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Diamonds And Dust: 66 - Herman’s Door

Malcolm Bertoni tells of practical jokes and memorable characters that he remembers from his days working at the world's biggest diamond mine in Namibia.

To read earlier chapters of Malcolm's vivid account of his experiences please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/diamonds_and_dust/

To obtain a copy of his book click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

Room 3B on the upper level of the single quarters had a guy called Herman from Upington. He was a big guy; around 6 ft 4 inches in the old scale and built like a brick shithouse. He used to snore so badly that everyone could hear him on the upper level and unfortunately I lived right next door to him.

I was getting pissed off with the rumblings coming from next door and decided to do something about it. So one evening, while he was on night shift, we took his door off and hid it behind the kitchen. When he came off shift he walked to his room and hey presto, no door. We didn’t tell him for two days and the poor bugger was panicking as he was told that he would have to pay the costs of a new door as well fitting it, which was like a month’s salary – an exorbitant amount.

He had to sleep in another room for two days. Thankfully this was on the lower level, so I got two nights of peaceful sleep while the poor buggers on the lower level were kept awake by Herman’s snoring.

We finally relented and told him where the door was and then ran like hell as he wanted to kill us. He knew it was me but couldn’t prove anything.


We had a tall lanky guy called Fanie who was from a farm in central Namibia. What they farmed I will never know as it was terrible country; dry, hot and very isolated. We called him Lang Faan (“Long Faan”) because he was so tall. Now Faan wasn’t the brightest, but a likable and nice enough guy and friendly towards everyone and got on well with all of us. He always hung out with us and was always involved when we did things.

He stayed for about a year to earn some money and then returned to the farm. He was possibly the most uncoordinated person that I had ever seen. He was all arms and legs. I remember when he had to go into the army for his conscription stint and started practising his marching. He just couldn’t get his arms and legs to swing opposite one another like us normal people could with the left arm and right leg swinging together. He could only march with his left arm and left leg and right arm and right leg moving together. It was the most comical sight I had ever seen.

The other problem with Faan was that he never brushed his teeth, which were green there was so much plaque on them. His breath could peel paint off walls it was so bad. We dropped hints, but Faan never really got the message. He had a brother who lived in town and he was completely different to Faan. They did not look or behave like brothers, they were so different.

We found out from his brother when Faan’s birthday was, so decided to give him a special birthday gift. So on the Sunday morning just after his birthday we were all gathered around the pool as usual when we presented his birthday gift to him.
Faan excitedly unwrapped the gift and opened the parcel. Inside were six tubes of toothpaste, a few toothbrushes and a bottle of mouthwash. Faan looked at this lot and after examining the contents, took the parcel and threw it into a rubbish bin.

“Ek het geen gebruik vir hierdie gemors.” (“I have no use for this rubbish”).
And stalked off.

We never could get him to brush his teeth and had to stay a safe distance from his breath. I wonder if he has any teeth left.


We had a guy in the early days at Affenrucken who worked as a process operator at No 1 plant. He left about a year after I got there. He was probably one of the ugliest guys that I had ever seen, but a nice enough guy. He was from Port Elizabeth and just before he left he gave us his home address. We had a few drinks the night before he left and the next day he was on his way.

The week before he left, we all decided to have some fun. We compiled a letter addressed to his parents which was in fact a ransom letter demanding R100,000 ($100,000) for the safe return of their son or else we would start cutting off bits of his body and mailing these to them. We also wrote a note supposedly from Godfrey pleading with his parents to get the money as these guys were deadly serious. We didn’t want to have any trouble so timed the posting of the letter so that it arrived at Godfrey’s house the day after he himself arrived. We called ourselves “The Affenrucken Action Group for the Freedom of all Process Operators.” This was a dead giveaway to ensure that they all knew that it was a joke and not to be taken seriously.

About two or three weeks later we got a letter from Godfrey. Every second word was a swear word. It seems he had to do some fast explaining to his parents and say that it was all a joke and that Affenrucken was where he had worked and that we were just having fun. I would have loved to been there when Godfrey’s parents opened the mail. Some of us wanted to visit him while on holiday but were too crap scared as to what he might do.

We wouldn’t dream of doing this today with all the bullshit about terrorism and all that security rubbish. Just thinking about having this sort of fun can land you in jail.


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