The majestic Table Mountain and those iconic places of habitat along the coast came into view I was forced to reconcile myself with the fact that I loved the place. The weather. The fresh winds, the humid pockets of extreme plant growth where the Cicada’s keep up the heavy tune by rubbing their back legs together and the overall hum of Africa tore at my heartstrings and rendered a tear to my eye.
As the MV Marconi was berthing itself to the dock I saw my Family standing there. Ma, Pa, Auntie Va (Vera) and my younger brother, Bernie.
As I could not see any vehicles around or behind the goods shed, I called down “Where did you park the car?” and Bernie responded by calling back “You mean where did we pork the core” in his thick South African brogue. We laughed at that for years after.
After getting through Customs and then Immigration and after introductions and chit, chat we were well on our way home. It is 746km from Cape Town to Victoria West and Pa had brought his little Datsun Ute down whilst Ma and Auntie Va drove the Jaguar. With the road speed-limit of 120 we were cruising along nicely with ma behind the wheel for a while and then I took over and drove the rest of the way home.
It was midnight when we arrived at home and as there was not much to see in the dark Judith was denied the experience of arriving with full cognition of her surroundings but the she was rewarded with the early morning view over the plains and the Mesas in the distance.
On day four of our visit I was speaking with Pa about the chances of work in town and if he knew of anything and he said yes, there was a job going at the Printing Works and the shop. It paid R150 per month. Pa said I could have the job if I wanted to. Back in Australia I was earning $320 per month and this was half of that but a job is a job and so I discussed this with Judith and the upshot was that I could start almost immediately as the lady who was working in the manager’s position was only the part-time bookkeeper and she wanted to go back to her home and do her normal book keeping work from there.
We were worried however about Judith’s visa and Pa, who had contacts everywhere said that he would sort that out.
The following day at lunch time Pa casually informed us that we could not live in his house forever and that he had bought us a house in Landbou Street for R5000 about the same equivalent in Australian Dollars in those days and that the house was available immediately.
So, we bought a bed and a kitchen table and four chairs and started our four-and – half- year sojourn in South Africa. Ma gave us some sheets and blankets and some pillows and pillow cases. We were also given some cutlery and crockery.
Jude went to the local grocery store and bought some food, the usual food that we ate in Australia.
The following morning there was a knock on our back. There stood Amelia Booyse, an African woman.
“Yes?” Said Judith, enquiringly.
Amelia said, “I am known as ‘Baba’, and I am your cook” and walked into our kitchen and had a look around. Judith said “But, I do all my own cooking” to which Amelia said” Maybe in Australia, but not in South Africa. God has put me on this earth to look after Master Boetie (Me), and that is the way it is. Master will decide how much I get paid. I will start here at 7am and go home at 2pm”.
And that was it. Baba asked Judith to give her a list of stuff to buy at the shop and Judith was struggling, trying to translate to some Afrikaans words which she barely understood herself, when Baba said, ”write it in English, Madam, I can speak, read and write four languages”.
Baba’s Daughters came to work, Elizabeth, as a Washing maid and Eunice as a Cleaner. Later I employed Baba’s husband, Tellardt and one of the sons, I forget his name now. So, almost the whole family were now in our employ.
I had, over some time given Judith some history lessons of the make-up of South Africa and that she should always be aware of her surroundings.
Africa, as seemingly always, has always been in turmoil and wars from the Mediterranean Sea in the north, to Cape Agulhas on the southern tip. With this in the back of her mind, one evening all hell broke loose in this quiet country town with machinegun fire to bombs going off. The Local Commando was having a para-military exercise and it was all out war with the two opposing sides. The ammunition was blanks being fired
I was working late on a printing project and had neglected to inform her of what was going to happen. I found her and her Fox-terrier, Kim, crouched under the writing desk sitting very still. I had to apologise profusely for unwittingly putting her through this trauma! We still laugh about that.
My father, who was a lovely, kind soul, but who was fiercely competitive in business and in Target shooting, who had built up his business into a localised small Empire, tended to do things his way. He was also renowned for picking his mates up on a Sunday and taking them for a short ride which could be for most of the day as he wandered on from project to project. He was approaching 63 years of age when we arrived in South Africa and was in his prime. None of our family ever spoke against him when he had the floor. His word was gospel, so to speak, and we all more or less, said “ Yes Pa”.
