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Careful Where You Step!

Recording and reminiscing; with occasional bokdrols of wisdom. Possibly.

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

– this swanepoel family –

My pre-marriage blog is vrystaatconfessions.com. Bachelorhood! Beer! River trips! Beer!

bokdrols – like pearls, but handle with care

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Note: I go back to my posts to add / amend as I remember things and as people mention things, so the posts evolve. I know (and respect) that some bloggers don’t change once they’ve posted, or add a clear note when they do. That’s good, but as this is a personal blog with the aim of one day editing them all into a hazy memoir, this way works for me.

World’s First Motor Race

One hundred and twenty seven years ago today – 22 July 1894 – the Concours Les Voitures sans Chevaux, was held in Paris. A city-to-city motoring competition which is sometimes described as the world’s first competitive motor race. Loose translation: ‘The Race of Carriages without Horses.’

Thank you wikipedia!

The contest was organised by the newspaper Le Petit Journal and run from Paris to Rouen in France. It was preceded by four days of vehicle exhibition and qualifying events that drew large crowds and created much excitement. Eight 50 km qualifying events were held leading up to the last day when the main 126km race was held.

The editor obviously thought about what he wanted. He wanted cars that were “not dangerous, easy to drive, and cheap during the journey.” Good points all. This meant, for example, that if you had to take a mechanic with you on your journey, you were ineligible for the main prize. Darn right.

The first driver crossed the finish line in a blistering 6hrs 48mins, but he did not win the main prize. His steam-powered vehicle needed a stoker! That’s a nuisance, driving with your butler’s bum in your face as he shovels coal, so he failed the ‘easy to drive’ requirement.

Second, a mere 3mins 30seconds later, was competitor number 65, a 3hp petrol Daimler-engined Peugeot. This made him the winner of the main prize. He looks thrilled.

Photo de Albert Lemaître, deuxième de l'épreuve.

Third, thirteen minutes later, competitor number 28, a 3hp petrol Daimler-engined Peugeot face to face (vis a vis).

Photo d'Auguste Doriot, troisième de l'épreuve.

The seventeenth and last finisher took thirteen hours to do the 126km course. 102 had entered, but 78 had not shown up for the qualifying events. These included 25 powered by unfamiliar and improbable technologies such as “gravity; compressed air; automatic; electricity; gas; hydraulics; liquid; pedals; propellers; and levers.”

Here’s a Mr Michaux passing through a busy street in Mantes-la-Jolie, racing amongst horses and pedestrians, en route to Rouen where he finished 9th in his 3hp Peugeot phaeton.

I was thinking: What do we have nowadays that compares? When do we see grown men acting all serious while looking ridiculous to the common man? I think old okes on bicycles dressed in lycra, puffing past thinking they look even semi-normal? Any other contenders?

Do go and look at wikipedia. There’s LOTS more. My home page opens to wikipedia’s main page every morning. There’s always something fascinating to see.

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Planned Insurrection

Failed – for now

Let’s get this straight: I understand people’s anger towards the criminal looters. I just hope we both understand who the criminal looters are. Not the people stealing food, grog, tv sets, clothing, etc. The people stealing millions and billions from our treasury. From every government department, from every tender.

They wear suits, drive fancy cars and MANY of them are white, or Indian and/or foreign. Many in government, but MANY in business, preying on the state coffers. One Turkish bunch of thieves wants a billion Rand A MONTH from us to supply dodgy, dirty electricity, and Gwede seems very keen to give it to them!

The washing machines looted go into houses nearby; The billions looted go offshore, never to be seen again.

So aim your anger at the looters and bay for justice. But please aim it at the REAL looters.

As for the unbelievable damage and the destructive fires, I think the same background rich looters probably instigated the chaos in a failed attempt at overthrowing the few ANC leaders trying to slow down their looting.

Be angry with men in suits plundering the state coffers.

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My personal damage:

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Seventy Long Years

On the 14th July 1951 the biggest hugest massivest humungousest stroke of luck to befall him in all his life befell Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel. By far. By a very long long way the biggest.

And he didn’t realise it, still doesn’t.

This morning Mary will wake thinking, I wonder how Pieter is, I hope he’s alright.

Happy 70th wedding anniversary, Mom n Dad.

– my Kids and their Addictions –

“To be concerned is so much more constructive than to be worried.”

“Every time we make a real decision,
we find out who we really are,
because we make use of our own priorities and values.”

“The problem is not that there are problems.
The problem is expecting otherwise
and thinking that having problems is a problem.”

