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!

Forest Lawn, Elston Place

Our services were like this –
except for no silver caskets, no drums n bugles, and no liveried employees!  

When Bella died we buried her in the garden under the copse of trees over the birdbath. Then Aitch died and we – well, “we”, read about that! – buried her ashes there too. Then Blackie the gundwane (gerbil) and Cheeky the other gundwane (hamster) followed.

Then Janet and Trish’s dear old Dad Neil died and not too long after that – a year or two – their Mum Iona died. Neil’s ashes waited for Iona, and then when she was ready, Janet laid them both to rest in the same spot as well, with good ole Tobias Gumede’s help. He needed to re-cut the path so she could get there, the lovely remembrance spot had become very overgrown!

Lots of laughter and tears. Just like life with them all, come to think of it!

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Since then Sambucca the 12yr-old labrador has been plugged into the Elston Place earth, as has Flaky the 12yr-old American corn snaky! Both buried by TomTom – for a fee! Talk about a garden of remembrance!!

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gundwane – mouse; rat

Bella – dog; Aitch would say ‘doberman-ish; I’d say Canis africana

Aitch – Trish; dear wife; boss of the household; dog purchaser

Neil & Iona – outlaws; in-laws

Janet – twin sister of Aitch; sister of mine

Sambucca – only dog we ever paid for

Ohio Honeymoon

Honeymoon OhioOn our honeymoon in 1988 we visited good friend Larry Wingert. He’d been a Rotary exchange student to Harrismith in South Africa back in 1969-1970.

We flew out of Lawton Oklahoma to Dallas/Fort Worth, on to Little Rock Arkansas, to Cincinatti and on to our destination: Akron, Ohio. on Friday 8 April. Larry’s friend Dave “Zee” picked us up at the airport, took us to his condominium and fed us. Later, Larry fetched us in his Subaru and took us to his beautiful old home on North Portage Path.

I love the canoeing connection with his home: North Portage Path is an 8000 year old path along which native Americans portaged their canoes from the Cuyahoga river out of lake Erie, across a mere eight miles to the Tuscarawas River from where it flows into the Muskingum river, then into the Ohio and on to the Mississippi. Thus they could paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Of Mexico with only an eight mile portage, something any Dusi paddler would do without a second thought! The amazing thing: You can still paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico today, unbroken except for one short section – and along that you could pop in to Larry’s place for tea! America’s waterways are astonishing.

Larry indulged us lavishly. On our arrival in the States some weeks before, we received a letter saying “Please accept these portraits of old American Presidents and USE this plastic card!” Various big denomination dollar bills and a credit card for gas (or petrol)! How’s that!?

He then indulged Aitch’s joy in shopping, especially deli shopping at the best places.

Followed by a big cook-up at home . .

When a man is cooking you a steak you can pretend to love his cat . .

. . and music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!

Then he took us to parks and nature resorts for me to indulge in my birding passion. When he wasn’t able to join us, he handed over the keys to his Subaru. Above and beyond . .

One morning we visited Cuyahoga River State Park quarry area.

Afterwards we went shopping at another rather special deli – its obvious Larry is GOOD at this! For supper Larry cooked us some great steaks on his portable barbeque outside his kitchen door. We ate like kings.

A visit to Kendall Lake; Later to Cleveland’s Old Arcade Centre and a look at Lake Erie. Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; He had already spoiled us generously, now this.

Suitably fortified, we moved back home to liquers and piano and song! They shoved me aside and asked me to please stop singing. To bed 2am, rise 5.30am; off to Boston 13 April 1988. Cape Cod is next . .

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 . . .

Brasil in 1988

Aitch took me to Brasil. She had done well as usual in her sales for Scherag and so off we went. First a flight to Manaus in Amazonas province, then a long drive eastward along the Amazon River towards a lake just off the river, then by ferry to a pousada on Silves Island.

We weren’t married, but I was on my best behaviour and just watched as the bachelors (actual and temporary) in the party would trumpet every night ‘TooDooDoot TooDoo’ “we’re going fox-hunting!” they would announce at dinner and troop out with huge grins on their dials.

I stuck to feathered birds like oropendolas, huge toads, caymans and a fresh, very sad ocelot skin the lodge staff had proudly recently shot! Aaargh!

oropendola call

Then we headed way south to the coast, to Angra dos Reis – the Cove of Kings. A booze yacht trip to the islands and beaches and swimming. One night Aitch felt ill and announced she’d go to bed early, I must go to supper alone. Yes!? I said. Sure, she said. Enjoy yourself. Ha HAAA! I was off – after dressing in my warrior fox-hunting regalia. At supper I tooted the fox-hunting horn with the best of them and announced my newfound freedom. We were off.

We found a bar with a wonderful barman. He gave you anything you wanted and all you had to do was scribble your name! It was first-class. Another round! I’d yell and we’d throw down another marvelous caipirinha and fling the glass over our shoulder. No! No! said the barman, grabbing his broom and sweeping up the pieces. MORE BEER! I’d yell, getting into my stride now.

Of course, I can handle my liquor but some of the guys were less capable. In fact, they dropped me twice on the way back to my chalet. And once there they just propped me up against the door, knocked and ran away. So Aitch found me closely inspecting the door mat and mumbling how I’d have to have a word with them about their service.

She says she dragged me into the shower and ran the cold water full blast and threw me into bed but of course that could all be rumours I don’t know I wasn’t there.

I got up early and made breakfast, feeling sprightly. And where were all the culprits? Nowhere to be seen. All indisposed, it was said. That’s what drinking too much will get you. We checked out that day and I was made to pay a bill a metre long with some complete stranger’s signature on all the slips. A signature that got less and less of something until it was just a short downward line with what looked like drool on it. I just paid. Rumours were going around and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I was there as merely spouse-of, so I had to behave.

Yacht at Angra dos Reis, Brasil

On to Rio! To the Copacabana! I was sure there’d be some licenced premises there too. There were! Aitch turned thirty high up on the roof of our hotel, with her colleagues giving her a huge festive bash. We had a banner made to string above the bar “THIRTY! and UNMARRIED!” it said. We had a roaring party that had the hotel guests below us wanting us to hush and the favela okes on the hills above us wanting to join in!

Copacabana Beach from our hotel roof
the cantagalo favela seen from our hotel roof (wikipedia pic)

pousada – Lodge or Inn

Angra dos Reis – cove – or inlet or creek – of kings

caipirinha – wonderful cold drink; refreshing; then tiptoes around behind you and taps you on the shoulder

favela – informal housing; shacks on the steep hill slopes

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Another pic pf an oropendola, this one by blogger Eduardo Libby.

chestnut-headed oropendola

Labour of Love – Aitch

My bird list book made by Aitch back in 1985, soon after we met.

Aitch birdlist book

Every bird from Roberts handwritten – and done on the quiet so I only got to see the end result for my first xmas present from her!

After that we birded in other countries in Africa. Also in the USA, Brasil, UK, Europe, Malaysia and Indonesia. These lists I just hand-wrote in.

Here she is round about then . .

Aitch ca.1986 in Brasil