I’m an utter sports nut. Well, a football, rugby and cricket man. Liverpool FC, Lamontville Golden Arrows, The Sharks, The KZN Dolphins and, on the international front, Bafana Bafana, the Springboks and the Proteas. Non-negotiable. Arguing with me about my choice of teams is like arguing with the ref after he’s made his decision. And like Grand Prix racing, the Tour de France and that WWF malarkey – totally pointless.
So, we’re talking sport this morning. Especially some not altogether widely-known trivia to do with South African sport. Fascinating stuff…
“When Vincent Tshabalala won the French Open in 1976, he became the first black golfer to win a major tournament on the European Circuit.”
“Bob Hewitt and Frew McMillan won 57 career doubles titles, including three Wimbledon crowns. After teaming up, they played 45 matches before being beaten.”
How cool is Frew's cap? Pic: Getty Images
“Grant Khomo captained the National Soccer XI, won the SA singles and doubles tennis titles, represented Transvaal at cricket and rugby and captained the SA Bantu Rugby Board first team.”
“Ernie Els was the first non-US golfer in 90 years to win the US Open twice, a feat repeated two years later by another South African, Retief Goosen.”
“More than 50% of the world’s paragliding records have been set in South Africa.”
“Football (soccer) is South Africa’s most popular sport and is followed by 78% of South African adults, according to an SABC Markinor survey in 2004. Rugby is next most popular at 47%, followed by cricket (39%).” Er, followed by wrestling (25%). Eish.
* If you scroll up to your right on this page, you’ll see a big fat badge saying something about the 2010 South African Blog Awards. I’ve entered your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog into three categories: Best New Blog, Best Personal Blog and The Kulula Best Travel Blog. I wouldn’t be at all offended if you clicked on that there badge and nominated http://www.fredhatman.co.za in any of these categories (be sure to type in your e-mail address on the blog awards site for your nomination to be registered). In fact, were I to amaze all of us by winning something, the Birkenhead is on me down the Stanford Arms! Cheers!
Never mind. Make a cuppa (or something stronger, I won’t judge you), get comfy in the old recliner, take a deep breath and ease yourself into this spirits-lifting video…
I hope that you feel better now. You do, don’t you? Yes. That was quite beautiful. Glad I was able to becalm your soul.
Mind you, I could blow smoke rings at the age of 12. And dolphins are far more intelligent than me. So why are we so amazed that they can blow bubbles like that?
* Dear Hatpeople, if you look up to your right on this page, you’ll see a great big fat badge saying something about the 2010 South African Blog Awards. I’ve only been around for a year so it may be a tad cheeky of me but I’ve entered your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog into three categories: Best New Blog, Best Personal Blog and The Kulula Best Travel Blog (well, I think I’ve been parping the vuvuzela big-time for people to travel to our Beloved Country!). I wouldn’t be at all offended if those of you who quite dig reading my stuff clicked on that there badge and nominated http://www.fredhatman.co.za in any one of those three categories. In fact, were I to amaze all of us by winning something, the Birkenhead is on me down the Stanford Arms! Cheers!
All in the day of the life of the average South African, I suppose. We just roll like that. As 2010 World Cup fans will be delighted to discover when they step out of our airports in early June to find many of us scaling tall buildings without hooks and crampons (or whatever wussy mountaineers use). Tall buildings like World Cup stadiums as we couldn’t afford/were too lazy to buy a ticket and we’re trying to climb in for mahala (free).
But I digress. Back to the dolphins. Because that’s what I want to chat about today. Dolphins. I just love ‘em. Don’t you just love ‘em? Yes. You do. And, here in the paradise we call South Africa, we tend to ignore the drivel that British rag the Daily Star trots out daily about imaginary earthquakes and machete massacres in our country and focus on the loads of positive stuff that surrounds us.
Like dolphins. Never mind all the whales and sharks you can wave to from your wetsuit in the waves, we are literally surrounded ocean-to-ocean by beautiful dolphins and the positive vibe they are always putting out. I so dig that.
