Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Beginning (9)

All of us had, had an easy life, pretty much the best of everything. I know I did, I really thought it was normal, that’s just the way it was.

We had a live in maid Gretta, she did everything, I had never washed the dishes, washed my clothes, made my bed and had most definitely never ever done any ironing before.

Basic training inspections were brutal, designed to break you, to break down your resistance slowly but surely, it was impossible to be 100 % perfect the corporal would always find something wrong and we would all be punished, no matter how hard we tried to get it right, we never could.

Winters in Pretoria are cold, freezing cold, the temperature drops into the freezing zone every night so waking up at 4am every morning to polish the floors, make your beds, iron your uniforms with absolute precision after only a few hours sleep every night slowly but surely chipped away at all of our moral. The combination of extreme physical activity day after day combined with the lack of sleep and continued punishment broke a lot of guys. It seemed never ending soon it was a mission just getting through each day.

The isolation from everything was complete, no telephones, no contact with any friends or family only via written mail, no TV, we did have a radio in our bungalow but that was it. I remember listening to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. South Africa was banned from competing but Zola Budd was there running barefoot for the UK but we all knew she was South Africa`s great hope for a medal. On the last bend of the last lap she tripped and fell taking out the other favourite from the USA.

Toast was a Springbok surfer and he arrived into our company 4 weeks late, he had been competing somewhere and had been given permission to arrive late, he missed all the worst of training. It was then I realised sport gave you breaks in the SADF, if you were an elite sportsman doors opened.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Beginning (8)

Corporal Steinfaart was our instructor, he was a pretty good guy, he was just another young kid getting through his 2 years, it was the Sergeants and Sergeant Majors who were the heartless bastards. They were permanent army men and their mission was to make us ready to fight and die.

Thinking back it`s pretty horrifying to think they could actually kill 4% of us in training before any questions were asked, they were acceptable losses. From our platoon one of us could die in the next 6 months and not an eyebrow would be raised.

Training was not that tough actually, I guess for the guys who were not fit and came from a soft life it must have been hell, but years of getting thrashed at Garvies and surfing everyday made it easier for sure. The tough part was all in the head, I had never been away from the ocean for such a long time and the fact we were locked up away from everything and everyone we knew was the hardest part. I quickly learnt to become invisible and to get through each day one at a time.

Never be the best and never be the worst was my rule, finish in the middle at everything, become invisible, never first, never last.     

I knew I could have won most of the races and fitness tests if I wanted, I knew my time would come and when it did, I would be ready to take those fuckers down.

Never fight the system, use it.

Another life lesson burnt into my brain.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Beginning (7)

I knew no one in our platoon.

It was a mad scramble to find someone with something in common to share and make an alliance with before we went into our bungalow and found our beds. It was pretty easy actually the Durban guys stuck together, then the other English speaking guys. We were the minority, Wayno, Johnny and myself from Durban, we stuck together like glue.

There was only one other person from the Bluff in our training unit, Rudy and he was in another company. I came 100% prepared, I had shaved my hair off and was not going to let them have the pleasure of sitting you down and cutting your hair off as a kind of shedding of your identity ritual, I was who I was and they would take nothing from me, or so I thought.

Wayno was my bunk partner and we stuck it out together, he knew the ocean and was from Durban, there were no other surfers in our unit. I had never met him before that day, 30 years later we are still friends.

It was kind of weird, I had already gained respect from some of the bungalow just because I was from the Bluff. I knew it was going to take something special to get everyone else`s respect.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Beginning (6)

If you have been following this blog find 30 minutes to watch this short film. It might put things into perspective.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Beginning (5)

We came from all over South Africa. Every white male over 17 had to do his 2 years basic SADF service. It was broken into a 6 month basic training, then depending on how things went another 6 months specialised further training, then 12 months full active service.

Once you got that out the way you then were eligible for up to 3 months a year call up for more retraining and active service till you were 55 years old. The South African army and training was one of the best in the world at the time and we were all proud to be part of it.

We were all just thrown together on that first day on arrival into basic training camp, 30 per platoon, 4 platoons in a company. We had 4 companies doing basic training at our camp in Pretoria.

It was pretty crazy thinking back, 30 complete strangers from diverse backgrounds all just thrown together under the control of a bunch of absolute lunatics who`s sole task was to break every individual down into someone who was willing to work togther for the good of the group and that was able to follow orders without question.

It was the first time in my life I actually had to deal with other Afrikaans kids as Apartheid did not just seperate blacks from whites but English from Afrikaans as well. I went to English schools and Afrikaans kids went to Afrikaans schools. They were kind of the friendly enemy, for a lot of people the Boer war memories still burned deep.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Beginning (4)

It started in July 1984 when I was shipped off to Pretoria for basic training in the SADF.            (South African Defence Force)

I was 18 years old, fit, strong and ready. However I could never ever have been ready enough.

This video was actually filmed at the exact same base and the exact same time I was there.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Beginning (3)

The first impact had been brutal but it was the second that was deadly.

My surfboard was lying right next to me in the back of the truck. I was frozen and could not move, Lt Le Roux slowly managed to get it under me like a stretcher and lifted me out of the truck and set me down on the road side.

