Thutty Yizz! (that's '30yrs' to you)

Aitch never held my culinary skills in high regard. Her favourite meal to mock was my chicken-onion-n-potato-in-a-pot special which she described as pale and tasteless. It wasn’t. It just looked bland. With a touch of salt and black pepper and enough red wine taken internally it was fine.

She was right about my braaiing skills, though. Luckily Tom’s genes skipped back about seven generations to when burning dead animals on a naked flame was considered an advance in civilisation, not like I believe it to be: a pointless exercise now that Eskom has been invented. So he is now my braaiing stunt double.

Tom braais

To show that I’m an early adopter and no Luddite, I’ll have everyone know that when Aitch met me back in ’85 there was already an AEG microwave ensconced in my bachelor flat, faithfully re-heating coffee, poaching eggs and heating up the half hamburgers I would find on my chest after a good night out.

Which same microwave gave up the ghost this week. That’s correct. My AEG microwave, bought on 26 March 1984 fizzled on me on the 26th of March 2014. How’s that for hi-fidelity?

And just to show I really will avoid playing the primitive pyromaniac if I can help it, here’s a picture of me pulling my shirt to hide that same microwave behind me at Kosi Bay, Zululand ca 2002. I snuck it into the kombi knowing their campsites had Eskom power and knowing that heating up Tommy’s bottles was a fiddle without it. So I took gas and I took firewood and I took Lion matches, but I used AEG electric microwave technology powered-by-Eskom’s coal burning to feed TomTom.

microwave in Kosi Bay 2002
– see the electric light burning by day to prove Eskom was a 24hr service back then –

Update: Now I’m pissed off it packed up after only 30 years:

NEWS STORY: 93-yr-old woman is pissed off her oven packed up after only 53 years!

In 1963 John F Kennedy was president of the US, the Beatles had released their first album, and Winifred Hughes of Crewe, then a mere 39yrs old, paid £79 for an ultra-modern Belling Classic electric oven. It turned out to be an amazing bargain. Winifred,­ now 92, has used it almost every day since, and she says, “it never let me down”. Sadly, just last week, the thermostat finally gave up, and Winifred says she is “heartbroken” her beloved Belling is no more.

53-yr-old stove


Peter Brauer wrote:

“…which she described as pale and tasteless. It wasn’t. It just looked bland. With enough red wine taken internally it was fine.”

Wasn’t she talking about you??


Terry Brauer wrote:

You truly are the nuttiest oke I know. For a greenie this is like true confessions. Nuking your food.

Go Tommy! You inherited your mother’s skills . .


wu wei

My garden is a wonderful tangle of KwaZulu indigenous growth gone wild. Interfered with only by my best man Tobias Gumede’s earnestly-felt desire to do something. Recently he trimmed the undergrowth near the birdbath and the spot where beautiful turquoise Araneus apricus spins her web each night and takes it down every morning.


I had to sit him down and remind him: Tobias, remember when we listened to the yellow-bellied greenbul’s complaints and you told me how it was saying “Don’t shoot the birds, it’s Spring and they’re nesting”, and how you would teach the kids in Jozini not to shoot birds in that season – and how they did anyway!?
Well, its Summer, and remember: We don’t trim or cut anything till the season fades and we’re sure no birds or other creatures are nesting. And even then we do it with great circumspection? Oh Yes, He Does Remember and Sorry, He Forgot.

But he forgot again and as I was leaving he asked Can You Buy Me A Rake? Um, what for, Tobias? Oh, Yes, He Forgot, We Don’t Rake. Right.

Well, I mention this because I have recently found out that unbeknown to me, I garden according to the ancient principle of wu wei. I mean, I always suspected my method was brilliant, but wu wei! That is brill. Its the Zen (or Tao? – or something . . ) art of “masterful inactivity”.

I love it: “The Art Of Masterful Inactivity”! Wu wei! I can do this!