Now, the bit of bioscope (they call it video these days) footage I am about to show you wasn’t created by some National Geographic geek on his mega-Mac after a film crew bigger than the one that made Avatar had returned from pointing 20 cameras at our ocean for six months. No, this shaky-cam piece of fillim is the result of a couple of ordinary South African okes spending their Freedom Day messing about on a boat off Cape Point.
One thousand dolphins, Hatpeople! Yes. Een duisend! Ja, you read me right. Local digital marketing guru Andy Hadfield and his mates (actually I think it was Terence Faul waving the camera) filmed at least 1,000 dolphins (conservative estimate) chasing around after a baitball yesterday.
OK. So make a cuppa (or whatever is your poison for this time of day), kick back and be blown away (remember this is not National Geographic so make an allowance for there being no zoom shots of the dolphins’ eyes or whatever)…
How was that? Pretty damn cool, hey? I mean, you couldn’t see all one thousand – or two thousand or whatever – really close-up but you got a sense of the phenomenon being played out right there in our sea just off the Cape, didn’t you?
Yup, that’s how it is in our beloved country. One moment you’re just cruising around looking for a good spot to stop and stick the steaks on the braai and the next thing you’re having a total jol with thousands of dolphins or elephants or whiteys trying to do the toyi-toyi while Helen Zille holds her own Freedom Day rally or, yes, heavily muscled bikers looking for new friends with whom to play Charades at the corner pub.
It’s an exciting place to be, South Africa. No wonder, now that we and not Britain are hosting the 2010 World Cup, those jealous, pasty-faced journos at the Daily Star have to dream up rubbish with which to try to embarrass us. Plonkers.
Just wait till they come to cover the World Cup. I’m going to take them free diving with Great Whites. Some really angry ones. And start some fights with them. Just so that they get a taste of the extreme sports that we enjoy every day. And make the Daily Star hacks feel right at home here in the most wonderful country in the world.
So The Heartman and I will trundle out of Durban from Wilson’s Wharf on Monday (ETD: 8.30am) headed for 1,700km of pure adventure. We are jumping up and down with anticipation. There is a humungous reservoir brimming with adrenaline that needs to be broken. As my young surfer tjommies would say, we are “amped to a scale of total radness”.
But I’ll miss the Bush Palace, our Heart & Sole Tour control tower nestling in the bush on a hill overlooking our sublime Indian Ocean in Umdloti. I’ll miss the resident population (five people, seven dogs, a troop of vervet monkeys, a few buck and gollyness only knows how many beautiful birds and snakes.
I’ll miss the irregular cabaret put on by the humpback whales and dolphins. I only wish they would give me a start time, like they do on television, so that I can have my Kodak Instamatic at the ready. The sunrises, the electrical storms, the lagoon, the Bushguy.
Me and Bushguy are making quite a nice connection. We passed on the 147 steps leading up to the Bush Palace the other day and got to talking about our bush idyll and how long it would last before the greedy property developers start munching on it to regurgitate huge profits with even more high-rise holiday apartment blocks which wealthy people occupy for a month each year.
He asked me if I had watched “What The Bleep!” and I said I had seen it a couple of years ago. “Would you like to see it again?” asked Bushguy, “I have a DVD I could lend you.” “I would,” I replied and before I had finished saying that, Bushguy had raced back to his hut in the bush, grabbed it and was thrusting it into my hands. “You can’t watch this often enough,” he said.
There you go. If you want to begin to understand what makes the enigmatique Bushguy tick, get out “What The Bleep!” and learn.
In the meantime, enjoy some images of life at The Bush Palace, an extraordinary place that I will greatly miss over the coming weeks…
This school of dolphins graced our bit of the ocean yesterday morning Pic: Hatman
This electrical storm popped by to say a loud hello yesterday evening... Pic: Hatman
Then not one rainbow but two decided to give us a bit of a show... Pic: Hatman
Then there was just time for quite a nifty sunset before the sky fell into blackness and the stars burst forth... Pic: Hatman
But that wasn’t enough. At 1am this morning, The Heartman takes a call from distant neighbour Darren Aiken that a bushpig has been spotted snouting around in his part of the bush…
... and this is what it looked like. Schweetness overload, hey? Pic: The Heartman
All in a day’s hard labour while living the holiday in the Umdloti bush. I’m sure we have your sympathy. Because we’ll need it when we leave all of this behind to unicycle all the way down to Cape Town! Kaapschstad, hier kom ons!
