The niece and the nephew took a husband, a wife, and two kids each and took over the St Moritz snow week at Afriski in Lesotho. They went up Sani Pass. Thank goodness for the snow machines as there was no ‘free snow from heaven’ on the ground!
Dad: “Victor Simmonds was a lovely chap and a very good artist. He was a little man, grey, a lot older than me. What? How old? Well, I was probably 35 then and he was grey. He was probably 50. He lodged with Ruth Wright on the plot next door to ours, Glen Khyber. I doubt if he paid them any rent, they were probably just helping him out. He moved to the hotel in Royal Natal National Park where they allowed him to sell his art to the guests and that probably paid his rent.
“He was a hopeless alcoholic, unfortunately. He used to come to me begging for a bottle of brandy late at night, his clothes torn from coming straight across to Birdhaven from Glen Khyber, through the barbed wire fences. I said ‘Fuck off, Victor, I won’t do that to you,’ and sent him away. I wish I had bought one of his paintings. Sheila found these paintings he gave me for nothing. He said he did these as a young student. As I took them he said ‘Wait, let me sign them for you.'”
So I went looking and found a lot of his work available on the internet. Once again Dad’s memory proved sound. Victor was born in 1909, thus thirteen years older than Dad:
I just knew this scene! To me this looks like the stream above the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal National Park – So I went looking and at lovecamping.co.za I found:
A number of his paintings are available for sale. I’d love to see his ‘The Gorge, Royal Natal National Park, Showing the Inner Buttress and Devils Tooth’ but I’d have to subscribe for one day at 30 euros! That one was apparently painted in 1980, so he kept going for at least 23 years after he stayed in our neck of the woods. That would have made Victor around 70 and his liver a resilient organ.
Gotta marvel at evolution! Always something new. Here’s a mantidfly. It’s not a mantid, but it has evolved to look like one. It’s related to the lacewings – the flying adult you see in Zululand that has the antlion as its larva stage. Here’s what they can look like:
And here’s their story:
“Mantidflies belong to the insect order Neuroptera and are related to more familiar insects like lacewings and antlions. Adult mantidflies clearly show convergent evolution with praying mantids, which are members of a completely different insect order. Both kinds of insects are visual predators that use their raptorial forelimbs to grab up insect prey. Mantid fly biology is otherwise very different from praying mantids. These insects have a larval stage, and during this stage they are parasitoids on other insects or spiders. ‘Parasitoid’ is the technically accurate term since they kill their hosts rather than merely encumber them. The larva of this species of mantidfly enters the egg sac of a jumping spider and eats the eggs, all while the female spider is guarding them!”
Here’s a jumping spider thinking she has everything under control:
Photographed and written about by Mark Sturtevant on Matt Young’s Panda’s Thumb blog.
Already Tom’s memories are mainly The Legend of Mom, more than real memories. Jess remembers far more. So Tom had lots to say today about Mom. Jess was mainly quiet. As most years, Dizzi and Jon came round to clink a glass in your memory. Jess set a lovely formal table with flowers from the garden – and even a table cloth! I only remembered to take a pic after it was all over.
We had a medicinal G&T as we had all just been to sort-of malaria areas – me n Jess to Hluhluwe, Dizzi n Jon to St Lucia.
A quick one-night trip to Hluhluwe saw very good birding but Jess was disappointed as the animals were in hiding, possibly due to the big fire which burnt the first day and through the night.
She’s spoilt, though, as she still saw twelve species, all good close-up views including an elephant where she immediately said ‘Reverse Dad, we’re too close!’ and a crocodile, a monitor lizard and a grass lizard – seen below on the tar road, trying to escape the fire. They can hardly move if not in grass, with their tiny little legs. I picked it up and placed on grass and it immediately whizzed away, ‘swimming’ in the grass.
Can you spot the leaf caterpillar who’s trapped in the leaf and is trying to call for help but can’t spell?
