There’s a lovely old sandstone cottage in the Lotheni Valley, one of the Drakensberg / uKhahlamba’s beautiful valleys. We had some great adventures with good friends and our kids up there.
As an adult retreat it’s my idea of paradise: no electricity, no cellphone reception, no wifi. Peace. Plenty of hot water, a gas stove to cook and boil water on, candlelight, a lovely fireplace, cozy inside. Luxury. Long-suffering friends the Adlams, Taylors and Abercrombies, all blissfully child-free, would tolerate the disruption our two – who were aged from about one to about thirteen over the ten years we went there – could cause. I think they loved it! I know they loved the brats and were very kind to them.
A great spot for fishing, birding, botanising or sitting with a G&T and gazing into the distance . .
Adventure in Yellowwood Cave
It had been years since I’d slept out in the ‘Berg and I was pleased when Gayle and Grant readily agreed to spend a night in a cave in 2011. Aitch was feeling a bit weak, so decided to stay in the comfort of the cottage. It was May already, so getting a bit chilly.
Settling down for the night on the hard floor of the cave I gazed out through the yellowwood tree branches at the night sky, ablaze with a million stars. I was just thinking ‘It’s been too long, this is the life! I’m in paradise!’ when a small voice piped up next to my ear, ‘Daddy I don’t like it here.’ Oh, well, she may not repeat the exercise, but I doubt she’ll ever forget it. Jessie lay on my one side. Tom on the other side in a double sleeping bag we shared. At least they were warm.
Getting Bolder on Bikes
Fun with Aitch
Once Ma took the kids off up the mountain trail, to give the fishing and reading adults ‘a piece of quiet,’ as TomTom used to say for peace and quiet.
Another Piece of Quiet
We snuck the kids off to have breakfast one morning in the kombi soon after they woke, to allow the adults to sleep in. Good birding opportunity, too.
The first part of our 1988 honeymoon was highly organised and efficient. We flew into Orlando Florida, were taken to a hotel and from there ferried to DisneyWorld while there, by bus or steamboat. Seamless. Aitch had organised it.
I was a bit ho hum, but guess what? Aitch was right to insist: these pics came in very handy ten years later when we adopted kids! They were briefly impressed.
Times’ up! We escape. What have you organised? asks Aitch. Um . . I’ll find a rental car. And, um, I’ll find a nature reserve. Where will we stay tonight? Um . .
Then let’s fly to Miami and go to the Everglades! I suggest, and we’re off. Our Delta Airlines pass is valid for sixty days.
On to Big Cypress
We drove back to Miami – next stop San Francisco . . .
Fresh out of that Hole in Wyoming we landed in Seattle and immediately headed for the hills. Or the sound. Puget Sound. I’m a bit allergic to cities, so we picked up a little rental car – would you believe a Toyota Tercel, with all-wheel drive and six forward gears . . what? I’ve said this before? OK, I did enjoy those cars.
We drove onto a ferry in Anacortes and disembarked on Orcas Island. We looked for a place to stay. I had something in mind – the thing I usually have in mind: cheap. And we found it, right on the other side of the island. Ah, this is good value, I thought. Aitch was fine with it. She liked the laid-back friendly approach they had. We were determined to avoid boring same-old places and anyway, she was always a great sport and tolerated me and my frugality. Hey, it was a lo-ong honeymoon. We had to stre-etch things. This was week four of our 1988 honeymoon.
Years later I read a Lonely Planet review: There are resorts, and then there’s Doe Bay, eighteen miles east of Eastsound on the island’s easternmost shore – as lovely a spot as any on Orcas. By far the least expensive resort in the San Juans, Doe Bay has the atmosphere of an artists’ commune cum hippie retreat cum New Age center. Accommodations include campsites, a small hostel with dormitory and private rooms, and various cabins and yurts, most with views of the water. There’s also a natural-foods store, a café, yoga classes ($10), an organic garden and special discounts for guests who arrive by bike. The sauna and clothing-optional hot tub are set apart on one side of a creek.
Ours was a cabin. We paid $10 for the night. Camping and the dormitory were cheaper, but hey, I’m no cheapskate. Our cabin was called Decatur and was luxuriously made of packing cases and a double layer of plastic sheeting in the windows. Cosy and warm. Seriously.
We’d seen a sign ‘Hot Tub’ on the way in, so we went looking. Walking down the path to where the bath house overlooked the Pacific, the sign said ‘suits optional’ and we realised that meant bathing suits, so we happily hopped in naked as we were the only people around.