“Kindness is more important than wisdom,
and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”

“Anxiety and depression are tolerable if we don’t get
anxious and depressed about being anxious and depressed.”

“Sometimes we must make a serious effort to be frivolous.”

“To understand children,
we must have some memory of how we felt as children.”

These quotes by Theodore Isaac Rubin psychiatrist and author

Jessie is smoking tik. That was a shock. I’m sticking with her and supporting her, trying not to lose contact with her. Reading up a lot. I decided to talk, not keep quiet. The first five people I told, four came up with immediate solutions and advice. The fifth listened, empathised, offered an ear and said, “Good Luck, It’s A Long Haul.” He’s a medical specialist doc living with a drug addict child for around forty years.

I remind myself: Jess is addicted to tik AND very addicted to her boyfriend – completely under his sway; Jess takes herself to him – he does not drag her there – although she sometimes says he keeps her there, sometimes when she SAYS she wants to come home; sometimes, though, she admits she decided not to come home despite telling me she was coming; Nothing is clear, though. The truth is a serious casualty of the addiction – there is a lot of lying, a lot of blaming, a lot of confusion and uncertainty;

Both of them, and others who live with them, suffer from paranoia and hallucinations visual and aural, so when they see and hear things it’s not at all clear if they saw it in real life or in hallucination – most of what each of them say they’ve heard is aimed ‘against them,’ so paranoia would explain that; and again, the lying . . . ; Jess is aware that nasty things said against her are possibly real, possibly imagined.

Then I also remind myself that Jess has a wonderful time with him and his family when all is well; Mom, Aunt, Uncle, brothers, a sister. They sing and dance and laugh and get drunk and get high and have a wonderful time and she loves them and is loved by them; Especially the ladies there – Sihle’s sister, Mother and Aunt – treat her very well; So the lows are horrible, but the highs beat the boredom she feels at home.

And I remind myself of that socially acceptable substance right on top of this list. The acceptable one. The one I grew up with.

And I remind myself of the criminal disgrace of the failed, yet ongoing “War on Drugs.” And of how the only places who have reduced drug use and drug crimes are countries that have ended the lie of a “war on drugs” and significantly decriminalised drug use, instead helping drug users with their lives. Who see drug use as a disease, to be treated by healthcare workers, not as a ‘bad choice’ to be stamped out by policemen who are not trained in anything other than arrests and throwing users in jail. They are not equipped to do the very difficult task of talking to users who are high. They’re incentivised to make arrests, so they ‘raid’ and arrest. In the process, all thoughts of a police service go out the window. Instead of assisting their citizens, as they swore to do when they qualified as police officers, the system sets them against them.

An example of unintended consequences and misguided laws: Codeine is freely available in South Africa, you can buy it almost anywhere. We have a fairly low annual prevalence rate of opiate use at 0.3%. In the United States where all opiates are strictly regulated, the prevalence rate is almost double, at 0.57%.

Tolerate drug use!? Legalise all drugs!? What MANIACS would do that!? Well, be a lawmaker. Be honest with yourself and decide which of the drugs you would make illegal if you were making the decisions. Of course, you’re an honest person and you want what’s best for your people, right? To make it easy, let’s say you can only make ONE drug illegal. Which one on the HARMS CAUSED BY DRUGS list below would you choose? Start at the top and count down and choose the one you would ban (even though banning never works). You’d ban the top one, right? The one that causes most harm?

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“God save us from the people
who want to do what’s best for us.”

