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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

I’m Losing My Social Skills and I Don’t Want Them Back

This heading really struck a chord with me. I clicked on it right away. Turns out it was about working in an office, then staying at home under COVID, so I could relate to that; but this was a far more serious case involving discrimination. His or her full post is here.

So very different, but a kernel of truth that related to me in there: I liked and could relate to his or her conclusion: I don’t want my old social skills back. He’s happy with giving less effs than before, and targeting more well-deserved effs where they’re deserved. And so am I.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Some of the comments on that post were great, too:

  • ‘I have worked through my people-pleasing issues;’
  • ‘I am curbing ‘a life-long habit of “giving ‘effs” to others who really did not deserve the deference?’
  • ‘It’s not that I dislike people, and have given them the mental “heave-ho,” instead it is that I love myself enough now to no longer allow my peace and sense of self to be captured and manipulated by others (even well-meaning others).’

~~~oo0oo~~~

I like to think its all part of a well thought out logical process. But it could, of course, just be the normal progression of life:

The progression of life . . .

Jess and Kerry

I phoned Kerry this am to say, Sorry! Jess Won’t Be Making Her Apt This Morning. She’s not taking my calls. Please do what you would normally do with a missed apt. I don’t expect special treatment.

‘Oh No, No: You ARE getting special treatment! Not Negotiable,’ says special lady Kerry firmly! She who loves Jess and loved Aitch and still remembers her from way back when she used to take a young Jess to her consults! Must be fifteen years ago.

Eyes went all blurry for a while.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Our Kiwi Kousin

. . South Island Swanie!

The youngest and tallest of the Ten Cousins went to New Zealand. He and wife Julie live on the North Island. Adventurous souls, they have been planning a tour for a while now. So recently they just did it: Hopped onto their motorbike and off they went. Here are some extracts and pictures from Solly’s – or Swanie’s – account of their trip.

New Zealand South Island Trip – Feb 2021 – On a fully-laden bike – 230kg all-up – we left home in New Plymouth for Wellington. 

– OK, luckily not this bike – theirs was a bit newer –

Visited Wellington CBD and the Te Papa museum. Julie went to see the WOW (World of Wearable art) exhibition while I went to see the Gallipoli exhibition (https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/visit/exhibitions/gallipoli-scale-our-war). The next day, Saturday, friends took us to see parts of Wellington that we never get to.

Then it was the ferry to Picton and from there to Cheviot via Kaikoura, where in 2016, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake lifted the land by a few meters to lay bare a rocky shore that had been underwater for millennia! That shake, 350km from us as the crow flies, had us so scared that we moved out of the house that night!

– on board the ferry –
– Kaikoura – exposed seabed after the earthquake –
– Julie taking a break in Kaikoura –

Down the coast to Moeraki of the famous Moeraki Boulders on the beach.  We stayed in a cabin in the Caravan Park and the manager at the park said the boulders are just twenty minutes’ walk along the beach.  Or on a walkway just off the beach. After about half an hour we had not yet reached the sandy beach and could see the boulders in the distance about another two km away. I said to Julie Don’t worry, I’ll call an Uber once we get there, and we kept walking.  As we got to the sandy beach, a red Audi with two elderly ladies came driving past us and waved.  We saw them stop later to walk their dog on the beach. As we approached, the Bull Terrier came running straight at us and just wanted to play. I managed to calm it down and started talking. The two lovely ladies said they would come up to the boulders and pick us up if we’re still there. How’s that?  Who, in their wildest dreams, could have wished for a V10 Audi A6 5.2FSI QUATTRO AVANT Uber? I offered to shout them a drink at the local, but JJ, the owner of the ‘Uber invited us to her house for drinks.  What a stunning artistic lady she was. She said she was 70, but she looked more like 69.  This was one of the highlights of our trip.

– Dunedin Station Building –

