Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Change (2)

I started to cry, not the howling blubbering cry, a silent sob. As if maybe the tears could stop the pain, but they did not. I thought a million thoughts, I tried to will the pain away. I could feel my legs and toes, they hurt like hell, I could move my toes in my boots, I knew I could feel them.

You know the stories of people who loose limbs and still feel pain and itches and stuff, so I was confused and terrified, I could feel my toes, but was I just tripping, was the pain just making me cling onto a false hope.

I now know those stories are real, you do feel a lost limb, it does hurt, it does haunt you, like some kind of lost part of your soul. Years later I crushed the end of my right index finger off in a garage door, believe me the bit that’s gone, hurts me every fucking day.



 The pain was everything, I just closed my eyes, hung on and sobbed my eyes out, the longest eight hours of my life.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Change (1)

Fear forces change,  fear and pain.

It took 8 hours before I made it to the hospital. The longest hours of my life and I´ve had a few long days believe me, but those were by far the worst.

I heard the words that spawned the fear after about an hour. I was still hanging onto my surfboard as if my life depended on it when the doctor walked in after the first brief medical diagnosis and blurted out.

 “Sorry son not much we can do for you here, we need to get you to a proper hospital as soon as possible. You have broken your back and you won´t walk again, it is a very bad fracture dislocation”



The next hours were hell, I guess I will never know why I was not given anything for the pain. I lay face down while my brain raced in a million directions and the pain slowly ate away at my resistance. It was everything the pain, it was a devouring pain, it left nothing untouched and it strangely made me a man, I never realised it then. Of course not, not then, it took years for me to realise it but now I know, it was then.

Fear and pain, they create change. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Change.

The Change.

It took exactly five years, five months and eight days for me to feel the fear of real danger again.

Once again I was face down on the floor, within sight of the Plaza de Toros and directly under the gaze of Hemingway. The years had flown by, years of discovery, I had found myself. I had realized that life can be taken in a split second. I needed to live my dreams, not just dream them.

A fine mist of pink aerated blood was being sprayed all over me from the 700kg Toro bravo´s nose and mouth as he panted like a crazed beast only inches from my face. He had just sent Bullo flying through the air as he horned him in the leg near his knee. It was just Bullo and I and this crazed death animal and it wanted to crush, spear and trample us into the ground.

The biggest and most important goal of mine had only just begun a few months earlier and right now my dream was turning into another very real nightmare and I truly felt fear and danger.

It had been a long hard road to recovery, from being told I would never walk or surf again to at last being in Europe on tour, but this was real, the blood splattering onto my face was very real the moans of Bullo on the floor next to me were very real.

I felt the fear and it all came flashing back.


Friday, 20 September 2013

The Beginning , last paragraph.

I was lying face down in my own blood, coughing and spluttering to breathe, it was hard to see what was going on but I could see enough, I wanted to understand, it all happened so fast.

I became afraid when I realised his head was cut in half and as I watched helplessly from the floor I saw someone screaming in anguish as he tried to hold the two pieces back in place, but the blood and brains in slow motion, slowly seeped through his fingers onto the floor in front of me.

To this day I feel ashamed of my reaction in that moment. I cried out, leave him he´s dead, get me out of here, I´m alive.

I was evacuated first, Lt Le Roux got me out of there.

I never ever saw any of those people ever again.

I would never be the same person again.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Beginning (22) rewind.

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 Durban Poison joint. 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.

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.
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 mortal 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 war that 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, I still keep asking myself ,Why ?

It all happened so fast. One minute we were happy and 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 all 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 a 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 the pain came from my back.

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

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, Lt Le Roux slowly managed to get it under me 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. The moment I touched the floor out of harm`s way, 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 that were about to start.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Beginning (21)

Three more endless minutes.

No headwear protection, no gum guards, just him me and our fists. I knew I was also in a mess, my mouth was cut to ribbons, my gums and lips cut and bleeding, but he just came forward, never ending.

I knew by then I would not go down he had lost the power in his punches, he was done. I felt stronger than him. I could  still win this fight.

I needed to finish on my feet, it was all I concentrated on, the round finished pretty even and we went into the final and third round, we were both hanging on by the end and he could have gone down, I gave it everything I had, but he stayed up on his feet.

The final bell rung and we both stood there in the centre of the ring, the whole hall was going crazy, my platoon were just going bat shit looney, I was a mess, battered and bloody. The ref got the score cards and raised his hand as the winner.
I had lost the fight on points.

Those 9 minutes were huge in my life. The chance came from nowhere and I took it.

Things would never be the same after that.



Friday, 13 September 2013

The Beginning (20)

Three minutes lasts forever in the ring.


Its amazing actually, just try stand and move around with your arms up for 3 minutes. Forget the fact you are getting the shit smacked out of you from all sides. After the first few blows I promise you don’t see them coming they just land and you hang on, you fight for breath and you hit back, your arms get heavier and heavier and you just hang on until the bell sounds, and that is only round 1.

I thought I was going to go down in that first round, but the head butt kept me in the fight, it won me time to recover, it kept him away from me, he could see the blood spurting out of his face. The bell rang and I walked back to my corner.

Greeny was shouting at me in the corner, hes killing you, move, move, move, get inside fight inside hes too strong to fight toe to toe, it all just blurred into a noise,

I stared across the ring at him in his corner, he was a bit of a mess, could see a glint of  fear in his eyes ? I felt like I had just had a 2 wave hold down at Garvies and the sets just kept coming. There is always a choice, turn and head for shore or dig deep and paddle back out.

I knew what I had to do.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Beginning (19)

Three minutes is a long time, in the ring 3 minues is a very long time, it is an eternity.

This was the real deal, the ref took us out into the middle told us to have a good clean fight, we touched gloves and it was on.

I took two clean jabs straight in the face before I could even react, I was shaken and only 5 seconds had gone. Jesus this was going to be a disaster. I shook it off and came forward, but I was at least a whole glove length short of reach, he just held me away and kept getting through with sharp jabs. This was hell I was going to go down in the first round.

I dug deep and stepped into his defence and let rip into the body, head down I managed to get some solid bombs into his solar plexis and kidneys. I could hear the air go out of his lungs and see him double up.

 It just came natural, no premedetation at all. I head butted him with all my force and broke his nose clean. Blood poured out of the cut, the ref just lost the plot and gave me a solid warning.

The playing field was now level, surely they never thought I was going to play by the rules. I had come here for a nice quiet fight and now look whats happened.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Beginning (18)

All or nothing was how it was going to have to be.

I was outweighed, out reached, out gunned by a mile, I was the smallest guy to volunteer by about 20kg. I nearly did not get to fight that night, there was no one my size to fight, so I ended up fighting the next smallest guy, but he was huge compared to me, at least he seemed so at the time.


It was a pretty big deal fight night. All the top brass were there in full dress uniforms, medals, ribbons, wives and girls dressed up it was the whole shooting match. A full size pro ring was installed and it looked like something from a Don King fight night, it was awesome. The walk down the aisle to the ring was just spectacular everyone was just roaring. I fought first the opening bout, the hall was going ape shit. I had Greeny in my corner he was a black belt karate and a pro golfer and he ran me through a quick tactical lesson on ring combat, control the centre, keep moving, keep your hands up, keep jabbing, don’t get caught on the ropes, way too much to remember, adrenaline was just pumping through my veins, I wanted to get it on, I wanted to do this, I was focused I was ready.


I kept staring the other guy down, he looked nervous, fuck he was big.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Beginning (17)

That fight kind of set the tone for all the others that followed, it was always all or nothing.

The police arrived the bar was destroyed, somehow none of us were even hurt, we were all rounded up and put into the back of the SAP (South African Police ) van in the cage at the back, I had heard about what was coming next. The police officers leave the spare tyre loose in the back then drive you all around for a few hours with the tyre bouncing around smashing into everyone and causing huge damage to everyone inside. Then they would drive you miles away into the middle of nowhere and just dump you there.


We were all fucked, it was going to be the tyre treatment or straight into the police station and get charged and our parents called and then the real shit would hit the fan.

The Troll took charge and stepped forward as the oldest in charge. He was drunk as a skunk and was one of the main culprits of the whole scene that had just gone down. He called out to the officer in charge and said in a very drunken slur.


“But OSSIFER we just came here for a nice quiet little fight and now look what´s happened”

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Beginning (16)

We would get slapped around at the beach when we were groms, there was always the odd scuffle at school, but the first real fight I ever saw was in the Margate hotel and it was hectic.


We were just young grommets and we went the 200km down the south coast to Banana Beach to stay in the caravan park, surf and go into Margate and cause trouble every night. There were a lot of us all between 15 and 18 and all from Grosvenor Boys High school and we were all pretty naughty, it wasn’t long before we were banned from the caravan park and the Margate hotel.

I honestly cannot remember how or why the fight started but it was always the same, the town was packed to the seams with up country holiday makers and lots and lots of lovely Afrikaans girls and big Afrikaans guys who did not like the surfers running amock with their girls, even though the girls certainly liked us running amock with them.

I was never a fighter, I was there for the surf and the girls, Leroy and Jack were the fighters but they were young then, the older guys like Troll were heavy bastards and just frothed at the thought of a good fight to end off a good day at the beach.

That night we destroyed the hotel, the fight got completely out of hand, way worse than any wild west movie bar fight scene. It was the first time I saw Leroy in action, he must have been 15 then and he was just on a mission, breaking bottles, chairs and tables on people´s heads, everyone was doing the same thing pretty much but Leroy was on a special mission he was just in a crazed frenzy.

It was then I knew Leroy was a masochist.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Beginning (15)

He had a funny smiley grimace on his face, the major, as he stepped forward and broke the news.

It was battalion boxing night and volunteers were needed to box for the company.

Now there is one rule you just do not break in the army. Never, never, ever, ever volunteer for anything, remain invisible, hidden in clear sight, but right there and then I did, no hesitation, not a doubt.

The moment I heard the words come out of his mouth, whoever fights for the company can have a free weekend pass, win or lose you could go home, I stepped forward. For fuck sakes, we would fight for fun. No reason at all needed back on the Bluff, how hard could this be, gloves, rules and a referee and only one person trying to hit you, way too easy.

Of course I would fight for a few days back at the beach and two nights back home with A, it was a no brainer.

For a few moments Wayno was there with me as we stepped out into sight, but then he was gone back into rank and I was alone, not another single soul from our comany had stepped forward.




The Beginning (14)

The key moments in your life come and you don’t even realise they are happening until maybe years later, they aren’t planned they just appear right before your eyes and you take them or you let them slip right by. That cold winters morning in 84 it came out of nowhere.

 It was just like every other dreary horrible morning, early wake up call. Prepare for inspection deal with the whole process of inspection then fall into ranks outside the platoon bungalow for more training and mental and physical torture.


But no, it was different the company major was there and the whole company was on parade, something was going down and that was never a good thing.