A frog he would a-wooing go, Heigh ho! says Rowley, A frog he would a-wooing go, Whether his mother would let him or no. With a rowley, powley*, gammon, and spinach, Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.
Like all good nursery rhymes, they all came to a bloody end. Dead, the lot of them, by the end of the rhyme. And they’re for children, of course, so there’s mention of spinach! See all the words here.
Aitch and I enjoyed some lovely frogging outings in our courting days and pre-children days. Sometimes with Barry & Lyn Porter at their three main ‘patches,’ Hella Hella (Game Valley Estates), inland of Port Shepstone (the litchi farm) and Betty’s Bay (which Barry’s father donated to the nation for a nature reserve), but the two of us ‘frogged’ all over the place, filling in data for the frog atlas by ADU at UCT’s Fitztitute. We had a lot of fun doing that. We felt lucky, we had an early GPS.
Top ‘feature’ pic: A red-banded Rubber Frog I caught in me underpants on Malachite Camp – a shortlived venture in Zululand by the Mala Mala crowd. Here’s the frog again, and the tuft he was calling in:
Sonderbroek frogging as sometimes the vlei was quite deep. Whistling catcalls would emanate from the Landrover. That woman!
The big old album is hitting the recycling bin. I have recorded all the pictures.
Home after our lo-ong honeymoon and some surprise welcomes:
Also in 1988 we had a big optometry conference in Durban. As part of the hosting committee I produced a daily newsletter. Then I became president of the optometric association at the end of the conference.
Friends at the conference – and an induction (Brauer says they induced me):
I dragged some non-canoeing friends out to the Umgeni Valley. I wanted to see the valley for a last time before Inanda Dam drowned it forever. The river was rather shallow – um, VERY shallow! We dragged for miles!
We visited the folks in Harrismith, clambered the slopes of Platberg and sang around the piano:
Bernie & Karen Garcin got married in Empangeni – George Stainton and I were his best men.
In between all the scurrying we lived in our lovely Whittington Court one-bedroom apartment in Marriott Road, and I think I occasionally did a bit of work. Sheila reminded me that she lived there for two years after we bought our house in Westville.
Another of our frequest visits to Hella Hella. And a visit to the Hills on Melrose farm, Mid Illovo.
I gave a talk in the Kruger Park once called The Art of the Game Drive. It was magnificent, complete with exciting sightings and livestreaming. Pity was, I had an unappreciative audience. Well, they were from behind the boerewors curtain, so . . you know how they are.
It almost sounded like they had a pet monkey with them, as they kept muttering Ari Aap as I drove them serenely in quiet splendour and exquisite comfort in my VW Kombi 2,1 in subtle camouflage blue and white. But you won’t believe this, when I stopped to examine old poo there was audible sighing. Philistines. The talks are still wildly popular* but I notice none of that particular batch were ever repeat guests. And I mainly have repeat guests.
*Jessie has been a repeat guest dozens – scores – of times. She can appreciate the Art of the Game Drive. Specially if she has her phone, her music and noise-cancelling earphones with her.
I have spoken about Aitch being an art connoisseur before, here and here. I have also referred to the possibility that I might have philistinian tendencies; or plebeian judgement.
Some months after she died in July 2011 I found a parcel very well wrapped up and secure; cardboard, brown paper, parcel tape and well bubble-wrapped inside.
Inside were two beautifully framed botanical prints by an artist I had never heard of – Ha! of course I hadn’t. But Aitch had! . . and an invoice.
I gasped: HOW MUCH?!!
Just two and a half months before she died she was still investing in things she considered were beautiful; and would go far and grow. Given time.
Trying to sell them not so easy. So far I’ve had an offer of R1000; no reply from the gallery she bought them at; another art gallery said “try an auction house.” I’m gonna keep them for when I get a new place one day. Then I’ll hang them up and ignore them again.
More on Sibonelo Chiliza here and here and here and pictures of a few of his works here.
On Mon, Nov 22, 2010, Pete wrote: I felt a snuggle in bed last night. Wasn’t Aitch. Eight year-old TomTom had come through and was spooned tightly against my back.