The next day we left Kaka Point in the rain again and rode through the Catlins via Slope Point to Invercargill where the Burt Munro bike rally is held. More gravel roads. The bike was very dirty by now, but was behaving well.

– Solly: In some places even the dogs can climb a tree –

Invercargill was alive with bikes from all over the country. The Burt Munro Challenge is NZ’s biggest bike rally and runs for four days with several events like drag racing, beach racing, street racing, circuit racing and speedway with the odd bit of hooliganism mixed in. (Ooh, Solly would have hated that! 😉 ;-). The first two days in Invercargill was the typical blustery, rainy weather of Southland, but luckily after that it cleared up.

Next day it was off to Manapouri just about twenty km down the road to join the Doubtful Sound overnight trip.  Katie the KTM had to sleep in the public car park overnight, chained to a drain grid. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of that.

We got on a boat and travelled across Lake Manapouri; then a one hour bus trip over the gravel Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound and onto another boat. Cruising down the sound with the mountains towering above you on both sides is amazing. Down the Thompson Sound back to the Tasman Sea for a beautiful sunset. We briefly saw two Beaked whales before they took a dive.

Doubtful Sound, which is located in the Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is absolutely picturesque. Please check out this link. https://www.fiordland.org.nz/visit/fiordland-national-park/

Like the Trout Farms in South Africa, there is a Salmon farm in Wanaka where you hire a rod, catch some Salmon, pay by weight (a very reasonable price compared to the supermarket) and then you can have it cooked there or take it with you. One can get carried away quickly so I limited myself to two fish. We had one there, prepared hot smoked and sashimi. The other we swapped for cold smoked and had that for breakfast the next two days. Delicious!!

Then we took a boat trip to an island in Lake Wanaka called Mou Waho Island. On this island is a pool about 150m up via a fifteen minute walk with some beautiful scenery.

From Wanaka it was over the Haast pass to the West Coast via the aptly namesd Blue Pools and numerous waterfalls. Beautiful road!!

After Jackson Bay it was up the coast to Fox Glacier and Lake Matheson a short ride away. We walked 3.5km around the lake – amazing scenery.

The next morning we took a helicopter flight up to the glacier where we landed on the snow. What an experience!

From there it was up to Carters Beach at Westport where we stayed at a lovely park near the beach.

-the beautiful west coast road –

From Carters Beach it was a three hour trip via the beautiful Buller Gorge to Nelson.  By now there was a serious front pushing in from the South and warnings of severe weather for the West Coast. Lucky for us, that bad weather was following behind us. God is a biker! The West Coast has an average of 200 days a year of rain. We managed to experience the days that were sunny!

From Nelson a short ride to Picton via the Queen Charlotte Drive. Queen Charlotte Drive is only about 40km long, but it takes about an hour.  Speed limit is 50km/h and there would be about six corners or more in every kilometre and the surface is not the best. Lots of slips make the tar sag down the slope so one has to be very vigilant, but the scenery makes up for it.

After nearly 4000km we were happy to be back home, sore arses and all. Sorry, no photos of those!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Solly says his ‘other hobby’ is distilling! – I hope to find out more soon.

Explorers 18. Verreaux

Jules Pierre Verreaux (1807 – 1873) was a French botanist and ornithologist and a professional collector of, trader in, and sometimes thief of natural history specimens.

Verreaux worked for the family business, Maison Verreaux, established in 1803 by his father, Jacques Philippe Verreaux, at Place des Vosges in Paris, which was the earliest known company that dealt in objects of natural history. The company was later run by his older brother Édouard. It funded collection expeditions to various parts of the world. Maison Verreaux sold many specimens to the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle to add to its collections.

