Mom’s Days

Just in case anyone was thinking Aitch only had Mom’s Day, I gotta tell ya – not at all!

She had her birthday 6 January; She had her second birthday 6 July “‘cos it’s unfair my birthday is so close to Christmas, everyone used to give me one present, and my day was lost in the Xmas/New Year hype”. Right.

Then she was really big on the kids’ joint birthday 11 December, making that a big day, plus the two separate parties she would organise for them, there being a four-year age gap. I tried to combine it after she was gone – whatta disaster!

Then she always remembered the day we met, 27 August, I think. We would celebrate that. Also wedding anniversary 27 February. Celebrate.

Then CHRISTMAS!! An Aitch Day if ever there was one! She was BIG on Christmas. Much planning, buying and the whole house had to be changed: Xmas decorations – putting up the tree was an event! – Xmas crockery, Xmas coffee mugs, Xmas lights, Xmas pictures on the walls, all other paintings had to come down. Mantelpieces would be festooned.

Then she had Mothers’ Day when the kids made a big fuss – she’d see to it. And last but definitely not least there was All Fools Day, April Fools Day – my birthday. You won’t believe how she went to town. She’d get a Big Brass Band to play!

I’m not joking:

Whoa! What a surprise!! Mario Montereggi’s Band! No flies on Aitch!

Mom’s Day

Jess picked the flowers, Tom did the braai. We had chops, ribs and wors with garlic bread, plus some fried beans and mushrooms. I had beer and vino. We raised a glass to Mom!

We Won’t Stop . .

. . till we have concreted the whole planet and burnt the last scuttle of coal and barrel of oil.

We won’t.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 415 parts per million (ppm) last week for the first time in 800 000 years. Scientists have warned that the world must keep CO2 emissions below 350 ppm to avoid dangerous levels of climate change – but emissions keep rising.

The record high was measured on May 3 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, part of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) global monitoring division.

This is the highest level recorded at this station since it began keeping records in 1959. Analysis of the ice cores in Antarctica show that over the last 800 000 years the CO2 levels in the atmosphere fluctuated between 170 ppm and 300ppm.

Climate organisations say this record high level is a strong indicator that governments must take climate change seriously and move away from fossil fuels. 

We won’t. Our grandkids will wonder why.

You See, It’s An Election Year

I’m sorting out a lady’s new computer glasses. She’s a clerk in the tenders office of the municipality. She’s taking strain, there’s so much to do, figures to check, rules to follow, but they’re being pushed to get things through much quicker than usual.

She’s stressed and she’s suspicious.

Last year she decided to retire. Things were very quiet in the tender office, there was nothing to do. But her superiors urged her to stay. They said it was going to be very busy this year.

‘You see,’ she says matter-of-factly, ‘It’s an Election Year.’

Jammin’ and Draggin’ Main

Rob & Jay were in my senior class in ’73; Jim & Donny were a year or so below. We used to jam in the garage and in Rob’s bedroom; I was an onlooker, really! I learnt one riff on the guitar which I believe I can still play . . Forty years on and they’re still playing gigs – or some of them are. Some are still based in Apache. Their bands have had various names.

At school, Rob drove a Mustang, Jim a Cadillac convertible, Jay a Camaro and Donny I forget, but I remember his Dad had a lovely old pickup.

Apache’s population sign on the road approaching the town was already faded when I got there in ’73 and the jokes hinted at “1500? Yeah, maybe.” But I was told the population shot up in the oil boom a few years after I had left when the middle east put up the price and we had to drive at 80km/h and hide our jerry cans. But it soon went back down, and when I visited in 1984 and 1988 the clapboard motel which had sprung up to house the workers and drifters, and the two extra liquor stores to relieve of them of their cash were abandoned and flapping in the prairie breeze.
I should write a western.

I see in the 2000 census the population was up to 1616.

