We were talking bathrooms and cupboards and renovation projects. My friends are carpenters, like that Galilean ou, so they were vying for the gold medal.
There was Steve in Brisbane:
and Brauer in Tshwane:
If I was to enter the fray, I needed to lay down some groundrules if I was to stand a chance in this fiercely competitive minefield that looked vrot with danger.
I tip-toed in:
Subject: Architectural and Conceptual brilliance – The Solution
When critiquing my design, please be fair and take time and motion and cost implications into account. I will admit to one advantage over you poor souls: bachelorhood.
I give you: My Bathroom Cupboard:
True, it’s actually in my bedroom, but wait! This neat innovation leaves the mountain bike undisturbed, and the bathroom cupboard ‘nook’ still with endless potential:
Great interest was shown by the judges . .
Terry Brauer: mmm . . – perhaps you . . .
(a) need to go shopping – a little sparse on the blue shirt thing; (b) there may be a light problem here unless you are saving on blinds to keep out the glare; (c) Yip no potential female species will fall for this design I fear !
I had to defend myself . .
Me: I don’t understand! I have a blue shirt for Monday, a blue shirt for Tuesday, a blue shirt for Wed, Thurs and Fri; and a darker blue shirt for Saturdays. What “shopping”?
Brauer: Amazing how one misses the wood for the trees, but I was in awe of your metrosexual side that had put up new blue curtains for the retro dressing room (although I was suspicious that it was a ploy to dodge having to do some manly woodwork) . .
Steve Reed: I think for modesty sake you could consider hanging the shirts at a lower level to cover your nether regions and minimise offending the neighbours and the kids’ friends but otherwise … brilliant.
Terry B: Very insightful Steve (she obviously means the part where he said ‘brilliant’ . . )
Brauer: Insightful or unsightly?? (a biased judge obviously ignoring that ‘brilliant’ comment)
Me: Insightful. Even Mrs Suboohi Choudry next door would agree.
She can’t see into my bedroom at all, even though her driveway is only 2m from it. I mean it’s a JUNGLE out there. Her driveway is also about 2m lower. She would need a machete and a stepladder, and she doesn’t have a ladder, she borrowed mine to paint their house.
I think all this intense interest and back-and-forth means I won the Design Contest
UPDATE: many months later
Leaps and bounds.
The home decor front is proceeding apace.
I hope you two carpenters can keep up.
My window is once more filled with trogons and pittas and louries. Quite shirtless.
Built-in cupboards have sprung up in the bathroom. The mountain bike has been moved to the TV room.
Dizzi discovered a new worm, sent a picture and asked: ‘Pete – What is this? Hamerkop Worm? About 5cm long.’
I didn’t have a clue, and guessed – incorrectly – that it might have been from the dogs. But Dizzi soon came back with an answer: Bipalium – a genus of large predatory land planarians. They are often loosely called “hammerhead worms” or “broadhead planarians” because of the distinctive shape of their head region. So Dizzi’s description was spot-on!
Land planarians – flatworms – are unique in that they possess a “creeping sole” on their ventral (‘under’) side. And they’re hunters! They’ll stalk their prey, following their tracks and then pounce on an earthworm or snail! Some earthworms will react violently and wriggle vigorously, but the Dizzi planarium bipalium flatworm uses the muscles in its body and sticky secretions to attach itself to the earthworm to prevent escape. A wrestle-and-kiss tactic! Some even have a potent neurotoxin, so goodbye earthworm or snail.
Maybe Dizzi will spend more time in her garden and film a planarian kill for us?
They vary in size from smaller than this one to over a metre. They have very few predators themselves as they seem distasteful or toxic to most other creatures. Wonderful where they belong, but can be a menace when introduced where they don’t. They’re found all over in the tropics and sub-tropics, and are now spread outside their natural areas too – mostly moving around in potplants or plant soil.
Asexual planarians can just split and form two planarians. Sexual planarians are hermaphrodites. Some can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Telling a planarium to ‘Go Fuck Yourself ‘ is pointless, as it might just do that – ‘autofecundation.’ That’s rare, though. Usually two hermaphrodites will get together and swop sperm.
So I go looking for worms and the further I dig the less simple and – as with most things where we Homo sapiens involve ourselves – the more disheartening it gets!
Earthworms. Everybody loves earthworms, right? They do so much good . .
Well yes, earthworms do much good where they belong. But where they don’t belong they do much harm. Up in the northern hemisphere the boreal forest — the world’s most northerly forest, which ‘circles the top of the globe like a ring of hair around a balding head,’ shouldn’t have earthworms, and the introduced worms are causing a huge problem. Worms have been moved around the earth by man since we started traveling. In soil, plants and pots for plants; by air, sea and road, in moving timber on trucks, in the tyre treads of those trucks and cars, in boats, by anglers and by gardeners.
One researcher called it Global Worming! Which may add to global warming. The boreal forest is a carbon sink, but the earthworms may alter it to emitting carbon instead.
A beautiful new button spider was found in Tembe Elephant Park and Phinda private reserve recently. The 32nd known button, or widow spider in the Latrodectus genus, of which eight are found in Africa; and – the first new one in 28 years.
