I mean, when a dog looks at me, I know exactly what it’s on about. “I want to go outside.” “I want to go inside.” “I want to go to the beach.” “I want you to throw the ball for me.” I want you to feed me.” “I want the rest of that lamb chop you are guzzling with relish while I’m just left to sit here and salivate.”
Nice and simple. I know where I stand with dogs. And they know where they stand with me. I eat the lamb chop. They get the bone. And then we get on with life.
Not so cats. Take this one that’s sitting on this verandah, looking at me. I have totally no idea of what’s it trying to tell me. Probably something like “I know you’re writing some rubbish about cats, using the way I’m looking at you right now as some feeble excuse to cat-bash and I want you to know that you’re getting it completely wrong. Just so you know.”
Pure evil: The house cat glares at me in disgust after pulling its bum-in-face manoeuvre Pic: Hatman
But I don’t know. Cats are like, um, women. Men like to think that they know about women. But they, er, we don’t. Perhaps that’s why most women love cats. Because they have some secret language to which men and dogs aren’t privy. Wait. I think I can develop this thread of thought. Yes. That’s it. Women are like cats. Men are like dogs. I could be politically correct – or gender-sensitive or whatever it’s called – and put the word “most” before “women” and “men”. Or even before “cats” and “dogs”. But I won’t. Because you know what I’m trying to get at here. Men because they will agree with me. Women because they are thinking “They (men) just don’t get it. And they just don’t get us (women and cats).”
No, we don’t. I mean, take this cat right here on the verandah. I want to say “my verandah” – because I’m paying the rent here. But I can’t. Because I’ve just moved in and the cat, well the cat has been around forever. It comes with the house. Hah. There’s a difference between cats and women. Women seldom come with a house. They usually leave with it. But I’m not going there.
Back to the cat. After realising that it was dealing with quite a stubborn sort of male blogger writing absolute dross about not understanding – or taking the trouble to stop to really understand – her (yup, this cat is both female and a cat), it slinked towards me, blinked alluringly, purred loudly and, as I started to smile, jumped on to the table and swung it’s ass around and into my face.
Nice. Are you getting my drift? No? Well, bear with me, ladies.
Aah, sweet: Dogs truly are a man's best friend and super-willing to plug into some fun and games Pic courtesy of McGugan & Walne
While in the early stages of recovering from having my line of vision sullied by a furry black bum, I sought solace in putting on the kettle and then checking my Twitter account. In no time at all, two tweets about cats minced through cyberspace. Both from women. Of course. Let us analyse these two tweets, which are surprisingly different in tone.
Tweet One (from “laurasomethingorother”): “Oh, sorry. And kitten. PsychoKitty reminded me that I also need to extend my greeting to all feline inhabitants of Earth. So…meow meow.”
Let us pause for a deep breath here. Right. Now, I don’t know about you – and I really don’t want to read too much into this, probably because it scares the hell out of me – but I would say that somebody has woken up somewhere in the world and feels bad because she said good morning to all of her cyber-friends (known to her or otherwise) without extending the same greeting to all of the cats (known to her or otherwise) of the world. That are united only in their penchant to sit around and stare at us. And, once they have concluded that what they are staring at is male and not taking the trouble to understand what it is trying to communicate, stick their asses in our faces. Before sliding off to try to kill a bird.
What is that all about? Why did “laurasomethingorother” feel moved to purr out a “have a good day” tweet to the planet’s cat population? You tell me. Somebody who knows a lot more about these things (undoubtedly a woman, or perhaps a psychotherapist in San Francisco or Green Point) might place this firmly in the category of phenomena which encompasses why females feel the need to own 96 pairs of shoes or why, at age 47, a woman neatly props up a small army of cuddly toys on her pillows before heading off to her high-powered office.
I don’t know. Because, I am all too slowly realising, I am not meant to know. It’s like why one never sees baby pigeons. Or why Julius Malema hasn’t spent some of his hard-earned dosh on hiring a PR spinperson. Or why mosquitoes exist. Simply inexplicable. Like this frigging cat that, after licking the same bum that it just shoved into my face, has resumed the “Sitting In The Same Place On My Verandah While Staring At The Silly Old Blogger Who Just Moved In And Thinks That This Is His House” position.