The Apache Population 1500 sign was near the start of the quarter mile drag strip where the petrolheads had painted a line across the road. 440yards further was another line, much to the sheriff’s annoyance. It is ILLEGAL to paint lines on guvmint roads. Also to burn up your fat tyres on said road. Jay had a wicked Camaro with fifteen inch rear wheels, raised rear suspension and something I didn’t catch under the hood, despite him telling me many times. It went like smoke and he was very justifiably unhappy with me when I put it in a ditch with the one tyre off its rim. Beer. Terrible stuff beer. Jay was a gentleman and went easy on this foolish foreigner that night!

Just a bit closer to town than the drag strip, a local lass had written in large white spraypaint letters across both lanes: WELCOME TO PEYTON PLACE in pissed-off anger at love’s disappointments.

I taught Rob and Jay the wonderful poetic lyrics of Balls to Your Partner – remember? “If you’ve never been fucked on a Saturday night you’ve never been fucked at all”. We’d been talking about a sexy chick from a few villages away, hot pants and crop top, and Jay said laconically: “Well, she’s been fucked on a Saturday night by that little wine-maker: ME”.

Once we were dragging Main in Robbie’s turquoise Mustang, and Debbie pulled up in her car next to ours. How the conversation got there I don’t know, but one of the guys said “Ah, suck a dick, Debbie!” to which she shot back: “Well, flop it out!”

A semi-selfie in the Mustang with me safely in the seat without a steering wheel . .
A deserted Main Street

But please don’t think there wasn’t culture. I got invited to a Pow Wow by the local Native American Movement where they gave me a gift of a colourful shirt and jewellery.

— pic of presentation here —

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Reed: Screw the Camaro and the fat tyres. More about Debbie please.

Me: OK. Here she is, seated right:

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Of course on hearing about me ‘jamming with the guys’ and knowing my lack of any musical talent, the rude comments flowed!

Brauer: Koos jamming!! Playing the washboard? Or just Koos Konfyt ahead of his time?

Reed: They would have had a lot of trouble finding a replacement for you, Koos.

Me: Nah, they moved on. Here are some later pics when they called themselves The Grissleheads:

Grissleheads, Apache OK

Taylor: Did this jamming involve making jello sandwiches? Didn’t know you played any instruments?? Except wind . .

Brauer: Played the organ, did he not?

Taylor: I am sure he has done many solo recitals – unappreciated by the world at large but deeply gratifying to the organ player . .

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Reminiscing about old songs began:

Taylor: I am glad to see you took the cultural exchange program seriously. Balls to your partner counts as poësie . .

Brauer wrote: OK. So let’s see how deeply your culture is ingrained. Who knows all the words to “Balls to your partner”; How about the Ingineer’s Song?

Me: All, I dunno; but I do know a lot of them – both songs. A-hum a-hum

Soutar: . . and . . “Up jumped the monkey in the coconut tree, it was a mean motherf___ it was plain to see; it had a 10 bopper nanny and a ten inch ______. Time overdue for a song reunion, have song sheets . .

Me: Fourteen-beer song evenings. I remember them well
-ish
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poësie – poetry; right?

Forest Lawn, Elston Place

Our services were like this –
except for no silver caskets, no drums n bugles, and no liveried employees!  

When Bella died we buried her in the garden under the copse of trees over the birdbath. Then Aitch died and we – well, “we”, read about that! – buried her ashes there too. Then Blackie the gundwane (gerbil) and Cheeky the other gundwane (hamster) followed.

Then Janet and Trish’s dear old Dad Neil died and not too long after that – a year or two – their Mum Iona died. Neil’s ashes waited for Iona, and then when she was ready, Janet laid them both to rest in the same spot as well, with good ole Tobias Gumede’s help. He needed to re-cut the path so she could get there, the lovely remembrance spot had become very overgrown!

Lots of laughter and tears. Just like life with them all, come to think of it!

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Since then Sambucca the 12yr-old labrador has been plugged into the Elston Place earth, as has Flaky the 12yr-old American corn snaky! Both buried by TomTom – for a fee! Talk about a garden of remembrance!!

