Ode to Garda and Graham

Here’s a bit of fun.

Seemingly in competition with  “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”, this tongue-in-cheek spoof of “boy meets girl” was intended to mock a fellow young colleague in the corporate work environment during the 1970’s.

But I don’t think my efforts were appreciated ….


One sunny day at Mutualpark
Beside the glittering pool
Lazed Garda Holmes in scanty garb
A-trying to get cool

With knees exposed, and feet quite bare
She stirred the water sacred
And though she roused a thousand stares
She wasn’t all that naked

From amongst the crowd two lenses trained
Upon the maiden fair
They didn’t peep though they were aimed
But donned a glassy stare.

They stared and glared, and glared and stared
Until the damsel noticed
The unrelentless scanning eyes
Which seemed quite out of focus

Her leisure time having been quite spent
She gracefully arose
The eyes that seemed never to relent
Beheld a striking pose

The artist to whom the eyes belonged
As if he’d eaten lotus
Followed where the people thronged
So that nobody would notice

He shadowed her with stealthy pace
His disposition nervous
Until at last she reached a place
Called Unitholder’s Service

There upon a stool she perched
And glanced around in vain
When into the room a figured lurched
And stared at her again

Graham was the artist’s name
Though this he would not say
The nearness of his new found flame
Had put his thoughts in disarray

“Pray forgive the way I stared
Down by the pool” he stuttered
He garbled on a few more words
And all the rest was muttered

Your profile is most interesting
To a man of art, he lied
And that is why I stared at you
Down by the waterside

He ha-ed and hummed and hummed and ha-ed
‘Til finally it came
Your photograph I wish to take
And sign it with my name

Her consent she gave with hidden glee
Yet asked the man Kilgour
If he approved photography
Within the working hour

No! No! cried Graham
Who was taken quite aback
His plan was going down the drain
When nearly in the sack

To do this thing I must have time
And preferably at night
I could have spun another line
Though next time I just might

Where do you live you gorgeous thing?
I really wish I knew
Besides exposing negatives
I might expose you too!

Cautiously she told him
Whereabouts she lived
Now she often wonders
Why on earth she did

When off he sauntered from the room
Smothered by desire
He began to hatch a wicked plan
To quench his passionate fire


Mutualpark, Pinelands

Mutualpark, Pinelands as it was back then


WWII Despatches from Sidi Rezegh


The Battle of Sidi Rezegh Immortalised through Verse

My late father never once related details of his wartime experience to even his closest family. He must have had his reasons although I can’t help feeling that invaluable personal experiences have passed on with him “to higher service” as his M.O.T.H. comrades might say. However, he did leave behind a comprehensive record in the form of a wartime log, plus notes, personal correspondence, photos and press cuttings. I consider myself fortunate in being able to piece them all together to reconstruct his entire military career for posterity.

Some of the revelations I have chanced upon reinforce yet again the irrepressible spirit that is often associated with men under the most catastrophic wartime circumstances immaginable. One such discovery (also proudly recorded in the anals of South African military history) is a poetic account, by author unknown, of the Battle of Sidi Rezegh on Sunday 23 November, 1941, taken from the Wartime Log of my late father, Bombadier R V Kilgour who was there with the 3rd Field Regiment S.A.A.


(With apologies to the 5th S.A. Infantry. Brigade)
It was upon the fateful twenty-third
That our brave “Pongoes” pledged themselves to die.
They were equiped with bows of gwarrie – bos
And flasks containing “Gin”, “Chateau” and “Rye”.

Scarce had they dug themselves into the sand,
When they were jumped by Rommel’s bugle band.
They were amazed and wist not what to do
So fled into their burrows deep and true.

Up spake their leader B F Strongi-tharm,
Who quaked lest his brave boys should suffer harm,
“Up every archer”, “Bend your bows”, quoth he,
“And we will make these Aryan mongrels flee”.

