The Calves will dance for joy: Malachi 4:2 (First year university 2)

And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall

(Malachi, 4:2b).

I continue my chronological “bography” from where I left off at “My son the doctor.”

I felt aggrieved. I had no calves. The Cape Jewish Orphanage (in their report – I entered the Orphanage at the age of three and half years) blamed Fanny and Izzy, my parents, for my condition. Even if I was underfed during my first few years, what parent would give their child a stone even if he was not old enough to ask for bread?

I had to do something. I joined the university weightlifting club. But while my torso took on muscle, the petrified calves huddled in their stall. The German word for “legs” is beine. In Afrikaans (a Germanic language), the same word bene is used for both “legs” and “bones.”  There is the German expression das neugeborene Kalb schien nur aus Beinen zu bestehen “the new-born calf seems to be all legs.” The new-born Raphy seems to be all bones.

When I was  in the police during the Rhodesian war in 1976, at the age of 35, I was known in the camp as “pullthrough” (a device used to clean a  weapon or any instrument with a barrel or a tube by pulling the device through the barrel/tube). The dirt stuck to the pullthrough leaving a clean barrel. When I was a small boy I was a noise with a piece of dirt on it. Thirty five years later, the noise had transnostrilled into a pull-through. The dirt, though, was still there; la condition humaine.

The weightlifting society operated from the “Sports Centre,” which in the 1950-60s was a little hall behind the cafeteria (the building on the right side of the Jameson (Jammie) Hall. All big functions were held in the Jammie Hall like exams, graduation ceremonies and social functions.


The Jammie (Jameson Hall) steps is a famous landmark. Every UCT student has spent many hours sunning and preening on this central vantage point from which he or she has “lunched a thousand chips” (a famous UCT quip). The original Jagger library is on the left. The big addition to the library buildings (in the top left of the bottom photo) was added many years the year of my B.A. graduation (1963).  Rhodes Memorial is behind the university, and behind that is Devil’s Peak.

One of the weightlifters at the club said that I had a good frame. I was tall and no longer needed  matriculating.

(In “A nose of any other form smells as sweet,” I mentioned that when I was close to matriculating (Grade 12), Sonia, my sister, was buying a suit for me. She said to the Jewish shopkeeper, “He’s tall and he’s matriculating.” What had matriculating got to do with being tall? More sense to a tailor would have been “He’s tall and he’s metriculating”).

If I boast,I do it sparingly: I had a great looking frame. After a few months,  the mice under my skin began to  ripple into abs and lats and lats of muscle. [1] I no longer needed  to write to Charles Atlas and tell him how much I enjoyed his course, and ask him “now will you please send me the muscles.” [2] As the months passed, the mirror told a top-heavy story. While the top half began to bulge, the calves remained in their stall.  I lost interest in weights and took up rugby. Once,  I practised with the first team; they didn’t have a centre, and I happened to be lolling on the field. I played for the 4th team. My first match was against Stellenbosch University. The match was held on  the UCT sportsfields that were situated on the lowest level of the university.


I was on the left wing, which was the position I played at school. My opposite number in the match against Stellenbosch was the son of Awie Retief, who was my principal at Huguenot High School, Wellington. (See “The rabbi, the evangelist and coming home)” Awie Retief was a big heavy man with jowls to match. His nickname was Awie Bull. His son was an Awie Bullock. One of my team rashly threw me the ball. The bullock charged after me and dived into my long shanks. I came down like a ton of match sticks. I hobbled for the rest of the match.  I limped home to my digs in Rondebosch a few kilometres away. Rugby is not a game for long skinny people. I resolved to devote more time to the pursuit of knowledge, a rare decision for a first-year university student.

At the beginning of this piece i quoted the second half of Malachi 4:2. Here is the complete verse:

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

I do revere the LORD’s name, and I receive the promise that righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And I shall also leap like calves released from the stall.” For if the calveless calves can leap with joy so can this oxymoron.

[1] The Latin for mouse is “musculus”

[2] This quip is from a movie  of my youth.

I had no calves. The Cape Jewish Orphanage (in their report – I entered the Orphanage at the age of three and half years) blamed Fanny and Izzy for my condition. Even if I was underfed during my first few years, what parent would give their child a stone even if he was not old enough to ask for bread?

I had do something. I joined the university weightlifting club. But while my torso took on muscle, the petrified calves huddled in their stall. The German word for “legs” is beine

In Afrikaans (a Germanic language), the same word bene is used for both “legs” and “bones.”  There is the German expression das neugeborene Kalb schien nur aus Beinen zu bestehen “the new-born calf seems to be all legs.” The new-born Raphy seems to be all bones.

When I was  in the police during the Rhodesian war in 1976, at the age of 35, I was known in the camp as “pullthrough” (a device used to clean a  weapon or any instrument with a barrel or a tube by pulling the device through the barrel/tube). The dirt stuck to the pullthrough leaving a clean barrel. When I was a small boy I was a noise with a piece of dirt on it. Thirty five years later, the noise had transmuted into a pull-through. The dirt, though, was still there; la condition humaine.

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