The Follies of Youth in Port Elizabeth

There can be little doubt that Port Elizabeth offers some superb opportunities for the ill-advised youths in Port Elizabeth to partake in speed related challenges. Needless to say, my brother Blaine has finally revealed some incidents in his ill-spent youth in which he might have met his maker long before his allotted three score and ten years. 

Main picture: Blaine’s Yamaha which was the crux of Blaine’s follies

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Aw Shucks, It’s SHUCS

In what can only be described as having extremely high aspirations by competing in the Big Boys league, Omnipless tenders on and is awarded a contract perhaps under false pretenses. This was SHUCS or SpaceHab Universal Communication System with the ultimate customer being NASA.

Much of what they committed to would require extraordinary effort. With little capital or knowledge about engineering equipment for conditions in space, any snags, glitches or deviations from plan could financially cripple Omnipless.

This is the story of a bunch of intrepid South African engineers who beat the odds and met their target albeit by a narrow margin. It had been a close-run thing.

Main picture: SHUCS finally in space: The antenna is in a roughly horizontal attitude on top of a positioner, on top of a Spacehab module at the back of the Shuttle cargo bay.

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Food Aversions: My Green Revolution

This is another episode in his Vignettes of Youth series whereby he recalls the quirks and oddities of life in Port Elizabeth during the 1960s and 1970’s when life was far simpler but discipline was more stringent. No doubt psychologists reading these sketches will be aghast and wonder aloud why our generation was not more ill-adjusted due to the trauma inflicted upon us by parents who did not appreciate the wonders of slothfulness, indolence and the permissive society.

Indignities such as having to walk to school by ourselves from age 6 were formative experiences. Having my first caning by the headmaster at age 8, was a sobering experience even if I was mis-identified as the culprit in a boxing fight. No summons was issued against the Head Master of the Hurbet Hurd Primary School – Mr Emmerick – “Bucket” to us – or to the Cape Education Department. Instead one wore such “traumatic scars” as a badge of honour, as having crossed one hurdle. Moreover spending a morning on the beath without adult supervision or being tethered to one’s parents by a cellphone, were socially appropriate. One’s parents would never have been admonished for their lack of parenting skills and reported to the Welfare Department.

Undoubtedly it was a tough life, but we survived. And were probably more well adjusted for the experience.

Warning to the Readers:  If you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten intolerant, starch intolerant or just generally intolerant, don’t read on.

My parents grew up in an era when you ate whatever was put in front of you no matter how repulsive.  Like all kids, at a certain stage I became pernickety about my supper and, again like all kids, it concerned vegetables.

Main picture: Decades later, I came across this advert for MNET. That was me. He even looks like me. All that was missing was the radio

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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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Haircuts: Barberous Acts

This is another episode in his Vignettes of Youth series whereby he recalls the quirks and oddities of life in Port Elizabeth during the 1960s and 1970’s when life was far simpler but discipline was more stringent. No doubt psychologists reading these sketches will be aghast and wonder aloud why our generation was not more ill-adjusted due to the trauma inflicted upon us by parents who did not appreciate the latest hair fashion: long hair. And I wanted mine as long as possible

Main picture: For us as pre pubescent youths, La Pebra was more important than food. Why we attached such importance to it, I will never know.

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The Spoon Rest: Lost in Translation

One day when I was in about standard 4 Mom decided that she needed a spoon rest while she was cooking.  I asked her what it was and I said that I would make her one, in fact I would make her a double one.  She described it as having a concave part where the bowl of the spoon could lie and a raised bit at the back for the handle.  With these scanty design specifications, I went to work.  I incorporated the technical features and added some customisation of my own.  After a few days of cutting, filing and sanding pieces of fruit case wood, I produced my masterpiece piece

Main picture: Lost in Translation

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Arachnophobia: Spiderman I Ain’t

They say that much of what we are, we learn at the knee of our parents.  Well, I learnt my fear of spiders from Mom.  Maybe she learnt that from her mom but, then again, Granny Dix looked so stern that she would have scared away the spiders.  Mom was terrified of them to the point of irrationality.  Unfortunately for her, the rain spider is endemic in Southern Africa and, I must admit, they are big, hairy and scary.  To her they were not the gentle rain spider, they were the worst thing she could think of – tarantulas.

Main picture: One of at least 6 rain spiders that inhabited our bedroom

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God: Losing my Religion

Coming from a pretty religious family, Dad must have been a disappointment. My great, great, great grandfather, Rev Francis McCleland, was the first Rector of the St Mary’s Church. Our family actually owns a square foot of the historical parsonage house at 7 Castle Hill, P.E.

Main picture: As dad was an atheist and mom was religious, the church which we were supposed to attend as children was the Newton Park Methodist Church

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Moon Landing: A Small Step for Man, A Large Leap For Boykind

1969 was a momentous year.   It was my senior year in primary school and I was doing well at school.  My brain had been awakened and was like blotting paper to this fascinating world.  My interests rampaged across the sciences of aeronautics, electronics, chemistry, physics, astronomy and quite naturally space travel.  I stalked the main public library for interesting books.  I discovered the separate Reference section and photostated pages from the various Janes[1]  so that Dean and I could discuss the latest weapon systems at home.   They were carefully selected because of economic strictures.

Man on the moon#1

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