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~~~

iNyanga vs EBM

On the way to Tobias Gumede’s umuzi north of Jozini on the Makathini Flats of the Pongola river floodplain, you pass a nyanga’s advertising billboard. He can sort out all your problems.

Not all his own, though, so he died and the new nyanga re-wrote the promises when we last went there.

Tobias’ home had also been upgraded. He’d added a covered entrance porch:

Leaving his home and continuing north you cross the Pongola where a magnificent old fig suffers the depredations of progress, erosion exposing its roots to a dangerous degree.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The new nyanga sign says (take my translation with a pinch of salt):

his gift we built

(can’t) stop

that which advances

the big (important) traditional doctor

~~~oo0oo~~~

April 2018: Tobias has just walked in. He has come to work straight from the hospital where they measured his blood pressure: 204 over 124! I sat him down and told him don’t move until that BP is down! So, much to his dismay, he’s under house arrest today. He has taken his muti and will take again tonight and tomorrow, then we’ll see if we can release him! But I’m fine! he protested, so I told him in gruesome detail what high BP can do to you, with a graphic artistic demonstration when I got to the ‘fall down dead’ stage. ‘Twas a powerful performance.

Glad he didn’t see the nyanga. I’m an EB Medicine Man. Evidence-Based Medicine EBM.

Later: I bought a supply of his two tablets and kept them at home with strict instructions: If you forget to take your tablets at home, take them here. Never miss! Yebo baba.

March 2020: On his last day before the COVID-19 lockdown I gave them to him to take home. Now it’s April 2021 and he assures me he takes them faithfully. I once again asked him, When you hear a man has suddenly died, what usually killed him? He couldn’t answer right away and I prompted him and he remembered. Oh yes! The ‘PRESSURE.‘ Yep, Take Your Pills, I droned.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Birds n Ballies

. . and a lower quota of Booze.

Lang Dawid came to visit after decades in the hinterland. Always very organised, he sent bearers ahead of his arrival bearing two lists: Ten new birds he wanted to see; and Three old bullets he wanted to see.

We delivered thirty percent of his bird list: A Red-capped Robin-Chat, A White-eared Barbet and a Terrestrial Brownbul;

Forty percent if you count the bonus male Tambourine Dove that landed in a patch of sunlight, a lifer for Dave.

– Dave’s dove –

All this thanks to Crispin Hemson showing us his special patch, Pigeon Valley in urban Durban. Talk about Guru Guiding! with his local knowledge, depth, anecdotes, asides and wandering all over, on the ground and in our minds. And his long-earned exalted status in this forest even allowed us to avoid arrest while climbing through a hole in the fence like naughty truant schoolboys. Whatta lovely man.

– Crispin scans, Dave holds his bazooka at the ready – turn a blind eye to the bottom left corner –

Then Dave and I retreated home to my patch in the Palmiet valley, where Tommy had cleaned up, readied the cottage for Dave’s stay and started a braai fire. Spot on, Tom!

One hundred percent of Dave’s list of old paddling mates arrived. Like homing pigeons, Allie, Charlie and Rip zoomed in. So I had four high-speed paddlers in their day on my stoep, race winners and provincial and national colours galore. We scared off any birds that might have been in the vicinity (feathered or human), but had a wonderful afternoon nevertheless, with lots of laughs.

After they left Dave and I had braai meat for supper; This morning we had braai meat for breakfast and he was off after a fun-filled 24 hours. I sat down to polish the breakfast remains and another cup of coffee and as a bonus, a female Tambourine Dove landed on my birdbath:

– not Dave’s camera –

A tragic consequence of their visit was an audit of my booze stocks the next day. Where before they’d have plundered, this time I ended up with more than I’d started with. How the thirsty have fallen!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dave’s camera equipment is impressive: a Canon EOS 7D Mk2 body;
https://www.techradar.com/reviews/canon-eos-7d-mark-ii-review
and a 500mm telephoto lens and his go-to, a 70-200mm lens. His main aim is getting a pic of every bird he sees. He shot his 530th yesterday here in Pigeon Valley. So he chases all over Southern Africa ticking off his ‘desired list.’ A magic, never-ending quest: there’ll always be another bird to find; there’ll always be a better picture to try for.

Here’s an adventure Dave and I shared back when we were bachelors, not ballies. That time it was beer n boobs, not birds n ballies.

~~~oo0oo~~~

~~~oo0oo~~~

Beds o’ Bugs

Flower beds, not sleeping beds. Not that I actually have any flower beds in my jungle but just to say . . none in my bed. Just an excuse to use beds n bugs in a sentence.

So what are bugs? Well, it depends. Hemiptera or true bugs are an order of 80 000 insect species such as cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm to around 15 cm. Many insects commonly known as “bugs”, especially in American English, belong to other orders; for example, the ‘lovebug’ is a fly; the ‘May bug’ and ‘ladybug’ are beetles. wikipedia

Again, I must add their identifications once I get around to it.

Next, I should do a post on the beatles . . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Herds o’ Butterflies

There been herds o’ butterflies mooching through my garden lately. I been shooting them, but still they come. So I thought I’d post some of those I shot for the enjoyment of them that are fond of the lil guys. Like me.

I’ve posted them – and many other creatures and plants – on iNaturalist.org here.