One Sunday morning around 7.30 am he, and his best friend, Oom Andries Viviers, boldly opened our front door (we never locked our doors) and marched in. He was then confronted by Judith in the Hallway, and who said “ How dare you just walk into MY house unannounced, and before the bed is made. Go home now and ring me in half an hour and I should be done by then” to which she strode forward, forcing the two men to retreat out of the house, get in to their car and reverse out of the driveway and into the street. About an hour later the phone rang and my father asked if he and Oom Andries, could come down for a cup of tea. This was agreed to and scones were on the menu as a peace offering. We never had an issue again as far as this was concerned.
Seeing as we now had a house to live in, I decided to have a party and to invite all of my friends. Unbeknownst to me, an old friend, Rhett, decided to organise a Welcome party for us at the same time but on a different day. I always knew that surprise parties did not work and instead of calling me up and saying that the organising of a party was in progress, nothing was said and lo and behold, on the Friday evening the Surprise Party happened and then I found out that no one had said anything because my people all liked parties and on the Saturday they turned up again and suddenly we had to get some meat which Steve, the butcher at Hutchinson supplied and luckily I had enough alcohol in the house ‘ to sink a ship’ as the saying goes and away we went as the crowd arrived, again!
My parents insisted that Judith should learn to speak our Afrikaans Language and found that the Geography Teacher at the High School was willing to give free lessons for an hour in the afternoon, after school, twice a week. Judith meekly went along with it though in hindsight is was not a prerequisite for living in South Africa. There were however, some people who never forgave the British for the Concentration Camps that they, the Afrikaners, were subjected to during the Boer War of 1899-1901.
Judith lasted about a month with this rather single-minded and somewhat obnoxious Afrikaner, who, as Geography Teacher told her that there were no sheep in New Zealand. Judith took a dim view and refused to go back for further lessons. When she was in the shop and he came in she would walk out in to the printing room to get away.
Later, our next-door neighbour, Paul, offered Judith a clerical job in his cabinetmaking business and there she worked until we moved away to The Strand T the beginning of 1976 and ultimately back to Australia at the end of 1976.
During our time in Victoria West we got involved with the Golf Club and Judith went to some ACVV meeting, the equivalent of Country Woman’s Association. One day she was at a meeting and was sitting next to a dear friend. The friend nodded off and when she woke up, she asked Judith what the speaker was talking about and Judith said that she would not know as this lot spoke Afrikaans, which she didn’t understand. Her friend just gave her an embarrassed smile.
In the 1970’s it was the start of the technological revolution. New methods for printing came along and we were tempted to get away from the Linotype press, the platen printer or the Miele newspaper layout printer. We had to upgrade the machinery and we were able to buy some on the cheap from businesses who had moved on to the new way of printing. It even meant a trip to Johannesburg. My fuel docket was found 20 years later showing that we did the whole trip for R35.00 about the same equivalent in Australian dollars at that time. Times were getting tough and the Board decided to close the shop down as it had become unprofitable. So, we sold up everything mainly to businesses. I recall a misunderstanding in delivering an item purchased. The owner of a café at the main roads crossing insisted that he was paying for a certain display cabinet and when I told him that it had been sold to another business he went off his rocker at me.
We used to sell cigarettes and one day the Greek who owned the Café downtown rang me and told me he had some cheap cigarettes there and we could have the cigarettes in lieu of some money he owed us for printing. I was back at the shop organising these cigarettes into the cabinet when my Dad rang me and asked if I had bought cigarettes off the Greek and when I said Yes, he told me to take them back immediately as they were stolen items. He would not elaborate any further and told me to do it NOW!, which I did. It turned out that two railway employees had systematically stolen cigarettes over a number of month and when they had enough put together, they came and sold them in town and there were quite a number of packets and so the Greek decided to make a quick profit by distributing them around town. Phew! That was a close call.
In July of 1974 my dad took ill and his Doctor decided he should go to a better hospital and that was in The Gardens suburb, close to the City Precinct in Cape Town. My mother went down there while my Dad was in intensive care. Only family were allowed to see him but all kinds of people came claiming to be family, and even trying to borrow money. Dad seemed quite chirpy. He was on special blood thinning tablets. It was the first day of August and he and Mother’s 33rd wedding anniversary. He sent my Mother off to send a fax from a friend’s office in the city.
