MAHEM

M.agical A.vian and H.ysterical E.xpedition to M.emel

I decided to look for elusive gentlemen farmers Des and Ian by launching a stealth visit to the Memel district, choosing the Memel hotel as my base.

I settled on the stoep with a cold beer and asked if anyone knew Des Glutz? Well, they all did and had lots to tell me. Just wait right there, said Rudi the friendly hotelier, He’s sure to pop in, it’s Friday.

Various bakkies arrived and men in khaki wearing boots or velskoens trooped into the bar. Then a Nissan parked right in front of me and under the chassis a pair of bony feet in blue slip-slops appeared, followed by a pair of bony legs in faded navy blue rugby shorts with plenty of ballroom. His face and neck were covered by beard but I could see this was my man. He’s kinda unmistakable.

– my view of the ropy Nissan –

I accosted him from my prime spot on the stoep: ‘Excuse me, what you think you doing? You can’t come in here dressed like that!’ Well, then he knew I was from far, cos he most certainly can and does go into the Memel pub dressed like that. He stopped in his tracks and stared at me with his chin tilted up and his eyes half closed, you know how Des does that. Then he kicked for touch: Wait, I’m just going to tell these fuckin old fossils I’ll be late. He ‘stuck his head in the door and cussed his three slightly older drinking pals, telling them he’d be outside; then he came back to stare at me. Took a while to see through my new beard, then he said Coppers, is that you? He always called me Coppers after a Clifton primary schoolmate oke called Copchinsky. He also called policemen copchinskys.

As people arrived everyone greeted Oom Des and he had a cussing and a slur for each of them. Except the ladies. Hello my sweetheart, I still love you but I’m worried about your heart, he says to one, Come here and let me listen to your heartbeat. She leans over him and he nestles his ear in her boobs and rubs back and forth going Mmmmmm. Hai Oom Des, she says and rubs his head affectionately. Incorrigible. No change. And no improvement. We had a wonderful evening before he left for home, late, but with a pizza for Mercia as a peace offering. I discovered a few things that Memel evening: One was that the mense of Memel love the oke.

The next day I drove around the well-known Seekoeivlei nature reserve; Des was off to pretend to buy bulls at a vendusie with one of the fuckin old fossils.

Des and Mercia have a lovely spacious home in town and Oom Des decreed that a braai would be held there. Unfortunately I hopped into his bakkie to go there, mid-conversation, so I had no beers, no car. Soon after, another apparition arrived with a snow-white beard. The Bothas Pass hermit had emerged from his cave, bearing enough beers for an army, plus a bottle of brandewyn. Ian Stervis Steele, who I had not seen for many decades. What a night. About ten people, about a thousand beers and a gallon of brandewyn; lots of mutton chops, pork ribs and boerewors, a huge pot of pap and a very lekker sous. Very good oldtime music and Des at the head of the table till WAY late. Generous hospitality and much laughter.

Stervis, myself and a local couple stayed the night with Des and Mercia and their four dogs, the most notable one being a pekingese / sausage dog cross. Pitch black and chubby, about ankle-high, with that Pekingese-style smashed flat beak. Name: RAMBO. If you weren’t careful it would lick you. I got the comfy couch in the lounge.

The next day I was off-peak and had a snooze back at the hotel and booked another night. In the afternoon I drove out to Normandien and Mullers passes and then visited Des. For tea this time. Then back to the hotel where Rudi cooked me a huge T-bone and I had an early night, dank die hemel, Memel.

I saw stonechats, mountain wheatears and amur falcons; and the beautiful Klipspruit valley.

Before I left on this drive I called in at the butcher for some fatty biltong. The owner enquired what I was doing in town and I said I had been sent on a special mission to find and fix a man called Des Glutz. He and two customers in the shop roared with laughter and told me in no uncertain terms that there was no way I could ever live long enough to achieve that.

~~oo0oo~~

mahem – the sound this bird makes

mahem – grey crowned crane

bakkie – pickup; ute; status symbol

slip-slops – Glutz fashion footwear

fuckin old fossils – people slightly older than Des

Oom Des – old codger

mense – people; folk

braai, boerewors, etc – ritual burnt offerings; various animals sacrificed

brandewyn – sacramental drink served in braai ritual in tall glasses; distilled from grapes or peaches, they say

dank die hemel – Memel ‘sanks heavens’ ritual chant

~~oo0oo~~

Memel is maybe named after a Memel in East Prussia where they fought a battle in 1257, even before Des was born I’m told. The name means silence, but that has been broken since Des moved to town and since Memel joined with Zamani to become Memel-Zamani.

