What a beauty! Don’t disturb him

What a beauty! Don't disturb him

Walking around in a campsite which shall remain nameless (I don’t want anyone to disturb him), I heard a host of birds kicking up a big fuss. I couldn’t see anything, so lay down on my back and searched the whole tree with my binocs. Then a toppie revealed him by flying right at his head and slapping his face with its wings!! A big beautiful black mamba, who just quietly took the birds’ abuse. Maybe wrote down its name . .

I carefully marked the spot so I could find the snake again – I know how snakes can ‘disappear’ – and went back to our chalet nearby and called friends to come and look. I got them to X Marks The Spot . . . and I could not find him! I searched thoroughly, but no go.

We assumed he had moved off, but after my friends left I lay down again and searched the branches again. He was in almost the same position! He’d hardly moved. How the heck had we missed him? The incredible camouflage power of ‘not moving!’

While lying on my back on the mowed lawn I spotted a butterfly land on a blade of grass and twist its abdomen, wriggle, then fly off. I went to look and found a neat single spherical egg laid on the under-surface of the green blade of grass. Beautiful. A greenish-yellow colour, I think. I thought I took a photo of the egg but cannot find it.

– the snake and the butterfly were near here –
– Dizzi spotted butterflies against those far-off cliffs! – some will now recognise the place! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

toppieBlack-capped Bulbul, Pycnonotus tricolor

black mambaDendroaspis polylepis

Here’s a GIF to help spot him more easily: head left, tail right

Mini-Shova 2013

This time Minenhle joined us, using Gayle Adlam’s mountain bike.

Sheils took us to the start again, in our bakkie, then drove it to her home, which is near the finish line.  The night before we had been to the rugby Sharks vs WP and got soaked – Cold and rainy, but the cycling day dawned warm and dry.

Minnie and Jess trundled along, chatting away and eye-ing out the male talent en route.
For the first time, Tom put his head down and pedaled off with intent. I caught him twice, then waited for Jess near Cowies Hill. Never saw him again. Rode the rest alone. At the finish he came up proudly boasting “Blew your doors off, Dad. Beat Jess by MILES!”

Jess & Min took quite a while longer.

Subway sarmies afterwards; then we rode and pushed steep uphills to Sheila’s flat.

Drove home in the bakkie for a hot bath.

Bob’s Last Landing

VagaBob Gone

My old mate Bob Ilsley the Vagabond Pilot – or Vagabob – has flown his last. His undercarriage buckled, he ran out of runway.

Many of his stories which I have heard since 1979, came out at his memorial service, and it was lovely listening to people who knew and loved Bob as I did. I met him at Addington hospital when the army sent me to Out Patients Dept ‘B’ (called ‘Oh Pee Dee Bee’ by all). He was there to fix legs and I was there to fix eyes. “You get them to see where they’re going, and I’ll get them to walk straight there,” he’d say. As luck would have it, years later in 2000, I bought a practice in Montclair that’s just two blocks from his home, and we could renew our OPDB friendship.

He built his own Piper Vagabond in his garage (hence his email moniker vagabob – and wife Barbara’s vagabarb), and he was repairing it there when I first saw it after their only prang.

Bob’s Vagabond in his garage, being rebuilt after the PMB prang – never did fly again. Here we can see why they were called ‘rag and tube.’

He inspected home-built planes for the Experimental Aircraft Association for years. Up to February this year. If you built a plane on your porch you couldn’t fly it till Bob said so. He would punch holes in the fabric and break the ribs, saying to the distraught owner-builder, “You can thank me. Rather now than in the air”.

On their first flight with Bob next to or behind them they’d quite often have something go wrong in the air, only to find it was him pulling a cable or stopping it from moving, or turning off the fuel (he knew where everything was!). “Just testing,” he’d say with his “innocent look,” as they tried to calm their hearts down from going boom-biddy-boom at 800 beats per minute in the shade. That ‘innocent look’ of his was a killer! How often I saw him say something outrageous to people with that innocent look!

He flew all over. KZN and the wild coast he’d talk about most often to me, landing on remote strips. Some of those I remember are Port St Johns, Creighton, Scottburgh and Ixopo.

He only took to plummeting once, when the Vagabond gave up while taking off from Maritzburg’s Oribi airfield. His wife Barbara came out of it with her arm in a sling and all bruised. Bob untouched. How’d you do that? he was asked. “Hard right rudder” he said. “I thought it would be softer to land on top of Barbara.”

Often wore T-shirts that made Barbara walk a good few paces behind him: (“If its got tits or wheels it’ll give you shit”; “Please ask your boobs to stop staring at my eyes”; “Recycled Teenager”). A very quiet guy, he would stare intensely with twinkling eyes at people to see their reaction, seldom smiling until they did. If it was cold he would wear frayed old jerseys (and by the sounds of it at the service, maybe the same one always). Still short pants, though.

Every flight physical he would come to me for his eyes, muttering “They’ve referred me for my heart again. Every time the same thing.” He had a little heart anomaly that showed up on the ECG that always raised a query but always got passed in the end. I don’t think modern medicine could cope with his big, generous, genuine, honest heart. His Private Pilot’s Licence was valid for 60 years!

Bob had very little time for religion and, of course, had a pithy saying about it: “They’re all just travel agents trying to sell you a ticket to the same place”, he’d say, cheerfully deadpan. The American dominee at his funeral used Bob’s quote to do a little pitch for how his church is different! Bob would have loved disputing that.

I made his glasses for about 32 years and the Rx stayed exactly the same: About -3,50 cyls in PGX glass executive bifocals, the worst lens in creation. In a thick old square plastic Safilo frame with monster flex hinges, the worst frame in creation. With his own home repair with acetone to build up the bridge. Three times I changed him: Once the Rx and twice the lenses, a multifocal once and a flattop once. All three times he came back and stated with his earnest and innocent face on: “Good try, but I think we’ll go back to what works, OK?” In the end I just tricked him, making up a lovely new lightweight plastic frame with thin flattop Transitions lenses for free “as a spare” while I “fixed” his ancient ones. The “fixing” took so long and he got so many compliments with the better-looking frame from all his many girlfriends on his jaunts around town that his vanity (“vain!? me, never!” – but notice he removed his specs for the pic!) made him quietly continue wearing them.

Once though, he came in wearing his old ones and in front of everyone in the practice he moaned loudly that “These new glasses are TERRIBLE; My old ones are MUCH better!” to the consternation of my ladies who made the mistake of trying to tell him he was wearing the old ones. Constant comic theatre with Bob. Then they’d make us tea and we would retire to look at the internet or his pictures of his travels. These were pop-in visits, which sometimes caused havoc with practice manager Raksha’s scheduling. For his actual appointments she would book a double appointment at lunchtime.

Bob left Zim when his first wife split, bringing his four sons to Durbs in about 1973. He met Barbara in about 1976, I think. She had four daughters! They raised them well. Many grandkids followed and to the daughters’ and daughters-in-laws’ horror (and the kids’ delight) he called them by number in the order they arrived. “Number Ten skyped us last night” he’d tell me. “Number Four has finished school.”

Loved hiking and hiked many of the famous trails: The Otter, the Whale trail in de Hoop Nature Reserve, the Fish river canyon in Namibia, the Fanie something trail in Mpumalanga, and more. Always with a full backpack. It’d be him at seventy to eighty and some thirty to fifty year olds. “We had to wait for the old people to catch up,” he’d tell me without a trace of a smile as he showed me his pics. He’d usually have at least one tale of a prank he’d play on someone, too – usually the prettiest or spunkiest young lady present! Fell in love often, did our Bob. Barbara would just watch and marvel.

Loved mangling Afrikaans with his ZimBARBwe and Durbs background, so if there was an “Africana” there he’d have a field day. Especially with ladies.

His favourite holidays were road trips, camping in his Opel station wagon, using the back as a double bed.

Three times he went to the big airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, camping out on the airfield and revelling in the aircraft, spacecraft and especially the simulators where he could test his skill. He flew the Wright brothers craft and could only keep it aloft for a few seconds, so went straight to the back of the queue again and the second time flew it for longer than they had! Determined bugger, Bob.

After Oshkosh he would appear in the practice doorway and say nothing. Raksha would just say Uh, Oh! and put the kettle on for coffee and postpone a few appointments. She knew he’d brought a memory stick and we’d spend an hour in the back de-briefing Oshkosh.

Now he’s gone.

~~~oo0oo~~~

50. That’s fifty. Five zero. FIFTY! Eish!

Aitch doesn’t mess around. Suddenly a big marquee was pitched on the front lawn. What’s that for? I ask. We’re having a party, says me wife. Oh. OK. So tip-toe’ing discreetly past my half century mark is not going to happen?

Nope.

So I help the guys lay down a dance floor; and I carry chairs. And I carry chairs. Do we need so many chairs? I ask. Carry chairs, I’m told.

Then a minibus arrives and musical instruments are carried out – a trombone, a saxophone and a guitar – and one of the guys looks familiar. Big, braces, white hair. Mario!? I say / ask in amazement. Yes, says he in an Italian accent. What are you doing here? I ask, onnosel-y. He just smiles. I spose he’s used to that.

Mario Montereggi! When he’s not marshaling his Big Band, he runs a trio, Music Unlimited, for small events: Him on trombone, a guitarist and a saxophonist.

– Mario Montereggi’s trio –

WOW!! Aitch certainly does NOT mess around!

The theme was Africa, but Brauer thought it was Out of Africa, and of course he took it literally. You know how he is . .

– Aitch put it all together – she was much younger’n me –
– the sax player charmed the kids –
– especially TomTom –

Instead of a solemn speech full of half a century of carefully censored praise . .

– Terry and Pete exaggerating –

Terry and Pete sang a song full of scurrilous exaggerations – and duped the rest of the mense into singing the chorus! Everyone knows Billy Joel’s Piano Man tune . .

– Brauerr song PFS 50th –

Then Jonathan and Aitch said some words and I had to correct everyone and put them straight.

– after Jon and Aitch spoke I had to leap up to defend my reputation –
– good peeps gathered –
– PFS 50th –