And she’s a beauty:
A single female was first found in 2014 in Tembe Elephant Park in Zululand. It was observed until its natural death two years later, when it was collected and sent to a laboratory. Way to go! More and more we should be observing before collecting! In 2017 a number of live specimens were collected from the Phinda reserve. They and their offspring were studied until 2019 when it was confirmed to be a new species.
The species is only known to occur in the critically endangered lowland sand forest biome of northern KwaZulu-Natal. These forests are threatened by illegal clearing for farming as well as wood collection. The females build nests in trees and stumps more than 50 centimetres above ground, which is higher than most other members of the genus.
I haven’t been able to find out where the specific name umbukwane comes from. Will keep looking. isiZulu.net doesn’t have it as a word. Maybe the name of the person who first pointed it out?? Maybe a local place name?? No – it means spectacular! I like that!
I thought the nervous client had spotted Janet also looking at the scorpion and the puff adder in her room.
But it wasn’t like that; Janet wasn’t there.
The lucky, nervous – and ‘happy at the same time’ – client had spotted a scorpion, a puff adder AND a spotted genet like this one: All at once!
She had NOT spotted a Janet like this one:
Janet’s life in Botswana is seldom dull . .
So Janet wasn’t spotted. Some things are not spotted. In fact they’re STRIPED.
Later – Not-Spotted Janet sent a pic of another – or the same – puff adder visiting inside a chalet.
Beautiful, innit? Now, I know what you’re thinking: You’d shit your cotton undertrousers if you spotted a puff adder in your chalet, but think of the poor snake! It would shit its custom-made snake-skin undertrousers, seeing a 60kg murderous mammal towering over it. Poor thing is half a kg of innocence. Hundreds of them get bludgeoned for every human they bite – and only a few of those humans that get bitten actually croak. Give snakes a break.
Tom went to visit Ziggy in Umhlanga so Jess and I had a late breakfast at Europa Cafe – poached eggs, haloumi, mushrooms, bacon, tsatsiki, all-sorts, yum! Followed by delicious hot bitter black coffee and some sitting back and sighing. And then, what the hell, a chocolate milkshake!
Then off for a stroll at the lagoon in the Umhlanga Nature Reserve, a KZN Wildlife park.
A few birds – Diederik Cuckoo, Southern Masked Weaver, Bronze Mannikin, Familiar Chat, Olive Sunbird – but it was midday. I heard the cluck – cluck – cluckcluckcluck of a Little Rush Warbler while I was photographing a butterfly, so I switched to video:
Umhlanga Rocks is in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa; Umhlanga means reeds
“To a person uninstructed in natural history, his countryside or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall” – THOMAS HUXLEY – English biologist
“Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting and – above all else – envious. I know many who are generous, witty and delightful company – but they’re no fun!” – BILL ODDIE;
“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment…and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn” – HENRY DAVID THOREAU, author, poet & philosopher – I once had a pigeon shit on my shoulder while collecting money for charity – shaking a tin – outside the Jeppe Street Post Office In Johannesburg; does that count?
“God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages” – JACQUES DEVAL , French playwright
“If you bird, you will see stuff” – THE ORACLE, birder
“A weird screechy howl, which rises in a nerve-shattering crescendo, to peter out like a cry of a lost soul falling into a bottomless pit” – AUSTIN ROBERTS, original author, Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa – talking about the Manx Shearwater? or me when dipping out yet again on an African Broadbill?
“I don’t GO birding. I AM birding!”– FAANSIE PEACOCK, birder – (always! I agree with Faansie, an amazing birder with the best possible name for one!)
“Use what talents you possess: The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best” – HENRY VAN DYKE, American author – who hereby gives me permission to sing in the shower and while driving . .
We’re on a septic tank and a soakpit and I’m the only one who cares.
So I think about all our waste and our waste-water, as none of it leaves the property. It all stays right here and must be done right.
So whenever I had a pot or pan or plate with grease, oil, fat or protein on it, I would have it pre-washed before running the dishwater. That way less fatty waste was in the pipes and the pits.
Made perfect sense to me, was hygienic and made a huge difference to the gunge in the system, as Sambucca’s poop would be flushed down the toilet same as ours, and I wouldn’t need to pay for a honeysucker truck to suck.
Yet my co-habitants thought EW! and YUCK! Sambucca’s spit, Dad! – !!?? – Hello! It gets washed off at high temperature, dudes. They remained unimpressed. I remained unmoved. Sambucca’s movements were regular.
Now Sambucca has shuffled off and they’re happy and I’m not. The ants – millions of them, are also happy. And I’m not.
The pic is not actually Sambucca – this is Greg Price’s picture from Hilary Price’s cartoon website Rhymes With Orange. Sambucca got given her licking n pre-wash duties outside the kitchen door. She LURVED the job! Sometimes, though, she’d be less than thorough and I had to say Hey! Lick Up! – that was when it was olive oil. When it was dead animal juice she would lick the platter clean.
Another cool honeysucker truck . .