If activity on this blog in the past couple of days has appeared to be less detectable on your radar than the usual blip-blip-blip, my dear Hatpeople, then it’s because I’ve been moving house. Through necessity.
Yes. The staff at Hatman Mansions, led by Alfred, demanded a summer break. I played with the idea of denying them their annual holiday, if only for the entertainment value of watching them toyi-toyi on the front lawn in colourful protest, but chose not to provoke an international incident.
Being an innately decent sort, I declared that they could naff off for a full three months – on full pay – as I was off to organise and participate in The Heart & Sole Tour – y’know, the one in which The Heartman (Geoff Brink) will UNICYCLE 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town to raise awareness of the very nasty scourge of landmines.
Nkosi Alfred roused the staff into a joyous and frenzied dance, sang “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” in isiZulu, grabbed their belongings and raced for the gate, pausing only briefly to give me an interesting wave which appeared suspiciously to feature quite prominently the extended use of middle fingers.
So it is that I find myself at The Bush Palace. Now I must try to find words to do justice to my new, if far too temporary home. Idyllic. Sublime. Chuffing magnificent. Those will have to suffice.
I mean, please take just a mo to drink in the view from where I sit right now, hammering out these words of happy…
The view from my desk on the deck outside The Hatman Wing... not altogether shabby, hey? Even if a tad cloudy on the first day. Oh, that's Meditation Man posing on the balustrade... he's another story at another time!
Mmmm. OK. Let’s step right up to the balustrade and take another peek at our slice of the Oceana Indiana, shall we?
Oh, look. A beach. that will be our private Bush Palace beach, people. Yumness. Care to join us for a braai this weekend? Bring and share.
How do you feel about that?
How did I feel when I awoke at my usual time of 4.58am, stumbled out of the Hatman Wing to sup on last night’s tea… and saw about a dozen dolphins catching waves directly in front of The Bush Palace? They were generally headed towards Durban but, ever in playful mood, had paused to ride a cool left-hander, peeling off at the last second to bounce back into the school. Stokedness. No whales as yet, but I trust there will be a Breeching Display sometime today.
OK. So allow me to introduce you to The Bush Palace Characters. You already know The Heartman pretty well. Madman. Extraordinary guy. Top-notch friend. He and The Fiancee (along with PhutuShark the Alsatian/Africanus crossbreed, Lucy Lu the pedigree Bull Mastiff and Bellatjie the Dachshund, occupy the main building, of which the new Hatman Wing forms a part. You’ll get to know this beautiful couple and their dogs very well as I update you on The Heart & Sole Tour. So let’s move on for now.
Behind the main palace building is a tasty not-so-little rustic cottage. The Film Director lives there. Cool guy. He surfs and dives and skateboards a lot when he’s not filming. And he attracts very hot women with his extremely positive vibe. I’ll develop his personality – not that he needs it developed – to you as we go along.
Ahoy! The Whales Breeching Display is on! Let me grab my Kodak Instamatic and see what I can do…
OK. I’m back and the film is being developed… hang on… here we go!
OK, so I need to upgrade from my old Instamatic to a turbo-charged Nikon V8 or something... but, if you train your binocs on your screen you can make out a whale at play... can you? What? Just move binocs down from container ship to black speck. Well done!
Alright. I’m sorry. Let me zoom in on those binocs of yours… ah, there you go. *Passes back binocs*
I told you. A whale. Or are there two? See the splash? It's either that or The Heartman going for his early morning goof!
Right. Can I go back to my Character illustrations? Coolness.
So, as I was saying before the whales deliciously interrupted me, then there’s The Gardening Executive. He lives in a wooden cabin adjacent to The Film Director’s cottage and tends to the small lawn and attendant palm trees which grows on the cleared space around The Bush Palace. Allegedly. I’ve seen him once. He’s very quiet. Big toothy grin. And he comes to the Bush Palace at strange times, asking for a few teabags and some bread. If I see him actually working on the property I’ll photograph him for you. And for posterity.