Jules Verreaux began his training in the family business at just 11 years of age, when he accompanied his uncle, naturalist Pierre Delalande, to the South African Cape. They stayed there exploring and collecting from 1818-1820, among their achievements being the first hippopotamus skeleton acquired for the Paris Museum of Natural History. Back in Paris, Verreaux attended anatomy classes under zoologist Georges Cuvier, and began to show an aptitude for taxidermy.

Verreaux worked in South Africa again in 1825, where he helped Andrew Smith found the South African Museum in Cape Town.

No stranger to scandal in his lifetime, while in South Africa Jules Verreaux was summoned to court after a woman claimed to have borne his son. Verreaux had previously asked Elisabeth Greef to marry him, but revoked the proposal. The young mother then brought a suit against him, but lost the case as Verreaux was still a minor at the time of the proposal in 1827.

He was reputed to have set out on the trail of various already extinct and mythical creatures in the Cape, including the unicorn.

More body-snatching: In 1830, while travelling in modern-day Botswana Verreaux witnessed the burial of a Tswana warrior. Verreaux returned to the burial site under cover of night to dig up the African’s body where he retrieved the skin, the skull and a few bones. Verreaux intended to ship the body back to France and so prepared and preserved the African warrior’s corpse by using metal wire as a spine, wooden boards as shoulder blades and newspaper as a stuffing material. Then he shipped the body to Paris along with a batch of stuffed animals in crates. In 1831, the African’s body appeared in a showroom at No. 3, Rue Saint Fiacre. It was later returned and buried in Botswana in 2000.

Jules’ brother Édouard delivered a consignment of collections back to Paris in 1831, and returned to South Africa with the third Verreaux brother, Alexis. Alexis remained in South Africa for the rest of his life, while the course of Édouard and Jules’ lives over the next decade is somewhat confused. Some sources say that both travelled to China and the Philippines and remained there until 1837, but it is also possible that Jules stayed in South Africa during this time. He seems to have returned to Paris in 1838, in which year a large number of his collections were lost in a shipwreck while being transported back to Paris.

In 1864 he took over as assistant naturalist at the Paris Museum. In 1870 he left France at the start of the Franco-Prussian War, seeking refuge in England. He remained there for the concluding three years of his life.

Jules Verreaux left a particular legacy in ornithology. Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus bear his name; More a trader than a scientist, his specimen labels often give only the country of provenance and are sometimes attributed to localities incorrectly, perhaps to make them more commercially valuable, but diminishing their scientific value.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sources: JSTOR; wikipedia
Anon., 1874, Ibis, 16(4): 467-469
M. Gunn and L.E.W. Codd, 1981, Botanical Exploration of Southern Africa
M. Molina, 2002, “More notes on the Verreaux brothers”, Pula Botswana Journal of African Studies, 16(1): 30-36.

Explorers 19. Delalande

Pierre Antoine Delalande (1787 – 1823), French naturalist, explorer, and painter from Versailles, was the son of a taxidermist in the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He worked for the museum from a young age, and became the assistant of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. He was also a painter who had trained in the studio of animal painter Jean-Baptiste Berré, situated in the Jardin des Plantes, and who exhibited landscapes and animal paintings in the Salons de Paris.

As an employee of the Museum, Delalande travelled to southern Africa in 1818, accompanied by his 12-year-old nephew Jules Verraux. They made three journeys into the interior between November 1818 and September 1820: eastward along the coast from Cape Town; northward to Olifants River; and northeastward from Algoa Bay as far as the Keiskamma River.

On their return in 1821, they took back an astounding 131,405 specimens, among them the museum’s first complete whale skeleton (from a 23 metre beached whale he dissected in situ over a period of two months), as well as giraffes, rhinoceroses, a hippopotamus, and human remains (some of them unearthed (i.e stolen) from an old cemetery in Cape Town and from the Grahamstown battlefield). He also brought back a mineral collection, 10,000 insects, 288 mammals, 2205 birds, 322 reptiles, 265 fish, 3875 shellfish, and various human skulls and skeletons from a Cape Town cemetery and from the 22 April 1819 Battle of Grahamstown between the invasive British forces and the local Xhosa. All the living plants in their collection were abandoned in Cape Town and many specimens of their extensive herbarium were lost in transit.