~~~oo0oo~~~

“I been shooting them, but still they come,” is me quoting from a book I read long ago, “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.”** It told of settlers living in early Kenya who planted citrus trees. The elephants in that dry country loved them and they shot them and shot them, “but still they came.” Aren’t we humans delightful?

** which man-eater story, incidentally I recommend one takes with a huge pinch of salt. I don’t think lions behave that way, and I don’t think humans behave that way. But it sold like hot cakes and was imitated and frauds were perpetuated on its wave of success (at least one book had that title but the stories inside had nothing to do with the title!).

~~~oo0oo~~~

I have learnt, in trying to emulate another, more famous Swanepoel with a butterfly net, that catching these flitters aint easy! So its more stalk and click than stalk and catch.

No, Tumi!

. . you can’t go home! You can’t go back to Botswana! Who’s going to help me keep Tom in his place!?

Tumisang Lekoni studied hospitality at the International Hotel School up the road from us and she and Tom became good friends. Twenty two pounds ringing wet and four foot two (I exaggerate!), she has a lovely strong voice and is one of the few people who can get a word in edgeways when Tom is off on a monologue.

You spoilt Tom rotten, helping him with his chores after a full day’s work in which he’d mostly sat on his bottom!

– Then you would treat HIM to a meal !! –

We’ll miss you big time Tumi. Our little valley is emptier without you.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here we see Tom ‘Not Dropping His Phone’ – cos ‘I never drop my phone, Dad, it just breaks!’

What a Lady

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!

– Um, OK, chapter one, page 12 –

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!”

~~~oo0oo~~~

TIMBER!! and a Funeral Pyre

For fifteen years I’ve been warning those Aussies that their time will come.

Well, it came. Don’s Tree Felling moved in (onto my neighbour’s property, conveniently for me) and did away with six big Bauhinia trees, the Australian camelfoot – Bauhinia variegata, I think. Don had dropped the biggest, oldest, leaning-est one a few years before, when the neihgbours then, Suboohi and Nasim Choudhry had said Whoa! This thing is threatening us!

My neighbour Phindi was a star – she allowed Don’s team in and let them get on with the job. I had prepped her a month ago that I wanted to drop all the trees that were looming threateningly over her driveway and a corner of her house, and she was all for it.

Down came the trees to a cacophony of sound. For some reason I hadn’t thought they’d be using chainsaws! HATE chainsaws, so maybe its good I didn’t think of that. Aaargh! How can I complain about noise if I’m making it!? Oh, well, one day only and after this its back to me and my manual bowsaw.

They carted off the flotsam and jetsam, all gathered on Phindi’s driveway, poisoned the stumps, left some trunks as hidey holes for snakes, mongooses and lizards, and peace returned; Followed by a bit of genteel sawing and puffing by yours truly, as I cut down a few left-overs, plus a bougainvillea and a bottlebrush with me bowsaw. Once a tree gave suddenly while I was a-pulling and I landed on my back staring at the sky.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Then the celebration! A double celebration: My first house guests – OK, garden guests – since lockdown; and the birth of a new grassland. ‘Cos that’s what’s going to take the place of that corner of jungle.

To make it special I invited hooligans. I had thought we’d have a wee bonfire, which I prepared, full of the late Brazilian bouganvillea; a modest requiem after the banishment of some Aussies and the rebirth of natural grassland. But Louis Bon Phyre had a different level of celebration in mind. And so he got close to the pagan roots of many a Western tradition:

Before they arrived I reminded them that I take our current virus very seriously and insist on masks. The bottlebrush was allowed a last little requiem moment in one of Aitch’s many vases. This one by potter A Kirk.

I forgot to make supper, but we all had a lot of wine, especially Petrea.

~~~oo0oo~~~

How To Cook

(I might write a book)

Open your wine; make sure its enough; check the label; must be a good wine, not a great wine, but a good wine – 13% minimum; 14% is obviously better.

Always cook with red wine, taking care not to spill any on the food.

Peel and cut a potato into four; Peel and cut an onion into four; Rotate them in a microwave.

Cut a pork chop into small cubes. Be guided by your superstitions here, use another animal or tofu or soya or kale if you have to, but for best results, stick to what I say: Cut a pork chop into small cubes.

Cubes into a pan with yesterdays pan fat; fry till browning.

Add salt. Gulp some wine.

Add potato and onion and brown. Brown the stuffin the pan, nê.

Add some cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped.

Add salt.

Put a lid on it. I often say that when people are gaan’ing aan like this: Put a lid on it. Another favourite saying when my gast is flabbered: Dis my gat se deksel.

Chop up some spinach and green beans. The spinach I bought off the back of a bakkie downtown. R10 a bunch, dark green, delicious, did wonders for me – whatever dark green leaf vegetables are meant to do for you? It did it for me. Mainly, leaves me (geddit? leaves me . . ) with lots, cos the kids turn up they noses.

Did I mention this is a recipe for one bachelor whose kids would rather die of hunger than eat this stuff?

Steadily add wine and I find it helps to imagine your favourite TV chef while cookin’.

So imagine your favourite chef . . . No, its Nigella.

Which reminds me of the inimitable Barks who every holiday would cackle Haw Haw Haw Haw! After asking the question (again) and providing the answer:
Where is Friderichs going these holidays, hey, hey? He’s going to Nigel. Haw Haw Haw Haw!

So Naai-Gella Awesome it is.

Keep lifting the lid and then at the right time toss in the chopped up spinach and green beans, never forgetting to keep steadily adding wine. Careful not to slosh any onto the food.

Add salt and a big knob of butter for the last round. Put a lid on it. The right amount of salt is the amount that makes it taste best. Did I mention this is health food? It is. Mental health.

Then eat it accompanied by sufficient more red wine. I actually licked the plate.

The 1812 overture was belting out in the background with real cannons. I hope they scared the neighbour’s incessantly-barking mongrels.

