1987 Photo Album

(I have captured the thick old album here and elsewhere, and discarded the paper version in my big cleanout as I prepare to leave home).

We joined Max and Paula Posniak at Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg; Aitch joined the Porters on Barry’s Dad Harold Porter’s old farm, which he bequeathed to the nation.

We got engaged. I’d forgotten what a thing it was? I threw out tons of cards Aitch had put in this album. I kept these copies of the people pics here. Steve and Wendy Reed hosted a lekker party at their lovely home in Sterling Crescent in Durban North, kind (and brave) people.

We went to visit Aitch’s folks in Bloubergstrand.

October 1987 – Natal got hit by huge floods. Here’s the Umgeni at Blue Lagoon: Island gone! Lyn wrote to us while they were cut off by the floods at Hella Hella.

Sheila joined us on a mountain biking camping trip to Cobham.

Canoe polo was great fun for a while. A highlight was when the mighty Natal C team beat the fancied-themselves Natal A team! Yay!!

We visited a Zululand bush camp affiliated to Mala Mala – Malachite Camp, they called it. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. We enjoyed some fun frogging there!

Another of our many trips to Zululand reserves:

Fun slalom weekends, this one on the Umzimkulu river.

I was paddling less races, but still doing trips:

The 1987 Umko Marathon got me a job pulling flotsam and jetsam out below No.1 rapid as rescue boat for my club KCC. We stayed on at the farm after the field had departed downstream.

Bernie and I took some novice paddlers to the Umgeni (NB: Some Umko pics mixed up in here)

Frogging and frog atlassing was a fun interest – still is.

Wedding coming up in 1988. We had a small guest list, so we had a ‘pre-nuptial party’ at Kingfisher CC’s lovely clubhouse where we got dronk with chairman Allister Gordon-Peter’s permission. That’s him on the chair shouting ORDER! ORDER!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sold!

I just sold my longest-lived-in home. We’ve been here sixteen years. Here’s my sequence:

First home Whittington Court. I forget how long, but bought as a bachelor, then Trish moved in ca.1986.

.

1989 we bought our first suburban home in River Drive in Westville. Stayed there fifteen years.

– 7 River Drive –

Then we rented Ian Whitton’s lovely home in Windsor Avenue Westville for about two years.

– Windsor Avenue –

2005 we bought here, ‘to be near the schools.’

– Elston Place – sold! after sixteen years –

The feature image is Elston Place after our 2012 revamp.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Madagascar 2008

(the album has been discarded, here are all the pages for posterity):

– l – r: Dickie, Claire, Bert, Sonja, Tanya, Pete, Trish, Jessie, Tommy – where’s Mowgli? –

~~~oo0oo~~~

The Art of the Game Drive

I gave a talk in the Kruger Park once called The Art of the Game Drive. It was magnificent, complete with exciting sightings and livestreaming. Pity was, I had an unappreciative audience. Well, they were from behind the boerewors curtain, so . . you know how they are.

It almost sounded like they had a pet monkey with them, as they kept muttering Ari Aap as I drove them serenely in quiet splendour and exquisite comfort in my VW Kombi 2,1 in subtle camouflage blue and white. But you won’t believe this, when I stopped to examine old poo there was audible sighing. Philistines. The talks are still wildly popular* but I notice none of that particular batch were ever repeat guests. And I mainly have repeat guests.

*Jessie has been a repeat guest dozens – scores – of times. She can appreciate the Art of the Game Drive. Specially if she has her phone, her music and noise-cancelling earphones with her.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Xudum in Okavango

(A re-post with added pictures, as I throw out paper photo albums after copying and uploading. Major un-cluttering happening as I prepare my home for the past sixteen years for sale. Next chapter about to begin!)

Another trip to the Delta!

Aitch and I flew from Maun to Xudum in August 2001 when Janet & Duncan were helping Landela Safaris run their show. We landed on the nearby bush strip. We had been before, in January 2000. This post has pictures from both trips.

– . . . in the Xudum area, east of the Sandveldt Tongue –
Xudum airstrip (2)
– Xudum landing strip in high water – a 2020 picture –

After a few days in camp they had business in Maun and we accompanied them on the drive out of the Delta to Maun in the Land Cruiser. Rickety bridges, deep water crossings with water washing over the bonnet onto the windscreen.

Xudum drift

On the drive back to camp after the day in the big smoke of the metropolis of Maun we entered a Tamboti grove and saw two leopard cubs in the road. They split and ran off to left and right, then ran alongside of us on either side for a minute calling to each other before we moved off and let them be.

We enjoyed mekoro trips, game drives & walks and afternoon boat trips stretching into evenings watching the sunset from the boat while fishing for silver catfish or silvertooth barbel – I forget what they called them. Later, wading in thigh-deep water sorting out the pumps, earning my keep as a guest of the lodge managers. Only afterwards did I think hmm, crocs.

Xudum (5)

Visited Rann’s camp for lunch where Keith and Angie Rowles were our hosts. That’s where we first heard the now-common salute before starting a meal: “Born Up a Tree.”

Janet moved us from camp to camp as guests arrive, filling in where there were gaps in other camps. We transferred by boat, mekoro or 4X4 vehicle. One night we stayed in a tree house in Little Xudum camp.

Okavango Xudum Camp

Lazy days in camp drinking G&T’s

Here’s Trish’s paper album – photographed and discarded:

