SAMS BASICS - PA to the BRIG - SAMS College
Personnel Services School (1985-1986)
This material is transcribed from tapes made of the conversations at two reunion parties held in 1994 and 1997 respectively. Pete is a renown storyteller, and his story telling would need to be seen, if not heard, so the simple text looses much of the entertainment value. Aubrey is an excellent storyteller in his own right, but he and Pete spark off each other. I haven't attempted to convert the script format into ordinary text because I think that much would be lost. Imagine the stories being told by your favourite stand-up comedian, and then add the feeling that you remember some of the incidents described - if somewhat hazily ...
Pete was a qualified pharmacist before reporting for national service in 1985. After Basic Training and Officers Course he served as the Personal Assistant to Brigadier Dippenaar, OC Northern Transvaal Medical Command.
Aubrey had a B. Com degree before reporting for national service at Personnel Services school at Voortrekkerhoogte. After Officers Course he spent the rest of his national service seeking commercial sponsorship of some SADF magazine or similar, and - we understand - making money.
Jonno (aka. `Crispie') had a B.Com degree in Computer Science and was at Personnel Services School with Aubrey for Basics and Junior Leaders course.
Fred was a veterinary surgeon - still is!
SAMS BASICS AT KLIPDRIFT
PETE: There was a commandant at medics. There was Colonel Spies and there was a Commandant Niewoudt.
FRED:Now the OC of Eastern Province Medical Command
PETE: He was a bit of a German Second World War mentality - there was no right or wrong; it was all wrong! No matter what you did. These ouks have queued up to use the phone - we've just arrived on the train. We haven't been klaared in, we haven't had our blood pressure taken. We're all on the loose, we've been told not to walk on the grass.
FRED: Five extra duties for walking on the grass.
PETE: Niewoud traps across to use the phone, and some arbitrary lurk tells him that the `Korporaal gaan jou opvok as jy op die gras loop'. [The Corporal will fuck you up if you walk across the grass] The ou has all the shit on his shoulder, but you don't know the meaning.
FRED: Corporals are important.
PETE: The corporal is running your life right now. He says; `You can phone now for five minutes now. Go!'
The guy says; `I beg your pardon.'
The guy says; `Nee, die korporaal gaan jou opvok as jy op die gras loop.'
He says; `Name?'
He says; `Barry Fowler'
`I can't remember, Sir.'
`Kumena!' Show his pocket, BG 475 - the ouk's on orders, but he got off because he hadn't even klaared in, and he had no idea. He says `Die korporaal gaan jou opvok!' and Niewould couldn't handle this.
AUBREY: You would think that the guy would have enough of a sense of humour to see through that?
PETE: No, he doesn't understand.
FRED: I think he's still suffering psychologically from the very severe attack of acne that he had as a young child.
PETE: The medics parade ground at Potchefstroom Klipdrif was the biggest in the universe, I'm told. There were about eight rugby fields and we had to pull the grass out to make it look like gravel, so that we could make stoff [dust]. S'majoor Oekerman got caught for selling petrol on the Cunene river to motorboats, and he was given two options; either he resigns in disgrace or he takes over the medics. Dishonourable discharge or samajoor of the medics. It took him about three weeks to decide. So he takes on the medics.
He arrives with an old landrover. He parks and he stands on the bonnet, and if he's cold, you can wear a jersey, but this ouk is so full of rum and coke that he's never cold. When he wore a short sleeve shirt at minus seven, none of us can be cold. `Are you girls?' We're bloody shivering and freezing to death. There was an ouk we used to call `The Walrus' that had a stomach like this, with a moustache like this who was a kaptein. I was his job to say; `Get on parade!' Because Oekerman was there, and because we were sleg [bad]- I can't say the word `vokken'[fucken] - medics, you must go in those trees near the spoorweg.[railway] `Ek wil julle nie sien nie.' [I don't want to see you] And he's stand there on top of his landrover and he'd look [squinting into the distance] but he couldn't see anyone who was adequate. Then this ouk would shout; `Geeeton Parade!' and you had to come out of the bushes like stormtroepe and get there.
I happen to be a fairly tallish guy, so I was `merker!!'[Marker] I had to haak my voet met mening in die grond dryf! [Stamp my heel into the ground with attitude] The ouks must hear it from the other side there, so that the whole battalion can stop. Then it was `eyes left' and you had to do the space thing - right dressing. Being in the army, it was 50:50 English to Afrikaans. The first fifty years were English and now we've got Afrikaans. We had Colonel Spies there who was a real gentleman, and he insisted on no swearing and proper English. Every now and then we would get; `Get on parade!' One fellow called Dave Du Toit who is now a dermatologist, no a psychiatrist. We were in the bush now; jy kan die bome nie sien vir die takke nie. You can't see the wood for the trees. Another good Afrikaans saying; `Not that you can come it after.': `Nie dat jy dit sou agterkom nie.' It always confused them.
The guy shouts; `Get on parade.' Now we're in the bush. Dave shouts back; `Get on parade yourself you fat ...' and he refers to female genitalia; it starts with a `c' and it ends with a `t'. He shouted it loud, everyone heard it. Oekermann is on his jeep bonnet, and everyone else is on full alert; like DefCon 4. The ouks come out of the bush, but they are giggling, hey! Its very funny, and I have to stand right in front of this ouk, and I'm laughing. So he shouts - and to this day I still don't understand what it means; `Langman, as jy weer beweeg gaan 'n kat bo jou graf wieg.' I don't know what that means, but I know I'm in shit! Its something about when I'm dead he's going to wave a cat above my grave. It meant that I was in big shit! That is enough that when Oekermann shouts and you are looking him in the eye, that the joke is now over. Its not funny.
The guy dropped his R1 to the small of my back and he starts pushing me. [Visuals] I'm the only ouk on the whole parade ground laughing? I'm not laughing, I'm actually shitting myself. The ouk walks up to me and he's got one of those pace sticks. I'm not laughing. He says to me; `I'll see you later!' and they go ahead and they do the whole programme. We had this Lieutenant Prinsloo who said; `You're in big shit!' We're going to go for a his-has his-has his-has hinks [sound of being marched at speed] into the bush right now. The whole platoon woerrs [onomatopeia for rapid movement] a sharp right; its like a bussie [punishment PT], but I'm the engine, the wheels and the driver. And we're going! I'm quite keen to run at this stage, because I understand that the further away we get, the better! Next thing the jeep screeches to a halt. `Peleton, halt!' The ouk gets out and he says `Come!' I walk there, and I think; `I've got a big problem here.'
He says to me; `Jy dink jy's vokken slim, ne?' Jy dink jy kan die army naai, ne? [You think you're fucken clever, hey? You want to fuck the army?]
`Don't answer me back!'
I'm playing for time because my life is on the line here.
He says to me; `Are you the ouk who swore at him?'
I said; `No, it wasn't me.'
He says; `You were laughing.'
`No I wasn't!'
`Moenie kak praat nie. [Don't talk shit!] Be a man! Take it!'
`The whole issue was that during inspection our Lieutenant told us a joke.'
He says; `Well it had better be bloody good, hey!'
`It was. That's why I'm laughing.'
`What's the joke?'
`I don't know. Its in bad taste, but I'll tell you.'
He says; `Ja, tell me.'
`Our Lieutenant told us that there were these two homosexuals were bathing, and the one ouk crapped in the bath, and they fought over who would wash the baby.' This ouk nearly collapsed. He nearly hit the deck. Laughing. Its not a funny joke, but it appealed to the ouk.
He said; `You laugh one more time and you're dead.' The ouk had to hold himself, he was shaking.
I said; `I fully appreciate that!'
`Tree aan!' `Links regs links regs.'[Fall in! Left right etc.]
The ouks asked me; `What did you tell him?'
The Lieutenant said; `I don't understand this. Is that what you told him?'
I said; `Ja!'
He said; `No, I don't understand this.'
But I was about that close to dying. Like fill your suitcase full of bricks and run for a year, and if you come back, phone me. I never want to see you again.'
Same story, different telling ...
So all of a sudden we've got this savage 32 Battalion ouk dealing with medics.
At Potchefstroom they had this parade ground which was about seven rugby fields of dirt. Okerman hated the medics so much that you had to hide in the trees near the railway line so that `I can't see you.' When I say `Kom op parade!!' you must come out of the trees and like `merker, een,' all the rest. You were far away.
English one day, Afrikaans the next. The guy shouts; `Get on parade', and Du Toit shouted back; `Get on yourself you fat cunt.' Ockerman gets off the ground and climbs on the bonnet of his jeep, stomach like this, the ouks are like tree-ing aan. `Hier kom kak!' [Here comes shit!] We all know that the whole battalion is in shit. We're hiding in the trees. I'm merker 'cos I'm short [ironic] but I'm giggling. So he shouts from miles away - I still don't know to today what this means - `Kom merker vall weg [?]' - as jy weer beweeg gaan die kak van jou graf vlieg.' [If you move again, the shit will fly off your grave] I never forget the words - like carved in my mind. It means that you are like in a while heap of pain - in English. Its actually not funny any more. This guy takes his R1 in the small of my back and pushes it and holds it. The RSM - off his van - and he comes at me met meaning [with meaning] and he grabs me in the chest and he hits me like this. He says; `We're going to talk about this afterwards, am I right? Think of a good story.'
We tree on, do the whole thing - bid parade, bid twee drie af twee drie.
AUBREY: How to spoil the nicest part of a battalion parade. Being threatened by the sergeant major.
PETE: Its like when your dad gets home you're going to get the hiding of your life type of thing. You wait. I'm doing all my marching and een twee drie om, a hundred percent. Eventually I see that he's had his seventeen cigarettes, now I'm going to kak. He calls me; he says; `Come here.' He says; `What on earth was going on.'
I say; `No, some ouk shouted something - I didn't quite hear what it was, and I thought it was funny.'
He says `You thought it was fokken funny - funny - funny.'
`But it wasn't that that I was laughing at.'
He says; `What were you laughing at?'
I said; `No, our Lt - who was a hell of a good ouk - told us a joke this morning.'
He says; `And what was that joke?'
So, with all due respect, I tried to think on the most PF joke I could find, something that will get a smile on the ouk's face. Of course its homosexuals - because they cannot stand these ouks. So I say; `There were these two double-adapters in the bath, and the one ouk shat in the bath, and they had a fight as to who would wash the baby first.' This ouk blushes because he wants to laugh. He says; `Ja, jy moet weer op my parade grond lag dan gaan jy kak.' [Don't ever laugh on my parade ground again, or you will shit!]
I said; `Nee, RSM' [No, RSM]
`Daar gat jy!' Weg. [There you go. Away!]
They said; `How did you get off?'
