Old Jan Huppelbeen visited us the other night, just when the first hot day of the summer arrived. Stirred by the sudden warmth after a cold winter, a bit of national pride over the Springbok’s win in New Zealand, as well as the news that emerged from the Constitutional Court recently, Old Jan seemed to be in good spirits.

Off course, we could not see him, but his whispers where very clear. In recent times Old Jan had been very morbid about the developments in our country, so much so that his spirit found it difficult to transfer to the land of the forefathers. Indeed, Old Jan had been distressed.

But the Springboks improved his spirits and when we told him that the Constitutional Court has decided that it is now quite legal to smoke a ‘zoll’ we could hear his chuckle and he became very chatty.

‘Ah, that’s good,” he said, “I have always grown a few bushes of the right stuff in the little klofies here at Riverside and managed to hide them from the cops. They were so useful for all my aches and pains over the years and I am so glad that we can all now have a nice splif when we want to.”

I ask Old Jan what the secret was to growing some good dagga plants. I mention the word ‘cannabis’ and Old Jan said – “kanna what?” I said that’s the same as dagga and he said – “but why did you not say so?”

Dagga, Cannabis, smoking splifs – it seems that they will all be good to go in future. “You know,” said Old Jan, “it is good stuff. The next time the All Blacks beat us, we can just have a few splifs and imagine that we won!”

Talking of splifs, it reminds me of my mother-in-law, Rita Ethel Westmoreland, who is no longer with us, but unlike Old Jan and after a very colourful life, is now at peace. Often described by the family as a ‘real hippy’ she lived life to the full, whether sailing with the family in Table Bay or having sundowners at the Yacht Club, or busy with another new painting.

One day, when the family went sailing, she decided to stay on shore and rather paint the nice scenes around the boats at the club. Her husband William, John, Albert Lynton Westmoreland, known as Jack, originally a photographer from Oxford in England, forgot to leave some ‘cigarette money’ for Reet, as we called her. During the morning the craving for a ‘siggy’ overtook her and she went searching for one. A young sailor, obviously from a faraway country, strolled up the gangway from one of the round the world yachts, and Reet asked the question, “Do you have a siggy for me.” “Certainly,” said the youngster (also boasting a crop of unruly hair which easily pass him off as a hippy as well). “I will get you one.”

When he reappeared from the yacht, Rita lit her ‘siggy” and was soon painting with new vigour. She liked it. That evening, after the family returned and went to the club for a sundowner to relax after the day in the sun, she ran into the youngster again. “That was a good splif,” she said, “Can I have another?”

Old Jan chuckled when I told him the story – he was pleased to know that someone else also enjoyed a nice splif.

Now, with Old Jan is no longer planting his good stuff in the klofies at Riverside, we need to look to someone else for ‘our crop’ if we need it for medicinal purposes or just to create some jolly times around the braai fires in the Valley. Some years ago, some of the youngsters, as part of the fare for New Year’s Eve celebrations, made some ‘cookies’ which sent their parents into a great deal of happiness as they greeted the New Year. “The art to having a good life,” said Old Jan, “is not only to wait for New Year but to boost your health all year round.”

We never quite know how Old Jan met his end. We do know that a ‘Raztaman’, who worked in the Riverside Caravan Park, one day drowned in the river when a routine police patrol arrived and he was scared that they would catch him with his splif. He ran into the river at full tide and that was that! Perhaps Old Jan Huppelbeen and Raztaman is one and the same. But before we could ask him, we could hear Old Jan’s chuckles fading away as he soared into the skies.

Indeed, things are changing and Old Jan may just – with so much good news around – decide that it is time to finally cross over to the other side.