Now. Hear this, all ye who enter this blog! Bushguy. That’s what I’ll call him. He blows my mind. Bushguy lives in a three-walled structure deep in the coastal bush behind Bush Palace but still on the same property. He never wears a shirt or shoes, come winter or summer, rain or shine, and I’ve seen him three times. Once, before I moved in here, I saw him swimming with his three dogs in the nearby lagoon. He didn’t swim like a person. He used the lagoon as would a dog or perhaps a dolphin. A pure and simple celebration of being submerged in water. He seemed to form part of his pack of dogs. Splashing, diving, jumping, just being in the moment.
The next time I saw Bushguy, he was running up the 147 steps from the beach to The Bush Palace in the rain. No shirt. With his dogs. I had been dragging my worldly chattels up these steps for several hours, stopping several times on each trip to catch my breath, and was exhausted. “You must be super-fit,” I coughed, “to run up these steps like this!” Barely breathing, let alone panting, he smiled as he bounded past and said: “It makes no difference.” Enigmatique, oui?
Then, just 20 minutes ago, he charged down the hill into the clearing on which the Bush Palace stands and I raised my hand and said “Hey, “Bushguy” (but I actually addressed him by his real name, right?), how are you?” He didn’t speak but gave me the enigmatic smile and disappeared under the stilted Bush Palace, where I could hear him taking a cold shower in the old and otherwise unused shower cubicle below.
Are you intrigued by Bushguy? I am. Big-time. I’d love to interview him for my weekly “Umdloti Interview” but The Heartman and The Fiancee rightly suggest that I take my time to gradually get to know him and win his trust before suggesting anything as alien to him as an interview. So, I’ll content myself by sporadically reporting on this blog any new sightings of Bushguy. Too much of mystique.
One thing is for sure. I’ll only be seeing him running around shirtless in this piece of pristine indigenous bush which surrounds The Bush Palace. Nobody has even seen him shopping or eating or drinking in town. He’s seriously feral. For all we know, Bushguy lives off berries and other stuff found in the bush. I’ll pass on further info on him as it is becomes available. Fascinatingness!
And, oh yes, there is – as you would expect – a massive amount of richly diverse birdlife (sunbirds fly into the banqueting hall to suck nectar from the cut flowers), snakelife (nothing found in my bed as yet), and bucklife… a couple of sweet duiker like to nibble in the garden early-doors. Words and pictures on all this and much more as it unfolds, dear Hatpeople!
Let me leave you with this. After my BPC photo-shoot was done, I retired to my lodgings only to be confronted with this going past my window…
The Heartman heading off to the bush to shoot his breakfast. Needs protein for his 1,700km Heart & Sole ride to Cape Town he says. I don't approve. What's wrong with Milo Flakes, I ask. But our unicyclist rolls his own way. As you'll find out...
I just went down to the beach. I didn’t take my board because, as the Umdloti crew know, I can’t be bothered with anything under five feet.
So I thought I might have myself a good swim but, when I stuck my head under the water there were none of those familiar clicking noises so I knew my friends were playing away. I love my dolphins. They give me a good goof for my money.
I toyed with the idea of swimming out to one of the ships anchored several miles out but none seemed to answer to the description of a megayacht teeming with Genevieve Morton look-a-likes tanning topless around the pool so I gave that a miss too.
The wind was down, ruling out any rad kitesurfing, and after the really rather rude way in which a Great White tried to chomp my leg the other day, I decided against free-wrestling with sharks as a way to enhance my Friday.
So what was an extreme sportsman like me to do? I fell back on a doing a spot of shell-collecting, of course. But I hadn’t even located my first cowrie when I was nearly knocked off my feet by a young woman. Not the Viennese Vixen this time, thank Godness, but by a powerwalker.