I said; `I told him a shit joke and the ouk loved it.' You know when you see your life go before you. This guy drilled guys with bricks in their bags - staal dak [steel helmet], and when the whistle blows, fall. He ran the ouks sat. He was a mean bastard.
PETE: Klipdrif had a voertuidpark wat vir niks skrikked nie. That thing was about 8 km in diameter. There were three vehicles that had to be guarded. One ouk is sleeping and the Lieutenant says; `Ek het jou,' and the guys says; `Amen! I'm sorry. I was praying.'
PETE: He's actually a doctor - Margolious. We `jaaged kak aan'. I still don't know what that means. I think that it means that we were making trouble or something. We must now run around the voertuigpark. This thing is so bloody big that if the lootie stands there, he can't see that half the ouks fall in the grass, and fifteen or eighteen ouks come past and go around and then another ten ouks fall, and another ten get up , and we were doing these circuits and the lightning struck the voertuigpark fence, which is about three stories high, and it lights up with a flash. And about five ouks come back. This ouk cracked, hey! The fact was that the other ouks were lying in the grass to gyppo the run and he thought they had been struck by lightening. He took off and when he got there, these ouks stood up. He went in with the boot, hey. None of this `Don't touch national servicemen'! He hacked into to guys. He thought he's struck the whole platoon down.
PETE: The ouks used to gyppo so much at night that they had a night roll call. It was raining. Dave du Toit, the same ouk, starts peeing. He was standing at attention, but your could hear the sound. The Korporaal was sluiping around to see who was peeing. He got to where Dave was and he checked the puddle, and there were bubbles. The ouk was inspecting the puddle. `Julle piss hiersou.' He went back and he got his clipboard from the ouk, and he started to take the guy's number, and then he heard the sound of someone else pissing. He could do nothing. He got to about the third name, and he had to laugh it off.
The best army saying I ever heard - Rodney Wilson - uitpass parade; `Your folks are coming ...' Not mine because they were far away. We were standing there, and you were supposed to look for the blackheads in the back of the ouk's neck; that's how you must focus on the bloke in front of you. The ouk says; `Halt! ‘ The whole battalion - like stof. He says; `Julle gaan kak', which is standard operational procedure. He said; `Julle gaan kak. Julle gaan drolle so dik soos wimblikke kak.' A wimblik - you know that's a serious droll hey! The ouks start laughing. He says; `Tree aaan!' He's quite proud of his chirp, so you've got to board a bit of time with the guy. He walks past as we `eyes right' - looking at your hand - I can't remember anymore. He says; `Halt!!' He calls the ouk; `Jy! Jy lyk soos 'n leguavan wat trein ry.' You can imagine a leguavane on a train? This ouk was on form, hey! Eventually it was; `Go. Get away from us. Go clean your korfeetake.'
PETE: RSM Rodney Wilson - we strung his bicycle up on the top of the flag pole.
PETE: (Quoting instructors) `Moenie so vir my loer nie ek is nie 'n hamburger.' [Don't gaze at me. I'm not a hamburger!]
FRED: You got given that one as well, did you? Our very first night in basics somebody said `No, you look like a hot dog,' which made our first three weeks of basics very unpleasant.
PETE: Yes porkroll.
I beg your pardon.
Sorry, did I say `Porkroll'?
Dave Du Toit. Same thing. `Sorry Sir.'
Don't call me sir
Don't say `Sorry!'
Don't say `Sir'.
The whole platoon were sent running, but it was worth it!
PETE: Yes, Teflenant
Teflenant. Porkroll. Corporal. Porkroll.
I'm confused there; `Teflenant or Lieutenant'
JONNO: Two castles please
So you're calling me an arsehole?
PETE: Our worst experience of basics was when our parents were coming to visit so we get given our browns now. Off with the overalls and the mosstop - browns.
AUBREY: You were lucky. We weren't allowed to have browns.
PETE: Of course the K-store conveniently iron railway lines into them to make your life a misery, and the Lt. and Sers. Legrancie stand there. `Julle lyk kak!' [You look shit!] and he goes on about the railway lines and stuff. `Julle is kak!' [You are shit!] David Du Toit from the back shouts; `We look so shit because we eat so shit' like the Farmer Brown advert. Suddenly the daylight became nag[night]; we ran around the voortuigpark [vehicle park] like there was no tomorrow. All hell broke loose. They ask us at five o'clock; `Why are you sweating?'
Same story, different telling ...
PETE: Same fellow, the first six week pass. We went to K-store to get your browns. I'm sure the stores guys iron railway lines into them on purpose. You put the browns on. `Julle lyk sif, hey!' So we stand there and the ouk says; `Jou familie is op die speelgrond. Julle dink julle gaan hulle sien. Julle lyk kak. Julle lyk sif.' So old Dave Du Toit says; `We look so shit because we eat so shit!' That was it! Gone! Voertuigpark. The ouk was finished.
PETE: So Dave hunkers down and he grabs kas by the ears, with all his kit and his clobber in, and he stands up and starts dancing. He says; `Kasta manyana till we meet again.' Bungalow wrecked. The only guy who could ever pick kaste up and take them outside. Dave Du Toit. Classic!
COMING BACK FROM PASS
Douglas Defty is now one of the main ouks in H.M. Owenstaff. He's a close friend of mine. We was giving me a life back in `kuiwertjie'; a two door trap Volkswagen beetle. You sit on the engine and it warms you up. We were driving from East London to Potch and we stop off at Queenstown and eat a pie. Don't ever eat a pie when you are in transit. I ate a pie and my whole body became in transit - liquid transit. We were running late, and we had Lieutenant Young; he was a bastard, hey! He was on duty seeing us in after our first pass, and we're running late because we've got this 1300cc quivertjie that doesn't do the hills so well, and I need a crap badly. I mean really badly. You know when you start sweating and wanting to vomit because you need a shit - its bad, hey! I'm tapping the driver; `Please, Douglas! I'm going to shit all over this car's engine.'
`Ja, wait. Wait.'
I'm trapped in the back with these fold back seats, and the windows are this wide; you can't even do the number if you had to, which I had to. There's a little dog box which is full of ironed washing which your mom's sewn the naate in your browns. You can't bugger them up. Gyppo naate for inspection. You can't bugger the ouk's ironing up. I'm sitting like this in the death position, and my ring is winking, because its coming any minute. You must know that your browns are tied with string around your waste and around your ankles; there's nowhere for it to go. You are finished.
I said; `Douglas, if you don't stop, I'm going to vomit.'
He says; `Hold on. I can see the lights of Potch.'
I look up through a delirious haze, and in the distance - about 30 000 ks away - I can distinguish a dull light on the horizon, which is hope. Now you think it is funny, but it wasn't funny. I'm sick, and I'm sweating.
He says; `At the first petrol station, I'll stop.'
It was in the days when petrol stations weren't open twenty-four hours. We came to a petrol station and we screeched to a stop. I'm out and I run to the loo. Locked! No petrol attendant. There was an eight-foot wall into the workshop. I went over the wall.
All I had was a smartie box but I had worked this thing open to about six square metres of paper to wipe my arse with. When I had undone the seems, I had a piece of paper this big! I had opened it up and I had used all the flaps and all the packaging and registration. I was ready. I had this thing in my pocket to wipe my ring with. Over the wall. Rods down. And I download, hey! Jus, I download, hey! I pile this thing up to the extent that its an achievement. This is the kind of thing that you call your best friends to come and have a look at. Splendid stuff. This is the mother of all downloads. I wipe my arse with the smarty box - sorry if I'm offending anybody. This is a true story. You use the edges without cutting yourself. You use the whole lot. You chuck the smarty box away. Satisfaction; `Oof! That was good!'
You pull your rods up, and you look and you think; `That's a good ...!' And there's nothing there. ... down my leg.
These ouks are bleating that its time to haul. Were running late. There's not much more embarrassing than having crapped in your rods. I put my web-belt on and I feel this like kidney in the back of my calf here, and I leap over the wall which pushes the kidney into my boot, and I go to the driver, and I say; `Douglas, I've actually crapped in my pants.'
He says to me; `Don't worry about it. Get in the car. We're running late.'
I said; `But you don't understand. This is not like an arbitrary crap. I've got like Jupiter in my pants. A solar system here. Like an elephant passed over me.'
He says; `Get in the car.'
You understand that in kuiwertjie, the engine is hot. Its warm. In the back seat. The windows are this big. It permeates, hey! Its a good old Queenstown-Pie crap. The air is getting thick. The ouks can't see anymore. It was 36 ks from where I crapped to where we had to get out of this car. It was ears back, head down, go! We were late for Lieutenant Young. I just feel this thing and I think; `Oh, no! Ach, no!' The other guys in the car were retching and semi-gasping, and breathing out of the little window. I'm saying I'm sorry; `Ja, you've been winging since Queenstown.'
Then we arrive at camp, and we're late! They've got about twenty ouks lined up for being late. I walk in there. To an adult to have crapped in his pants is very demeaning. You don't feel great about things. I had been proud of the size of it, but the fact that I was carrying it with me wasn't a bonus. The kid has like a parcel in this nappy. I had my whole world in my right boot.
I walk in there, and there's Lieutenant Young at his desk. He says; `Ja, lekker. Ja.' We say; `No, sorry we're late, but he's sick.'
He says; `Ja, tell me another one!'
They turn me around, and I've got this wet patch; `Ne, vok! Julle is siek! [No, fuck. You are sick!] Go!'
We got let off. The worst is getting the stuff off.
LIEUTENANT THEO YOUNG
PETE: Lt. Young was a bastard of note!
FRED: During the three month off period that he had between intakes, he went and did a parabat course. This was the sort of guy that Theo Young was. He was my platoon commander.
PETE: He wasn't well, hey?
FRED: (July 1985 intake) Lt. Young was still doing his parabat course when we started basics. Theo young comes back from his course. We had heard all about this Young guy - how he's doing a parabats course. So for the previous seven days we have polished everything that has stood still. We have polished the trommels at the base of our beds, we have cleaned underneath frames of the bed. We even washed the ceilings in preparation for Theo Young arriving. We were shit sacred.
On Sunday night some twit walks into the bungalow over the polished floor. We were on taxis, and we hadn't even heard the term taxis. This guy in civvies walks in, and old Van Geldrum, a dentist said fairly rude things to him and told him basically to remove himself sexually from our bungalow because there was a real prick who was coming in the next day who was our platoon commander.
The very same guy took us for parade the next morning. Van Geldrum had the most miserable basics in South African Defence force history.
BEING PERSONAL ASSISTANT TO THE BRIG
Pete, with his Pharmacy qualifications, became the Personal Assistant to Brigadier Dippenaar, OC of Northern Transvaal Medical Command.
