John, we had three of them at Agricultural College.
John, hey John, hey John? It can be a trite confusing when three people have the same Christian name can it not? Now being lively lads at Gwebi Agricultural College, (the old College of Knowledge), the solution was quite simple, being, distinguish them. So the three lads all being named John became, John Jockstrap, John van Wheelspin, and John Barry. Made even simpler they became known as, Jockstrap, Wheelspin, and John Barry. How could this be? Well John Jockstrap was a lively lad with a tendency to slight plumpness and had naughty and cheeky written all over his face. Also a known ‘rugger bugger’ (rugby player), hence jockstrap. Wheelspin, ah wheelspin, exactly the same except with a tendency toward skinniness. Furthermore young people who liked cars, especially driving them fast, more often than not took off by screeching their tyres and
burning some rubber, or as the local people said, ‘smoke lo tyres’. This was known to us though as a wheelspin. You get it? Also a ‘rugger bugger’ playing in the position of hooker despite him being thin. Which leaves us with John Barry, and those are just his first name and middle name. A giant of a man, big and incredibly strong, but actually a gentle giant. Need I say it, but, another ‘rugger bugger’ on the verge of playing National level. So then here just come some reminisces of the wonderful times we had and all the fun when we were young. Furthermore we were a country at war and all these three people had done their National Service before attending this renown college, as had I, except I had lost my hearing and was now as deaf as a stone. The college had a drinking reputation so we are in the pub at Mount Hampden hotel and get to talking to one of the teachers from the reformatory down the road. He’s mightily impressed with us and thinks his delinquents might learn something from such fine upstanding fellows, so he asks us if we can go and play them football in there gym one night. We agree.
Football game against the reformatory.
The great night arrives and in our team are John Jockstrap, John van Wheelspin, John Barry, me myself and I forget who else now. Anyway the game is played indoors in the gymnasium and has it’s own set of rules bouncing the ball off the walls permitted etc. Very unlike the real football game but is actually great fun. A reformatory dear reader, in our day was a place where people were sent who were deemed by authority
(schoolteachers) as not geared towards the more refined things in life and in constant trouble. In other words a bunch of hoods or delinquents, who were then sent to places like this in order to try and sort them out. Very hard place it was too akin to when one first joins the army or sentenced to prison. We are getting a hiding and John Barry says to me, “what are we supposed to do Spook?” So I say, “stop being nice guys and play them at their own game.” Which is exactly what we start doing, John Jockstrap and Wheelspin are bowling them over like flies now. You know it’s a funny old world because suddenly the guys at the reformatory realise that they are not as big and tough as they thought they were, and the game settles down, and a great time is had by all. When finished they are all over us and asking when we can come and play again, and their coach whom we met in the pub is beaming and feeling vindicated. Just goes to show eh? It’s another reason why I always liked my Gwebi mates so much, wonderful guys one and all.
Another time, another place, another pub.
Now I’m a cricketer and very beautiful to watch (not me talking), however I tend to agree. We have a had a home game and now relaxing in the pub at Gwebi known or named, Mundy’s Folly. John Jockstrap is the barman for the night and wearing a shirt which says, ‘everybody loves a lover’? Question mark being the big question with this boy, tsuh, I’m not a boy, but his eyes and his whole
demeanor is lively and cheeky again, all at the same time. John van Wheelspin and John Barry are sitting on the pub counter along with dear old Spook. Opposite us by the window are Mugs Muggleton (college bursar), and his wife relaxing with a quiet drink after
watching the game. She has her hair done up in Marge Simpson style and is wearing a most odd kind of black spectacles which have a perky lift up in the corners. She also has a dress where her bosoms are peeking out at the top. Why do women do this? But the whole scene is idyllic and the lads, some of them with girlfriends, are livening up. Drinks and banter are flowing freely and John van Wheelspin and John Barry are talking about crash tackles in rugby or something equally riveting. Spook, bored, finishes his fag and flicks it across the room. It arches across and lands slap bang in the middle of Mrs. Mugs mammories. She hasn’t noticed but John Barry has. Her head starts to twitch a bit as the dreaded butt begins to burn. It gets worse and worse as the heat tells and shame her head is going ten men. Eventually she reaches down and pulls the dreaded criminal out. By this time John Barry has fallen off the counter he is laughing so much. Mr. and Mrs. Mugs storm out the pub furious. Who wouldn’t be?
The next day is Monday and walking to the college lecture hall I see John Barry coming out from the staff headquarters. He tells me Muggleton wanted to see him but doesn’t elaborate. I knew then exactly what had been going on but friends don’t split on friends, that’s just the way it was. He is looking a bit ashen faced and tells me they want to kick him out of the college. I leave him and go inside and knock on Muggleton’s door. When he lets me in I tell him John Barry had nothing to do with it, he doesn’t even smoke, it was me who flicked the cigarette but not on purpose I had just had one to many. He’s shocked and until this time has always liked me, so I say “therefore if you want to punish someone, then punish me”? He says to me, ” I’m very disappointed in you Spook and just what were you trying to do? Ash trays are provided.” So I say ” I think I was just trying to get it out the window without thinking?” He lets me go and we hear no more about the subject.
Parties, parties, and more parties.
