Nightmare experiences over the years are indelibly imprinted on the brain to haunt you. Certainly on my brain. Maybe you’re lucky enough to possess a computer brain with a built-in junk mail remover deleting all bad memories.
My pea brain keeps reminding me of traumatic instances. And I relive the agony, embarrassment and regret.
Take John Saunders, the main honcho of Golden Reef running club. A perfectionist. He invites me to cover the club’s annual banquet at a larny country club. One proviso: no other photographer. Only me. “Don’t want a motley bunch of newspaper people falling over each other’s feet. Oh, and use only one 24 film. Just shots of the celebs will do.”
So I enjoyed exclusive rights to publish the plush event to which he had invited a number of top celebrities in the sporting world – even flying out well-known veteran runner from Fish Hoek Mavis Hutchison (known as the Galloping Granny), at his expense.
And what a magnificent banquet it turned out to be, with men sporting tuxedos and ladies in long flowing designer dresses. French nosh, prepared by a pukka chef, was served covered under silver cloches.
Instead of a 24 film I loaded a 36er – just to be sure I had enough to click all the VIPs. It was a time before digital cameras. Rolls of film had to be processed at a photographic shop, a time consuming and expensive exercise.
Satisfied with my night’s work I leave the party – lest I fall over somebody’s feet.
Before getting into bed I roll off the film in the camera. All 36 images ready to be processed the next day at Ye Olde Photo Zaal.
Wrong. The film doesn’t roll off. Something’s wrong, my fevered brain screams. I open the back of the camera to check. The film is there. Unused. The sprockets hadn’t meshed with the side holes of the film. I had taken the sum total of 36 flashes. No images. No photographs. No record of the banquet. Zilch.
I immediately phone John at midnight to tell him the bad news. Silence greets me. Not a word – just the click of a disengaged phone in my ear.
Our paths crossed years after and although politeness itself, he couldn’t hide the tell-tale scowl.
He hadn’t forgotten.
Nor had I.