Category Archives: Free state, Vrystaat

My Home Province in South Africa

Wat Sê Jy?

or “scusi?

Quora asked this question recently: “How do you know when you are fluent in a language?” here

I answered thus: My guess is usually you won’t really know. Native speakers are usually polite and will flatter you with a better assessment than is true. Maybe a better question to ask yourself is “When am I fluent enough?”

My guess? When you’re enjoying using it and not really thinking about it. I am fluent enough in Afrikaans and can happily hold any conversation with someone who only speaks that language. But even though I have spoken it since I was little, no native speaker would mistake me for a native Afrikaans speaker.

Confession: I laboured under the mistaken impression that I was completely fluent. No-one told me otherwise. Then at age fourteen I went to Namibia (South West Africa as it was) and visited third cousins I had never met before. Within two sentences one of them blurted out “Jis! Jy kan hoor jy’s ’n rooinek!” (Boy, You can hear you’re English-speaking). And my bubble burst. I’m now amazed I was so deluded!

Another case in point: My 94-yr old Dad speaks “fluent Italian” which he learnt in Italy in WW2. I asked an Italian schoolfriend a few years ago “How well does the old man actually speak?” and he said “Really well. Really”. Somehow I think that’s politeness (two years in Italy seventy years ago when he was already 22yrs-old – ??). But I have no way of telling, so I’m happy to go with Claudio’s assessment! Thanks, figlio!

Another: I often get complimented for speaking good Zulu. This is definitely not true and is just polite people’s way of saying “Thank you for speaking isiZulu to me”.

 

The Blands in Africa (one branch . . )

On 2017/03/16, Sheila wrote:

Hi Everyone

Our distant cousin Hugh Bland has been doing some wonderful work sniffing out the Bland family history.

Today he found the grave of Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland – he was born 1799 in the UK and arrived at the Cape in 1825. He settled in Mossel Bay, where he became mayor and the main street is still called Bland Street. He died in 1861. The grave is on a farm, in very thick bush, in the Wydersrivier district near Riversdal.  The farmer very kindly took Hugh to the gravesite.

Hugh says you can read the inscription on the grave stone – it’s indistinct, but there’s no doubt that it’s JBA’s grave. He says it was “quite a moment” for him – JBA was buried there 156 yrs ago and Hugh wondered when a Bland last stood at that grave.

Hugh put two proteas on the grave and then laid his shadow next to his (and our) great great great grandfather:

JBA Bland's grave

After Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland came John Francis Adam Bland (born 1836) who trekked inland to Harrismith in the Orange River Colony with a small baby – John Francis Adam the second. This started “our branch” of the Blands. JFA II later married Mary Caskie (who became the beloved Granny Bland of Harrismith). They had five sons of whom our grandfather Frank (JFA III) and Bunty were the oldest.

Hugh found out that JFA the first died on 10 September 1891 aged 55, and is buried in Senekal.

JFA II and Granny Bland and all five of their sons are buried in the same grave in Harrismith. Granny Bland buried her husband and four of her five boys – what a tragic life, but she did live long enough to know us, her great grandkids. The one son who outlived her, Bunty, died in 1974.

JFA III’s wife Annie Bland (nee Bain) – our granny Annie – died aged 90 ca 1981. Her daughter Pat (Cowie), our mother Mary’s sister died in 1974. Mom Mary is still alive and turned 88 in 2016.

I’m hoping sister Sheila will fact-check me here!

 

Mother Mary Memories

Mr Pretorius was a new teacher in Harrismith. This is back in the ‘forties. One Geography lesson he asked a question and the answer he wanted was the town “Heilbron”.

Johnny Priest (chosen because the teacher knew he wouldn’t know?) answered “The Free State” at which Mr P lifted his eyes to the heavens, rolled them and sighed sarcastically “Why don’t you just say The Union of South Africa?” at which Johnny hastened to say “I meant the Union of South Africa”.


Outside toilets

Toilets were outside, well away from the house, usually at the back border of the yard where the alley ran past so the night car (or ‘Honey Cart’) could get to them. If you had a big yard it could be a long walk. Mrs de Beer used to say theirs was “Halfway to Warden”!

Oh, the embarrasment, says Mom, of meeting the Honey Cart at night when walking home from the bioscope! “So embarrassing!”


