Sudden Onset Arthur Right Arse

Bloody hell, me shoulders! All of a sudden, really painful shoulders lying in bed one night a month ago (written June 2021). Not an ache – actual pain. I couldn’t roll over, I couldn’t get up without flopping like a jellyfish. I was amazed, then I thought, Aha! I Know What Did It. Two days prior I had done a lot of tree branch trimming high overhead.

Using a pruning saw on the end of my aluminium swimming pool net pole, I was sawing off branches that obscured my gates. I’d been meaning to trim for a while as the jungle took over but . . procrastination. Then I got cameras on my gates so I can see who is there and now I had to actually do it.

So, I thought, I’ll be stiff for a day and all will be well. But it was pain, not stiffness, so I hoped: Maybe I’ve pulled a muscle! Luckily the Bennett brothers weren’t here this time to chorus in rude unison: ‘Ha Ha! Swanie, you couldn’t have pulled a muscle. You must have pulled a fat!’

Well, it’s a month later and I have really painful shoulders at night. Daytime they’re fine, nights are torture.

Bloody hell.

~~oo0oo~~

A few months later: It’s gone, fank ve pope.

Confession: The only thing I changed was prompted by a clickbait ad which I did NOT click on. It shouted: “Here’s what not to eat if you have arthritis! CLICK HERE!” with a pic of a panful of tasty-looking fried eggs.

I thought, I have eaten two fried eggs every single day of lockdown. I have breakfast down pat. I fry two eggs, make two slices of toast and scarf it down, salt and black pepper, washed down with sugarless black coffee, breakfast done.

So I stopped. The pain disappeared. Please note this anecdotal evidence is not research. The pain may have disappeared if I’d twirled around three times and farted facing north that day. But I’m too scared to chance it, it was seriously a kak spell, so it’s no more gardening for a long while now. Can’t take chances. Maybe less eggs too.

~~oo0oo~~

pic: I recreated the scene of the crime later.

More Suffering (not)

Jess and I have loved our stay at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal.

Lovely accommodation, such friendly and helpful people. I decided to go full-on loafing and arrived expecting dinner, bed and breakfast. They had us as self-catering and the chef had taken leave. We said No Problem; They said No Problem; and between us we pooled what food we had. The delightful Nana who welcomed us and whose face fell when I asked what time dinner was, ended up cooking breakfast for us all three mornings. She was teased by the other staff in her new role and as I listened to them bantering in isiZulu, she ended off her reply with this American English: “There’s a new chef in the building!” to warm laughter. For our dinners she hauled venison out of the deep freeze and we cooked for ourselves as she goes home at 4pm. Today she said “I’ll make you a proper breakfast tomorrow, we have been shopping!” – the shops are about 27km away in Pongola.

Great birding for me, and Jess saw another special predator: A pack of seven African Painted Dogs.

~~oo0oo~~

Somkhanda website

Somkhanda at Wildlife Act

Sally Forth

It takes five days to go the 250km* to Harrismith from Westville. This is because you visit friends along the way. First, there were leaving formalities with amazing friends and supporters Petrea and Louis Lodder:

First stop Jenny & Tabs Fyvie in the Tala valley; My luck it was Justin’s 40th and Caitlin had baked a cake! Hayley also arrived and there was a flock of very deja-vu Fyvie-Mandy looking kids running around. What a busy happy extended family household! Tabs and Jen are hugely experienced travellers and campers, so I got a bit of Kruger Park advice and info, Kruger being one of my intended destinations. We did an inspection of their alucab camper with rooftop tent on a double-cab Landcruiser. I’ll pick their brains again when it comes to solar power, batteries and fridges.

On to the Rosetta Hotel as it was getting late. They were having a St Patricks night – lucky me again. I washed down a huge eisbein with sherry, a large Windhoek draft, a pint of guinness for Oirish luck, and a glass of house red – *burp* – then to bed in a huge warm room. In the morning I swallowed their substantial all-in breakfast.

