Engage brain before mouth…


‘Think before you speak.’ I hate that line. ‘Engage brain before mouth,’ is phrase I had continually thrown at me. As a child, I was always told to do that and couldn’t. But after our recent visit to South Africa when we stayed with my brother in law (B-I-L) in Vereeniging, I can understand why it was drummed into my head.

Vereeniging, about 80km South of Johannesburg, is about the size of Bulawayo, and suits us just fine. Also, B-I-L has a plot out of town, and that also suits me fine. I find the noise in Johannesburg tiring and unpleasant.

B-I-L house in Vereeniging

BIL plays golf at the local course every Saturday, partnered by the same guy every week. They own a share of a ‘golf estate’ in Bela Bela about 250km away and go there regularly to play.

Clubhouse at Zebula Golf Estate

Clubhouse at Zebula Golf Estate

Zebula Golf course

Zebula Golf course

A week or so after we arrived, his partner invited him to pay at Legends (golf course) which is another couple of hours the other side of Bela Bela. The plan was to spend the night at Bela Bela  and drive to Legends in the morning.

Wow, the lengths people will go to, to clout a little ball around!

BIL wasn’t over-enthralled by the whole idea. Perhaps he thought he shouldn’t desert his visitors? Or perhaps he had a bad feeling. In the end, however, he went, his golf partner traveling with him in his car…or bus rather. It’s a nice vehicle, if rather soft – B-I-L lent it to us last year to tour around South Africa.

Bus under a disused railway bridge

Bus under a disused railway bridge

Very happy to have the house to ourselves, we gaily waved him goodbye and set about doing all the things we weren’t supposed to do: ate his chocolate, and other fancy food, walked around the house naked and had wild monkey sex.

Pretty early the following morning, I was woken by a phone call, from him. Now here is a big surprise, he is such a scrooge, that he rarely uses the phone. In fact, he is such a scrooge, that he doesn’t even keep shampoo in his shower – he uses the shampoo at the golf course!

He opened with the line, “I’ve got a disaster here…A serious disaster.” Now this, is from a guy who, midwinter in Siberia, may say, “It’s a little chilly here,” or “That’s somewhat pricey…” about a 120 million rand holiday home. What could constitute a disaster? ….he’s had to spend money on breakfast, perhaps? No seriously, I imagined an accident – dead bodies strewn all over the place, or one of those mass murders you hear about so often in South Africa. My stomach dropped, I got a huge adrenaline rush. Disaster scenario’s raced through my mind. Maybe it was one of my kids – also in an accident. Or maybe family…

No, his disaster was simply that his car had broken down about 10km from Bela Bela (Warmbaths in the old days!) That’s it. No accident, no mangled bodies. His golf mates had caught a lift to Legends for their round and would see him later in Bela Bela. I flip into ‘fix it’ mode – I’m good at that. Phone around for a tow vehicle, organise the Vito to be towed to Bela Bela. Not long after, he calls to say his diesel tank (made of plastic) flexed when a rock hit it, and bashed into the fuel pump. It was totally shattered and the replacement part would take two days to get there.

Now I couldn’t possibly leave him sitting in Bela Bela all day, so I offer to drive down, keep him company until his partner arrived. Take photos of the scenery. I mean, I can easily drive through Johannesburg traffic at lunch time, hell, I even know where I’m going!

Traveling north along the N1 the Bela Bela off-ramp directly ahead, I get a whatsapp from him. This is it verbatim: “I’m drowning my sorrows at Panarotti’s opposite the Game…” I stare at the screen in horror and think, “brilliant. He is sloshed. Marvelous. That’s all I need.”

I don’t do alcohol in any form. At all. Nada. I don’t drink it, or buy it, or associate with legless people. And now I not only have to collect B-I-L from this Panarotti place, but negotiate him into my car and….oh boy. I imagined going into some dark dive, with any number of soaks propping up the bar counter, the smell of smoke and old timers and alcohol all pervading…I imagined oozing a loud, giggling B-I-L off a bar stool and guiding him outside…eeuw

My first thought was just to go up the off-ramp, turn right instead of left to Bela Bela, and just go back south! My second – I keep on driving North to Zimbabwe! That would be a solution!