“There’s a certain class of people who will do you in and
then remain completely mystified by the depth of your pain.”

~~~oo0oo~~~

As for addicts – they have their own challenges:

“You can’t save others from themselves because those who make a perpetual muddle of their lives don’t appreciate your interfering with the drama they’ve created.
They want your poor-sweet-baby sympathy, but they don’t want to change.”

“Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between
being cautious and being dead.”

“Insecure people have a special sensitivity for anything
that finally confirms their own low opinion of themselves.”

These quotes by private investigator Kinsey Millhone, female protagonist in author Sue Grafton‘s novels.

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We’ll get there, guys.

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another depiction / comparison

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I strive for kindness AND wisdom, so on 6 July I passed my course on Addiction and Recovery, so now I’m an expert! Can a complete cure be far off!? Stanford University’s Psychiatric Dept had a six week online course and I just got my results. Learnt a lot and very gratified that expert opinion and the evidence points AWAY from the destructive ‘War On Drugs’ and harsh law enforcement.

TREATING the disease of addiction is the way forward, working with the addicts – each one an individual.

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What’s In A Name?

Jessica arrived as Jessica Gambushe, her name give to her by her Tummy Mummy Tembi Gambushe. Tommy arrived as Tommy Ngobese, his name given to him by the local magistrate.

When their adoption papers came through – wonderful papers with “legally they are asof uit u gebore” written on them in black and white! – we started to arrange new birth certificates, passports, etc at home affairs. We loved their names, and kept them, naturally; We also decided to keep their surnames as middle names, so Jess became Jessica Gambushe Swanepoel and Tommy became Tommy Ngobese Swanepoel. But Tommy’s had a twist. Much as we loved his first name, Aitch suggested we name him Thomas and then he could decide to be Thomas, Tom or Tommy in time to come. He has loved that. He was Thomas at school and formal occasions, he prefers Tommy at home.

They were both too young to argue, so although we consulted them formally, they just looked at us with a Can I Have Some More Cooldrink? look on their faces.

Years later, a different story. They had now been subjected to pale schools and their middle names had undergone scrutiny by pale people. Why is my middle name Gambushe / Ngobese? Change it if you don’t like it, I’d say, I still say. Go to home affairs, fill in a form and get it changed, don’t moan.

Back when Aitch was around I’d have to ignore a slight eyebrow arching in the background as madam overheard this. She had heard that story for many years when she would moan about her name Patricia! I would say . . you guessed it: Go to home affairs, fill in a form and get it changed, don’t moan. Lead balloons have soared higher.

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asof uit u gebore – as though born of you

Half a century earlier another name question had arisen

COVID Hits Home

Last year on the 18th March, before Cyril could tell us to Go Home, Stay Home, I dived under my duvet and stayed there. I’ve been here ever since.

On 1st June Raksha said Let’s open up again, and I said ‘No! Keep your head down!’ On 8th June she opened up, can’t wait on a wimp. I said ‘No-one will come. Who’ll be foolish enough to roam the streets, never mind go have their eyes tested!?’ We’ll see, she said.

Prenisha was with her. Let’s go! said Prenisha. They hired locum optometrists and got going. We won’t make breakeven turnover, thought the hidden wimp, all panicky. They did – every single month! They paid the rent, paid their own salaries, paid our locums’ salaries, paid expenses. And – bless them – they even paid me a salary! Undeserving fugitive. Were they paying me to stay away?

And so it has gone. Thirteen months later, joined now by Yandisa, they’re still doing a wonderful job, I’m still under my duvet. But now one of them has tested positive and we have closed, as everyone takes time to isolate; recover for the one and avoid for the others.

One day at a time. We’ll test and monitor and open again when we can.

What STARS!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Today Fifty Years Ago

Sheila kept a diary in high school. It’s amazing reading such detailed notes of long-forgotten happenings. Last time it was a trip up Mt aux Sources. This time it’s a winter trip to the warm sub-tropical south coast of KwaZuluNatal by a family of Vrystaters.

Pennington, Monday 5 July: – Walked to the beach alone. Stayed for a while. Walked home (± 1 mile – the distance from our beach cottage to the beach). Left for Hibberdene with the whole family. Elsie & Richard Scott were there. Barbara went with them. Went on to Port Shepstone. Went to see Upsie Sorenson, a friend of Dad’s. Walked around a bit in town. Spoke to Lilly du Plessis. Went to Margate. Spoke to Philly and the whole Mikkers family. Swam in the sea with Philly. Went to Port Shepstone to the Sorensons. Chatted to Upsie and his daughter Ingrid. Had tea. Stopped at Park Rynie went to Scottburgh. Bought stuff. Came back to Umdoni Park/Pennington. Went to the café. Went to Uncle Joe Geyser’s sister’s house near our cottage. Met Danie & Pearly (Geyser) du Toit and Pieter Geyser. Went home, had supper with Mom, Dad and Koos. Bathed. Went for a drive. Came back. Barbara & Richard were here. He left. Chatted to Barbara.

