Monday, December 18, 2006

the camel teapot

Janet (with eagle-eyed perception!) commented on the camel teapot in the picture of Christmas 2005 in THIS post. It belonged to Max’s grandpa, who I never met, but who is a legend in the family because he was such a character, so I asked Max to write a description for you.
Here is a photo of the teapot, and a few of the glasses we inherited from Max’s mom, also part of her dad's vast collection of anything that sparkled, which even included his own tombstone, carefully carved with just his date of death omitted!
By contrast, my mom was a real “colonial” snob, and was mortified when she saw the teapot in our house. She asked me if I was planning to surreptitiously break it, because she couldn’t believe I could live with such a kitsch thing! I told her it meant a lot to Max and would certainly remain intact! I’m afraid the rebel in me surfaced, and I used to take great delight in serving tea in it when she came to visit!
It eventually became a great joke between her and Max, and he even left it to her in his will! She responded by saying that she didn’t pray much, but would earnestly pray for his good health!
Our kids loved being regaled with tales of their dad’s wild and woolly relatives when they were little.

Here is Max’s story:
“Marthinus Christophil Barnard, AKA Grandpa Barnard was one of life’s characters - or maybe caricatures would be more appropriate. Born in the early 1900’s of good pioneer stock and brought up a solid Afrikaner in the best traditions of the Dutch Reformed Church.
When he left the family farm to seek out his own life as a young man, his dream was to be an engine driver, but because he wore spectacles his application was rejected. He became a miner instead, eventually had his own farm and in his later years was a truck driver.
One of the defining moments in his life was when he walked into church one Sunday morning, still wearing the cycle clips he wore to keep his baggy trousers from being caught in the sprocket of his Harley Davidson motor bike. The dominee (minister) chased him out for being inappropriately dressed. As a result he went home and announced to his wife that from then on, they would speak only English, and attend the Methodist Church. This made him a pariah in his own family.
In contrast to the large families he and my grand mother came from, they only had one child – my mother. I never met my grand mother as she died a few years before my birth.
I have vague memories of his visits. They were infrequent, always unannounced and he would invariably arrive in the middle of the night, in his battered 1948 Ford panel van.
He was a stocky man with massive hands – one of his rings would fit over two of my fingers. He had gold fillings in his teeth, hair always smartly slicked down, probably with Brylcream, neatly trimmed moustache and an assortment of gold and silver jewellery. And he used methylated spirits as his preferred after shave lotion.
He always smelt of brandy. That was because he carried a half jack in his back pocket, from which he was inclined to take a surreptitious swig, when he thought no one was watching.
We loved him, because he was our grandpa.
He got cancer in 1968 and came to live with us until he died in 1969, shortly after the first Apollo mission had circled the moon. He found the prospect of man going to the moon fascinating and followed the developments with awe. It probably added a few weeks to his life. I was 16 at the time and spent a lot of time getting to know him.
One of his characteristics was to collect things - anything that glittered, he was like a magpie. This ranged from jewellery - gold rings with larges rubies, to an incredible collection of liqueurs in an amazing assortment of bottles, fancy decanters and glasses, an amazing Art Deco grandfather clock with a Westminster chime, a carved elephant table from Aden and my personal favourite the famous camel teapot. My mother gave it to me when I left home to start my career, in 1972.
It was one of the paradoxes about him that for someone who was so rough around the edges, he loved to collect delicate things! "
Renovations to Croick Cottage:
the stairs are slowly improving...
and the workers take a drink break!

1 comment:

Janet said...

Oh, that was wonderful! Thank you so much for the story about Max's grandfather and the teapot. I could just picture him arriving in the dead of night with his rings and brandy. He sounds like a fascinating man.