Paddlers of Old . .

. . meet at the Hops from time to time to swap words of wisdom and – as Greg Bennett says: “The older we get the better we were!” I feel like a bit of a fraud among these ancient fellas as not only did they always pull their paddles much harder than I ever did, most of them are still paddling! I hung up my paddle decades ago – and my paddle didn’t notice any difference . .

– millions of river miles – hectolitres of beer – centuries of ouderdom –

The gathering started when Chairman Allie Peter (him in red with the smooth pate) summoned ten paddlers who did the Berg together down in the freezing Cape winter back in 1983 for a debrief and an examination of why one would be so crazy as to do such a thing – 240km along a flat river, no rapids to play in, howling wind and lashing rain. I say “did the Berg together” generously, but actually nine Kingfisher Canoe Club paddlers in black T-shirts were in an awful hurry so I would watch them disappear into the distance straight after each day’s start, leaving me to meander peacefully along at the speed of the current. Which is how one should paddle if you’re not going to actually win the thing; and if the prize is not a red VW Beetle.

Then the gathering grew and now there’s dozens of ous each year – or twice a year. This year we were missing dear old Caveman, Herve de Rauville of the original ten. He has paddled his final flat-out interval.


Vaccinate – Just Vaccinate

On 25 May 2011 the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) made a formal declaration of the global eradication of rinderpest, marking only the second time in history that humanity has wiped out a viral disease. Smallpox (pic above) was wiped out 30 years ago, also thanks to vaccination, in this case of humans, mainly schoolkids. The smallpox vaccine was invented in 1796 by the British physician Edward Jenner and although the same principles had been used years earlier he was the first to publish evidence that it was effective and to provide advice on its production.

We’ve always joked about the rinderpest as in, this or that happened “before the rinderpest” – meaning “long ago”. Now it’s gone. Good riddance. And who do we have to thank? . . .

THANK YOU vaccination.

Rinderpest—which originated in Asia and spread around the world with invaders from Genghis Khan onward—was capable of quickly killing off cattle herds and had caused famines and economic devastation for thousands of years. The virus was wiped out with a campaign of cattle vaccination combined with widespread deployment of a test to quickly identify the disease.

The great Rinderpest epidemic in Southern Africa

In the 1890s, the rinderpest virus struck Africa – “the most devastating epidemic to hit southern Africa in the late nineteenth century”. It killed more than five million cattle south of the Zambezi, as well as domestic oxen, sheep, and goats, and wild populations of buffalo, giraffe and wildebeest. This led to widespread human starvation. The virus is thought to have been introduced into Eritrea in 1887 by Indian cattle brought by the Italians for their campaign against Somalia. It spread throughout the Horn of Africa and then headed south.

In March 1893 it reached Bulawayo. From there the plague was rapidly conveyed southwards by means of transport oxen. The scourge reached Mafeking, some 500 miles south, early in April, and about the same time it crossed the Limpopo into the Transvaal where the cattle population was rapidly decimated. As soon as rinderpest made its appearance at Mafeking every effort was made by the Government of the Cape of Good Hope to confine the infection locally and to prevent its extension further southward. Several herds of cattle were shot; two lines of fences were erected south of the seat of infection; and cordons of mounted police were stationed at various points to prevent movements of cattle from infected areas to parts south of the line. But in spite of the most strenuous precautions, the disease penetrated the barriers, and reached Vryburg in May; Barkly West in September; and Kimberley in October of the same year.


A final determined attempt to check the extension of the scourge further southward was then made at the Orange River. A barbed-wire fence, about a thousand miles long, was erected along the northern boundaries of the Cape Colony, about 1,000 yards south of the Orange River. The fence started near the south-western extremity of Bechuanaland and extended eastwards as far as Basutoland; then along the Cape-Basutoland and Cape-Natal boundaries as far as the coast. Police patrols were stationed all along the line, and any communication between the infected country on the north of the line and the Cape Colony was most carefully supervised. European travelers from the Colony was most carefully supervised. European travelers from the north were admitted only after disinfection of their clothes, and the entrance of natives was practically prohibited. As a result of these precautions the invasion of the Cape was delayed, but on March 1897, an outbreak occurred unexpectedly in the Herschel district, south of the line. After an investigation into the possible source of the infection the following information was obtained: The leader of a span of oxen, traveling on a main road near Aliwal North, south of the line, picked up a sack containing, amongst other things, dried meat and a pair of blood-stained trousers. He put on the trousers, and a few days afterwards the leading oxen showed symptoms of rinderpest. But before a diagnosis was made the infection had already spread to other cattle that had been in contact with the infected span of oxen.

