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~~~

Magistrates Court

Welcome to the real world! Walking towards the entrance of the Durban Magistrates Courts, the first convo I overhear is, "Ons sukkel om n prokureur te kry vir Pa, hulle se almal, 'domestic violence?' en dan weier hulle." !!
Once inside I wander around, lost. A tall masked man all dressed in black sees me and asks Need Help? I say 'First Timer.' He says, Well, see if you can get legal aid, otherwise, here's my number. My fees are low for first appearances. Lovely friendly guy, name of Neville. Sounds very English! I tease. Neville Ngcobo, he says in a private school accent. I say my friend inside is N Ngcobo too! Ms N Ngcobo. I'll have to give you an even better deal! he now teases. 

A scrawny lil guy with an older guy is nearing the end of his tether. 'If he say-s that one more time I'm going to swear him!' he threatens in that unmistakable Durban-Delhi accent. Older guy with him tells him Calm Down.
'Go and wait outside, security will call you in by the name of the person on the list,' says the man at the info desk on the first floor. I go out onto the lawn. Lovely day. Sunny with a nice breeze, which I keep so its always blowing away from me. As the sun strengthens I seek shade for my bald head.

At 10.42 I go in and ask security wassup. 'No, we're still waiting for the list,' says the man  

At 11.24am there's a stirring. Everyone crowds towards the door. Names are called and people move in, going to support their people. Quite a few names are called with no reaction. No-one to help those poor blighters. Then Ziggy's name is called. I go in. 'YOU for Nonsikilelo Ngcobo!?' the lady with the list asks pointedly. I nod, walk in.
Now I'm in court D, waiting. The court official ladies are talking: 
We got a 'theft.' Hey, we got a 'driving under the influence.' Eish, when last!? We seldom get those. All we get is DRUGS.
Some poor young fella is up before the beak. He's entirely on his own. No one to support him. He is asked what language he prefers. English, he says. Magistrate looks up and peers at him over his specs: Own lawyer, represent yourself, or legal aid? asks the robe. I'd like legal aid please, says the young man. The magistrate intones, 'No bail is granted. You are remanded in custody till your next court date on 21st June.'  He tries to be brave but his shoulders slump slightly. 
I ask the policewoman in court if I just need to wait and get a bit of attitude, but at least she confirms Ziggy is here. Tells me, 'Wait outside, I'll call you.' Damn, I wanted to watch and listen!
At last there's Ziggy! She sees me with huge relief, so tears roll down onto her mask. She's been in police custody for three nights, barefoot and no cellphone. I signal relax relax and bump my heart "Don't worry girl, stay strong!" When no-one can see she whips her mask down and mouths "I'm so so sorry!" with more tears!
A legal gentleman (legal aid defendant?) asks, Who's here for Ms Ngcobo? I say I am, sir, and he comes over very polite and asks who am I? How'm I related?  Family friend? Where's her Mom? I give my details and her Mom's and he asks, after checking if I can confirm her Mom's address is real: How's R500 for bail? I say that's fine thank you. 

He tells the judge: First offender, no record, no job, no child, has a place to go to, has someone who'll pay. Will his lordship accept R500 bail? Prosecutor agrees. Magistrate says his ritual and agrees.  Tells her to show up on 24 June early am, tells her what happens if she doesn't: warrant for her arrest and forfeit bail. Then he grants bail. Relief. Zig tries to disguise her tears.
They keep her while I am taken downstairs to go and pay bail. Then back up two flights. There's Zig still. Hand over receipt and clerk says wait, you need to keep this to get it refunded.
And we're outa there. Ziggy barefoot since Friday. Hungry. I give her the packet with all the goodies n toiletries, toothpaste, tissues etc I'd packed for her Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today. Finally I can give it to her (no parcels allowed, no visitors allowed, nothing, both police stations said, even though the 'your rights' pamphlet they gave Ziggy clearly says she had the right to have certain visitors). 
She uses a kilometer of toilet tissue first, then cooldrink. Thank you SO much, Geezer!