Then it was lunch at the hospital and there should have been one nurse on duty but somehow no one was, leaving my Dad to himself and with no one monitoring him. Then another blood clot came through and blocked his artery and he had a heart attack and died. He was cold when the nurses got back from lunch. They did not know where to look from embarrassment. He had died on his 33rd wedding anniversary and was 18 days short of his 66th birthday. He was buried in Victoria West Dutch Reformed New Cemetery.
Mother was shaken but took over the reign of the family and then sold off the Jaguar, Dad’s rifles, and eventually the house. She went to live in The Strand right on the waterfront.
We bought ourselves a 100acre plot just out of town. My Dad owned it at one stage. We bought weaner cow calf and Friesland bull calf and hand fed them milk, first from big bottles with teats and then from buckets. But the bull was rough and many times you would wear the milk. The female calf we named Nefertiti and the bull, King Tut. When they came to the grazing stage, we sold them on the market by word of mouth. We also had donkeys which we named Pancho and Rosie. When I found Pancho, it was still a baby with long legs. Back home I said to Judith that there was a surprise for her on the back seat of our car. She was thrilled. The donkey grew up to be fat. Another donkey made its way to our place which we named Rosie and I used to feed it Extra Strong Peppermints through the window of the car. One day she stuck her head right in to the and bit my pocket where I kept the peppermints. We sold the donkeys as a pair eventually. Then we had some pigs and we also had about 500 chickens. I had an old Ferguson Tractor called a ‘Vaaljapie’ translated
At this stage we did not have much to do at the Printing works and we decided to take a lease out on the Apollo Theatre for one year, serving teas, coffees and sweet confectionary in the café section. We had many regulars. One day I wrote an article about no one in particular but aiming at those who gossip and the who town was in uproar!
We also showed movies at the theatre. The Gaumont Kailee film projectors were of the old Magnesium Arc burning type where you burn positive magnesium rods to create the light. They came out of the 1930’s era but still worked. We leased the theatre for a year and set about improving the access and seats with the help of the owner of course. Shorty and Piet, who both worked at the Printing works were also the cinematographers to coin a phrase. The cinema was still racially segregated with white’s downstairs and coloureds upstairs. That was the way it was in South Africa pre 1994.We showed some popular films
The most popular film were the martial arts one like Karate Kid and so on. We showed one Kickboxing film that when it was finished everyone was cheering and from upstairs, they were yelling “Show it again, please, we will pay.”
The Apollo Theatre owner bought some Art Deco padded chairs from the Carnarvon Cinema which had closed down. Shorty and I borrowed Johan Olivier’s truck and went and fetched them. We also fitted them in the theatre and they were an improvement. Later others would come along and hail the Apollo as the last Art Deco Cinema in Africa in working condition. Quite a bold statement to make.
One day the transformer blew up. Seeing as it lasted from 1935 to 1975 it was a good innings, we were stumped what to do when Wolf Bester came up with the idea to run two DC electric generators in tandem and this worked and, off we went again. New Year’s Eve was fun. We even had a visit from the Police as we had organised a Midnight Movie called Sssssnake, an Indian fantasy film where a woman changes into a snake. Oh! horrors, some had to hide behind the seats. The Police were trying it on, as we were having a few beers, for drinking in public but we got around that, telling them to go away as we were on private property.
We were given a lovely little Sheltie dog named Vicky. It had been trained to work with sheep but for some reason the owner did not want her. So, we took her on. One windy night, in the pitch dark, she started barking like mad in the back yard and then all went quiet and we rolled over to sleep again. In the morning I found her sitting proudly in the cabin of my ute (they call them Bakkie in South Africa), with the ute standing in the middle of the street about 100 metres from our property with its doors wide open. Some unknown thieves had tried to steal the ute and were pushing it quietly down the road (the keys were in it as our town was considered safe in those days).
Vicky had seen the potential thieves off, no doubt nipping at their heels, as they ran into the night.
Unfortunately, her long hair, which she shed regularly, gave me asthma and I was struggling. We advertised her as a working dog and a farmer came along and he took her to his farm. He rang us a couple of days later and told us that the dog was useless s it would not do what he asked of her. So, we rang the original owner and he told us that the dog was trained with English words. We rang the chap who had Vicky now and told him the good news. “Oh Hell”, he said, “now I will have to learn English!”
Vicky went on to win trophies at sheep days at farm and agricultural shows and she became quite a feted dog and the farmer knocked back offer after offer for her. As far as we know she lived her life out on that farm.
