Larry visited from Ohio back in 1996, so we arranged to meet up as the Old Fab Five musketeers down in Cape Town, where Steph and Tuffy were living.
He had been Harrismith’s Rotary exchange student back in 1969 and had returned to South Africa twice before – once in 1976, down through Africa from Greece all the way to Cape Town; and once in 1985, when we had done an overland trip Botswana to Zimbabwe.
Trish and I took him to Mkhuze game reserve:
and down to Cape Town:
Asked what the Fab Five was I had to think about it. We were a gentlemanly triple-AA gang club who would meet clandestinely after dark and do creative things. The one AA was for automobiles, which we would borrow under an intricate arrangement where the actual owners were not part of the bargaining process; we would then use these automobiles to go places; And the other AA was for alcohol, which we would procure under an intricate arrangement of dispatching a third party who could legally buy the stuff, to a bottle store other than my parents’ bottle store; we would then imbibe it for the purpose of stiffening our resolve. And for laughter and the third AA: Action Adventure!
One of the founding reasons for launching the august club was we suddenly had a Yank in our midst and we were really afraid he’d go back to the metropolis of Cobleskill, upstate New York and say there was nothing to do in Harrismith. The thought mortified us. We had to DO something!
We were reminded how offended we were late one night on one of our adventures – this one not motorised – when we saw a policeman driving around drunk! That was OUR forte! What was HE doing driving around drunk like us!? So we phoned the copshop from a tickey box, reported him to the dame on laatnag diens and walked away feeling smug. Next thing we heard a squealing of tyres and the roaring of a Ford F150 straight six. It was him! She had obviously radio’d him and told him! Maybe they were an item!?
We started running as the cop van roared closer. It was the only thing making a noise in the whole dorp at three in the morning so we could easily hear where he was. We sprinted past the Kleinspanskool and as he came careening around the corner we dived under the raised foundations of Laboria – Alet de Witt’s big block of flats. We crawled through and out the other side, at Steph’s house. Steph & Larry went home as did Tuff. Pierre and I had a way to go yet, so we set off along Stuart Street – we could hear him in the grey Ford F150 with the straight six and the tralies over the windows roaring around in Warden Street. He never stood a chance of catching us. We were fleet of foot!
So I was busy murdering a cherry tree like George Washington when a goggo scurried out of my meadow onto my driveway. I took a photo and before I could take another, or turn ‘him’ over to see his underneath, he was gone. Scuttled off.
I thought I had a good idea what it was – a crustacean, not an insect. I ‘knew’ cos he didn’t have wings; he didn’t have legs; he had scales like a pangolin; Hey! This was no insect. But which crustacean was he, I wondered?
Dunno, so I put him on iNaturalist.
My suggestion was crustacean? woodlouse?
Back came the reply: Giant cockroach. Rubbish I thought! Look again! And then I found out it’s not just the birding world that can get all superior on you! BUT! I said – he doesn’t have wings! I was answered with a growl:
Blaberid cockroach, confirmed and doubly confirmed and finally confirmed. Wingless female.
OK. Tucked my tail twixt me legs then.
goggo – thingamibob; gogga; creature; insect
So I spose if I had been able to turn HER upside down I’d have seen this:
Jess and I have been sussing out the Zululand game reserves COVID-19 scene and phoning and today was the day. We left soon after 6am. My gauge showed how little I have driven in lockdown – I filled up on the 24th March: Less than 100km in three months!
We got to the gate before 9am where the staff were very friendly and welcoming as they gave us an arms-length welcome complete with hand sanitising and temperature measuring.
Lovely day, not a cloud in the sky but a stiff breeze. Very few animals about but we just enjoyed being there. I decided to go straight to Sontuli picnic site for lunch and then straight home so we’d be back before 5pm.
