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Rust in Peace

31 Dec

I like cars. Always have. New ones, old ones, fast ones, classic ones, foreign ones, shiny ones, rusty ones. All sorts. I’ve driven lots since age thirteen. I’ve bought them, sold them, coveted them and crashed them.

All in all I prefer the older ones. You had to be able to drive them; nothing was automatic, not even the choke, no syncro on the gears or power steering. In-car entertainment – you’d have to fit a radio and aerial. Traction control – what’s that? Navigation was by roadmap – satellites were the stuff of science fiction. And ABS? To stop quickly meant standing on the brake pedal. They were individual, had character and I could recognise the make by the headlights in my rear-view mirror. Try that today…

But never have I seen a more interesting collection of clapped out, shabby old bangers than on the roads here. They are often suicidally overloaded, kept going on a wing and a prayer and held together with gaffer tape and string. Bald tyres are the norm, despite the fine being more than the cost of a new one, and there’s a few specials about where the wires poke through. Also frequently seen broken down on the shoulder. But they  fix them, somehow manage to keep them going – out of necessity I suspect. At least you can work on older vehicles though. No computer scanner nonsense. Even I could strip down the carburettor of the old Minxie, my first car, blow out the jets and re-assemble.

They would never get through an MOT. But they don’t have to. No annual checks here – just  a one-off roadworthy certificate on change of ownership. Explains a lot.

That’s just what you see. Many of the cars on the road have have engine implants; indeed few bear their original innards. There are big cars with totally unsuitable, under-powered engines to satisfy those with a need to look cool yet hope for economy, and small cars with monstrously tuned jobs – real wolves in sheep’s clothing. And you should see some of the workmanship – varying from the awe-inspiring to the downright terrifying and ramshackle. This is a country of extremes.

And I love them all. It has become my latest photographic fixation and am in search of the best worst example. The sad thing is, three of the vehicles I have been riding in are contenders (two on the road and the other – engine out waiting for a donor).

Like I said in a previous post, we’ve been keeping off the roads so not much photo opportunity. Yet. Expect to see random shots of suitable specimens popping up in future posts, just when you least expect them.

For now, I give you three Fiat (Fix It Again Tomorrow) Unos, with their proud owners. These cars are known hereabouts as kannie dood – meaning immortal. A bit like the old English adage – Old Fords Never Die.

Les and his blue one-John and his red one-Robert and his white one

Red-Neck Christmas

31 Dec

We made a conscious decision to stay away from everything this silly season – the shops, the roads, the people. Even the pub. Traffic cops will be out in force and tend to sit in gaggles, five cars strong,  just where you don’t need them – en route of the pub and the bus  is a favourite. Everybody drinks and drives here so not only is it damned dangerous if you get in the way of a bakkie full of boozed up blacks,  but the penalties can be awful if you get caught doing it yourself. And I don’t fancy an African jail. At all. You don’t get bail and  have to stay banged up till the magistrate comes off holiday, which may be some time. It’s not so much Bah Humbug as self preservation.

So here we are at the bus on an isolated farm. It’s like the world has gone away. Really.  We are pottering about, doing exactly as we please without a care for usual traditions/Family Commitments/The Christmas Dinner/Present Buying. None of that commercial crap. Couldn’t be better. T.J. has loaded music and movies onto the little craptop so we are sorted in that department and right nice it is too.

I know it’s still out there though as e mails from distraught friends who are caught up in it all depict all too clearly. My heart goes out to you.

Over the holiday, John has been gently but steadily converting the bus lights to LED and/or engaging in a little landscaping. The results of both are brilliant and, in the case of the latter, surprisingly instant.

Newly converted Deco fitting

New terrace and planting above shower

I’ve been having a crack at painting, having acquired some cute little reseal-able plastic pots of water based paint and a brush. (They came in a kit which included a model horse, which I’m sure John will enjoy putting together at some point). And John produced a sketch pad from thin air. I’m pleased with my efforts, not bad for a first attempt, and I have started a gallery on the bus windows. I think it might be worth pursuing and look forward to splashing out on some proper tools for the job.

Painting kit

We didn’t quite get away with it though. On The Day itself, John’s tenants invited us over for the evening… “You both come eat with us?” Well, be rude not to. So we abandoned the fire, which was just about ready for the steak, and I fridged all the trimmings I’d been lovingly chopping, grabbed all the beer we could carry and wandered over.

There’s quite a bit of serious drinking to be done before we get a go at the food. Let me tell you, these people can really drink. We sit on the stoep, amid assorted white goods (mostly defunct), bits of machinery, bags of rubbish for re-cycling, empty bottles, a compressor, boxes, the odd straggly plant, a propeller mounted over the door and a parrot (also likes a drink) with washing lines, complete with pegs, zig-zagging overhead.

It’s a generous verandah though and we all fit – us, mum, dad, three boys and a girlfriend. Chairs and stools for the grown-ups, steps for the kids and wobbly table for the brandy, coke and ice bucket. Two dogs, three cats and geese roam the yard where various kennels and cages abound (containing what I’m not sure and don’t want to know), more washing line, hosepipe, bits of scrap, more broken things, dog bowls and three motorbikes. (In-between drinks, the boys take off on these for hairy rides around the farm, arriving back with scraped arms and legs, covered in sand and in hysterics). Beyond the fence sits an old broken BMW car and a working (but only just – three cylinders at best and wiring to worry about) bakkie.

The talk is largely Afrikaans, interspersed with enough English to stop me glazing over, and the laughter is constant, free and infectious. These are simple folk who party hard when not working. It’s all very red-neck but charming. No signs of vanity or pretence here; what you see is what you get.

The food was eventually made available and what a spread it was. Roast chicken, salt beef, gammon, lamb, tongue with an army of accompanying salads and sauces. Delicious. Despite being full to bursting, I indulged in the pud – can’t say what is was but it was very sweet, sickly and sensational.

1 week old kitties

We had a great time. And we found the kittens.

So how was it for you?