My grandfather was a tall, gangling man called Frank Bond. He was the Secretary of the Durbanville Gymkhana Club and had a huge love for racehorses, a love he instilled in me. Sadly I knew him only as a young boy, he died when I was hardly a teenager.
One thing I remember well was the canvas folding chair on which he loved to sit, which had a stripy canvas seat and back and looking like something you would take out of a bathing box on Muizenberg Beach. He was a great believer, too, of the restorative quality of whisky, particularly Bell’s which was the only whisky he drank. Tucked in close to the chair from just after 12 noon, would be his whisky bottle and his cold Schweppes Soda Water Syphon. These came in wooden crates of 6 which he would buy from Sonny Borok, who with his wife Mary owned the Oxford Hotel in Wellington Road in Durbanville, affectionately known to the locals as ‘The Oxbox’. There was a lovely old German gentleman who ran the bottle store called Mr Righthouse. When stocks of Bell’s and Syphons ran low, my grandfather would be on the phone to Mr Righthouse who would send down a new crate of 6 syphons and take away the empties to be filled and regassed in time with water from the fountain of clear Table Mountain water which fed the old Schweppes Factory in Main Road Rondebosch. There were always a sphon or two in the fridge. The Oxbox is long gone and today is replaced by a bank.
I remember at the time, the Bell’s Whisky bottle had a little glass dimple at the base of the neck, and under it a little paper label on which was written “Afore ye go”. My grandfather who married a Scotswoman, when I asked, said ‘that’s a wee drappie before you go.” Often guests who knew he would be on the front stoep from 12 would pop by and he would shout “Trixie bring another glass.” He used small Stuart Crystal glasses of which I still have a few. After the first drink the guest would protest that he had to go and Grandpa would say “come on, have a wee drappie before you go.” The same procedure took place in the evening, often with people walking home from work, and occasionally we would have a visit from Miss Sienie Downing, who ran the local telephone exchange, who would coming bumping into the yard in her large Packard Clipper. She and my grandfather were great chums and she wanted the tips about which horse to put her money on for the next race meeting at the Durbanville Race Course. My mother would often be on the steps have an end of day “we drappie.”
Bell’s Whisky is now a third generation tradition in our family and the lovely people who make it very kindly sent me a bottle with their new gussied up livery with my name engraved below the label. Must be hard to change your bottle shape and label when you have been going since 1825. Maybe that’s their reason for success, keeping up with the times,
Doubtless I will now have to decant a new bottle in to this one to keep it going.
Read more about Bell’s Whisky – CLICK HERE.