“4 Hillside” was a lovely big old communal house in Parktown, Johannesburg run by teachers (or former teachers) in the Hillside Road cul-de-sac on the corner of Empire Road. The inhabitants were:
Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire – Alpha Romeo
Mike Doyle and Shale – faded blue Land Rover
Granger Grey – always searching – grey VW beetle
Donald ‘Coolsie’ Collins – and various, including part-time ‘Vaalwater’ – VW beetle
Jos ___ and Brenda – Alpha Romeo?
Norbs? Norbert the bearded one and ___?
The house was run by a Malawian butler and character, the smiling Gerald or ‘Gerrard’, whose ambition was to be a tycoon. He called Coolsie ‘Boss Donut’
You would think teachers would have brains, but no, they allowed an optometry student into their hitherto blissful existence:
Clive Nel of Kokstad and the ever-suffering Sandy Norton. Clive was allowed in as he offered to take a run-down tin shed and convert it into habitable quarters. And he did just that! Soon the shed was carpeted in a fine vintage carpet, Rembrandts on the corrugated walls and makeshift shelves stocked with fine wines. He was generous with his wine was Nel so soon the teachers were (very) happy to have him! Also Norton was an asset which (almost) balanced Nel’s faults – white Mazda R8 NCW (or was it still CCW?)
The rot having set in, the next student to sully the joint was the inimitable Glen Barker, non-farming sugar farmer from Umzinto and Dumisa – green Toyota Corona NX 106
Then they let me in – grey and grey Opel Rekord OHS 5678. I was given a shoe cupboard next to the spare bathroom and the second back door.
Leibs was ‘doing up’ an old Jeep Station Wagon in the backyard. Mainly that meant squeezing a V8 engine into it. – (internet pics). This bad habit brought another optom student in. Achim Scholtz. Not to stay, but to park his Jeep next to Leibs’ so they could get greasy together.
The problem of seven men all wearing boring black socks was ‘solved’ by building a long shelf in the long passage where all socks were placed after washing. Help yourself.
The problem of feeding seven hungry men was solved by Gerrard cooking and placing the food in the oven. First man to crack and start eating had to divide the food onto seven plates and only then was he allowed to eat. On steak nights the potato and veg would be in the oven, the uncooked steaks high up on a shelf. This led to the memorable night when Granger cracked first. He was ravenous, so he divided the veg into seven and cooked his steak and ate it. Then he ate just one more. Then one more and then he finished the seventh and last steak and was overcome by remorse. Jumping into his grey VW beetle he roared off to Fontana in Highpoint in Hillbrow, bought three roast chickens to make good, and rushed back, flattening one whole chicken by himself en-route. This caused him to reflect, so he joined weight-watchers and became a regular at the weigh-ins. Getting back from a weigh-in one evening he sank down onto the couch in the TV room with a huge sigh and, reaching down to his shoes, removed a thick wad of newspaper from each. He had made himself taller so the nazis at WW would give him a higher target weight!
We had a student braai next to the pool one night and Granger arrived home pickled and ravenous and came over for a beer. Staring hypnotically at the meat on the fire he started swaying. We formed a wall round the fire, keeping a close eye on the large man as we knew he had needs. His eyes glazed over and we watched in fascination as his swayed in gravity-defying fashion! He swayed forward till you just knew he was going to platz on his face, then slowed, stopped for long seconds. Then swayed back till he passed vertical and leaned backwards where you just knew he going to crack the back of his skull but no, the pendulum slowed, then stopped. A long pause and the cycle repeated. An amazing spectacle was Big Granger!
Others also got involved in unorthodox car-restoration at 4 Hillside, but of a very different, alcohol-fuelled nature!
The old house is gone now – Hannover Reinsurance’s expensive headquarters now fill the space! Bah!