I’m reading a book by Esther Woolfson who lives in Aberdeen in Scotland called Field Notes from a Hidden City. The review of her book made me want to write about all the wonderful hidden creatures in my garden and generally in Westville, so I bought it with the express intention of plagiarising it. I’ve got to the part where she writes about wu wei and I’m right behind her.

I read a lot about books and then occasionally I buy one and actually read the whole thing. Often the book review is better than the book. I bought Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck by Eric G Wilson. Well, it was a very good review.

Back to plagiarism: I will write to Esther and tell her what I’m doing if I get the book done. My wu wei credentials are not confined to gardening, however, so she may be safe.

Here’s the manicured bit for soccer, rugby and biking, with refuges for creatures in front and behind. When the kids stop swimming the pool will be made more frog-friendly. Made? Well, Allowed To Go frog-friendly . . . .

Jess MTB small

So how did I know the beautiful little turquoise orb spider I found in my garden was Araneus apricus? I went to my saucers. This one is seldom in her cups: My favourite entomologist Tanza said:

Hi Pete – I think she is Araneus apricus, a little orb spider. Most are nocturnal, spinning their webs in the early evening and then removing them in the morning. Maybe she got out of bed late . . . ; It is probably a “she” as the males are often (but not always) smaller.- Tanz

I first met Tanza when she was working with social spiders on the Hella Hella bridge over the Umkomaas river. Hundreds of them obligingly spun webs between the aluminium railings, allowing Tanza to mark and measure at leisure. Usually they’d be in tangled bushes!

They’re fascinating.

On being outnumbered

We now have two more females in the household! And the one is making deposits bedonnered.

Never one to do things by halves, Aitch has reacted to my firm “NO WAYS” for a new dog by getting TWO puppies: One is here already. Jess calls her “Shadow”. The other has been born and arrives in a few weeks’ time. Both black bitches.

I said to Tommy: It’s you ‘n me, boy!

That’s Haram, Dad!

Mohamed came to play, then ended up staying the night.
Mom Rookaya, in answer to my query, said “just not pork” so I thought I had meals under control.

Supper I pick up a packet of pasta and say “Here’s yours, you guys. Cook it yourself” to the two nine year olds.

NO DAD! THAT’S HARAM! says my TomTom.
HARAM. You can’t give that to Mohamed!

Oh. I look at the packet: Cheese and bacon Carbonara. Oh, OK.

(Phew! You saved my bacon, boetie, I think. And who woulda thought TomTom would know these things, I think).


Later we go down to Vetch’s beach where they reflect on things . .

Tom Mahomed Vetch's Beach (7)

Dad, I can’t vacuum!

Vacuum clean your room, please Jess. 16yr-old Jess. 2014.
On goes the whine, to be switched off ten seconds later.
Stomp, stomp, a delegation to come and see me:
“Dad, I can’t vacuum!”
Why not, Jess?
“Cos I can’t hear my music!”

She watches my jaw drop, grins triumphantly and marches back to continue the vacuuming.
Mission accomplished: SERVED my Dad!!

Elston Place Westville

On Tuesday, June 18, 2013, Pete wrote:

What an interesting cul-de-sac is Elston Place. Sure there are three boring houses with closed gates and aloof umLungus in them, and one high-wall 8-unit complex called Marula-something with faceless people living in it who don’t know that if you live in a ten-gate cul-de-sac you GREET everyone who lives there. They’re at the top of the road so maybe they don’t even know its a short little cul-de-sac?


We also have a house with two young kids and good people who will host the neighbourhood kids in their pool; They have direct access to the nature reserve;

Then there are the four run-down council houses with hordes of kids. THAT’s what makes Elston Place interesting. Those that visit me to swim and snack range from three to thirteen, Fezile, Asanda, Katelo, Khanyiso, Michael, Mfundi, Logical & Paul – boys. Andile, Azokuhle, Gugu & Minenhle – girls. Who exactly they belong to, I have not fully worked out. But my kids know, and shake their heads when I ask – again.

Elston Place gang (1)

Some of the older ones have moved up and on. They’re too cool for our pool, trampoline and jungle gym now. One of them has had a bambino already. Kids with kids. I fright for that.

Some – thank goodness – never grow up!

jess party pics jump in
Logical's Baby (1).JPG
– my first ‘grandchild’ – Logical’s baby –

One house is childless. Occupied by Bill G, ex-Durban Corpse municipal employee who knows everything, especially about how grass and verges should be cut – and specialising in kids’ education (“You must study hard, y’hear? My daughter didn’t play in the street and look today there she is, a doctor. My son didn’t play in the street and there he is, a pharmacist!”). We’ve never seen his kids, so I spose he’s right about that much.

One Mom is Thandi, who works at Woolies and goes to Virgin Active Gym every day, walking her ample bum 3km’s there and 3km’s back, even tho there’s a gym in our nearby centre that she works in – I guess Woolies has her on Discovery Health.

One has a green car and drives her kids to school at Westville Jr Primary every morning. Her kids don’t visit or play in the road.

Lawrence the friendly and polite Zimbabwean worked at Nourish Cafe nearby, but they closed, so now he walks to a far-away newly-opened PicknPay near Thandi’s gym. He has a wife and a little daughter.

We have Naseem from Pakistan with dogs that bark right in my ear when I’m in my bedroom and vehicles that arrive and leave at all times of the day & night. Lovely people, but sometimes I phone them at 3am and ask them ‘Please SHUT UP your dogs.’

And then Deo was our Metro cop. It was good to have a Metro cop vehicle in our road with his smiling face in it. Lately he’d been scarce and I heard whispers of a mistress or two and shenanigans. Now he’s late. Car accident.

I thought he’d been hit in the blue & white Metro car by a truck, but his widow Nkosazana came round yesterday dressed all in black top-to-toe including scarf and hat. She needed me to update her CV so she can look for another job as she was recently retrenched from the security company where she was a CCTV operator. Bliksem. Three kids. Around 19, 16 and 13.

She filled me in on the details: He was driving his private Nissan X-Trail and hit (or was hit by) a Toyota Hilux bakkie. Neither he nor his mistress were badly hurt, but he “wasn’t right” and was sent back to Westville hospital after a while, then on to Entabeni as his condition worsened. There he died and poor Nkosazana (who he’d ‘kicked out’ in October) was only then able to get into their home to try and sort things out. Mistress in the meantime had the house keys and took documents, cellphones, watches and stuff. Luckily his Metro cop colleagues believed her when she explained her plight and took her around to the mistress’ place and got some of their stuff back.

Elston Place also borders the beautiful Palmiet Nature Reserve, and the day before yesterday I saw a new bird at my bird bath: A Yellow-bellied Greenbul.

The End.

No – to be continued . . .

I also sometimes take the plunge . .


An Owl!

In fifteen years at 7 River Drive we never saw or heard a single owl. Wasn’t for lack of trying.

In two years at 10 Windsor we heard a Wood Owl, which was magic. The furthest south I’d heard them before was Zululand.

After seven years at 10 Elston I had heard Wood Owls and caught one glimpse of an owl (?Barn Owl) flying over the house, but TONIGHT I finally saw a Spotted Eagle Owl sitting in our dead avocado tree!

Heard him first while I was hanging curtain rails in the cottage. Went out and there he was staring at me. 11pm.



pic from – thank you – wonderful bird pics

Rain and Roughing it

Lotsa rain in Tegween (eThekwini, Durban). The garden looks like a series of lakes and the pool is overflowing. I had asked Tobias to fill it up just before the rains started, so I’ve actually paid for some of the water flowing out over the lawn!
Luckily I have a bakkie now, so I shouldn’t get stuck. If it carries on I’ll be wishing I’d bought a 4X4.
Thanks to the new patio roof and a flat roof over the new scullery we have the sound of rain on a tin roof again. Haven’t had that since Vrystaat days. I love it. Music to my ears!