The authorities, realising the impossibility of preventing the spread of the disease by means of the measures so far adopted, resorted to other prophylactic methods. Meanwhile Robert Koch, who had been investigating rinderpest at Kimberley on the invitation of the Cape Government, had confirmed the immunizing properties claimed by cattle farmers for the bile of animals that had died of the disease. Thanks to these farmers, Koch propounded the theory that ‘one germ causes one disease- every disease has its specific germ’ and took the first step in vaccine therapy with his rinderpest inoculation. In February 1897, this method of immunization was adopted all over the country, and before the end of 1898 more than two million head of cattle had been successfully inoculated. At the end of 1898 rinderpest was under control and temporarily disappeared from South Africa, the last reported outbreak occurring on the Transvaal-Bechuanaland border in August, 1899. Koch received the Nobel Prize for his work in 1905.

During this virulent epizootic, rinderpest caused ruin and devastation over extensive stretches of country, destroying not only the majority of domestic bovines along its route, but also considerable numbers of indigenous antelopes. It was estimated that more than two-and-a-half million head of cattle succumbed to it in South Africa alone.

During the military operations in East Africa during the First World War, rinderpest was carried southwards by the movements of infected cattle. In 1917 more than 100,000 head of cattle were immunized with the serum-simultaneous method. Again in 1939 the vaccination of approximately one million head of cattle took place, and a solid block of immune animals was thus created.

Vaccination has been among the most amazing medical boons for mankind.

Vaccinate people, just vaccinate.


thanks wikipedia. More here.

Half a House Living

While our renovations were being done in 2011 and 2012, we lived in the bedroom wing. Jess and Tom kept their bedrooms, mine became the lounge; we all shared their bathroom and my bathroom became the kitchen. Worked fine.

– Tom and his mate Josh snugly azizz –
– bedroom wing passage boarded up and sealed from the mess –
– my main bedroom became our lounge –
– with all mod cons, hey, Jess? –

I had a mattress on the lounge floor which I’d stow away by day. Looxury.

‘Course it took longer than we planned, but we were OK.


COVID and Ordinary People

Trying to stay on top of COVID news? We have no choice but to do so, to best protect ourselves and our loved ones. It’s stressful and draining, but essential.

This post is paraphrased and shortened from an article by Alanna Shaikh, a global public health expert and a TED Fellow, for tips on how to navigate this information overload while staying safe and sane. ( for full article, see here )

1. Look for news that you can act on

When you’re trying to figure out what stories to stay on top of, ask yourself: “Will having this information benefit my life or my work? Will it allow me to make better-informed decisions?”

Accumulating masses of information that you can’t use isn’t so helpful.

For most people, the most critical information for you to follow is how the virus is transmitted. Scientists are still learning every day about how people get infected.

2. Turn to trusted sources

If something reaches you on your whatsapp or instagram in Blikkiesdorp, chances are people professionally covering the pandemic heard it before you did.

So go and see what they say about it. COVID-19 has been heavily politicized, and even some major news sources are basing their content more on opinion than on science.

You can generally trust the accuracy of top news sources like Nature, Wired and The New York Times — to name three examples.

Why? Cos their reputations are at stake. And they have the kind of budget that lets them hire full-time journalists who will stand by the facts or who rely on fact-checkers to verify their information.

3. Check where their information is coming from

No-one actually KNOWS, so be wary of articles or sources that claim to have a definite answer to a complex question.

For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci is currently saying that there should be a vaccine for COVID-19 in early 2021;

the Gates Foundation has a longer estimate; and

others are warning that we may never have a vaccine for it.

Right now, there is no consensus about a timeline — these people and organizations are simply offering their best guesses. Use fact-checking sites – find one here.

4. Look for news that works for you

For ordinary people whose expertise lies outside global health — i.e. us, you and me — find sources of information that you can read and digest without having to devote your whole day (or brain) to it. Like the Think Global Health website; it’s aimed at passionate non-experts. It’s not dumbed down, but it doesn’t assume you have a PhD.

Johns Hopkins University is publishing some great work on COVID — more technical, but not too technical.

So is Vox; they have some terrific explainers.

5. Be prepared to change your behavior based on new information

No source is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should disbelieve all sources. Research constantly changes and informs and shapes our ideas.

Remember when wiping down surfaces was the MAIN thing? Now, reputable organizations and scientists basically agree on masks, contact tracing and the existence of transmission of COVID by people who aren’t showing symptoms. If you get sick you will probably never know who ‘gave it to you,’ as they would have felt as healthy as you did the day the virus was transmitted.

Some of this info may change again, but we need to keep going along with best practice AS FAR AS WE KNOW TODAY.

6. Refrain from arguing with people who ignore the facts

Save your breath. Yours and theirs might be contagious!

You WON’T change their minds.

You are not a law enforcer.

Like it or not, this situation isn’t going anywhere. This pandemic is awful and complicated and changing. Finding our way through it won’t be smooth, nor easy, nor emotionally comfortable. It’s a constant, dynamic process of learning new things and adapting as we learn.


Lovely pic from the cover of Wits Review Oct 2020, magazine for University of the Witwatersrand alumni.