Duelling Banjous

As we left Mother Mary today – at the Retirement Village, not the old-aged home, says Dad; He used to call them old aged homes and be very anti but now suddenly they’re OK and they’re retirement villages cos he has just made an offer on a cottage there, deciding at age 96 that it might be time before too long that he may, perhaps, have to move in there one day – we were energetically flagged down by an old blue-rinse biddy sitting in a smart white sedan outside the frail care section.

“Oy! Are you ignoring me?” she shouts, waving her hand in Dad’s direction. He, of course, doesn’t hear her, so I look in the open driver’s window across at her in the front passenger seat and she waves me aside. No, not you, she indicates with a dismissive wave, the bald gentleman; Well, the bald gentleman with the white hair; OK, the bald gentleman with the white hair and the walking stick.

Oh. So she doesn’t mean me.

He sticks his head in the window. “Were you going to walk right by me?” she asks. Hello! He smiles, switching straight into charm mode; Who are you? Ooh, she thinks, some doubt creeps in. “Aren’t you . .” she starts and hits a geriatric blank. Staring at him, knowing she knows him but has just lost his name right now. It’s on the tip of her tongue. “Um, aren’t you . .” she repeats. Who are you? he repeats.

They reach out to shake hands – instinctive, cos if you’ve been to Maritzburg College and St Annes or Epworth and lived through a world war that’s what you do. So they’re now holding hands both being furiously pleasant and both trying to figure out who the hell this other person is.

She changes tack: “I bet you I’m older than you,” she says.

YUSSIS! That MAKES his day! He’s had a bit of a rough day with his idiot son who doesn’t know when to shut up and just nod him yes, so this – THIS – is a godsend. He jumps up in the air, clicks his heels and leans right in to the car. The click might have been his teeth.

I’ll bet you you’re not! he challenges. “I bet you I am,” she repeats confidently. I’ll bet you . . how much you wanna bet? he says. They’re still holding hands and staring into each others eyes. It’s getting ‘Yes I am; No you’re not!’ stuck, so I chip in. How about one Rand? I suggest. “Well, I only have ten Rand,” she fibs. I’ll take you on, he says, How old are you? She leans back and puffs out her bosom and announces triumphantly “Nearly ninety ONE.”

WELL! Victory is his! He wriggles with glee and says I’m . . no. This is my son Koos. Koos, you tell her how old I am! The old goat is 96 in the shade, I say. She deflates, he puffs up. He smoked her! Blew her doors off! Left her in his dust! They’re still holding hands. He rubs it in: I prefer to say I’ve got four years to go to a hundred.

I walk off, leaving them to their embarrassment and awkward ending. Well, nice to have met you, he says. “Yes, indeed,” she says, even though neither cagey old codger has divulged their name yet. The only name we have out of this joyful meeting of long-lost strangers so far is “Koos.”

As the old man leaves she outs when he’s ten metres down the drive with “So sorry to have mistaken you; Sorry to be a bother.” That St Annes politeness training is deeply embedded. Of course he didn’t hear it. Ten metres is way out of range. Anyway, his face was wreathed in such a wide smile his ears were probably blocked by the wrinkles.

Twelve Year Expiries?

Another twelve-year-old has gone west. Flaky the snaky that TomTom got when he was five has shuffled off this mortal coil. Expired. She was fine and ate her last supper – the usual whole rare mouse – with hungry focus a few days before. Then I saw her uncharacteristically out of her shelter and exposed. A day later I opened up, no movement, prodded her and thought damn! She’s gone!

Cub Scout Tommy goes for his Pets Badge. Flaky endures.

Before he could get her five-year-old Tom had to do his homework, learn about care and feeding and commit to checking her daily and cleaning out her cage weekly. He did for years, but then interest faded, new interests blossomed and Dad took over the feeding and watering chores. Not cleaning, though. Cleaning remained TomTom’s job:

Tom tests for size, and vacuums after cleaning
flaky snake tom

‘Flaky’ was a beautiful and gentle American Corn Snake, glowing orange and black above and checkerboard black and white below. As she grew from about 250mm to over 1.1m long we added an extension to her metal-and-glass terrarium – a home-made wood-and-mesh upstairs to treble the size.

I got my only snake bite ever when I inexplicably held my left hand closer to her than the mouse I was offering her in tongs in my right hand. I’d never done that before – for good reason! She got me on my left forefinger knuckle with her tiny sharp teeth and drew pinpricks of blood. I was too big for her to get a good grip on and constrict me and swallow me, so she immediately withdrew.

Twelve-year-old Sambucca the Labrador went this year, now twelve-year-old Flaky the Corn Snake. Is it coincidence that my twelve-year-old Ford Ranger is currently in bakkie hospital with something about the valves and the head and the gearbox needing transplant surgery!? Hope it’s not terminal!

Fecundity

When we got to River Drive in 1989 we were warned it was a fertile zone and if you weren’t careful babies would start popping out all over. This was from the Lellos who had produced three offspring there; the Greenbergs, two; The Hockeys, a few, Donna was the only one around then; the Howard-and-Dofs, three boys, and there were others. We were blissfully child-free and at least half of us were determined to remain that way.

We stood firm, determinedly child-free ’til 1999. When we left that river in 2003 the Naudes had produced two boys but we had stood firm; We only had two children, having managed to sell three others after fattening them up and putting a smile on their faces.

In Elston Place there was a swarm of children; The pool was always overflowing. They all soon learned the gate code and the place was like a railway station. And nothing has changed in the thirteen years we’ve been here. Here’s the latest crop with Jess who went down the road to visit this evening:

Three of these are kids of the kids who used to swim in the pool when we first arrived!