PETE: My high point in the Defence Force - there was a colonel who retired and bought a petrol station. He got a R 600 000 gratuity or something, and this guy used to leave work early every day. I used to stand outside and tap my watch and say `Bloody watch R 700, and it still looses half an hour a day.' The guy would get very tense, and one day he walked up to me and said; `Lt., ek gaan jou soos 'n vokken mielie vreet, hoor jy my?' [Lieutenant, I will eat you like corn on the cob!]
I said; `Watch still looses time.' I was the Junior Brigadier.
One day there was a whole lot of pooh and I took his best troop to work for me with the dishing out of medicines, and he rings the Brig and has a big complaint, and the Brig got upset, and wanted to know what was going on.
I told him, and he said; `No, not good enough. You've done this without telling him,' and all the rest.
Havenga was the sleg troep [bad troop]of note. He used to have to lie in the culvert, because if the RSM saw him, he would want to throw up, and you would have a black day at hanging rock. He was asleep under the culvert. He and I were close friends because he could do anything - If I needed a guy to stand guard that weekend, he would either beat the guy into agreement or threaten him with his mother's life. You could always get things done through Havenga.
I went to him and I said; `Havenga, I need something on this colonel.'
AUBREY: The informal discipline system that the army used to run.
PETE: He said `Last weekend this guy and a major whom I will name when the tape's off had a whole heap of drinks - because I'm sure they sold him this army - and they crashed the colonel's Toyota Cressida.'
I said; `Ja!?
Then it dawned. He said; `Then they came to the Northern Transvaal Medical Command voortuigpark, and they took the door off a pool car, and put in on the colonel's car, because the major had the keys.'
I said; `Is that right?'
He said; `Ja, and the pool car door is still dented, and we've plotted the kilos over the weekend. Nothing was used, but now the car is dented, and nobody knows what's going on.'
I said; `Are you sure?'
`Lt, ek sal nie vir jou lieg nie.' [Lieutenant, I will not lie to you!]
I said; `You're bloody right you won't.'
So I go to the Brig and I say; `Listen, Brig, this has happened, and I know I'm in a whole heap of shit and you said that I must find something on the colonel to alleviate, and I keep my troop.' The Brig enjoyed me.
He said, I think I should phone the colonel and ask him as to how he dented his car and how the door got replaced without any panel beating, and how the matching pool car door got dented.'
The Brig says; `Are you sure?'
I said; `Ja, come with me, my boy.' Down we go, and we open the pool car cressida's door and true's bob, the bloody paint has been worked - the bolts have been changed. He calls the colonel in, and he says `Los die deur oop - ' 'cause I could hear, and he kaks this ouk out van die hoogte af, [from a great height] and of course the colonel can't say anything because he doesn't know how badly caught he is.
The Brig says; `The information to date is only on heresay, and my Lt. here evidently has all the say, and I've got the hearing, so maybe we call this thing quits?!'
The ouk marsheers [marches] out there - he's pissed off - he says to me, about two days later `Ek gaan jou nog soos 'n mielie vreet.' [I will still eat you like corn on the cob!]
Comes Monday, four o'clock, the bugger strolls down the road. `Ah, Colonel, can I buy spark plugs for your new cressida with the fancy door.'
He turns around, and he goes berserk. He's shouting at me, but you can't aanrand [assault] an ouk - you can't touch him - he's about this far from me, and he's screaming, so I pull out my old poetry book, and I take mental restitution, and I start reading a Wilfred Owen poem about how the ouk's left for the war, and I read this thing out, and the ouk's screaming `Ek gaan jou sommer soos 'n mielie vreet'. The guys shouting and I'm reading - he wants to clout me.
Next thing the staff sergeant - like fifteen people in my office, Annette, and the Brig's there at the door - he says to me; `Lt.'
I say to him; `Brigadier.'
He says; `Way gaan hier aan?' [What's going on here?]
I said; `No I'm just reading poetry and this chap's shouting at me.'
`Get out.' So it was all like happy days and back to the mess. Tuesday; `Lt, die kolonel wil jou sien.' [Lieutenant, the Colonel wants to see you.] I don't know. I'm far away from the Brig now, its like at some other department. He says; `Ek gaan jou nog "have", ek belowe. Ek gaan jou "Have", ek gaan jou eet, pal, I'm going to get you. [I'm still going to get you, I promise. I'm going to eat you!] One day I'm going to get you.'
I said; `Kolonel kan maar kom. [Colonel can come] Any time.'
PETE: Having done pharmacy, I'd never drunk cough mixture and I couldn't see any result in drinking cough mixture.
FRED: No purpose whatsoever.
PETE: I thought being a Lt. in charge of a medical base, I'll just have a half bottle of Cepacol. I won't drink a whole bottle, and I'll see how it goes. So I drank a half bottle of cough mixture and didn't feel any worse for wear, and I drove down to Lance Heywood's place. Aubrey was there and a few guys, and somebody put his glass on the table and Aubrey yelled or sang, and the whole glass table shattered, which Aubrey obviously offered to pay for, genuinely, and they refuse to accept.
I had about three or four castles there, and I was walking slower than normal and speaking with clarity, and stepping over things like that. Someone sad to me; `You don't smoke dope. What's wrong with you?'
I was saying; `Oh, no, nothing. Why?'
They said; `You're acting just like someone whose smoked dope.' So I realised that the cough mixture had some kind of adverse effect later on. We partied up a storm of note, and on the way back to Pretoria I realised that I was Officer on Duty that night, roving Officer on Duty - that you had to sign the ouks -
FRED: Field officer?
PETE: That's it. You had to go back some time during the night and sign the ouks in. Northern Transvaal Medical Command - I idle in there full of cough mixture and beer, at about three in the morning and I can't find a single bloody guard.
AUBREY: Which is not unusual because they weren't there during the day either.
PETE: So I go to the guardhouse. There's a corporal sleeping with his air force rifle - the R2's (G3) - green plastic things - so I take all the rifles, about twelve of them. What can I do? If I put them in my car, I'm stealing weapons. So I put them on the floor and I wake this ouk up. He jumps up and he mutters something, that he's just had a sleep. I say `I can see that you've just had a sleep. Where are the guards?'
`They're in bed, but they've got their boots on.'
AUBREY: Which, for the medics, means that he's on first line alert.
PETE: Full alert. `Who are the ouks on duty?' There are three of them, and he wakes them all up and they've been fast asleep - with their boots on, true! I've got their rifles under my arm. I look at these three ouks and I focus on their [pockets] `Brink' - big writing, like you can see it from a hundred meters on the run, but I can't see it right now. My eyes are playing up, having driven back from Johannesburg.
AUBREY: Had nothing to do with the beer and the cough mixture.
PETE: Nothing! So now its time to klaar these ouks aan. They are all looking very sorry, having been sleeping. I asked for the voorvalle boek [incident book], so I looked at my watch and the hands don't seem to be on it at this stage, so I say to the ouk; `What's the time?' It was like 3.42, so I take the pen, and I wrote carefully. What the heck is wrong, because I can see the lines, but they keep moving. I get the pen on the line -
AUBREY: Like you're throwing a dart -
PETE: Ja. `What's the time?' 3.47. I write there `Ough three forty seven' - the `ough' looks like a figure eight. It looks a bit shaky. I said; `Okay, I'm klaaring you ouks aan for sleeping in bed', and the ouks are `mutter mutter'. I say `Okay, Name?' The ouk says; `Brink.' I can't do a `B' because my pen ...
AUBREY: Talk about military justice.
PETE: I say `Okay. Come, write your names in this book. I'm klaaring you aan.' [I'm charging you.] So the ouks all write their names, and I say `Thank you very much' and I teken [sign] with a wild slash off the edge of the page - in my car - home. Good day's job done.
Not wanting to upset the people because I was like semi-adj. of the camp, and BD is harsh for sleeping on guard duty when you are guarding a pile of bricks. The next day some arbitrary lurk comes to me and says; `Dai drie troepe wat aangeklaar word, hulle lag vir jou gat, Lt. [Those troops who are being charged. They are laughing at you.] They say you are not going to do anything.'
I thought to myself; `They're probably quite right.' So I went down there and I kakked them out, but this one ouk was a sullen sod. He never saluted, which wasn't serious to me, but he's got this attitude problem. Now he's done so wrong, and still when he walks past he still gives me the old digit. I can see it and I know it, but no problem. I went up to the law officer, who I knew, and I said; `What happens if I klaar these ouks aan?'
`Ah, you know, medics, they're probably going to get jaaged [chased] by the RSM,' - who was a rustig [laid-back]guy, and old chap - Willie Bester. `They'll run two or three laps with bricks and they will be fine.' So I klaar all these sods on - the whole bloody lot.
Now there is kak in die land. I know that `kak' is not a nice word to use ...
AUBREY: The first charged have been laid for twenty-five years.
PETE: Suddenly all these ouks are saluting and hakking and hussing [bracing and showing all the military courtesies], and all the rest, but its not great, and I feel a bit of a bad boy because I was full of cough mixture when I klaared these ouks aan anyway.
One officer calls me in and says; `There's this one PS School guy was borrowed for the night.'
I say; `So what?'
He says; `No, if you klaar aan a P S School guy for sleeping on duty its like traitorism (sic) and the sod's going to suffer long and hard.'
I said; `Really?'
He said, `Ja, Pete. Between you and me as friends its not worth - for what these ouks did - klaaring an ouk aan. If they were straight medics he could jaag them and that would be fine, but the P S guy, it'll be on his record - there's going to be a whole lot of shit.'
So I said; `Well drop the charges on that ouk.'
He said; `No, you can't drop one ouk and keep the other three.'
So I said; `Okay, laugh the ouks all off.' He said that it was a lot less work for him. He's happy with this lot.
AUBREY: Attitude towards duty at that stage.
PETE: Laugh it off, hey, for guarding a pile of bricks. The ouks were all right after that.
PETE'S EXTRA DAY'S LEAVE
There is a story that I remember Fred telling me in late 1986, but which neither he nor Pete could remember when I prompted them for the details when we had our reunion lunch in January 1994. Fred witnessed Pete, as he drew in to the close of his national service, getting approval from Brigadier Dippenaar that he might take all the leave that was due to him. Fred reported how Pete had asked for his `fourteen days', and watched the Brigadier's eyes move as he counted this up mentally, `X-number' of days subsistence and travel, `X' days for this, `X' days for that, and the Brigadier followed all this with a mental calculation, at the end of which Pete concluded `And an extra day.' The brigadier paused, as though waiting for an explanation, but this was not forthcoming. There was another slight pause, during which the Brigadier must have calculated whether he really wanted to query this one day, in view of the good service that I believe he got from Pete. `Right!', the Brigadier approved it, so Pete got his unspecified extra day.