Although the teenagers were critical, I received support from adults who also use the doggie pre-wash method; regrets that cats don’t do leftovers from Rita – and even evidence of the system working live, from Gayle:
Go to bed early and be up early guys! That’s Tom, Ryan and Ziggy. They want to go fishing in Kelso on the rocks in front of Tom’s happy childhood haunt Happy Wanderers.
So they get to bed at 2am and I have to roust them at 5:45am. C’mon, move! We drive off at 6:20am and get there in an hour. They go fishin’ and I go for a peaceful breakfast in Scottburgh, then birding and butterflying. No pictures, though, nothing would sit still. Luckily Ziggy took pickishas of them . .
They even catch. Shad and an eel. The eel gets released, but two shad are brought home against my wishes. Too late, by the time they get back to me they’re dead. But Dad, they’re legal and we want to have them for lunch!
I take them a mid-morning snack which is accepted with huge cries of welcome and relief like they were dying of thirst and starving. I have to interrupt Tom and tell him to write a book about the tough time he had in The Struggle!
More surprises: At the end they go for a swim in the waves and even Tom goes in! Amazing. Tom got wet in the sea! – and he wore shorts! ex Africa semper aliquid novi ! On the way home they’re bubbling over with excitement and chuffedness and tall tales and heroics and what-they-would-have-done stories.
We’re talking so crazily and over each other and laughing and shouting that I don’t see the cop till he jumps right in front of me and flags me down! Yes, YOU, he indicates. It didn’t feel like I was going fast, but I spose it never does.
I pull over in front of a big truck they have also flagged down and haul out my licence and wait. They’re all over the truck, write him a ticket and walk back to their camera. The truck pulls out past us and the passenger shouts to us in isiZulu: ‘They pulled you over for nothing! Go!’
So we go.
As I write there’s a happy fish braai happening outside my office window. Watch the chefs perform for the camera!
Later: The fresh shad was succulent and delicious! Ziggy is a qualified chef and she seasoned it to perfection! I told the fellas to take notes . .
Back at Kelso, while waiting for the fisherfolk, I lurked in the coastal bush shade.
A few days before, Ryan’s Dad Andy had taken them to Durban harbour, where they caught a tiny little smelt:
Sheila worked at Fugitives Drift Lodge with David and Nicky Rattray for a while and met many interesting people and characters from all over the world. She should write about the weird folk she met – the judges and military men and colonial types and rich folk and historians and chief constables and all the other titles the Breetish Empire invented.
While there, she organised for the five of us – her old Swanie family from Harrismith – to have a family weekend there with her as our guide. One afternoon she took us out to the Isandlwana battlefield in a Landrover and got lost. Her sense of direction was imperfect, but she was unfazed and soldiered on like a lost Pom fleeing a battlefield. She had the Buffalo River on her left (or was it right?) and was headed in a direction she thought might get us somewhere sometime. Don’t panic.
So we’re bouncing over the veld, Sheila driving the ponderous old Defender, and our 85yr-old ‘ole man’ sitting in the back getting fidgety.
After a while the bouncing got to his ancient bones and he groaned and – forsaking the old stiff upper lip – moaned about the bumpiness – sort of a geriatric ‘Are we there yet?’
Sheila whipped round and said, “Keep quiet and sit still. Don’t make me come back there and sort you out!” then grinned triumphantly and crowed, “I’ve waited fifty years to say that!”
A TV aerial perched right on top of the Hella Hella mountain. The tall pole had two aerials, one aiming off towards distant civilisation, the other aimed straight at the Porters of Game Valley Estates’ TV aerial on the roof of their lovely homestead down in the Umkomaas river valley below.
Now, living in splendid isolation is all very well and the Porters loved the wild, but the nights were long and the boys were often away at boarding school, so TV was a necessity. And not provided by SABC. There was no signal in the valley. So Barry had to ‘maak a plan’, like others before him.
He got a long gumpole, two aerials, a repeater and a tractor battery and rigged it up. Soon ‘The A Team’ was showing on their screen in the lounge. B.A. Baracus, as played by Mr.T, became a favourite of 4yr-old McDuff’s and he would walk around with a rifle in cut-off shirts with huge chains round his neck on the farm growling “FOOL!!”.
The A Team, The Bob Newhart Show, Baywatch, The Villagers, The Dingleys, ‘Sgudi ‘Snayisi,
Bonanza, the theme song:
Then there was Police File, which we called Check Your Mate, in which the cops would ask for help finding wanted suspects. So-called ‘friends’ would point out with glee whenever a Swanepoel was wanted. Their story was there was always a wanted Swanepoel at large. Once we watched and not one Swanie was wanted, but it ended with “If you have any information please contact the Brixton Murder and Robbery Squad. Ask for Sergeant Swanepoel.”
Of course, the repeater atop the Hella Hella needed power, which was supplied by that big tractor battery. Despite rigging up a solar panel, which helped, the battery would still need changing from time to time and Barry would head up to the top of the Hella Hella most days with a shifting spanner. The crow-flies distance from the aerial on Hella Hella to the aerial on the homestead roof was 907m. The drive was a 14km round-trip!
maak n plan – jury-rig a transmitter (see what Jaap said here)