~~~oo0oo~~~

Later Xudum was taken over by super-luxury company ‘&Beyond.’ OTT luxury, and R15 000 per person per night! Very different to the lovely rustic – but still luxurious – tented camp it was when we were there. Should ‘conservationists’ really be using miles of glass and wooden decking and flooring in the bush!? Methinks rich spoilt children are doing the designing for Daddy’s company and perspective has flown out the canvas-zip window and crashed into the plate glass floor-length picture window.

In May 2019 it burnt down. Had it been canvas there’d have been less pollution from the fire and the re-build.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Vandalism!

First I un-jungled.

Then I de-trailered.

‘Tis vandalism is what it is!

2021 and we all ‘know’ you have to manicure a garden cos ‘people won’t buy a wild garden!’ Fuck me, the world is fucked.

My shame is I went along with it when I know I should not have. And we – mankind – have known since the 6th century BCE that we should not ruin our environment. But still we do.

Yeah, selling my home of the last sixteen years.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Everlastings

This got me thinking about everlasting life. ‘This’ being wonderful posts on fungi (and algae) over at Tony Edger’s blog Fossils and other Living Things.

‘Everlasting life’ people come in various flavours. The main lot say you have to die with the right mindset, accepting Allah (Mohammed born 570) or Joseph Smith jr (born 1805) or Jesus (born 0) or Ron L Hubbard (born 1911) or some such ‘saviour.’ Another group of ‘live forevers’ are the ‘you are what you eat – keep-you-goings,’ who believe nutrition science will find a way to keep us alive forever sooner or later. Somehow, magically, the weird stuff you are told to eat saves you, surviving your stomach acid. Then the cryo ‘freeze-you-now-revive-you-laters,’ let you do what you like, some clever people – yet to be born – will fix you later. Keeping you cold is expensive, so some of them just freeze your head!

So the one says Think Right and you’ll live forever (or else you’ll burn forever!); the other says Eat Right and you’ll live for ever (with a milder threat of ‘or else you won’t’). The cryos seem to let you do what you want.