He returned to France with his health badly damaged by tropical infections. For his efforts he received the Légion d’Honneur but no financial reward. Shortly before his death, he published an account of his expedition in the museum bulletin.

He is honoured in the specific names of a swallowtail butterfly, Papilio delalandei ; three birds, Delalande’s sand frog Tomopterna delalandii in the picture above, three lizards, a gecko and a snake.

Sources: JSTOR; wikipedia; M. Prevost and J. Balteau, 1933, Dictionnaire de Biographie Française: 662-663.

Balls n Balls n Birthdays

I met Jaynee J through optometry. She had launched a hugely successful large-format glossy trade magazine VISION which changed the way eyeball marketing was done in Africa. So I had to meet her.

And there she was: This gorgeous blonde Pomshell laughing, thriving and swigging champagne! Succeeding and enjoying. Larger than life. Full of adventure, mischief and mirth. Unforgettable!

She got hugely involved in things optometric and ophthalmic, becoming famous in no time. Then suddenly one day Jayne’s focus changed. Oh no! She was no longer solely focused on us Eyeball Mechanics! She had a lot of strange new men in her life. What was going on?

Then I saw: She’d launched a similar magazine for vets. Veterinary surgeons. Testicle Mechanics. Now when I’d visit her, weird okes would rock up at The Rock with scarves tied round their heads. Everyone knows where a scarf goes. Around your neck. But these ous were on motorcycles. Holly DaveySounds they called them – and they had a weird sound. I dunno, a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning was always good enough for me.

Ever-versatile, our Jaynee J had transitioned from eyeballs to dogs balls. Detailed descriptions followed of primitive de-nackering surgery in Mocambique vs high-tech de-nackering surgery in Sandton. I think she enjoyed my empathetic squirming.

Jayne Champagne

Ever-mobile, she moved from Lonehill to the Reeds to the Rock to Vilanculos. Every place she moved into was The Best and Wonderful and became a place where great meals were served with champagne. Always lashings of champagne. ‘Hold the bottle at 45°and you won’t waste any!’ None was wasted.

Recently Jaynee J had a big round birthday and her kids Jessie and Jason gathered a bunch of tributes and made a video for her. Lots of lovely people saying lots of lovely things. All true, like this tribute.

She has also featured here and here and here and here and here and here.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Top pic: Jayne acting godma to our kids.

Autumn Driveway Butterflies

I was seeing a visitor off at my bottom gate – manually operated with chain n padlock – and butterflies were flitting all around us. Kept me busy for half an hour after they’d left, photographing them with my little Canon SX620HS.

Junonia natalica – Natal Pansy

Junonia terea – Soldier Pansy

Tagiades flesus – Clouded Skipper

Belenois creona ssp severina – African Common White – got the ID of this one from experts on iNaturalist.org

Whenever the Skipper flew there was a flash of pure white, but I didn’t get a shot of its underside. So I’m pleased Steve Woodhall has this pic in his field guide:

– pure white on the underside hindwing and body –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Half a House Living

While our renovations were being done in 2011 and 2012, we lived in the bedroom wing. Jess and Tom kept their bedrooms, mine became the lounge; we all shared their bathroom and my bathroom became the kitchen. Worked fine.

– Tom and his mate Josh snugly azizz –
– bedroom wing passage boarded up and sealed from the mess –
– my main bedroom became our lounge –
– with all mod cons, hey, Jess? –

I had a mattress on the lounge floor which I’d stow away by day. Looxury.

‘Course it took longer than we planned, but we were OK.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Rains but Pours

A light shower started which soon increased to a heavy downpour, then back to a light shower followed by sunshine. Another lovely day. The end.

..

People say they can make it rain by having a braai. My rain seems to come after I have eventually and reluctantly had to top up my pool to just above the weir after enduring the kreepy krauly pool cleaner’s death rattle for too long.