Tweet Two (from “amandasomeoneorother”): “Why do cats wash themselves, loudly and right next to your head at 3am?” Ah, I’m more confident about this one. Because you didn’t kick it out of the front door, close all of the windows, block up the chimney and fortify your bed with steel mesh before going to bed? Duh.
Right. I’m now feeling better about everything. Well, almost everything. And you’ll know why I added that caveat. Yes. This bloody cat.
I am suddenly reminded of a hilarious skit produced by Eddie Izzard live at the Palace Theatre in London back in the day. Yes, the one to which the now-very-famous cross-dressing funnyman turned up dressed as neither a woman or a man. Or as both. Well, he had put on full make-up but clearly hadn’t had the time to choose a frock so he was wearing guy’s clobber. This wasn’t nearly as confusing to me as cats. Or women. Anyway, Eddie did this really funny number where he compared the reactions of both a cat and a dog to a new model of car which had whizzed by.
You might know it? The cat sits back, paw on chin, and ponders over the torque capability of the new Renault Clio 1.6l SRX while the dog, tongue lolling out of one side of its slobbery gob, runs wildly after the car, shouting “Wait. Wait! Take me to the park!”
Hang on. I’ve just had an epiphany. A revelation of sorts. Which is quite unnerving. Especially as this infernal cat is now sitting on the table, its back to me, flicking its bushy tail around the screen of my laptop.
Doesn’t Eddie’s gag precisely illustrate the difference between women and men?
All of you, unless you’ve been living under a rock, would have heard about Earth Hour. Come to think of it, if you do live under a rock you probably haven’t been wasting the earth’s electricity supply and resources anyway – so you’re excused. Well done. And be careful when you light candles next to your rock and don’t set the veld alight.
The rest of you know all about Earth Hour and how important it is to be aware of how we abuse our natural resources by using electricity like it’s going out of fashion. Which, along with Eskom, Crocs and Lady Gaga, I hope will.
OK. Now listen up. If you are going to be celebrating Earth Hour (8.30pm-9.30pm) on Saturday night – read all about it here – there’s only one place to do it. Stanford, Western Cape, South Africa.
Yes, that’s Stanford. Twenty-three kilometres beyond Hermanus, driving away from Cape Town towards um, oh yes, Gansbaai. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me about the sublime village of Stanford but, wait, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Be patient, OK? OK.
I’m here to tell you that you had better at least switch all your lights off at the appointed hour or, even better, join all Stanfordians on the Village Green for a memorable night of darkness, light, the moon, market, food and all that jazz that Nadia Pheiffer has kindly arranged for us.
You don’t have to be ridiculous about it. If you live in Kakamas or Cairo, we’re not expecting you to drive all the way to Stanford but, if you do, I’ll personally buy you a restorative Fanta Grape at the Stanford Arms.
Right. Movie time. While I fiddle with the projector, get out the popcorn, switch the lights off and enjoy…
Check? That was an ad, right? So you don’t have to go waving your Woolies duvet cover outside your window. Adpeople get a bit carried away sometimes. They’re just illustrating a point. A point I feel very passionate about. Like Stanford. Very passionate. And, while we’re on the subject, let me introduce you to Janet Marshall. Hatpeople, meet Janet, Janet meet my loyal and long-suffering Hatpeople. Cool. Here we go…
There she is! Janet Marshall. Effervescence personified. And as sharp as a lemon.
Now there’s a lot I could tell you about Janet. Suffice to say that, to many of us Janet and Stanford go together like bacon and eggs, like a fire and a jolly good Raka red, like… OK, you get my drift.
Now the thing you really need to know about Janet is that she is as passionate about Stanford, its people, its vibe and its potential as a tourist destination as Julius Malema is about talking crap and pissing everybody off. Which is pretty passionate, isn’t it?
OK. So here’s a heads-up for you folk lucky enough to be reading about this for the very first time. Janet’s going to be on Whale Coast FM radio between 12 and 1pm tomorrow (today if you’re reading this on Friday), making her debut as the host of a new slot devoted to what people can do if they come to the Overstrand area for a weekend or a week or, if they’re really lucky, a month.
Which, you may be totally gobsmacked to know, is a lot. Tomorrow’s show (we’ve established that that means Friday, right?) is dedicated to, yes, Stanford. Well, Stanford and Earth Hour and the general vibe that’s coming out of your favourite Overberg village these days (read “red-hot”).
