Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fred de Vries on Sinclair Beiles

I did not know my subject. Or more accurately: I’ve never consciously met Johannesburg poet Sinclair Beiles, who was born in Uganda in 1930 and died seventy years later in the Johannesburg General Hospital. I may have bumped into him in Yeoville in the mid-nineties, but I have no recollection of more here

1 comment:

  1. If you had run into him in Rockey Street, Yeoville, you would have remembered. Sinclair was a 'character' - that is, difficult, a pain-in-the-ass but never, ever a bore. Scrofulous, he would shamble down from his house and sell a few books to raise money for a cup of coffee. Eventually Martha, his wife, would show up and roust him, berating him as she dragged him reluctantly home. Mostly, it was her books he sold.
    Word was she had found him down-and-out on a park bench in Joubert Park, sometime in the 80s, and had taken him home. He never left and Martha cared for him till the day he died. I have no idea if this is true or not. But that was the thing with Sinclair. You just never knew.
    I once saw him slug Dorin, the owner Bookdealers of Yeovill, in the street. Sinclair was too puny to get much force into it and Dorin stood, puzzled, as the bony fist tapped against his chest.
    Sinclair was eventually banned from several bookstores for harassing the staff and getting into arguments over stuff only he cared about.
    In 1994 he put on a play at the Windybrow. Soon after the play opened, Sinclair figured the actor - whose name I forget - was stealing from him. The actor, a thin, effeminate man, told me that he had woken up early one morning to a noise: he investigated and found Sinclair halfway in his bathroom window. Squirming, and enraged, he tried to grab the actor by the throat, who at first tried to help the playright through the tiny window. Eventually he gave up and called the police, who had to pull Sinclair free.
    I hardly appreciated it at the time, but I was lucky to have gotten to know the old bastard. He was a man who took the world on full tilt. Even when he should have been pottering around a garden somewhere, fretting about his pension, Sinclair carried on like he was still a young dude in Tangiers or Paris. He did not go gently, even if he did go crazy.
    I miss him.