john van de ruit spud
john van de ruit spud

Mick Goss, John van de Ruit and Cheryl Goss

(Photo : Leigh Willson)


We get some extraordinary visitors at Summerhill, and followers of this column will recall the visits of many of the who’s who of the political, the business and the sporting worlds. Thursday night was the turn of the performing arts, when the cast, the author, the sponsor and the production crew of what looks like a blockbuster movie in the making, Spud, arrived for dinner. Performers they may be but before Jackie Cameron’s 10 star dinner, they witnessed a spectacular performance by our Zulu dance troupe.

There are many names in the world of movies that stir the mind, yet somehow John Cleese, at 71, still maintains his ratings. One of the few people to turn The Queen down when offered a CBE, he’s still in pretty good shape for a man of his age and achievement. Accompanied by his South African partner Jennifer Wade, he settled at the one end of the table with young “Spud”, an Australian-based South African-born youngster of 14 by the name of Troy Mellet.

Spud’s author, ex Michaelhouse pupil John van de Ruit, is a charming fellow. He’s obviously enormously creative, and has a god-given talent for writing. He says he was no great star at school, and graduated with a “C” in English. But he says he went through three life-changing events in a very short space of time, which lead him to jot down some of the things that had happened in his lifetime on a simple notepad. The first of these events, was the sinking in 20 seconds of a Kariba houseboat in a violent storm, followed by a dramatic escape from a Zimbabwean war veterans farm attack a few days later.

While you might find it hard to believe, within a few months he was faced by the great tsunami of 2005 whilst holidaying in the east, and was one of those who walked, entranced, towards what he thought was a miracle of nature. He survived.

As a past Durban High School pupil myself, I was more than proud to meet Ross Garland, a barrister by profession who’s miraculously put all of this together. What a helluva nice bloke, and what a great production team he has in Brad Logan and Lance Gewer, the man who put “Tsotsi” together for its Academy Award.