You’ll be equally gobsmacked (and perhaps horrified) to learn that she’s chosen me to banter away the hour with her. Don’t ask. I don’t know. Perhaps everybody else is busy trimming their fingernails at 12pm tomorrow or something.
Never mind. I’ll do my best to keep up with the highly effusive, engaging, totally rad raconteur that is Ms Marshall. I like a challenge. OK. 12pm. Friday. Whale Coast FM. 96.0mz. Tune in. Or I’ll be tuning you.
Look. It’s not often that I come over all political on this blog but, in the interests of SA-positivity, something has to be done about Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, the two plonkers who blight our political landscape – and all of our lives – in the name of the ANC Youth League.
And something has been done. I am proud to be among a number of South African bloggers who endorse the statement which appears below.
Read on. And feel at liberty to let me know what you think. And that, in the spirit of true democracy, includes you, Messrs Malema and Shivambu…
Floyd Shivambu: see all evil
Bloggers For a Free Press
Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa. We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic
safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.
The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.
Julius Malema: speak all evil
We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but a insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.
We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.
Everybody knows that I hosted the party of the year in 2009.
I just love celebrating my birthday properly. So I invited Frikkie, Lofty, Tich and old Farquaharson round to the Bush Tavern in Umdloti and we had a right skinful while watching the rugger.
Never mind that the Boks lost. Never mind that Lofty got bounced out for trying to snog the barmaid. Never mind that Frikkie fell down the steps on the way out, ricocheted off a really big oke’s girlfriend and took a mighty right to the ear for his trouble. Never mind that Farquaharson, as is his custom, deposited his zooosh kebab on Mrs Hindmarch’s Morris Minor. And never mind that I had to be reminded of all this the next day after being rudely woken up at 2pm in a zinc bath full of what had been ice at the bottom of Tich’s mother-in-law’s garden. Great night out.
But it appears that my party-hosting skills have been usurped.
And, once again, it is that young bounder who goes by the name of Seth Rotherham who has dared to upstage me in the partytjie stakes.
How, you ask, has Camps Bay’s premier blogger and unparalleled sex symbol managed this? Good question.
Well, the little blighter has only gone and hired some posh club in Camps Bay, secured the services of, in Seth’s breathless words, “South Africa’s Most Exciting Party-Pumping Entertainment Act – The Wedding DJs” and then reeled in every one of his infamous Weather Girls (read excruciatingly gorgeous swimwear models), hasn’t he?
It'll be a nice change to sip a cocktail with Gen instead of getting rat-arsed with old Frikkie
The slick-on-the-draw mind behind 2oceansvibe.com has left no stone unturned in his quest to trump me and for this I am, like, totally stoked. Because he’s invited me along to witness it all.
Something you will not be privy to if you haven’t yet snapped up a ticket. There weren’t that many left at 10.30pm last night (Thursday) so if you want to be rubbing snakeskin boobtubes – or whatever the fantabulous wear these days – with the fantabulous and the even more fantabulous and watch me totally chopping up the floor with my terrifyingly suave Umdloti Wardance, then you had better get on to Webticket like quicksticks. Eighty ront a shot gets you in. There will be zero tickets at the door so don’t even entertain the idea that you can sommer rock up and swan in.
No, really. Seth has taken The Party of the Year standard up a few notches with this little soiree and, with the help of Marina Nestel, uberbabe behind The Little Black Book, tonight’s fandango should cook like Jamie Oliver on, well, whatever, Jamie Oliver is on.
I’m so looking forward to hooking up with my close friend Gen Morton (don’t listen to what people are saying, we are only very good friends and that’s the end of it, right?) and hearing how her very hectique modelling career has been going and, y’know, just chilling in the VIP suites with all of my other model, photographer, film and general celeb connections. I’m not dropping names because, as you know by now, I like to keep it all below the radar. Makes a refreshing change from getting slaughtered with Frikkie and the boys though.
I’ve got it. Why don’t you read what Rothers himself is saying about his own party by sliding effortlessly over to his very entertaining, if a little cheeky, 2oceansvibe blog and reading all about it. Hang on, you’ll need to scroll down a bit, past the pics of Candice Swanepoel “jumping around in her underwear” – Seth rolls like that, to the bit about The Vibe and what will be going down at St Yves in Camps Bay from 6.30pm tonight.