There were times when I took boys time out to watch the French Rugby team play against a Local State team at Oudtshoorn. Well I got a bit lively sipping brandy and making comments when the locals told me to shut up. Seeing trouble coming I did. Back at my car after the game we made our way to the Holiday Inn Hotel. I had the local hotel manager from Victoria West with me. At the hotel he cottoned on to some from home and took his leave. My big Chevy was parked at an angle and I decided to straighten it up and the next thing I know a Mercedes had bumped in to me. The driver got out very apologetic and asked me with a pleading voice not to call the cops. I said OK no worries as my car had no damage but his did. And we went in to the hotel. I rang Judith and told her that I was in no state to drive home and that I would see her tomorrow. I tried to get a room and managed to get one but didn’t up sleeping there as a whole lot of my mates had booked a suite and after dinner we all piled in the for more drinking and silly jokes. I lost my asthma medication and was crawling around the suite uttering “Where’s my pump, where’s my pump”. This got out and I was the butt of a lot of jokes later on. I eventually found it under Magda van Heerden, took a few puffs, lay down between her and her husband (they were newly wed) and slept soundly until the sun came up. I quietly found my shoes and jacket, I had paid my bill the night before, got in the Chevy, refuelled and drove the 280 kilometres back home feeling as sick as a dog. By the time I got home I was feeling better as I bought a litre of milk and a chocolate in Beaufort West and munched on that. I got home and Judith gave me something to eat and sent me to bed and I slept through until Monday morning when it was time to get up and go to work.
At least two Sundays in a month we would go out to Montana Farm where my Aunt Vera farmed with sheep. He husband, Lex, my greatest Uncle, had passed on the decade before. Aunt Vera, then in her early 70’s, had a Manager. A Mr Kleynhans and he was good for the farm and for my aunt. My aunt and his wife didn’t see eye to eye. Their two children were at school in the ‘village’ and we would bring them out with us for the day and sometimes take them back late to their hostel, We would ring the hostel advise them.
Aunt Vera was a character and a bit. Very snooty about her neighbours, who, by the way were all lovely people. Aunt Vera had an insatiable liking for J&B Whiskey.
There would always be drinks before lunch, which could start at 11am and go on for two hours.
Maggie and Lena were two African women who served as servants in the house doing cooking, cleaning and washing. Their husbands worked on the farm as labourers along with two other workers. Maggie was a brilliant cook and fed us to extent. The servants always cooked for a crowd and they made sure that the leftovers would feed their families too. Christmas lunches were special and we seldom rose from the table before 4pm totally full of alcohol and food.
My Aunt also smoked quite a lot with my Mother following suit but more so to let her relax especially in the morning when she did her ablutions. Nicotine of course is a drug that relaxes you. Judith and I smoked as well and it was in 1974, at the farm, that I gave up smoking. I went Cold Turkey on smoking and never smoked again. Judith carried on for another 20 years before she gave up.
I knew the ironstone hills, which lay scattered about the farm, pretty well, having clambered all over them in my youth. Always interested in pre- historic rock art I would search and search. Over time I realised that most of the rock art both pictographs and petroglyphs, was almost always associated with the presence of water and normally up to 200 metres from a water point. Over the eons water points changed but the rock pictures and engravings stayed. As a kid I was always interested to look what was hiding under some of the movable rocks. Where my brothers and I grew up, the landscape was known as semi-arid with 250millimetres of rain or less per year. Still, the bushes, succulents and grasses eked out their living and made the countryside rich in life as normally one would find either a scorpion, centipede or spider beneath the rocks. There were also a variety of lizards which I really only came to appreciate in later life because as a child they were hunted and used as target practise with our catapults for no other reason than being bored with little else to amuse us.
About six months after my father passed away, my Mother left for the sea. We would have liked to have inherited the family home but my mother was adamant saying No! So on a whim we sold our house and bought a property slightly out of town and twelve months later, after we had done a host of activity, we sold up again and moved to the same location as my mother with the view of maybe getting some work as one’s funds dwindle when there is no income.