~~~oo0oo~~~

onnosel – not clever; dof

mense – good people

Honeymoon 1988 itinerary

Venturing forth . .

. . into Deepest Darkest America, we go kitted out in readiness . .

– off to Darkest America in a Ford Sierra (well, to the bottom of the garden anyway . . ) –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Eight weeks; Yep, lo-ong leave; Seven destinations in the USA and one week in England;

I got these details from Aitch’s diary

FLORIDA – Miami airport – 3rd March 1988;
Fly on to Orlando, Florida – Sheraton Hotel
Disney World
Epcot Centre
Rent a car and drive east to Merritt Island – sparrows and mosquitoes
Kennedy Space Centre

Fly back to Miami and rent a car
Titusville (Town Motel $28.90 for the room)
Biscayne Nature Reserve
Florida City (Town Motel)
Everglades – Long Pine Key; Mrazek Lake; Mahogany Hammock

– Florida Everglades –

Flamingo Lodge in the Everglades

On Saturday, 12 March we drive to Big Cypress along the Tamiami Trail and on to
Everglade City – The Rod & Gun Club – 2 nights

CALIFORNIA – San Francisco, California – Tuesday, 15th March

Aitch said “I want to see an American city, not just nature reserves! so we walked , bussed and rode trams in the city. Stay in a Howard Johnson’s Motel, where I use the phone book to enquire about hiring a camping van. Its more expensive than a small car and motels, so . . we hire a Ford 351 cubic inch V8 RecVee from Western RV Rentals! The first night near Escalon we sleep in a parking lot – maybe illegal, but free!

– I worked out it would only be a little more expensive than a small car plus motels – right! –

Yosemite National Park
We walk to Mirror Lake
Badger Pass Ski Resort
Wawona Rail Creek
Camp in Wawona campground (pay $6 in a box – honour system)
Maraposa Grove
Paso Robles
Atascadero
Santa Marguerita – Campground ($8)
Rinconada
Santa Marguerita Lake
Los Osos; Baywood Park
Morro Bay
Cayucos Beach
San Simeon
Los Padres National Forest
Plaskett Creek camp ($8) – Van loo overflowed – Big clean up delayed departure!
Carmel town
Sunset Beach KOA camp ($20.95, ‘all amenities’)
Santa Cruz
Natural Bridges Park
Halfmoon Bay
We return the RecVee – and pay $59 damage for a fender scrape in Yosemite! Ouch!
Total $679 for 7 nights – more than car hire + motels, it’s true. But much more fun!

– whattavan! – whattagal! –

Hired a car (from Snappy!) and drove around San Francisco – Lombard Street, Chinatown, over Golden Gate bridge to Muirwoods Rec area & beach
Marin – Fountain Motel
Downtown San Francisco – Macy’s, Sears, JC Penney – Aitch finally saw a few shops! I bought a telescope – not a good buy!
Slept in the airport; Aitch wrote postcards;

WYOMING – Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Tuesday, 24th March (via Salt Lake City)
Toyota Tercel 4WD – I loved it!
Antler Motel ($28 for the room); Dinner at The Blue Lion (delish. Aitch: “Like St Geran”)
Breakfast at Vernet Cafe
Wilson (saw a Dipper underwater!)
Dinner at Anthony’s
Turned back before Teton Village – road blocked due to thick snow on the Moose/Jenny Lake road; Yellowstone south gate closed!