Here are some of the early-days kids with a young Jessie leaning back:

Elston Place gang (2)

Mfolosi Day Trip

A drizzly day, not much to report. I was learning about the new little Canon pocket camera. Haven’t worked it out yet. When we got home I saw it took video all the time we thought we were just focusing for still shots!

So aiming for this:

Cape (glossy) Starling

We got this (except much longer):

Martial Eagle and Common (steppe) Buzzard

Also, I lost my tracker! Jess is normally heads-up, spotting everything and saying “What’s that?” and all I have to do is ID what she’s spotted. Today her head was firmly down, eyes glued to her cellphone. “Dad, there’s no signal!” and “Omigod! I got two bars! Oh, they’re gone!”

There’s a boyfriend, see.

Bummer. That’s why I made the feature pic an Impala bum.

Mfolosi day trip Jan 2019

Ah! Now I see: I had the camera on Hybrid Auto mode, “whereby 2-4 seconds of video is captured before each still image and later combined into a 720p digest movie chronicling your day.” That’s what I saw and wondered where it came from!

16 Ivy Road

Mom was on furlough from the home – Azalea Gardens. Sheila fetched her and Barbara, Linda, Tholo and the two terrors Mary-Kate and Dawie and I joined them at 16 Ivy Road in Lincoln Meade, Pietermaritzburg.

What a lovely day – a great lunch, fun with the kids and ending with a surprise: ancient movies from our youth taken in the sixties with Dad’s 8mm movie camera. Sheila had arranged and paid for hours of old footage to be put on a memory stick! Dad says he had a small Canon movie camera first; I only remember his Eumig camera.

As we were leaving Tholo spotted a birds nest right above the car door with two little chicks begging, and showed Mary-Kate.

Linda lifted Mary-Kate up high and she took the world’s best picture for a five-year-old!

After everyone left I waited till I could spot the mother: a Cape White Eye.

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See the top pic: When the old man moved out of earshot – which means six inches away – Linda murmured to me sotto voce, ‘Here’s the man always telling others to get dressed early mornings: still in his jarmies at noon.’

Giving advice he’s good at.

——-ooo000ooo——-

Dear Old Sambucca

Lemme confess that the first emotion when Sambucca the black labrador finally breathed her last was relief. The sadness and the memories came later. See, she grew a brain tumour and it grew and grew until it was about as big as her head.

When the bump first started we knew it was the end and I told the kids I would just support the old dear and only consider ending things if she was no longer comfortable, not eating, not happy and not interested in a ear rub or tummy tickle. I said I don’t want you shooting me just cos I’m inconvenient and so I’m not shooting Sambucca for our convenience. And anyway, she’s only 87yrs-old in human terms. Born in August 2006.

Well, she hung in and kept eating while getting thinner – which is a terminal sign in a labrador. I was vrot with worry and angst as she started getting smelly and the parasites attacked her – fleas, flies and ticks. A daily bath and shampoo helped but she’d disappear for hours and come back covered again, her hidden spots in our jungly garden obviously infested with the lil bastids. Yet she still kept getting up and walking towards me tail wagging as I got home each day, asking for a scratch. Then Friday she got weaker and Saturday and Sunday she didn’t eat. I added gravy and fat and she refused it. Refused a meal! I knew it was soon. Sunday night she suddenly yowled a bit and then went quiet, considerately choosing Aitch’s birthday as her last day so we can remember it more easily.

It’s a bit worrying that she may have gone to the happy hunting grounds, as there’s no way she can hunt! She needs her food prepared and put in a stainless steel dish preferably covered in gravy. So we can only hope there’s an ala carte section in those hunting grounds.

I started digging her grave early Monday morning and three inches down I came to an astonishing and unexpected realisation: I am not cut out for physical labour! Can you believe it!? I sub-contracted the task and Tom and his mate Jose dug a goodly hole – after negotiating a financial reward – and Sambucca now joins her predecessor Bella and a gerbil under the soil in our garden. Also Aitch and her Mom and Dad’s ashes.

Rest in peace ole Sambucca, you made twelve years and five months and were the best watchdog ever: you watched the monkeys stroll across the yard, you watched the hadedas glean the lawn, you watched our neighbourhood kids stream in and out of the gates whenever. You only barked when I got home to say Hey Welcome Back! About Time! Look What A Good Watchdog I Am! and by the way, When’s Supper?!

And that’s when you showed you had 12% greyhound blood, as you tore off round the trailer, gleefully thinking “He’s Home! He’s Home!”. Two laps when you were younger, one lap the last couple years.

Jess was going to call you Sweetie when you arrived, so we hastily canvassed friends for a less saccharine moniker. Terry Brauer from the Gramadoelas of Pretoria came up with Black Sambucca. Just right.

——-ooo000ooo——-

vrot – full of

Find our Sambucca (Jena out of Yellow Daisy by Kilgobbin Zinzan) ‘s pedigree certificate here.

Executive Summary

Tom and I were off to the Palmiet. Mom and Jess were out, so I asked Tom to leave them a note so they’d know wassup when they got back. Sure thing Dad!

I see it on my way out. It says “we have gone.”

I say, Tom, tell them a bit more than that, my fella. Sure thing, Dad! And we trundle off to go fossicking:

When we get back, there it is on the kitchen table, complete with the seven year old’s additional information:

Tom’s note to Mom for our trip to the Palmiet:
We have gone and we well come back – Tom Tom