At least I think that’s what they call them. You know, those people, usually retired and wrinkly, who try to walk really fast and move their arms with a vicious pump-action vibe. But this one was young and, to be honest, quite foxy and, after nearly walking through me, she kicked up the sand as she zoomed, road-runner-like, over the horizon with clenched fists punching the air. I saw less focus in the eyes of Usain Bolt when he drilled the 100m in about 2.3 seconds a few months ago.
I mean, after croquet, foxhunting, WWF wrestling and running very long distances to possibly pick up a medal, powerwalking has to be the most ridiculous extra-mural activity around.
This was all quite upsetting, especially after the double-whammy of having no dolphins to swim with or sharks to beat up, so I came home.
My mood was immediately uplifted when I saw a surfer friend had sent me an update on the lifestyle progress of my boy Rob Machado. For those of you who aren’t up to speed on Rob, he’s a pretty decent surfer and, I’m stoked to say, is certainly showing some improvement in getting his lifestyle right.
In the fourth of my weekly interviews with an interesting resident of Umdloti, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – the idyllic seaside village in which I am blessed to live – I asked the Big Five questions of Andre Cronje, director of the Wild Touch programme on SABC.
Let’s have a quick look at him, shall we?
FH:You grew up in or near the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, yet knew from a very early age that you wanted to be out in the bush and working with wildlife… how did that come about?
AC: You see, Jozi-city is one of the most hardcore jungles out there. If you look at any aerial shot of the place it’s striking how many trees there are, there are also some crazy animals lurking in the bushes. On a more serious note, most of my ancestors were hunters, farmers and fishermen. I guess a love and understanding for nature is in my blood.
FH:You have been involved with Wild Touch, SABC’s popular wildlife educational programme, since its inception and now direct the series. How did you get involved and what does working with the programme mean to you?
AC: I have been working in the television industry for 11 years now so you naturally get involved with the kind of projects that fits your profile. It’s important for me to believe in what I invest my time and effort in. Series Directing Wild Touch is very rewarding because I know that I’m involved with sharing something beautiful and important with the nation.
FH:We are constantly being alerted to horror stories related to the degradation of our environment. Working so closely with it, what is your experience of human abuse of the environment and what would your message be to the youth who are to inherit it?
AC: You said I must keep my answers short, this question might take days to answer! But I think if we look around us right now, you will see the answer. The abuse that’s visible in the environment is only a mirror of our abuse of ourselves. Just like the orangutang, we are also running out of living space and just like the fish in our rivers the polluted water will also kill us. If there is a message for the youth it would be to start a revolution! Don’t be as ignorant as me, your parents, your teachers or our world governments. Don’t accept the easy way out and do question what is going on around you. To this day we are pretending that we don’t know that we are killing the earth and ourselves.
FH: A group of foreign visitors to South Africa (let’s say, ahem, a gaggle of gorgeous Scandinavian environmental science students, shall we?) arrive on your doorstep and demand to be shown the finest wildlife attractions our country has to offer. Where would you take them? And why?
AC: It depends… the Scandinavian students can hang around my house for a week or so and they’ll get up close with vervet monkeys, various snakes, spiders, amphibians, whales, dolphins and the beautiful birds of prey that hang out here. If it’s a small group I’ll take them on a wilderness walk through the Umfolosi Game reserve. Am I allowed to punt any cool organisations on this blog? Check out www.wildernesstrails.org.za.
FH:Cool. OK. So, you’re often to be seen surfing off and skateboarding around our gem of a seaside village, Umdloti. And I happen to know that you live in a beautiful house hidden deep in the bush on a hill overlooking our bit of the Indian Ocean. How did you get to be such a lucky bugger? And, go on, make us all insanely jealous… please describe your paradisical living-in-Umdloti-vibe!
