Late Lunch?

That’s different, I thought. Something had zoomed into the Albizia at speed and the birds had scattered.

A juvenile Little Sparrowhawk. She sat for a while peering around and up and down intently. To me it looked like she was on the hunt. Then she darted off in a flash. I hope she got something to eat.

Meanwhile the Hadeda was unfazed, gathering nesting material.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Spring Sprung

Spring birding has been great. Some poor but fun pics of what’s been buzzing about.

– Cardinal Woodpecker – only one, but I inserted him three more times using FastStone –
– three birds in one shot! – top Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spectacled Weaver and female Black Cuckooshrike bottom – I added in a clearer pic of the cuckooshrike –
– Yellow-bellied Greenbul – left one is same bird added in (a bit small!) – insert was nearby – there were three of them –

Above: Cape White-eye and African Firefinch – Spectacled Weaver – Olive Thrush

– the Lodders came to visit and Louis casually shot a Grey Waxbill while we were talking – see in the inset how she flashed her scarlet rump lingerie at Louis –

Below: A Pegesimallus robber fly; The tail hanging down from the branch? A vervet monkey; Temnora marginata (a sphinx moth); Ceryx fulvescens (yellow sleeved maiden moth); and – the white moth possibly a citrus looper? Thanks, iNaturalist.org for help with identification.

The female Black Cuckooshrike returned and I got a better view. Pics are poor as I took them through my dirty window rather than open up and spook her. One bird, I compiled this montage with FastStone again.

~~~oo0oo~~~

– my Kids and their Addictions –

“To be concerned is so much more constructive than to be worried.”

“Every time we make a real decision,
we find out who we really are,
because we make use of our own priorities and values.”

“The problem is not that there are problems.
The problem is expecting otherwise
and thinking that having problems is a problem.”

“Kindness is more important than wisdom,
and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”

“Anxiety and depression are tolerable if we don’t get
anxious and depressed about being anxious and depressed.”

“Sometimes we must make a serious effort to be frivolous.”

“To understand children,
we must have some memory of how we felt as children.”

These quotes by Theodore Isaac Rubin psychiatrist and author

Jessie is smoking tik. That was a shock. I’m sticking with her and supporting her, trying not to lose contact with her. Reading up a lot. I decided to talk, not keep quiet. The first five people I told, four came up with immediate solutions and advice. The fifth listened, empathised, offered an ear and said, “Good Luck, It’s A Long Haul.” He’s a medical specialist doc living with a drug addict child for around forty years.

I remind myself: Jess is addicted to tik AND very addicted to her boyfriend – completely under his sway; Jess takes herself to him – he does not drag her there – although she sometimes says he keeps her there, sometimes when she SAYS she wants to come home; sometimes, though, she admits she decided not to come home despite telling me she was coming; Nothing is clear, though. The truth is a serious casualty of the addiction – there is a lot of lying, a lot of blaming, a lot of confusion and uncertainty;

Both of them, and others who live with them, suffer from paranoia and hallucinations visual and aural, so when they see and hear things it’s not at all clear if they saw it in real life or in hallucination – most of what each of them say they’ve heard is aimed ‘against them,’ so paranoia would explain that; and again, the lying . . . ; Jess is aware that nasty things said against her are possibly real, possibly imagined.

Then I also remind myself that Jess has a wonderful time with him and his family when all is well; Mom, Aunt, Uncle, brothers, a sister. They sing and dance and laugh and get drunk and get high and have a wonderful time and she loves them and is loved by them; Especially the ladies there – Sihle’s sister, Mother and Aunt – treat her very well; So the lows are horrible, but the highs beat the boredom she feels at home.

And I remind myself of that socially acceptable substance right on top of this list. The acceptable one. The one I grew up with.

And I remind myself of the criminal disgrace of the failed, yet ongoing “War on Drugs.” And of how the only places who have reduced drug use and drug crimes are countries that have ended the lie of a “war on drugs” and significantly decriminalised drug use, instead helping drug users with their lives. Who see drug use as a disease, to be treated by healthcare workers, not as a ‘bad choice’ to be stamped out by policemen who are not trained in anything other than arrests and throwing users in jail. They are not equipped to do the very difficult task of talking to users who are high. They’re incentivised to make arrests, so they ‘raid’ and arrest. In the process, all thoughts of a police service go out the window. Instead of assisting their citizens, as they swore to do when they qualified as police officers, the system sets them against them.

An example of unintended consequences and misguided laws: Codeine is freely available in South Africa, you can buy it almost anywhere. We have a fairly low annual prevalence rate of opiate use at 0.3%. In the United States where all opiates are strictly regulated, the prevalence rate is almost double, at 0.57%.

Tolerate drug use!? Legalise all drugs!? What MANIACS would do that!? Well, be a lawmaker. Be honest with yourself and decide which of the drugs you would make illegal if you were making the decisions. Of course, you’re an honest person and you want what’s best for your people, right? To make it easy, let’s say you can only make ONE drug illegal. Which one on the HARMS CAUSED BY DRUGS list below would you choose? Start at the top and count down and choose the one you would ban (even though banning never works). You’d ban the top one, right? The one that causes most harm?

~~~oo0oo~~~

“God save us from the people
who want to do what’s best for us.”

“There’s a certain class of people who will do you in and
then remain completely mystified by the depth of your pain.”

~~~oo0oo~~~

As for addicts – they have their own challenges:

“You can’t save others from themselves because those who make a perpetual muddle of their lives don’t appreciate your interfering with the drama they’ve created.
They want your poor-sweet-baby sympathy, but they don’t want to change.”

“Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between
being cautious and being dead.”

“Insecure people have a special sensitivity for anything
that finally confirms their own low opinion of themselves.”

These quotes by private investigator Kinsey Millhone, female protagonist in author Sue Grafton‘s novels.

~~~oo0oo~~~

We’ll get there, guys.

~~~oo0oo~~~

another depiction / comparison

~~~oo0oo~~~

I strive for kindness AND wisdom, so on 6 July I passed my course on Addiction and Recovery, so now I’m an expert! Can a complete cure be far off!? Stanford University’s Psychiatric Dept had a six week online course and I just got my results. Learnt a lot and very gratified that expert opinion and the evidence points AWAY from the destructive ‘War On Drugs’ and harsh law enforcement.

TREATING the disease of addiction is the way forward, working with the addicts – each one an individual.

~~~oo0oo~~~

A Decade

It has been a decathlon. It would have been useful to have you around. Still would be. Ten years without you, but very few days where we don’t think of you.

We had a good system going, you multitasking and me doing as I was told; After? Let’s just say a couple things did fall through the cracks. A couple more than would have.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Birdbath Flurry

The birdbaths have been quiet. Maybe the winter rain we’ve had? Yesterday was different, we had a little flurry. I heard the tirrilink of firefinches and there they were, at the dripping tap birdbath. They usually hide from me.

– African Firefinch and Spectacled Weaver –

A Dark-capped Bulbul, A Dusky Fycatcher and Cape White-Eyes joined them.

~~~oo0oo~~~

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~~~