Well it is Punjab Patel’s 21st, birthday party, and he is so named because he is pretty dark skinned. Gentlemen must wear jacket and tie. So the lads are spruced up and looking in their prime. Also it doesn’t take long for a Gwebi party to get going. Patel’s Dad is actually head of the
Rhodesian Rugby Union. I’m having a good old chin wag with him and asking why is John Barry not playing for Rhodesia? Unbeknownst to me at this precise moment John van Wheelspin shouts, “chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge.” John Jockstrap and John Barry both
throw back their drinks and down them, all the while laughing their heads off. So Dad Reg says to me, ” look at him, how can we pick anyone like that to represent Rhodesia?” So I say, ” but tonight he is not representing his country he’s just with his friends having a good time. He’s definitely good enough to represent his country and I think he would be a wonderful ambassador for the sport and the country.” I have him stymied and he’s backtracking and basically he’s admitting that he is certainly good enough. ” However we cannot take the risk as it’s not about being good enough but your whole persona.” Just then his wife drags him away to make the speech for his son or something, or more likely to get me out of his hair. Why do women do this? Anyway we are all still there the next morning going strong and not having slept a wink when breakfast is rustled up for us. Those were the days my friends we thought they’d never end. Eventually we left, however there was always another party here at the old college of knowledge. The other thing is that such was our reputation that we were BANNED from every hostelry, pub, in the country. Except from the Mount Hampden and Nyabira hotels. Guess they needed the trade? Now the owner of the Mount Hampden was known to us as Aunty Faye, a real loveable old duck and many the 21st. was held there. The problem being her and John Jockstrap didn’t see eye to eye and they were always arguing. Anyway the long and short of all this is that she built a thatch area especially for 21st. parties. One night on leaving there after a few drinks and her and Jockstrap had been arguing again, he left with this comment, ” don’t blame us if that burns down one night?” (Jokingly). Aunty Faye was furious and actually reported him to the police as some kind of ‘incendiary terrorist’, see what I mean about those were the days?
Whilst still at college the rugby guys went on a tour to South Africa. I was reading about it in the college magazine. The coach was saying that for him the highlight of the tour was when John Barry went into the sea to save a girl who was in real danger of drowning. How like John Barry. I also distinctly remember him getting off with a girl who had calipers on her legs on one of our college haunts. Don’t ever, ever, even for one moment say to me that men are uncaring.
Now for people who never lived in Rhodesia or knew nothing about it, it is important to tell you how we felt. Anyway Henry Kissinger had poked his nose into our affairs and stabbed us in the back as had all the people we considered our friends. With friends like that who needs enemies? I have left college and am working on the home farm. It is night time and the news is on T.V., this always ended with the presenter giving the casualties from the war. I’m lying on the couch when my mother suddenly goes very quiet and still. She gets my attention and asks me, ” Kevin, your friend from Gwebi, John Barry, what was his surname?” So I reply, ” Whitfield Mum.” So she says, ” I’m sorry to have to tell you, but, he’s just been killed in the war.” Oh no, oh no. I just cannot believe it, so big and strong. I get the newspaper the next couple of days and read all the obituaries and there are so many. Eventually one strikes a chord with me, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” It’s the first time I have heard of Ecclesiastes. But over the next few weeks I read the Bible, page for page until I am finished. I have another life long friend Rusty, also a Selous Scout as was John Barry. The cream of the cream of our fighting forces in my opinion. Rusty is in the bush fighting when he hears the sad news. Devastated, he goes and sits under a tree and composes a poem. Another senior school friend of mine, Lung, has just started a job as a reporter in the newspaper The Herald. So he writes an article on it and includes Rusty’s poem. It so sums up the mood of the country and goes viral within the parameters of our country and the time we lived in. Herewith;
THOUGHTS OF A TROOPIE.
Ten years old and four feet high
History and U.D.I.
“Today we’ve struck a blow” said he
“For Justice and Christianity,
For principle we’ve made a stand,
Courageous people, splendid land
Civilized we stand or fall
God save the Queen, God bless you all.”
And like the years, good friends have gone
Dave and Richard, Mike and John
Crash and ambush, mine and mortar
Cold and heat and dust and water
Freckled David, laughing Paul
And Pete my bravest friend of all.
Write their names on Rolls of Honour,
Scripted bold in golden splendour.
For us will be no victory day,
The dogs of war have gone astray.
Now principle becomes surrender,
Expediency the legal tender.
Is justice just for those who shout?
Is this what Christ is all about?
Athletes at the depot site
Their backs are sore, they can’t fight.
Will someone tell us why we fight?
What once was wrong is now what’s right?
Where am I going? – Where have I been?
Somewhere …. Nowhere …. In Between
Years of waste – And so I cried,
The day my good friend Johnny died.
Now the thing is I never heard the spoken word at this time, so have highlighted in black a part of this poem. You see that is how I remember it, but have never seen those words again since and I certainly didn’t make them up. So obviously somebody made him pull those words out? The Rhodesian rugby fullback Leroy Duberly was only killed in September 1979 and John Barry was killed in February 1978 so couldn’t be that. Or Rusty just decided to pull them himself when he had calmed down? I still feel someone in authority made him do it. It was a long time ago so I guess nobody cares any longer?
John van Wheelspin and John Jockstrap.
Now Wheelspin was working in the Lowveld in Triangle and a great romance began. The problem was the future father in law couldn’t bear him and one day wheelspin had to ask for his daughters hand in marriage. Wheelspin topped up with a few snorts waited until the Saturday night movie was about to start and quickly popped the question to the Dad. His reply, “oh no.” A whole lot of us ex Gwebi lads went down for the wedding and a marvelous time was had by all. I lost touch with him after that but heard he was working in Russia after his divorce and was killed in a car crash in Zimbabwe sometime in the early nineties on a return holiday. Wonderful bloke and so much fun and memories.
John Jockstrap became a well known farmer in Zimbabwe and was high up in the Commercial Farmers Union. His forte became paying the highest price for a bull at the annual Bull sales, year after year after year. Lost his life at the time of the farm invasions in a gun mishap but had led a fruitful life and had a lovely wife and two children. I never will forget these guys and how much they all meant to me.