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.
A Dark-capped Bulbul, A Dusky Fycatcher and Cape White-Eyes joined them.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” – Baba Dioum
Of course, that’s only if we don’t Kill What We Love. We’re very good at that, too.
The places I always think of that we killed cos we loved them are on the KZN north coast. Farmers would go to the beach with their tents for their fishing holidays, camping under the trees in the dense coastal forest. Then they built cottages, then their friends built cottages; then they built roads then the roads got tarred (about then we visited in 1963); then came flats, then high-rise flats and concrete paving and the rock pools had to be enlarged and deepened with concrete walls. Next thing you have a city right on the beach. There’s water, then a strip of sand and then concrete. No more dunes, no more forest.
Wonderful blogger The Bushsnob got me thinking of this when telling of his trips to the Masai Mara in the 1980’s. Lots of people love the Mara, so much so that he reckons we now have 118 lodges and camps and lodgings around the game reserve! That means MANY vehicles on the roads!
Soon we’ll need a parking lot.
‘You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone . . . ‘
Here’s what Joni Mitchell means by a ‘tree museum’ – we concrete the world, then leave tiny, ever-smaller islands of (sort-of) what used to be. This is a botanic garden she knew in Hawaii:
Baba Dioum – Senegalese forestry engineer, joint winner of the Africa Food Prize.
The ole man has another tale to tell in the dramatic saga that is LIFE when approaching your centenary:
‘I looked down in the shower and my red facecloth was lying there. I thought Who The Heck put it there? Its usually in the bath, not the shower.’
‘Then I looked again and it was bigger than my facecloth and growing in size. It was blood. The shower floor was covered in blood. I immediately knew what it was.’ (He always immediately knows what things are, what caused them, and if you wait half a breath he’ll tell you the cure for it as well).
‘It was my diverticulitis again. You bleed out your bum from little pouches in your colon rupturing. I had an op, you know, years ago, but now it was back.‘
‘I called the office and two ladies came to help. I told them the cause and they lay me down and inspected my exhaust pipe. While the one was gazing intently up there, the other one said Hey, Look! There’s a big cut on his ankle!’
‘Turns out there was a sharp splinter on the corroded part of the shower aluminium door at ankle height and I had cut my ankle without even noticing it.‘
‘They bandaged me up and all’s well. AND as a bonus, I now know my bum’s fine.‘
Poor ladies need a medal, dark glasses and probly therapy.
Welcome to the real world! Walking towards the entrance of the Durban Magistrates Courts, the first convo I overhear is, "Ons sukkel om n prokureur te kry vir Pa, hulle se almal, 'domestic violence?' en dan weier hulle." !!
Once inside I wander around, lost. A tall masked man all dressed in black sees me and asks Need Help? I say 'First Timer.' He says, Well, see if you can get legal aid, otherwise, here's my number. My fees are low for first appearances. Lovely friendly guy, name of Neville. Sounds very English! I tease. Neville Ngcobo, he says in a private school accent. I say my friend inside is N Ngcobo too! Ms N Ngcobo. I'll have to give you an even better deal! he now teases.
A scrawny lil guy with an older guy is nearing the end of his tether. 'If he say-s that one more time I'm going to swear him!' he threatens in that unmistakable Durban-Delhi accent. Older guy with him tells him Calm Down.
'Go and wait outside, security will call you in by the name of the person on the list,' says the man at the info desk on the first floor. I go out onto the lawn. Lovely day. Sunny with a nice breeze, which I keep so its always blowing away from me. As the sun strengthens I seek shade for my bald head.
At 10.42 I go in and ask security wassup. 'No, we're still waiting for the list,' says the man
At 11.24am there's a stirring. Everyone crowds towards the door. Names are called and people move in, going to support their people. Quite a few names are called with no reaction. No-one to help those poor blighters. Then Ziggy's name is called. I go in. 'YOU for Nonsikilelo Ngcobo!?' the lady with the list asks pointedly. I nod, walk in.