Later, when I had to roll over he was wide awake. “Dad” he whispers close to my ear, scared he’ll wake his Ma. Mm “I’m hungry. Can I get up and make myself a snack. I’m really hungry.” He’s 24 kg wringing wet, and his muti suppresses his appetite by day, so I say: Mm
I wake again to a feeling that it has been some time. I can hear dishes clanking, so I get up and tiptoe to the kitchen, where the clock shows straight up 4am. Still dark outside, but the kitchen neon is blazing.
Lots of kit has been employed and a good dusting of icing sugar is evident on the chairs and the floor. What? I ask “Dad” he says, “I’m icing Marie biscuits.” Have you eaten? I ask. “Not yet, Dad, but they’re nearly ready.”
“And” he says, “I’ve made my school lunch.”
I didn’t ask.
Steve replied: Doncha just love it. This young man is not only a problem solver but also aware of the necessity for contingency planning. Hope this does not turn into a regular event though. Our Neil  occasionally mentions he is “off to get some food” at the end of a phone chat to him down in Welly. I imagine this would mean most likely pizza, burger or when he is at his most domesticated, a ready-roasted chicken with some breadrolls. Like you, I don’t ask.
Friend Rohan owns Detour Trails and arranges the most amazing bespoke mountain bike holidays all over Africa. We joined him Easter 2010 on a ride from the Mtamvuna River to the Mtentu River. At least I did. Aitch drove the kids to Mtentu in the kombi (or maybe in friend Craig’s Colt 4X4 – not sure).
Both hands on the handlebar, so no pics of the ride. I only fell off once, and no-one saw. On the way we stopped for a refreshing swim in a clear deep pool in a steep valley.
Once we got to the magnificent Mtentu River mouth (see the feature pic above) I abandoned my bike and joined the family for lazy hiking, while the keen MTB’ers rode out and back each day.
An easy stroll across pristine coastal grasslands took us to where the Mkambathi River drops straight into the sea at high tide.
At low tide the falls (very low flow here) drop onto the sand of a beautiful beach. Tommy knows there’s bait under here somewhere for his fishing!
Everyone loves this little bay. Aitch, Jess and Tom each had a spell where they had the whole beach to themselves: (click on pics for detail)
Upstream along the Mkambathi River you find Strandloper Falls. The last time we’d been we said ‘Must Bring Our Diving Masks And Snorkels Next Time!’ – and we remembered.
Then we strolled back:
Back on the Mtentu River, Rohan had kayaks for us to paddle upstream in search of another waterfall
Then back downstream to the Mtentu mouth
Paradise – three hours south of Durban. There’s a lodge there now, so it’s even easier to stay.
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.
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.
‘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 leaftree 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.
ca.1996 my good friend Larry sent me a Magellan hand-held GPS after we had hosted him for parts of his trip to SA that year. I didn’t know what to do with it. It was fun, we’d stand outside while it took its time finding up to nine satellites; it would give us our location (about 300 South and 300 East); and we could re-trace a path we had driven, but we didn’t really see much use for it at first. I kept playing with it, fascinated, thinking ‘Oka-ay, now what?’
Then came frog atlassing! We were active in bird atlassing in quarter degree squares, but frogging was different. Easier! All we had to do was tape-record the frog calling, add a few details like weather and habitat, record the location on the GPS and send in the “sighting” (hearing). That was really cool. No maps needed.
For recording we had a directional mike and a cassette tape recorder. My first one had a fold-out parabola mike, the new one looked more up-to-date, just like this:
Although we felt like early adopters in 1996, much had been happening already. The GPS project was started by the U.S Department of Defense in 1973, with the first prototype spacecraft launched in 1978 and the full constellation of 24 satellites operational in 1993. Originally limited to use by the United States military, civilian use was allowed from the 1980s.
In 1989, Magellan Navigation Inc. unveiled its Magellan NAV 1000, the world’s first commercial handheld GPS receiver. These units initially sold for approximately US$2,900 each. We had the NAV 2000 – wonder what Larry paid!? (I asked him. He said nowhere near $2900!).