Getting ready to leave, Aitch froze and I started laughing: voices, coming down the path! Aitch ducked back underwater, as we were joined by two couples who shucked their clothing and joined us. The view as they clambered down the steep metal stairs! You almost had to avert your eyes. We had a long chat, they were from Seattle and ‘South Africa? Optometrist? Did we know Rocky Kaplan?’ Well, actually I did know of him. ‘Well he has reduced my short-sightedness so much; I’m now only wearing a three eyeglasses!’ OK.
By the time they left up the steep metal stairs – the view! you almost had to avert your eyes – and Aitch could finally emerge from the steam, she was wrinkled like a prune.
Then it was back on the ferry, island-hopping our way back to the mainland. Next we were headed for Texas, the Gulf of Mexico! New birds and warmer climes. Except we wouldn’t get there . . .
We flew into Jackson Hole from San Francisco. Change in temperature. I was still in short pants – had to change pretty quick! This was week three of our honeymoon, so we were into the groove: Fly in, find a car, then look around for the best places to visit and find cheap lodgings near there. Aitch was better’n me at that. She’d actually look and weigh up options.
Soon I was warm. Toasty, in fact, as I was sitting – still in short pants – in a Toyota Tercel! A little all-wheel-drive station wagon with four doors and a barn door in back. The four wheel drive system included an unusual six-speed manual transmission with an extra-low gear. It could be moved from front- to four-wheel-drive without coming to a full stop; That was nifty. The 1500cc engine produced 71 HP and awesome torque – more than ample with that light body. I had a SIX speed gearbox on honeymoon in 1988! Formula 1 cars only had five at the time. Plaid seats, two gear levers, four pedals and an advanced 4WD monitoring / information system were standard. Trish asked me, ‘Who do you love more? Me, or this one-week rental car!?’
I cleared my throat . . um, YOU – in a Toyota Tercel!
Then we found the Antler Motel. I said I LIKE the look of this place. She said ‘You’re only looking at the price.’ How do they do that? Only married a couple weeks and already she can see right through me!
We found out we were too early for Yellowstone – the road was still blocked with a wall of snow and we were turned back well short of the park boundary. Still, the view was breath-taking. All the way on our left the Grand Teton mountains loomed, disappearing behind cloud and then fully revealed as the cloud cover cleared from time to time. All around was deeper snow than either of us had seen before and on our right were rivers with Trumpeter Swans. And a moose!
One evening we went to the elk winter refuge, and enjoyed a sleigh ride on which we saw a grouse in a tree. Grouse, swans and elk in the wild – things I’d read about all my life, and here they were! I was chuffed. Also, being married . .
Also, I had read Thunderhead as a ten year-old. About a horse in SE Wyoming. I loved that book and also My Friend Flicka (Thunderhead’s mother), which I read next. Those books’ descriptions were all I knew about Wyoming, but it was enough to want to get there. Plus the attraction of Yellowstone (which I could have checked if it was open before we flew in!).
Every stream I came to I’d get out and search. Then I saw it: A Dipper – at last! It flashed down onto a rock next to the current – and dived underwater! I’d spotted a dipper! I’d read about these little songbirds for years – and here was one doing what they do: hunt underwater!
What a honeymoon! A. You, my dear; B. The Dipper; C. The mountains; D. That Toyota Tercel.
That night in our cozy motel room my sternest critic suggested I was thickly settled:
Wait! Did I show you a pic of our Toyota Tercel? It was all-wheel . . what? oh ok
Next: On to Washington State . . . we have a ferry to catch.
In 1297 the Gordon family arrived at Lochinvar from Berwickshire. They established a castle on an island in the lake – or loch, as this was in Scotland. Lochinvar.
In 1908 another Scot, Mr Horne, a cattle farmer from Botswana, arrived on the banks of the Kafue river in Northern Rhodesia long before it became Zambia. The local chief, Hamusonde, gave? sold? him some land – or did Horne simply claim it? He registered it on behalf of the British South Africa Company. Known locally as ‘the Major,’ Horne built a big old red brick farmhouse. He called it Lochinvar and it is now known as the old Lochinvar Ranch homestead.
Previously little of this land had been used for farming because of the wild game here, including lion and leopard. To convert the land into a cattle ranch, ‘Major’ Horne set about exterminating the local wildlife in a ruthless program of annihilation. Populations of sable, roan, eland, warthog and wildebeest were wiped out, as well as all the predators he could find. The last lion in the area is thought to have been killed in 1947.
In 1966 the Zambian government claimed the land back and declared it a nature reserve.
In 2003 we drove past a sign that said Lochinvar National Park. As we’d never heard of it, we decided to go and explore this place. What say, Aitch? I asked. Go for it, she said, as always. Around 40km of rough road later we arrived at the gate as darkness fell.
‘Sorry, but you can’t go in,’ said the friendly soldier with a gun. ‘Sorry, but we have to,’ said I. ‘You see, I can’t let these little kids sleep out here and nor can you, so please hop onto your radio and explain that to your main man.’ Back he came – ‘Sorry, but the main man says the gate is closed.’ ‘You just didn’t explain it to him nicely enough,’ I said – ‘Please tell him I can’t, you can’t and he can’t leave a 22 month old sleeping rough next to a village.’ Off he went and back he came: ‘The main man will meet you at the camp inside,’ he said.
‘You’re a marvel, well done, thank you!’ we shouted and drove in on a 4km free night drive in Lochinvar. No animals, but some nightjars in the headlights.
Lochinvar National Park
Later, we found out more about the park: In 1966 Lochinvar Ranch, as it was then called, was bought by the Zambian government with the help of a grant from the World Wildlife Fund, and converted into a Game Managed Area; The extra protection afforded to the wildlife by this designation was not enough to prevent its numbers from diminishing further, and so in 1972 Lochinvar was upgraded to a National Park. Subsequently the park has been designated by the WWF as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’, and a WWF team has been working with the local people on a project to manage the park on a sustainable basis for the benefit of both the people and the wildlife. There are a lot of settlements around Lochinvar, and local people still come into the park – as they have done for centuries. Many were unhappy with Lochinvar Ranch – and have always felt that this is their land. They still come to gather wild foods and catch fish, and drive their cattle from one side to the other; so although major conservation efforts are being made in Lochinvar, building up the diversity and number of game species here is not an easy task.
We approached Lochinvar from Monze, on the Livingstone–Lusaka Road – about 287km from Livingstone and 186km from Lusaka. Directions: The road that heads northwest from Monze, signposted for Namwala, is just north of the grain silos on the Lusaka side of town. It passes Chongo village and forks about 8km afterwards. Ask local advice to find this junction if necessary. Take the right fork, or you will end up in Kafue. Follow this road for about 10km and then turn left at another sign. It is then about 14km to the park gate. This last section of the track twists and turns, but all the tracks that split off eventually rejoin each other and lead to the park. There are also a few more signs so, if you become unsure, ask a local person and they’ll show you the way. The gate to Lochinvar is about 48km from Monze. Most of the camps depicted on the old maps are now disused, and ‘some of the roads now seem as if they were figments of a cartographer’s imagination.’
The original state-run, red-brick Lochinvar Lodge, built in the colonial style of 1912, lies abandoned. There are always ‘plans to renovate’ this dilapidated, crumbling old building, but it would take a lot of work and money. Until enough people come to Lochinvar to make a second lodge economically viable, it’s likely to remain an evocative old ruin. As the state of the park gradually deteriorated, the lodge was put up for tender to private safari operators in 1996. Star of Africa agreed to take the lodge, as part of a ‘package’ of old government properties around the country. They first planned to build a floating lodge, but settled on a luxury tented camp which they called Lechwe Plains.
Camping rough in 2003, the campsite handpump had water, but the long-drop toilet and cold shower were out of action. We were happy to be inside the park, though and were equipped to be fully self-supporting.
Although the large herds of Kafue lechwe can be spectacular, the birds are the main attraction at Lochinvar – 428 species have been recorded there! The best birding is generally close to the water, on the floodplain. We drove everywhere in our kombi, but we since read: ‘It’s probably best to walk. It’s vital to avoid driving anywhere that’s even vaguely damp on the floodplain as your vehicle will just slip through the crust and into the black cotton soil – which will probably spoil and extend your stay in equal measure.’ Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
So this is what mother Mary probably felt like! It’s 3am and still no sign or word of the little blighter. Then ***pring pring*** . .
Hello, is that Mr Swanepoel? This is Andrew of Medical Rescue Emergency Services
Shit! Worst fears and all that
Don’t worry Thomas is fine
I have him here at St Augustines Hospital in the emergency unit. Can you come and fetch him?
Driving down the empty streets I think of mother Mary. Mary Methodist. And how she handled me in my fun days. Did she shout? Did she rant? Did she threaten? None of the above. I tried hard – not always successfully – to emulate Mom, appreciating hugely how patient she was with me, and knowing confrontations with me would not have ended well. Love and Patience had worked for me. And a good judicial dose of Los My Uit – not interfering.
The story turned out to be along these lines: A house party in Kloof; Parents away; The girl whose house it was taking Dad’s Ford Everest, filled with okes; She was driving fine, when an older oke said Here! Lemme Drive! after which things sped up! In downtown Durban the cops took an interest in his driving style, and the clever oke thought he could outrun them; Turning a corner he rolled the Everest, bringing the short chase to an end; He decided to scarper, and Tom’s not sure if the cops got him; The rest were taken to St Augustines by ambulance, a few slightly injured. I met some of their parents and we all nodded gravely; Some were muttering threats and blame. Tom was unscathed and we went home.
Memories of Mom peeking her head into my Country Mansion garden bedroom on some mornings-after: Are you back? Oh, Good; or I’m Glad You’re Safe; and once: Were You On That Train?
Even Mom’s gentle attempts at warning served no purpose. In desperation she evoked the dominee: ‘You know, Ds Ras says ‘Na Middernag Kom Die Duiwel Uit!’ she warned. That sounded like fun and only convinced me the night actually started later in the evenings. Love and Patience.
dominee – fire and brimstone preachers
Los My Uit – benevolent, discreet – yet watchful – neglect
Na Middernag Kom Die Duiwel Uit! – after midnight the Devil makes a grand appearance, TaDAAA!! – like Freddie Mercury – and the fun begins!!
One interesting side-effect: Tom would often say ‘Dad, speed up, please’ with my driving. After this he often says ‘Slow down please’ when I go round a sharpish bend!
Jessie discovered and avidly watched live-streamed game drives on the internet. Most were from the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and the Sabi Sands in our South African lowveld. Then she found out ‘her connection’ to it: The producer was a big supporter of hers when she first arrived in our home as a little girl! She’s a big fan of Kirsty’s, who was involved in the background, in the production of this popular program.
This morning I got a virtual invitation to a wedding, or was it an invitation to a virtual wedding? And I called out to Jess: Hey Jess, remember Kirsty’s getting married? Well, she’s gonna livestream the whole thing!
Hey, natch, what else? Life isn’t ‘portrayed’ online; life now HAPPENS online.
I’m sure Jessie – now 22 – will watch the wedding with keen interest as it unfolds in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands! She was a bit disappointed in my decision not to attend.
I’ll report back . .
Why, Dad? I decided not to go for good reasons all to do with me. I’m not anti-social; I’m just not very social. I’d love to hear about it, but I don’t want to be there. If you like weddings you won’t understand.
Just a day trip. Late start, so it was already warm and quiet by the time we got there.
Bird list: Barbets, Crested and Acacia Pied; Bulbul, Dark-capped; Greenbul, Sombre; Eagles, Long-crested and Brown Snake-; Shrike, Red-backed and Fiscal; Bush-shrikes, Gorgeous and Orange-breasted; Starlings, Cape Glossy and Violet-backed; Swallows, Wire-tailed and Lesser Striped; Kite, Yellow-billed; Crow, Pied; Wagtail, Pied; Cisticola, Rattling; Lark, Rufous-naped; Petronia, Yellow-throated; Batis, Cape; Flycatcher, Spotted; Pytilia, Green-winged; Tchagra, Black-crowned; Vulture, White-backed; Lapwing, Blacksmith; Thick-knee, Water; Oxpecker, Red-billed; Heron, Black-headed; Mousebird, Red-faced; Waxbill, Blue; Kingfisher, Brown-hooded; Plover, Three-banded; – In four hours –
Jess was the spotter as usual; She spotted the eles, buffalo, kudu, wildebeast, warthogs, impala, zebra, giraffe, rhino; and the dung beetles. The only animal she didn’t spot first was a crocodile in the Black Mfolosi river I spotted while she and Jordi were making lunch!
And this was a better lunch! She remembered the mayonnaise. Forgot the tomatoes, though. I like tomato on my rolls. So still room for improvement . .
A lovely feature this visit was four or five sounders of warthogs, with up to seven hotdog-sized hoglets trotting next to Ma, tails in the air. We say when their tails are up it means ‘they have signal.’
Jessie took the pic of the Stapelia – one of the largest flowers in the plant kingdom. This one was probably over 300mm across. Smells like something died – hence, Giant Carrion Flower. Used in traditional medicine to treat hysteria and pain; in sorcery, to cause the death of one you dislike! Take that!
My numberplate was hanging down on one side – yes, something clever I did – but it was secure on the other side; so just hanging vertically instead of horizontally like normal numberplates. An Ezimvelo ranger flagged us down: Your numberplate is falling off. Yes, thank you. It’s secure on one side. I’ll fix it when I get home. Nine times this happened before lunch! Four rangers and five citizens flagged me down and instead of saying ‘There are lions round the next bend’ each one of them said Your numberplate is falling off. And nine times I said Yes, thank you. It’s secure on one side. I’ll fix it when I get home.
Jeeesh! Uncharacteristically, I fixed it with cable ties at the lunch stop.
(this blog is about happenings, disasters, surprises and chaos since I caught marriage and kids. But every now and then I re-post a story from my blissful, trouble-free, beer-fuelled bachelor days blog. Here’s one):
Hey, let’s go on a safari!
Great friend Larry Wingert is out from the USA and we hop on a flight to Maun in Botswana. It’s 1985 and we’re bachelors on the loose with time and money!
From Maun we fly into the Delta (Tjou Island camp) in a Cessna 206. After many beers and wines a resident auntie starts looking enticing at around midnight but the moment passes.
The next morning a pair of Tropical Boubou, Laniarius major, fly into the open-air pub under a tree right above where we’re sitting and belt out a head-turning, startling loud duet. Stunning! That’s a lifer!
After a short mokoro ride it’s back to the plane and a quick, low-altitude flip back to Maun where we all squeeze into an old Land Rover, fill up at Riley’s Garage . .
. . and head off for Moremi, stopping just outside Maun to buy some meat hanging from a thorn tree. Goat? Supper. Our outfit is called – I think – Afro Ventures.
We’re a Motley Crew from all over. We get to know two lovely Aussie ladies, a lovely Kiwi lady, a Pom fella – 6 foot 7 inches of Ralph; AND the gorgeous Zimbabwean Angel Breasts (Engelbrecht her actual surname)! Unfortunately, she’s The Long Pom’s girlfriend (sigh). Weird how the only first name I can think of now is Ralph, the undeserving Pom.
Our long-haired laid-back hippy Saffer – no, he was probably a Zim, see his letter – safari guide Steve at the wheel is super-cool, a great guide. So off we go, heading north-east, eight people in a Series 2 Landie – “The Tightest-Squeeze-Four-By-Four-By-Far”.
Long Legs in a Landie to the rescue!
Anyone who has driven in a Landie will know there’s lots of room inside – except for your shoulders and your knees. Besides that – roomy. Land Rover’s theory is that three people can fit on the front seat, three on the middle seat and two on those postage stamp seats in back. Right! See that metal pipe that your knees keep bumping against? That’s what Land Rover used as their prototype airbag. It didn’t work so they only kept it for the next fifty years, then changed it. By using milder steel for the pipe?
Previously a critic of Landrover design, in a flash I’m a keen supporter! Unable to endure the cramped space on the middle seat, The Lengthy Pom gets out at the very first stop and sits on the spare wheel on the roofrack. I sit with my thigh firmly against Angel Breasts’ thigh (sigh).
More clever Landrover design features:
The Long Pom stays up there for the rest of the week – whenever we’re driving, he sits on the roofrack! When we stop he has to pick the insects out of his teeth, like a radiator. I’m in seventh heaven. Mine and Angel Breasts’ thighs were made for each other.
Birding: Problem Solved!
I’m mad keen on birding but I don’t know how these guys feel about it. What if they get pissed off? What if they only want to stop for large furry creatures? After all, five of the seven of us are fureigners. But the problem gets solved like this: The first time we get stuck in the deep sand, a little white-browed scrub robin comes to the rescue! He hops out onto the road in full view, cocks his tail and charms them. From then on I have six spotters who don’t let anything feathered flit past without demanding,“What’s that, Pete? What’s that? And that one?” I become the birding guide! Steve is happy – it’s not his forte, but he’s keen to learn.
Moremi – and True Love
At Khwai River camp a splendid, enchanted evening vision befalls me – my best nocturnal wild life sighting of the whole trip: I’m walking in the early evening to supper and bump into Angel Breasts outside her bungalow – she’s in her bra n panties in the moonlight. Bachelor dreams. Oops, she says and runs inside. Don’t worry, I’ve averted my eyes, I lie (*sigh*). That’s another lifer!
At Savuti camp the eles have wrecked the water tank.
At Nogatsaa camp a truck stops outside the ranger’s hut, a dead buffalo on the back. The ranger’s wife comes to the truck and is given a hindquarter. Meat rations. They also drop the skin there and advise us to carry a torch if we shower at night as lions are sure to come when they smell the skin.
Another Lifer! Later I head for the tiny little shower building – a single shower – to shower while it’s still light. Discretion being the better part of valour! A sudden cacophony makes me look out of the broken shower window: The lady-in-residence is chasing an ele away from her hut by banging her pots & pans together! We travel thousands of k’s to see elephant and she says Footsack Wena! Tsamaya! The ele duly footsacks away from that awful noise. While looking out, I spot what I think could be a honeyguide in a tree, so I have to rush back to our puptent wrapped in a towel with one eye on the ele to fetch my binocs. It is a Greater Honeyguide, the one with the lovely Latin name Indicator indicator, and that’s another lifer for me! Moral of the story: Always carry your binocs no matter where you go!
That night the elephants graze and browse quietly right next to our puptent, tummies rumbling, other noises emanating from front and rear. Peeping out of the tent door I look at their tree stump legs, can’t even see up high enough to see their heads. Gentle giants.
As we head on north and east through the sand, we approached the Chobe river; and the landscape looked like Hiroshima in WW2! Elephant damage of the trees was quite unbelievable. That did NOT look like good reserve management! Botswana doesn’t believe in culling, but it sure looks like they should!
The Chobe river, however, was unbelievable despite the devastation on its banks – especially after the dry country we’d been in. What a river! What wildlife sightings!
On to Zimbabwe, the mighty Zambesi river and Victoria Falls. We stayed at AZambezi Lodge. Here we bid a sad goodbye to our perfect safari companions. Me still deeply in love. Angel Breasts holding The Long Pom’s hand, totally unaware of my devotion (*sigh*).
At the end, our new friend and safari guide Steve gave me and Larry a letter. We read it on the flight out of Vic Falls.
Hopeful note: Larry had a camera on the trip, I didn’t, so I have asked him (hello Larry) to scratch around for his colour slides in his attic or his secret wall storage space in Akron Ohio. He will one day. As a dedicated procrastinator he is bent on never putting off till tomorrow what he can put off till the next day. Meantime, thanks to Rob & Jane Wilkinson of wilkinsonsworld.com, xeno-canto.org and others on the interwebs for these borrowed pics and sounds!
Edit: There’s more hope! Larry wrote 16 December 2017: P.S. I will renew my efforts to locate some photos of our Botswana trip. If you saw the interior of my house, you’d understand the challenge. . . . OK, but if you saw the exterior of his old house you’d fall in love with it:
Terrible note: Update November 2019: Larry has since had a bad fire in the basement of his lovely home. Much of his stuff is ruined by the fire, the smoke and then the firemen’s water! He may not repair his home! This is so sad! Dammit! Pictures suddenly aren’t important any more.
Saffer – Suffefrickin; South African
Zim – a Zimbabwean
lifer – first time you’ve seen that bird ever – or anyway in lingerie
Footsack Wena!Tsamaya! – Go away! Be off with you! Eff Oh!
pamberi ‘n chimurenga – forward the liberation struggle! in Shona
(this blog is about happenings, disasters, surprises and chaos since I caught marriage and kids. But every now and then I re-post a story from my blissful, trouble-free, beer-fuelled bachelor days blog. Here’s one):
I joked that my gran Annie thought ‘the queen’ was also the queen of South Africa. Elizabeth Two, not Pieter-Dirk. And I thought ‘You know, Annie was probably alive ‘under’ Queen Victoria!’
So I thought I’d check.
Well, she certainly was. And what’s more, she actually ‘lived under’ six British Monarchs!
Smiling Vicky; Eddie Seven; Georgie Five; Eddie Eight; Georgie Six; Lizzie Two Second
How’s that! Long live the Queens! Long live the Kings! But longer live our Annie!
I myself have lived through the (distant, irrelevant) reign of Lizzie Two Second and . . oh, only Lizzie. She recently de-throned or defrocked her great-great-granma Victoria as longest reigning Breetish monarch. Poor old Bakoor Charlie has gone straight from lifelong unemployment on the dole, straight into pensionerhood before ever actually doing anything. He’s seventy one in the shade, has never worked a day in his life and is still sitting around waiting for a vacancy to arise.
“Royalty” is such BullShit. If his mother keeled over millions would be wasted putting a hat on his head; after which he’ll carry on doing nothing while not wearing that stupid hat. We humans are incredibly stupid often.
breetish – Mugabe-speak for that island to the left of France;
‘Dad, I need an eyebrow piercing.’ Sure Jess, get it one day when you have the money and you’re living on your own, love.
Strategically she drops the subject till the old man has forgotten all about it. So ten minutes later she comes from a different angle: ‘Dad, remember when you sold my scooter? You said I could have that money.‘ Sure Jess, what’s left of it after you pay your debts. ‘OK,’ she works out I owe her R330. Sucker pays.
** pring ** ‘Please can you fetch me n Sindi from Pav, Dad?’ Sure thing love. On the way home from work I pick them up at the shopping centre – this is the same Sindi who was Jessie’s accomplice in the tattoo surprise. I immediately spot the bauble on her eyebrow. What the heck is that silver fly on your eyebrow, Jess?
They both break out in peals of laughter. Once again she’s seeking forgiveness, knowing seeking permission would have been futile.
Well I hope that hurt Jess. You needed that like (another) hole in the head (and you now have eleven of them). Seven holes you were born with: Two earholes, two eyesockets, two nostrils and one mouth which gives your Dad lip. The 8th and 9th were done in cahoots with your Mom: earlobes. The nose and eyebrow were sprung on your poor unsuspecting Dad!
In her defence, she has been meticulous about keeping them clean and sterilised. Still, aaaargh!!
What an interesting cul de sac is Elston Place. Sure there are five boring houses with abelungu in them, and one high-wall complex called Maroela or Marula something with faceless people living in it who don’t know that if you live in a ten-gate dead end you GREET everyone who lives there . . or who drives past.
BUT: We also have four council houses with hordes of kids. THAT’s what makes our road interesting.
Those that visited when we first arrived ranged from three to thirteen, Fezile, Asanda, Katelo, Khanyiso, Michael, boys. Andile, Azokuhle & Minenhle girls. Who exactly they belong to I never fully worked out. But the kids (mine) knew, and shook their head when I asked – yet again. The older ones have moved up and on. They’re now thirteen years older, and too cool for our pool; or our trampoline and jungle gym – both of which are now gone. Three of those now have bambinos already. Kids with kids. I fright for that.
The new generation now is all girls: Lwandle, Amahle, Lisa and Cutie. They worship our Jessie:
One house is childless. Occupied by Bill G, ex-Durban Corpse employee who knows everything, especially about how grass and verges should be cut – and specialising in kids’ education: “You must study hard, y’hear? My daughter didn’t play in the street and look today there she is, a doctor.” We’ve never seen his kids, he’s right about that much.
One is Thandi, who works at Woolies and goes to Virgin Active Gym every day, walking her ample bum 3km’s there and 3km’s back (even tho there’s a gym in our nearby centre that she works in – I guess Woolies has her on Discovery Health, and therefore Vitality, and therefore Virgin Gym).
One has a green car and drives her kids to school at Westville Jr Primary every morning. Her kids don’t visit or play in the road.
Lawrence and his young wife and little daughter Cutie. He worked at Nourish Cafe nearby, but they closed, so now he walks to a far-away newly-opened PicknPay near Thandi’s gym.
And we have N and S from Pakistan with dogs that bark incessantly right in my ear when I’m in my bedroom and vehicles that arrive and leave at all times of the day & night. That’s the only real bummer of the neighbourhood. Sometimes I get up and bellow and throw stones until they finally shut the dogs up. They might think I’m bonkers. I KNOW they are. They built a double story on top of their garage then complained they could see into my yard! They finally sold and left after nineteen years in the cul de sac. I actually got on well with them. They just didn’t know how to treat or train dogs. They shouldn’t have had any.
Deo was our Metro cop. It was good to have a Metro cop vehicle in our road with his smiling face in it. But he’s late. Car accident. I thought he’d been hit in the blue & white Metro car by a truck, but his widow Nkosazana came round yesterday dressed all in black top-to-toe including scarf and hat, and filled me in on the details: He was driving his private Nissan X-Trail and hit (or was hit by) a Toyota Hilux bakkie. Neither he nor his mistress were badly hurt, but he “wasn’t right” and was sent back to Westville hospital after a while, then on to Entabeni as his condition worsened. There he died and his wife (who he’d ‘kicked out’ in October) was only then able to get there and try and sort things out. Mistress in the meantime had the house keys and took documents, cellphones, watches and stuff. His Metro cop colleagues believed the wife and took her around to the mistress’ place and got some of the stuff back. Nkosazana needed me to update her CV so she can look for another job as she was recently retrenched from the security company where she was a CCTV operator. Bliksem. Three kids. Around 19, 16 and 13.
Elston Place also borders the 100 acre wood. Actually better, the 100 hectare Palmiet Nature Reserve, and the day before yesterday I saw a new bird at my bird bath: A Yellow-bellied Greenbul.
abelungu – pale, formal people
cul-de-sac – (from French for ‘bottom of bag’), no through road or no exit road, is a street with only one inlet or outlet – a ‘dead end.’ Not that we’re calling our street a dead end!
It’s a real challenge. This having to navigate the world surrounded by dof friends.
I wrote to my ‘friends’ – it might have been early one morning; they might not have been fully awake: -original message- Subject: Where’s that? From: Pete <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 06/06/2011
I was embarrassed that I had never heard of Sanya, a city that looked bigger than Durban, with huge bridges, high buildings, man-made islands and world-class resorts. It’s China’s southern-most city. Well, today I tested Midi Yan’s eyes and he and his brother had never heard of Sanya either! OK, they are from Tianjin in the North, which is thousands of km’s away, but it made me feel a little better that they also hadn’t heard of this city in their own country.
Bruce – after reading with one eye? – wrote: Pete I`ve been there with you IN A BOAT – Legend of the Sea = tHERE AFTER THE BOAT DOCKED IN VIETNAM AT HA LONG BAY WHERE WE WENT ASHORE AND DRANK BEER
Janet wrote: So, Pete, it’s just the memory that’s going…
Rita wrote: That too!
I tried to straighten them up: Don’t be dof, people, I was embarrassed THEN that I had never heard of it. When the “Chinas” came to visit me last week I told them I’d been there and THEY had never heard of it. THEY said ‘Where’s That?’ So I didn’t feel so bad about not having heard about Sanya BEFORE I went there. Get wif ve program.
Rita persisted: Well clearly, you were not clear.
Steve backed her: ‘Fraid thats the way I saw it too. Sharpen up Koos.
Janet made things worse: Hair today gone tomorrow????
**** SIGH ****
confession: I may have tidied the language of my posts ever so slightly to make my point clearer here . . . in order to emphasise their dofness, see . .
This is American football. At Super Bowl time. And Keith Knight of The K Chronicles gets it. It could just as well be soccer, rugby, olympics or any of the scams that ‘professional sport’ is these days . . and has been for a long time.
My additional South African punchline would be “The fact that these sports get funding from our Lotto as “charities”: PRICELESS!!
Steve Reed wrote drily: Now hang on Koos. (Sure its a $10 000 ticket, but) I heard today that under your seat you will find a goodie bag. This contains earmuffs, hand warmer, a radio, Chapstick, mittens, tissues and a bandana! Definitely worth it.
Our friend Louis used to say ‘Dis My Gat Se Deksel’ which means ‘This Is My Arsehole’s Lid’ meaning ‘This Takes the Cake’ or – ‘This Beats Me’ or – ‘How the Hell Do You Explain That?’ or – ‘What a Scam!’
Or biblically, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold is valuable, frankincense and myrrh not so much. but BULLSHIT! Now, bullshit: Bullshit has made billions. Take how you were bullshitted and went Oooh! and Aaah! when you were told gold, frankincense and myrrh, even when you didn’t know what the hell they were talking about, and when you SHOULD have been asking WTF is that!? George Davie? Emma Morton? Anybody? What’s frankincense? would have caused an awkward silence, followed by whispers of ‘trouble-maker.’ Good children would go Oooh! and Aaah! and move on . .
So WTF IS‘frankincense and myrrh?’
Smellies. Derived from tree sap, or gum resin, both frankincense and myrrh are prized for their alluring fragrance. Frankincense is a milky white resin extracted from Boswellia sacra, a small tree that grows in Somalia, Oman and Yemen. These grow to a height of five meters, have papery bark, sparse bunches of paired leaves, and flowers with white petals and a yellow or red center.
Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from Commiphora myrrha, a tree commonly used in the production of myrrh. It can be found in the shallow, rocky soils of Ethiopia, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. It boasts spiny branches with sparse leaves that grow in groups of three, and can reach a height of three meters.
The processes for extracting the sap of Boswellia for frankincense, and Commiphora for myrrh, are essentially identical: Harvesters make a longitudinal cut in the tree’s trunk, which pierces gum resin reservoirs located within the bark. The sap slowly oozes from the cut and drips down the tree, forming tear-shaped droplets that are left to harden on the side of the tree. These beads are collected after two weeks.
It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-pest and can be used for oral uses. It has been used as an astringent, antiseptic, anti-parasitic, anti-tissive, emmenagogue (huh?), and antispasmodic agent. It was commonly included in mixtures used to treat worms, wounds, and sepsis. And very helpful in fumigation. Hey! When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, right? Our parents had castor oil and guess what? They used it for a lot of the above.
The lesson? Don’t ever say Oooh!and Aaah! Say WTF is THAT!?? And when precocious kids ask it like that, take them seriously and answer – or say I Don’t Know.