The little Canon camera did its secret video thing, recording in the background while you’re taking snapshots. It’s weird, but I quite like it:
The biggest surprise sighting this trip was probly the sight of me braai’ing. I left catering to Jess and she bought some really weird stuff: Charcoal, firelighters, matches and lamb chops. What could I do? I braai’d.
Off to the ‘Berg with the kids. To a hotel! A real hotel! The Cavern in the foothills of the Drakensberg. At last their Dad listened and took them somewhere they didn’t have to cook and clean! (This was back in 2012).
They loved it. Especially once they worked out one of the secrets of the place: If you gave any hotel employee your room number, he or she would give you anything you wanted under the sun. They had discovered the key to endless riches. They loved it. They no longer needed me. All they needed was to quickly invent their first signatures. When I said I was going off on a hike, did anyone want to come along? No! Go! Enjoy yourself Dad, BYE! They watched impatiently as I packed my rucksack with lunch and binocs and books. Go, Dad!
Movies, the pool table, tennis, drinks at the pool – all ‘free’!
With them happy in civilisation it was up to me to enjoy the hills and valleys, wildlife and – especially – birdlife.
This long-tailed grass lizard looks like a snake as he whips through the grass after grasshoppers. But look closely at his body:
The next day I encouraged a bit more action. With some trepidation these townies went horse-riding.
Even if we live to be a hundred, the first twenty five years are ‘the longest half’ of our lives. They appear so while they are passing; they seem to have been so as we look back on them; and they take up more room in our memories than all the years that succeed them.
paraphrased from a quote by Robert Southey, English Romantic Poet
Southey (1774 – 1843) was born in Wine Street, Bristol. He was expelled from school for writing an article in The Flagellant condemning flogging. He went to Oxford, of which he later said, “All I learnt was a little swimming and a little boating.” A good start, then, but as he grew older he ‘sold out for money and respectability’, proving his own saying that the first twenty five years are your best.
Eighty year old Rika is feisty and full of fun. I met her nineteen years ago when she was shacked up with a younger man. He died seventeen years ago, as had her husband before him and now she’s determined to be man-free. ‘I’m free!’ she sings out, throwing her arms out and twirling around. She now lives in a garden cottage with her last man’s daughter, who ‘adopted’ her and has brought her to see me today for her eyes.
We hug when she arrives.
As she’s leaving she holds out her arms for another hug. ‘We must hug again. I read that you need twelve hugs a day. It gives you something . . they told me, I forget.’
Endorphins, I say.
No, she says it starts with an ‘O’. ORGASMS? I say loudly, looking at her lovely self-appointed daughter-in-law with wide eyes. Rika just told me she needs twelve orgasms a day! Rika, honest and straight as the day is long, but with a delightful sense of mischief, screeches with laughter and says ‘Oh, look how you’ve made me blush now!’
What do you do? I ask the old soldier sitting in my chair. I’m a musician in the army band he says. Aha! Cool! What do you play? asks I.
The Saxophone, he says. The best of all the instruments! I flatter. How long have you been a soldier? Not long, he says, I joined a couple years ago and I’m just about to retire on a small army pension. What did you do before?
I was saxophonist in big bands. I toured the world. Mario Montereggi’s Big Band? I ask. Yes, indeed, I played with Mario.
And then he drops the big one:
I was with the African Jazz Pioneers for years. Wow! African Jazz Royalty in my chair!!
He might even have played with Mario at my fiftieth, where Aitch surprised me by getting Mario’s small ensemble to blow me away:
During the Royal visit to South Africa in 1947 – this was the royal family from that small country called England, not the Zulu Royal Family or anything – there was great excitement! A special train was built, medals were struck and prime ministerships were lost – although Onse Jannie Smuts didn’t know yet that sucking up to the Engelse King would have that price, as he windgatted here with them at Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg.
