We like it when the little guy comes out on top, don’t we? The underdog. Winning against all the odds. Like when my Jack Russell chased that Great Dane the length of Camps Bay beach. Actually, bad example. Because The Scrapster sees herself as very much The Overdog.
OK. Like when Samson pinged Goliath. That’s better. Or when Wimbledon beat Liverpool in the 1989 FA Cup final. What am I talking about? I’m a Liverpool supporter. Or sufferer. So forget that.
Got it. Like this…
How was that?! Yowzers! You’re a penguin. You’re being chased around by about four ravenous killer whales keen to have you for a starter before the main course. You’re getting a little fatigued and your frantic little flippers are slowing down a tad. You spot a boat with a bunch of boring Norwegians on it…
You’re going to take your chances, aren’t you? You’re jumping straight on that boat and hope like hell that those fjordspeople aren’t going to bore you witless with their talk about, well, fjords, fjords and more fjords. Beats being scrunched up in a whale’s digestive system, doesn’t it? OK. Only just.
Still, a victory for the little guy there. Reminds me of the time old Nel, one of diminutive twins, got called out at big break by Buster Chadwick, the school’s 1st XV lock, and felled him with one almighty blow to the side of the head. It probably helped that his twin brother jumped on Chadwick’s back at just the right time and stuck his fingers in his eyes.
That little penguin didn’t have any twin brother doing him any favours out there in the big, bad ocean, did he? So, a very happy result. Glad you enjoyed that, Hatpeople. Always support the underdog is the moral of the story, isn’t it?
* And you can do that right now by clicking on that big banner thing up there on the top right of this page and nominating me in the South African Blog Awards. “Best New Blog” category, if you please. Only two days left before nominations close. Remember to enter your e-mail address, wait for the e-mail asking you to confirm your nomination for Fred “Little Guy” Hatman (http://www.fredhatman.co.za) and then sit back and sigh to yourself “job well done”. Because it will be. You might just have helped me get one over all those big, blubbery killer bloggers chasing me around the murky waters of the blogosphere and trying to gobble me up. Go on. Save a little penguin blogger today!
Right. In about 96 hours time, 94,700 crazy people will be frenzying around inside the illuminated calabash that is Johannesburg’s Soccer City as South Africa and Mexico light the wick of the fizz-pop fandango that is to be the 2010 World Cup.
And stretching across every country on our globe, billions will crane their necks to get the best view possible of the opening match. They will see many things on Saturday night… and one view may be this visual treat…
Jo'burg's Soccer City: not an altogether shabby football ground, is it?
No, we quite like it. Not as aesthetically gorgeous as Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, perhaps, but it’ll do. Fine. So the globe is going to get to see a lot of Jo’burg, Durbs and Cape Town. And maybe a bit more of Bloemfontein and Rustenburg than they would bargain for. But what of South Africa’s small towns, verdant-valleyed villages and rusty-hued hamlets, secreted away behind mountains and filed away, collecting dust, in corners of deserts?
Well, what of them? Are there flags flying in their rutted main roads? Are there rainbow-razzmatazz mirror socks being worn by their donkey-carts? Well? I think, if you wandered into the Karoo today, you’d get a big surprise. And I have another surprise for you.
If you drove out of Cape Town on the R43 tomorrow, bounced over Sir Lowry’s Pass and snaked past the whale-watchers’ paradise of Hermanus, you would – after two hours or so – come across a sumptuous Overberg village that goes by the name of Stanford. You would have to look out for it because you could easily miss it. As many poor, unsuspecting travellers do. But if you catch sight of the Sir Robert Stanford wine estate and you started to slow down next to the Syringa Kennels, you would notice the entrance to the town.
Continue for 250 metres or so down Queen Victoria Street, the main drag, and you will stumble upon this…
Stanford Village Green: not quite Soccer City... but it's ours Pic: Hatman
Yes, that’s our green (well, it’ll be greener after the winter rains). A lot of things happen on this village green. Cricket, horse races, sunset markets, biggest pumpkin competitions… but mostly ladies walking their dogs after a satisfactory afternoon tea. And, I have discovered, it’s a great place to lie on one’s back and stargaze after a hefty night down the pub.
Unlike those crammed into Soccer City this weekend, we won’t be seeing any stars on the field. But we’re doing the best we can. Folks, roll up… roll up to the Overstrand Rainbow Five-a-side Soccer Extravaganza. Our village green will be transformed into a mini-football fest with local teams puffing about, trying to settle old scores, market stalls, coaching clinics… and probably one or two ladies pretending not to notice while walking the dog after yet another highly satisfactory cream tea.
Yes, that’s how we roll in quaint, beautiful Stanford, one of the finest preserved Victorian villages in the fairest Cape. But roll we do. The media will be there to document the festivities. Not Sky Sports or the London Guardian or ESPN or the New York Times. But the Stanford River Talk, the Hermanus Times, Whale Talk Magazine, Whale Coast 96.5fm, the Fasttrax Marine film company and the Fijn Bush Telegraph will be reporting on our main World Cup event, so that people tending to their farms in even more isolated parts of our little piece of the world will learn of it.
Here is the authentic heartbeat of our great country, tiny specks on the map which will not see the likes of Messi, Rooney and Kaka in the flesh. But we will have fun anyway. And the proceeds of our fun will go to the Hermanus Trust, a local educational and social NGO, and the benefits will be felt long after the last ball is kicked.
Local businesses taking part are, among others, La Finestra Restaurant, Stanford Hills Estate, Pam Golding (Stanford), Stanford River Talk, Gypseys Restaurant and Birkenhead Brewery. the first match kicks off at 9am on Friday, June 11 with the final being played on Saturday, June 12. A floating trophy will be presented to the winning team.
So to those fortunate enough to watch Steven Pienaar split the Mexican defence with an inch-perfect pass for Katlego Mphela on Saturday, we Stanfordians say: “Give them horns, guys!” And, we solemnly promise, if we spot a new Steven Pienaar in the making on our village green this weekend, we’ll start grooming him for the 2018 World Cup. Ayoba!
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...
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.