Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Idler, Thursday, February 23, 2017

Amphibian exploits on the beaches


OF LATE we've been discussing the question of cars on stairways, including a Volkswagen Beetle that went up and down a flight of hotel stairs in Windhoek without any problem. Reader Doug McGarr now recalls an incident involving a VW Beetle on the beach.


He says he recalls reading in this column many years ago – then written by my old pal Dennis Henshaw – about a fellow who took his Beetle on to the beach at Ballito, then went for a swim.


But he parked a bit too close to the water. A huge wave came out of nowhere, engulfed the car then dragged it out to sea in the backwash.


But a couple of hours later the car got washed ashore again, several kilometres north, none the worse for wear.


Well, if Dennis wrote that you can take poison on it. The only area he was dodgy in was budgies. Dennis always maintained that they cannot talk, which caused great wrath among Durban's budgie-fanciers. They would phone him and hold the handset into the budgie cage so he could listen to the chirruping of the lines of Shakespeare. Some of them also threatened to lynch him.


Yes, Dennis was controversial on budgies but on beaches and VW Beetles he was sound as a bell. In fact those Beetles were astonishingly watertight. There were some fellows who rigged theirs with a snorkel on the exhaust, and they would drive it about in Durban harbour.


You wouldn't dare with today's electronic horrors.


Land Rover


THE above recalls the case in the 1970s when a police Land Rover found itself in the surf off Brighton Beach. It too was brought safely to shore, prompting a headline in the Sunday Tribune: "The Floating Squad". There was also some mention in the story of the "Sea ID".


They've always been terrible for puns on the Tribune.



Heroic Bluebird


HOWEVER, quite the most heroic exploit with a car on the beach that I know of involved not a VW Beetle nor a Land Rover. It was a Datsun Bluebird.


It was at Mbotyi, down on the Wild Coast. I was with a fishing party camped in a clearing in the bush, near the lagoon. The lagoon was the only access to the beach as headlands ran down either side, north and south. To get to the beach you waded through a channel onto a large sandbank, then through another channel to reach the beach. There was no other way. Just before the first channel was some highish ground, a sort of natural promontory looking out over the water.


It was a very low spring tide one evening and we were sitting round the campfire talking about this and that when a fellow known as Foxy announced his intention of driving his Datsun Bluebird onto the beach. We laughed at this foolishness.


Next we heard a car engine screaming and headlights bounced in the dark as the Datsun Bluebird hurtled toward the promontory. It sailed through the air, as if off a ramp, and landed on the sandbank, which had no water on it. Then it continued along the sandbank, engine screaming, and somehow splashed through the second channel – not very deep in the low spring tide – and was on the beach, where it drove up and down repeatedly, in triumph. The Mbotyi cottagers were amazed. This had never happened before.


Alas, by the time Foxy had finished with his triumphant passes, the tide had turned. Water now covered the sandbank, the channels had deepened. But a Datsun Bluebird is a light vehicle. We carried it through the first channel, shoved it when needed on the sandbank, then carried it again across the final channel.


The Datsun Bluebird – used primarily by housewives shopping at the supermarket. But this one had been where Beetles, Land Rovers and the like dared not venture. A combination of engineering design, derring-do and Castle Lager. Has the Wild Coast ever seen the likes of it since?


SCROD is a Massachussetts seafood speciality. A visitor to Boston asks a cabbie: "Do you know where I can get Scrod around here?"

"Sure do. But it's not often I hear someone use the third person pluperfect indicative any more."

Last word

There is a coherent plan in the universe, though I don't know what it's a plan for.

Fred Hoyle




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