Here is a tale from our time on the out of town property. At this stage two Dobermann dogs ruled the roost at our place. I was away one night doing business out of town. Judith heard a vehicle approach and then there was a knock on the door. One Dobermann was in the house with Judith and the other tied up outside. It was the Police Sergeant. whom we knew personally. After greetings and patting the Dobermann’s head, Piet van der Westhuizen conveyed a message to Judith in broken English and Afrikaans mixed up, that two dangerous convicts had escaped from the local jail and that she had better be aware and take care. So, Judith brought the other Dobermann in to the house as well. The next morning a tracker dog was put on the scent of the escapees and it wasn’t long when they were located under a bush next to the railway line about a hundred metres from our place. They knew about our dogs and were so scared that they had huddled under bush all night and were in fact, relieved to be caught again and returned to safety.
We moved to The Strand and I tried my hand at selling insurance policies but only managed to sell one before losing interest. A chap my brother knew took the insurance out on his life for his daughter and when he died, some years later, she was paid out handsomely. Then I tried selling cars and managed to sell one and got ripped off by the people I was working for. Judith in the mean time had taken on a Flower Arranging Course and after 12 weeks she walked out with a Diploma.
In the meantime, South Africa was undergoing social and political change and the was lots of activism against the Apartheid Regime of the incumbent government. Then the riots started and first the Police and then the Army came out and suppressed the uprising. But we started to feel insecure where we were and decided to return to Australia. Only this time we decided to bring some of our furniture with us. We also had an Alfa Romeo car and a Lancia Fulvia Sports which we wanted to bring with us. What a nightmare! Never again. In the end the furniture got shipped but the cars were left out and the day before we were due to fly out, I had to sell them for nothing. We gave our dogs to a friend as taking them with us would have been another issue with the dogs having to sped one year in quarantine in Australia. Along the way on our journey. we spent a week at the Le Saint Geran Hotel and Casino in Mauritius.
In our luggage I was exporting my Grandfather’s Mauser .22 rifle. The other rifles were all sold and including my father’s Remington 270 9shot pump-action rifle which I wanted to bring to Australia for the purpose of Wild Pig hunting. It was going to be a hassle getting the high- powered rifle in to the country and I would rather avoid hassles. A local farmer and client of my dad had started waxing lyrical about the rifle and how my father had supposedly said that he could have it when he(dad) was gone. I told him to bring R300 which was far below the value. My father had been given the rifle by the American Consul-General, John Stone as a gift for making it happen that he would be invited to come and hunt on selected farms during the winter months. Where the association came from, I don’t know but I surmise that my Dad’s name was suggested by a Minister of the Crown. Dad had tentacles everywhere. The local farmer got very angry with me but brought the money eventually.
On arrival on Mauritius our luggage was held back and when we retrieved it from the carousel. The officials behind the counter opened our bags with only clothes in them and then asked me what was in the long box. I replied that it was a rifle that I am exporting to Australia. The man in the plain clothes bent down under the counter looking for some paperwork. He must have had an emergency button under there because within no time we hear a noise that sounded like people running and two soldiers with machine guns stopped behind us and stuck the muzzles of the rifles in our backs. Were required to put our hands behind our heads while an officer patted us down. I demanded what the hell was going on. The plain clothes man explained that there had been a Coup attempt on the Government recently and they were being cautious. My case was opened, the rifle inspected and the safe storage until we were on our way out of the country again. They did give me a slip of paper for holding the rifle. When it was time to leave, I was the last passenger to get on the plane and had to walk next to the luggage cart until my rifle case was loaded into the luggage compartment.
Our bus had left already by the time we had cleared Customs but we got a lift on a bus with stiff springs that bounced us along the bumpy road
We had booked a seven-day holiday at the Le Saint Geran Hotel and Casino on the northern beaches and it was right on the waterfront and we loved every minute of it. The floor of the hotel foyer would crackle and spark if you slid you foot over the darker patches of what-ever.
From the Reception area there were two long passages each side of the extended foyer leading to rooms. Our room was facing away from the sea so it was quiet. The rooms were quite luxurious. At the end of the long foyer there was a Dining-room with low cut walls separating some of tables. The wine menu started at $100 for a bottle. We asked our waiter what the locals drank and he brought us a Carafe of Red wine costing $3. That was better! Moving out from the Dining-room there was a large swimming-pool with and Island Bar where you could get drinks. Cheapest drink was $4 per glass for Whiskey. So, we relied on Coca-cola and other soft drinks to quench our thirst. The swimming pool wasn’t very deep. It was more like a very large plunge pool. From the poll it was a short walk across the neatly cut lawns to the beach and to the crystal clear iridescent waters. The beach was hard as the waves just lapped on to the sand. The hotel had various banana lounges service by a waiter pushing a fat-wheel drinks fridge. At the Casino Judith gambled a set amount of play money and I gave up and went to bed. I am not attracted to gambling and never have been. Yes, I will play along for a short while but the odds are that you will eventually lose your money And, that happened.