In 1990 Mazda made the first production car in the world with a built-in GPS navigation system.
Garmin seemed to become the most commonly-seen GPS units in SA, as I recall it. Now cellphones – smartphones – have it all built in, no need for a separate GPS. No need for a separate anything, almost.
Camera, TV, map, compass, email, music player, music library, PC, internet browser, scanner (paper, credit cards, barcodes), fax, bank, credit card, remote control (for TV, DVD, games, drones, model cars, cameras, etc), business card, airline ticket, light meter, spirit level, distance measuring tape, calendar, guitar tuner, recipe book, library, e-reader, field guide, tune recogniser, advice columnist, demonstrater of how to fix anything and build anything, video phone, video camera, live streaming camera, plant, insect and animal identifier, newspaper, photo album, photo editing, notepad, book writer, dictionary, online shopper, timer, watch, alarm clock, walkie talkie, data store, games (board, active and interactive), keys (house, car), torch, voice recorder, calculator, radio, ANYTHING. Everything!
Re-post from 1992 when Mike & Yvonne Lello kindly lent us their Isuzu Trooper 4X4 for a breakaway (OK, another breakaway) where I knew we’d be on soft sand and needing 4X4.
Aitch was impressed with out first stop: Luxury with Wilderness Safaris at Ndumo, grub and game drives laid on. Ice in our drinks. Boy! For an oke who usually sought compliments if the ground she had to spread her sleeping bag on was softish, I was really going big! In our luxury permanent tent on a raised wooden deck with kingsize four-poster bed, she had fun with the giraffe’s dong, saying what a decent length it was – implying something? I dunno. ‘It’s his tail,’ I said, spoil-sportingly. ‘Or her tail.’
Magic walks among Sycamore Figs and drives among Fever Trees.
So where are we going next? she asks. ‘You’ll see,’ I said airily. Hmm, she said, knowingly, raising one eyebrow but saying no more . . .
This Isuzu Trooper was magic – just the right vehicle for our Maptuland Meander. Leaving Ndumo, we drifted east to Kosi Bay and inspected the campsites, then drove on to Kosi Bay Lodge. ‘I’ll just run inside and arrange things,’ I said, optimistically.
So I walked into the lodge and came out and said, ‘We’ll just camp outside the gate, I brought a tent!’ Ha! You hadn’t booked! I knew it! Aitch announced triumphantly. She’d known all along. She actually loved it. She didn’t really mind the roughing it and the uncertainty and she LOVED catching me out and teasing me about my disorganisation.
Afterwards, Aitch would tell people there had been a bit of muttering and a few mild imprecations erecting the unfamiliar tent, which I’d also borrowed from the Lellos. It had poles that seemed unrelated to other poles and it was dark. OK, she actually told of some cursing. Loud cursing. The air turned blue, she would exaggerate.
The next night we camped in a proper Kosi Bay campsite. They are very special sites, we love them.
We drove along the sandy track to Kosi mouth:
Then onward, southward. Where are we staying tonight?, she asked sweetly. ‘You’ll see,” I said airily. Hmm, she muttered knowingly, raising one eyebrow. Well, let me just say ONE thing: We are not staying at Mabibi. The newspapers have been full of stories about bad guys at Mabibi. ‘Izzat so?’ Yes. We can stay anywhere but Mabibi.
Through bustling KwaNgwanase town . .
Now we were on my favourite road in all of South Africa: The sand roads through our vanishing coastal grasslands. Some kids shouted Lift! Lift! and hey! ubuntu! and anyway, it’s Lello’s car . . .
Well, Rocktail Bay Lodge was also full and we drove on as evening approached. The fire watchtower man had knocked off and was walking home. We stopped to ask directions, then gave him a lift so he could show us the way. He settled down into the bucket seat, pushing Aitch onto the gear lever, taking us left then right then left – straight to his village. As he got out he pointed vaguely in the direction of Mabibi. ‘You can’t miss it,’ I think he implied.