We have a long barefoot walk to my car. She asks do you have a spare mask, Geezer? Oh thank you so much! Mine is full of prison! She's been wearing it for 72hrs straight, slept with it on in the crowded holding cells.
Then home. She has three weeks to ponder. 

~~~oo0oo~~~

The day before, Sunday, my lawyer had torn himself away from visiting friends in Ballito and joined me at Durban Central police station. They wouldn’t let him see Ziggy as he didn’t have his special Lawyer ID card, but they did take a note to her asking if she had a family lawyer, so at least she knew for the first time someone outside was aware she was inside.

Monday after the hearing I sms’d him: Got R500 bail, case set for 24 June. Thanks for your help! Tuesday I wrote his ladies, Your Boss was a star on a white horse on a SUNDAY, please send a bill. They wrote back a formal lawyer’s letter on a pdf, ‘Thank your for the gesture, we will not charge you for the work done on Sunday.’ So I sms’d him, ‘Does that motley crew you hang out with* know that you’re actually a gentleman?’ His reply: ‘Probably not. I don’t want that to get out and ruin my reputation.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Ons sukkel om n prokureur te kry vir Pa, hulle se almal, ‘domestic violence?’ en dan weier hulle – Battling to get a lawyer for Dad; When they hear ‘domestic violence’ they don’t want to get involved.

* He hangs out with a bunch of geezers who swim from pier to pier in the early mornings. With the sharks and – IN SPEEDOS! At their age!

Gated Community

When we bought this home over fifteen years ago I reluctantly said to my estate agent wife Aitch, OK, we’ll do it, but then we live in it as is, no spending anything on it for five years, OK? I was making like I was in charge, knew what I was doing and, as the Head of the Household I was Laying Down The Law.

Right.

‘Of course, Koosie,’ said Aitch, patting me on the top of my bald head soothingly. ‘After we’ve sorted out the security we won’t spend anything on our home for five years.’ One of the things I liked about the place was it was unfenced and there were no burglar guards on any windows or doors. It looked great. Wide open spaces overlooking the 100ha Palmiet nature reserve. So after Aitch had a new high fence installed with two automated gates, an automated garage door, trellidoors on all the doors and guards on all the windows she said, ‘There you go. No more expenditure.’

And she was as good as her word. As the five year deadline dawned she made plans to ‘sort out’ the rest. Big plans. Dammit then she died on the very day the builders arrived to start the huge changes. Right now she’s wagging her finger at me from up high on her cloud for the lovely open-plan kitchen she never got to use (which, BTW Aitch, is WAY bigger and more-er than I need!). The best-laid plans . . .

Due to no supervision the new wide sliding doors have no trellidoors – cos I think trellidoors are ugly; and due to normal neglect and lack of maintenance the gates and the garage door stopped working in time. I know – or I’ve heard – some people are organised enough to put moth balls in their gate motors every month or so, to keep the ants out, but not everyone has that technical skill set. So we reverted to manual operation and to often leaving the gate or gates open for convenience. The garage door too, reverted to manual up and down. It’s a bit like Eskom: What did we do before candles were invented? We had electricity.

Now we’re automated again, and even have cameras nogal! New gate motors, a new garage door motor and new security gates on doors. An insurance assessment laid out what I needed to do to not be paying for insurance only to have a claim refused. Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted. By turning over a new leaf tree forest I’m sure I will be so much better on routine maintenance from now on. Already my neighbours who charge their cellphones here and draw water at our tap have asked, ‘And now, Pete?’

They do approve, though. They’ve ‘always said, Pete you should . . . ‘ – You know how it goes.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Screw Hymn

Mom Mary Methodist tells me she played all the hymns she can remember on the piano in the dining room before breakfast this morning. It’s Sunday, see. She plays ‘for the oldies’ (she’s ninety two, some of the oldies are in their seventies already). ‘They liked them so much I played them all again.’

And she tells me one of the ladies found a screw about an inch and a half long yesterday, and walked round asking everyone, ‘Who’s got a screw loose?’ ‘She’s quite a wag,’ says Ma. ‘When she got to me I murmured to her, ‘Just about all of us, I think.’

Some of the inmates crowd around the piano when she plays. ‘Shame,’ she says, When the meal arrives and I stop playing, some of them have to be shown where their tables are. They’re quite lost.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

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~~~

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~~~

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~~~