– the Grand Tetons –

Moran Junction to Jackson Lake
Sleigh ride at Teton Village – see a white grouse in a tree
Kelly (NE of Jackson Hole)

WASHINGTON – Seattle, Washington (via Salt Lake City) – Sunday 27th March 1988
Puget Sound
San Juan Islands
We hire another all-wheel-drive Toyota Tercel and drive north to Anacortes – San Juan Motel
Ferry crossing to Guernes (Guemes?)
Orcas Island
Capt Cook’s Resort

– me and our Toyota Tercel – with sort-of 4X4 – On Orcas Island –

Drive up Mt Constitution until snow blocks road
Walk around Mountain Lake
East Sound
Doe Bay Resort – stay in a rustic cabin (very rustic! but its cheap, Aitch!) called Decatur; hot tubs, ‘suits optional’

– Aitch in the hot tub sans suit –
– the Pacific in the Puget Sound visible in the background –

Back on the ferry – 30th March; In Seattle we handed back the little Tercel – our 2nd-best vehicle on honeymoon;

OKLAHOMA – Fly south to Dallas / Fort Worth, planning to go to the gulf; But we change our plans and head back north to Lawton, Oklahoma – 30th March; This because the newspaper said: ‘You don’t want to be flying over Easter’ and we asked our air hostess ‘When’s Easter?’ and she said ‘Easter? That’s tomorrow;’
We drive to the farm outside Apache – Apache Oklahoma – 31st March;
Only Jimmy there when we arrive after dark;
Jim & Katie arrive – 4yrs since my last visit; 15yrs since I stayed with them;

– Jim n Katie got a huge SA flag from the embassy in Houston! –

Anadarko shopping

Jim gives me the Chevy Suburban 4X4 keys – ours to drive – our best vehicle on honeymoon!

1st April, my birthday – Breakfast in bed!
Lunch with Granma (Patterson)
Mary Kate arrives from OU

Big family gathering at Plantation Restaurant in Wichita Wildlife Reserve, near Meers. We drive past the old Patterson Ranch;

Jim gives Aitch the Cadillac convertible keys – hers to drive!

– You had Mustang Sally and now there’s Cadillac Aitch –

Tuesday 5 Apr – We take the Cadillac convertible to town to the First National Bank of Apache’s drive-in window
Lawton to the drive-thru liquor store
Porter Hill
Clung’s Store

I forget to go to my Rotary meeting! Damn! That really was a bad slip-up! BIG BAD!! We were searching for a Vermillion Flycatcher and I forgot!

Jim and I settle in front of the TV to watch a ballgame. Oklahoma U playing someone. Katie and Trish decide that’s way too boring so they load up on Bloody Marys internally and in a hebcooler and drive off in the night looking for owls. They spot a possum and tail it in the headlights. It shuffles onto the dirt road in front of them and Trish is watching in awesome wonder when Katie asks, ‘Shall I kill it?’ Trish is horrified and gasps ‘No!’ and Katie, seeing what she’s thinking exclaims, ‘Not the possum! The engine!’

They collapsed with laughter as they repeatedly regaled us with the tale when they got home, giggling and unmanageable.

OHIO – Fly away!! Lawton/Dallas/Ft Worth/Little Rock Arkansas/Cincinatti – Akron
Akron, Ohio – Friday 8 April
Dave “Z” picked us up and took us to his condominium and fed us (Larry busy)
On to Larry’s beautiful old home on North Portage Path
Cuyahoga River State Park (Quarry area)
Shopping at a great Deli
Larry cooks delicious steaks and he and Trish hit the piano. They ask me not to sing so loud;

– we bought, we cooked, we drank, we ate –

Kendall Lake

– a bit of gentle hiking to justify yet another banquet –

Cleveland
Lake Erie
Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; Home to liquers and piano and song; They ask me not to sing so loud;
Bed 2am, rise 5.30am

MASSACHUSETTS – Boston, Massachusetts – 13 April – we rent a car and drive on the busiest highway to date – thru Boston in traffic
Hingham (stay in motel $39)
Cohasset
Cape Cod

– Cape Cod, Massachusetts –

Daniel Webster Inn for supper
Sandwich (stay in Country Acres Motel $33)
Wellfleet Bay
Orleans
Meadows Motel ($35)
Back in Boston its late and we have to return the car so we stay in the most convenient place, a Ramada Inn ($89 for the room! Most expensive night in the USA)

Boston/ JFK New York/ London – 18 April 1988

Last flight: Our 30-day Delta pass expired, but we still had a free return ticket we got for giving up our seat on an overbooked flight earlier on; So we use it to get from Boston to JFK

On to England: A week in England – to Paddock Wood in Kent where Val & Pete Excell, oldtime friends of Trish from Cape Town, host us; Then they take us on a road tip to Cornwall, through Dartmoor to stay with Mel Spaggiari’s folks Den & Mary Blewett on their farm outside Bodmin. Where we saw a newt and a hedgehog!

Then home – HOME to our Marriott Road flat in Durban.

– back home – me, Mel & Enea Spaggiari and sister Sheila look at honeymoon pics including Mel’s folks’ place in Cornwall –

~~~oo0oo~~~