You are going to Mabibi, aren’t you? I knew it! said the all-knowing one. ‘Well, there’s nowhere else,’ I mumbled. When we got there she surprised me by saying, Let’s just sleep under the stars, I’m too tired to pitch the tent. So we did. My brave Aitch! Here she is next morning, still snoring.
Soon after we arrived a night watchman came to see us. His torch beam dropped straight out of the end of his torch onto his toes, so I gave him new batteries. He was so chuffed! A torch that worked! Those bad guys better look sharp tonight!
The next day we drove the best part of this perfect road, past Lake Sibaya.
One more night, in relative luxury, if the little wooden cabins at Sibaya camp can be honoured with such a flattering description! I think they can, but I was over-ruled.
Then we hit the ugly tarmac highway home. A very special place, is Maputaland.
TC was her first dog, and she was Aitch’s favourite. She arrived while we were still living in our flat in Marriott road. She was a flat dog for a month or two and couldn’t believe the wide open spaces of our first suburban home.
Then Matt (because he wasn’t glossy when he arrived) came along and HE was definitely her favourite. Big time. She wept when he died, killed on the M13 highway one night. Bogart tried his best and she loved him too, but Matt was a hard act to follow, he was soppy and used to bring her dried leaves in his mouth as a gift! We buried Matt near the river at 7 River Drive.
Bogart (Trish’s maiden name was Humphrey) was third. He had a tail. Docking tails had been stopped – at last! What’s a dog without a tail? Shame, man!! She loved old Bogie. He was killed on the N3. Buried at River Drive.
And then came Bella! Bellisimo!
All the while, TC was still there, still the boss; wondering why we kept getting new tiny black nuisances which grew up to be bigger than her.
Now, make no mistake, Bella became Aitch’s all-time favourite. She loved Matt next best and Bogart too. Also Shadow and Sambucca in later years. And TC all along. But Bella!? She and Bella the Brak won the top prize at dog training. Her friend who won second prize with her pedigree German Shepherd turned to Trish when Bella won the last round and said “You know, Bella would fly if you asked her to!”
TC died of old age at River Drive, where we buried her on the banks of the Mkombaan river near the paperbark Commiphora, near Matt and Bogie. (Note to new owners: Don’t go digging too much in 7 River Drive!).
Yes, Bella you WERE her favourite, but then kids arrived and took over. And then Aitch rescued Houdini from euthenasia and look how he is pushing in while you wait politely as ever for your turn!
Houdini escaped once too often, never to be seen again. Which is how we got him to start with: A friendly dog that no-one knew who he belonged to was given to Aitch by a vet.
So when we moved to Elston Place, Bella AT LAST had the family to herself. Didn’t last long: Aitch decided Bella ‘needed company’ and told me “Bella is lonely, I want to get her a puppy.” “Absolutely not!” I decreed, laying down the law as the boss of the house. “No more puppies!”
So she got two. Enter Shadow and Sambucca:
Sambucca was in danger of becoming “Sweetie” (Jessie’s choice of name!) so we sent out an SOS for a name for a pitch black dog. Terry Brauer came up with Black Sambucca – just right!
Bella died at 17yrs old, about a year before Aitch died. Aitch was right there with her when she died. We buried her in the garden at 10 Elston Place. Only Sambucca outlived Aitch.
We were so lucky when we started fostering kids that Anna Kiza Cele was with us. She taught us which end to wipe and which end to feed. I’m sure she must have done some private eye-rolls at what we didn’t know!
Here she is with her big mate Aitch, plotting against poor me:
This year, 25 year later I whatsapp’d her – she’s farming down in Izingolweni now – accusing her and Aitch of ganging up against me. Her reply was four laughing emojis and “as we always did sometimes.” There you have it: An admission! They did! I’m not paranoid. Those two wimmin plotted and schemed. I had no chance.
After this contact I saw Kiza updated her status with a tribute to all the friends she’d lost to cancer. It started “I hate cancer!”