Well, well, well, after days of speculation, the cold front hasn’t brought snow to the KZN Midlands (yet) but there was quite a heavy snowfall on the higher peaks of the ‘Berg and there’s an icy wind whipping down from them thar hills. I enjoy the cold because gives me a fine excuse to cosy up to the fire, drink endless cups of tea and ponder the meaning of life.
I was lucky to have an older brother (Mike) who introduced me to a lot of interesting literature when I was in my teens. Some of the books he encouraged me to read were banned here in South Africa (William Burroughs springs to mind) and he would ask our dad to buy them when he was going to England on one of his overseas business trips. My father loved going to WH Smith in Oxford Street and would come home loaded with books that were just not available here, although I don’t think that he knew that most of them were contraband.
One of the books that Mike gave me to read in my mid-teens was Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I don’t know if it was banned here, the censorship board was mostly concerned with political issues and sex, but I’m sure if one of the dim-witted censors had come across it, it would definitely have been banned. In my early teens, my friends and I got to know Port Elizabeth’s first 2 hippies – Jerry and Wynn. We spent the summer of 1970 (the year of Woodstock, the Movie) hanging out with them – as one did. We all wore bell-bottoms and peace signs and leather wrist bands. Michele and I tie dyed our t-shirts and the boys all grew their hair. Jerry and Wynn made leather goods for a living and we all helped where we could, punching holes in belts or cutting tassels (tassels were the in-thing, as I recall). I still have a leather waistcoat that Jerry made for me, a reminder of that wonderful, care-free summer we all spent together. Of course, the whole hippie movement was on the wane by 1970 and I really was too young to be part of it, let alone understand what it was all about. But it sowed a seed. At the end of that summer, my friends and I all went back to school and Jerry and Wynn moved on.
A few years later, I was intrigued to read Tom Wolfe’s account of the escapades of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and their role in the hippie movement. I fantasised about being Mountain Girl and living some kind of alternative life involving rock stars. I carved the name of Kesey’s bus “Further” onto the tin of my Oxford maths set and, during maths classes Judy and I would sit at the back of the class and plan our escape from the shackles of social convention. We were definitely going to be “on the bus”!
Ja well, things don’t always go according to plan now do they? But I’m starting to feel, 40 years later, that I’m getting closer to that teenage dream; that I’m finally getting on that bus. It’s hard to explain but I think it has a lot to do with no longer trying to fit in and living a life that is in harmony with one’s values. It helps to be in such a beautiful place but also I have a sense that I’m finding my tribe, at last.
More spy cam pics on the koppie: