Mini Migration

This morning on my stoep there was a bewilderbeast migration across the plains. In miniature.20180304_070449[1].jpg

As time passed they grew in numbers. They trudged across the barren surface seeking water and new grazing.

Which they found in the form of dog food and spilt cooldrink, Sambucca and the teenagers being their generous suppliers.

I flew over the cooldrink waterhole.


In these waterholes lurk mini-crocodiles, ready to pounce and have them some mini-wildebeast beef. Probably. I’m guessing.

Maybe I should set up a webcam?


stoep – veranda; patio

Sambucca – fierce guard Labrador; part-greyhound for a brief minute once a day when I get home; Here seen on her way to the gallows (or a hairbrush and de-ticking)

Sambucca to the gallows (3)

How Hard Can It Be?

Craig Naude sent this:

Orchestra conductor

Jon Taylor wrote:

It only looks like that to the members of the audience who have already finished their boxes of wine.

I wrote:

Oh rubbish! How hard can it be? I have successfully air-conducted many operas, arias, concertos, minuets, fugues, and more in my car and in my bath.
Fugue, man. 😉

Pete Brauer wrote:

At school the PACT Symphony Orchestra came to play at an assembly. They gave a schpiel about how important the conductor was. They then called up a kid from the audience to have a go at conducting – and the orchestra played out of their socks to the kid randomly  waving his arms and the baton around as if it was a traditional weapon.

To show the difference when a real fundi conductor brought the best out of the orchestra, the conductor came back on – and of course the orchestra didn’t play a note in tune or in time.

I wrote:

I love that! That’s a hoot!
I bet the musicians had a ball doing that! Every formal orchestra ‘captive musician’ must secretly want to break loose and be a Jagger. Or at least a Vanessa Mae.

Vanessa Mae violin


PACT – Performimg Arts Council of the Transvaal

Drink Up!

Headline News: Drinking Alcohol Doesn’t Actually Kill Brain Cells

Well, there goes that joke about the slow wildebeests (the bewilderbeasts?) being thinned out by the marauding hyenas, thus sharpening up the survivors’ gene pool.

The news:
Scientists once believed that the number of nerve cells you have in your brain, once you reach adulthood, was all you’d ever have. Thus, damaging these cells could be extremely detrimental to the individual. However, this isn’t correct.

Ha! New neurons are created all the time in the adult brain, in a process that is called neurogenesis, or more technically, imbibing wisdom. I knew it!

Yay! Neurogenesis! I just made a few new brain cells to host this new info. The picture above is a snapshot of me while that process was happening. Voila!

Tembe Elephant Park 2010

I looked for our last Tembe trip and found I hadn’t written about it, so here goes, a Tembe retrospective.

We hared off to the elephant park on the  Mocambican border with Jon and Dizzi Taylor. December 2010, so the kids had just turned 13 and 9.

Tembe ele bums-001

Aitch wasn’t well, but game as ever, she got fascinated by the close-up views we had of ele feet and ele bums and used the camera’s rapid-fire setting liberally. I made .gifs of her series of pics:

Our guide Vusi kept driving right up one ele’s bum and eventually it got agitated and turned round, to the kids’ consternation. It just shook its ears at him, but to this day – full knowing that I’ll insist ‘No it didn’t!’ – they’ll say “Remember when that elephant tried to kill us?”

Tembe ele approaches Tom   Tembe with Taylors Tom Ducks

Another kids’ meme that has survived the years is Jonathan leaning inwards as we passed thorny branches intruding onto the track. To this day whenever we drive past a branch Jessie will lean inwards against my shoulder and laugh, even though we’re in an enclosed vehicle!

Jessie, ever the champion spotter, pointed out this beautiful Vine or Twig Snake Thelotornis capensis on the path in camp.

Vine Snake Thembe

Tembe Elephant Park

On one drive we were able to compare a rare black rhino footprint with an unusual white wino foot:

Tembe with Taylors (1258)

Our last game drive was one too much for Aitch. She asked to be taken back to the Lodge and we finished the drive without her. Back pain from her cancer that had spread to her bones meant she reluctantly skipped a drive – something she would never normally do, so we knew it was sore! She had been a champ all along, full of good cheer, but this did turn out to be her last game drive.

Tembe Sunset

footnotes – what we learnt in 2018:

  1. Vusi is now camp manager. He gave a lo-o-ong speech before supper *yawn!*
  2. The painted dogs we saw in the boma were released but the project was not a success. They caught them and shipped them elsewhere. Then one bitch who had wandered off returned and gave birth to 15 pups! So Tembe has painted dogs in the boma again!


Chips Tomorrow!!

Keep your head low tomorrow Friday 2nd March, and if you’re in the habit of wearing a top hat, don’t.

An asteroid called 2018 DV1, about the size of a bus, will approach within 113,000 kilometers of Earth during its flyby.

NASA’s Asteroid Watch program will host a free webcast, led by astrophysicist Gianluca Masi in Ceccano, Italy, for the event. The webcast will feature views of the asteroid as seen by a 16-inch robotic telescope at the Tenagra Observatories in Arizona. You can watch the webcast live here Friday, beginning at 0530 GMT.

Astronomers in Arizona first spotted asteroid 2018 DV1 on Monday 26 February so I dunno why they didn’t tell us sooner.

Anyway, don’t say you weren’t warned, my followers. Both of you.


footnote: I watched it for you. It was terrifying! The asteroid looked this this fullstop on screen . except fuzzier. For an hour it did precisely nothing. Then, thank goodness to a sigh of relief, it disappeared. You can relax now.

More Friendly Garden Snakes

Mostly small and all harmless. The snakes I have found in my garden over the last twelve years. The biggest were the skinny Spotted Bush Snake and the skinny Brown Water Snake at about 40cm; Down to the Black-headed Centipede Eater at about 12cm and the tiny Thread or Worm snake. The only one with real venom was the tiny little Stiletto Snake I wrote about earlier.

The Brown House Snake above was ID’d by Nick Evans our favourite herpetologist. He’ll squeeze mice and swallow them. The snake, not Nick. This one was about 20cm long. He’ll need to seek out baby mice, I’d think.

A Red-lipped Herald (named after the Port Elizabeth newspaper The Herald); He’s tiny – check his size against a credit card! He eats frogs at night. One lives under our outside scullery sink, where some Guttural Toads live. They’re much bigger than him so he better watch out. The one old toad sometimes sits in the outlet pipe so his lies are amplified as he serenades potential mates. He lets the water wash over him, but sometimes it’s hot water and he leaps out of the pipe with an indignant grunt-squeak and a scalded cloaca.

Herald snake_2
Saw this little guy today 27 Feb 2018

A Black-headed Centipede Eater on an A5-size snake book. Mildly venomous but harmless, he’s only a danger to centipedes.

Little snake in pool 16 Dec 2006 - black-headed centipede eater!

We see the “big” beautiful slender and harmless green Spotted Bush Snake most often, so its weird I have no pics of him – I spose cos he’s very nervous and quick. He eats lizards and tree frogs. This Brown Water snake on the patio was spotted by Jess as we came home one night. He’ll eat frogs, fish, mice and nestling birds. No poison, he’s a constrictor. Swims really fast. Much feared by the Zulus in KwaZulu Natal who call him iVuzamanzi and through long generations of folklore believe him to be very dangerous. He’s entirely harmless. Here’s a thought: How do you constrict a fish?

Little Common Brown Water Snake (on 600mm tile)

And a gorgeous little Rhombic Night Adder. That’s the bottom of an HTH bucket, so he’s only about 10cm long. Mildly venomous, but harmless to us, he eats tadpoles while he’s little. One day he’ll eat frogs and toads which he smells out at night.

Night Adder

And a tiny little Worm or Thread snake. Not that much thicker than pencil lead, he eats termites:

Herald snake; Thread snake

Prof Chris Barnard’s Farewell

At the airport yesterday I saw a new book on Professor Chris Barnard. It’s fifty years since the world’s first heart transplant and the famous surgeon and playboy is in the news again.

A while ago I had found Aitch’s 1983 diary . Her entries to record her overtime as a cardiovascular perfusionist doing heart ops had abbreviations likes “palliative VSD 1.5hrs; MVR 1.5hrs; CVG”. One of her entries in December was ’17h00 Wed 14 Dec Farewell for CNB, Nurses Lounge, Clarendon House’. I knew that CNB meant Christiaan Neethling Barnard as she worked with him at the time. She would run the heart-lung machine to oxygenate the blood while he and the other surgeons worked on the patient’s heart.

I had time before my flight so I  thought I wonder if they have anything about his retirement in the book? and flipped through it.

And there she was on page 216:

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (2)

So I had to buy it to show the pic to Jess and Tom. Jess said “Cool”; Tom shrugged: “We knew Mom was famous!”

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (1)