In Harrismith there was the important task of choosing horses. Horses were needed so that Royal Rears could be saddled and taken for a ride. Whose horse would be chosen for which Royal when the entourage stopped at the City of Sin and Laughter, Harrismith Orange Free State?
The Royal Train puffed to a stop at Breedal station. Breedal siding, really, near the notorious, alcohol-soaked Rivierdraai stasie on the Bethlehem side of Harrismith.
Great excitement and groot afwagting. Breaths were held . . .
All I have so far is they chose Piet Steyn’s gentle grey gelding for Princess Margaret’s bottom. Here she is on another grey:
There may be more royal bottoms to follow . . .
The whole trip was a great adventure for the two princesses, being the first time either had been abroad. For Margaret, barely out of school but on the cusp of becoming a ravishing beauty, there was an added frisson. Wing Commander Peter Townsend, the handsome king’s equerry for whom she was already experiencing the early throes of love, despite him being 16 years her senior, was accompanying them.
So the mounts provided by local farmers at various points, allowing the two princesses to enjoy rides with Townsend and the king’s assistant private secretary Michael Adeane were welcome escapes from the crowds. ‘We sped in the cool air, across the sands or across the veldt,’ remembered Townsend. ‘Those were the most glorious moments of the day.’
windgatted – soireed; pompous party; unlikely to beindruk his voters
beindruk – impress
rooineks – Poms; Englanders; for many die vyand
die vyand – the enemy
groot afwagting – great excitement; and anticipation
Mom Mary has constipation. Don’t tell everyone, but its just a fact and its not funny. I even put a bomb up and nothing happened. You know, Granny Bland used to get constipation and now here I am getting it. A mere seventy years later you can be struck with a family ailment out of the blue.
Rose is the matron at the home and she loves Mary. I told Rose I had constipation. This morning she came to me and said “Have you been to the toilet yet?” I said no, and she said “You know, Mary, you’re full of shit.”
Its ongoing. There’s even less stuff there, but some stuff is going to have to be pried from his tight reluctant fingers, maybe?
The awl and the hand drill brace were Oupa’s in Boom street in PMB. The screwdriver and needle-nose pliers on the right were issued to Dad by the General Post Office when he started as an apprentice electrician in 1938. He had to climb up telephone poles with those in his pocket. Here’s the GPO vehicle he’d drive around in, fixing the phones! They didn’t bother with parcels and letters, no! That was old-school! They were the high-tech side of the Post Office: The telephones!
By the way, everything has a correct name. The screwdriver is a ‘perfect handle’ screwdriver. That’s a specific kind of screwdriver.
Today I learnt Mr Buckle didn’t shoe horses. No, he was the blacksmith, upholsterer and wagon-maker. Charlie Rustov shoed horses. He was a few rungs lower down the totem pole, and the only farrier in town. He had a high-pitched voice and would say ‘Nee man, Mnr Swanepoel, daai blerrie hings gaan my skop!’ when I took my stallion in to be shoed. Dad would buy horses, school them, then sell them for a much higher price. I made more on horses than my post office pay.
‘Nee man, Mnr Swanepoel, daai blerrie hings gaan my skop!’ – No man, Mr Swanepoel, that blerrie stallion is going to kick me!
blerrie – bladdy
bladdy – bloody; no blood though, just a swearword
If memory serves me right, Sampson the Nazirite who slayed the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass – you remember, right? – had a haircut and then things went pear-shaped. Same with me: Haircut, and next thing . .
It was very Irish: the floor came up to meet me. Also quite biblical: My jawbone was level with my ass and there was a heavenly host of eyes staring down at me. Three of my special ladies, plus a fella with a stethoscope around his neck and a lady holding a sharp instrument. Know what the worst thing was? Combined, if you added all five of them’s ages together, they were younger than me.
I must admit the night before I also didn’t have me customary glass of red. So maybe the haircut plus the lack of booze tipped me over the edge – or toppled me onto the carpet? It’s a mystery, but the clear message seems to be: Less Haircuts, More Booze, going forward.