Harrismith District

Driving around on the Verkykerskop, Eeram, Aberfeldy and De Beers Pass roads with my binocs and scope – and occasionally taking pics with my little Canon pocket camera.

Yellow Mongoose; Wasp with Spider; Meerkat on antheap; Dassie and Butterfly; Cape Ground Squirrel

Red-knobbed Coot; Sabota Lark; Bald Ibis; Red-capped Lark; Shelduck; Spotted Thick-knees; White-Throated Swallow

Lovely sighting of two African Snipe in my binocs. Too quick for my Canon, which is a bit frustratingly slow.

Next I got to have the film removed off my bakkie’s windows. They’re more wrinkled than me; it’s like looking through a submarine’s windows.

~~oo0oo~~

Sally Forth

It takes five days to go the 250km* to Harrismith from Westville. This is because you visit friends along the way. First, there were leaving formalities with amazing friends and supporters Petrea and Louis Lodder:

First stop Jenny & Tabs Fyvie in the Tala valley; My luck it was Justin’s 40th and Caitlin had baked a cake! Hayley also arrived and there was a flock of very deja-vu Fyvie-Mandy looking kids running around. What a busy happy extended family household! Tabs and Jen are hugely experienced travellers and campers, so I got a bit of Kruger Park advice and info, Kruger being one of my intended destinations. We did an inspection of their alucab camper with rooftop tent on a double-cab Landcruiser. I’ll pick their brains again when it comes to solar power, batteries and fridges.

On to the Rosetta Hotel as it was getting late. They were having a St Patricks night – lucky me again. I washed down a huge eisbein with sherry, a large Windhoek draft, a pint of guinness for Oirish luck, and a glass of house red – *burp* – then to bed in a huge warm room. In the morning I swallowed their substantial all-in breakfast.

To Mandy & Carl Reitz on their farm The Bend on a big bend of the Tugela river and a view of the high Drakensberg from the Sentinel to Cathkin Peak. What a fantastic three days I spent there. We laughed a lot thinking of how clever and beautiful and irresistible we were in those far-off alcohol-fueled days when The Bend was our mecca for sex drugs n rock n roll and variations on those themes.

I did lotsa farming with Kai in my normal fashion: Sitting in the passenger seat and nodding. Kai knows better than to take farming advice from me – he has had experience of me as a temporary deputy farm manager! He drove me all over his farms and the district and we took walks in the mud – they’ve had good rains. A special sighting was a large grey mongoose – the ichneumon or Egyptian Mongoose – running into cover; too quick for my camera.

Durban friends Greg & Roly Bennett had been to their old farm Oppermanskloof on the Geluksburg road to scatter their Mom’s ashes. I met them near Bergville where Roly and I had a great laugh remembering our young n clever daze; – His seconding us on the Dusi canoe marathon, doing a fine job on the first overnight stop, handing us cold beers, deckchairs and a hot meal; sheer luxury! On the second night we couldn’t find him: He had disappeared into the pub leaving us to fend for ourselves; – Water-skiing on Hazelmere dam where I dropped the tow rope as I rose out of the water behind Greg’s 220hp Yamaha outboard; The boat made a tight u-turn and came back to me. When I told them I’d pulled a muscle Roly roared with laughter and said, Swanie you couldn’t have pulled a muscle, you must have pulled a fat! Skinny bastid – he still doesn’t have calf muscles.

Next through Geluksburg and up Middledale Pass into the Vrystaat.

A lovely welcome from Leon & Elsa Strachan on their farm Nesshurst where again I was shown all over and fed and entertained royally. I forgot to get a pic of their beautiful big guest çottage on the banks of their dam.

I must ID that interesting plant. Then I got to Harrismith to Pierre and Erika du Plessis to stay in their lovely home. I have been so spoiled by Erika, and Aletta and Paul, her two helpers. Yesterday I heard a scream from Aletta in the garden. I rushed out to find she’d been stung by a wasp jealously guarding his spider prey on the lawn!

Next post: A fascinating trip to Memel.

~~oo0oo~~

  • * 250km as the vrou cries – or crow flies – a bit further if you insist on going ‘on the ground’

Day Outing

This isn’t our usual way, is it Dad? asked Jess. Nope, we’re not going to Zululand this time, love. We’ve been there dozens of times. Today we’re headed for the Drakensberg! OK? OK. We’re headed North-West to the nearest High Berg, where usually we head North-East parallel to the Indian Ocean. Oh, OK.

First stop BREAKFAST! I’m determined not to stop at a franchise-type cookie-cutter, me-too, fake, soul-less ‘one-stop.’ The Windmills Kitchen looks better. The people are nice and friendly and we order a big greasy fried breakfast each, Yay! We’re completely predictable: One strong black coffee, one sweet hot chocolate please. As always. Want more sugar with that Jess? Dad, you know I don’t add sugar. Oh yes, you told me that before, hey? Only about a thousand times, Dad. We have our little rituals.

– my kinda social distance –

I look for the pot-holiest road I can find: Nottingham Road, Rosetta, Redcliffe, Hlatikulu, Enyokeni, Emahlutshini. Weaving northwards, mountains on our left and ahead.

Hey Jess! I said excitedly when we drove in to Giants Castle after our slow drive: Let’s ask them if they have a room for the night? Jess just said, ‘OK.’ Yay! I love it.

Later as the wind increased, the clouds rolled in and it started raining we thought, OK, maybe we’re a bit under-dressed, Jess with a strappy top and me in a T-shirt and shorts; but I had taken along a Louis longsleeve which Jess threw on and we were fine. I knew we’d be warm sleeping. Ezemvelo has some of the finest blankets and duvets available. Supper was so good – veg soup, chicken curry with tiger prawns, papadum, green beans and basmati rice, red wine – that we soon warmed up. Jess finished with a hot chocolate. I didn’t ask and so she eyed me suspiciously. What? I asked innocently. Aren’t you going to ask me if I want to add sugar? Of course not, you told me you don’t.

Gravity and The Aged

Before supper I had told Jess I was looking for two birds in Giants Castle: Ground Woodpeckers and Bush Blackcaps. I showed her the Woodpeckers and showed her a pic I took of the Blackcap. I’d also said, Competition, Jess!: Who can see the first Berg animal!? She was polite, she didn’t quite yawn, but not really interested. She was trying to impress on me the wondrous thing SHE had discovered: The chalet has DSTV, Dad! So neither of us was really too interested in what the other was gaan’ing aan about.

When I spotted two baboons on the steep slopes above our chalet I thought I’d get pics to show her as she sat wrapped in a warm blanket watching Heaven something. Dad, does heaven exist? she asked from inside her cocoon. Whatcha think Jess? No, Dad, I don’t think so. Nor me, Jess, I said hastening out to catch the ‘boons.

My eyes were fixed ahead and a kestrel fluttered overhead then landed on a rock high above. Another thing to photograph, I thought and then I noticed I was airborne. The Irish blessing, May The Road Rise To Meet You was happening in slow motion, except it was Drakensberg rocky and grassy hillside rising; My knee was gouging a large chunk out of a rock, but the rock was harder so the gouge came out of my bare knee. My tripod smacked another rock and my camera dug into the peaty, moss-clad wet earth. I thought ‘I have fallen down’ and ‘how silly’ when I realised I was actually still airborne. About then, my forehead smacked a moss and lichen-clad Drakensberg rock which, as you know, is millions of years hard. Then I stopped. I lay there, stunned, for quite a while. Then I rolled onto my back and started laughing. No bones broken and luckily no witnesses. Gravity is a bitch. It never gives up.

I lay there philosphically. I arsed myself, How Rare Are Baboons in the Berg? Not at all. Hmm. How Impressed Would Jess Have Been By a Tiny Rock Kestrel On a Huge Rock? Not at all. Hmm. What’s The Rush? Hmm. Should codgers bustle or scurry? Deep philosophical questions.

Jess pointed out a tree on top of a distant hill showing up against the sunset-lit cliffs. This one, Jess?

There are tons of flowers, leaves, mosses, lichens, grasses, etc in the Berg. These can be photographed more safely:

Lots of creatures. I only shot a few of them. My camera has a slow shutter speed, and so often they hop mid-shot. Dead moths are easier:

– eland at breakfast –

Tom’s New Room

Years ago, we discussed a revamp for TomTom’s bedroom. Life happened, it didn’t happen. His and Jessie’s bedrooms are just as when we bought sixteen years ago. And now the house is sold.

I came across his hand-written wishlist while clearing up.

Tom's new room
Bigger
New desk
New cupboard
Three walls tiled snow white
One wall covered in cool graffitti
Floor tiled
Blinds, not curtains
Aircon
New lights
New plugs
Code system (for access)

Oh well, TomTom. One day . .

Let’s get back to Normal

Hell, no, let’s not.

What was ‘normal’?