AUBREY: The record of how long you could get out of your fourteen days. Anything less than sixty days didn't count.
LT. LANCE HEYWOOD - SOCIAL WORK OFFICER
PETE: Lance Heywood was an unassuming NDP who studied and who became a social worker after four years at varsity. He gets an extra couple of rand a month for social work, and he goes into Deep Danville `spanner valley' to investigate this national serviceman - `spanner valley', they take their cars apart, swop parts and put them back together, Saturday night and race them on Sunday, and they give the parts back on about Wednesday. Heywood goes and investigates this plea of poverty, and he walked in and he's got this whole clipboard full of newspaper, so we know all about you so don't give us any shit. What is actually going on in your family? The young wife pleads poverty.
FRED: This is the eighteen-year-old wife with the five kids?
PETE: There's a little two year old on the floor playing with blocks, and Lance is fully taken in with this. This is a seriously good class family that has torn apart by the defence force. Haywood is taken hook line and sinker, and this little kids says `Fuck!' and Lance goes a bit - he loses the train of conversation -
FRED: Was it a question or just a statement?
PETE: The two-year-old kid just comes out with it out of the blue. It hardly walks but says `Fuck!'. Lovely home! Lance looses his track.
She [young mother] says, `Sorry, I suppose you thought my kid swore?' Lance says; `No no, not at all. There were little ducks on the block and the kid probably said `duck'.'
And the kid says; `Fuck fuck fuck fuck ...'
Haywood cancelled this case, and he reckoned that kid got a hiding!
LIFE AT SAMS CLUB (VOORTREKKERHOOGTE)
GETTING INTO THE BEST SADF ACCOMMODATION IN TOWN
JONNO: Aubrey and I went to Johannesburg on Friday and we got back on Sunday early morning and we snooze, and we wake up for Sunday lunch. The generale and the hogerers [high ups - effectively the `top brass'] come in to the medic mess, they pay two rand for their whole family, and their family's friends, and they come and they chow our food. That's the perception. Perception is in the reality of the beholder. We complained. Aubrey told them that the food was toxic and almost ended up in jail, but that's another story. Aubrey: I think it was the word `septic' that I got into trouble for. I said that the service was sceptic. I thought that I was being clever in the medics mess. I had to eat serious humble pie. In Afrikaans as well; `Die aangeleentheid word betree ...' Its etched into my memory.
Pete: I got my secretary to write your apology. Do you remember that?
JONNO: I had got into SAMS College from personnel services School because I was writing an accommodation package for Infoplan. I signed Aubrey in; I said; `Aubrey. The food is good here. Its a lekker place. Pull in!'
PETE: He signed me in and they didn't even know that I was there. For about eight weeks I was in the room. `Wie se handtekening is dit die?' `Nee, ek weet nie.' `Gee hom sleutels.' Jonno said to me; `Don't bring all of your friends here because actually I'm not allowed to do this.'
JONNO: I knew Pete from university, and he pitches up at the door and I was programming their computers at that stage, and I recognised the guy; I say; `Aah! You were at Rhodes University.' He says; `Ja, Jonno. Do you know where I can get all these signatures? I've got to get about eight signatures.
AUBREY: Jonno says; `Ja, come here. I'll sign them.'
JONNO: I signed every single one of them, and I put him in the computer. `What room do you want? Do you want an en suite bathroom?' I said to Aubrey; `The food is good here. Its a lekker place. We've got to get you into SAMS. He had nowhere to stay. He had just run away from his girlfriend in her flat. The army wouldn't have him, and the medics took mercy on him.
FRED: Worst thing they ever did.
JONNO: I had SAMS College so buttoned up. I had a whole gym room. I had a whole room booked out in the name of someone called `Jim'. Jim, the exercise man.
Same story, different telling ...
PETE: We're klaaring in [checking in] now, straight out of Potch, walking around looking for the major with the moustache, the guy who was supposed to klaar us into the mess. I was lost completely, and I see this guy Crisp, and I remember, this is the sod from varsity who dated my girlfriend. I was going out with this woman and he dated her. I was the one who kissed her good night and he fell down the stairs, and he reckoned it wasn't from the kiss, it was because he was so liquored which was why he dared to kiss her. I used to hear stories of him trying to grab her the whole night, and he knew I was dating her, and now I look at this guy and we're not enemies, because I don't know him so well. I said `Look, you know, hi.'
He says; `I'm Jonathan. Aw, Pete, I remember you.'
I said; `Ja, kind of - vaguely.' He says `Bring your book here,' and he signs the whole thing from the chef to my laundry.
AUBREY: And this is an army officer on detached duties at the medics mess.
PETE: Now suddenly I'm klaared in - of note! All my mates are into K-store. I said `I've got a guy here that can sign me in,' so I dragged three guys in, and he signed the first one in, and he says to me `Can I speak to you?' I said `Ja,' so we go around the corner and he says; `Pete. I'm not actually allowed to sign these ouks in, but I'm going to do two more. Don't bring me any more.' He signed four ouks in and he had like no authority whatsoever.
It had ramifications later; we didn't get meal tickets and stuff. `Have you been signed in?' `Ja.' `Where's your pass?' `Here it is?' `I don't know whose signature that is, but meanwhile here are your meal tickets.'
AUBREY: The army doesn't query things that go wrong like that, because they just expect it to go wrong.
FRED: If its got a signature and a stamp its legal. It doesn't matter who put it on.
AUBREY: Crisp had a whole pad of route forms which are stamped and signed, but were blank, and he used to send himself down if he wanted to go to Durban for the weekend. That's it. The army used to give him a motorcar or a flossie, S&T forms. The one ou bought himself a VCR on the S&T from one trip. It was a complete joke.
JONNO: The SAMS Mess was wonderful. I knew all the guys in the SAMS mess. We used to sign all our own route forms. I used to fly to Durban and Port Elizabeth all the time. I just used to sign my own route forms, climb on the Flossies. It was magic! I had a lovely time. The funniest time was when I went with Carl Williams; it was Luigi, myself, and Carl Williams. We were going to sell this accommodation package that we had written for the SAMS; not sell it, promote it. We had to go to Ladysmith; we spent half a day in Ladysmith ...
PETE: Willie Louw [SAMS Club Manager] really hated me. I parked in the Brig.'s parking place. He said; `Do you know where you've parked?'
I said; `Yes, in Brigadier Dippenaar's place and he's given me permission.'
The ouk went very stiff-necked.
`But the Brig. Said that I could park there if I wanted to.'
WRESTLING BEFORE GENERALS
The time that you threw that pop plant at me that was that big. Aubrey was there to see the cleaning up. It weighed about two hundred pounds and it nearly broke my back. It all started at the farm in. We got back at some time between one and two a.m. We arrived aback and we got to the officers mess there, and there's nothing. Even the TV's gone. Standard Officers Mess. There was a standard pot plant which was about this high. I couldn't get my arms around it, so it was pretty big. When you are in the army and you find a woman who is willing to speak to you, and your friend tries to chisel in on you, what often happens is that both of you loose the scent and the vixen escapes. Which leaves you both with a sour taste in your mouth because you've outdone your friend or your friend has outdone you. Jonathan, being a SA power lifter picks this pot plant up and waits for me. Out of pure friendship, he says; `Catch!' and throws it at me. My athletic self jumps aside, and the pot plant lands, breaks, and vomits red earth on this officer quality carpet. In our state of fatigue we realised that this could well mean that we would be cashiered, which in English means locked up, beaten badly and kept in solitary for about ten weeks. He looks at me and I look at him. It was a classic case of `Hier kom kak!' [Here comes shit!] It was quite a common or garden phrase in the army. Whereupon which I think we evacuated. The next morning we walk in there, and there was a stain in the floor. Somehow the more serious members of the officers' mess took a dim view ... but with a ten rand note here and a ten rand note there with the general staff they were prepared to testify that they had been there for years. We were absolved of all blame.
When these two tackled General Knobel on the lawn and ran away with balaclavas. A point of clarification for the reader; you know your pip badges have a very sharp spike when you have removed the rear of it, which is pivotal to the point of this story. It actually came to a sharp spur. We went to a lovely do which Sanlam put on because basically Sanlam and the Army were in bed together. We went to this most wonderful wine tasting at the officers mess. The best wines; cheese and biscuits. All the generals were parked off in the car park there. Jonathan said to the waiter; `Excuse me. What is the most expensive bottle of wine you have?' He says; `Its this one.' Jonno says; `Bring me two.' Now, just to set the tone, Crispie and Aubrey were the only two army officers there, illegally, and under false pretences. It was the medics officers mess. They could see the medics over-the-top pharmaceutical sponsored functions; all the snacks and the drinks, and we think; `Yes! Hoover time!' We would glide in and take a quiet corner, all the wine, all the snacks - serious hoovering! Crispie had no snacks; he just went straight for the wine. Pete, Jonno and Aubrey went out, and as we stepped off the red carpet under the covered walkway - the general's driver is three feet away - as we step off, Jonno tackles me from behind. Jonno was flying; going at about a hundred ks an hour; `I've got to get this big bastard!' So we were wrestling on the lawn, and you know in winter you get those little pieces of brown stuff, so we had this all over us. Pete had been to squeeze a kidney on the left hand side as you go out. And Aubrey's flash spike went into his arm, and spurred him on like a terrier. Pete came out about two minutes later, but literally five steps ahead of the Surgeon General, and with the surgeon general five steps behind him, Pete comes around the corner and saw Jonno and Aubrey on the ground wrestling next to the red carpet. Aubrey was angry now because he was bleeding, and they had rolled into the garden by this time. Pete warned us in the nick of time, and we stood up, got our berets right and popped the old salute, and marched off, full of grass and everything. Aubrey's arm was bleeding because the whole pip had gone right into it. He's still got the scar because the whole thing had been torn through his shoulder. Jonno; `Shit! It was a good tackle, I tell you!' That was a close one.
Same story, different telling ...
AUBREY: Volkskas bank came to try and do some serious grovelling to the medics. Crisp and I were the only two army officers in this whole medics outfit - we happened to wander in to this thing, and we found a corner with you buggers, and proceeded to literally down as many cabernet Sauvignon - whatever there were 76's or something - they were all gold labels. We smashed those down as quickly as possible and then decided it was opportune to leave before we got too out of control.
As we were walking out of the main entrance, we were going to the left to our normal place, Crisp and I started wrestling on the lawn for some unknown reason. He and I were wrestling - Pete went back inside to have a leak or something, and all the brass was coming out and Pete was keeping eyes, and he saw them, and literally it was a matter of a nano second - with the warning that he gave us - we would have been caught in a brawl - two army officers at a medics mess brawling on the front lawn, next to the car park.