We rented a car and with a map in hand we set off. Could not find the Botanical Gardens and asked a young fellow or directions. The upshot of this was that we hired him as a guide for the day. I sked how much we had to pay for his services and he said Ten dollars Australian. About a month’s wages for him as a labourer. He was pretty good, showing us some of the plant forms of the gardens which are cultured on 30 acres of land. The Pamplemousse lilies with their two metre wide round leaves. We visited the Spice Gardens as well and later went in to Port Louis to see where they manufacture the delicate model ships and boats. What struck me however was the raw sewage running in the gutters of the street and cardboard boxes had been placed over the door entrances. We bought some lunch and shared it with our guide. When it was time to leave our guide, ‘I forget his name now’, would not get out of the car demanding another $10. I gave to him some of our change but he still refused to leave the car. I had Judith get out of the car, open his door while I pushed him out with my feet. She then pushed him away, jumped in the car and we drove off. After that we stayed in the hotel for the last few days before catching the flight to Australia. We hired a car to be dropped off at the Airport and drove around the countryside of Mauritius admiring the Tea plantations. My rifle was returned to me under guard while I was the last one on the plane where my escort left me. Passengers looking out their windows must have wondered.
We cleared Immigration in Perth, and then it was another 4 hours to Sydney. There we cleared Customs. Judith had bought a Puffer Fish bedside light and the Customs officers were very interested in that. Then I told them that I had a rifle in the blue wooden case and the interest shifted to that. I produced all the paper work and I filled in and signed more papers and then my rifle was confiscated. They said it would be tested and if safe it will be sent to us once I advise them of our address.
After clearing immigration, we had to spend only a few hours before our flight to Melbourne and got ripped off big time by the motel owner. We didn’t get much sleep. We arrived in Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and Judith’s father, Keith Johnston was waiting for us.
The next two days we looked for cars and eventually settled for a Ford Panel van. I wanted to buy a new Suzuki 4×4 for less money than the Ford but was overruled by Judith. The third day we were on our way north up the Hume Highway to Sydney, and then the Gold Coast.
Once at the Gold Cost we started looking around for a suitable place for Judith to set up a flower-shop. Selling flowers and making flower arrangements. We found a place in a new development in Cavill Avenue called, The Mark.
The Mark had been built with the purpose of having a shopping centre on the first two floors and residential units on the five floors above. The owners were Brits who had sold a factory in England and had come to Australia on a Business Visa with permanent residence promised.
Judith’s little business pottered along but we needed more money to survive. We started out living in a unit on ….. but when we acquired a Dobermann the owner told us that having a do was not allowed but he had a house to rent at a cheaper price close-by. The house was very rustic, full of cobwebs and mould but we washed it and scrubbed the walls and it came up a tread. The owner was very happy and said if we could paint the inside of the house, we may have some free rent.
I saw an advert in the local paper for a Bread-run. After an interview I was told where to get my bread, which I would buy and resell in in the suburb of Woodridge. Buying into this business cost $1200. I paid but wrote on the receipt ‘subject to a contract being signed within 12 weeks. And off I went delivering bread. Get up in the wee hours of the morning, pick up your bread from the bakery and off you go. Drive a along the highway about 60 kilometres to the suburb and deliver bread to existing customers and may be pick up other customers along the way. I was running all the time and most house were tropical ones, elevated from the surface of the ground. Customers would put their money out for breads and on the whole, they were very good. I had little trouble with dogs barking or having a go at me, nipping at my heels. After expenses I was making about $100 a week. But the job called for being very fit. The old Ford we had was getting hot and I decided to trade it in on a new Ford Escort panel-van. It was bright red,
The twelve-week period came and went and one day I slipped on something on the stairs of a house and fell heavily breaking my right kneecap. I managed get home and checked in to the hospital in Nerang and they looked after me. I rang the company I was supposed to be contracted to and explained my situation. They were sympathetic but said that they could muster another buyer straight away and goodbye me.
I went to a Solicitor in Surfers Paradise, told him my tale of woe and showed him my receipt. He reckoned that I had been smart. He wrote a letter to the company and charged me $50 and I received my cheque back within a week.