How did you get on with that? He’s got a hilarious turn-of-phrase has our boy, hey? Yes. OK. So let us look forward to a lethal cocktail of glamour, terribly subtle body language, immaculate grooming and terribly good-looking people in very tasteful clobber. I’ll do my best to fit right in. But I can’t promise anything.
So what are you waiting for? Shimmy on over to here and grab your tickets now. Check you later.
As I wrote here yesterday, Stanford is a village of humungous charm and character. And so are its people.
People make the place, yes? Yes.
And among many people dedicated to making Stanford an even better place than it already is is Paul Chew.
Did I say charm and character? Paul has aircraft carrier-loads of both. And guts.
And a yearning for adventure which has taken him all over the world, attempting the weirdest challenges… and overcoming them.
Paul Chew... adventurer extaordinaire and a man who wants to make a difference
Climbing icebergs, free-diving with sharks, crossing India in a ricksha, swimming the English Channel… these are just some of Paul’s gut-wrenching pursuits.
His most recent exploit was to take part in the Mongol Derby, a very demanding horse-ride across a vast tranch of China’s most inhospitable territory. He finished third, despite being the oldest person in the race.
Pure guts. But that’s not all. Paul’s thirst for adventure is matched by his hunger for positive change in the world.
His challenges have helped to raise more than R500 000 for the Mercy Corps which provides funds to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.
He’s relatively new to Stanford but, once “chosen” by this crazy village to take up residency, he looked around him and saw that all was not sweetness and light for the the people of Die Skemers, a “coloured township” up on the hill above Stanford village.
So when he heard that Inspector Mpanda of the South African Police Services was running a boxing club to give the kids something other to do than get into trouble, Paul wanted to help.
Insp Mpanda needs help. His pugilistic prodigies are enthusiastically running the roads around Stanford to get fit but they don’t have a venue. Nowhere to actually box, nowhere with a ring, nowhere with a punchbag, nowhere with gloves, nowhere with anything. Nowhere to keep warm and dry while they try to become boxers. And Insp Mpanda’s kids have potential. At a recent Western Cape tournament, 20 of his charges scooped 13 medals, gold and silver, between them.
It would be really cool, don’t you think, if they had a building in which to train. Paul thinks so.
So he’s riding the Cape Epic next week. Eight hundred kilometres of of monstrously hard mountain bike racing from Wellington through Ceres, Worcester and Elgin to Lourensford Estate. Paul has shaken off a bout of flu to complete his training for his first-ever bike race and will start on Sunday.
Paul in training for the Cape Epic, eight days and 800km of extremely testing mountain bike riding
He would love for his efforts in the world’s toughest off-road bike race to benefit the little boxers of Stanford. For whom a boxing training venue would mean the world.
So, how can you help? I’m glad you asked. Because you can. You can sponsor Paul Chew, kilometre by tortuous kilometre, and the money you pledge will go towards enabling the good inspector to buy the materials to build a venue for the boxing club. This club will help to bring the quite separate communities of Stanford together and give the kids hope. Hope that they can become better boxers. And better people. Nothing wrong with that, hey?
* You can read much more about Paul’s deeds of derring-do by hurrying straight over to here. Please contact Janet Marshall at email@example.com or on 082 456 8091/028 341 0216 to make your pledge to support Paul Chew in his gut-busting effort to help the children of Stanford
We all have them. Places where we feel at peace with ourselves. Where we feel immediately at home.
This is how I feel about Stanford. And this how I felt when I first came to Stanford in March, 2008. Instantly at home. At one with the place, the people, the homes, the dogs, the whole beautiful vibe. Just like that.
But, in 2008, I had newspaper work beckoning me in Cape Town and I answered the call, leaving my dogs to revel in Stanfordian bliss in the loving, nurturing hands of dear friend Janika Dorland.
Before the year was out, however, I found myself on a work exchange at a Buddhist Retreat, Bodhi Khaya, near Stanford and the magnetism of this charming market village was again irresistible.
A scene of Stanfordian bliss... come Earth Hour this village green will be plunged into darkness, pinpricks of light illuminating happy, shiny faces
The warmth and easy friendliness of the locals in this village that time has almost forgotten made it easy for me to fit in and now I find myself once again nestling in Stanford’s roomy bosom.
I needed to forge new leads for freelance writing work in Cape Town and I have chosen to do that at a distance. The exact distance between the bustling, stimulating cultural metropolis that is Cape Town and the Western Cape’s largely undiscovered gem, just a relaxed two-hour drive away past Hermanus.
