Every dog has its day – even a concrete one

If, around lunch time on Tuesday June 26, you were in Retreat Main Road and spotted five adults with glasses of bubbly toasting Spotty, here’s the reason.

We were with Cape Concrete’s Andrew Louw celebrating the arrival 30 years ago of his two-metre, half-sized replica on the same site as the original world famous Spotted Dog roadhouse.

Built in 1938 by Ralph Barnes, an English musician who achieved more fame for his unique roadhouse than as a recording artist, the original Spotty was hugely popular with youngsters as well as hungry WWII servicemen after the tasty hamburgers and ice-cream with real cream.

But Spotty didn’t have it easy. When his days as roadhouse ended he was surrounded by gravestones of monumental masons and second-hand cars.

Even worse, speeding motorists showed him no respect crashing into him on several occasions. The repairs made him look grim instead of benign.

Finally in the 1970s a hefty truck delivered the coup de grace which led to his demolition.

Enter the 1980s when Andrew bought the vacant site of Spotty to build Penny Pinchers. Walking around the property he discovered memorabilia of the iconic road house – Spotty 2, the miniature Spotty built to record where the original roadhouse had stood; the intact kennel which had served as the kitchen and the toilet block still working.

Before long he was being urged to build Spotty 3 on the original site of Retreat’s Main and Honeywell roads.

And in 1988 the rest, as they say, is history….

Though neither the original designer, John Andrews nor his assistant Sandra Keets was at the 30th birthday party, I was delighted to get insights about the construction from Robert 
Mentor who worked from boyhood to retirement at Cape Concrete.

He described how Spotty had been made from reinforced steel mesh and strong plaster – one part cement to one part sand –and how difficult and exhausting it had been for the plasterers to work without stopping, otherwise the plaster would crack.

“They were not plastering a simple structure. They were creating the shape of a dog with ears, paws and a round head. It was hard work.”

However with a little help from friends the plasterers received an occasional energy-boosting “joint” to finish the job so well that Spotty still looks great at 30 and all being well, should outlast us all.

The habits of Peri and me

I’ve been re-reading Marley & Me popular columnist John Grogan’s international best-seller about the world’s worst dog which brings out the best in his family. I was curious to know how the destructive habits of Grogan’s big yellow male Labrador compared with Peri the pup, soon to be a year old.

Fortunately for us, Marley’s rampages when frightened by a thunderstorm were in a class all his own as he destroyed walls, doors, carpets and couches.

Even when Grogan bought a cage of heavy steel grating and big enough for a lion to stand up and turn around and with two bolt-action barrel locks to hold the door securely shut, Marley succeeded in escaping from their “portable Alcatraz”.

Within three months the gleaming steel cage that had seemed impregnable looked like it had taken a direct hit from a howitzer.

Their East Florida home looked like it too.

In comparison Peri’s chewing is amateur stuff. Shoes, slippers, socks, spectacles, cellphone covers, toilet rolls galore, pens, pencils, plants and one serious misdemeanour – a hearing aid in a box. The repair cost R4 000.

We have both noticed that she has calmed down a great deal since her return from the kennels.

Perhaps being cooped up in a cage for three weeks made her appreciate how lucky she was in our home.

One new worrying habit is stealing food. Last Friday she sniffed out in a cardboard box a plastic bag with enough dry dog food for both dogs for a whole Langebaan weekend and polished off the lot.

Golden glitches

I’d loved to have been a mosquito on the wall of Pretty Yendi’s Artscape dressing room on 
June 27 for the gala concert A Passion for Opera celebrating Angelo Gobbato’s 75 birthday.

I’d have buzzed around backstage hoping everything would be a lot slicker than the final dress rehearsal the night before when there were almost as many glitches as golden moments.

The singing was exceptional. However, the complex 
staging, involving scenes from 12 different operas in costume and a cast 
varying from one or two to a chorus of nearly 100, was ambitious for a single performance without multiple on-stage rehearsals.

The surtitles to the sung Italian words worked well but sadly extracts from Gobbato’s autobiography A Passion for Opera were illegible to most of us and their timing so erratic that the audience began tittering.

This was unfortunate because a huge amount of skill, effort and money had gone into this elaborate and beautiful production. Hopefully the gala night went much better.

Get your seat

In spite of the complaints about the new seating arrangements at the City Hall, the first concert of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s Winter Season was sold out in a few days of the general booking opening. The remaining three concerts are also selling out fast.

So if you want to attend the open dress rehearsal for the Mahler’s Resurrection on the morning of August 4 get there early. There’s likely to be a big crowd.

Wedding worries

It’s funny that when a man hasn’t got anything to worry about, he goes off and gets married – 
Robert Frost.

fionachisholm@iafroca.com