To Mandy & Carl Reitz on their farm The Bend on a big bend of the Tugela river and a view of the high Drakensberg from the Sentinel to Cathkin Peak. What a fantastic three days I spent there. We laughed a lot thinking of how clever and beautiful and irresistible we were in those far-off alcohol-fueled days when The Bend was our mecca for sex drugs n rock n roll and variations on those themes.

I did lotsa farming with Kai in my normal fashion: Sitting in the passenger seat and nodding. Kai knows better than to take farming advice from me – he has had experience of me as a temporary deputy farm manager! He drove me all over his farms and the district and we took walks in the mud – they’ve had good rains. A special sighting was a large grey mongoose – the ichneumon or Egyptian Mongoose – running into cover; too quick for my camera.

Durban friends Greg & Roly Bennett had been to their old farm Oppermanskloof on the Geluksburg road to scatter their Mom’s ashes. I met them near Bergville where Roly and I had a great laugh remembering our young n clever daze; – His seconding us on the Dusi canoe marathon, doing a fine job on the first overnight stop, handing us cold beers, deckchairs and a hot meal; sheer luxury! On the second night we couldn’t find him: He had disappeared into the pub leaving us to fend for ourselves; – Water-skiing on Hazelmere dam where I dropped the tow rope as I rose out of the water behind Greg’s 220hp Yamaha outboard; The boat made a tight u-turn and came back to me. When I told them I’d pulled a muscle Roly roared with laughter and said, Swanie you couldn’t have pulled a muscle, you must have pulled a fat! Skinny bastid – he still doesn’t have calf muscles.

Next through Geluksburg and up Middledale Pass into the Vrystaat.

A lovely welcome from Leon & Elsa Strachan on their farm Nesshurst where again I was shown all over and fed and entertained royally. I forgot to get a pic of their beautiful big guest çottage on the banks of their dam.

I must ID that interesting plant. Then I got to Harrismith to Pierre and Erika du Plessis to stay in their lovely home. I have been so spoiled by Erika, and Aletta and Paul, her two helpers. Yesterday I heard a scream from Aletta in the garden. I rushed out to find she’d been stung by a wasp jealously guarding his spider prey on the lawn!

Next post: A fascinating trip to Memel.

~~oo0oo~~

  • * 250km as the vrou cries – or crow flies – a bit further if you insist on going ‘on the ground’

Tom’s New Room

Years ago, we discussed a revamp for TomTom’s bedroom. Life happened, it didn’t happen. His and Jessie’s bedrooms are just as when we bought sixteen years ago. And now the house is sold.

I came across his hand-written wishlist while clearing up.

Tom's new room
Bigger
New desk
New cupboard
Three walls tiled snow white
One wall covered in cool graffitti
Floor tiled
Blinds, not curtains
Aircon
New lights
New plugs
Code system (for access)

Oh well, TomTom. One day . .

Croak, Creak, Whip-Whip, Sweep

Four frog calls last night – the Guttural Toad’s kraak, the River Frog’s creak, the Reed Frog’s whip-whip, and the Bush Squeaker’s sweep.

– a Reed frog Hyperolius marmoratus calling –
– a differently patterned H. marmoratus nearby –

Earlier, a dragonfly had patrolled the skies above the green waters . .

. . and a frog muncher came to see if any of the night-time crooners were careless by day

~~oo0oo~~

Farewell Again

Hard work saying goodbye. I had to sweep the stoep again. Petrea and Louis had the small matter of bringing their Weber braai (my two non-Weber braais have gone off to Tom and Jess – I am braailess before I’m homeless), lots of steak, freshly home-made sourdough bread, peri-peri chicken liver in a large cast-iron pot, crockery and cutlery, bread board and knife, steak board and knife, ice, a large beaker of lime unt soda with fresh mint leaves from their garden and deck chairs; And Louis brought his hat; Jules brought delicious snacks; Sheila brought six bottles of white and three of champagne; Charles and Barbara brought beer and snacks and their delightful selves;

I had to do the rest.