A local has gone on record as saying that “you don’t choose Stanford, Stanford chooses you”. Well, I must have done something to please the spiritual powers-that-be. I say that because, although I am not given to undue flakiness, this blessed village is certainly presided over by a celestial committee of kindred – and overwhelmingly kindly – spirits. In the physical world, it appears to run itself, nudged gently along by the nurturing minds of good folk who were chosen by Stanford’s guiding spirits to protect their legacy.
They (some locals) say that Stanford sits squarely on no fewer than seven ley lines. I must say that nobody has been able (yet) to give me exact GPS co-ordinates for them. But I can tell you that there have been times, golden moments, when I sense that I am tightly embraced by all of them.
This may be when I am walking the “wandelpad” along the edge of the beguiling Klein River, it may come as I stand on the village green (the last remaining one in South Africa) and stare at the blue-purple-green-grey Klein River mountains which semi-circle the village, while I savour a fine cappuccino on the stoep of the Arts Cafe, devour fine food on the vine-smothered verandah of Madre’s Kitchen or even as I sup a pint of locally-brewed Birkenhead ale at The Stanford Arms.
Landlord Jannie Boonzaier checks to ensure that the green light - the only traffic light in the village - is on, signalling that The Stanford Arms is open for boozeness
But, in trying to describe the specialness, the thoroughly unique vibe of Stanford, I know that I fail to do it justice. You simply have to be here, to experience it for yourself. To see whether you are lucky enough to be “chosen” by Stanford. Or temporarily entertained by its charms and then spat out, back from whence you came.
Stanford isn’t for everybody and you would be wrong to perceive any elitism in this. Many have come, been seduced by its allure… and then dumped by this ageless and graceful beauty after whom everybody lusts to have an affair.
The Stanford Galleries' Arts Cafe - the fulcrum of the village - is the best place for a coffee... and to start musing how to begin your passionate affair with the grand and elegant old lady in whose bosom you now sit
Many may find tranquil, becalming Stanford simply too small and sleepy for their tastes. And, indeed, it does appear that the village has fallen aslumber under the compelling spell of its rare natural beauty, if not the magical ley lines.
But, it falls to me to happily report, there are bright young minds working now and anew to change all of that. I have been fortunate to attend a couple of meetings in the two weeks I have been here and the torrent of ideas to pull together all of the glittering strands of Stanford’s charms and put it firmly on South Africa’s tourism must-see map is in full flood.
It is too early to divulge the plans to breathe new life into our old lady but, believe me, there will be compelling reason for people, especially those with children, to veer off their beaten track – if only for a weekend.
Stanford is stirring. Stanford is coming alive. And it starts with its annual celebration of Earth Hour on the Village Square on March 27. The village’s hour-long plunge into darkness on behalf of the environment has, in the past, been low-key, attended by locals and a few curious out-of-towners.
A highly committed woman by the name of Nadia Pheiffer has changed all of that. She and her helpers have called on some fine musicians to create a jazzy vibe around Earth Hour this year. Before they even grace the stages of the world-renowned Cape Town Jazz Festival, the likes of Geln Robertson, Chad Zerf, Piano Ben, saxophonist Les Witz and Johan Dowries will fill the dark night with their jazzy tunes. They will end the festivities with a free jazz jam session.
Much earlier, from 3pm, the High Street will be closed to traffic, allowing the traditional Sunset Market to get into full swing with Stanfords’ antiques shops and trading stores spilling their wares out into the street.
From 6pm onwards the Earth Hour picnickers will converge on the Village Green, eating and making merry until the church bells signal the onset of the hour during which a black darkness and a respectful hush will fall on the village.
I could go on. But I won’t. How much more do you want? Yes. That’s right. You’re sold, aren’t you? You should be. Earth Hour is a phenomenal opportunity for you to do your bit for our fragile environment. And allow Stanford the opportunity to choose you. Well. What are you waiting for?
I’ve always said that I would blog about anything as long as it didn’t involve cute kids or pets. Too obvious. Too easy. OK, so forget that… and meet Bella…
Bella... in classic pose. You should see what her tongue has to do to make way for three tennis balls in her gob
Right. What comes to mind? “The lights are on but no one’s at home”? “Not the sharpest tool in the shed”? It’s OK. You’re spot-on.
