1980 – Imprefed (Pty) Ltd. Carlo Bighi was senior mechanic in the Imprefed workshop. I often bothered him to sharpen the hand-tools used for digging by my fencing team. He did it the proper way, by heating up the tips and shaping the red-hot meatal with a hammer, rather than grinding their edges on an emery wheel. As I was later to learn when asking for his help to fix a broken part on my little .410 shotgun, he was a craftsman and perfectionist of note. The part he made was far superior to the original. Sheila and I became fast friends with him and his Danish/English wife Greta, as well as with Beppe Coen and his English wife, Dawn.
Beppe was into making pork into delicious Italian salami and prosciutto, and experimented with other gastronomic delights, like tripe that had his whole house smelling awful. Beppe had a tremendous sense of humour and I remember some of his stories to this day. What wonderful friends!
I soon found my job as fencing foreman to be boring so spent a lot of my time, in between supervision, writing my next novel “Purgatory Road” in pencil. Sheila would take the previous day’s efforts and type it up for me, chivvying me along when my production fell.
“Get on with it, boy, I want to know what happens next!”
Aware that I was ill-equipped to get very far in life as a foreman, and fascinated by the work that the site surveyor was doing, I decided that I would try and get training as a learner surveyor with any one of the big construction companies who sent their students to technical college for six month of the year and six months on a site. With this in mind, I started a survey correspondence course. If nothing else, it was the refresher in maths that was of the most use, as Survey is very much a practical job.
For my work, I was given the use of a Mercedes 1313 truck, which I learned to drive well enough to get my heavy-duty licence, a qualification which boosted my CV, even if I didn’t use it much.
We eventually moved out of the railway staff house to the house behind the Tip-Top Hotel outside Stutterheim, which lay at the southern end of my job. There was a camp available for our cows. Sheila got a job at Dohne Agricultural Research Station as a draftsman (person?) but spent her time doing caricatures of the bosses and posters for visitors’ days.
Sheila’s sons, Nicholas and Timothy went to school at Stutterheim Primary. My children, Nicci and Ryan, came to visit now and then for school holidays. . However, we now saw less of our Cathcart friends, which was a definite minus to the move.
And the hotel was just a little too handy…