The bows were bent, the arrows, forth did hum,
And quaking Huns were pierced through the thumb!
Alas! Our archers were behind the times
They’d not yet heard of Gerry’s 109’s.

Up looked Ray Kilgour the archer blonde and bold
And spake “Ker-rist” what’s this I now behold?
What kind of bird is this with whirling head
Which from its nose sprays streams of red hot lead?

And lo! another kind of bird I see
Who from her stomach throws her eggs on me
A hideous square tailed fowl with zig-zag wings
And belly tightly packed with grievous stings.

Still nearer came the wildly clanking band
Tan steeled chargers through the desert sand
And soon those rapid shooting bowmen found
That they’d been duped and ringed around.

‘Twas sure the hand of fate had crooked dealt,
And wracking heartache on that day was felt.
“Those gallant archers”, said some Airforce wag
“Had thrown themselves into the Axis bag!”

And now they’re all reclining in the land,
Where Mussolini rules his jackal band
Each cursed day they moan their cruel fate,
And say they also serve who simply sit and wait.

An article by Leslie du Plessis titled: “Sidi Rezegh – A name and a day to remember”, which appeared in the Johannesburg Star, 19 September 1966, corroborates not the “flights” of poetic fancy mentioned above but rather the courageous events which gave rise to them.

“Afrika Korps panzers shot like a great arrowhead of steel at one lone brigade”.

“Men without tanks to help them then hurled themselves at the merciless monsters”.

“The Springboks stand at Sidi Rezegh is comparable with the immortal two days stand of the South Africans against the Germans at Dellville Wood – Smuts”.

Here is an illustration accompanying the original poem in my father’s wartime diary:

Battle of Sidi Rezegh - Libya, North Africa

The Battle of Sidi Rezegh, South of Tobruk, 23 November, 1941

Umtentwini Beach

The following poem records a state of deep despair and confusion I experienced in the wake of my marriage collapsing in 1994.  I had travelled alone from Cape Town to Durban in a desperate effort to keep my emotions in check, for I was ready to commit murder. My wife had eloped with another man and my entire world had suddenly collapsed. I had felt cheated, targeted and betrayed. Never before had I experienced this level of defeat. To deal with it, moment by moment, I turned to nature, calligraphy,  art and writing as a means of self- distraction. I drew comfort from the fact that, at least, these few simple pleasures remained faithful to me during the worst time of my life.

I penned this poem (blank verse) on the evening of January 12, 1994, after returning from a day on the beach at Umtentwini, on the South Coast of Natal, while the imagery was still vivid in my mind.

Umtentwini Beach

My first day in the sun
for years it seems
dressed only in black trunks
sitting quite alone
at home
on a driftwood log
gazing out to sea
beyond jagged outcrops
at the murky windswept breakers
that churn the South Coast shores
I’m protected up above of course –
my floppy hat and tinted shades
provide a measure of bravado –
allowing the rest of me to remain exposed
to a calmly baking sun
which somehow lacks the same intensity
as Cape Town’s microwave
Actually, most of the “rest  of me”
is also covered
by a thin film of UV5
to keep the skin and me alive
for what?
only time will tell
for life is as wildly unpredictable
as the ocean now before me
but it has its small compensations
like the warm, reassuring feel
of sun-baked rock
beneath my elbow
A friendly, healing warmth
that seeps into the soul
And when I turn to face that mighty orb
of brilliance overhead
I close my eyes and watch
as a kaleidoscope of bright leafy images
play across my eyelids
in Cinerama style
causing me to gasp in awe
until at last the rays begin to bite
more passionately
and I, having turned full circle twice
slowly, like some elaborate,
self-propelled spit-roast
must consider myself done;
So reality returns
and like everything in life
you can take only so much
and no more
I retrieve my shirt
and leave with sunny thoughts
a kiss upon my cheeks

Driftwood on the beach at Umtentwini

Umtentwini Beach, South Coast, Natal, South Africa