I chose Bella (or “Golden Glow” as she was known 12 years ago because of the shade of nail polish painted on to her claws to differentiate her from the other eight of the cutest Lab puppies you ever did see) because of the way she looked at me. She was trying to make a connection of sorts. She seemed to be saying… “You are quite smartly dressed. You look fairly responsible. You’ve probably got a good job. Take me. I fancy some top-quality grub and a swimming pool in the back garden and you look the type who could give me both.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I paid my money and put her in a box on the passenger seat. She squealed and cried and yelped all the way home. She had clearly been possessed by a premonition of what was to come. But, at first, all was well. She joined another new arrival, Benson the swarthy-black Staffie, at Coz Cottage and, indeed, was well fed and watered, walked and swum. In fact, the “cuddle puddle” at the back of my Victorian cottage was claimed as her own by Bella and I often had to drag her out so that I could swim on a hot day.
I got married and life got even better for Bel. We moved to a bigger house with a far bigger swimming pool. She discovered a party trick. She would slide into the pool at the deep end, barely making a splash, and dive to the bottom – at least 2 metres below the surface – locate her ball and bring it triumphantly to the top. Our guests would marvel at this feat, especially as it was produced by a dog so somnambulant that she would sleep in the middle of the lawn through the most electric and deafening of Durban thunderstorms.
All three dogs – Jo and I had added the feistiest of Jack Russells to the mix – loved having the ball thrown for them. I tried to ensure that all three had a fair crack at getting to the ball first. But Trouncer, the Jack Russell and the most competitive dog I have known, invariably won the race. Bensie would feign disinterest and find a spot under a tree to chill and look disarmingly handsome.
Bella would compete in the nicest, politest way, never once being tempted to attack the pesky little terrier which continually ran away with her ball. That’s how she was. And is. The sweetest, gentlest, most patient dog. My late mum’s favourite dog.
Then Jo and I got divorced. I was forced to close down my arts and entertainment free sheet paper. My life spiralled. It was automatic that I should be given custody of the dogs. I loved them. I flew to Cape Town to start a new life, all three dogs panting in anxiety in the hold beneath me. It was very cavalier of me. Things didn’t work as planned and I was forced into finding good homes for the two big dogs. It was best for them, traumatising for me.
Dear old Bel fell with her great, blonde, furry bum firmly in the butter. Friends Helen Walne and Brandon McGugan took pity on her (and me) and offered to take her on. Brave. She was now 10 years old and, typical of Labradors, was being slowed down by her wonky hindquarters. Bella had always been ungainly, clumsy… and permanently itchy. She scratched, she rubbed herself against walls. Large clumps of fur would fall from her flanks. Put kindly, she was no contender for Crufts Dog of the Year.
But Helen and Brandon took excellent care of the old girl, kept her active… and gave her a new lease on life. She responded with gusto. And, as her physical facilities, such as they were, slowed to a pace at which the nicknames of “Heffalump” and “Pachyderm” were fondly delivered, she decided to fight back. In her quiet yet determined, even pugnacious, way.
She found an excellent china in Joey, Helen and Brandon’s athletic and razor-sharp Africanus. Balls were thrown in the park each evening, Joey greyhounding after them with almost effortless efficiency, The Pachyderm sloping in a very distant second.
Ag shame. But our girl felt no shame, nor displayed it. She simply continued to enjoy every second of her new lease on life.
Joey and Bel
Last Sunday, perhaps the hottest day of the year in Cape Town, Helen and a friend took the dogs for a walk in shady Newlands Forest. It was inevitable that Bella would find water. And when she did, the old Pachyderm pointed herself towards it and galloped like a pensioned-off carthorse. She had to negotiate a steep descent to get her swim. Fail. She slipped and tumbled like a ball of granite down a mountainside. a leg was ensnared in a root and she hung there in pain until Helen could find help to have her removed and carted off to the 24-hour animal hospital.
It didn’t look good. In fact, it looked terrible. A hip had been dislocated and, despite not complaining at all, Bel was clearly in pain. An operation would carry no certainty of success and would be expensive. Many vets would have urged that the old girl, at her age and in her condition, be “put down”.
But Rooies Dorland of Twin Oaks Veterinary Clinic in Claremont had previous experience of Bella’s physical woes. And knew that there was something special about this old Labby, her steely determination to continue living. Rooies had already removed tumours from Bella’s belly and knew that she had somehow survived the malignant cells that had threatened to eat her. Cancer had not killed her, so why should a dislocated leg?