Judith plodded along in her little alcove making a meager living. While I took on collecting waste paper from high rise apartments and selling those in Tweed Heads across the border of Queensland and New South Wales. In the mean time I had bought a cute Suzuki 4×4 539cc 2-stroke. I traded a Ford Fairlane in as it stopped opposite the car yard and refused to start. The Zook had a striped canopy and that caught my attention. We scraped all our pennies together to pay for the Zook. Then I wanted a CB Radio and had to take out a loan for that. On top of that I bought a large covered trailer from a bloke I had befriended who ran the Shell Servo in Surfers Paradise. I only had half the money and he let me have it on credit. He even let me take it to the Northern Territory where I put it to good use and paid it off two months later.
But I am getting ahead of myself. While Judith and I were scraping an income together, what with paying rent on Paradise Island and paying a trailer off. I also had a motorbike but one day, on a wet street I slid in under a bus and decided that it was not for me and sold it for the same price I had paid for it. I was getting bouts of severe asthma and Judith had to rush me to Southport Hospital on more than one occasion. We decided to go back to the Northern Territory. I flew to Darwin to find work and was offered a job in vehicle parts and also the same type of work at another company. There was labouring work as well but, in that heat, it wasn’t too attractive. I flew back to Brisbane where Judith collected me. We sold off most of the furniture we had brought from South Africa in a container, to get enough money together for our trip north and packed all our gear plus our Cockatoo ‘Snowy’ and his cage. I had drilled holes in the side panel of the trailer for him to get some air. Our Doberman ‘Tique’ loved the Suzuki and was happy to sit on her bed and watch the cars.
I think that the towing capacity of the Suzuki was about 600kg and I needed to know the weight of the trailer. I knew where the closest weighbridge was and that it operated 24/7 so that trucks can use it to gauge their load.
We left in the dead of night and soon after weighed the trailer at the weighbridge. It came in at 1710kg, almost three times the legal weight.
Knowing that the Scenic Rim and steep mountain passes lay ahead of us, we decided to head up the Bruce Highway of the Queensland coastal region to about Ayr in the Far North where the Great Dividing Range is at its lowest point.
To get going I had 4×4 mode hooked it High Range until we had built up enough speed to revert back to 2×4.
We crossed the Storey Bridge at about 3am and got through the city quite quickly as most traffic lights remained Green. Somewhere along the highway we stopped and sat in our seats and slept fitfully.
We had breakfast at a roadhouse. The road was hilly in places but luckily there were overtaking lanes. I talked to the trucks as they came up behind me and explained my slow pace. They just laughed and crawled past us up the hills. When we told them that we were heading to Darwin they just whistled and wished us good luck!
I always wanted to go to Rainbow Beach which starts at the small hamlet of Noosa where there were some shacks on the banks of the Noosa Inlet, the Noosa River and Noosa Heads which was the water passage out to sea. There was also a nice swimming beach. We saw a sign that read Noosa and turned off the highway. We had never been along this road and it soon started climbing up and up and I had to stop to put the Zook in Low Range so that the little engine and gearbox could take us up the hill. It was seriously steep and we breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the summit. He engine was almost boiling. There was a car workshop and a café and we grabbed a few sandwiches to give us some energy. We were told that we were driving across part of the Great Divide and there were even steeper hills up ahead that we may not get over them. I asked the Service Station owner if I could hire his ute to take the trailer down the hill but he refused point blank and told me that I was stupid and will have to get myself out of this mess myself. And so, we took a deep breath, put the little car in Low Range first gear and gently eased her down the hill. At the steepest part I had my foot on the brake as well and with all wheels locked up the weight of the tailer kept on pushing forward. All four tyres were screeching and so as to save the tread of the tyres I had to release the brakes for a few metres and then on again. I even had the handbrake up. Near bottom I took the Zook out of gear and let her run and she swished down the road silently. But then we could see the T junction up ahead and wondered if we would pull up in time before smashing in to the embankment on the opposite side of the road. We brace dour selves as I pumped the brakes hard and managed to stop right on the T of the T-junction. I think we got some grey hairs that day. At the side of the road we opened the back of the trailer to see how Snowy was doing. Well, he had got bored and had eaten everything within his reach. Luckily it was only a light shade and some towels. He had eaten great chunks out of them. It was time to take him with us on the rear open space behind our seats.