A TV aerial perched right on top of the Hella Hella mountain. The tall pole had two aerials, one aiming off towards distant civilisation, the other aimed straight at the Porters of Game Valley Estates’ TV aerial on the roof of their lovely homestead down in the Umkomaas river valley below.
Now, living in splendid isolation is all very well and the Porters loved the wild, but the nights were long and the boys were often away at boarding school, so TV was a necessity. And not provided by SABC. There was no signal in the valley. So Barry had to ‘maak a plan’, like others before him.
He got a long gumpole, two aerials, a repeater and a tractor battery and rigged it up. Soon ‘The A Team’ was showing on their screen in the lounge. B.A. Baracus, as played by Mr.T, became a favourite of 4yr-old McDuff’s and he would walk around with a rifle in cut-off shirts with huge chains round his neck on the farm growling “FOOL!!”.
The A Team, The Bob Newhart Show, Baywatch, The Villagers, The Dingleys, ‘Sgudi ‘Snayisi,
Bonanza, the theme song:
Then there was Police File, which we called Check Your Mate, in which the cops would ask for help finding wanted suspects. So-called ‘friends’ would point out with glee whenever a Swanepoel was wanted. Their story was there was always a wanted Swanepoel at large. Once we watched and not one Swanie was wanted, but it ended with “If you have any information please contact the Brixton Murder and Robbery Squad. Ask for Sergeant Swanepoel.”
Of course, the repeater atop the Hella Hella needed power, which was supplied by that big tractor battery. Despite rigging up a solar panel, which helped, the battery would still need changing from time to time and Barry would head up to the top of the Hella Hella most days with a shifting spanner. The crow-flies distance from the aerial on Hella Hella to the aerial on the homestead roof was 907m. The drive was a 14km round-trip!
maak n plan – jury-rig a transmitter (see what Jaap said here)
Every time I see a new bird I look it up and learn all about it, its scientific name and which other birds its related to. Just recently Steve in Aussie sent me his picture of a ‘Bush Stone Curlew’ nesting on an island in a parking lot.
That immediately reminded me of our water dikkops – I looked it up and ‘strues Bob’ they’re cousins – his is Burhinus grallarius and ours is Burhinus vermiculatus; Gondwanaland cousins.
When I see historical facts I’ve never heard of I look it up and learn something new every day.
Who is Irvin S Cobb? I didn’t know; now I like him; he wrote these instructions for his funeral:
Above all I want no long faces and no show of grief at the burying ground. Kindly observe the final wishes of the undersigned and avoid reading the so-called Christian burial service which, in view of the language employed in it, I regard as one of the most cruel and paganish things inherited by our forebears from our remote pagan ancestors. . . . . perhaps the current pastor would consent to read the 23rd Psalm, my mother’s favorite passage in the Scriptures . . . it contains no charnel words, no morbid mouthings about corruption and decay and, being mercifully without creed or dogma, carries no threat of eternal hell-fire for those parties we do not like, no direct promise of a heaven which, if one may judge by the people who are surest of going there, must be a powerfully dull place, populated to a considerable and uncomfortable degree by prigs, time-servers and unpleasantly aggressive individuals. Hell may have a worse climate but undoubtedly the company is sprightlier. The Catholics, with their genius for stage-management, handle this detail better. The officiating clergyman speaks in Latin and the parishioners, being unacquainted with that language are impressed by the majesty of the rolling, sonorous periods without being shocked by distressing allusions and harrowing references.
How are Canadian and Eurasian beavers different – they look identical and Canadian beavers have even been introduced into Europe? One has 40 chromosomes, one has 48. Completely different animals! They just look and behave (almost) identically!
Obviously, I did all this on Wikipedia.
I was therefore thrilled to see motherjones.com has hailed Wikipedia as one of its Heroes of the 2010’s decade. I don’t like the overuse of the word ‘hero’ – I’m being so restrained here – but motherjones is American, so the ubiquitous American concept of hero – ‘anyone I like,’ it seems – is probably not amiss here.
This was the decade we learned to hate the internet, to decry its impact on our brains and society and to detest the amoral organizations that dominate it. Facebook steals our data and abets Trump’s lies. Amazon is a brick-and-mortar–crushing behemoth, like the Death Star but successful. Instagram is for narcissists. Reddit is for racists and incels. Twitter verifies Nazis.