After a discussion with surgeon Leone de Klerk, a decision was made to operate. It was highly unlikely that Bella’s hip bone, once returned to its socket, would remain there. The bone would be cut, fixed next to the socket and allowed to slowly knit. Surgery would take place this morning.
But the Old Pachyderm had other ideas. Last night, while the old girl lay untidily in her basket, Helen awoke to hear her give out a little yelp of pain. She checked on her. Bella seemed OK.
This morning, while preparing to go to Twin Oaks for the big op, Bella seemed to be able to put pressure on her dodgy leg. Once our Bel was presented to the vets, both Rooies and Leone were amazed. They had never experienced anything like this in their combined 55 years of treating animals. Bella had somehow popped her hip bone back into its socket!
The operation cancelled, Helen and Brandon were told to allow Bella to rest for six weeks and that she should be given only “light exercise”.
She is back home and looking rather pleased with herself. Everybody is gobsmacked by her will to live. By her bloodyminded refusal to let a few setbacks drag her down.
I am so proud of The Pachyderm, my Heffalump, the dog which refuses to roll over and die. Bel is an inspiration to us all. I suspect she will continue for some time to determinedly chase that ball. And it won’t really matter all that much to her if she doesn’t get to it first.
It appears that, for Bel, it’s the chase that really matters.
Only now am I able to deliver the Last Post on The Heart and Sole Tour saga.
And it is delivered in pretty much the same key as Peter Sellers used to such diabolical effect in the opening scenes of The Party.
I hope that you, dear Hatpeople, will find this as funny. But I doubt it.
Because it’s not. It has taken me damn nigh a week to even begin to drain the porridge from my stultified brain and start to order some thought process about the rather epic two-month unicycle ride from Durban to Cape Town, which ended in dramatic fashion at The V&A Waterfront last Friday.
In the case of our phenomenally gutsy unicyclist, Geoff Brink, it was utter physical exhaustion which enveloped him once the adrenaline began to ebb from his body at the end of his record 2,000km one-wheeled feat. But it was the mental pressure required of us to focus on finishing our cavalier mission, amid some distracting sideshows, which led to us spectacularly falling out at the finish line.
Kim, Geoff's fiancee, joins the Heart and Sole Tour at Peregrine's Farm Stall near Grabouw on the penultimate day of the crazy ride
And only now can this story be told.
Please know that we were always mindful of the fact that the Heart and Sole Tour was about raising awareness of the awful devastation that landmines continue to wreak on the lives of innocent civilians around the world. And, of course, it should always have been about that alone. But Geoff Brink and I are only human. And very fallible humans at that. So it was that, early in the tour, when pressure was brought to bear on us from back home, that the ugly spectre of the male ego leapt to the fore. The jostling for position in the Heart & Sole roadside pod of the alpha male instinct began to permeate the high-spirited vibe of our beautiful roadtrip.
Don’t get me wrong. There were bucketfuls of banter, a chuckling stream of laughs and a camaraderie that one comes to expect of two friends combining to achieve something both mad and magnificent. In fact, many of you might question whether the flipside of our tour should be told at all. The Heart & Sole Tour undoubtedly achieved its objective and what purpose is there in hanging out the stinky unwashed laundry for all to sniff at? What goes on tour stays on tour and all that crap.
Geoff "Heartman" Brink negotiates the downhill treachery of Sir Lowry's Pass. A moment of respectfulness, please!
I’ll answer that. I have mulled over this for nearly a week. I am fascinated by the human condition. That is why I chose journalism as a career. I am equally captivated by the human spirit. And this piece of introspection – should that be “retrospection”? – is about wanting to understand how Geoff and I managed to complete our trip despite our differences as much as because of the unity we displayed when it really mattered.
I have talked with people about this since I emerged blinking into the bright Cape Town sunlight from the highly buffered bubble that was our “hard shoulder crawl” across our great country. Some have drawn comparisons with “The Long Way Down”, Ewan McGregor’s and Charlie Boorman’s motorcycle jaunt from Britain through Europe and down to the foot of Africa.
I must confess that I have yet to watch the whole movie. Geoff and I began to watch it as an entertaining aside to our minimal preparation for the Heart and Sole Tour but, dismayed by the showiness, grandstanding and, quite frankly, over-indulgence displayed over what amounted to a pretty easy ride, fell asleep.