Jess made a lovely picnic lunch while I recorded a whole bunch of birds: Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Olive Thrush, Southern Black Tit, Golden-breasted Bunting, African Hoopoe, FT Drongo, Black Flycatcher, Blue Waxbill, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Red-eyed Dove, White-backed Vulture, Rufous-naped Lark, Black-crowned Tchagra, Black-bellied Starling, Dark-capped Bulbul, Long-billed Crombec, Mocking Cliff Chat bashing a gecko, Yellow-fronted Canary, Pied Crow, Red-faced Mousebird, Crowned Lapwing, Red-billed Oxpecker, Cattle Egret, Woolly-necked Stork, etc. Heard Greater Honeyguide, Green-backed Camaroptera and Gorgeous Bush Shrike up close, but couldn’t spot them.
Jess spotted eles, giraffe, zebra, square-lipped rhino, warthogs, impala, and I saw one bushbuck.
On the way out I ducked down a side road to Bhekapansi Pan at the spur of the moment. And got a flat tyre! My jack didn’t lift the car high enough to get the spare on; luckily a fellow Ford Ranger driver came along and I could use his jack on a rock to lift it up the extra 50mm I needed!
Thank you! That got us up and away – and home by 6:30pm
The quote ‘there is no new thing under the sun,’ comes from the Bible book of Ecclesiastes, which is said to be written by a King of Jerusalem. ‘He’ tells of his experiences and tries to learn from them. He is often refreshingly self-critical. The author writes under the pseudonym ‘Kohelet’ – translated as Ecclesiastes.’
He introduces ‘the kohelet’ – thus not himself – as the son of David. Who the author actually is, is never revealed. Only right at the end does he change from ‘quoting Kohelet’ and give his own thoughts, proclaiming all the actions of man to be inherently vain or futile, as . . . we all die.
At least he does endorse living wisely; he says we should live a good earthly life, even if it has no eternal meaning. Enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one’s work.
I said the book was coming. Now it’s here! I’m on page 121 236 and I’ll report back soon.
I finished and will have to write a summary. What a saga! Twenty years of telling people one simple fact: What these developers are proposing will completely ruin Vetch’s Pier and Vetch’s Beach! And very few people listening. Eventually Johnny managed to get some people to listen. The result is he managed to SAVE VETCH’s BEACH!! – an amazing feat for one man, his two-man legal team – who did the work Pro Deo – and the people he managed to get to support these three principled people against huge evil rich crooked corrupt private and government adversaries. But Vetch’s Pier is gone forever.
My copy was hand-delivered by the author himself! Johnny Vassilaros met me in the PnP parking lot near my home – he had penned a lovely inscription -:
If you’re interested in Durban; if you’re interested in good governance; if you’re interested in skullduggery and corruption and thieving; if courage and principle is important to you; and if you’re interested in reading the Wonderful Prose of Johnny – get this book! – write to email@example.com –
I suddenly realised yesterday that the Yellow-bellied Greenbul was in bright light, as was the Purple-crested Turaco that was the next lady for a shave. It was 8am and the trouble with my birdbath is that it’s in deep shade and the morning light from behind makes photography difficult.
Took me a while to work it out. So this morning I recorded what happened. Watch how the sun is behind the trees, then suddenly appears between the pickup and left of the trees! Then the sunlight moves from left to right till the birdbath is bathed in its glory.
What the heck? I walked out onto the lawn and looked back:
The building behind us on the crest of the hill reflects the winter morning sun down onto my birdbath! Whattapleasure! It’ll only last a little while as the sun moves towards winter solstice. I’ll try’n get a good picture while it lasts. This morning was windy and nothing came to the bath while I watched. Not a sausage!
Whattahoot! Just last week I had used a shaving mirror to reflect the sun onto a butterfly in shade. Here it was being done for me!
Steve Reed sent a query aus Aussie in 2015: Any ophthalmologists on the east / North rand come to mind? My 71year-old brother Doug sounds like he has cataracts. Wants to know who to go see. He does not trust his optometrist anymore who keeps giving him stronger glasses (?what?). So he wants to go and see someone who is not the butcher of Bedfordview.