Amid this horror show, there is Wikipedia, criminally under-appreciated, a nonprofit compendium of human knowledge maintained by everyone. There is no more useful website. It is browsable and rewards curiosity without stealing your preferences and selling them to marketers. It is relaxing to read.
It’s wrong sometimes, sure. But so are you, so am I, and so are all your other sources – and most of them, there’s nothing you can do about it. On wikipedia, you can. Its transparency is a big plus. Wikipedia critics often seem to think ‘encyclopedias’ are better – you know, ‘encyclopedia brittanica’ anyone? Hell, those books are out of date long before they’re printed. That really is (early) last century! Many of its critics say you have to go to the academic source and read the latest research. Well, many of the custodians of those places are knowledge-hoggers, wanting to protect ’eminence’ rather than sharing knowledge. Well, phansi with them, I say. Phansi!
If you actually know something is wrong on Wikipedia, become an editor (full disclosure, I’m one – a very inactive one) and fix the info – don’t withhold, share!
With wikipedia you can – indeed you should always – check sources. Use the footnotes. Some pages need more information? You can add some. Governments, political figures, institutions – especially dodgy ones – or lackeys and fans of those politicians, ‘celebrities,’ or institutions may manipulate the info on themselves. Liars will always lie. But because it’s transparent, they usually get caught. Wikipedia has rules against “conflict-of-interest editing,” which you can read about at “Conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia.”
Founded in 2001, Wikipedia has spent the 2010s getting better and bigger. It now has over 377 million pages of info. It is a hero of the 2010s, because while the internet mostly got worse, it kept getting better, reminding us that the web can be a good thing, a place where we have instant access to endless information, a true project of the commons at a political moment when the very idea of the mutual good is under assault.
And it is free in a good way, not “free” like facebook and google which end up OWNING YOU.
(So I just sent Wikipedia my annual donation via paypal)
I took Mom to the ophthalmologist in Pietermaritzburg. She’d had some visual phenomena and her description of a curtain falling over her vision against the wall made me decide she must be seen right away. My good friend and colleague Owen Hilliar gave me the duty roster and I phoned the surgeon on duty – Dr L – and arranged to see him Sunday morning 08:30.
What a nice man! He listened to her stories. Unlike her usual eye man, Dr A.
So for a case history on this wonderful 91yr-old qualified nursing sister, and myopic glaucomatous pseudophake, Dr L now has the following information:
There are patterns in my vision on the walls and on the ceiling. Like the patterned ceilings in Granny Bland’s house in Stuart Street in Harrismith. I was born in Harrismith see, and did my midwifery in Durban. We went to Durban as we thought maybe we’d meet some nice boys there. Dr L’s eyes widen and he looks at me. But I met my husband in Harrismith; he worked for the post office and he got on very well with my mother and she told me ‘Peter Swanepoel is taking us to the Al Debbo concert in the town hall.’ My grandfather built the town hall; and he sat between me and my mother and that’s how we met. Unfortunately his good relationship with my mother didn’t last. My grandfather and his brother were stonemasons from Scotland; they built all the bridges for the railway line from Durban to Harrismith; What? OK, Ladysmith to Harrismith. When they had been in Harrismith a while they said ‘We like it here; the air reminds us of the old country,’ so they stayed and built a hotel each, the Central and the Royal – but first it was the Railway hotel – every town had to have a railway hotel. Then they changed the name by royal decree to The Royal Hotel. Or with Royal permission. The one brother had seven sons – she holds up seven fingers in front of Dr L’s face – and the other had nine. NINE – holds up nine fingers. And only one of them had a son. Dudley. He was a bit of a sissy – here my eyes widen – but he had the only boy. Thank goodness he then had sons to carry on the name, although one died in a bike accident. Now Granny Bland had five sons and only two of them did anything; one died of malaria in East Africa. Bertie, I think. When? In the First World War; the others just hung about, didn’t do anything even though they had been sent to very good schools. Hilton or Michaelhouse, one of those; I mean, what did my father know about farming? Nothing. His father just bought him a farm and sent him farming. He tried sheep, that was a failure.
Erm, I interrupted . . No, don’t worry, the dilation will still take a while says Dr L.
See, he wants to know, says Mom and carries on. I was proud of her! She was on a roll! We even found out the Shetland pony’s name was Suzanne.
