Africa, Family & Kids, Free State, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

The Goatitudes 4. Bear Witness

The old man gets The Witness delivered to his gate daily. He has fetched it at the gate at around 5am for decades. His 96yr-old legs started protesting against this chore so he recently roped in the kid next door. For R20 a month the kid now hangs the packet it comes in on the back door.

The paper – as The Natal Witness – was first printed in 1846 and it has been going continuously ever since. Today the old man tells me has read it for 91 years, since he was five. His Dad used to sit on his ‘captain’s chair’ holding it spread out in front of him and Dad used to creep under the paper, lean against Oupa’s boep and ask ‘Wat’s daai? En Wat’s Daai? En Daai?’, pointing at pictures and words.

When he moved to Harrismith he subscribed to it through the local bookstore.

Ah, but now he remembers: After a few years the lady there said The Witness was stopping delivery. The schlep of delivering a single copy to the station late at night, hot off the press, for it to be railed from Pietermaritzburg to Harrismith was just not worth it. So no longer would The Natal Witness fly along the rail, past Chievely, Estcourt and Weenen where the Boer War was fought and Churchill was captured, die blerrie rooinek. Through Ladysmith which was besieged and relieved; Nor up the Drakensberg mountains over rail bridges my Great-Grandfather built, through van Reenen, through Swinburne, over the sandstone bridge over the Wilge River to Harrismith station; up to Havenga se boekwinkel, fresh for delivery to Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel, formerly of Pietermaritzburg, The Natal Witness’ home town. No.

So he subscribed to The Star, which came from Johannesburg, but now he got it one day late. So his reading of The Witness, which he continued once he got back to PMB some twenty years ago, was not continuous.

Still, it FEELS as though he has read it for 91 years.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Family & Kids, Sport, Travel Africa

Afriski: Next Gen

The niece and the nephew took a husband, a wife, and two kids each and took over the St Moritz snow week at Afriski in Lesotho. The next generation!

They went up Sani Pass. Thank goodness for the snow machines as there was no ‘free snow from heaven’ on the ground!

– Afriski 2019 – Emma, Matthew, Mary-Kate & Dawie –
– Mary-Kate and Dad Dawie –
– Linda & Dawie – first go at the slope! –
Africa, Family & Kids, Free State, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Victor Simmonds, Artist

Dad: “Victor Simmonds was a lovely chap and a very good artist. He was a little man, grey, a lot older than me. What? How old? Well, I was probably 35 then and he was grey. He was probably 50. He lodged with Ruth Wright on the plot next door to ours, Glen Khyber. I doubt if he paid them any rent, they were probably just helping him out. He moved to the hotel in Royal Natal National Park where they allowed him to sell his art to the guests and that probably paid his rent.

“He was a hopeless alcoholic, unfortunately. He used to come to me begging for a bottle of brandy late at night, his clothes torn from coming straight across to Birdhaven from Glen Khyber, through the barbed wire fences. I said ‘Fuck off, Victor, I won’t do that to you,’ and sent him away. I wish I had bought one of his paintings. Sheila found these paintings he gave me for nothing. He said he did these as a young student. As I took them he said ‘Wait, let me sign them for you.'”

– maybe a self portrait? –
– nude with amphora? –
– semi-nude with two amphorae? –
– maybe the Kak Spruit at Glen Khyber? – possibly –

So I went looking and found a lot of his work available on the internet. Once again Dad’s memory proved sound. Victor was born in 1909, thus thirteen years older than Dad.

Victor Simmonds’ work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $126 to $256, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2012 the record price for this artist at auction is $256 for South African landscape with two women carrying wood, sold at Bonhams Oxford in 2012.

– South African Landscape With Two Women Carrying Wood – Golden Gate area? –
Shrubs beside a cascading stream

I just knew this scene! To me this looks like the stream above the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal National Park – So I went looking, and at Love Camping I found:

– spot on! – an image locked in my brain for forty or more years! –
– sunset, poplar trees, a river – the Wilge? –

A number of his paintings are available for sale. I’d love to see his ‘The Gorge, Royal Natal National Park, Showing the Inner Buttress and Devils Tooth’ but I’d have to subscribe for one day at 30 euros! That one was apparently painted in 1980, so he kept going for at least 23 years after he stayed in our neck of the woods. That would have made Victor around 70 and his liver a resilient organ.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Home, Nostalgia

Blue Wall leads to Blue Door

One wall in the new kitchen in River Drive ca.2002 had to be cobalt blue. I dunno why, mine is not to reason why. Aitch said it must be cobalt blue and so of course it was.

– Xmas day 2002 with Tommy, 1 year and 2 weeks old –

So when the post-Aitch renovations happened ca.2012 in Elston Place, there had to be some blue. I made the scullery and laundry doors blue. I looked for cobalt blue, but this was the closest I found.

– smiling Cecilia Shozi at the blue stable doors –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Sport, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Albert Fell

‘Just two schoolboys and me,’ I told the lady at the entrance to Albert Falls dam recreation area.

OK, two adults and one pensioner, she said, totting up the fee. And sizing us up at a glance, bitch. Oh well, she was spot-on – they are in matric after all.

They were after bass and I was after birds. They got one and I got many.

Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Nostalgia

Eight Years Today

Already Tom’s memories are mainly The Legend of Mom, more than real memories. Jess remembers far more. So Tom had lots to say today about Mom. Jess was mainly quiet. As most years, Dizzi and Jon came round to clink a glass in your memory. Jess set a lovely formal table with flowers from the garden – and even a table cloth! I only remembered to take a pic after it was all over.

We had a medicinal G&T as we had all just been to sort-of malaria areas – me n Jess to Hluhluwe, Dizzi n Jon to St Lucia.

Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Hluhluwe Veld Fire

A quick one-night trip to Hluhluwe saw very good birding but Jess was disappointed as the animals were in hiding, possibly due to the big fire which burnt the first day and through the night.

She’s spoilt, though, as she still saw twelve species, all good close-up views including an elephant where she immediately said ‘Reverse Dad, we’re too close!’ and a crocodile, a monitor lizard and a grass lizard – seen below on the tar road, trying to escape the fire. They can hardly move if not in grass, with their tiny little legs. I picked it up and placed on grass and it immediately whizzed away, ‘swimming’ in the grass.

Can you spot the leaf caterpillar who’s trapped in the leaf and is trying to call for help but can’t spell?

The little Canon camera did its secret video thing, recording in the background while you’re taking snapshots. It’s weird, but I quite like it:

The biggest surprise sighting this trip was probly the sight of me braai’ing. I left catering to Jess and she bought some really weird stuff: Charcoal, firelighters, matches and lamb chops. What could I do? I braai’d.

– sanks goodness for the red wine –