Blah Blah

Live

Enjoy

Die

The End

~~~oo0oo~~~

Mary Poppins

‘They gave us supper early. We were saying, Soon They’ll Feed Us At Three.’ I said, In this cold weather if it was me I’d say to you all at lunch: Eat Up! Your Supper’s Ready! so I could get home early. She had a good laugh at that.

‘I played the piano at supper.’ Oh, good. What did you play? ‘The piano’ she says mischievously and laughs. The she sings, ‘Lady of Spain I adore you – right from the night I first saw you … ‘

We would dance to this in the Masonic Hall. Folk dancing. Also to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. And a Welsh dance and a Scottish reel.’

For Girl Guides I had to play a March for my piano badge. Mrs Steytler said I was playing too fast, the girls marching couldn’t keep up. Then I had to play God Save The King, we were still under the monarchy then, in the Commonwealth. And Elizabeth has gone to hospital for the first time.’

Well, she’s 93, I said, same age as you. ‘Oh, I thought she was Pat’s age, older than me, and Margaret was my age.’ I think she’s 1928, same as you, I said. While we were talking I checked. True’s Bob, Mary was right, Mrs Queen is two and half years older than her. Pat’s age. I was foolish to contradict her. What do I know about poms?

I saw her in Boksburg, you know. She was keen to get back home to the only boyfriend she ever had. Philip.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Presence of Mind

Good photographers have presence of mind. I’d like more of that stuff.

Last night I leaned back in my office chair – director’s or boss’ chair deluxe, high-back, padded armrests – luxuriously and started to put my feet up on my imbuia wood desk. The smooth motion didn’t stop there, I kept going backwards, the high-back cushioned my head as I crashed, the wheels of the chair caught under the desk, sending a full glass of red wine and a plate of fine curried mutton pie and tomato sauce crashing to the tiled floor, along with the PC monitor and my drone remote control.

Fokop. Chair horizontal, desk at 45 degrees, blood on the floor, legs in the air, same air blue with profanity.

A photographer would have taken a great picture, especially as the blood oozed towards my collection of eleven Okavango Delta books I’d gathered together as I’m getting rid of my library.

I very boringly tidied the broken glass and ceramic, mopped the red wine, re-assembled the scattered shrapnel and then thought: Damn! A picture would have been good.

I sort of re-staged it this morning to show how the chair’s wheeled legs tipped up the old desk on the right.

Sell

Another chapter begins. I’ll be leaving the home I’ve lived in the longest in my life – sixteen years. The kids were eight and four when we moved in.

How hard can it be, right? You sell, bank the cash and drive off into the sunset. So I called Aitch’s friend and colleague in her four-year stint as an estate agent, Pam.

Pam, You Know What You’re Doing, You Come And Do This.

So you know what she does? She gives me a list as long as your arm! You do this, then you do this, then . . she’s as bad as Aitch was!

So she tells me: Sell your furniture; sell your books; sell the many wall hangings which haven’t hung on a wall for ten years since Aitch went; Fix the cracks, the windows, the doors, the ceilings; Paint – a lot; Rip up those carpets; New light bulbs;

Yes, Pam.

Mow the lawn – WHAT!? Now you’ve gone too far!

Hell, if I didn’t do all those things for us, why should I do them for strangers? Cos you want to sell the house, Pete.

Oh

Sold!

I decided I’ll never get this done, so we put the house on the market “as is” – its called voetstoots in South Africa. And on that very day we got two offers for the full asking price. A week later their finance was approved and so I asked ‘Must I Leave Now?’ No, they said, it takes about three months before you’ll have your money! Damn!

Now it is very real and I sat Jess and Tom down and broke the news. They picked what they wanted from the house, a truckload went off to Tom’s rented rooms:

Jess wants less, but the other fridge and microwave will go to her.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Aitch Art

I have spoken about Aitch being an art connoisseur before, here and here. I have also referred to the possibility that I might have philistinian tendencies; or plebeian judgement.

Some months after she died in July 2011 I found a parcel very well wrapped up and secure; cardboard, brown paper, parcel tape and well bubble-wrapped inside.

Inside were two beautifully framed botanical prints by an artist I had never heard of – Ha! of course I hadn’t. But Aitch had! . . and an invoice.

I gasped: HOW MUCH?!!

Just two and a half months before she died she was still investing in things she considered were beautiful; and would go far and grow. Given time.

Bless her.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Trying to sell them not so easy. So far I’ve had an offer of R1000; no reply from the gallery she bought them at; another art gallery said “try an auction house.” I’m gonna keep them for when I get a new place one day. Then I’ll hang them up and ignore them again.

More on Sibonelo Chiliza here and here and here and pictures of a few of his works here.

Watch the Trailer

It contains important fiscal lessons and warnings.

A while ago I decided to sell my offroad trailer. It cost me R27 500 but it is a 1975 model so I advertised it for just R10 000. A guy from gumtree offered me R4000 and I told him, ‘Sack! What you thinking!’

Years later its still parked on the lawn and so when a guy said ‘Hey! What’s that trailer, wanna sell it?’ I said maybe. I’m thinking : It has such character, I’m picturing it on the beach in Mocambique, and it has a fitted stove and a fitted water tank with tap and a grocery cupboard and all crockery and a tent and a ground sheet and . . I’m thinking:

Why was he leaning in and examining it so closely? Was he checking for rust?

I can give you R700,’ he said. ‘See, it weighs 640kg and the scrap dealers only give us R2 a kilogram.

I told him, ‘Sack! What you thinking?’

