This rural idyll
THE ATMOSPHERE of the Southern Districts came to Durban this week that sense of space, slightly rarified air in the foothills of the Drakensberg and hot sunshine alternating with biting cold.
It was at the weekly St Clement's soiree and Tod Collins, a veterinary surgeon in Underberg, was reading from and discussing his collection of short stories, 'Til The Cows Come Home (Triple Creek Publishing), which wonderfully captures the texture of life in the Southern Districts and the adjacent Midlands, as well as the drama of excursions into the mountains.
The stories are set mainly in the daily rounds of a country vet, his interaction with the commercial farming community, the local Zulu and Sotho traditional communities and also with the newcomers, the wealthy urban gentry who have set up second homes in the district.
The tales are charming and unpretentious, often hilarious. I especially like the one where Tod was hauled out of bed late one night, after a very hard day with cattle, to attend to the sealyham terrier of one of the gentry.
After going to bed that night and before being called out Tod's wife had wakened him and insisted he put on his lip ice (that rarified air and scorching sun) which he'd forgotten to do. He fumbled for it in the bathroom and put it on in the dark.
Then the call-out. The sealyham owner previously cordial seemed strangely frosty and aloof as Tod went about fixing up the dog, which had taken a knock from his owner's own car..
Tod eventually got back to bed. When he looked in the mirror next morning, he could have been Tickey the Clown. He had smeared his lips with his wife's lipstick. That explained the sealyham owner's attitude. Strange fellows, these vets. You never know what they get up to after hours.
NO NAMES, no packdrill. Anyone who grew up in the Midlands or has spent time in the Southern Districts will recognise plenty of names in the Collins stories. Two family names that feature in the book recall another incident at Himeville, the next village on from Underberg.
It was a bitterly cold night. These two fellows, of well-known families, were in the bar of the Himeville Arms, sitting by the fire and keeping out the cold some more with a bit of XXX. On the back of their truck outside was a flock of sheep.
Said one of the fellows: "Those sheep must be getting cold."
Said the other: "Yes, I think they need to be brought in to sit by the fire."
Firelight danced on the walls of the very snug lounge of the Himeville Arms. Various old dears were on the sofas and easy chairs, playing rummy, reading magazines and doing the crosswords. The old geezers were mainly snoring gently and unobtrusively in front of the fire.
Then the lounge doors flung open and in stampeded a flock of sheep. They made a delighted baa-ing as they ran about the place, jumping over the sofas and the old dears. Quite a commotion ensued. Once they're in a place, sheep don't like to leave.
The two fellows got barred for six months. In vain did they protest that they were only being kind to animals on a bitterly cold night. A hard-hearted lot those folk are at the Himeville Arms.
BRITAIN'S Prince Harry has spent the night in a giant freezer that simulates the conditions he will face when he treks to the South Pole later this year.
The Prince and companions, who will represent the charity, Walking With The Wounded, were subjected to temperatures of minus 35 degrees Celsius, and gales of wind, in a specially constructed cold chamber in Warwickshire.
But does Harry need this acclimatisation? Minus 35 degrees Celsius must be nothing compared with the frostiness he would have encountered at Buckingham Palace after those pictures emerged of him romping naked with girls in Las Vegas after a game of "strip pool".
THIS author left his manuscript for a blockbuster book on the American Civil War out on the porch. One gust and it was Gone With The Wind.
Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn't work out, you haven't wasted a whole day.