My Rocket Scientist Brother and the Remotely Controlled Gun

Blaine might have been an Engineer but he has always been a designer at heart. Who wouldn’t want to be? But it requires a special temperament, a conflation of technical understanding and practical ability. Blaine possessed both in abundance. Probably because this was a tiny project, it would have been more satisfying than most as every decision was his instead of being split between a multitude of other engineers.

Main picture: US riverine naval boat of the type that was captured by Iran

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The Cars of our Youth

Style and comfort were secondary. Due to lack of money, wheels in the McCleland household during our youth were all that were required as long as they worked. Now cue in the music of The Days of our Lives all saccharin and mulchy. None would win car of the year or the street mile, but we adored them nonetheless. This is their story as told mainly by my younger brother.

 Main picture: The first car that my father owned, an Austin A70. His previous vehicle had been a panelvan which was his employer – JJ Ruddy and Sons – company vehicle. As there is no extant photo of this vehicle, the best that Blaine could do was a stock photo off the internet.

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My Rocket Scientist Brother: How the Mind Works

By 11 years of age, I was reading the newspaper from cover to cover. In addition with my limited pocket money I did not purchase comics like the rest of my friends but magazines such as Look and Learn. I was enthralled with the world that opened up. What finally caught my attention was the part work by Purnell entitled The History of the Second World War. Even though Blaine was only 9 years old, he had to listen to my expounding on all these issues – the Holocaust, the rabid racist Nazis and of course their wonder weapons. Initially it was a monologue but soon Blaine would contribute. What was fascinating partly in retrospect was how his mind worked compared to mine. This is that story.

Main picture: This Guy Fawkes was not going to have a huge straw Guy Fawkes or an even bigger bon fire. Rather being Kentron engineers, it might not be a guided missile but at least it was a potent rocket. Talk about taking work home with you.

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My Rocket Scientist Brother

Perhaps it is not common knowledge but my brother can validly be awarded the sobriquet of “rocket scientist.” Certainly as regards intelligence it was indubitably true but definitely not in the nerdish dilettantish sense. What was it like to have a brother who was four years younger than one oneself yet who was nonetheless intellectually one’s superior?

Main picture: This is a huge drawing that Blaine did on his bedroom wall. It was so perfect that I always wondered why he did not do more sketches or drawings
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Do your pets also hate the Vet?

The McCleland household has the anomalous situation where my huge German Shepherd Dog terrorises the smaller pets in the house? In fact she derives considerable pleasure in having them cower in terror as she tramps them underfoot and pins them to the floor. But going to the vet is a different story. It brings into sharp focus her cowardly dispossession. Without even mentioning the word “Vet” just in case Layla’s English lessons are bearing fruit, she senses that the reason why she is being ushered into my BMW is because she is visiting her nemesis – the Vet. At that point she will disappear, tarnishing her image as a tough-as-nails take-it-in-her-stride guard dog.

Layla’s ruthless streak dissolves into a whimper.

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Will I be Forced to Start Shaving?

In 31 years of knowing Janine, she has yet to see my face. In the past this bothered her, but I demurred. I refused to shave just so that she could view my face. Perhaps that is about to change.

Initially she believed that it was a fashion statement. Then as the relationship matured, she came to believe that of far greater significance was sheer indolence on my part. Suffice to state that I never enlightened her as to the fundamental reason as I wished to maintain some mystique in the marriage.

Main picture: As a callow youth with long beard and even longer hair
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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Great Flood of 1st September 1968

Unlike adults, at the age of 15, one is never affected by the weather. Even if it was raining, we would go swimming in the sea. Whether it was night or a howling gale force wind was blowing, we would be swimming. No matter how atrocious the weather conditions were or what the time of day was, it was time to swim.

There was only one exception to this rule: the water temperature. If the sea water was freezing cold, we would not swim but that would not prevent us from wading in the water and even “catching” a few waves. Nothing seemed to deter us or maybe we just never noticed what the weather was like.

Main picture: This “river” which runs through Happy Valley is normally no more than a trickle and would normally be classified as a placid stream.

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The Friendly City – Port Elizabeth – My Home Town

For me Port Elizabeth represents my roots, physically and emotionally. It was only the lack of work opportunities after I had completed my Articles of Clerkship, that I was forced to relocate to Joburg in 1980. Emotionally it is more that the place where I grew up, went to school and university. My roots go much deeper than that. One of the first citizens of Port Elizabeth was my great great great grandfather. With his house at Number 7 Castle Hill being a National Monument, I can truly feel a part of Port Elizabeth’s illustrious history.

Main picture: The central suburb of Port Elizabeth.

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To what lengths would you go to assist a pet?

When the apple of my daughter’s eyes, her ginger tabby cat Tiddles contracted diabetes, she was forced to inject it twice a day for the rest of its life. For many, this would be considered an imposition and a burden not to be lumbered with. Others take that view to the other extreme.

My only personal experience of assisted a non-domestic pet relates to a fully-grown hadeda. While some people resent these birds, I find them rather quaint and quintessentially African. Even if one is not a fan of them one could not assist one in dire need.

That is what happened to me.

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Home was 57 Mowbray Street, Newton Park, Port Elizabeth

Everybody has a special place; a place that one calls home. For the McCleland’s it was 57 Mowbray Street, Newton Park, Port Elizabeth. It was nothing special; just a normal middle class rectangular house without any pretensions of greatness, grandiosity or style. But what it did possess was not character but some unique features which will forever be remembered by the family and associated with our home.

Main picture: The diamond shaped window panels of the patio

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