~~~oo0oo~~~

sack – short for foosack, English for voertsek, Afrikaans for fuck off!

I mean . . did he even factor in the value of that gorgeous brass tap?

~~~oo0oo~~~

update: SOLD!! to the gentleman shouting ‘Old Scrap! Old Scrap!’ for the princely sum of R600 – and that after I’d filled it up with plenty of other stuff I needed to get rid of.

So the Salesman of the Year Award goes to . . anyone but me.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Avos and Maritzburg Ous

Ole man had an avo today. Sheila bought it for him.

When I was little, Ouma used to pick avos for us – much bigger ones than these little ones – and she used to cut them in half, throw away the pip, fill the hollow with sugar and we would eat the whole thing with a spoon.

Avos were free. Everyone had an avo tree. Nowadays they cost a fortune. Robert – his grandson – has just sent his first crop to Europe from his farm in Tanzania. One container load of avos. I think he got R874 000.

And those avos we had were big! Not like these tiny things you get today:

Guess what I did with the avo Sheila bought me today?

Dunno Dad, tell me.

I cut it in half, threw away the pip, filled the hollow with sugar and ate the whole thing with a spoon.

It’s been over ninety years since I last did that!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Micro-Hippos (or tardigrades)

I’ve had to re-post this 2017 post cos there’s been a wonderful new discovery! At the end of the post, DO click over to the CBS News site – a great article ending in a quirky song by a quirky tardigradologist! Here’s a sneak peek at the new 16 million-year-old discovery:

– we are talking microscopic –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Americans call tardigrades ‘water bears’ and Europeans call them ‘moss piglets’. I think Africans should call them micro-hippos. They’re obviously more closely related to hippopotamuses than bears or pigs. Just look at them. Anyone can see that’s a microscopic hippo wearing his old wrinkled khaki safari outfit.*

Anyway, they live in water, like bears and pigs don’t. Microscopic, blobby-bodied tardigrades measure mostly between 0.3 to 0.5 millimeters in length. The tiny creatures have endearing features if you have a good enough microscope: fat, lumpy bodies; oblong heads, sometimes with a tubular mouth; four pairs of chubby legs tipped with grasping claws like a sloth. The word tardigrada is Latin for ‘slow stepper’.

They are famed for their ability to survive in extreme conditions, even appearing to come back from the dead. They’re found around the world on damp moss and algae, but you can’t really see them with the naked eye. Yet somehow German dominee-zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze discovered them back in 1773. I love it. Back in the days when dominees were useful! I hope he mentioned them in his next sermon on fortitude.

Researchers have found that tardigrades can withstand searing heat up to 149 degrees Celsius and freezing cold as low as minus 200 degrees Celsius. They emerge unscathed after exposure to boiling, high pressure, and the radiation and vacuum of space.  They expel the water from their bodies and enter a suspended state. In this state they’re called ‘tuns’. They retract their limbs and shrink into tiny, desiccated balls, emerging only when life-threatening conditions have passed. OK, so that’s not like hippos, but nor is it like piglets. Bears do their hibernation thing, true.

They come in various kinds. Here’s another one and a cute micro-hippo embryo:

Scientists are studying how these amazing beasts do what they do. One is Thomas C. Boothby of the University of North Carolina. He grew up in Africa, so I hope he calls them micro-hippos!

More here and here and here

*Matt Simon on wired.com called them something like “cannons in wrinkled khaki”

– a MicroHippo (or tardigrade) –

Once again, go see the new fossil discovery here.

~~~oo0oo~~~

dominee – preacher, pastor, pontificator

Breeding Afoot

Here’s hoping the Black Flycatchers breed on the old stoep again, Last time was in a cycling helmet; before that in the bougainvillea creeper that has been removed. This time a plastic flower pot modified and mounted for the purpose.

They have filled the pot with nesting material and the female is starting to spend more time in it. She’s there in the the top right close-up pic, you can just see her tail.

Here are the nests from years gone by, in the creeper and in the helmet: