Unbeknownst to me my son Ryan Earle had applied to join the 1999 South African overwintering team in Antarctica. The first I heard of it was when, in August, 1998, after copious tests, physical, practical and psychological, he was accepted as the Mechanical Engineer. I was stunned and immensely proud.
Sheila’s son, Nick Simkin, got engaged 4th September 1999. In October Sheila and I drove from Maun, Botswana to my ex-wife, Greet, and her husband, Dennis Driver’s farm in South Africa to collect the furniture that my parents had left for me when they emigrated to Australia. We arranged to meet up with Nick, who was on a police course in Pretoria. He came north with his cousin, Andy Maling, to join us at Greet and Dennis’ place, then Andy’s younger brother Neville Maling arrived, too. They all had cell phones and it was the first time we were able to see these amazing pieces of modern technology at work, arranging meeting places, giving directions, rescuing someone whose vehicle had broken down. We even had a word with Andy’s twin, Chris, in California. It happened that this was around the time that my daughter, Nicci Earle was visiting him there.
We even spoke to Ryan at the SANAE base camp in Antarctica – nice day, he said; -20 degrees with sunshine!
From the states, Nicci went on with her travels to Canada. By December 1999 she was in New Zealand.
Timothy Simkin was working for an engineering company in East London, South Africa. We caught up with him as the family gathered in chalets on the coast in the resort of Cinsa to attend Nick’s marriage to Tracy on 22nd April, 2000, in the Amalinda Baptist Church, E.L. It was a good bun-fight, but the highlight was catching up with family.
Ryan, finally back from the unforgettable experience of Antarctica, told me that he and his girlfriend, Elaine van Pitten had gotten engaged. The wedding was planned for Sept. 30th, 2000. He was now employed by the construction company, Murray & Roberts.
While in East London, both Sheila and I took the opportunity to apply for our new identity documents (called a Book of Life) at the department of Home Affairs. Two amazing coincidences were that we ran into old friend Joey Barichievy, and then Sheila was recognised by a black lady with whom she had been friends as children together, growing up on her parents’ farm outside the city. They reminisced for ages!
After their wedding, Nick & Tracy came back to Maun with us, bringing 3 German Shepherd puppies, smuggled through the border. The two bitches were to become the foundation for some furry companions that only died out in 2016.
To attend Ryan’s wedding in September, we based ourselves with Greet and Dennis Driver again, on their farm near Nylstroom, joining members of both their families as well as Sheila’s. Sherylyn Driver, Dennis’ elder daughter, now a stunningly beautiful woman whom I had last seen as a chubby child, was back home after some time overseas. She and I went shopping in Warmbaths, had lunch and several beers and became good friends as she told me of her sometimes harrowing adventures in Europe. I was honoured to be a confidant.
Nicci was also back from her travels abroad, having earned her way as a qualified physiotherapist. Greet’s brother, my old friend Nico Jaspers, was over from Australia. After the wedding, Nicci and Nico followed us back to Botswana for a lovely visit to a camp in the Okavango Delta.
The wedding itself was held at one of those specialist venues just outside the city of Pretoria, the home town of Elaine’s family. Sheila and I sat with our friends, Bert and June Sabatier, and our clan of Nicholas and his cousins. We had our own table in a corner where we could enjoy each other’s company, catch up, and party.