Workshop SwanSong

The old man has finally taken the momentous decision – after much kicking for touch, procrastination and setting obstacles in the way – to sell their house in Pietermaritzburg, home for the last (?) fourteen years, and – a way harder decision – his whole workshop;

Machines, stacks of wood, hand power tools, hand tools, nut screws and bolts, hinges, upholstery material; all the stuff he has accumulated over 120 years. Everything has to go. Well, almost everything. There’s a fair amount of ‘I’ll keep this’ and then ‘but where will I put it?’ OK, so he’s only 96, so its about sixty years worth of stuff.

The painful process is not without trepidation, hesitation and doubt, but he’s committed now: it’s going.

Luckily he has found a WONDERFUL person, ‘SUCH a nice chap’ to buy the whole workshop from him, lock, stock and barrel. ‘He has taken six bakkie and trailer loads away already and I reckon there’s about another four to go’ says the ole man.

Has he paid you? I ask. ‘What?’ Has he paid you? ‘Huh? Oh! No, not yet, but he will.’ OK, I say, but it’s perfectly reasonable to ask him to pay. Rather he pay now and avoid a drama afterwards. ‘Mm.’

So Sunday I go and observe the process. I thought I’d meet the wonderful Johan de Lange but he didn’t arrive.

16 Ivy Rd Workshop collage Dad

Already it’s half empty. You can now see it has a floor and some walls. I take pictures and ask What’s this? ‘Ah!’ He says, immediately animated, ‘that’s Indian waterbuffalo calf skin, tanned and dyed. I want to cover a chair seat with that.’

What’s this? ‘Ah! That was Oupa’s whetstone. That could be a hundred years old.’

‘Ah! That’s a Stanley spokeshave. They used them to make the spokes in the oxwagon wheels. I used it to make the speedboat I built. Remember I made a boat in the lounge on the plot? It’s also called a draw knife.’

‘Ah! That sketch? We went to Skukuza in Kruger and I saw a lovely bench there and wanted to make one, so I drew a sketch of it.’

‘These are wood turning chisels I made. I used special steel for the blades and turned the handles of olive wood.’

Where’d you get this old handsaw and the set square with brass inlay? ‘Old Mr Buckle had a Blacksmith shop in Harrismith down in McKechnie street before the war. I used to hang out there – remember I had horses when I first got to Harrismith? I used to shoe my horses there and he sold or gave me stuff he didn’t need.’ Before the war – so its eighty years of stuff, not sixty.

The fixed machinery is two thicknesser-and-planes, a Rockwell circular saw, a huge cast-iron bandsaw, a belt-sander (seen in the collage above), a 1m wood lathe with tilt and something. Each one has a story and why it’s a wonderful tool, its name and where it’s from.

I said I don’t recognise the make of the one thicknessers. ‘Ooh, that’s from Austria. Its a good make, but not well designed; it’s tricky to set the blades. I rebuilt it and made some improvements.’ In fact he was so chuffed with those improvements he encased the moving arts in perspex so you can see them. It would have been sad to hide them under a metal cover:

Emco-Rex b20 thicknesser aus Austria

And on and on. We didn’t get much done. I’ll have to write another post on it.

Judo Jess

You ous better watch out for my daughter Judo Jess! She’ll gooi you one shot!

Jess giving a mere guy what-for back in 2009.

See how mean she looks in the top picture!

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Here’s how she usually looks, I have to confess:

my bronze & gold medallists

Mom’s Days

Just in case anyone was thinking Aitch only had Mom’s Day, I gotta tell ya – not at all!

She had her birthday 6 January; She had her second birthday 6 July “‘cos it’s unfair my birthday is so close to Christmas, everyone used to give me one present, and my day was lost in the Xmas/New Year hype”. Right.

Then she was really big on the kids’ joint birthday 11 December, making that a big day, plus the two separate parties she would organise for them, there being a four-year age gap. I tried to combine it after she was gone – whatta disaster!

Then she always remembered the day we met, 27 August, I think. We would celebrate that. Also wedding anniversary 27 February. Celebrate.

Then CHRISTMAS!! An Aitch Day if ever there was one! She was BIG on Christmas. Much planning, buying and the whole house had to be changed: Xmas decorations – putting up the tree was an event! – Xmas crockery, Xmas coffee mugs, Xmas lights, Xmas pictures on the walls, all other paintings had to come down. Mantelpieces would be festooned.

Then she had Mothers’ Day when the kids made a big fuss – she’d see to it. And last but definitely not least there was All Fools Day, April Fools Day – my birthday. You won’t believe how she went to town. She’d get a Big Brass Band to play!

I’m not joking:

Whoa! What a surprise!! Mario Montereggi’s Band! No flies on Aitch!

Mom’s Day

Jess picked the flowers, Tom did the braai. We had chops, ribs and wors with garlic bread, plus some fried beans and mushrooms. I had beer and vino. We raised a glass to Mom!

We Won’t Stop . .

. . till we have concreted the whole planet and burnt the last scuttle of coal and barrel of oil.

We won’t.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 415 parts per million (ppm) last week for the first time in 800 000 years. Scientists have warned that the world must keep CO2 emissions below 350 ppm to avoid dangerous levels of climate change – but emissions keep rising.

The record high was measured on May 3 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, part of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) global monitoring division.

This is the highest level recorded at this station since it began keeping records in 1959. Analysis of the ice cores in Antarctica show that over the last 800 000 years the CO2 levels in the atmosphere fluctuated between 170 ppm and 300ppm.

Climate organisations say this record high level is a strong indicator that governments must take climate change seriously and move away from fossil fuels. 

We won’t. Our grandkids will wonder why.

An Armrest Kink

You need to kick back with Binocs, Beer, Telescope on Tripod and – lately – Camera to do your front porch birding justice, and I have just the chair for it on my porch – a Lazy Boy thingamiebob. Newish . .

An Argentine-African United Nations veterinarian writes a lovely blog he calls A Bush Snob Out Of Africa. In it he has a feature called Spot The Beast in which he shows a picture of a cryptic or camouflaged creature and invites you to find it. Then he zooms in to reveal an insect on bark, or a mantis, a leaf butterfly or moth, a frog, even a cheetah hidden in grass. I love it.

So go back to the picture above and see if you can spot the dragon or dinosaur sharing my chair today. Only then scroll down:

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A Striped Skink waits for flies to approach

While I’m at it, I may as well mention some other lizards I have seen . .

A snake?

No, a Legless Skink, on the road in Hluhluwe Game Reserve

A snake?

No, A Grass Lizard – The Cavern, in the Drakensberg
Spot three of his tiny legs

A snake? About the size of an earthworm . .

Yes, a Thread Snake at home in Westville. The sharp tip is his tail

Maybe Peters’ Thread Snake Leptotyphlops scutifrons – known to be found in the Durban area.

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Here’s the birding spot in full operational mode:

Election Day

Twenty five years ago we stood in this same queue at the same school with Mrs Kiza Cele and voted for freedom from the Nats. Close to River Drive, we walked there that day.

Kiza a couple years later, with Jess

It was a joyous day. Some of the joy has faded, but then age always brings a fading. After voting I took some pics in the garden at 10 Elston. We’ve been here thirteen years now, catching up with the fifteen years we spent at River Drive.

A Wasp, a Dragonfly, a Butterfly, a Carpenter Bee and a Cycad