I still was trying to assimilate what was going on, what had happened, how badly was I hurt, everything was moving so slowly. The moment I touched the floor out of harm`s way, that was when all hell broke loose.

The noise was terrifying, screeching, squealing, crunching, grinding and buckling metal as the whole messy mass of our vehicle somehow miraculously only inches from my face moved up the road as if by magic.

Waves of pain had begun to engulf me, I know I was moaning, but it was nothing compared to the screams of pain and panic that were about to start.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Weekend Interlude.

Have a great weekend and if you ever had an instructor corporal giving you shit, a bit of a laugh.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Beginning (2)

It all happened so fast. One minute we were happy, laughing on our way home, the next, broken, bleeding and dying.

I had no idea what had actually happened, the impact threw me forward onto my hands and knees. I felt nothing but could not breathe, all the air had been forced out of my lungs and I could not move at all.

I had never been really hurt before, little things, a broken arm, a few cuts a few stitches but nothing drastic. I immediately knew deep down inside this was different. I knew I was badly hurt, there was no pain, but I could see it in the faces of the people around me and for the first time I noticed everything was moving in slow motion, both sound and vision became stretched.

I was confused but at the same time saw everything crystal clear. Lt Le Roux was there straight away, it was chaotic but in the chaos he was there. For some reason we just knew what to do, first I needed to breath, the feeling of being oxygen starved on dry land is not pleasant, but for some reason it did not worry me at the time. The look on Lt Le Roux face was way more worrying, he was looking at my back and I heard him swearing.

I finally managed to gasp a breath but with it came the first spears of pain and blood, I started coughing up blood and it hurt to breath, I knew that meant ribs and lungs but that wasnt the problem the searing pain came from my back.

I had my surfboard with me, my trusty Graham Smith twin fin and that day it saved my life.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Beginning (1)

I know there are no answers to the questions I have asked myself a million times, I know this but I keep searching for the answers.

Why did he die and I live?

We were sitting right next to each other surely it should have been me. I was the one with the near fatal injuries after the first impact. He was fine, just a broken arm.

Why did Lieutenant Le Roux come to my aid and not his, he could have been moved much easier than me?

What were any of us even doing there, forced to be part of a 30 year war that ultimately served no purpose against enemies that are now friends?

What are the odds on me having just a week before finished a first aid lifesaving course, which gave me the skills to take lifesaving instant decisions?

I know there are no answers but I still keep asking.

Why ?

The Beginning.

The Beginning.

1 March 1985. 18h00.

I took the full force of the impact. The metal panels of the vehicle smashed into my back crushing and shattering three vertebrae. At first I felt no pain, no fear but could see it etched into everyone else`s faces.

It was a Friday afternoon we were coming home, a weekend pass. Just minutes earlier we were all laughing, the boys had just smoked a big joint of Durban Poison. It was hot, a tropical summer hot, hot and humid. We were coming home, a few days back with family a few days away from the reality of army life. A few days back in the ocean, a few days of surfing.

I was the rookie in the group I had only been at 121 Battalion for 3 months and it was an eye opener. Basic training had been tough, no doubt but I was fit and ready, being in a combat unit was another thing all together, this was the real deal.

The next few minutes changed everything. I became another person, the same on the outside but inside everything changed, I could never go back.

Friday, 7 June 2013


Having a few days off.
So far its been fun doing a few words everyday, never knowing where this whole thing is going. Just letting it go where it goes, thats the way its going to continue. Believe me the best is yet to come.
Jack and Leroy.
JBAY missioning.
The Transkei.
The Army.
Garvies Beach continued.
The Goddess.
More Morphine Memories.
More Private Health and Insurance.

We have got through:
End Chapter
Morphine Memories 1,2 and 3.
Private Health and Insurance.
Flight 224
Day 1
Surfing the Early days.
Garvies Beach.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Leroy and Jack.

Leroy, has been visiting, its been fun, not quite like the old days. Thank goodness, no fights, no police, no drama. Not yet anyway.

If Jack was here as well it would be an entirely different story.
He would punish us and make us do things we did not want to do.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Morphine Memories Three (12)

Mouse was a big man, I mean a really big man and he was angry, he wanted blood.

He was the president of North Swell surf club and had arranged everything for us, the buck stopped with him. The cleaning lady did not take long to find the big ugly turd on top of the cupboard. Piss had dribbled down the inside panels and formed a puddle on the floor, so it was not hard to follow the trail upwards towards that terrible smell.

By chance it happened to be my brother`s room and his cupboard that became the focus of all the attention for some strange reason. I had already left but the rest of the team were driving back and were left to face the music which was playing very loud about the time I was boarding my flight back to Durban.

When they got back to Durban all the juniors were interrogated by Mouse, no one admitted a thing. Of course they did`nt they were all innocent. Troy went down and took the fall he was banned from North Swell and North Swell was in turn banned from the Gonubie Hotel for ever and ever.

No one ever found out who laid that turd. I was back at Garvies, back on the Bluff, away from the drama in town.

Just another Bluff action going unpunished and there were a lot more to come.

Saturday, 1 June 2013