Mom’s doctor in Harrismith was Dr Leo Hoenigsberger, who was married to Janet Caskie, an Australian cousin of Mom’s Granny Bland. One day he hit a bridge in has car on the road to the gaol and was taken home, a bit shaken.

Someone phoned the home and one of his sons (Leo or Max) answered. “Hello, is the doctor in? We want him to come around and play bridge with us” said the voice.

“No, I think he’s had enough bridge for one day” answered the son.


 

 

Mosleyisms

Stan Mosley worked for the Woollen Mills in Harrismith back in the ‘fifties. Born in England, he had a colourful turn of phrase. Mom used to tell us of things he said over the years, but I forget them, so I’ve been trying to get her to remember them. Here are some:

  • A journey in a pickup along a rough road “We rattled along like a tin of sardines”.
  • Harsh justice: “The judge sentenced him to be hanged by the neck until death us do part”.
  • On the golf course: “The ball was rolling towards the pin, gathering memorandum”.

HS Golf course

  • The lights went out at the factory, so Stan phoned up Ben Priest in the municipality: “Mr Priest! Is there any lights?” To which Mr Priest answered “No, there isn’t none at present now”.
  • On Platberg: “On the mountain the only living thing we saw was a dead baboon”.

Long Lost Letter

Donald Coleman was my good mate and older side-kick in Harrismith up to around 1964. He died in a car crash (alone in the car) around 1975 (I have no detail of what exactly happened).

In around 2011 or 2012 I found a letter on the floor of my garage at 10 Elston Place.

It was from “your mate Donald” and consisted of one page (probably page 2 of a 2-page letter) and a scrap of envelope addressed to:
poel
rrismith
e Free State

A franked 2½c stamp in good condition is still on the scrap of envelope (but the date part of the franking was/is missing).

I suspect it fell out of the old Cape Colony post office stinkwood desk Dad gave me, as I had moved it to give it back to him before it fell to pieces.

The letter, in neat, flowing cursive writing in blue ink, said:

This is slightly exaggerated but between points
0 and 1 it is 50 miles and between 1 and 2 it is 13 miles and between
3 and 4 it is 14 miles. Even if you go at 10 m.p.h all the
way you will make it in a day. Well don’t take
too much equipment etc because you’ll shit yourselves
coming. Don’t forget to take hats and plenty of patching
equipment. If something goes wrong and you reach
Bergville or Winterton after dark just ‘phone us our
number is Winterton 2412.

              Well I hope I’ve got everything down here, any-
way I still hope to run the Mountain Race
with you. I’m going to try harder this year.

              It’s a pity I won’t be seeing you fellows
because I’ve got some jokes to tell you.

                        From your mate
                             Donald

Not a single correction or spelling mistake (oh, one tiny one changing your to you).

So it seems he had sent a map as well as the (presumed) 1st page of the letter. Obviously we were planning to ride our bikes to Winterton!

——————————————

I must ask Dad about the old stinkwood desk. Was it a Harrismith find? From when?
That could explain how the letter got in there, I spose. Suspicion: Did my folks open it and not pass it on!!?

I searched the desk again and found the rest of the envelope: It was franked on 30 March 1971. I was in Std 9, Donald would have completed his time at Estcourt High School.

20141130_081257.jpg

World Firsts

Or – Firsts in the Frystaat (well, sort of . . . Firsts For Us!)

We didn’t invent tobogganing in the Vrystaat, but we thought we maybe invented summer tobogganing. We did it on old car bonnets that we found in the dongas east of town between King Street and the new bypass (which wasn’t there yet – just veld). Cardboard boxes worked too, but had a short lifespan.

These guys were doing it in 1872 in the snow. We were 1960’s on cardboard on grass.

toboggan_party

Toboggan Grass.jpg

But we did invent mountain biking, we were sure. MTB’ing on our dikwiel (balloon tyre) fietse in and around those same dongas ca 1966 to 1970. Ramping, jumping and gooi’ing squares. Along the dongas and across the dongas. Maybe those fietses weren’t really built for that kind of action (no shocks, flimsy mudguards), as the mudguards caught on the wheels and got scraped up into weird shapes. We find the excessive use of helmets these days puzzling.