Now I'm in court D, waiting. The court official ladies are talking:
We got a 'theft.' Hey, we got a 'driving under the influence.' Eish, when last!? We seldom get those. All we get is DRUGS.
Some poor young fella is up before the beak. He's entirely on his own. No one to support him. He is asked what language he prefers. English, he says. Magistrate looks up and peers at him over his specs: Own lawyer, represent yourself, or legal aid? asks the robe. I'd like legal aid please, says the young man. The magistrate intones, 'No bail is granted. You are remanded in custody till your next court date on 21st June.' He tries to be brave but his shoulders slump slightly.
I ask the policewoman in court if I just need to wait and get a bit of attitude, but at least she confirms Ziggy is here. Tells me, 'Wait outside, I'll call you.' Damn, I wanted to watch and listen!
At last there's Ziggy! She sees me with huge relief, so tears roll down onto her mask. She's been in police custody for three nights, barefoot and no cellphone. I signal relax relax and bump my heart "Don't worry girl, stay strong!" When no-one can see she whips her mask down and mouths "I'm so so sorry!" with more tears!
A legal gentleman (legal aid defendant?) asks, Who's here for Ms Ngcobo? I say I am, sir, and he comes over very polite and asks who am I? How'm I related? Family friend? Where's her Mom? I give my details and her Mom's and he asks, after checking if I can confirm her Mom's address is real: How's R500 for bail? I say that's fine thank you.
He tells the judge: First offender, no record, no job, no child, has a place to go to, has someone who'll pay. Will his lordship accept R500 bail? Prosecutor agrees. Magistrate says his ritual and agrees. Tells her to show up on 24 June early am, tells her what happens if she doesn't: warrant for her arrest and forfeit bail. Then he grants bail. Relief. Zig tries to disguise her tears.
They keep her while I am taken downstairs to go and pay bail. Then back up two flights. There's Zig still. Hand over receipt and clerk says wait, you need to keep this to get it refunded.
And we're outa there. Ziggy barefoot since Friday. Hungry. I give her the packet with all the goodies n toiletries, toothpaste, tissues etc I'd packed for her Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today. Finally I can give it to her (no parcels allowed, no visitors allowed, nothing, both police stations said, even though the 'your rights' pamphlet they gave Ziggy clearly says she had the right to have certain visitors).
She uses a kilometer of toilet tissue first, then cooldrink. Thank you SO much, Geezer!
We have a long barefoot walk to my car. She asks do you have a spare mask, Geezer? Oh thank you so much! Mine is full of prison! She's been wearing it for 72hrs straight, slept with it on in the crowded holding cells.
Then home. She has three weeks to ponder.
The day before, Sunday, my lawyer had torn himself away from visiting friends in Ballito and joined me at Durban Central police station. They wouldn’t let him see Ziggy as he didn’t have his special Lawyer ID card, but they did take a note to her asking if she had a family lawyer, so at least she knew for the first time someone outside was aware she was inside.
Monday after the hearing I sms’d him: Got R500 bail, case set for 24 June. Thanks for your help! Tuesday I wrote his ladies, Your Boss was a star on a white horse on a SUNDAY, please send a bill. They wrote back a formal lawyer’s letter on a pdf, ‘Thank your for the gesture, we will not charge you for the work done on Sunday.’ So I sms’d him, ‘Does that motley crew you hang out with* know that you’re actually a gentleman?’ His reply: ‘Probably not. I don’t want that to get out and ruin my reputation.’
Ons sukkel om n prokureur te kry vir Pa, hulle se almal, ‘domestic violence?’ en dan weier hulle – Battling to get a lawyer for Dad; When they hear ‘domestic violence’ they don’t want to get involved.
* He hangs out with a bunch of geezers who swim from pier to pier in the early mornings. With the sharks and – IN SPEEDOS! At their age!
Took me sixty six years to learn what to do in a magistrate’s court. I spose some okes can do it with one hand tied behind their back. Maybe even both hands . . .
