On Friday November 4, 2005 my best friend Kelvin passed away in Johannesburg.
It was indeed a great shock to hear of his passing more so because it was so sudden.
Kel, as we all knew him, was the one who started Biltongmakers when he designed the original Home Biltong maker from an old cardbox model he had from way back. Since then his Biltong Makers have found a home with thousands of people all over the world.
Kel and l go back a long way. It was in May of 1966 that we first met and l still remember that day. The first thing Kel asked me to do was help him fix his car, which was in Valhalla. At that time l had a little Vespa but it was no problem to ‘ piggy back ‘ Kel on the back and off we went. I did not have a petrol cable on the Vespa but a piece of string. Kel was praying all the way to Valhalla. He would always recall that trip.
In 1968 we started M&K Sewing Machines Services but that was just one of our many ventures. When television arrived in South Africa we climbed on the bandwagon and started selling TV’s. When that ended we started a tour operating company. We were always looking for a way to make ends meet. The most (in)famous of them all was when Kel wrote a book called ‘ The Art of Kissing ‘. This was promptly banned but our pamphlets survived and got us into the Sunday papers much to the delight of some and the disapproval of other members of the family.
Kel always enjoyed an audience and he was such a magician with words and a master at telling stories. He would have us spellbound and in stitches for hours on end about our “missions” as he used to call them.
Here are but two of those stories.
One night Kel arrived and we went out looking for mealies in some mealie field that he had come across. There we were with the ‘ flick of the Bic ‘ in this mealie field, knee high in mud, giggling like two schoolboys. Once armed with all the mealies we went in search of butter, which we finally found in some hotel kitchen. Don’t ask me but we managed to find ourselves in the kitchen. Proudly we went back to our place to cook and eat them. Another mission accomplished. Not to say what the carpets looked like the next day with all the red mud, but it was fun. We always had fun!
Another mission was when we worked for Bothners. Off we went one day to the Northern Transvaal with three company trucks laden with organs and pianos. We used to like these field trips as we used to camp overnight instead of staying in hotels. One night in particular it poured with rain and when we woke up our three trucks were like three islands in a hugely swollen river what before had been a lovely grass patch next to a little stream. That didn’t seem to faze Kel. He just lit a fire in the back of our truck and made a braai. Kel just seemed to take life as it came.
Kel and l lost touch for a while when his family moved down to Durban but when they came back our friendship was as strong as ever,
The last couple of years when we lived in Linbro Park, Kel would always pop around after work for a drink and a game of ‘ feathers ‘. I never quite managed to beat him, he was always a little better then me when it came to darts. He was also extremely good at cooking a sheep or two. Whenever we did that we would call on the ‘Master’. Brandy in one hand and braai brush in the other he was already half way to heaven.
Then we left for overseas and said our goodbye’s at the airport. We gave each other a big hug as we didn’t think we would see each other again. I was going to miss him tremendously. We both knew that this was going to be a long goodbye.
We saw each other one more time and that was December 2001. Kel came for a visit to Belgium. We had a fantastic time eating, drinking, going back on old times and again throwing feathers. Again never winning.
It is a pity Kel is not here to tell all these stories. He has gone on his own mission this time and l cannot join him. This is one he will have to do on his own and l am sure he will come out on top.
I tried to call Kel a little while ago but his voice mail came on. He said; “Hi, this is Kel speaking, l am not available right now”. That’s right my friend you are not available right now and will never be again. But that is only in the flesh for you will always be right here in my heart and in my thoughts.
You have always been there.
Rest in peace Kel.
Your best friend