The backbone of Africa

Jay is 74 years old and lives in Hangberg, Hout Bay with his dog. Kathrin is 38 years old, lives in Victorskloof, Hout Bay with her husband and three children.

What is your profession and what work do you do? I’m retired.

But you work as a volunteer. Ah, there’s nothing these hands can’t do. What is my profession? Look, I hold a BSC in agriculture. I hold a Master Builder’s certificate. I’m a construction steel engineer. I’m a welding engineer. I hold my skipper’s ticket on the open water for 870 tons, with my harbour exemption for 870 tons, which means I can take a boat in anywhere in the world, 870 tons or less, without the pilot. So what’s my profession? I’ve got a flying license for six different aircrafts, because you’ve got to have a license for each different aircraft. The only thing: I can’t drive a submarine.

Where were you trained? My agricultural training I did in Pretoria and in north-western Transvaal. Engineering and building, also in Pretoria. So, the other training – the „bad“ training – that was started here in South Africa. From here, we went to Israel, under the Mossad. From there to Canada under the Canadian Royal Mounted – very good police work, the best in the world in putting the clues together, to build a picture. From there through to England, where we were trained in „subversive awareness“, which fell under the Scotland Yard then. And from there over to the southern States, we did a whole course there with the Seals. My parachuting I did here, I have about 2000 jumps behind me.

Is there something you would like to learn? I’ve learned every single day of my life. Every day there’s something new.

What do you do in your free time? Woodwork, inlay, sewing, ironing – you name it. There’s no work that a woman can do, that I can’t do. I knit for myself. I don’t think my wife ever washed a nappy for my two daughters. To me there’s no such thing as woman’s work or man’s work.

Do you have a hero, a mentor or somebody you admire? Many years ago I had one; that was Tarzan. No, I don’t think so.

Are you currently saving money for something? No, actually I give all my money away, I don’t use it myself. I buy my tobacco, which costs me about ZAR 60 a month, and two bottles of whiskey, and that’s about it. I don’t even buy clothes, I’ve just put new soles on my shoes.

Do you have a dream that cannot be bought by money? No, what I want to do, I need money for.

What do you think you will be doing in 10 years? It makes me 84, I’ll be dead. I’ll be burnt out by that time.

Do you consider yourself as old? I don’t consider myself old – I just know that it takes longer to do something. I’ve got no idea where I’ll be, He knows.

What is your favourite food? I don’t have favourite food. No, I grew up hard, and I had a tough time out in the bush. When I’ve got food, I say thank you for it, I enjoy it. I only eat little bits at a time, I can’t eat a big plate.

Do you have a favorite book? Not really. Not a novel. Don’t laugh at me: the two things I read a lot are the Bible and the dictionary.

Do you have a favorite movie? Nope. When somebody raves about a movie, I’ll have a look at it. But usually I switch it off when I’m half through.

What music is your favorite? Classics. I enjoy operas.

And what TV-show?  I don’t like American slapstick humour, for a start. I enjoy British humour. I really enjoy Jewish humour, because they can point the finger back at themselves. The coloured people, their humour is very much like cockney humour in London, their sense of humour.

What do you like about South Africa? It’s my country! But I’ve lost all faith in it. You’ve got a bit of everything here, scenery-wise, and if you dig deeper down, you’ll still find the backbone of Africa here. But it’s become too shallow.

What don’t you like about South Africa? Shallow, thoughtless, valueless. It’s cheapened, the whole country’s gone cheap.

Is there anything you would like to say to our Swiss friends and families? For all I can tell anybody, anywhere in the world, because the whole world is going like this: don’t ever lose your values. That’s something you hang onto, and you don’t give that in, for no reasons.

Ngiyabonga, thanks, Jay!

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