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.
‘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 leaftree 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.
Mom Mary Methodist tells me she played all the hymns she can remember on the piano in the dining room before breakfast this morning. It’s Sunday, see. She plays ‘for the oldies’ (she’s ninety two, some of the oldies are in their seventies already). ‘They liked them so much I played them all again.’
And she tells me one of the ladies found a screw about an inch and a half long yesterday, and walked round asking everyone, ‘Who’s got a screw loose?’ ‘She’s quite a wag,’ says Ma. ‘When she got to me I murmured to her, ‘Just about all of us, I think.’
Some of the inmates crowd around the piano when she plays. ‘Shame,’ she says, ‘When the meal arrives and I stop playing, some of them have to be shown where their tables are. They’re quite lost.’
I was seeing a visitor off at my bottom gate – manually operated with chain n padlock – and butterflies were flitting all around us. Kept me busy for half an hour after they’d left, photographing them with my little Canon SX620HS.
Junonia natalica – Natal Pansy
Junonia terea – Soldier Pansy
Tagiades flesus – Clouded Skipper
Belenois creona ssp severina – African Common White – got the ID of this one from experts on iNaturalist.org
Whenever the Skipper flew there was a flash of pure white, but I didn’t get a shot of its underside. So I’m pleased Steve Woodhall has this pic in his field guide:
Jessie’s new friend Sandy took her off to the Pavilion centre and sorted her out like a big sister! Even though she only takes Jess up to her shoulder, she’s a great big sis. They did hair, clothes, shoes – actually boots – nails, eyelashes, the works. A vast improvement from her boring Mom, me.
Sandy and husband Lwazi have been wonderfully supportive of Jess in her travails.
Now that Charlie and I actually have his book at the printers (we were going to order one book, but in a bold move we doubled the order!), I can tell the story of The New York Times Best-Seller List. Hold on to your seats, it’s a roller-coaster ride.
In the two years we’ve spent writing this best-seller-to-be (well yes, Charles wrote, but someone had to supervise, and OK, yes that was mainly Barbara, but someone had to edit. OK, so Rory was chief editor, but only cos he had experience and has actually published a book himself. Jeesh, I can prove I was there!). As I was saying before I was pedantically interrupted, while the author and I were in our office at the publishing house week after week except during lockdown, which knocked out a few months, and not while Charles was away on multiple adventures on mountains, beaches and kloofs, we casually discussed the New York Times Best-Seller List from time to time.
Did I say office? We actually used the boardroom, so we could spread out our plans and drafts and photos and things:
Over coffee and stone scones freshly-made by Barbara – who would phone to check they’d been delivered and not secretly scoffed, they were that delicious – we would casually throw around NYT BS List numbers. That’s New York Times Best-Seller List for those who aren’t as aux fait with these things as we are. Various numbers were thrown around and eventually we settled on these: Fifty or One Hundred. It’s a big decision. We haven’t decided yet. But then came trouble: I started reading about the NYT BS List.
I know why people warn against reading. Reading is dangerous. You find out things. I too sometimes warn against reading certain stuff. Not our book! No, you must read our book when it comes out to great fanfare, but other stuff you must be careful, cos if you read, you find out stuff.
Like how to get on to the NYT BS List. Here’s how:
There are “marketing consultancies” which specialise in getting books onto bestseller lists. For clients willing to pay enough, they will even guarantee a No. 1 spot. They do this by taking bulk sales and breaking them up into smaller, more normal-looking individual purchases, thus defeating safeguards that are supposed to make it impossible to “buy” bestseller status. In other words, they’ll cheat for you.
It’s not cheap. Here’s an example from 2013: If your book is listed at R400 retail, it might cost you about R336 a copy. To ensure a spot on the (lesser) Wall Street Journal bestseller list, you’d need to commit to a minimum of 3000 books – about R1 000 000. A million Ront. Multiply these numbers by a factor of about three to hit the more desirable New York Times list. We’re at THREE MILLION RONT Sterling. Plus there’s the crooks’ “consultancy fees” for cheating and lying and manipulating on your behalf. That was around R300 000 in 2013.