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gundwane – mouse; rat

Bella – dog; Aitch would say ‘doberman-ish; I’d say Canis africana

Aitch – Trish; dear wife; boss of the household; dog purchaser

Neil & Iona – outlaws; in-laws

Janet – twin sister of Aitch; sister of mine

Sambucca – only dog we ever paid for

The ‘Tree of Life’

Back in 350 BCE, Aristotle regarded the essence of species as fixed and unchanging. He wrote his Historia Animalia, grouping animals according to their similarities of looks, actions or dwelling place: animals with blood and animals without, animals that live on water or on land, etc. Aristotle grouped his animals hierarchically from ‘lowest’ to ‘highest’, with, of course, himself – or us, the human species – on top! This view was pretty much unchallenged for the next two thousand years.

Hold on! How Eurocentric! The earliest pharmacopoeia was written by Shen Nung, Emperor of China around 3000 BCE. Known as the father of Chinese medicine, he is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs to test their medicinal value. His ‘Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica’ included 365 medicines derived from minerals, plants, and animals.

Then around 1500 BCE medicinal plants were illustrated on wall paintings in Egypt. In one of the oldest papyrus rolls, Ebers Papyrus, plants are included as medicines for different diseases. They have local names such as “celery of the hill country” and “celery of the delta”.

OK, now we’ve shown it was Asia, then Africa, let’s go back to Europe and Aristotle . . One of his disciples or students, the philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus, classified plants into three categories: herbs, shrubs and trees. He classified local specimens as well as specimens sent to him by Alexander the Great, collected during his expeditions to Asia and elsewhere in Europe.

Then in Europe came, in no accurate order – and probably missing out many! – an Italian, Cesalpino (1519-1603), a Swiss, Bauhin (1560-1620), who described about six thousand species and gave them names based on their ‘natural affinities,’ grouping them into genus and species. He was thus the first scientist to use binomial nomenclature in classification of species. By the time the Swede Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was born, there were many systems of botanical classification in use, with new plants constantly being discovered and named. He became famous for ‘sorting things out!’ His book Systema Naturae is regarded as the start of modern nomenclature.

The more people classified things, the more they realised they were related. And so came the first ‘Tree of Life’ (that I could find – there are sure to be more, earlier, better):

Hitchcock 1840

Not only is MAN on top, he gets – we get – a crown and cross. Palm trees get the plant crown. Then came Haeckel’s Pedigree of Man, still with animals and plants separate, even though this is a real tree!

Haeckel 1879

Most of the subsequent line of naturalists, zoologists, botanists and herbalists worked on classifying, describing and naming. The first departure from this approach was probably by Frenchman de Lamarck (1744–1829), who launched an evolutionary theory including inheritance of acquired characters, named ‘Lamarckism.’ Others, like Erasmus Darwin, who, like most people looking into classification accepted that evolution happened, but HOW it happened was not known. He – the elder Darwin, Charles’ grandfather – proposed his evolutionary theory that ‘all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament.’

The next big step in evolutionary theory was when in 1858 in London Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace proposed that evolution proceeded ‘by natural selection’. This theory of Darwin’s and Wallace’s changed EVERYTHING.

Huge jump here: When DNA and genes and genomes were discovered and worked out, everything changed again. No longer did one have to painstakingly study an animal’s anatomy and habits to classify it, its DNA classified it accurately even if you looked on in astonishment and thought ‘can’t be!’ If the DNA says they’re related (or not) they they’re related – or not.

So our 1969 school Tree of Life below was still intent on showing how single-cell animals were low down and we were high up. But at least we were starting to learn we weren’t the crown of a tall tree. But at least we were separate from plants and fungi! Well . . .

1969 tree of life

But the more we know, the more we know. And we now know it’s us and fungi. Get used to it, us and fungi.

So next time you scoff a plate of mushrooms, feel a bit guilty. And when you see a live mushroom growing, say ‘Howzit Cousin.’ And get used to it.

See bottom right the little word opisthokonta? That’s us.

Us opisthokonts

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Thanks Dave’s Garden ; Vision Learning ; wikipedia ; Science News ; EDIT ;