AC: Jeez, Hatman, you just blew my cover. I was put under a witness protection programme several years ago and they forgot about me. I’ve been trying to get out of this lifestyle for years! Jokes aside, if you let go of your fear, everything else happens naturally. I remember as a kid I dreamed that I was surfing some deserted island. Everyone around me always said that it’s a silly dream because I live in a city 600km away from the sea. So I thought F@*^ you all and I started imagining that my skateboard had no wheels and the concrete was water. The rest is history as I have since spent tmy life living my dreams. I do want to encourage everyone to live their dreams, however far your imagination runs… though it’s crucial that you never forget this: “Concrete is not water” and you will get hurt along the way. So to answer your question about how I got to be such a lucky bugger… “no matter how hard you fall if you get up and try again, you will succeed”. Oh, and by the way this doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt like hell either.
This weekend, in the second of my series of interviews with interesting Umdlotians, I ask the Big Five Questions of art photographer Jacki Bruniquel…
Jacki Bruniquel draws on a spiritual connection with the natural environment for her artworks Pic: Hatman
FH:What sparked your interest in art/photography? And how did your work first manifest itself?
JB: I have always been interested in art, some of my first memories involve drawing Enid Blyton characters on the great big faraway fig tree at the bottom of our garden. Perhaps it was something i was born with … it was also something that was also always encouraged by my parents. My interest in photography started when I began my fine art degree at Michaelis (Cape Town). On our first day we were told to make a pinhole camera from a box, a tin, some photographic paper and a piece of Prestik. I began a love affair with the dark room right there and then and found it much more enjoyable then sketching the crusty naked hobo types they got in for life drawing classes. From a pinhole camera i went on to a Pentax and then a Hasselblad. These days I have gone digital (and really really really regret selling the Hasselblad so I could buy a ticket to London!)
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I’m a guy who likes to use the ocean (well, it is 40 metres from my front door) and many of my friends surf and dive and kitesurf and are generally at one with the many moods and nuances of the big, blue sea.
Somebody I know loves nothing more than to jump off the side of a boat and swim as close as possible to sharks, especially Great Whites, and film and photograph them. When asked by an animal communications expert whether he felt a special connection with sharks, he stared at her with incredulity and, in his bluff way, said: “Are you crazy? They’re just big fish.”
So, here’s a photograph of a big fish for you to ponder over…
A big fish, sadly dead
You might have noticed that I placed the word “sadly” before “dead” in the above caption. That’s for those people who believe that the only good Great White is a dead Great White. Oh, this 4.5m beauty unfortunately saw its end in the shark nets off Zinkwazi, about 50km north of us here in Umdloti on the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast. Thanks to the guys at Zigzag mag (see full story) for use of the pic.
To want something or somebody dead is to fear it. And Great White sharks are not to be feared. Respected, yes. But not feared. That fearmongering movie “Jaws” had about as much grip on reality as I will have two hours from now (it’s Friday night, innit?) and has a lot to answer for (as I will undoubtedly have tomorrow morning).
People, we are plainly and simply not on the menu for sharks, Great Whites or any other. They don’t like to eat us. Get over it. A hungry lion would take a chomp, a piranha would fancy a nibble and a mosquito totally digs the taste of your blood. Sharks don’t. Unless it’s a case of mistaken identity. You know, like when you get arrested for something your neighbour has done. So, yes, if you sitting on your surfboard comes over to a shark like a tasty seal, you’re in trouble. Why somebody hasn’t come out with a nice line of Day-Glo orange wetsuits to replace the standard seal-look-a-like black ones is beyond me.
My apologies to those Hatpeople who might already have witnessed this remarkable story.
But I cannot resist relaying the hugely inspiring story of Ben Underwood who refused to be disadvantaged after having his cancer-ravaged eyes removed at age three.
Like only children can, he responded by devising a set of strategies to enable him to be independently mobile and active. Even to the extent of rollerskating and playing computer games.
Among his arsenal to overcome total blindness, Ben refined the “clicking” noise used by sonar-equipped dolphins to calculate the distance between himself and lampposts, walls, cars… in fact, any obstacle which stood between him and getting to where he wanted to go.
You will notice I’m writing about Ben in the past tense. The cancer which ate away his eyes took his life when he was 16, earlier this year.
With thanks to social media guru Arnt Eriksen and very nifty blog bitrebels.com, I give you a small slice of Ben Underwood’s short and extraordinary life, nourished and nurtured – of course – by his remarkable mother…