Valiant

It was 1988, I was 16, and in Standard 9. My father had very generously taken our family during the June school holidays on a trip to the holy land – Israel – where it was summer and hot as f**k. So were the girls I soon found out. And they were all… Jewish. Not that I cared one bit. But, hey it was a great defence when my mom cross-examined me one morning at 7am when I had just gotten back from a Tel-Aviv disco called the Coliseum.

“Where have you been all night? You had me worried sick that maybe you’d got blown up on a bus”.

“No, mom, I was with a Keti – you remember the Russian Jewish girl from the beach?” 

“Well, why didn’t you just say that?”

“I just did, mom”.

In the early mornings, I’d sneak out of the hotel room and go swimming in the ocean on Frishman Street Beach with Farah, a Jewish Libyan girl. The trip was heaven on earth – the beach, the middle-eastern food, the nightlife – a modern civilisation in an ancient land fought over by Muslims, Christians, and Jews for millennia.  

Looking back now, those were the good ol’ days. Safe in my little cocoon of a middle-class white South African upbringing; where I never missed a meal; where we had a cleaner and a gardener and lived in a decent house. 

My dad was however old-school and not flash. While all the yuppie neighbours in the area were buying BMW and Mercedes Benz motor vehicles, my old man was still psychotically attached to his Chrysler produced vehicle called a “Valiant”. His model was a Valiant VIP. Then he smoked some dagga one Sunday and got it in his head to spray paint it blue – dustbin blue – and re-upholster the interior in light blue velvet.  From then onwards, me and my brothers called it “The Dustbin”.


The Valiant was cool in the 1970’s, but then in the 1980’s, while the rest of white South Africa had moved on, the only buyers for a Valiant were brothers. This became evident every time we stopped at a petrol station.

“Yoh, haai – she’s so nice. How much you want for it?” every petrol pump attendant would ask my dad. My dad would consistently reply: 

“It’s not for sale, just fill up the tank and please don’t touch the car”.

You see brothers liked the power of the straight six five-litre engine. It became a perfect minibus sedan taxi as it made for more customers and therefore better turnover. Ten passengers in the back seat, eight passengers in the front seat, four in the boot and two of Stompie’s mates in the ashtray. Twenty four people sitting comfortably. And it still had elbow room for well-endowed brothers.

My actual brothers and I hated the Dustbin. We were so humiliated when my old man used to pick us up from a Saturday night jol at the Sea Point beachfront Carousel. We would tell him to wait two kilometres down the road so no one could possibly see us getting into the Dustbin.

One morning, we were about to be driven somewhere by my old man, when our dream came true – the Dustbin had been stolen!  This was like manna from heaven. Better than the end of Apartheid. Better than a stolen tuna-roll right from under the nose of Hazel Goldberg at the Herzlia High School tuckshop. We had all been praying for this moment for such a long time and finally it happened. 

Sadly, the Dustbin was found two days later at the Khayelitsha police station. It seems the cops had stolen it themselves. We sat down and made a family decision: the Dustbin’s days were finished and it would be better to put it into permanent retirement than to collect and renovate it after acts of lust had been performed on its light blue velvet interior. Although she secretly disavowed it, my mom told my dad she simply couldn’t face sitting down on the crusty upholstery. 

My old man sold the Valiant without ever seeing it again. The purchaser collected it directly from the Khayelitsha police station. My old man then purchased some crappy German Opel Monza convertible, which was a nice car, but it just wasn’t the same as the Dustbin. It had no memories, no history.

The Dustbin was then probably travelling on some unknown roads – ferrying passengers to and from shebeens; being used as a getaway car in bank heists; or as a love motel on wheels. 

Those were the good ol’ days. Never forget your youth my brothers and sisters.

A moment’s silence for all the lost vestiges of our collective pasts. 

Contributed by:
Barry Varkel, an attorney of the High Court of South Africa and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.
Author of Nigiri Law and Goy Vey

1 COMMENT

  1. Hey Barry, loved the dustbin story!! Can so relate to what you are saying. I appreciate the laughs , i recently turned 50 and bought my own dustbin, I miss those care free days!! Thanks for laughs and bringing back the amazing times that we so easily forgot in the chaos of today’s crazy world!!

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