Larson Keys
an uplifting tale of sub-urban existence


Larson was born on Tues 15th February in Dumfries, Scotland to parents Jock Keys and Zahra Reuter. Jock was a modest man of poetic nature, and mother Zahra a humble hard working woman who had spent much of her life before twenty on an island off the North German coast, near Hamburg.

Both quite reclusive, his parents’ characteristics had rubbed off on Larson. From an early age he applied endless hours to numerous hobbies: cataloguing stamps, balancing ph levels of various water samples, and among other activities, scraping off and solvent-dissolving build-up from the interior walls of his fathers Volvo V6 exhaust pipe.


He was later to take interest in the natural sciences, which resulted in a prosperous
5-year study of geology at the University of Mysore, India, a premier institution for the earth sciences. Under the tutorial leadership of the distinguished geology-educationist, Prof. M.N.Vishwanathaiah, Larson succeeded in being one of few foreigners in decades to be awarded a full degree in sedimentology and experimental mineralogy.
Considered to be of mostly pragmatic nature in profiling new ground fit for industrial development, the sedimentology division of geology had come into conflict with Larson’s base passion for nature. Although having been offered numerous positions in the field, he chose to abstain and, with his parents’ blessing and financial backing, turned instead to study towards becoming a maritime engineer in his native Scotland.

Intimately involved in the prototyping of a cross section of tugboats, Keys had held the post of head engineer at the Scottish Maritime Engineering Society for three consecutive years from 1994 to 1997. In particular contribution toward the evolution of tugs toward new efficiency was his work on the central pistons of the Bolton range of tugs. A school famous for their handling ability in bad sea conditions, the Bolton range are called upon in times of crisis and salvation such as large scale oil spills; moments of potential life loss and environmental damage. In justification of his interest, Larson had found the study and application of engineering to be a helping hand in a resistance against what he was increasingly experiencing as a situation of ecological detriment on a global scale. His involvement in safety and environmental health enforcement provided the moral spine he had so long desired.

Keys’svocation spurred much wealth and esteem, which he took lightly. Having steadily progressed to a position of quite some influence, he took on several responsibilities for both the development of a new range, as well as (and more importantly) the propagation of the present Bolton range of engines. His position increasingly took the form of a public relations secretary. Through his ability to sell the idea of stronger and faster tugboats he had travelled to many of the worlds choppiest seas in collaboration with many different countries. The Tokyo bay contract (as well as those of Cape Town, South Africa and Marseille, France) was the source of his steady income and pride. Conversely, they were also the birth of much pressure and stress.



He had initially moved to South Africa for professional reason, that of monitoring his work in practice, the tug-boat John Ross, operating the choppy coastline of Cape Town. Much diplomatic work was necessary; networking in order to justify the costs involved in the acquisition of the S.A. Maritime Board. Keys was talented in these entries, he was fluent in several languages and had a deep grasp of the complex infrastructure. Nevertheless, it was always clear that he would require a partner in operation. He had chosen to work with respected conservationist Shama Tudoit: a young French woman who had already been busy with the Cape Coast Maritime Environmental Commission for quite some years.

The shared responsibility of this partnership helped relieve much of the associated stress of his vocation. Nevertheless, Keys retained habit of several consecutive courses of antibiotics in futile attempt to boost his weak immune system, a move which would later lead to a dense build-up of sulphonamides in his skin.
His stress was not helped by the obsessive nature of his approach. He found his work to become integral only if it were close by, 24 hours a day. The desire to wake up and see what he had been doing the night before was in effect the preparation of thread for the construction of a cocoon. Figures and design, pioneering engineering and its manifestation in profit were his temporal fix and at home he found he could feed his obsessions without any external comment or judgement. This would also mean that aside from his networking activities, he would not get out of the house much.


Stress to Skin


Polymorphous Light Eruption
This is a skin eruption, and is commonly known as “sun poisoning”. It occurs in susceptible individuals when they are exposed to solar radiation that is more intense than usual, i.e. the first time a body part that has had no prior UV exposure is in the sun in a given season. It may also occur when the person travels to higher or lower latitude. The skin-rash reaction usually heals within 7-10 days if additional sun exposure is avoided.
Some PLE are due to the presence of drugs, hormones or heavy metals in the individual’s skin. Photo-allergies may also result when light rays interact with certain chemicals. Photo-contact allergens include: phenothiazine (a type of tranquilizer) and hexachlorophene, as well as certain sulphonamides (a type of antibiotic)


For Larson this would mean more than just staying out of the sun: constant rest and a special diet consisting of little more than fruit and milk became necessary. Up to 14 hours of sleep a day would also come to mean a complete paralysis of his usual work mode. All his efforts of a return to normality would only become effective in the long-term, in conjunction with a wide variety of sunscreens.

thanks to judy farah, robin farah, glen, brendon busy, masha du toit, gregg smith and stewart bailey