History according to wikipedia: The original mountain bikes were modified heavy cruiser bicycles used for freewheeling down mountain trails. The sport became popular in the 1970s in Northern California with riders using older single speed balloon tyre bicycles to ride down rugged hillsides. See! We were first!

In our little world:

  • We invented Hijacking – of the Orange Express (check post)
  • We invented Streaking – in Kimberley (check post)
  • We invented Drifting – on the athletics track in the park (check post)
  • We invented Selfies – in Oklahoma (check post)
  • We invented Kidnapping – on birthdays*

——————————————————————–

*Birthdays: I think Tuffy started the tradition of birthday kidnapping, grabbing a birthday boy and bundling him into a sleeping bag, tying the top closed. Then driving him somewhere and dumping him to make his own way home. When it was Tuffy’s turn we simply dumped him out of the sleeping bag into the pool at the duPlessis place as his b’day happens to be on the 21st June – the shortest day of the year. Oh, yes – and the coldest. Winter solstice! So he didn’t have a long walk home, lucky fella.


donga – arroyo. Dry gully, formed by the eroding action of running water.

dikwiel fietse – fat- or balloon-tyred bicycles

Hijackiing – The earliest documented instances of maritime hijacking were in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. OK, that was before us. Train hijacking? OK, there was this military raid that occurred on April 12, 1862, in Georgia during the American Civil War. Volunteers from the Union Army commandeered a train and took it northward toward  Chattanooga Tennessee. (If you look closely, one of the raiders does look a bit like a Venning)

train-hijacking

Streaking – When and where campus streaking started is unknown. A 1967 article in the student paper at Carleton College in Minnesota laments that streaking was a tradition during winter when temperatures were well below freezing. OK, so we were 1969. Anyway it seems this lady beat us to it: Lady Godiva was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. The name ‘Peeping Tom’ for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom watched her ride and was struck blind or dead.

Drifting – Although the origin of drifting is not known, Japan was one of the earliest birthplaces of drifting as a sport. It was most popular in the Japan Touring Car Championship races. Kunimitsu Takahashi was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. Then there was us in the late 60’s in a black front-wheel-drive Saab!

Selfies – I took my selfie in 1973, which was WAY before it became popular.

ApacheOK73 (8).JPG

selfie-1839-robertcornelius  serious-selfie

OK this Robert oke did it in 1839, and OK, this lady had better equipment (in both ways).

Kidnapping – Tuffy started kidnapping in 1970 but these fellas kidnapped this bride in 1870:

bride_kidnapping-1870

Cannot be

When I was around six years old Sheila came marching up to me and demanded-

“Do you know what Dad’s name is?”

Well, of course I did! I was the older brother.

Kleinspan Skool Koos Sheila.jpg

It’s “Dad”

“No man, his real name!”

What did she mean? Oh, of course- I’d heard Mom call him that lots of times.

“Peter”

“No. It’s PIETER GERHARDUS!!”

What rubbish! I’d never heard such foul language! And this from my MUCH younger sister! (she was a whole year younger’n me. Which was like: All of living memory!).

Amazingly, investigations proved her right!

Safe as a Guinea

On Tabbo’s Warden farm “Rust” (Tabbo second from right).

old-harrismith-warden
I doubt if any of those guineas were killed by me (second from left) and my old man’s cheap Russian shotgun! A marksman I am not!

Kai Reitz once tried to get me to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo on The Bend, but in vain – he had to give up. He gently lobbed up big sandclods and I filled the air surrounding them with shot. Then they plonked to earth. Thud!

With the last two shells he took the shotgun. I hurled two empty shell cases as hard as I could. Blap Blap he hit both of them!

Mary Bland farm

This was taken on my grandparents’ Frank and Annie Bland’s farm, Nuwejaarsvlei in the Harrismith district. The farm is now under Sterkfontein Dam. Here’s older sis Pat pushiing Mother Mary in the pram in the farmyard.

pat-mary-nuwejaarsvlei

The Nuwejaarspruit runs from there down to the Wilge river and then on to the Vaal river. Sterkfontein dam was built on the spruit and drowned the farm under Tugela river water. You would now have to scuba dive to see the farmhouse.

sterkfontein-dam

Then they moved into town – Harrismith