PETE: I'm a responsible person, and they're my real friends, but if I go in and try and separate them, and I get seen, then its a three-man brawl. If I stand on the grass and shout too loudly, they'll hear me inside - that there's a fight. So I'm running up there like a guinea fowl trying to express the urgency of the matter to these brawling sods. Aubrey is bleeding through his arm here - berets scattered and the surgeon general shaking hands, and the ouks are right here. `Guuuys!'
`Come on!' Eventually they get up, dishevelled of note, brushing the grass off, Aubrey bleeding from his arm. The surgeon general not knowing what's going on.
Aubrey: I had a cut about this long. I wasn't keen to give up on the fight at this stage because I was wanting to get my own back, but the surgeon general bloody ruined it for us.
Crispie is a good wrestler - he is hell-of-a strong. He would take me on any time. He won a power lifting competition in his weight group in the army. He's exceptionally strong. Luckily he's got a soft heart.
AUBREY: Crisp threw a pot plant at Pete after they had been wrestling, in the TV room. There was a big black stain - I witnessed the whole thing, and then we were frantically scraping it up.
PETE: Nobody saw us.
AUBREY: Ja, it was late. Two or three days later everyone knew about it. It must have been Crisp because he can't keep his mouth shut about anything. He obviously went and told somebody; within three days we were all getting fingered as the culprits.
THE CHEESE STORY
PETE: The story of the cheeses; we'd get there, tired - something we ate the night before
AUBREY: Nothing to do with the amount that we'd had to drink.
PETE: Konstabel some ouk would bring his whole family and their cousins, and it was two rand fifty for this flash meal. Seventeen of these sods would line up in their starting blocks and as the food gong went they'd leap up and basically snatch all the good food before we could get a mouthful. We tolerated this for about two weeks -
AUBREY: We were slow learners in those days.
PETE: We were tired. We would then go to the cheese table, because they were going to get to the cheese table later. We would go there first with our plates, and we'd take a full plate. Aubrey would say `How about some brie?' and I'd say `Okay,' and he'd take the whole triangle - on my plate. `And a baby bell for you, and a Camembert'. And I'd say `For you, this - we carried on until we eventually got this pile of cheese, enough for about twenty tables -
AUBREY: Three weeks
PETE: Then we'd look at the pudding, and we would go and gut the puddings, even though we were not going to eat them. We would eat the most of the best, and then we would sit and wait, and then we would go and fiddle with the fish. We got a complaint three weeks later that the `NDPs hulle neem al die kaas voor ons tyd het om daarby te kom'. [The national servicemen take all the cheese before we get there] I got spoken to that I was like involved in the syndicate or something -
AUBREY: You were the ring-leader
PETE: Stealing the cheese. You'd get a colonel, and he would look at the cheese table, and there would be basically nothing left.
FRED: There's two cream crackers and a piece of stale blue cheese -
PETE: And those little sods you have to peel the tin foil off, and by the time you've finished, there's nothing left inside. All the good cheese is on those ouks tables.
AUBREY: And we haven't even touched it yet. We were waiting for the meat.
PETE: And now they're calling the chef or the head guy there for more cheese and he's saying- looking at our table longingly - `Colonel, we don't have any more.' So we were duly spoken to.
Same story, different telling ...
We would arrive at that mess at about eleven o'clock feeling like we had had an Arab's tackie in our mouth for the whole night. You could feel it; the sort of salt sand. We would idle in there and watch these ouks queue for our food. Our food, hey! We're defending the country so they can sleep. They've got jobs and we've been conscripted. We spoke to the powers that be and we were brushed off. We thought; `The Cheese Bar!' The NDP's revenge. We would leap up and we would take the baby belles, the camembert, the brie and we would pile a full dining plate full of cheese each, and put it there and wait, and they would be eating the smoked fish and all the rest of it, and we picked the scraps. When they came to the cheese bar, it was a case of; ` ... nee, vok! Waars hulle?' `Die vokken NDPs eet al die kaas.'
AUBREY IS ALMOST ASKED TO LEAVE THE SAMS CLUB
Aubrey once wrote in the `comments book' that he thought that the food was `sif', and signed it. This was not appreciated by the SAMS Club staff and their superiors, and the fact that he was not a medic meant that they could take action against him:
AUBREY:I thought that was really off-side because I was the only guy who had the balls to put his name next to his comment. Other blokes wrote far worse things than I did, but they were just anonymous.
FRED: They got quite emotional about it.
AUBREY: So did I because I had nowhere to stay.
AUBREY: Herman Scholtz was all right. He helped me with the Brig in getting back into the mess.
FRED: Herman is not a bad guy at all.
PETE: You've got the military law guy. `Dismissal from messes'. Has Aubrey contravened any of these? No - `slapping officers' etc. He did say that the food was septic. `We'll have to re-write these.'
FRED: Did you ever apologise for that?
AUBREY: Yes, profusely. Pete's secretary, who was the Brig's secretary put this fancy letter - the language of the month was Afrikaans naturally, being my luck - and about `die aangeleentheid word betree' [your presence is requested] which are words that I had never even heard in my life before, but stand clearly in my mind. [Grand Secretary] I went around to her house once - Pete and I helped fit her washing machine. She wrote this whole letter out, which I then had put on to my letterhead in the army, made an appointment to go and see the colonel. He was in Hallmark, where I had to go and see him. I don't think this guy actually twigged who I was, or else he was very polite. I walked in there, saluted as we did in the old days, and he was very friendly, and shook my hand and sat me down at the coffee table and `Right, what can I do for you?' I said to him; `I'm actually the officer who's been kicked out of your mess, and this is what I had to do to get out of it.' I'm stumbling along in Afrikaans, telling him how much I value my participation in the mess, how much I've enjoyed it and I think its the best mess this side of the north pole, and I really don't have anywhere to go and it won't happen again and I'll behave myself and be a good lad, and I've put it in writing and all the rest of it. He looked at the letter, looked at me and said; `Ah well that's fine. Carry on. I'll tell the Lt.' And that was it. I don't know whether he had been prepped or whether it came as a complete surprise to him.
BARRY: What sort of piece were you carrying on your belt at the time?
AUBREY: No, no. I was at my most obsequious at that time.
FRED: He leopard crawled from the mess.
AUBREY: On my tongue. That was a close call.
AUBREY'S PERSONAL ARMORY
PETE: Aubrey and Jonno shared a shower between their rooms, and a certain member of our society had some automatic weapons, which he kept stripping down, and you'd be walking down the passage, and you would hear `click click' [imitation of a weapon being cocked], `click click', `click click' which unnerved Crisp no end. He was waiting for a bullet to come straight through the door, into the shower, and then right into his bedroom. He would be reading a book and he would hear `click click'.
AUBREY: I had about six machine guns and a couple of thousand round of ammunition, which had fallen off the back of a truck.
PETE: Aubrey and I were going shooting, and we had the whole range to ourselves, and we were firing off some Czechoslovakian ammunition. We were machine-gunning cans all over, and then some of the real army ouks that should be shooting pulled in. Now they are spoiling our fun. They started using their weapons; `Eie teiken, leering, laai, skiet.' So while the one ouk was quietly machine-gunning away, the other was just watching for effective reaction, then `Okay, right, my turn!'
AUBREY: He was an army guy in computers with Crispie, and he got pissed in town somewhere, and he lost his glasses and he walked all the way back to Voortrekkerhoogte, and remembered dimly that Jonathan Crisp lived at the SAMS mess, and he eventually got up to the second floor where we were, and was banging on every door. I remember hearing `dum dum dum'.
PETE: Each guy would say `I'm sorry. I don't know where he lives.'
AUBREY: And he was coming down the passage towards me, and of course in my half sleep, I just assumed that this ouk was coming to attack me. Crisp was one door away from me, so this guy had to get to my door before he got to Crisp's door. I got my pistol out, and I said; `If he comes to the door, I'm going to kill him.' Somehow he never got to my door. Some guy must have turned him round and sent him off. It was touch and go.
PETE: Aubrey, when playing Trivial Pursuit against Afrikaans ouks, read the question as badly as possible. If it was tratchorea, you would pronounce it tra-tor-ee-aah. The ouk had like no chance of answering. He would go like `I knew that question.' We won every night.
AUBREY: It wasn't fair, but fairness had nothing to do with winning.
PETE: Read the question as badly as possible.
LIFE FROM SAMS CLUB (VOORTREKKERHOOGTE)
BARRY THE JOURNALIST ... OR ALCOHOLIC ...
AUBREY: You [Barry] came on some on some of those binges we used to have in Joburg on Friday night - Saturday.
BARRY: They were mind-expanding! I learned a lot!
PETE: You were like always a guest. You were like an observer.
AUBREY: Barry was doing his normal shrink stuff and he used to sit there, and he would look at us -
FRED: Taking notes ...
AUBREY: - with a sort of deep look in his eyes, with a little smile, watching us, as if ...
PETE: The smile from the liquor
FRED: It was the fifty grams per litre that he had in his blood at the time
AUBREY: Ja, it had nothing to do with the amount of beer that he drank - almost as if he was saying `Look at these white rats on the treadmill doing their thing.'
Inevitably we would end up at the Hard Rock cafe at about three in the morning with a couple of tarts in tow -
PETE: Or chat the waitresses up -
AUBREY: It couldn't have lasted much longer than it did, because I don't think even then we had the stamina for it. Certainly now I wouldn't last one of those -
BARRY: I never thought I would hear you say that Aubrey.
CATHY: Ja, he's an old man now!
AUBREY: Ja, over the hill.
AUBREY: We used to have a debrief of the Monday night and the Saturday night at that stage, so the Friday night was the debriefing. These guys used to psychoanalyse us.
AUBREY: Fowler could always drink more than any of us. It was just that he got quieter and quieter and we would get more rowdy and rowdy.
FRED: Fowler, the volume control has gone a little bit ape-shit again!
AUBREY: Its got nothing to do with the amount of alcohol he's had to drink.
FRED: Drinking `Tassies' out of an enamel mug; that's Barry's style.
BARRY: Something that Fred denies is that I could have written all the stuff I write considering how much I had drunk on most of the occasions.
FRED: There's no way he can remember all the things that happened, because the majority of the time he was slammed out of his mind.
AUBREY: A subconscious recorder was whirring away.
PETE: We don't believe you. You can't remember a thing!
AUBREY: We know better.
PETE: Fowler. He's like a sleeper. Do you know what a sleeper is?
FRED: I was thinking actually one of those things that they put pieces of metal on to that trains run on.
PETE: In Pretoria a sleeper is known as a car that looks completely normal to the casual observer, but under the bonnet and chassis it has this veracious motor.
FRED: A 200 l engine.