~~~oo0oo~~~

gaan’ing aan – blah blah; fit a cork

dis my gat se deksel – literally, that’s my arsehole’s lid; blow me down

bakkie – small pickup truck

~~~oo0oo~~~

Other domestic chores included cutting down a big Australian Bottlebrush tree

. . and putting its flowers in one of Aitch’s old vases as a requiem:

– who is A Kirk? She made the vase –

~~~oo0oo~~~

But – What’s Wrong . . ?

We had to revamp our kitchen in our first home in River Drive – a mere eleven years after buying the joint! I protested, But What’s Wrong With The Kitchen As It Is?

I got batted aside with an eye roll. She rolled her eyes so hard she saw the back part of her cranium: the occipital cortex, swear!

River Dr kitchen – Old vs New 4
River Dr kitchen – Old vs New 1
River Dr kitchen – Old vs New – 2
River Dr kitchen – Old vs New 3

See? You can hardly tell the difference . . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Roof Inspection Makeover

What started out as a routine roof inspection has morphed into a general sprucing up at 10 Elston Place. Geoffrey Cholmondeley Caruth esq. famous painter, builder, redecorator, raconteur, empire-nostalgic, makeover artiste and paddler, came over and made some suggestions and we ended up deciding to fix the roof, bargeboards and fascia boards and paint them; fix the windows and paint; replace the old gutters with aluminium gutters; Almost forgotten in the mix was my second main aim: To catch my rainwater; We’ll add a 5 000l tank to catch the rainwater off the garage roof; Oh, and we’ll also add a door to the flatlet; fix a door frame and paint four doors.

Especially paint four doors! I’ve been wanting to paint these doors a proper deep cobalt blue for a long time. A blue to match Aitch’s blue kitchen wall back at River Drive!

I wasn’t brave enough to paint a wall such a blue, but two outside doors was my kick for touch. And the colour blue the doors have been for nine years is fine, but not right; The first blue Geoff showed by painting half one door was way better, but still not quite right.

– the old and the better – but not right yet –

Then he got it: The right blue. I call it Deep Cobalt Blue, or (as he has traces of Pommy in his veins) British Racing Blue. Above we have the old blue and the better blue. But wait till you see the Right Blue: Deep Cobalt Blue!

. . . to be continued . . .

. . getting closer. I showed Geoffrey a pic of the old 1999 kitchen blue vs the sample. Also I described the blue of a cuckoo-shrike I had seen in bright sunlight in Mkhuze . .

. . and he came back with the right blue:

I got my blue.

So we moved onto door knobs. I asked Sir Geoffalot for good outdoor knobs, not the el cheapos that hurt my lily-white hands. You’ll get only the best, he assured me. They look great! Are they definitely outdoor quality? I checked with the master designer. Absolutely, saith he, they come with our extended warranty:

Fourteen Days. Partly guaranteed. As long as it doesn’t rain.

Ah, well. He bribes me with good muffins for morning coffee.

~~~oo0oo~~~

And so we carried on! Now the one cottage wall is being painted. Oy! I said to Geoffroy the Pom GCMG, I still don’t have my water tank!

We’re victims of Mission Creep, Fauntleroy the Master Pom replied airily.

~~~oo0oo~~~

– it wasn’t bad but he insisted on painting it –
– nothing to see here, moving on –

Beautiful Skies

Jupiter and Saturn below the full moon put on a special show. A whatsapp message from an old schoolfriend sent me outside to take a picture, but the moon was too bright for my camera to deal with. Hence the annotated internet picture.

We’ve been having such beautiful skies – night and day – that I added some recent daytime skies.

. . and some birdbath pics:

~~~oo0oo~~~

and just for good measure, some beaut pics from neighbours in the valley:

~~~oo0oo~~~

Whatta Relief

Like FINALLY relieving yourself after a desperate long wait – whatta relief. Aah!!

A nice Zimbabwean man with a three ton truck came and took it all away.

Now why didn’t I do this LONG AGO?

I was sad to see my first plastic kayak go – but I’ve had four others, still got a new one – and UV had got to this 1983 Perception!

~~~oo0oo~~~