Courageous activist, author and educator, Sonya Renee Taylor says:

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-COVID-19 existence was never normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”

I agree.

~~oo0oo~~

Croak, Creak, Whip-Whip, Sweep

Four frog calls last night – the Guttural Toad’s kraak, the River Frog’s creak, the Reed Frog’s whip-whip, and the Bush Squeaker’s sweep.

– a Reed frog Hyperolius marmoratus calling –
– a differently patterned H. marmoratus nearby –

Earlier, a dragonfly had patrolled the skies above the green waters . .

. . and a frog muncher came to see if any of the night-time crooners were careless by day

~~oo0oo~~

Farewell Again

Hard work saying goodbye. I had to sweep the stoep again. Petrea and Louis had the small matter of bringing their Weber braai (my two non-Weber braais have gone off to Tom and Jess – I am braailess before I’m homeless), lots of steak, freshly home-made sourdough bread, peri-peri chicken liver in a large cast-iron pot, crockery and cutlery, bread board and knife, steak board and knife, ice, a large beaker of lime unt soda with fresh mint leaves from their garden and deck chairs; And Louis brought his hat; Jules brought delicious snacks; Sheila brought six bottles of white and three of champagne; Charles and Barbara brought beer and snacks and their delightful selves;

I had to do the rest.

Jolly good fun. Perhaps ‘Maritzburg’ will let us have another of these gatherings. After all, it has only been 120 days, waiting for ‘the paperwork’ since I sold my home.

~~oo0oo~~

Mannikins High on Grass

. . and then low on grass as they sway downwards. Then HIGH again if one flies off a stalk and the stalk sways upward under less weight. I confess I am endlessly fascinated by little seed-eating birds swaying on grass stalks in the morning light, so here are some more Red-backed Mannikins performing for us in my garden:

The Bronze Mannikins followed today, with juveniles; Yellow-fronted Canaries come often; and every now and then I get a Grey Waxbill as a rare treat.

~~oo0oo~~

Meantime, on the surface of my pond, a gruesome scene: skimmers doing what skimmers do: feeding on some poor creature that landed on the surface. My water-surface hyenas doing their job.

Jessie’s Truckload Leaves

Tom’s truckload was the first to leave.

And there goes Jessie’s today! She and her family are looking forward to the fridge and the microwave.

Now they can feed themselves and I’m free to roam! Our household goods divided fairly for the kids to start their own new lives. Yay! Fingers crossed.

~~oo0oo~~

Life without a fridge – first time since forever – and a microwave should be interesting. First meal: Starter, a packet of peanuts & raisins; Main, a camping sachet of three bean salad, crisps and freshly fried home-made potato chips with salt and braai spice. Washed down with a wee bottle of Vergelegen Reserve Merlot 2015 – a gift from Coo Evans. Yum!

New Neighbours, Maybe

I heard a tap tap tapping next door. Industriousness can be very irritating, so I went to have a look. My neighbour on the other side is industrious and what a pain. There’s a lawnmower, or a leaf blower, or a high pressure hose going so often it drives me crazy. I haven’t shouted GET A LIFE! over the fence. I’m far too polite.

Turns out this tap tap tapping is a bloke building a new home. He has chosen his site for the best possible fibre access. Progress has been stopped today after his lady friend came to look at the joint. Maybe she didn’t fancy the bathroom tiling or the layout or something? I like it. It’s east-facing, gets the morning sun, and is protected from our prevailing wind and rain from the SW.

~~oo0oo~~

If he abandons it a Crested Barbet may move in. He’s been prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-ing in the yellow-flowered Cassia tree next to the pole.

Later I saw him doing some interior work – and spitting out the sawdust:

End-Days Elston Place

I forgot to get the camera out – or rather, aim my phone at people – so that’s the setting for my farewell meals without Petrea, Louis, Charles, Barbara, Jules, Gayle, Grant, Ziggy, Tom, Mbono, Geoff, Janet, Heather or Bruce. A people-free zone before they arrived.

And I didn’t suffer all of them at once, are you mad? I only have five chairs left, so that’s my max guest number. And I sub-contracted out all catering – to Petrea, Louis, Ziggy and Checkers.

Some of these soirees were evenings, some were lunches. The evening ones were interrupted by le frogs calling loudly. Guttural Toads loud BRAAAP! and the gentle creak (that’s creak, not croak) of the River Frog – all in my sparkling blue-green pool. Here’s a guttural toad who scored – managed to entice a svelte young lady. The noisy one is the little guy on her back. He’s quiet now cos he doesn’t want any interruptions while theyr’e makin’ whoopee – and long strings of black fertilised eggs.

