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 landed in a patch of sunlight, a lifer for Dave. All this thanks to Crispin Hemson showing us his special patch, Pigeon Valley in urban Durban. Talk about Guru Guiding! With local knowledge, depth, anecdotes, asides and wandering all over, on the ground and in our minds. Including 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, 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 –

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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. It was beer n boobs, not birds n ballies.

~~~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 . . .

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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.

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“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!).

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 –

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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.

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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:

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

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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~~~

Jess Cooks a Curry

Petrea said to Jess, Cook a curry for your Dad. Jess said, ‘I’ve never done that before.’ Don’ worry, says Petrea and delivers a box. Leaves it at the gate.

All you have to buy is chicken, Jess. On the day, Jess marches into my office, ‘Dad! There’s no recipe!’ Petrea says read the back of the spices. Oh.

It was delicious! Tom specially came in and gave his sis a big hug and kiss and said ‘Jess! Best curry ever!’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Xmas Activity

First a gang of bandits invade, foraging . .

– banded mongoose gang investigates what’s for lunch –

. . then a prinia flies in, busy, busy. Looking for nesting material

– tawny-flanked prinia chooses nesting material –

A busy xmas and boxing day in Elston Place, Westville, KZN.

~~~oo0oo~~~