Jolly good fun. Perhaps ‘Maritzburg’ will let us have another of these gatherings. After all, it has only been 120 days, waiting for ‘the paperwork’ since I sold my home.

~~oo0oo~~

Mannikins High on Grass

. . and then low on grass as they sway downwards. Then HIGH again if one flies off a stalk and the stalk sways upward under less weight. I confess I am endlessly fascinated by little seed-eating birds swaying on grass stalks in the morning light, so here are some more Red-backed Mannikins performing for us in my garden:

The Bronze Mannikins followed today, with juveniles; Yellow-fronted Canaries come often; and every now and then I get a Grey Waxbill as a rare treat.

~~oo0oo~~

Meantime, on the surface of my pond, a gruesome scene: skimmers doing what skimmers do: feeding on some poor creature that landed on the surface. My water-surface hyenas doing their job.

Jessie’s Truckload Leaves

Tom’s truckload was the first to leave.

And there goes Jessie’s today! She and her family are looking forward to the fridge and the microwave.

Now they can feed themselves and I’m free to roam! Our household goods divided fairly for the kids to start their own new lives. Yay! Fingers crossed.

~~oo0oo~~

Life without a fridge – first time since forever – and a microwave should be interesting. First meal: Starter, a packet of peanuts & raisins; Main, a camping sachet of three bean salad, crisps and freshly fried home-made potato chips with salt and braai spice. Washed down with a wee bottle of Vergelegen Reserve Merlot 2015 – a gift from Coo Evans. Yum!

New Neighbours, Maybe

I heard a tap tap tapping next door. Industriousness can be very irritating, so I went to have a look. My neighbour on the other side is industrious and what a pain. There’s a lawnmower, or a leaf blower, or a high pressure hose going so often it drives me crazy. I haven’t shouted GET A LIFE! over the fence. I’m far too polite.

Turns out this tap tap tapping is a bloke building a new home. He has chosen his site for the best possible fibre access. Progress has been stopped today after his lady friend came to look at the joint. Maybe she didn’t fancy the bathroom tiling or the layout or something? I like it. It’s east-facing, gets the morning sun, and is protected from our prevailing wind and rain from the SW.

~~oo0oo~~

If he abandons it a Crested Barbet may move in. He’s been prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-ing in the yellow-flowered Cassia tree next to the pole.

Later I saw him doing some interior work – and spitting out the sawdust:

End-Days Elston Place

I forgot to get the camera out – or rather, aim my phone at people – so that’s the setting for my farewell meals without Petrea, Louis, Charles, Barbara, Jules, Gayle, Grant, Ziggy, Tom, Mbono, Geoff, Janet, Heather or Bruce. A people-free zone before they arrived.

And I didn’t suffer all of them at once, are you mad? I only have five chairs left, so that’s my max guest number. And I sub-contracted out all catering – to Petrea, Louis, Ziggy and Checkers.

Some of these soirees were evenings, some were lunches. The evening ones were interrupted by le frogs calling loudly. Guttural Toads loud BRAAAP! and the gentle creak (that’s creak, not croak) of the River Frog – all in my sparkling blue-green pool. Here’s a guttural toad who scored – managed to entice a svelte young lady. The noisy one is the little guy on her back. He’s quiet now cos he doesn’t want any interruptions while theyr’e makin’ whoopee – and long strings of black fertilised eggs.

We’d have to get up every now and then and shurrup the toads, but you know what its like when you’re horny – they would only shut up for less than a minute. You do know what its like when you’re horny, right? Here’s one of them belting out a number:

Oh, hang on!? Anyway, Fats sounds better.

Here’s the polite lil chap:

Here’s his cousin from Petrea and Louis’ place down the road with a much showier ventral stripe:

One morning I called in expert help to deal with the noisy toads. I don’t know if he manage to relocate any of them. Hope so. He looks like he needs the protein.

I’m told my end-of-days is now only at at the end of February, so more to come.

~~oo0oo~~

Project Management

So the garage door was falling to pieces. Made of strips of aluminium riveted to a frame the rivets had mostly popped and it was flapping in any breezes that wafted.

Something had to be done.

So I waited a few months. And a few storms, for enhanced flapping.

Then I bleated to a project manager who sprang into action, roared off to a hardware store, bought some self-tapping screws and gave them to me along with his automatic, hydromatic, self-propelling, variable speed, battery-operated 14.4Volt hand-held Bosch Power Drill. With star bit for screwing screws with star heads.

He obviously hadn’t understood what I wanted.

So I waited.

Then I told Ziggy, ‘When you’re finished tidying the garage let me know. I need to repair the broken door.’ And sowaar, my patience was rewarded: ‘Why don’t you let Mbono do that? He’s very handy with man things,’ she said.

Now usually I would stop my daughters in their tracks with my standard, ‘Hey! Anything a man can do a woman can do too,’ but I listened and I shurrup. ‘OK’ I said and gave him the screws and a Spanish screwdriver (Manuel).

Mbono fixed the door in no time. Like greased lightning, it was hydromatic, automatic. I was going to post before and after pics here – too late.

So to end this lecture on project management: For suitable tasks all you need is to find one tame project manager and one tame matriculant from Northwood Boys. Then expertly source – or delegate the sourcing of – a bit of equipment and it’s actually quite easy.

~~oo0oo~~

sowaar – true’s Bob

Don’t Ask the Heathen!

I drove off to get some space and peace, and found out it’s hard to be on the road. Every space is taken. You can’t stop on the road and you really shouldn’t stop on the pavements. Nor should you block the few pull-over lanes the new South Africa made for taxis. But it was early Sunday morning, so I pulled into a lane that taxis can use outside St Elizabeth’s Church, not far from home. Who was Elizabeth, I wondered? And how do you become a saint? Do you have to be as evil as Mother Teresa?

So I’m sitting and thinking when a car cruises up slowly and stops opposite me. I wave and carry on with what I’m not doing when he winds down his window and I twig he wants to ask me something. He’s neatly dressed and the lady next to him is dressed for church. Lovely friendly-looking people who the Nats would have classified ‘Kleurlinges’- ‘Coloured’ – and the ANC KEPT these damned fake classifications! Jeeez!!! Under RACE in govt forms everyone should write NOT RUNNING.

‘Do you know what time the service is?’ he asks. Oh heck, no, I’m sorry, I’m a heathen. I wouldn’t have a clue, I tell him. It’s Anglican, right? I ask him. He says ‘Yes,’ smiling. His wife peers at me, interested, I think. Maybe she’s thinking: ‘So THAT’s what they look like!’? They drive off and park to watch the church. A few minutes later someone drives onto the church driveway, opens the gate and enters the parking lot. They follow that car – hopefully to get a more useful answer.

~~oo0oo~~

Hawaan Forest

There’s a beautiful patch of coastal forest left in Durban, hanging on as development happens all around it. Strolling around in the forest and on the fringe with sister Sheila and friend Jules, we heard a host of birds, saw a few and took pics of a few of the plants and creatures that would sit still.

– Variable Diadem on the lawn –
– Dideric Cuckoo tries to enter a Red Bishop nest –
– where’s that blerrie cuckoo? –
– alive with All Things Bright and Beautiful –
– the reed frog chorus is a delight –
Also – All things dull and ug-ga-ly
All creatures short and squat . .

~~oo0oo~~

Next visit we walked through the forest to the deck overlooking the river.

– under the canopy – the best kind of cathedral –

~~oo0oo~~

How much?

Jess phoned from Folweni:

Dad, I see Sheila posted on facebook that it’s your Dad’s birthday.

Oh, yes love, 98 hey!

Dad! He’s 99. You don’t even know how old your Dad is!

Ah, you’re right, 99. How old is your Dad, Jess?

Erm . . . um, I don’t know!

I had a hearty chuckle at that!

Dad! Why’re you laughing!?

I’m laughing at YOU, my Jess!

OK, Jess – so how old is my Dad?

99.

Right, turn that upside down, how much is that?

66.

CORRECT!

Oh, are you 66 Dad?

That’s right my girl. Clickety click. And there endeth the maths lesson.

~~o00o~~

A-Frogging We Will Go!

Old English nursery rhyme song:

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a rowley, powley*, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.

Like all good nursery rhymes, they all came to a bloody end. Dead, the lot of them, by the end of the rhyme. And they’re for children, of course, so there’s mention of spinach! See all the words here.

Aitch and I enjoyed some lovely frogging outings in our courting days and pre-children days. Sometimes with Barry & Lyn Porter at their three main ‘patches,’ Hella Hella (Game Valley Estates), inland of Port Shepstone (the litchi farm) and Betty’s Bay (which Barry’s father donated to the nation for a nature reserve), but the two of us ‘frogged’ all over the place, filling in data for the frog atlas by ADU at UCT’s Fitztitute. We had a lot of fun doing that. We felt lucky, we had an early GPS.

– me and Barry frogging inland of Port Shepstone on ‘the litchi farm’ –

Top ‘feature’ pic: A red-banded Rubber Frog I caught in me underpants on Malachite Camp – a shortlived venture in Zululand by the Mala Mala crowd. Here’s the frog again, and the tuft he was calling in:

Sonderbroek frogging as sometimes the vlei was quite deep. Whistling catcalls would emanate from the Landrover. That woman!

~~o00o~~

sonderbroek – sans culotte; trousers off

vlei – marsh; wetland

Mfolosi

Useful to top up your salt intake every so often by sticking your tongue in your nostril. Must practice that.

Mpila camp’s ‘safari tents’ are great. Comfy with all modcons, own kitchen and en-suite semi-outdoor bathroom. It’s walled in with reeds, like the kitchen wall you see here, but only to shoulder height – above that, it’s open to the outdoors under the big canvas roof. It’s a treat. A Purple-banded Sunbird sang to me as I showered. No pictures.

While photographing these ‘acacia’ flowers (must get the real name – maybe Senegalia?) this biggish weevil or snout beetle dropped into my hand. I’ll ask iNaturalist.org to identify both the plant and its weevil. Otherwise it would be like I saw no weevil.

There you go! iNaturalist.org says it’s a Foppish Weevil Polyclaeis equestris

– a Wahlberg’s Eagle and a Yellow-billed Kite share a perch –

A slender mongoose made a breakfast appearance at a waterhole. If anything was nesting in there, they were egg and toast, as she inspected every nook and cranny.

Driving along, an oft-heard sound and a not-often-seen sighting:

– a very obliging Black Cuckoo calls ‘I’m So Sick!’ –

At the hide (must add the name – Bhejane?) I saw the lovely Mocking Cliff Chat, Lesser Striped Swallows, Village Weavers building nests and a Hadeda Ibis pulling down their new nests around its nest! A Diederik Cuckoo was calling, probably waiting to get into those weaver nests. This hide looks out over a waterfall – dry today:

At another waterhole a bird flew past as my little Canon snapped a 3-shot burst:

I took a new route home, exiting the Cengeni gate in the south-west of the park and heading for Ulundi, Melmoth and Eshowe. Right outside the gate exiting the Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve there’s this puzzling sign:

– or turn around and go back fifty metres! –

I asked the man at the gate, How far to Ulundi? 37km. I asked him, And how is the road? and he got all coy, hummed and hah’d a bit, then blurted, “but it is a tar road.” It wasn’t too bad. A fairly normal look-sharp neglected tar road as we’re used to.

If I still had Marguerite Poland’s book on the isiZulu descriptive names of Nguni cattle I’d tell you how this beast on the way to Ulundi would be described:

– something like ‘she lifts her black dress to cross the river, revealing her white petticoat’ –

I’ll go back to Mfolosi. Soon, though. Before it also loses all its grasslands to bush encroachment.

~~o00o~~