~~~oo0oo~~~

A Jessie Makeover!

Jessie’s new friend Sandy took her off to the Pav and sorted her out like a big sister! Even though she only takes Jess up to her shoulder, she’s a great big sis. They did hair, clothes, shoes – actually boots – nails, eyelashes, the works. A vast improvement from her boring Mom, me.

~~~oo0oo~~~

High-Powered Publishing

Now that Charlie and I actually have his book at the printers (we were going to order one book, but in a bold move we doubled the order!), I can tell the story of The New York Times Best-Seller List. Hold on to your seats, it’s a roller-coaster ride.

In the two years we’ve spent writing this best-seller-to-be (well yes, Charles wrote, but someone had to supervise, and OK, yes that was mainly Barbara, but someone had to edit. OK, so Rory was chief editor, but only cos he had experience and has actually published a book himself. Jeesh, I can prove I was there!). As I was saying before I was pedantically interrupted, while the author and I were in our office at the publishing house week after week except during lockdown, which knocked out a few months, and not while Charles was away on multiple adventures on mountains, beaches and kloofs, we casually discussed the New York Times Best-Seller List from time to time.

Did I say office? We actually used the boardroom, so we could spread out our plans and drafts and photos and things:

– the boardroom – someone should clean the pool –

Over coffee and stone scones freshly-made by Barbara – who would phone to check they’d been delivered and not secretly scoffed, they were that delicious – we would casually throw around NYT BS List numbers. That’s New York Times Best-Seller List for those who aren’t as aux fait with these things as we are. Various numbers were thrown around and eventually we settled on these: Fifty or One Hundred. It’s a big decision. We haven’t decided yet. But then came trouble: I started reading about the NYT BS List.

I know why people warn against reading. Reading is dangerous. You find out things. I too sometimes warn against reading certain stuff. Not our book! No, you must read our book when it comes out to great fanfare, but other stuff you must be careful, cos if you read, you find out stuff.

Like how to get on to the NYT BS List. Here’s how:

There are “marketing consultancies” which specialise in getting books onto bestseller lists. For clients willing to pay enough, they will even guarantee a No. 1 spot. They do this by taking bulk sales and breaking them up into smaller, more normal-looking individual purchases, thus defeating safeguards that are supposed to make it impossible to “buy” bestseller status. In other words, they’ll cheat for you.

It’s not cheap. Here’s an example from 2013: If your book is listed at R400 retail, it might cost you about R336 a copy. To ensure a spot on the (lesser) Wall Street Journal bestseller list, you’d need to commit to a minimum of 3000 books – about R1 000 000. A million Ront. Multiply these numbers by a factor of about three to hit the more desirable New York Times list. We’re at THREE MILLION RONT Sterling. Plus there’s the crooks’ “consultancy fees” for cheating and lying and manipulating on your behalf. That was around R300 000 in 2013.

Authors who do this often reach the required pre-sale figures by securing commitments from corporate clients, who agree to buy copies as part of speaking fees, and by the authors buying copies for themselves to hand out to friends and family and to resell at public appearances.

It’s a laundering operation aimed at deceiving the book-buying public into believing a title is more in-demand than it is. People in the industry don’t like talking about bestseller campaigns, as they know any detailed discussion exposes the fact that they simply allow people with enough money, contacts, and know-how to buy their way onto “bestseller” lists. Appearing on the New York Times Best-Seller List increases sales by 13 or 14 percent on average, but first-time authors’ sales increase by 57 percent! We could sell 157 books here!

Right, so that’s what we’ll do.

Sure, we might need to sell our houses and Charles his 1979 shark-gilled Mercedes, but he says he’d get a good price for the Merc cos of the gills in the bodywork which he says are actually functionally necessary, not just babe-catchers. Myself I wonder, but I spose when one is catching older, more sophisticated babes the mating call of a loud exhaust note alone won’t cut it?

~~~oo0oo~~~

2013 story in Forbes magazine

more from 2017. And info on wikipedia

In an interesting example of how, once you start lying you have to keep lying, and then when you’re caught lying you just say, “Well, I didn’t mean it to be taken seriously, and no-one believes I’m serious anyway,” when The New York Times was sued for $6 million by an author who claimed that his book had been deliberately excluded from the list, The Times countered that the list was not mathematically objective but rather was “editorial content;” that it’s just “free speech,” and thus protected under the US Constitution. Holy guacamole! They’re saying “Yeah we lied, but we’re allowed to lie.”

So, seeing that the famous list that everyone wants to get onto is not objective factual content, the Times assumes the right to exclude books it doesn’t like from the list! So, the august ‘paper of record’ is saying something like: “Well, this IS a ‘best-seller’ list (more or less) IF we think the book should be a best-seller. It has little to do with whether or not it actually has ‘sold best.'”

