Even if the name Howard Timmins does not immediately ring a bell, go to your bookcase and among your favourite non-fiction South African books you will probably find they were published by him.
Authors in the vast Timmins Stable include Lawrence Green, TV Bulpin, AP “Paddy” Cartwright, Carel Birkby “with a drink in one hand and a story in the other”, Jose Burman, heart surgeon Chris Barnard, historian Eric Rosenthal, Sima Eliovson with her gardening advice and most surprising of all – the flamboyant artist Vladimir Tretchikoff.
In David Hilton-Barber’s book Howard Timmins and his Protégés launched recently at the Book Lounge, the author described how in 1946 Tretchikoff approached Timmins to publish his first book on painting.
Back then local art books had a limited market and Tretchikoff was unknown so Timmins reluctantly accepted the commission to author a “coffee table” publication of 63 pages with 73 reproductions.
Published in July 1969 it cost R50 000 per copy, making it the most expensive book in the Howard Timmins’ repertoire.
Simultaneously it was released in London and New York and according to Tretchikoff “the whole course of his life was altered by that book”.
The flamboyant and controversial painter never looked back and he “regarded Timmins as his patron as well as his publisher”.
Guest speaker Hilary van der Vyver, the eldest of Howard’s four daughters, told us how her father considered being a solicitor but a few days in such an office convinced him otherwise.
“It was his mother with an alternative. ‘You are never without a book in your hand Howard…What about something around books?’”
As one of the earliest publishers in South Africa, he soon established himself as a major force in the publishing of “popular”, as against academic and legal, books. Both in business and in private life he lived by strict principles.
Hilary recalled her father spelling out the three unbreakable rules.
“The first is you don’t lie, for if you do, I’d be angrier about the lie than anything you might have done.
“Secondly if you give your word, keep it. Your word is your bond.
“Thirdly, don’t listen to other people’s assessments of other people. Form your own and the only yardstick is measuring that against yourself.”
Here was a man of rare integrity.
Cutting edge history
While having my hair cut last week I enjoyed a trip down memory lane with hairdresser Theresa Osmond who recently celebrated 42 years running the salon in Tokai’s Forest Glade House.
She started The Set Up in 1976, with two basins and three hairdryers, when Tokai Road was a quiet dirt road with few homes. Her marriage in 1979 to Richard Osmond resulted in three children and a practical husband who helped her enormously to keep the salon up to date after each of her three moves within the complex.
Initially there were only two other shops – a small café and a butcher named Mr Fiddler.
Around 1978-79 the property was bought by Dino Luiz for the “princely sum” of R70 000. He added another shop (now used by Bootleggers) which in May 1986 became the first of Steve White’s two pharmacies there.
When I came to live in Tokai in 2001, I regularly used the well-stocked Quick Spar run by Debbie and Dino Luiz at the mountain end of the centre. While it flourished, other businesses came and went including a laundry, a pool shop and one selling children’s clothing.
The expanded Spar changed hands but the new manager/owner ran into financial trouble and the store’s closure was messy and sad as it left Theresa’s salon and Steve’s chemist as the only businesses operating. The turnaround came in 2010 when the premises were bought by Lightbody and the new owners renovated the site and turned it into the humming, busy centre that today boasts 11 shops whose clients constantly moan about the parking.
Life through a different lens
Unexpectedly, I’m seeing the world through new eyes. Or to be accurate one eye. I need to wait a week for the second cataract operation to compete my rosier view of life.
I made an appointment with an ophthalmologist for new glasses so I would not fail that confusing eyesight test when renewing my driver’s licence. Instead I was told I needed cataract operations if I hoped to pass.
Cataract surgery is one of the oldest surgical known procedures, first documented in the fifth century BC.
Back then cataracts were harshly treated with a technique called couching, which could only be performed when the lens had become completely opaque and rigid.
The eye would then be forcibly struck with a blunt object (ouch!) to break the lens to restore limited, but completely unfocused,
vision. The first reported surgical removal of a cataract from the eye occurred in Paris in 1748 and
since then the procedure has become better and better with the advent of topical anaesthesia, making the procedure more practical and safer.
I’m so happy I live in 2018 not 500 BC!
Brilliant blonde moment
A bossy lawyer boarded a flight from New Orleans with a box of frozen crabs which he rudely thrust into the hands of the blonde flight attendant demanding that she keep them in the crew’s refrigerator. Just before landing in New York, she announced over the intercom to the entire cabin, “Would the lawyer who gave me the crabs in New Orleans, please raise your hand?”
Not one hand went up … so she took them home and ate them. There are two lessons here. Lawyers aren’t as smart as they think they are. Blondes aren’t as dumb as they are made out to be.