Clarens Mountain estate and I am looking forward to it and also gives me an opportunity to learn some new skills. Must say sad that I cannot carry on with Dave and Barbara, but Mark is going to take over from me (he has also resigned from local magazine) and I am sure he will do well. Dave, Barbara thanks for all the support you gave Tania, Gabby and I and for the opportunity of working for you. You were not just my employers or friends you are like family to us and “you are the best” Mark I wish you all the best with Clarens Properties and you know that you can call on me anytime for advice. You and Kathleen have also become like family over the last few months.

Had to do 2 trips to Gauteng last week, not my favourite thing to do as the traffic is horrendous but I have to say that the ride on the bike there and back was enjoyable, the weather is perfect for riding and the countryside is just beautiful. I took a different route Via Balfour on Friday and the cosmos along the side of the road takes your breath away, the sunflowers and mielies are on the cusp of being harvested, bales of hay dot the fields and the leaves of the tree’s are turning giving a photographer or an artist so much to work with. The only down side of this time of year is that you know that winter is just around the corner. While the trip to or from Gauteng is a pleasure riding a bike there is a nightmare, in fact it reminds me of that 80’s video game Frogger. If a car is not pulling out in front of you, the taxis are playing chicken, leave an inch gap and a car is pulling in the space, leave 2 inches and it’s a truck. If that’s not bad enough you throw in kamikaze bikers who are trying to break the land speed record between robots and if the life expectancy of a delivery bike rider in the 80’s was 6 months then in 2009 it must be 6 weeks. With pedestrians trying to run across highways, you need eyes in every orifice just to “arrive alive”. The last 6kms to my folks house took me 45 minutes, “yes 45 minutes” I hade cramps in both hands from using the clutch and front brakes. It was great to see my folks and enjoy an evening of their company, they are moving soon, so that was the last time I would sleep there.

Plastic is on the Tunnel and the vegetables are growing like wildfire, must say that it looks good and that many people have contributed to it working, had a picnic on Sunday with Kath and Mark at the Mountain Estate and it is really an awesome piece of land. I can just imagine a number of houses there in the future with a white “Picked” fence (yes I know its wrong, but that Clarens spelling 101).

Have a great week

“The Village Idiot”
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