PETE: Exactly. Its like you bought a new XR6, and this Morris minor gave you carrots. You trade the car in the next day. Its called a `sleeper'. That's old Fowler. He's a sleeper. He sits there - I wouldn't say a wolf in sheep's clothing - but he just sleeps, and he picks his items out.
FRED: I've been developing a theory over the last three or four days. Actually he does this impersonation of a drunk, and he does this impression of a guy with a hangover, and he's perfectly sober the whole time, and he's doing the study.
AUBREY: Still taking notes.
FRED: We'll get back tonight, and he'll disappear for two hours, and I know he's going to be writing. He says he's passed out on the bed, but what he's actually doing is writing notes. And three years from now they'll appear in print.
FRED: This will be in press ...
AUBREY: And we'll be in jail!
PETE: The best was going to Santon City, for a trade off. I didn't want to get involved, because of working for the Brig. so I tell ...
AUBREY: That I would just park off at Wimpys, `you go ahead.' There was much body searching, and tuck [?barrel bag?] bag full of his contraband, and a licensed army pistol in his briefcase. He walks up and the guy stops him and says; `Have you got a weapon?' I nearly shat myself. I've got these two army ouks and I'm a civvy ouk - unlicensed what-evers.
Aubrey says `You didn't stop him.' `You didn't stop the guy in front of him. Why are you searching me? Because I'm in army uniform?' The guy gets all very defensive. `Hey, I've got a gun,' and he puts this target bag, gym kit like loaded with fifty years hard labour down, opens his briefcase, and says; `Here it is, here, and here is my licence.'
`Right, I'm not worried for that. Sorry, sir.'
`Fucken right!' and he let me in.
I would have curled up and put my head in the bangles.
WHEN WE WENT TO KAYALAMI
PETE: I'll never forget that time we were at Kayalami and I climbed over the fence. Barry brings enough beer for six people, and were going to watch racing. He puts this little brief case thing between his legs, full of beer, and its party time - Partee! At four o'clock Fowler stops drinking. Why?
PETE: He throws it away. What happened? He doesn't know. He drank it all. He can't believe it, but maybe. Watching the cars - the car goes - whuuur. [Impression of a drunk person slowly trying to watch something that sped by some time before.]
AUBREY: Pete Bradley got so pissed that he decided that it was better to look on the other side of the safety fence to see what it looked like from the drivers perspective, so he climbs up this seven foot wire mesh fence, falls over the other end, staggers off to near the fence to take a photograph. As he's coming back, he paused on the top to get his balance
PETE: And the marshal was shouting -
AUBREY: - And chasing him -
PETE: He was shouting - and you know when you're pissed; `I can't hear you!'
AUBREY: He doesn't want to hear. He climbs back on to the fence from the race track side, and he gets on the top and he's teetering a bit, and that's when we decided that it was time to start pelting him. I have admitted to throwing bottles. We were drinking Amstel - Amstel in a nice green bottle - [sound of flying bottles] he got one on the temple, sitting on a seven foot fence, and he didn't so much fall as plummet. He landed in a heap at the bottom -
PETE: Then it was open season for the whole grandstand.
AUBREY: - It was like looking at a tracer - tracers coming in on a target, and then bouncing off, and you get these spectacular things of green Amstel bottled, hitting Pete on the swede and then bouncing up and going through the fence. Then he lay there, moaning and groaning, and some ouk took pity on him - Crisp - he came and he brought a blanket and he draped it on him, and he was lying in a ditch. It was all in the sense of fair play.
AUBREY: I'm much maligned, I'll have you know.
Same story, different telling ...
PETE: Robin and Barry came to Kyalami with us.
AUBREY: Do you remember pissing through that ouk's window?
JONNO: Where Aubrey knocked Pete off the fence with a bottle.
PETE: It was you, you bastard!
JONNO: Aubrey hit you on the fucking peanut with an Amstel bottle.
AUBREY: There was an eight-foot fence which Pete climbed over because he wanted to see what the crowd looked like from the drivers perspective.
PETE: I had been on the gravel of the track, and the marshals had tried to chase me but the treadiers are coming too fast so they can't get across the track. I was partying in the spin-off area.
AUBREY: Pete was waving at the crowd from the other side of the fence. He got to the top of the eight-foot fence, coming back, and we whip an Amstel bottle at him and it hits him on the suede; on the forehead between the eyes. He falls like a sack of potatoes. He lies in the little ditch next to the fence there, and he lay there for a long time, and Barry or Robin took him a blanket.
JONNO: I brought him a blanket.
AUBREY: Instead of a body bag we just put a blanket over this corpse.
JONNO: And then we threw tins at it.
AUBREY: We pelted it.
JONNO: And most of them were empty.
PETE: The author who doesn't drink arrives at Kyalami with a crate of beers in a briefcase. He puts them between his legs and we think; `That's a nice token gesture to the ouks who had brought him along to Kayalami. And from nine o'clock, he systematically works his way through this, until twelve o'clock, when he's shit-faced. Both eyes in one fucken socket, and the races haven't started yet. And Fowler is jolly. Fowler then goes to Bimbos in Oxford Road, Rosebank and he did breakdancing on the pavement outside Bimbos, and even the other ouks thought; `Now who is this ouk?!' And we said; `No, we're going to take him away now!' ... You don't remember? ... Aubrey? Breakdancing outside Bimbos in Rosebank?
AUBREY: Yes, you had that light blue anorak.
FRED: Try and deny this one, Fowler.
JONNO: A trainspotting anorak.
AUBREY: Barry was ten years ahead of the fashion trend.
PETE: It was culpable homicide. He systematically worked his way through a case a beer. He actually paced himself; three an hour. He was clocking himself. He finished the case of beers and had a silly smile on his face, put his other eye in the other socket and watched the cars. [visual]
AUBREY: I've never actually seen so much beer getting consumed on a consistent basis that Barry Fowler sitting at Kyalami. I've never seen it in my life.
PETE: He brought along a whole case of beer and drank them all himself.
AUBREY: Could we hear your rebuttal?
AUBREY: [Showing his Starfire pistol to Barry] Its something for you to look at. Its not a present.
PETE: We went to a restaurant or shebeen and meet this girl Robin Norris-Jones. Crisp and I carry on with nine packs under a stolen credit card and we drink into a stupor. Aubrey teaches them some kind of officers fancy jump where you stand against the table, and you have to leap up on to the table, failing which you lose the bet. His toes catch the table, it tips over and he falls with the table landing on his chest. Man down! Dead! We thought he was dead.
AUBREY: I thought I was dead!
PETE: We thought you were dead!
PETE'S CAR IS STOLEN
PETE: My car gets stolen, and I'm upset about it. My car's been stolen and I get a lift back, and its about two in the morning, and I think; `Should I wake Aubrey or not because I've got to tell somebody. I've got no like real family, so I want to wake somebody and say "I'm sorry, my car's been stolen."' Its two o'clock. There's not much you can do at two o'clock, so I can hardly sleep; I'm so excited about my car being stolen, but upset. At six o'clock I banged on his door. `My car's been stolen.'
He says; `Fucken A! We can look for a new one now!' He says; `It was losing compression. This is excellent. Where's the Sunday papers.'
I was floored. At least I wanted; `Ay, no! Where? How? What you going to do? Shame! I'm sorry to hear that.' BUT: `Hey, No! Get a new one. Get the papers. Lets go look for cars. What do you want? He used to dream of things like that.'
Driving to Johannesburg to look for a car, I'm reading a magazine, doing the standard 160 in the yellow golf - that's all it could do, flat out. We were going down hill at a nice speed, and they were putting these road signs up on the M1, and the traffic was completely backed up, and the PS [Personnel School] Bus goes by on the other lane, and Aubrey says; `Ah! I'm sure its the PS School bus,' [and he puts his foot down]. Now all the cars have stopped dead. We're used to high speeds, sideways, off the road, no problem. I'm reading the magazine. Me: `Aubrey, I'm sure the cars have stopped in front of is.'
AUBREY: I'm sure that's the bus.'
AUBREY! I remembered an American stock car close in front of the window and we were doing about 150, 140. Breaks - cross skids - going all over the road. He misses the fast lane and does in the slow lane because there's actually seventy metres to go. I remember reading this magazine thinking; `I wish he would get this car under control. It was all over the road.'
Years later I realised that we were so used to being wild in cars, that normally Barry and Robin would be squawking in the back with eyes like saucers, I'm trying to keep my book steady so I can read it. I scheme; `What's taking so long?'
A VERY IMPRESSIVE CAR
AUBREY: Pete was driving. There was Pete, Mike Jarvis, Jonno Crisp and myself. Jarvis and I were in the back. Crispie and Pete were in the front, and there was the typical Sunday night return traffic on that M3, and it was still single [lane], but they were doing all that construction. I was sleeping. We came over, and I just remember the car lurching - wake up - and there were just lights right the way across the highway, which was two lanes, and it was two 38 ton trucks going up the hill at about 3 k's an hour, and we came over at about 140. Pete hit the anchors and it started locking up, and we weren't going to stop in time, and they certainly weren't going to stop. Crisp was squawking much better at this stage. He had hidden underneath the cubby hole, he was looking up at Peter, just these wide staring eyes. I'm looking out of the back, and so is Jarvis.
The wheels were locked, so Pete took his feet of the brakes, and his wheels were pointing left, so the car just jumped, literally, and it took off. There was about an eight foot drop, and it came down on the back left hand corner - co-incidentally where I was sitting - and bent the axle, and eventually we stopped. This thing was steaming, so we got out. The trucks had gone past.
PETE: The guy's eyes are like saucers. They've been dossing. `Fucking good driving,' he says. `And the car's not shit either.' I'm saying; `Are you guys all right?'
Aubrey: `Lekker car. Great stuff!'
AUBREY: And one driver stopped, and he said that he would try and catch the guys, and then this thing was overheating, so we were pouring beer on the thing.
PETE: His dad gave us a case of Amstel on the way home or something. We were pouring beer, like two or three at a time, on to this axle to keep it cold
AUBREY: So that we could get it off. Then we got into Warden, one of those little Free State dorps, and we found the one and only garage that was open, and got the mechanic out to come and fix it. The thing was bent and we disassembled the brake mechanism and cut off the hydraulic tube, and the thing was going to last. At this point, Jarvis, who is a Monty Python fan was saying - the wheel was skew - `It you tighten this nut more than that one, then it will pull it straight'. Which is complete bullshit of course, because the whole housing is [twisted]. Now he's taunting the mechanic who is our only chance of salvation at this point. Jarvis is taunting, and the mechanic is getting pissed off, Pete was getting pissed off with Jarvis. It was touch and go as to whether this thing was going to get fixed at all.
PETE: This guy had just been called out, at 10 or 11, and he gets there. `Please will you fix the car?'
`No ways, guys. No ways.' So these guys start acting all the sorry ous. The car ...
