Well Day 6 started with one mighty fine breakfast. Lennox Farm is run by an ex-Springbok, Dirk Thonemann and his wife, Salome. Dirk is the farmer whilst Salome is what you could call front of house. However she is away in Ullapool in the far north west of Scotland, attending the birth of her only daughter’s first child. Now Ullapool is as far away from South Africa as you need to get, she is married to a fisherman up there. I just wondered during the week was she perhaps trying to give her parents a message, that South Africa is not for the young, but I am stepping out of line, the Scottish fisherman could hardly catch fish in KwaZulu Natal. Dirk reckons nobody should be made to live that far north. However Dirk’s wife has taught the Zulu women who work on the farm how to cook in a Cordon Bleu way and they are sending us up some great food.
The boys themselves are settling down to a routine, no squabbles so far but plenty of chiding and everybody trying to get in the favoured back seat of the bus. I have decided not to get involved and usually sit in the cramped middle seat alongside Mullingar or if we have no accompanying guide, act as co-pilot or shotgun in front left. Flash Harry as now perfected his style and his acting like a David Bailey in taking photo shots of the young women of the various towns, Boyling Scouse has chosen to be reasonably friendly and has started talking to Flash. The Mad Mullingar has started to involve himself in a paperchase by leaving items of toiletry and clothing and the odd camera where ever we spend the night. We have a fleet of couriers chasing us round KwaZulu Natal with all things Mullingar. The Colonel now he can spot his moment of fame is practising saying the Lords Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be in Donegal Irish, Galway Irish and Belfast Irish. He is like a Trappist monk of an evening repeating his mantras.
On the alchohol front Boyling and Flash settle down to 12 0r 15 bottles of Castle lager with a bottle or two of wine with their food, the colonel busy in his devotions, slurps a bottle of wine with his meal and sometimes takes one to bed with him, I tend to tentatively sip a glass of wine and I have taken a liking to a dry Cape cider. Mad Mullingar, in living up to his Army nickname of the Dry Fucker, is busy making sure he has enough. A few sips of strong liquer for breakfast, a bucket of beer for lunch and whatever is going in the evening as long as it is plenty. Snores and farts accompany his progress and there is not normally a word out of him on the bus as he gently cuddles his half gallon hip flask. All seems well with the world but I know it cannot last.
Day 6 is our big day we have been selected to lead the big procession through the town of Dundee behind the pipe band of the South African Irish Regiment. They have travelled overnight in the back of an enormous wagon from Johannesburg, a six or seven hour journey, so they are not too well pleased when they meet us at the rendezvous in a secluded part of town. Behind us are an assorted few hundred British soldiers, camp followers and a Boer contingent that seem very heavily armed as though expecting trouble on the way. Mullingar calms the pipers by producing his hip flask, and giving each and every one their tot. Once a soldier always a soldier I say and then were off down the town with Mullingar’s tot putting a swing into the pipers step.
Flash Harry was like a dervish dancing in, out and around the crowded footpaths to get the right shot, The Colonel was on the left flank giving the orders and keeping us in step, Boyling Scouse was in and around our centre while I was posted to our right flank, in the vanguard was trusty Mad Mullingar carrying our colours and daring any man to relieve them off him. He was like a Churchill tank as he swept all before him, even the parade marshals looked a little scared. On the dais taking the salute was a little black man who seemed to have borrowed his uniform off Mullingar. He was Colonel of the South African Irish and probably originated from Mayo. I heard he was third in command in Zuma’s government. A quick eyes left from the Colonel and four Connaught heads swivelled as though swivelling was going out of fashion. I have to say the march could have seemed a little in your face to the overwhelming black population of Dundee but everybody and there were lots of bodies in the spectators seem to enjoy the occasion and the local police force came down hard on one or two impatient motorists. I have to say I enjoyed the spectacle, I enjoyed the pageantry, I can well understand how a soldier would swing his shoulders and march off like a hero.
In the afternoon and evening we were at the Talana Museum for drinks, eats, military re-enactments and general interaction. The Museum covers 120 acres of land at the foot of Talana Hill where the first battle of the Boer War took place on 20th October 1899. The result you could say was a draw but the Brits got a bloody nose and leaderless they marched, ran or limped the 80 kilometres back to Ladysmith over the following three days.
The museum is a wonderful example of dedication, management and closeness to history, all done with very, very little state involvement or input. Gandhi figured highly in the museum because Dundee figured highly in his early life. It was here in 1913 Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to three months imprisonment for deliberately breaking immigration laws. Well done to the board of trustees who have turned the place into a masterpiece.
On our way home at the dead of night we were just crossing the cattle grid into Lennox when our headlights picked out a leopard chasing two zebra about 10 metres away, whether it was our presence or the flailing back legs of the Zebra, I do not know, but the leopard took a big leap into a stunted thorn tree and remained still, the Zebras galloped off and the leopard jumped down and slunk off, he was so near to a feast. So we had to have a drink to calm our nerves, tomorrow was the start of the three day military conference. I for one was looking forward to it but a bit feared about walking across the lawn afterwards with no bride to offer to the cat.