Tuesday 6 July: – Had breakfast with the family. Walked to the beach with Mom & Barbara. Swam in the rock pool. Went to the café. Walked to the Caravan Park. Spoke to the Macgregors. Met Glenda & Joan Brand. Went to the beach with them. Spoke to Denise Brand, Glynis and Brian Fisher. Went for a walk alone. Sat on the beach alone. Walked to the café. There were six guys there on three motorbikes. They had met Barbara. They said they are having coffee at our place. They gave me a lift home on the buzz bike. Had lunch with the family. Then the guys, Mike, George, Charles, Terry, Dogs and Kevin arrived. Sat and chatted. Went down to the beach with them. Nine of us on three bikes. I was with Terry & George. Went to the café. They brought us home. Stood and chatted outside. Went to the Happy Wanderers Caravan Park at Kelso with the family. Sat at the boys tent. Had supper in the café. Chatted to them all in the café. Went to Park Rynie with Terry on the buzz bike, Barbara went with Mike. They brought us home. Chatted for a long time. They left. Mike brought Koos back.

Pic of us three taken in Harrismith around about then:

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oops, posted this a bit late, but what’s a couple days after fifty years!?

vrystaters – citizens of the province of song and laughter – the Free State

A Decade

It has been a decathlon. It would have been useful to have you around. Still would be. Ten years without you, but very few days where we don’t think of you.

We had a good system going, you multitasking and me doing as I was told; After? Let’s just say a couple things did fall through the cracks. A couple more than would have.

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Nailed at Last

What’s that at the birdbath? Luckily the camera is on the tripod nearby and I manage to get a few shots. Ah! An Ashy Flycatcher, the old Blue-Grey Flycatcher, Muscipapa caerulescens

As he leaves he calls and I have my mystery bird that I’ve been hearing, ‘knew that I knew,’ but couldn’t identify. Nailed him down.

That was yesterday. Today he flew round and round my garden to the tops of all the trees, calling continuously. A piercing call for such a little fella.

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thanks xeno-canto.org for the call recording

Homemade Leather

I was telling you how to go about it if you wanted to go on an expedition here, (and also, sort-of, in a modern sense, here), but I may have forgotten to tell you how to make leather. Just in case I did forget, here’s the recipe.

First, slaughter your animal. I know, squeamish, are you? A lot of things you need to do when going on an expedition where there aren’t any shopping malls involve slaughtering an animal: Washing your clothes? slaughter an animal and get the gall bladder; Making soap? keep the fat from all the animals you slaughter; Need a boat? kill two buffalo bulls.

So now you must skin your animal, lay the skin flat and cover the fleshy side in salt or sand, to dry it out and delay decomposi­tion. In a few days the hide will become hard and tough. Now soak the hide in water: this cleans off dirt and softens it up again. Scour it to remove any remaining flesh, then soak it in urine to loosen the hair, which can then be scraped off. Mix poo and water into a slurry, and soak your skin in that: enzymes in the poop will cause it to ferment, softening it and making it more flexible. You can help this process by standing in your poop slurry and kneading the skin with your feet — sorta like crushing grapes.

You now have rawhide: hard when dry, supple when wet. Useful for binding: to attach a blade to a stick and make an ax, just wrap a strip of wet rawhide securely around both and let it dry. It contracts and fits very tightly indeed.

But we were making leather, so now you need to collect the bark or wood from trees high in tannin. Look for red- or brown-colored hardwoods. To extract tannins, shred your wood or bark and boil it in water for several hours. Stretch the animal skin out and immerse it in your tannic solutions of gradually increasing concentrations for a few weeks. During this process, the stretched-out skins trade their moisture for tannins, altering the hide’s protein structure to make it more flexible, more resistant to rotting, and water resistant.

And that’s it: In just a few short weeks, you have produced leather! Now you can make yourself some shoes, harnesses, boats, water bottles, whips, and protective armor.

And they’ll last! Have a look at this leather shoe from Armenia. Made in 3500 BCE – that’s 5521 years ago!

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from How to Invent Everything by Ryan North – Riverhead Books 2018

Birdbath Flurry

The birdbaths have been quiet. Maybe the winter rain we’ve had? Yesterday was different, we had a little flurry. I heard the tirrilink of firefinches and there they were, at the dripping tap birdbath. They usually hide from me.

– African Firefinch and Spectacled Weaver –

A Dark-capped Bulbul, A Dusky Fycatcher and Cape White-Eyes joined them.

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Special Little Ducks

On honeymoon in America in 1988 we saw lots of ducks! America has so much water; In the Everglades, Yosemite, the Puget Sound, Wyoming and Cape Cod we went looking for water – rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds, islands and sea inlets – and saw plenty of waterbirds, including thirty species of swans, geese and ducks. Being from Africa, the specials I was really looking out for were the swans – we saw Trumpeter and Mute – and the eider ducks – we saw the Common Eider.