Anything else about your eyes, he asks when she pauses for breath. Just the patterns and colours on the walls and ceiling, says Mom – no mention of the ‘curtain’ which had made me arrange the appointment in a hurry. And this time she didn’t say she has to remove her son’s glasses to read. Oh, and Oupa Bain went blind; I can remember the older children reading the newspaper to him.
After peering in and then checking V/A’s 6/36 and 6/18 and pressures – low, Dr L re-assures her all is well in her eyes and the patterns may be happening in her visual cortex.
We’re free to go, with huge relief. No trip to Durban. I’ve been nil-per-mouth since midnight, so I must remember to drink lots of water to catch up, says Mom happily.
Monica said ‘Don’t worry Mary you needn’t play today,’ but I protested: No Way, you have to play! How else will you earn your keep? So she gamely fired up her stootoot – isithuthuthu – and beetled off to the dining room where her friend ‘Mauritius’ was in her wheelchair, waiting for supper.
She rocked straight into Somewhere My Love, so fast that I missed it. I video’d her next song, ‘It’s Only Words’ (what’s it called?); and she said ‘Supper Time’ but I pleaded One More Please; Play for your supper.
What was that? I asked at the end of it. ‘Deep In My Heart’ she said – and then I’m so sorry I stopped filming, as she said, ‘It’s by Sigmund Romberg from The Desert Song’ and she told me more, that I can’t recall, but that ‘it was beautiful; very special’ I do remember.
I went looking . . .
Ah, here’s the trailer: You can see why Mary would have loved it back in 1954! Many of the songs are familiar; she played them; the reel-to-reel tape played them; and the Goor Koor sang them – all in the lounge at 95 Stuart Street in the Free State village of Harrismith!
And then the best song: The Drinking Song from The Student Prince! Sung in the movie by Mario Lanza.
I didn’t take a pic so this one will have to do – taken by Sheila when he was a mere 96. He was very restrained today: he waited a good few minutes before mentioning the H word. Then he relented: ‘When people say Hau! Ninety Seven!? I say, Just three years and I’ll be a hundred,’ he said.
And then he told the tale of the old man at Pick n Pay: He was bragging about how old he was, with his white hair and white beard. How old are you, kehla? I said to him. He puffed his chest out and said dramatically, SEVENTY SEVEN! I said Sit Down Umfaan. I’m NINETY seven. Hau! Hau! Hau! he said, shaking my hand a hundred times.
hau – goodness gracious me; gosh
kehla – old man
umfaan – little boy
hau – swear!? that’s amazing! you don’t look a day over eighty seven
Here’s a more recent pic – in Azalea Gardens Pietermaritzburg, going through Sheila’s old photo albums.
Peter Brauer wrote an email – it becomes this, my first guest post:
My latest Clinical research at its best
I’ve been asked on numerous occasions whether eye problems can result in general fatigue and lethargy – “If I read till late at night I feel fatigued the next am”. I’ve not been convinced and have always been rather skeptical of any such link.
However, after three very late nights (in fact early mornings) of computer work and reading, I woke this morning with abnormal fatigue and literally had to drag my weary body to work. So after thirty five years of thinking otherwise, I now thought I had irrefutable proof that eye strain could do this to me.
That was until I discovered that having removed my plus-fours before retiring at 1am last night, the little white tablet I had taken for cholesterol was in fact a very similar looking little white tablet for knocking you out for a good night’s sleep! I had taken a Stillnox and not a Prava!
So yes, my eye problem certainly resulted in the extreme fatigue and weary body that my legs could hardly drag into my office this morning. But it wasn’t eyestrain that did it – it was PRESBYOPIA.
So if you feel listless in the morning, forget the dietary advice on what constitutes a good breakfast . . maybe it’s just time for a good eyetest . .
Wisdom followed . .
Another Peter (Muller) wrote: Ja well no fine – the problem I see is having to drag your body to WORKat all at your age . . stop doing that, and the fatigue will go away . .
This Peter (Swanepoel – me) wrote: SOUND advice from Muller, as always. – and thank goodness that other little tablet is blue . . if it was also a little white tablet there could be pandemonium at 1am in this interesting bedroom clinic.
plus fours – golfers and presbyopes use these; Peter Brauer is both; So who knows which ones he was removing in his interesting bedroom clinic . . ? Methinks we should install cameras . .