AUBREY: We were acting like dom troepies. [dumb troops]
PETE: You army ous are all the same. You leave it till the bloody bitter end. You drive through the night.
We're working on the `Please please.' He's got a son in the army, so he gets a little trolley, and he goes under the car to have a look. As he goes under, Jarvis kicks his shoe, and the guy says `Ja?' Jarvis says `Just come here.' The ouk eases out, and Jarvis says; `I'm sure if you tighten the top nut, the wheel will come straight.'
He goes; `No, the axle is bent inside. Its not the actual rim.'
Jarvis says; `I'm sure if you tighten the top nut, it will be fine.'
Crispie says to Jarvis; `Lets go and look at the beech balls and stuff.'
The ouk with the trolley is back under, and Jarvis kicks it. Aubrey reckons `How did it handle? How did it handle?'
LT. JARVIS LEARNS WHO HIS TRUE FRIENDS ARE (NOT!)
Jarvis is a strange character. He's also one of these psycho-type guys. He studied industrial psycho and industrial relations and all sorts of things, and Mike and I were in basics together in the army, while I had the dubious title of being bungalow bull, he was the right hand man. He was a strong Monty Python fan. Mike is very much the thinker and the feeler. I had to do more of the enforcing. Mike is an intuitive deep sort of guy, but also exceptionally disciplined in his mind, and he had the opportunity of staying on as an instructor at PD school which he thrived on, that environment of discipline and being rigid - he just loved it. To Mike, for anything to be out of place - it destroyed his whole morale fibre. Things fell apart - things have to be very neat and ordered - the kind of guy who analyses his bank statement every month to make sure that the checks that he has written have gone through, the bank charges are right. Its a level of orderliness which I don't understand - I don't operate on that level.
PETE: Jarvis became and officer, and he was prim and proper. He invited us back to PS School, and you could buy a bottle of Nederberg Cabernet for about R4.50. At about 8 o'clock at night the bar closed so we ordered twelve bottles. The barman just shakes his head and just dishes up, and we went to [Mike Jarvis's] room. He had colonel's inspection the next day. He was head of the squash ladder - they had been playing a knock-out for about seven or eight years, and they were down to just the die-hards who were going to win. We take all the documents out of the file that says `squash ladder'.
We had no bottle opener. The walls were limewashed. They were beautifully clean; lovely. It was the Colonel's inspection the next day. His clothes were ironed so that you could cut paper with them. We pushed the cork into the bottle and it sprayed red wine into the lime; there was this red line across the middle of the wall. You can't get it out. You scratch with your nail, and your nail gets full of that white stuff, but that red line is bigger now. Poor Jarvis, hell! From his cupboard we unpack all his kit and jump on it and scrummel it up - no, only some of the shirts. We didn't do all of them. He played his guitar with a credit card and evidently scratched his guitar, and we broke the credit card as well. We took his squash file, and took all the papers out. He was sitting like this now [visual!] Shame, it was cruel. He doesn't see us take the paper out; we say; `Watch this!' and he goes `NOOOOOO!' The final straw was when we were standing on his bed weeing out of the window. He said; `Please don't do that because you're weeing in the courtyard.' So you say; `Where should I wee? In your cupboard?' so he says; `No. Out the window!' This ouk was finished, hey! The room looked like a bomb had hit it, hey! There was a Colonel's inspection about three hours after we had left it trashed. Poor Jarvis. A more paraat ouk you'll never meet. I think the defence force heaved a sigh of relief when they got rid of us.
Same story, different telling ...
We arrived, Barry Fowler, Jonno Crisp, Pete Bradley and myself go and visit.
BARRY: We arrive at PD school, all of us dressed in civvies -
BARRY: And this guard refuses to let us in, and you tell him this long sob story, and he doesn't buy it at all, and then you congratulate him, recommend him for promotion, and then try to get in on various other -
AUBREY: Good cop - bad cop syndrome
BARRY: You did it all yourself. I was very impressed with that. It was no hassle whatsoever. This very distressed national serviceman - you were producing evidence that you were, in fact, a colonel
PETE: Maybe a colonel of a colonel - the godfather with pinstripes.
AUBREY: I don't believe a word of this, Fowler.
FRED: I can believe it.
AUBREY: I don't. Lies!
BARRY: It just carried on. Every now and again, you'd let yourself down by congratulating him that he had passed level seven.
PETE: Believe me, you get points for that.
BARRY: Eventually we got in. I'm a bit cloudy about how we did this. [I think someone went to call Jarvis, who came and vouched for us.] I remember you trying this softly-softly `Please, he's my brother, and I have to tell him our mother has died -
PETE: Then we told him the truth, and he let us in. We actually wanted a drink in the pub.
AUBREY: We probably resorted just to kakking [crapping] on him at the end of the day.
BARRY: `You're doing very well. I would employ you myself.' I think you said. `If I were to be guarded, I would be guarded by you.'
AUBREY: Fowler, I don't believe a word of this.
AUBREY: Then we hit the pub, and the pub closed at about seven.
PETE: So we said to the ouk, `We'll have four bottled of Nederberg Cabernet Sauvignon, at about R 2.50 a bottle.
AUBREY: We complained about the price, I'm sure.
PETE: Anyway we took the four bottles and we were off to Jarvis's room, which you must understand is a human filing cabinet.
AUBREY: Six foot by three foot.
PETE: It had limewash on the walls, very conducive to red wine stains that will never come out.
AUBREY: There was a colonel's inspection the next morning for the officers, which was something that we had never heard of. It was a serious business, especially if you are a training officer in a training unit. Mike had done his bed, he's brasso'd his desk, he's brasso'd his kas - he had done everything. Everything was ironed.
PETE: You could cut your finger on the seem of his shirt in fact.
AUBREY: So we rush in there, kick the door down, jump on the bed, mess everything up on the desk, start playing with his guitar.
PETE: He just puts his hands on his head and just said `No!'
AUBREY: `No, please, no!' Crisp's now urinating out of the window into the courtyard. Mike is saying; `Please don't make a noise.' So Crisp runs out into the passage and shouts; `Lt. Jarvis, who are those people making a noise in your room. Stop making the noise.'
PETE: So Crisp is weeing out of the window. Jarvis is getting himself reconciled to advance kak. He shouts at him; `Jonathan, don't wee out there. Jonathan holds the head and turns around and says `Do you want me to wee in your room?' It is ballooning on him. `Do you want me to do it right here?' He says; `No.' He says `Dead right,' and turns back to the window.
Jarvis is the sports officer. He is in charge of the whole squash league. They've made this fancy range up to the semi-finals, and they are in buff envelopes.
AUBREY: It must have been a Tuesday night, because the next day was sports parade.
PETE: He was all ready to rock and roll. I picked this thing up. Mike said; `Whatever you do - you can smash the whole place up, but don't damage that. Aubrey of course, being astute, hears this, and takes all of the documents out ...
FRED: And sets fire to them?
PETE: He says; `Jarvis, what shit's this?' and he turns and threw them. The ouk collapsed. This is like kaseering [cashiering] of note! The ouk was paralysed.
Now we've got no bottle opener, so we can always push the cork into the wine with the back of a ...
FRED: Now we are talking mean corks!
PETE: Aubrey opens up his kas which has these things ironed of note! and he plays concertina on this guy's finely ironed clothes. We left at about twelve o'clock, and this sod was up till four getting ready for inspection, because his room was stuffed.
FRED: And he didn't talk to you for 18 years.
PETE: He never invited us back.
AUBREY: He was actually very understanding, which I would never have been under the circumstances.
BARRY: As they say this it all comes back to me. I remember things like Crisp urinating out of the window.
FRED: You don't remember the finer detail. This is the story of his life. He never remembers the finer detail.
AUBREY: Do you remember me head-butting the notice board in the entrance hall, and pushing the screw of my beret badge almost through my skull and through my cranium.
CATHY: - that personality change. A frontal lobotomy!
AUBREY: That's the part I remember. I had a massive hole.
FRED: The cranial trauma that occurred during those two years shaped the rest of his life.
AUBREY: It was putting up with you bastards that changed my life.
OPERATIONAL BITS AND PIECES
Then we were at the border at Omega camp. You were dropped 30 km out on the kaplyn and you must walk in to get a little badge with a kraaitjie, but you can buy then from the K-store for about 50c. If you can trade the thing for a drink of whiskey why walk 30 ks for it. But some of the ouks; hulle was trots. Julle moed loop. Being a medic and having two of these badges because I was a drinking friend of the Quartermaster. So now I was in a Unimog with drywer, which was a straight NDP without a licence. We had to drive this 30 ks to make sure that the guys aren't collapsing from heat-stroke. We drive and there's this string of ouks like from the Comrades Marathon, and Smithy - a guy we used to know when we stayed in Pretoria - we were driving along and there was this moer of a puddle, which was about as wide as the average vehicle. We didn't know that it was about as deep as the ouk stands. And there these ouks, these sergeant majors and Luitenante are trapping and we decide we're going to splash these ouks. Sure! The whole Unimog goes in, it hunches its back, and jumps up. No bullshit! The wheels go this high off the ground and the ouk's steering like thus. It does down, it goes left, it goes in the bush and out, and we're missing ouks who are scattering like a bomb-shell. We recover.
The driver says; `Luitenant, die ding is gevok!'
I said; `What's wrong.'
He said; `Die ding is stukkend. Lets take it back and get the other Unimog.'
I said; `Ja. Good idea.'
He drove it out and he parked the thing, and he said that we should spray it down with the hose first. `Why?' I ask. No!', he says; `Trust me on this!' We spray the Unimog down, and we get the other Unimog and we go out on medic evacuation stuff.
About two weeks later we have a special meeting of the medics. The ouk from Tiffies, he's never seen this before in the history of mankind. The axle of the Unimog is bent. Its impossible. Its never been done before.
`How did it happen?' No, we don't know. I'm thinking that it could only have been that pothole. The thing hunched its back. You felt it quiver under you like a live animal.
So the tiffies were there and they wanted to take this thing down to Voortrekkerhoogte to have it analysed because it must be like a metal defect. The major there - I forget who he was - said that someone must have driven this and hit something or driven it into a hole. To this day the ouks don't know what happened to that Unimog. The tiffies were there, almost with stethoscopes, listening to the metal. It was unbelievable.
LETS TALK ABOUT FRED
AUBREY: This ouk had a rack of pipes.
SHERYL: He's still got them.
FRED: I still do!
AUBREY: And about five kilos of different types of tobacco.
BARRY: Tobacco you call it?
AUBREY: He said it was tobacco. It had this strangely familiar smell from Maritzburg Varsity days.
FRED: This gluvine type of smell.
AUBREY: This weed type of smell. Something like tea.