But there was another special duck we really wanted to see! As huge fans of the Pygmy Goose in Africa, we noticed it had a rival: The Harlequin Duck. What fabulous little birds:

– African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus & Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus

I was reminded of this by a great post on DailyKos, where I learnt (a lot) more about the Harlequin Duck:

“I remain in awe of this plucky little duck and its amazing life history. I think of Harlequins as “feathered salmon” — making these epic lateral migrations from the ocean to inland freshwater streams to breed, similar to the upstream migration of salmon to freshwater spawning habitats. After pair-bonding at the coast, the male Harlequin follows the female inland to her natal stream, just as adult salmon home to the stream of their birth. Along whitewater streams within old-growth forests, the female selects a well-concealed nest site in a tree cavity, on a stump, or on a small cliff. Once she lays her clutch of 5-6 eggs, the male departs for molting grounds on the coast, leaving the female to incubate and raise the brood alone. In late summer, the female and her brood migrate together to the coast to ride out the storms of winter. What a life!”

We saw our Harlequin Ducks off beautiful Orcas Island while lurking naked in a hot tub overlooking an inlet to the Puget Sound.

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Pygmy Goose pics by By Derek Keats on wikipedia and Harlequin Duck pics by giddy thing on DailyKos and By Peter Massas on wikipedia – Thank You!

We Will Conserve Only . . .

“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” – Baba Dioum

Of course, that’s only if we don’t Kill What We Love. We’re very good at that, too.

The places I always think of that we killed cos we loved them are on the KZN north coast. Farmers would go to the beach with their tents for their fishing holidays, camping under the trees in the dense coastal forest. Then they built cottages, then their friends built cottages; then they built roads then the roads got tarred (about then we visited in 1963); then came flats, then high-rise flats and concrete paving and the rock pools had to be enlarged and deepened with concrete walls. Next thing you have a city right on the beach. There’s water, then a strip of sand and then concrete. No more dunes, no more forest.

Wonderful blogger The Bushsnob got me thinking of this when telling of his trips to the Masai Mara in the 1980’s. Lots of people love the Mara, so much so that he reckons we now have 118 lodges and camps and lodgings around the game reserve! That means MANY vehicles on the roads!

Soon we’ll need a parking lot.

‘You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone . . . ‘

Here’s what Joni Mitchell means by a ‘tree museum’ – we concrete the world, then leave tiny, ever-smaller islands of (sort-of) what used to be. This is a botanic garden she knew in Hawaii:

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Baba Dioum – Senegalese forestry engineer, joint winner of the Africa Food Prize.

Wanton Slaughter

Tobias Gumede got a call from his kids at his umuze out on the Makathini Flats north of Jozini: Three of his prize cattle have been slaughtered. Chopped with a bush knife, he says.

His wife Thulisiwe will be devastated. She runs the home very carefully based on her herd, always reluctant to sell an animal for cash, doing so only when really necessary.

He estimates the loss at over R10 000 per animal, as they were large ones. Thulisiwe will probably try and mitigate the loss by selling some of the meat and freezing some. Thank goodness for electricity and a fridge.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Blood on the Floor

The ole man has another tale to tell in the dramatic saga that is LIFE when approaching your centenary:

‘I looked down in the shower and my red facecloth was lying there. I thought Who The Heck put it there? Its usually in the bath, not the shower.’

Then I looked again and it was bigger than my facecloth and growing in size. It was blood. The shower floor was covered in blood. I immediately knew what it was.’ (He always immediately knows what things are, what caused them, and if you wait half a breath he’ll tell you the cure for it as well).

It was my diverticulitis again. You bleed out your bum from little pouches in your colon rupturing. I had an op, you know, years ago, but now it was back.

I called the office and two ladies came to help. I told them the cause and they lay me down and inspected my exhaust pipe. While the one was gazing intently up there, the other one said Hey, Look! There’s a big cut on his ankle!’

Turns out there was a sharp splinter on the corroded part of the shower aluminium door at ankle height and I had cut my ankle without even noticing it.

They bandaged me up and all’s well. AND as a bonus, I now know my bum’s fine.

Poor ladies need a medal, dark glasses and probly therapy.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sweet

The Old Goat’s usual crap when he phones: ‘What’s for supper?’ Sweet potato, I say. Blah blah, something about the price, always the price. The price here, the price in America, the price.

Ouma used to bake them in the oven with lotsa sugar and some butter, he recalls. I can remember the taste as if it was yesterday.

Wasn’t yesterday. That was a helluva long time ago.

ca.1927

~~~oo0oo~~~