A reply From deep behind the boerewors curtain – even deeper behind it than Bedfordview came a dodgy reply, shamelessly rigging the tender in favour of family – a distant cousin: Clive Novis good for cats (this was his cousin Brauer speaking).
Five years later (2020) I was clearing out old emails and followed up to Reed and Brauer: Did Doug have his cat tracks whipped out? Surely yes, cos if you see a cataract surgeon . . .
Reed replied – and got the subject onto mountain bikes: Yeah he had ’em done. Some peer pressure from his wealthy cycling mates who were proudly pitching up without their spoogoos but yes he was getting myopic shift. His optom sent him after she could not improve his VA any more. After a lot of pre-op anxiety, his pressures spiked post-op – could not see and had to have a fair bit of treatment before it all settled down.
So wisely, he succumbed to peer pressure for the cataracts but not the $12 000 carbon fibre bikes. He is a wise man and his decisions are measured.
I responded, ignoring Doug’s drama and honing in on what was important: Bikes. Liewe bliksem. I bought my first bike in Westville for R150. Loved it. Then I bought a really nice GIANT hardtail for R2500. Now that bike I really loved and was very happy with.
But no. A canoeing mate went huge in the MTB industry (he still runs MTB trails) and he and Aitch decided Koos needs a better bike.
Koos did not need a better bike. The reason Koos wasn’t winning races was he was stopping to look at the scenery and pushing up hills. All hills. I still push up hills. All hills. It is undignified to ride up hills. Cyclists only look dignified going downhill.
So a spanking smart KONA arrives, made in Canada, shock absorbers all over the place. High-level Shimano gearset. A computer to tell me what I did. Never switched it on. I know what I did and I’d rather not record it.
Fuckit! Rumour had it at R17500. Not high at the time relative to what some were spending, but fuckit, R2500 spent years ago was my comfort level. Then I still had to buy cleats to click into the pedals. Now I walked like a doos when pushing uphills.
I faked joy and rode it. It was a softer ride, sure, but I was happy with the GIANT’s ride. Anyway, I’m a natural diplomat, Aitch had paid, be polite, thank you, love. It’s marvelous. Yes, it’s MUCH better than my old bike. Yes, I’ll be MUCH faster now.
And then I remembered a bit of empathy for Doug: Oper-fucking-rations. I don’t want none. ‘Pressures spiked post op’ – gives me the jeebies.
boerewors curtain – imaginary line separating normality from antediluvian thought processes; separates KwaZulu Natal from the throat-clearing hinterland, such as Tshwane, Gramadoelas, Boksburg, Benoni, Vanderbijlpark, Gotpietersrus, Bedfordview
spoogoos – glasses; spectacles; eyeglasses; from the isiZulu izibuko
$12 000 – R200 000 Souf African Ront so min of meer; R10 000 more than my Ford Ranger
so min of meer – fuckit
fuckit – goodness gracious me
doos – with an odd toe-up gait cos of cycling shoes
oper-fucking-rations – surgery; definition of minor surgery: surgery on someone else
Distracted by the lovely colours I thought Ah! A Lady Beetle or a Ladybird! She was beetling about the leaves of the Bauhinia tomentosa with its beautiful yellow flowers. So I took a branchlet and took her off to photograph.
She was busy and kept moving, but I got some OK pictures and sent them off to iNaturalist. What kind of Ladybird is this? I asked, being a bit of a ladybird expert now, having sent one in a few days earlier:
Well, the first ID came back in seconds: Bauhinia tomentosa. Oh! OK. I cropped the pic so the ladybird was bigger and the leaf smaller.
Stink Bug! Came the replies! What? My beautiful ladybird? But nope, she was a Stink Bug. Pentatominae genus. So then I looked closer, no longer distracted by the colours. Look at that shape, it’s a stink bug. You learn things on iNaturalist.