There are times when Diktak Taljaard can consume vast quantities of strong liquor whilst standing around a braai, in a manner that begins and ends with a wonderful dexterity of gesture, interspersed with fabulous repartee and a deep sense of caring.There are other times, however, when he becomes silent, affected, as he quaintly puts it, by the humidity here in the Colony and things go very much awry!
This led me to the conclusion that an ongoing surveillance of his braaivleis consumption habits was necessary with a view to ascertaining the trigger moments that cause this departure from the norm...!
My initial observations quickly proved to me, as a perennial participant at these occasions, that it was all too easy to lay the blame at the doorstep of the Sun and the barrage of humidity that it lays down over the Colony, particularly in February and March. The situation required that the net of research be cast on its widest arc, and that medicine, science and the humanities should play their part.
With my knowledge of things medical and psychology being limited to the application of Elastoplast to a bleeding thumb hit by a hammer and which end of the hammer to use to illicit such an eventuality, I felt compelled to enlist the assistance of others more versed in these matters.
My first choice was Jan Beneuk, the trading store owner. Jan was widely acknowledged by his customers for his expertise in the personal benefits of managing their change! He was also Diktak's brother in law and I could therefore rely on him to record our observations with diligence - the devil lying often in the detail of family relationships!
Dikpens Van Zyl, the local butcher, per chance satisfied a dual capability that made his selection an easy decision. He had a knowledge,as a butcher, of how to braai, which was essential and was willing to supply free boerewors, which was delightful.
I was confident that I had chosen well Oom Schalk, not only did both men satisfy the technical requirements, they both had, in addition, an exemplary record in the patient, persistent acquisition of fine hangovers.
The scene was thus set, the cast chosen.The four of us gathered at noon on the 18th of March, under the leafy boughs of the fig tree on Upper Lower Gungululu, to begin our first formal observation.
My chosen observers decided that Diktak would drink double tots of Klipdift and ice.They decreed that the observations would be conducted over a period of four hours, that boerewors could be braaied and consumed as and when we felt the need and that in order to remain neutral, we three, would confine our intake to red wine!
The first hour flew by Oom Schalk, I have seldom had the privilege of seeing Diktak in such fine form! His gesticulation was a thing of beauty to behold and seemed to gain a magical momentum the more he consumed! His repartee swooped through one's senses like swallows before a summer storm... It was grand Oom Schalk, it was grand!
As we approached the top of the first hour, Jan Beneuk decided it would be prudent to adjourn for a comfort break. We moved stage left to the Jacaranda tree at the edge of the garden, which afforded us a view of the approach road to the homestead.
Whilst standing there, like four Pointer dogs smelling the wind, we noticed a vehicle, followed by a cloud of dust, making it's way toward us.It was the Church Deacon - Jan Casper de Vries!
Now Jan Casper de Vries, Oom Schalk, has a long winded conversational ability that is sort after only by insomniacs - in preference to a sleeping pill! His arrival in our presence would most certainly destroy our efforts to conduct the balance of the observation in the same convivial tenor we had adopted in the preceding period... that is until Dikpens Van Zyl took charge of matters by saying, "Gentlemen, it would be sinful and very rude not to welcome the good Deacon into our presence with open hearts and gratitude - leave this to me.."
He turned on his heel and headed off to greet our new guest - pausing only to pluck a few of those small devil chilli's from a nearby bush and to pour the Deacon a cooling Coca Cola with which to welcome him.
It would appear that the journey had built a great thirst in Jan Casper.When he and Dikpens returned to our company a few minutes later, he could barely spare the time to greet us before prevailing on Dikpens to refill his glass. Dikpens, as you know Oom Schalk, is a most generous host and he obliged immediately, adding a piece of boerewors on a plate to accompany the refill.
Jan Casper, normally an overly polite, boring but well mannered man, could barely contain his haste in dispatching the boerewors to the depths of his stomach - the contents of the glass followed it in three large gulps!
Agog and aghast we watched in amazement as he repeated the exercise and then lapsed into a sudden silence... His voice, when he finally found it, was strangely muted. "I feel decidedly light headed with a terrible burning sensation around my lips...I must go", he stammered, " I seem to be coming down with some ailment"...
The Deacon Jan Casper de Vries left Upper Lower Gungululu with great haste, seeking the comfort of his bed and the ministration's of his long suffering wife...
The four of us returned to the matters at hand.With quantities of boerewors, wine and brandy still available for consumption, I easily persuaded the others to help me dispose of these leftovers. As we relaxed under the shade of the fig tree, discussing the events of the day, Jan Beneuk suddenly inquired of Dikpens what had become of the chili's he plucked from the bush.
Dikpens smiled quietly and said, "I have a confession to make gentlemen... I snapped a chili in half and rubbed it around the rim of the glass of cooling Coca Cola that I presented to the good Deacon as he got out of car. Those devil chilli's create a fearful burning sensation on ones lips as one takes the first sip and most people who have fallen prey to my trick immediately take multiple sips of the drink in a desperate attempt to relieve the burning - which simply makes it worse!"
As Jan Beneuk broke into a great guffaw of laughter which infected us all, Dikpens continued, "My Grandmother, who was a Catholic of Irish descent, taught me the trick when I was a young boy.. She had a dislike of Protestants,but would never turn a needy soul away".
"She also had great affection for the odd tipple or two, so in honour of her memory, I added a stiff double of the good nectar to his second drink - the burn of the chili masks the taste of alcohol completely... I was even more generous with his third glass - and I ran a fresh chili around the rim!", he laughed, his face beaming with child like innocence.
When our laughter subsided, Diktak, who had fallen strangely silent, proposed that we take a final drink to toast the events of the day and collected our glasses to make ready.When he returned we took our glasses and raised them. In a sonorous voice he said, "To the Goose, To the Gander - and what is good for them both"!
As we swallowed the first mouthful we felt a sharp, painful tingle spread across our lips.... We knew that Diktak's trigger moment had arrived - from here things would go very awry!!
Ja Nee Oom Schalk, such moments precede a very slow start to the day that follows...