I don’t see the similarities. Yes, Geoff’s fiancee, Kim Millar joined us towards the end of our ride, a development that, for me, was both unexpected and temporarily gripped me with trepidation… but, such was my determined hyperfocus on getting our unicyclist safely to the Mother City that her presence in the back-up truck proved to matter not a jot. And I know that Geoff was greatly motivated by his sweetheart to bravely finish what he had started.
Mmmm. "Cape Town, 40km"? Take that!
What caused our “Skirmish at The Clock Tower” was the result of two very tired minds and one exhausted body melting down after 58 days of intense concentration and unbelievable strain. So what happened, you may ask? OK. Fair question. But I’m not saying. I have too much respect for what Geoff achieved and, yes, for what we as a team did for people who deserve a better life than to tarnish in detail the magnificent outcome of the Heart and Sole Tour.
Never mind the bollards which prohibited myself and the back-up truck from following our unicyclist – and our final-day amaonetya.co.za escort of unicyclists Alan van Heerden and Johnny Cronje down to the Clock Tower. After watching Geoff’s back for 58 days and nigh on 2,000km, a row of concrete bollards stopped me from seeing the boys home. Emotions spilled over. There were harsh words. It was unsavoury. It was, after what we had been through, almost inevitable. It happened. It is over. It’s gone. Gone, gone, gone. No regrets. We move on. We have learned lessons.
Johnny (left) and Alan (right) of amaonetya.co.za and OddWheel Unicycles escort Geoff into Cape Town and safely down to the V & A Waterfront. Awesomeness, guys!
Before we set out on December 28, 2009 on a mission which many called impossible, both Geoff and I knew that there would be challenges for which we could not prepare, that lessons would be taught that might make better people of us. And so it proved. And I am massively thankful for this gift. I remain privileged to have had the experience of supporting Geoff Brink on his incredible journey.
Crikey, what a ripper, Nige! You are a total mensch.
All pix (apart from this one): Hatman
* I will be working with Kai von Pannier of The Sole of Africa to draw up a full list of individuals, companies and establishments which should be acknowledged for the part they played in helping The Heart and Sole Tour to achieve its objective.
In the meantime, I would like to thank these people for the enormous help – and inspiration – they gave Geoff and I: John Fogarty, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Kim Millar, Olivia “OJ” Symcox, Rox-ann Govender, Kai and Cindy von Pannier, Mike Kendrick, Toni Rowland, Dilana, Sir Richard Branson, John L. Evans, Alan van Heerden, Johnny Cronje, Sharon Heger Basel, Steve Connor, Jimmy Reynolds, Andre Cronje, Rob Gower, Rich and Sarah McLennan, Neil and Hayley Millar, Kathy Reay, Dennis Theron, Pierre and Elise Brink, Jonny and Jane Roberts, Keith Chapman, Vaughan Raw, Warren Bartram, Donatella Pontesilli, Doc and Maggie Mears, Mama Cordelia, Martin Schroder, Toni Brodelle, Emily Shayler, Paul Chew, Janet Marshall, Marc Forrest, Mike Adams, Mandy Morgan, Fred and Yolandi Roed, Mike Perk, Clayton and Paula Whitaker, Father Matthias, Mama Zondeka, Nic Nel, Marcelle Delew-Kappen, Andreas Kappen, Brett Horner, Julie Davies, Seth Rotherham, Mike Kuttner, Jacqui Daniels, Riaan Manser, Bob Skinstad, Claire Alexander, Dave Duarte, Chris Rawlinson, Mike Saxby, Ken Taytasac, Penny Sandham, Carol-Anne Stephenson, Craig Bettridge, Vicky Nardell, Annette Oberholster, Helen Walne, Brandon McGugan, Martina Gilli, Michelle Solomon, Krista (New York), Neal Collins, Chris Whitfield, Lesley Byram, Marilyn Bernard, Wendy Landau, Dhashen Moodley. If anybody feels left out, it’s because you will be thanked in the full list to appear on both The Sole Of Africa website and this blog.
* One last thing. Both Geoff and I exhausted our savings on The Heart & Sole Tour. He’s a freelance photographer and a very good one at that. We both need to find paid work, he to finance his forthcoming wedding, I to pay the rent for a ramshackle dwelling down near the river. Should you have some paid work to slide our way, that would be completely cool. Ta!