Me, Oom Schalk and the Dwarseberg


We drove and drove, stopping along the way to hang up posters directing a bunch of business execs in blue Subarus to an estate in the Groot Marico. We worked for a catering company that specialised in embassy events, and had waited on dignitaries from the Swedish Embassy (glühwein), Columbian Embassy (Shakira on repeat), Mexican Embassy (food plates dumped in the bushes), Cuban Embassy (flippen heavy trays), Syrian Embassy (dignitaries stashing alcohol), Iranian Embassy (a boy with no manners) and a bunch of others—all with a story. But this time, we had scored big (although we didn’t know it yet).

After driving for hours, we arrived at an estate in the bush. It was a private event. The brief was pretty typical: to serve food (a potjie that had been cooking for yonks) and drinks to around thirty guests—cool, no problemo. This would be easier than most events we’d worked, which were usually manic. As it turned out, the toughest part of this event would be not gawking at Patrick Mynhardt performing Oom Schalk Lourens whilst serving dinner and drinks. Shall I repeat that. Patrick Mynhardt. Oom Schalk. Right in front of my face—one of South Africa’s most treasured actors performing a piece of literature that had traversed the world’s greatest cities.

Dressed in Oom’s veld skoene and farmer’s hat, pipe in hand and peach brandy within reach, this was the closest I’d ever get to The Bard of the Bush. Like, mega celebrity going on. Mega. Moments like these only happen once (and if they happen again, it’s never the same as it was the first time) so I soaked it up like bread and gravy, absorbing the Groot Marico into my soul – the smell of the potjie, the sounds of the bush and the skeletons of the tall trees eaten by the white ants, the howl of the jackals, the stirring of the wind in branches perforated with daai groot wit dorings – until I almost expected a rooinek to ride up on a horse or Koos Steyn and his wife to appear before me, dead in the sand.

I wanted to linger but I dragged myself away from Drieka’s moon and Oom’s fireside stories, to serve some whiskey.

As the evening siled dreamily down a river of magic, I spent second after second plucking up the courage—I had to speak to Oom Schalk; so I took him a drink, complemented his performance (did a really bad job at containing my enthusiasm) and willing the moment to last, somehow worked into the conversation that was I studying English at RAU under professor Craig Mackenzie (HCB expert and editor on many recent editions). Of course, Oom Schalk Patrick Mynhardt knew Craig, having spent much time together in the land of story, and asked me to pass on his regards, which I did with the greatest of pleasure on a later day…

…but for now, it was just me, Oom Schalk and the Dwarseberg.


Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.

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