Careful where you step!


Welcome to Bewilderbeast Droppings.

Occasional ramblings interrupted by two pests who insist I raise them, pander to them and guide them. Now doing it solo (dammit where are you Aitch!?). Anyway, they’re bigger now:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Ithala July14 (18) Brekker on the beach


From: pete swanepoel home

Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2014 7:03 PM

Subject: Lepidopterists lead exciting lives!

This from my LepSoc newsletter:

Hi everyone

We will be doing a day trip to Tswaing crater, just north of Pretoria, on the 24th September, where special butterflies such as Brown-lined Sapphires, Saffron Sapphires, Hutchinson’s Highfliers, etc. can be seen.

Us lepidopterists see not only these but others such as Skollies, Nightfighters, Pirates, Policemen and Admirals. Playboys and Pansies are also sought-after! One can go prancing after them wearing a pith helmet and waving a net! What’s not to love?

There’s even one called swanepoelii and one called brauerii

Lepidopterists lead exciting lives!

Soutar wrote:

Keep your net stockings on.

We off to Karkloof today. Will try to bring back a dead Karkloof Blue.

That and a Pink Elephant.

Pete wrote:

¶¶ . . and a Stuffed Delegorgue’s Pigeon, a Dead Parrot (rare Cape) and . .

¶¶ Planks from a Yellowwood Tree . . ¶¶

Hey! We could write a song like that . . .

steve reed wrote:

When we lived in Clarens, we had an annual visitation by what must have been the self same Swanepoel. Khaki clad solitary figure, fleet-footing round the village with his net like something out of Peter Pan. Regarded by the locals with great interest ( and a good level of suspicion ) …



Real-Life Lepidoptometrist

Hilton Pike is a nimble fella who darts around lithely with a butterfly net, holding it rather like Obelix doesn’t hold his menhirs. A talented lad, young Hilton, he built fancy speakers for hifis, refurbished phoropters and mounted butterflies on polystyrene in glass cabinets. Lovely chap, I miss him. Where is he?

Mom’s SensaYuma

Gogo Mary & Great_Grandkids (1)

Mom’s short-term memory has got a bit shaky since a TIA a few weeks ago.

Today she tells me she’s getting on famously. “I sat down at the piano and played a song I haven’t played in YEARS. My fingers just remembered it. It was Maria Elena. I played it without a single mistake”.

Her sense of humour hasn’t changed one bit as she pauses, then muses:

“Of course, I may have played it last week”.


“Maria Elena” was written for the First Lady of Mexico, the wife of president Gil, by Lorenzo Barcelata (1898 – 1943), a Mexican composer. It topped the charts in 1941. In 1963 it reached No.6 in the US charts & No.5 in the UK charts.


Pfft! We’ll Beat Him!

Brauer was running Comrades. Successfully. I was definitely not – not even unsuccessfully – yet. I had always thought running was easy – you just put one foot in front of the other, how hard can it be? I couldn’t understand how they wrote books about it. I mean c’mon!

So I joined him on a 32km run in Springs on the East Rand on his build-up to the big crazy ultra day when fools shuffle from Maritzburg to Durbs-by-the-Sea.

Oceans of people filled the park at the start – It was the Springs Striders club’s big race. I had never been in such a big field. The Harrismith Mountain Race was the biggest bunch I’d run with before – nothing like these thousands.

The gun went off and – nothing happened. Eventually we started shuffling forwards, then walking, then eventually we reached the start line under the ‘Start’ banner and after a while we could trot a bit. Then it opened up and we got into my stride (mine, as Brauer thoughtfully stuck with me and didn’t go roaring off like a Fordyce). After a while we passed a tiny little ancient man barely shuffling along with his shoulders hunched and his eyes firmly fixed on the tarmac a metre in front of his feet. He must have started way ahead of us in the pack, but now we had caught him due to our superior pace, skill and youth. I looked at Brauer and crowed quietly: “That’s one good thing about these mass runs: At least there’s always someone who you know you’ll be beating”. I had never been in a mass run, of course, but I was drawing on my extensive experience as a spectator, where I would always be near the front, striding out with knees flashing past my ears.

And so it went for 16km, me matching my Comrade Brauer stride-for-stride. Inexplicably then, I felt the urge to tap off a bit and at around the 20km marker Brauer mumbled something and disappeared effortlessly off into the distance. It sounded like “Fuckit, we’ll fall asleep if we continue at this snail’s pace” but it wasn’t that.

He’s fart oo polite.

At 25km I heard a quiet little shuffling and a tiny little ancient man barely shuffling along with his shoulders hunched and his eyes firmly fixed on the tarmac a metre in front of his feet came past me as if I was going backwards. His pace was exactly the same as it had been when we passed him on km 3 or 4. Mine was not. So I started walking, joining up with some other porky-looking fellows. The spring had left my stride on the Springs Striders.

“Look at him!” one of my fellow strollers said, “That’s Liege Boulle. In 1983 he won his 39th Comrades medal, fifty years after his first”. I learnt a big ‘respect-your-elders’ lesson that day which I try to thump into my kids’ skulls now. Unsuccessfully.

Years later I got back to that park in Springs where Brauer was waiting. Patiently. He knew better than to call out a search party. It must have been within some sort of time limit though, as they gave me this cloth badge with the appropriate animal on it.

Springs Striders 32km

You would think this would have decided me not to run the Comrades ever.





‘Bain of Harrismith’

My granny Annie had an older brother Ginger. He was the oldest of the seven Royal Bains and a great sportsman. They owned the Royal Hotel and were not to be confused with the Central Bains, who owned the Central Hotel!

This old report was reprinted in the 1997 Hilton vs Michaelhouse sports day brochure: 

Hilton Ginger Bain_2

Drop goals were four points and tries were three in those distant days. I like that the one side was “smarter with their feet” . . and that that beat “pretty passing”.

Ginger Bain’s father Stewart died in 1939:

Stewart Bain 1939.jpg

I thought I remembered that, despite the fact that every dorp has a Royal Hotel, the Harrismith Royal Hotel was one of only two that could officially call itself ‘Royal’. Sheila has confirmed that I have a flawless memory (well, something along those lines):

Royal Hotel article

Why Own a Computer?

My first computer was an IBM 386 copy in around 1987. I didn’t really know what to do with it, I just knew you “should have one” and I was late in getting one. But then I got a dot matrix printer and I started writing reports, minutes and speeches (!) for my optometric political career, so I found a use for them! It was only when I could see MY words in print that I really got interested!
They looked something like this:
IBM PC dot matrix printer
In time I got fancier and by the time the kids arrived I had this:

I can do this!

I was unaware of the history that led up to my PC. Now I read this:

By 1970, the famous electronics and computer hobbyists club in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Homebrew Computer Club was founded, and Apple Computer was formed. Since computers could actually do very little, what reason did the founders of Apple give to people for buying its products? Well . . . so “that you and your family increase familiarity with the computer itself”!

The center of attention in Homebrew meetings during the middle years of the 1970s was the MITS Altair 8800, first released in 1975 and available by mail order from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Generally regarded as the first personal computer (PC), the Altair is completely unrecognizable as a usable machine today. In addition to its internal electronics, the entire system consisted of a case and a series of toggle switches and light bulbs on the front panel — no keyboard, no screen, no disk drive. Programs had to be entered as individual binary numbers by flipping the switches on the front; the only evidence that the program had done its job was a change in which bulbs were lit.

“Personal computing would have remained a hobbyist’s passion were it not for the gradual infusion of computer-liberation culture. As a group, Homebrewers had a generally anti-establishment streak. Steve Wozniak, one half of the founding duo of Apple Computer, initially became widely known within Homebrew as a maker of ‘blue boxes’ — small electronic devices that emitted push-button telephone tones and permitted making free phone calls.

Jobs and Wozniak marketed a computer kit to rival the Altair. They marketed the kit under the name Apple Computer in 1976.
“After studying the European-styled toasters and mixers in the kitchen department at Macy’s in San Francisco, Jobs decided that he wanted a smooth, curved, plastic case for the Apple II. The result was an elegant and inviting design that would thereafter become the signature look of Apple computers.

The brochure read, ‘The home computer that’s ready to work, play and grow with you’ and promised, ‘You don’t even need to know a RAM from a ROM to use and enjoy Apple II …. You can begin running your Apple II the first evening, entering your own instructions and watching them work, even if you’ve had no previous computer experience.’

But why own one? You could, according to the ad, use it to help your children do schoolwork, organize household finances or recipes, or ‘chart your biorhythms.’ But the ad proclaimed that ‘the biggest benefit — no matter how you use Apple II — is that you and your family increase familiarity with the computer itself.’ The computer-enhanced future was here, and you needed to be part of it.

(From America in the ’70s edited by Beth Bailey & David Farber)



I remember the first time I got a 486 PC – a huge advance on the 386. It went from less than 10 million instructions per second to over 40 million instructions per second. Wow! I don’t remember giving it so many instructions, but hey! Go with the flow here!

And I remember backing up: Floppy disk after 3.5inch floppy disk inserted. Wait. Insert next floppy disk. Wait . . .

Then in 1993 came my first cellphone:

Panasonic cellphone.jpg

Here’s the humbling part: Remember how we said “No need for a home computer” and “I don’t need a cellphone”? (Yes we did). Now think about virtual reality, self-driving cars and the internet of things and – this time – be humble. They’re coming ready or not, so get your shit together.

Possible World Record

I may be in line for a world record soon. We’ll know in about 190 years time.

I read it here-

Heroic Failures

Seems the Slowest Selling Book Ever was a 1716 translation of the New Testament from Coptic into Latin by David Wilkins. He sold 191 copies.

Well, as far as underachievement goes that’s piffling stuff! I sold exactly zero of my 2016 Umko 50 years book, so I should be able to whip this Wilkins’ ass handily. We printed 300 and gave them all away, so unless people start re-selling them I’m safe, and should become an honorary member of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain.

Only danger is his 191st copy sold in 1907, so he still has those 190 years in which he can claim “Yes, but . . “.


The Book of Heroic Failures was written by Stephen Pile in 1979 in celebration of human inadequacy in all its forms. Entries include William McGonagall, a notoriously bad poet, and Teruo Nakamura a soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army who fought World War II until 1974.

The original edition included an application to become a member of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain; However, this was taken out in later editions because the club received over 30,000 applications and closed on the grounds that it was “a failure as a failure” (but not before Pile himself had been deposed as president for showing alarming competence by preventing a disaster involving a soup toureen, then being expelled from the club for publishing a bestseller). The American version of the book was misprinted by the publishers, who left out half the introduction. As a consequence, later versions of the book came out with an erratum slip longer than the entire introduction. (wikipedia)

Pile says “People keep talking about the things man does well, when these few blades of grass are surrounded by vast prairies of inadequacy which are much more interesting”.