Finally extracted me digit and have started some DIY stuff at last. Bookshelves, mainly – to act as a room divider to shut off the guest loo from direct view! Tobias has been a big help, working in the cottage as it’s too wet to do any gardening.

Now I must get round to fitting a new geyser – OK, having one fitted. Been without hot water in the house for three months (we have hot water both in Cecelia’s room and in the cottage, though). I reckon I’d have got it in the ear after three DAYS if Aitch had been around! Three HOURS maybe!

When the kids moan I just assure them it’s character-building to carry hot water from outside to the washbasin, and to go out to the cottage to shower, towel over your shoulder.

And so it is, actually.

Hijack Anniversary

15 August 2012 – sms from Belinda:

Hey Pete! I stand to be corrected, but it was 10 or 11 years ago tonight we met some uninvited visitors at your house after a St Lizzie’s parents meeting! Just a thought I had.

(I was taken off from our home by five armed guys in Belinda’s VW Polo that night, and dropped off on the M19 onramp onto the N2 South. A truck driver stopped and took me to a garage. Cops then fetched me and took me home. Her car was recovered the next day. Belinda and the Griffiths had come for coffee after a pre-school parents gathering. I was carrying little Em to Belinda’s car when I was jumped).

Solemnish Ceremony

I gathered the kids and said “Let’s go and bury Mom’s ashes with Bella. We’ve been meaning to do it for ages, let’s do it now.”

Her ashes had been keeping an eye on us from the mantelpiece. Now it was time for ceremony.

We trooped down under the trees to the spot where Tobias and I had buried Bella and where we had prepared a hole for the little box containing Aitch’s remains.

I gathered my thoughts and cleared my throat and . . .

“ANTS!” the kids shouted, slapping their legs and running away back to the house.

Ah well, I had a little private ceremony, shaking with laughter. Aitch would have enjoyed that (though she’d have had something to say about decorum).

Who Helped Who?

Mom n Tom choose a cake for his party: A great big rocket with a number SEVEN emblazoned in smarties on its side, a star-shaped base and gleaming red aluminium foil fins. They choose the mixing bowl, run the Kenwood, prepare the star-shaped pan and – at last – pop the first part into the pre-heated oven.

It’s a hot, muggy day and Aitch plops down into a chair in the breakfast nook and smiles at Tom.

Mom! he says, I couldn’t have done that without you!


It gets worse. Later on he thinks of something and goes up to Aitch.

Mom, what treat can I get for helping you? he asks.

Hmmm, says Aitch, always sharper than me in dealing with the kids’ manipulations, Who’s cake is this?


So what do I get for helping YOU?

A hearty handshake, says the incorrigible one, without missing a beat, and goes running off chuckling.


Matt, the other man

When the new boy moved in I experienced times of being firmly relegated to 2-IC, second-best, sidekick, supporting cast – in Aitch’s life. Me and TC had to step back as she fell deep and hard in love with Matt. Here’s when she found and chose him:


He was not glossy, so we called him Matt.

TC and Matt at their bowls - Touched up using FxFoto

Then he grew. And his coat became glossy on the expensive vet’s food Aitch fed him. He was at the tail-end of the docked-tail era.

TC thinks WHAT the hell is this!!!? matt-tc-river-dr-4

matt-tc-river-dr-2 dogs-river-dr-matt-tc

This was back when these dogs were our children (prior to adopting two of the longer-lasting, more expensive, less appreciative, two-legged kind!).

I found Matt on the freeway late one rainy night. He was probably after an intriguing new smell which enticed him out (he hadn’t wandered before). He was a growing boy, after all! Hit by a car on the M13 when he went loping off thinking “Love Is In The Air”, he was dead. His collar with our details on it was still attached.

We shed tears. I dug his grave. We buried him in the garden.

Then we got a lawyer’s letter and the guy who hit him sued us for the damage to his car. He was entitled to do that, and we paid. Felt crappy, though.

True love – Aitch & Matt; Matt about 1989 to 1991.

True love - Aitch & Matt; Matt about 1989 to 1991 - buried at 7 River Drive