We’d have to get up every now and then and shurrup the toads, but you know what its like when you’re horny – they would only shut up for less than a minute. You do know what its like when you’re horny, right? Here’s one of them belting out a number:

Oh, hang on!? Anyway, Fats sounds better.

Here’s the polite lil chap:

Here’s his cousin from Petrea and Louis’ place down the road with a much showier ventral stripe:

One morning I called in expert help to deal with the noisy toads. I don’t know if he manage to relocate any of them. Hope so. He looks like he needs the protein.

I’m told my end-of-days is now only at at the end of February, so more to come.

~~oo0oo~~

I Found Neil’s Slides!

I wrote a while ago how I found Neil. Well, now I found boxes of Neil’s old Kodak slides in a shoe box in Janet’s kist.

So now to digitise some of them for Janet. Here’s my quick and easy hack for doing it: Phone camera on macro setting, PC screen as a lit backdrop, juggle till you’re focused – make sure there’s nothing but white as a backdrop – and fire!

– with macro you go much closer –
– a macro shot – now you crop the pic using the cellphone software –

. . and here are a few of the results. I have posted a lot over at the Humphrey Family blog.

Here’s Neil’s kit:

At first the slides were 99% of cute little twin girls, but gradually as they grew up he started taking pics of other things! Eventually it was down to only 80% cute little twin girls:

Who knows what car that is? Click on the ferry pic and see if you can ID Neil’s car in the early 1960s. Probably a late 50s model? – Ah! Don Reid came up with the identification, thanks: A 1950s Peugeot 203. I love its lines!

This is a quick and easy method to digitise your slides NOW. I’m sure there are better ways, but getting round to it . . . . . well, procrastinators will know. This way they’re imperfectly saved, but they’re saved and available.

~~oo0oo~~

Botswana Flood

Back in the winter of 2020 we tracked the approaching Okavango flood. Now here’s news of the summer rains. Up in the North East of Botswana, Pandamatenga had over 200mm of rain in about one day! As with the flood footage, this comes from Janet in Maun, via her network up there. This time her friend who farms outside Panda.

– the road between Pandamatenga and Kasane –

This water has fallen in the Zambesi catchment, so it will run off to the NE, cross the Zimbabwe border north of Hwange game reserve, flow into the Matetsi river and then into the Zambezi below Vic Falls. The flood will benefit nature, but we will complain it has ruined our ventures. But floods like this are a normal occurrence, though possibly higher than usual as we are changing our climate faster than we can cope with.

Fascinating stuff! That area can be dry as anything, but periodically it can get inundated showing us what it is: A floodplain, a drainage course. This is clearer when looking at it from high above. See the google earth view. It looks like a lake now because of changes we have wrought, such as building up the road, effectively damming the drainage course.

– see the cultivated fields in the drainage course –

~~oo0oo~~

Here’s a pic taken by Janet’s Dad Neil out of a plane window of the kind of rain dump / cloudburst that can dump so much rain all at once:

Project Management

So the garage door was falling to pieces. Made of strips of aluminium riveted to a frame the rivets had mostly popped and it was flapping in any breezes that wafted.

Something had to be done.

So I waited a few months. And a few storms, for enhanced flapping.

Then I bleated to a project manager who sprang into action, roared off to a hardware store, bought some self-tapping screws and gave them to me along with his automatic, hydromatic, self-propelling, variable speed, battery-operated 14.4Volt hand-held Bosch Power Drill. With star bit for screwing screws with star heads.

He obviously hadn’t understood what I wanted.

So I waited.

Then I told Ziggy, ‘When you’re finished tidying the garage let me know. I need to repair the broken door.’ And sowaar, my patience was rewarded: ‘Why don’t you let Mbono do that? He’s very handy with man things,’ she said.

Now usually I would stop my daughters in their tracks with my standard, ‘Hey! Anything a man can do a woman can do too,’ but I listened and I shurrup. ‘OK’ I said and gave him the screws and a Spanish screwdriver (Manuel).

Mbono fixed the door in no time. Like greased lightning, it was hydromatic, automatic. I was going to post before and after pics here – too late.

So to end this lecture on project management: For suitable tasks all you need is to find one tame project manager and one tame matriculant from Northwood Boys. Then expertly source – or delegate the sourcing of – a bit of equipment and it’s actually quite easy.

~~oo0oo~~

sowaar – true’s Bob