The “V” of South Africa

I am going to write my thoughts, the bits and bobs that I remember of how it was for me, during my almost fifty years spent in South Africa.

These are my ‘V’ memories, opinions and views on a time during a much loved childhood and beyond!

Vereeniging, Vaal Dam, Vaal River, Vetkoek, Van Reenen’s Pass, Violet, African Violet, Vygie, Van Morrison, ‘Van’

 I have a vision of the first time we said hello.  It was her wide friendly smile, as she popped her head around the drawing board, which gave a clear message, and a windowsill full of African Violet plants in pots of all sizes. “I would be alright in my new place of work, if she was there” 

And no, her name does not begin with “V”. 

She gave me a plant to take home, but mine never did well.  She had other talents too, an amazing draughtswoman and she was learning to fly a plane. 

My complete opposite; Trish was, a no frills and fashion person, no make up (much) and a flat shoes girl.

We became special friends.  Learnt to try new recipes together, ways to peel onions so you didn’t cry, bought a sponateous wedding dress one Wednesday during our lunch hour, like it was normal!  Attended her church wedding that Friday, as one of four guests. 

We spent time whenever there was a long weekend at the Vaal dam, on the island camping with our men, she was like a sister then. We ski-ed behind Flower Power, the boat, lay in the sun and made up ghost stories about the island at night.

The Vaal river twists and twines from the Drakensberg mountains, its source, into this dam that covers  320 sq mile and is 40 metres deep.   It is a tributary of the Orange river.

The  year Trish got married must have been 1970. 

Music of the time, that the men liked and played on our island (until the batteries went flat)was Led Zeppelin, and Van Morrison had just recorded “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967. 

That’s strange, as my first strong recollection of ” Brown Eyed Girl” was twenty or more years later.

It was another wedding. My nephew’s in Cape Town.  I spent the afternoon before his wedding, in his car with him seaching habedashery shops for buttons for his new suit.  (“Buttons for a Bridegroom” a fitting title for a book.) 

Tim was at a flamboyant stage of his life and the original ones were too plain.  His favourite song, “Brown eyed Girl” by Van Morrison.

Click picture to listen

 What’s in a name? Van the Man, as fans called him, was born George Ivan Morrison in Northern Ireland. 

In South Africa, the Afrikaans for surname is ‘Van’, many descendants of the Dutch settlers to the Cape have surnames that begin with Van

In the Netherlands in 1811 there was a forced registration of surnames and some people named themselves after the job they did, or the place they lived.  Thus names like, Van de Poole, and Van den Kasteel.  Our telephone directories had a large ‘V’ section!

One more plant, the Vygie, a remarkable group of plants and there are 1700 species, 96% are found in South Africa.  The real name in ‘flower’ language, is Aizoaceae, but in South Africa, Vygie does for us!

They are colourful, easy to grow, and drought tolerant. 

My mother always had them on her rockeries, they guaranteed a splash of colour, even during the dryest summers in Pretoria, Transvaal. 

Pretoria brings me to the last V of the entry.  It was in Pretoria that I had my introduction to the Vetkoek. 

Click the picture for the recipe

Similar, but not similar, to a British dumpling.  It’s doughy and cooked in oil, then filled with any filling you like, from savoury mince or curry to apricot jam or syrup!  I will include a link to  a recipe. Enjoy!

If you would like to read A-U of the Alphabet in South Africa, click this link:


About liz2you

Life just happens when you plan something else. 50 years spent in Africa and relevant stories.
This entry was posted in Alphabet Thursday, Music, plants, recipe, South Africa and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The “V” of South Africa

  1. most interesting V post! I love “Brown eyed Girl” by Van Morrison! Vygie looks like asters.

  2. Lots of “V” things – the last one sounding absolutely Veelicious!

  3. Buttons, biscuit like treats and African violets!

    What a loVely link this week.

    I am a fan of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, too. An old boyfriend used to sing that song to me.


    Thanks for the link and thanks for the memories!


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