FRED: The one with the five fingers.
AUBREY: Fred used to play this appalling music on this stereo system.
FRED: It was not appalling.
AUBREY: It was appalling. There was no head banging, or drums or guitars or anything in it - no swearing.
FRED: Piet Kruger used to walk into the bar at Northern Transvaal on a Saturday morning and put a fifty rand note on the table, and say; `Tell me when I have drunk this much.' Now, at SAMS prices, that's a fair amount of drinking you have to do. He used to spend the morning in the bar, and they used to pour him back into bed at night. That was his life.
COMMANDANT FRED AND THE GENERAL
FRED: At the end of 1992 I went on a staff type course
PETE: A piss up of note!
FRED: And we caused an immense amount of shit, me and Ray Middleton. We eventually told old Koos Steyn, who is now the OC of the college that we didn't really like the way this course was being run and that it was a total stuff-up. We'd had a little bit to drink and it was a fairly long exercise, and it was the end of the exercise and we were a bit pissed off about the whole thing.
Straight from the course I went on leave, and I while I was on leave, old Dippenaar's cat Matewis got sick. Our guy out at the military clinic at Onderstepoort was on the phone every day, and we were co-ordinating Matewis's treatment, because I am Matewis's personal physician. Matewis is about nine years old. The first day back at work I phone his secretary and I say; `Will you go and ask the boss how Matewis is?'
She says; `What?'
I said; `Just go and say to the boss; "How is Matewis?"' She walked in, and she comes back and she says; `Where are you?' I said; `I am in the office.' She says; `The boss says will you come and have a cup of coffee with him?' So I am up there, and I say; `Morning General. How are you?'
He says; `I'm fine thanks. Happy New Year. I believe you caused a little bit of shit on course.'
This is what he says to me when I walk into his office. That was last year's New Years Eve.
This year I went to see him, and I said; `Morning, General. Happy New Year.' He says; `Its been shit so far, but Happy New year to you too.' That is his approach to life.
PETE: He can't handle the phone, this ouk [Brigadier Dippenaar]. He hates telephones.
FRED: Oh, he's got a passionate loathing for phones!
PETE: Lynette goes on leave. He can't get a number, so he thrashes the phone to death with the receiver.
FRED: He's also been known to throw them out of the window.
PETE: He did that. That was the next day. He smashed the phone - deluxe phone. They replaced the phone. The next day the phone is ringing - he takes the phone - unplugs it - throws it out the second story window - smashed. R 100 fine. He hates phones.
FRED: Can't stand a phone. Loathes the damn things. A most interesting man.
AFTER NATIONAL SERVICE
PETE: So I went to live with my rich cousin Aubrey in Westville. He had to do some work for the army's little blue book, which I'm sure he made a hundred thousand [rand] out of.
PERSONNEL SERVICES SCHOOL
JONNO: I remember in the army we had those wonderful cold showers and there was that one guy who had been dropped by his girlfriend all the time. He slept in a tent with Jarvis in the bush. The guy was actually like a bit simple. He was totally doff! We were in the army, cold water and everything. I know that this is a bit of a cliché, but it actually happened. Some of the ouks started weeing on him, and he would say; `Hey, man! Die water kry warm!' He was getting so chuffed with himself. He didn't quite work it out that the water was only warm from about waist height downwards. The poor ouk! He was so simple; he was engaged to a woman in his mind, but we felt so sorry for him that we put him with Jarvis, a mate of ours.
AUBREY: The guy was epileptic, and he used to pass out if we had a bit of a bussie. Towards the end of basics everybody was reasonably fit, and inevitably there was an excuse to go for a run. We would do one or two laps just to do our bit for `Die Totale Aanslag' and things like that, and then we'd get a bit tired, and we'd say to this ouk; `Listen. Time to pull your trick.' Someone would trip him up or something, and he would go down, and then he'd have one of his little fits, and the corporals would be nice to you for the next half hour or so. It was cruel. He was good value. We liked having him around.
JONNO: Jarvis was the funniest. We take him on the Vasbyt, and the Lootie is walking around with his book, marking off; `Okay, its your turn to lead the platoon.' Lead, right, compass reading this and that. Things start getting hairy eventually with rocks and things. The guys were getting very tired and fading away, but you've all got to keep team playing. Old Jarvis, eventually its his turn. About 10ks down the road, he sits down on a rock and says; `Fuck this. Fuck this. Fuck this! Corporal. Lieutenant. Write there in your book "Jarvis had cracked! Jarvis has cracked!" I will not be an officer. I don't care.' It was so funny. Jarvis went absolutely mad! The ouk went ballistic.
JONNO: During our Vasbyt where we hiked right across the Magaliesberg. The guys started to get pissed off towards the end, and they were getting so cross with carrying their rifles, that they were chucking their R4s about twenty or thirty feet down. Katz, that big fat guy, at one stage he got so cross with it that he just smashed his rifle against a tree, and the barrel bent. And when you get back, and you have to hand your rifles in eventually. They would check and they would just see so many bent barrels; `What's going on?' Tree aan. Try your luck, boy. What happened here? You guys must start making these things straight. What's your problem? Are you trying to give the terrorists a chance? [Nothing is NDP proof!]
AUBREY: That RSM of P.D. School came unstuck quite badly when some of his troops had stolen firearms and sold them for drugs in the townships.
The OC of PS School:
PETE: Jarvis couldn't handle him. He wanted to pee on the ouk's grave.
AUBREY: He hadn't died yet so he didn't have a grave.
FRED: He was willing to help him with that.
AUBREY: Push it along a bit.
PETE: That's the night you sang and a glass table shattered.
AUBREY: I've never sung again.
JONNO: We were in the bush in bivvies, and it rained. Jarvis was such a son of a bastard - he took a lilo with him. He blew the thing up every night and he parked off in his tent. The rest of us were in the mud. Jarvis is now floating, but he's sharing the bivvy with whatever his name was, but he's displaced so much water that the other ouk was just about drowning.
The ouk is finished! `Aw. Man! Ek kry so nat!' You could just hear him crying from the other bivvies. Jarvis was saying; `What's your problem, man?! There's no problem here. Its just a bit of life!' My bivvy was right next to Jarvis's, and Jarvis, on his lilo would say; `What is your problem, man? Why?'
Being very Gung Ho! I volunteered for the infantry after my sojourn in the Personnel Services, so I was allocated to an infantry regiment in Natal, Natalia in Maritzburg.
FRED: You volunteered because you had the opportunity to kill someone.
AUBREY:That's what I thought. I went overseas straight after the army, got back only to find a call up for the end of that year so I had Christmas and New Year of my first year out of the army in the townships down in Durban in a place called Lamontville, which is just South of Durban which is very hairy/hilly. We ended up in 30 degrees + 120% humidity, walking foot patrols. This camp was so organised that we had 4 two-pip Lts to a platoon, so me being a rookie two pip Lt. at that stage was a section leader. I was a vehicle commander, which was great. The cops - the SAP - cos we were stationed - we had a fortified police station with bunkers and all that sort off shit in case we got mortared - the ouks really thought that there might have been a war - the cops used to keep us awake all night - three or four times a week beating the shit out of their detainees with hosepipes.
FRED: The other three nights they kept you awake partying.
AUBREY: Yes, these guys used to come and go, so it was just the shift that was on duty who was there, so it was fairly tame from the entertainment point of view. Almost every night - squeals - screaming shouting moaning groaning -
FRED: Same things happens in our house
AUBREY: Aw, but you enjoy it, Fred.
AUBREY: At the end of this whole thing - I managed to make myself so bloody unpopular. I was gatvol. This was complete bullshit. We had a few spots of potential action where we chased a few guys and laid some ambushes which was what we were all there for, but the rest of the time it was just a ball-ache.
I managed to get my rating as low as possible because they actually evaluate you - can you believe this? By insulting my platoon commander, threatening to shoot one of my co-officers I managed to get my rating to an all time low, and they never asked me to come back again. When I asked for a transfer out of the unit, it was granted immediately. Luckily for me, the unit that I was supposed to get into which was one of these semi-intelligence type things when I had been involved with the army newspaper and all that - they didn't have a post, so the transfer seemed to have taken place out of the infantry regiment, but never happened at the other end, and I never heard a work after that - ever.
I never tried to duck and dive - I never updated my addresses. I never said; `Listen guys, I never received my posting.' That never happened. It was amazing. I never heard a word since. Now they can go to hell. They wouldn't want me really, I'm sure.
I'm pleased to say that my contribution to the war effort was zero.
PETE: A Buffel rocks when you go to fast, but the driver assures him you can drive it out of the rock if you drive faster. He ends up with an R1 butt on the drivers helmet `Ry die vokken ding stadiger' and the drivers veering all over the road getting clubbed over the head. Aubrey's scared now - first time in his life in a motor vehicle he's scared -
AUBREY: I wasn't behind the wheel - if I remember correctly, it took a couple of blows to subdue him. He was a driver from Uppington or somewhere. A rather hard headed young man!
PETE: Can you imagine driving along getting hit with an R1 on your head while you're keeping control of a vehicle and trying to drive the wobble out of it, while steering into the wobble?
TOWARDS THE END OF ANOTHER PERFECT REUNION
CATHY: If we stay here much longer, we'll have to order supper.
AUBREY: We are the only ones here. Do you realise that?
BARRY: Its an exclusive party.
FRED: That's what being important is all about.
AUBREY: Is that what it is?
FRED: Ja! They heard rumours that you [Aubrey]were going to Nuke the place if they kicked us out too early.
PETE: Machine-gun it to the ground.
FRED: Take out a small suburban restaurant.
PETE: How's the spying business?
ROBIN: Aw, shut up, man!
BARRY: Its good to see you guys again.
AUBREY: Its good to be seen!
CATHY: We've heard these stories for years.
BARRY: Don't believe them. I was just a quiet -
AUBREY: Now that you've seen him you can believe every word, hey?
PETE: This ouk could drink other ouks dead! A case of beer by lunch.
AUBREY: Pete, there's something wrong with us because we always seem to come up with the most spectacular stories, and I'm not sure whether its based on fact or imagination at this point.
CATHY: I think its a bit of both.
AUBREY: The two get a little bit blurred after a while.
PETE: Ja, embellishment.
AUBREY: The Geneva convention does not apply to civilians. It only applies to armies.
FRED: It doesn't apply to South Africa either.
BARRY: I always felt very safe with Aubrey. Maybe not with the driving.
AUBREY: I keep praying for the day that five jigaboos with knives attack an old lady and I happen to be there.
FRED: What does the bill come to?
AUBREY: Not nearly enough for the value we had out of it.
PETE: When you write the book say this poor sod [Aubrey] paid for the whole lot.
Published: 9 February 2002.
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