Inimitable Norman heads to new pastures

Norman McFarlane

Long-time Bolander reporter, Norman McFarlane, has reached the golden age of retirement, and has left Bolander’s editorial team, as he embarks on a new journey.

Norman became a familiar presence in the Helderberg and Boland, not only for his role in filling Bolander’s pages with his unique take on food, wine, politics, economics, the environment, literature etc, but also for his and wife Eppie’s involvement in theatre, and their participation in service organisations such as Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce.

They participated in local theatre at The Playhouse, and Norman was the chair the board of The Helderberg Society for the Aged (Eppie is currently the president of Somerset West Rotary).

More recently, this intrepid couple took up the challenge of training to become Volunteer Wildfire Service (VWS) members, which required enormous personal investment of time and energy, and many a powerfully-written article emerged from atop a smoky hill-top, where Norman had spent the night fighting fires and clambering up and down mountain-sides, afterwards capturing his narrative of the experience for our readers to share.

Eppie, on ground crew, would have hot meals ready for the weary firefighters, and provide succour during the debriefing.

Norman first joined the Bolander team as the weekly author of Man in the Kitchen, which quickly became one of the most eagerly-anticipated articles, when the latest edition appeared in people’s mailboxes, or landed in the bulk drops in the seven towns we serve.

Hot on its heels, he started writing his political take on international and national events, and in short order the awards started arriving, from Vodacom to Forum for Community Journalists awards, and he even garnered the South African Wine Writer of the Year award.

Nephew of the late struggle journalist and editor Donald Woods, Norman was no stranger to the politics of South Africa, even though his own official entry into the world of journalism, through his appointment to Bolander, only manifested in later years… a match made in heaven.

He ran a successful IT company for years, and in his free time, climbed cliff faces with daughter Ali, dangling from ropes and carabiners, and experiencing the thrill of this extreme sport.

Eppie and Norman were part of the Hottentots Holland Dramatic Society for many years, and I had the enormous pleasure of dropping in on auditions and rehearsals for plays he was directing or acting in at The Playhouse, like Fawlty Towers, ’Allo ’Allo, his directorial ticket Play Misty For Me, the incredible Further Than The Furthest Thing, and one of my all-time favourties, The Lion In Winter.

Norman’s love of food and wine took us all on many journeys, as his recipes were always peppered (!) with anecdotes and interesting snippets of the history and origins of food compilations, and as he struggled with the impact of gluten intolerance, his research into alternatives provided a wealth of information for readers similarly afflicted.

He and winemaker daughter Ali have also made their own McFarlane Wine, and I can attest to its quality (yes, Norman, there’s a hint there…).

Observing Norman’s many metamorphoses over the 14 years we’ve been colleagues and friends, has been both a privilege and enlightening.

If there was ever a man who doesn’t let the moss grow under his feet, it is he, with no new challenge too daunting.

It was – most impressively – his absolute determination to become a fully-fledged firefighter that left me in awe, as a witness to the enormous amount of training and commitment this required, before he even set foot on the fire-line.

Undergoing knee surgery two years ago, and then surgery on his elbow just a few months ago, he faced curve balls that set him back a while, but never for long.

He also recently completed a book, about his military service in the 1970s… watch this space for an upcoming review.

A lover of technology, he has every gadget under the sun (and we’ve had many a disagreement about my aversion to said technology, and my side-stepping of all social media), but certainly when I have an equipment malfunction (generally user error, mea culpa), he’s the first person I call in a mild panic, only to have him sort me out over the phone in his dulcet tones.

Speaking of, he joined the team at Radio Helderberg earlier this (surreal) year, with a Wednesday topical affairs slot, which is a marriage made in heaven – he will be moving into a regular Monday to Friday slot as of January, for those who wish to follow his ruminations.

Thank you Norman, for your incisiveness, your tenacity, and your enduring, and endearing newshound “can-do” spirit.