And talking of cheats, Mitt Romney crassly boosted his book’s sales figures by insisting that his book tour hosts buy at least $25,000 worth of copies of his book before he would speak at their gatherings!

~~~oo0oo~~~

iNyanga vs EBM

On the way to Tobias Gumede’s umuzi north of Jozini on the Makathini Flats of the Pongola river floodplain, you pass a nyanga’s advertising billboard. He can sort out all your problems.

Not all his own, though, so he died and the new nyanga re-wrote the promises when we last went there.

Tobias’ home had also been upgraded. He’d added a covered entrance porch:

Leaving his home and continuing north you cross the Pongola where a magnificent old fig suffers the depredations of progress, erosion exposing its roots to a dangerous degree.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The new nyanga sign says (take my translation with a pinch of salt):

his gift we built

(can’t) stop

that which advances

the big (important) traditional doctor

~~~oo0oo~~~

April 2018: Tobias has just walked in. He has come to work straight from the hospital where they measured his blood pressure: 204 over 124! I sat him down and told him don’t move until that BP is down! So, much to his dismay, he’s under house arrest today. He has taken his muti and will take again tonight and tomorrow, then we’ll see if we can release him! But I’m fine! he protested, so I told him in gruesome detail what high BP can do to you, with a graphic artistic demonstration when I got to the ‘fall down dead’ stage. ‘Twas a powerful performance.

Glad he didn’t see the nyanga. I’m an EB Medicine Man. Evidence-Based Medicine EBM.

Later: I bought a supply of his two tablets and kept them at home with strict instructions: If you forget to take your tablets at home, take them here. Never miss! Yebo baba.

March 2020: On his last day before the COVID-19 lockdown I gave them to him to take home. Now it’s April 2021 and he assures me he takes them faithfully. I once again asked him, When you hear a man has suddenly died, what usually killed him? He couldn’t answer right away and I prompted him and he remembered. Oh yes! The ‘PRESSURE.‘ Yep, Take Your Pills, I droned.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Hluhluwe with Jess

Just two nights with Jess at Hilltop camp. This time the luxury of ‘breakfast included’ in the restaurant, while for dinner we grilled big juicy steaks both nights.

Dad, you’re not taking photos of impalas, are you?! Jess likes to keep moving, looking for the Big Five and teases her friends who want to take pics of things she’s seen before! Yes, Jess, I like their bums and I like the different sizes, three Moms, a teenager, a pre-teen and a toddler. Hmph!

Omigawd! You seriously stopped for a butterfly!? she teases next. Don’t worry, it’s all a game.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Workshop – New Chapter

The old man gave up his workshop in Ivy Road with great regret about a year ago. Now he has finally finished enclosing the front porch of his cottage to use as his new micro-workshop, where he hopes to do a bit of wood-turning, make some clocks and some mosaic pictures.

After a long saga of great criticism about the poor work ethic of Maritzburg builders, largely endured by Sheila who has stuck with him through thick and thin, he finally has what he wanted. When he announced it, Barbara and Sheila swooped in, fetching all the stuff he had stored at his friend Johan’s workshop and moved it into his lounge, forcing his hand. Suddenly he had to stop moaning and get to work.

Mom & Dad in Azalea cottage – that door leads to the new workshop

Slowly, slowly he moved it all into the workshop. This meant he could no longer get in there. So today he tells me he’s going to move half of it back into the lounge while he puts up five shelves, whereupon he’ll move it all back and he will then be able to get into the workshop and start doing his thing. Except he can only do three shelves, the bottom two he’ll have to have done as he can’t bend down to do them. Ons sal sien if he can complete his first project before he turns 99. The race is on.

The feature pic shows the old Montgomery-Ward desktop wood-lathe he wanted to use. He may have bought a better one since then? He spoke about it a lot.

The WARDS Powr-Kraft Model 9WFD Number 2002 Factory 952, made in USA by Montgomery-Ward. Seems ca.1930 – 1940.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Call Me Archie

I was miffed when they made a graven image of the archbishop! They’d removed the glasses I made for him before they made the mould of him to cast him in bronze.

Years later I was mollified. They made another graven image of him and this time they left his glasses on!

I cant see, did they engrave my name on the frame? On the lenses?

~~~oo0oo~~~