Harold Strachan's Last Word

Harold Strachan's Last Word - Mammut


PILLAY and I always make our own fishing tackle, it’s at least half the sport. I don’t mean we go and saw down a suitable bamboo stick and cure it for a year weighed down with bricks in a groove of the corrugated iron garage roof, all that mystical stuff, I mean we buy all the bits and assemble them to our personal style of angling.   So DD finds a perfect quick-taper fibreglass blank for a shad rod in the Cracker Jack Tackle Shack, nicely balanced, and rigs it up with only three runners between tip and reel to keep the front end light, and binds his free-running wooden centrepin reel straight on to the butt end, to save the weight of the usual reel clamp. This reel he did make himself, a prime piece of beechwood turned on a lathe, 16cm diameter and lined with fibreglass. Nimble, fast, with such a rig and nice light 5 kg line you can get three casts with a spoon into a passing shoal of shad to two with a geared reel. More fish, you see.

Hey come on man, says he, let’s nip over the road to the Bot Gardens and try her out with a sinker, why do we have to drag down to the beach, hey? No, man, say I, somebody will make a fuss there, they’ll say you’re making holes in the canna leaves, some mama will say you’re going to make a hole in her toddler’s skull. If we nip across Sydenham Road other side the gardens we can get in the near entrance to the race course, they’re very kind to the public, all sorts of folks jog there and walk their dogs and everybody’s welcome to the great green lung in the middle of the big murky city. As long as they don’t trespass on the golf course within the race track, of course.

So we do that, and right down the city end on the thick green carpet we try her out; splendid, splendid, no overwinds from a too-heavy tip, a good long cast, but as I am having my turn ol’ DD glances around to see where the sinker has landed and there close by in the artificial lake espies a drowning person. Quick quick! he cries, so I drop the rod and we dash across to the golf course, but when we get there it is only to discover this citizen is not drowning at all, but standing chin-deep in the water with a distant look in his eyes ’neath the spreading green brim of a cricket hat. DD peers under there and cries Hey Sonny, man, what you doing, you? To me he says This my cousin on my father’s side, Sonny Pillay from Chatsworth. A hand emerges and raises the cricket hat. How do you do? says Sonny.

Hey, man, why your eyes seem so funny? says DD. Excuse me, please, says Sonny, and disappears entirely beneath the surface. The cricket hat remains afloat, after a longish while the head reappears exactly underneath. I am seeking golf balls with my toes, says Sonny, producing a specimen from underwater. As new, says he, I just wipe it clean you see and shine it a bit with Mister Min so it slides like hell through the air, and put it in a small plastic bag amd sell it for a good price. I have a good reputation here at the Royal Durban.

Well this lake isn’t entirely artificial, there’s a genuine spring here, it’s just tidied up, that’s all. Some say this is the original Currie’s Fountain, Durban’s original water supply, and there remains round two sides of it an original reed-bed, thick thick, tall and healthy. And as we stand discussing Sonny’s self-employ there comes from this reed-bed a dreadful loud thrashing thumping noise as in that original King Kong movie where the giant gorilla emerges from the jungle, and before our blinking eyes a ghastly great brown dog appears with its huge exposed teeth clamped on some unlucky creature. Spit spit! says Sonny and the monster spits out a golf ball. His name is Mammut, says Sonny, because his mouth is XXL extra outsize. Also great big teeth. And hair. I got him from a German gentleman from New Hanover name of Herr Otto Blattschwein. That’s where he got his name.

Ja, say I, I saw on the telly a spaniel which had swallowed a dozen golf balls and they had to take him to the vet for surgery. No no no, says Sonny, Mammut here can swallow two dozen and one in his mouth, then when we get home I give him one large chocolate laxative pill for human beings and he defecates them all out in a bucket, same time, his backside is also XXL outsize, you see. Oh sis! I exclaim, and you sell those too? Oh I wash them clean as clean with the hose pipe, says Sonny, then spray them with Flowers of the Forest toilet air freshener. They are a little yellow, says he, so I call them the Daffodil Line. You may have noticed my wife selling these specialities outside the main entrance of the Royal Durban.

Mrs Pillay is a member of the Self-employed Womens’ Union, Sonny explains at water level, whilst he is a member of the Durban Street Traders’ Association. The growth of the informal economic sector is important for peace, he explains. All must contribute. Mammut too.

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