J. Desmond Clark
In 1985 Cedric Poggenpoel and I were excavating the VOC outpost
at Oudepost, I with a team of students from the University of Cape
Town. They had been press-ganged into service to fulfil compulsory
fieldwork obligations. By day they reluctantly sorted tangled masses
of fish bones. At night they ambled back to their squalid quarters.
Morale was not high. Suddenly a message came through that John Parkington
was bringing Professor Clark to see the site. A frisson of excitement
shot through the ranks. Conversation turned from food to shampoos
and manicures. Cedric frowned. Finally the day came when we spotted
Desmond and Johnny P. trudging along the beach towards the site.
Cedric slipped in a last warning to the students to show the greatest
of respect to the Great Man. Desmond burst in, impatient to see
everything. We walked him around the ruins explaining all we knew.
Suddenly a voice called out from the line of sieves:
"Hello Des! Come and sit here!" The caller looked transformed.
She would later become a top-notch paleoclimatologist, but for now,
her hair shone in ringlets and she had shucked off her old sweatshirt
to reveal an alluringly brief vest. Scarlet nails glowed as she
patted the sand beside her sieve. "Here!" Desmond's eyes
gleamed. "Hello m'dear" he replied, with the same joyful
inflection one might hear on finding a perfect handaxe. He sank
down beside her and began sorting fish bones. Cedric hovered anxiously.
Desmond beamed. "Jolly good show!"