Careful where you step!

Recording, reminiscing and occasional bokdrols of wisdom.

Random, un-chronological memories after marriage, children and sundry other catastrophes.

My pre-marriage blog is vrystaatconfessions.com

bokdrols – like pearls, but handle with care

Duelling Banjous

As we left Mother Mary today – at the Retirement Village, not the old-aged home, says Dad; He used to call them old aged homes and be very anti but now suddenly they’re OK and they’re retirement villages cos he has just made an offer on a cottage there, deciding at age 96 that it might be time before too long that he may, perhaps, have to move in there one day – we were energetically flagged down by an old blue-rinse biddy sitting in a smart white sedan outside the frail care section.

“Oy! Are you ignoring me?” she shouts, waving her hand in Dad’s direction. He, of course, doesn’t hear her, so I look in the open driver’s window across at her in the front passenger seat and she waves me aside. No, not you, she indicates with a dismissive wave, the bald gentleman; Well, the bald gentleman with the white hair; OK, the bald gentleman with the white hair and the walking stick.

Oh. So she doesn’t mean me.

He sticks his head in the window. “Were you going to walk right by me?” she asks. Hello! He smiles, switching straight into charm mode; Who are you? Ooh, she thinks, some doubt creeps in. “Aren’t you . .” she starts and hits a geriatric blank. Staring at him, knowing she knows him but has just lost his name right now. It’s on the tip of her tongue. “Um, aren’t you . .” she repeats. Who are you? he repeats.

They reach out to shake hands – instinctive, cos if you’ve been to Maritzburg College and St Annes or Epworth and lived through a world war that’s what you do. So they’re now holding hands both being furiously pleasant and both trying to figure out who the hell this other person is.

She changes tack: “I bet you I’m older than you,” she says.

YUSSIS! That MAKES his day! He’s had a bit of a rough day with his idiot son who doesn’t know when to shut up and just nod him yes, so this – THIS – is a godsend. He jumps up in the air, clicks his heels and leans right in to the car. The click might have been his teeth.

I’ll bet you you’re not! he challenges. “I bet you I am,” she repeats confidently. I’ll bet you . . how much you wanna bet? he says. They’re still holding hands and staring into each others eyes. It’s getting ‘Yes I am; No you’re not!’ stuck, so I chip in. How about one Rand? I suggest. “Well, I only have ten Rand,” she fibs. I’ll take you on, he says, How old are you? She leans back and puffs out her bosom and announces triumphantly “Nearly ninety ONE.”

WELL! Victory is his! He wriggles with glee and says I’m . . no. This is my son Koos. Koos, you tell her how old I am! The old goat is 96 in the shade, I say. She deflates, he puffs up. He smoked her! Blew her doors off! Left her in his dust! They’re still holding hands. He rubs it in: I prefer to say I’ve got four years to go to a hundred.

I walk off, leaving them to their embarrassment and awkward ending. Well, nice to have met you, he says. “Yes, indeed,” she says, even though neither cagey old codger has divulged their name yet. The only name we have out of this joyful meeting of long-lost strangers so far is “Koos.”

As the old man leaves she outs when he’s ten metres down the drive with “So sorry to have mistaken you; Sorry to be a bother.” That St Annes politeness training is deeply embedded. Of course he didn’t hear it. Ten metres is way out of range. Anyway, his face was wreathed in such a wide smile his ears were probably blocked by the wrinkles.

Twelve Year Expiries?

Another twelve-year-old has gone west. Flaky the snaky that TomTom got when he was five has shuffled off this mortal coil. Expired. She was fine and ate her last supper – the usual whole rare mouse – with hungry focus a few days before. Then I saw her uncharacteristically out of her shelter and exposed. A day later I opened up, no movement, prodded her and thought damn! She’s gone!

Cub Scout Tommy goes for his Pets Badge. Flaky endures.

Before he could get her five-year-old Tom had to do his homework, learn about care and feeding and commit to checking her daily and cleaning out her cage weekly. He did for years, but then interest faded, new interests blossomed and Dad took over the feeding and watering chores. Not cleaning, though. Cleaning remained TomTom’s job:

Tom tests for size, and vacuums after cleaning
flaky snake tom

‘Flaky’ was a beautiful and gentle American Corn Snake, glowing orange and black above and checkerboard black and white below. As she grew from about 250mm to over 1.1m long we added an extension to her metal-and-glass terrarium – a home-made wood-and-mesh upstairs to treble the size.

I got my only snake bite ever when I inexplicably held my left hand closer to her than the mouse I was offering her in tongs in my right hand. I’d never done that before – for good reason! She got me on my left forefinger knuckle with her tiny sharp teeth and drew pinpricks of blood. I was too big for her to get a good grip on and constrict me and swallow me, so she immediately withdrew.

Twelve-year-old Sambucca the Labrador went this year, now twelve-year-old Flaky the Corn Snake. Is it coincidence that my twelve-year-old Ford Ranger is currently in bakkie hospital with something about the valves and the head and the gearbox needing transplant surgery!? Hope it’s not terminal!

Lone Ranger in Intensive Care

We packed breakfast and lunch and snacks and left for Mfolosi Game Reserve at 6am this morning; Jess, Azo and me. ETA around 8.30. Tom elected to chill at home.

Instead, by 8am we were back home, with the sad and sick Ford Ranger on the back of Ritesh’s yellow low-bed AA tow truck. Dammit. The gears gave a death rattle and the engine died. May be terminal.

ignominy

Tom was still sleeping. We ate some snacks, I took butterfly pics in the garden and now its bucketing down with rain. The End.

Kaput Ranger in the rain
Butterfly garden

Fecundity

When we got to River Drive in 1989 we were warned it was a fertile zone and if you weren’t careful babies would start popping out all over. This was from the Lellos who had produced three offspring there; the Greenbergs, two; The Hockeys, a few, Donna was the only one around then; the Howard-and-Dofs, three boys, and there were others. We were blissfully child-free and at least half of us were determined to remain that way.

We stood firm, determinedly child-free ’til 1999. When we left that river in 2003 the Naudes had produced two boys but we had stood firm; We only had two children, having managed to sell three others after fattening them up and putting a smile on their faces.

In Elston Place there was a swarm of children; The pool was always overflowing. They all soon learned the gate code and the place was like a railway station. And nothing has changed in the thirteen years we’ve been here. Here’s the latest crop with Jess who went down the road to visit this evening:

Three of these are kids of the kids who used to swim in the pool when we first arrived!

Here are some of the early-days kids with a young Jessie leaning back:

Elston Place gang (2)

Mary Thumps The Keys

The inmates in Azania – I mean Azalea Gardens – look forward now to new arrival Mary Methodist’s preprandial concerts. While we were chatting the guy next door stuck his head in and asked anxiously from his wheelchair, “When are you coming?” so we all hastened over to the lounge / dining room so Mom could do her thing.

Melodie d’Amour and Jamaica

In the background the ole man is paging through some old Farmers Weeklys. The piano music plays havoc with his hearing aids, so he has switched them off.

Ooh, says Mom, I’m not at my best today! True, says I, You were better when you were eighty. She hosed herself at that. She also played Angeline and Chatanooga Choo Choo and two others I forget the names. A round of applause from the tables announced OK, enough now, the grub has arrived. Mary immediately got up and joined them for roast chicken, roast spuds and creamed spinach; then pud.

edit: The old codger in the wheelchair was one of her biggest fans. We heard a couple of weeks after this day that he’d shuffled off, moved on; Natural causes after a good innings, nothing to do with Mom’s playing.

A Bird Book in Brasil

When Aitch said ‘Come with me to Brasil’ in 1988 I shouted ‘Hell, yes!’ over my shoulder as I rushed off to a bookstore to buy a book on the birds of Brasil.

There wasn’t one. I asked everywhere and searched everywhere, but no luck. Then I asked Hardy Wilson, who reached up to one of the many shelves in the library in his lovely home in Hollander Crescent and brought down his only copy of Aves Brasileiras and said ‘You can use this.’ I think he said it was the only field guide to Brazilian birds that he knew of and that it was out of print. Something along those lines, anyway. Wow! Are you sure? I asked. ‘Sure. Go. Enjoy.’

In Rio de Janeiro we found another copy – a hardcover. When we got back I offered Hardy his choice of either, in case the soft cover had sentimental value, but he preferred the hardcover, so I still have Hardy’s soft cover book Aves Brasileiras.

Using it made us realise how lucky we were in South Africa to have Roberts and Newmans field guides. I thought the book was probably Brasil’s first, but today I found this post by Bob Montgomerie of the American Ornithological Society’s History of Ornithology site. That’s what reminded me of Hardy’s book and his generosity thirty years ago.

Marcgraf1
Jacana from Marcgraf 1648

Bob Montgomerie: The first work of this genre (“Birds of – name of a country”) to be published was probably Georg Marcgraf’s section on birds, Qui agit de Avibus, in Piso’s Historia Naturalis Brasiliae published in 1648. Several other books about birds were published in the 16th and 17th centuries but this is the only one I could find that was specifically about the birds of a particular country or region, at least as indicated by the title.
Marcgraf’s bird section is a masterpiece that was THE authority on South American birds for the next two centuries. Even the paintings are pretty good given the quality of bird art in books by his contemporaries, and each species gets a separate account. Unfortunately for most scientists today, Marcgraf’s work is in Latin and relatively inaccessible.

Well, Hardy’s book was in Portuguese, and relatively inaccessible to us! But without it we would have been lost.

I found a pic of Hardy on the History site with Jane Bedford and a chap dressed funny. Jane has appeared in one of my stories before, in another world, long ago.

not that I’m saying Jane’s not dressed funny . . .

Breakfast on the Deck

Egg, bacon, tomato, black coffee and binoculars. Thanks, Cecelia!

The flying ants were trying to pair up and scurry off and mate after shrugging off their wings, but the ants were nabbing them. The ants, in turn were being robbed by the birds and a skink. They’d grab the juicy termite, flick hard, separating the ant, then peck up and gobble down the termite. Termites taste like butter, ants taste like acid.

westville wildlife

Indoors there was also some wildlife to be seen:

westville wildlife indoors

Made me late for work!

More this week:

The raucous Westville Kookaburra
Dragonfly with a point-n-shoot camera
The dreaded Westville Pteradactyl

Westville Kookaburra – Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Westville Pteradactyl – Hadeda Ibis