I soon discover, Panarotti is a pizza place and no alcohol is served there. Not used to the heat in Bela Bela, B-I-L had to drown his sorrows with iced tea! Pity he didn’t ‘engage brain before he opened his mouth!’

So next time people, when you have a disaster such as B-I-L’s, please first think to say something like, “Everything is fine, but I have a disaster here…” And remember drowning your sorrows can have only one meaning!

What an expensive round of (non) golf!

I took some pics around Bela Bela. They weren’t great which is strange, because the area is SO African. Vast and endless and blue. On the way back to Zimbabwe we stayed over at Zebula – the photos are on my photoblog here:

This is B-I-L’s house at Zebula:

B-I-L's house at Zebula

B-I-L’s house at Zebula

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10 responses »

  1. I think we all had that phrase drummed into us Frankie, but become lazy and blasé about what, and to whom, we speak. We bandy about phrases that mean one thing to us and could mean something totally different to others without thought, and I think that is what the intention of this “command” is. Think, first about who you are with, then about what you are going to say, and finally how you are going to phrase it. All of that takes quite some brain power in my case, so I guess, once I have learned how to implement the intention, I may be a little more successful communicating with others. Thank you for sharing and the pictures.

    • Well, I never learned, Simon. While I can come up with two silly instances, from BIL over a month visit, he could come up with (and does!) about two per minute from me! Actually, I understand totally what he went through. And its not surprising that someone usually so pedantic and correct would slip up. For an Aspie, non mechanical person like him, the experience must have been horrible. I imagine him standing next to a car that suddenly would not work, carrying people he felt were relying on him. Later walking into shops he is unfamiliar with…shame man…I shouldn’t make fun of him!
      Thanks for the visit and comment

    • NO, you really wouldn’t, OP – I cring every time I drive through the (ostentatious) gateway. It’s a disgusting blatant show of opulence which is quite out of keeping considering the poverty in nearby townships. Having said that, B-I-L has benefited the break he gets away for the rat-race that is the construction industry in Johannesburg by being in the bush, surrounded by wild animals. Brought up in the heart of the African bush, he missed it more than he knew. So he, like me, turns a blind eye to the awful monstrosities marring the countryside, digs deep in his pockets and enjoys the weekend away.

  2. Man alive – the life some people live. Hope he appreciates all the property etc.Good chuckle at 05.30 in the morning to kick start my day! B – I _ L – lucky you assisted 🙂 Love the picture of the dis-used bridge. Never been able to engage brain first – blast out a reaction and clear up the bodies afterwards.

    • Sometimes people think we are married…the ongoing bickering we run helps them form this opinion. We came through OT once, on the way back from a trip to Zambia. Being the gentleman he is, I go first – hand in my passport with my Zimbabwe permanent residence stamp in the first page – he goes next without one. Both with the same surname. The immigration officer opens mine again to check – B-I-L’s to check – raises his eyes, thinks ‘strange marriage – they seem to get on fine!’
      The pic under the bridge was taken when we chose to travel on the (dirt) Montague Pass! Hubby was having puppies cos the Mercedes is not insured, unlike our car B-I-L was using back in JHB! Imagine letting a maniac like me loose with a half million rand car that’s not insured!
      Yes – I have learned to apologise, over the years – its easier than trying to change

      • Bickering makes the world go round – let’s us know we are alive….No insurance – makes things racy 🙂 How much we miss when direct routes and not back roads. No I will never change either 🙂

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed your tale. When I worked at HQ1 Brigade, Brady Barracks, ‘Byo (a million years ago) , the door to the Radio Ops Room bore the sign: ENGAGE BRAIN BEFORE OPERATING MOUTHPIECE whih I tho9ught was hilarious, at the time. I still think its funny!

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