Students at heart

2014-04-02 00:00

LANNIE is my mate. I don’t mean it like you new-age dudes are thinking it. He is my good friend, my chommie, my china.

We have been friends since our student days in the seventies. We weren’t exactly model students, but we did okay. We let the more diligent among us occupy the front seats in the lecture hall out of the goodness of our hearts, for example, but we participated in everything, intra and extramural, to the best of our ability and with great amount of enthusiasm — be it as last-minute replacements for the second hockey team, volunteers for clinic night duties or as barmen during our many social functions.

Lannie had great people skills. He once forgot the thermometer in a dog’s rectum during our evening clinic at vet school. When the owners phoned to ask what the shiny thing sticking out of their dog’s bum was, Lannie was quick enough to suggest that he had left it in to get a maximum and minimum temperature reading. He got away with it. The rest of us would have scored at least a reprimand.

We visited him in Cape Town a while ago. He lives in a cute cottage on Marina da Gama with his lovely wife Annie. They had organised an evening with his sister and brother-in-law who live on the other side of the Marina. Rekindling our student habits, Lannie and I paddled across to Bill and Judy’s spot in his little kayak, while our wives drove around. This was an entirely jovial and civilised excursion as we slowly meandered through the canals that make up the complex, looking at the water fowl, the homes of the rich and famous, and enjoying each other’s company as the sun receded over the western horizon.

Needless to say, we enjoyed a most wonderful evening, boring everyone with nostalgic tales and succeeding in making a sizeable dent in Bill’s stash of prize Pinotage and Merlot, the labels of which are not usually available in the common and garden Midlands bottle stores, and the contents of which, we believed, required careful and protracted examination. It was late when we eventually said farewell to our hosts. Our wives were unsuccessful in their attempts to entice us into the car for the journey home. This mode of transport was too sedate for the adventurous of spirit, the valiant of heart and strong of body, the fuzzy of mind.

It was probably just my fertile imagination that the canoe seemed not quite as stable as during our inbound journey. As we progressed, it did become apparent, however, that my navigator was less than rhythmic with his rowing style and there did not appear to be any logic in the course he set for home but the song on his lips, and the congenial banter allayed any doubts I might have had. The theme tunes of The Poseidon Adventure and Titanic were recurring refrains. There were also times of quiet when I noticed, in front of me, the head of my captain gracefully tilting towards his chest. This was corrected only with a sociable blow to his back. The Cape Doctor (or whatever the wind is called that blows sailors onto the rocks at night off Cape Point) started clearing its throat. I finally realised that we were lost when the calm suburban backwaters were swopped for the storm-tossed main stream and the lights of the Newlands suburbs became more bright in front of us than the rapidly receding glow of the Marina behind. I hoped Pagad were not pirates. The wind was now a gale, the doctor a beast. At some stage, Lannie turned around in the boat. He was now facing me. How he did this without capsizing us, I do not know. I think he was having a bad dream and decided he needed company. I do recall him asking me: “Which side is ssport and which side is tarboard?” I do not think we should attempt to find any logic in the action nor the statement. It should be quite clear to the average thinker, however, that two people rowing in opposite directions have little chance of propelling a craft forward. It was about this time that we were blown onto an island. Like punch-drunk pugilists saved by the bell, we used this opportunity to regroup, during which time I poured some water over Lannie’s head, pointed him in the right direction and away we went once again.

I would like to be able to conclude that when we eventually reached our destination, two figures were seen on the edge of the jetty, emerging from the pre-dawn mist in their flannel night dresses like the figurines in a Hollywood blockbuster welcoming home their menfolk who had been lost at sea. But theirs were not smiles of love and relief. Indeed, as we drew closer, their faces wore the lines and scowls that said, without words being necessary, that we were in the pooh. Very big pooh, indeed.

So I did what all well-bred gents would do in my situation.

I blamed it all on Lannie.

• The Village Vet is a practising veterinarian.

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