Authors who do this often reach the required pre-sale figures by securing commitments from corporate clients, who agree to buy copies as part of speaking fees, and by the authors buying copies for themselves to hand out to friends and family and to resell at public appearances.
It’s a laundering operation aimed at deceiving the book-buying public into believing a title is more in-demand than it is. People in the industry don’t like talking about bestseller campaigns, as they know any detailed discussion exposes the fact that they simply allow people with enough money, contacts, and know-how to buy their way onto “bestseller” lists. Appearing on the New York Times Best-Seller List increases sales by 13 or 14 percent on average, but first-time authors’ sales increase by 57 percent! We could sell 157 books here!
Right, so that’s what we’ll do.
Sure, we might need to sell our houses and Charles his 1979 shark-gilled Mercedes, but he says he’d get a good price for the Merc cos of the gills in the bodywork which he says are actually functionally necessary, not just babe-catchers. Myself I wonder, but I spose when one is catching older, more sophisticated babes the mating call of a loud exhaust note alone won’t cut it?
In an interesting example of how, once you start lying you have to keep lying, and then when you’re caught lying you just say, “Well, I didn’t mean it to be taken seriously, and no-one believes I’m serious anyway,” when The New York Times was sued for $6 million by an author who claimed that his book had been deliberately excluded from the list, The Times countered that the list was not mathematically objective but rather was “editorial content;” that it’s just “free speech,” and thus protected under the US Constitution. Holy guacamole! They’re saying “Yeah we lied, but we’re allowed to lie.”
So, seeing that the famous list that everyone wants to get onto is not objective factual content, the Times assumes the right to exclude books it doesn’t like from the list! So, the august ‘paper of record’ is saying something like: “Well, this IS a ‘best-seller’ list (more or less) IF we think the book should be a best-seller. It has little to do with whether or not it actually has ‘sold best.'”
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.
The new nyanga sign says (take my translation with a pinch of salt):
his gift we built
that which advances
the big (important) traditional doctor
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.
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.
Just two nights with Jess at Hilltop camp. This time the luxury of ‘breakfast included’ in the restaurant, while for dinner we grilled big juicy steaks both nights.
Dad, you’re not taking photos of impalas, are you?! Jess likes to keep moving, looking for the Big Five and teases her friends who want to take pics of things she’s seen before! Yes, Jess, I like their bums and I like the different sizes, three Moms, a teenager, a pre-teen and a toddler. Hmph!
Omigawd! You seriously stopped for a butterfly!? she teases next. Don’t worry, it’s all a game.
The old man gave up his workshop in Ivy Road with great regret about a year ago. Now he has finally finished enclosing the front porch of his cottage to use as his new micro-workshop, where he hopes to do a bit of wood-turning, make some clocks and some mosaic pictures.
After a long saga of great criticism about the poor work ethic of Maritzburg builders, largely endured by Sheila who has stuck with him through thick and thin, he finally has what he wanted. When he announced it, Barbara and Sheila swooped in, fetching all the stuff he had stored at his friend Johan’s workshop and moved it into his lounge, forcing his hand. Suddenly he had to stop moaning and get to work.
Slowly, slowly he moved it all into the workshop. This meant he could no longer get in there. So today he tells me he’s going to move half of it back into the lounge while he puts up five shelves, whereupon he’ll move it all back and he will then be able to get into the workshop and start doing his thing. Except he can only do three shelves, the bottom two he’ll have to have done as he can’t bend down to do them. Ons sal sien if he can complete his first project before he turns 99. The race is on.
The feature pic shows the old Montgomery-Ward desktop wood-lathe he wanted to use. He may have bought a better one since then? He spoke about it a lot.
The WARDS Powr-Kraft Model 9WFD Number 2002 Factory 952, made in USA by Montgomery-Ward. Seems ca.1930 – 1940.