Just before the Covid-19 lockdown, I was sitting at the Grassy Park Hotel, watching a klawerjas first division knockout clash between Villagers and Bols, when a young man came up to me and greeted me as if he knew me.
‘Hi Mr Dougie,’ he said.
‘Hello,’ I responded.
‘I’m Lockerby,’ he said.
‘Ag, shame,’ I gooied, ‘what soapie did your mommy watch?’
‘My mommy was nogal the only lady in the blokke where we lived who DIDN’T watch soapies.
‘She got my name from a road in Lansdowne. She said she was looking for a factory shop selling baby clothes when she saw the road,’ he said.
‘She said she just felt that that was going to be my name, and that it would win her the Lotto.’
‘I’d better not ask you your second name’, I quipped.
But then he changed the subject: ‘People here say you’re the cleverest man in the whole of Grassy Park,’ he said.
‘Well, not only Grassy Park. I once beat a doctor and a chartered accountant, make that two Chartered Accountants, in Elfindale, at Trivial Pursuit,’ I replied.
‘Wow!’ he said.
‘I also play Target in the Cape Times.’
Then he asked me a strange question….
‘Is sturvy a township word?’
It just so happens I’m an expert on sturvy,’ I replied.
I could see I had him in the palm of my hand.
‘Tell me more,’ he almost begged.
But I made it clear to him that my wisdom comes at a price: a thick, two-bob glass of Sedgewicks’ OB at respectable intervals.
‘Look, firstly, it’s got nothing to do with a prince from Java who was sent here to serve a prison sentence.’
By his blank look, I could see he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
Putting on my earnest look, with both hands balled into fists, I said: ‘Sturvy was first used in Second Avenue, Harfield.’
‘And so, it’s a word that belongs to Cape Town.
‘Wow!’ he said, again.
‘In the late-1960s, there was a shopkeeper named Abdul Kader Sturvé, whose little corner shop was always a hive of activity,’ I started in my deep, storytelling voice.
‘Can you guess why?
‘No,’ he answered.
‘Now, go to the barman and get me another OB, and think about it while you’re waiting.’
When he returned, he suggested, hopefully: ‘Did he sell boem?
‘Nope, I replied, ‘better than that….
‘He sold the freshest Redskin peanuts in town.
‘People came from far and wide to buy from him.
‘But he had a problem. Everyone called him ‘Bhai’, which he hated.
‘He felt, correctly, that it showed a lack of respect towards him.
‘So, one day, gatvol, he chalked up a notice outside his shop: ‘I’m Sturvy’. He used a ‘y’ because he knew no one would be able to pronounce his surname with the akkeltjie on the e.
‘’It became a joke, with many customers with many of them now calling him Mr Sturvy.
‘One of his customers was Ockie September, the PT master at Heathfield High who was also in charge of the tuck shop at the school.
‘September put up a marketing notice at his row of Redskin plastic bakkies saying: ‘We’re Sturvy.
‘Soon this became the war cry of the athletics team – mainly because the school usually ended so far behind their near-neighbours, SP, that they had nothing to brag about, except, maybe, that their tuck shop sold the best peanuts.
‘However, it became associated with class – and soon people all over Heathfield, and even in Retreat, were using the term. I remember a guy in Third Avenue, called Warren, who described himself as sturvy, even though he wore his shiny, gold shorts as an underpants for three months at a time.
‘Wow! said Lockerby again.
‘Can I ask you another question, he asked.
‘Okay,’ I replied. ‘As soon as you get me another OB.’