50. That’s fifty. Five zero. FIFTY! Eish!

Aitch doesn’t mess around. Suddenly a big marquee was pitched on the front lawn. What’s that for? I ask. We’re having a party, says me wife. Oh. OK. So tip-toe’ing discreetly past my half century mark is not going to happen?

Nope.

So I help the guys lay down a dance floor; and I carry chairs. And I carry chairs. Do we need so many chairs? I ask. Carry chairs, I’m told.

Then a minibus arrives and musical instruments are carried out – a trombone, a saxophone and a guitar – and one of the guys looks familiar. Big, braces, white hair. Mario!? I say / ask in amazement. Yes, says he in an Italian accent. What are you doing here? I ask, onnosel-y. He just smiles. I spose he’s used to that.

Mario Montereggi! When he’s not marshaling his Big Band, he runs a trio, Music Unlimited, for small events: Him on trombone, a guitarist and a saxophonist.

– Mario Montereggi’s trio –

WOW!! Aitch certainly does NOT mess around!

The theme was Africa, but Brauer thought it was Out of Africa, and of course he took it literally. You know how he is . .

– Aitch put it all together – she was much younger’n me –
– the sax player charmed the kids –
– especially TomTom –

Instead of a solemn speech full of half a century of carefully censored praise . .

– Terry and Pete exaggerating –

Terry and Pete sang a song full of scurrilous exaggerations – and duped the rest of the mense into singing the chorus! Everyone knows Billy Joel’s Piano Man tune . .

– Brauerr song PFS 50th –

Then Jonathan and Aitch said some words and I had to correct everyone and put them straight.

– after Jon and Aitch spoke I had to leap up to defend my reputation –
– good peeps gathered –
– PFS 50th –

~~~oo0oo~~~

onnosel – not clever; dof

mense – good people

Binoculars

We once had a robbery. In 2005 at 10 Windsor Avenue.

We got home to find the place ransacked. Waddaya mean “How did we know?” – when Aitch was there we were fairly tidy!

Turns out Aitch’s jewellery (including her sapphire & diamond engagement ring) was missing, which was no biggie – she didn’t even replace much once the insurance paid us. AND her Zeiss binocs! Now this was a bigger deal! She loved her binoculars and used them A LOT.

Years earlier at 7 River Drive she had decided they had been stolen and I said “No, we’ve just mislaid them”. After a long time I had to concede: “OK, they probably are gone, but we may have lost them.” I hate saying “stolen” unless I really know that!

Well, they turned up about two years after they first went missing – in the back of our socks shelf!! ** blush ** . . .

But this time they really were gone and SO:

She got a brand new pair of Zeiss Victory FL T* 8X32 ‘s!!

Zeiss 8X32 Aitch's

UNFAIR!

Mine are 10X40’s – lovely, but a generation older. Lens coatings not as good and not nitrogen-filled and sealed to the outside world like Aitch’s new ones are. They have a story of their own:

I bought them around 1984 for R1800 having refused to pay R750 a year before as that was outrageously expensive! I loved them and they did me proud, but in 1997 I decided reluctantly to have them serviced by Zeiss. The rubber covering was loose and the eyecups were tight. The optics weren’t as sharp as new either. I was very reluctant to give them to Zeiss as they were a bunch of incompetent beer drinkers in my view. They were useless in their service to optometry, the other labs beat them hands down on service and quality. So I decided what I’d do is personally go to the head office in Johannesburg (JHB) and hand them to the MD and go with him to the technician who would be in charge. I forget the MD’s name, maybe Winnefeld? The technician was Thomas Provini. We arranged they would be given back to the MD who would phone me and on my next trip to JHB I would collect them personally. DO NOT POST THEM, I instructed / pleaded. I trusted the post office as much as I trusted Zeiss!

They sent me a quote by ‘telefax’ – Two new cups R120; Dismantling and cleaning, repair focusing system, glueing rubber protection onto it, cleaning of all lenses and final inspection R558. Total R678. Not small money those days, but the price of the binocs had kept going up as the Rand weakened, so I said yes please.

I forget how long they were meant to take, but when that time had gone past and gone longer and no word from Zeiss, I phoned the MD. My binocs ready yet? What? Didn’t have a clue. Bad sign. I reminded him of everything we had agreed on and he said Ja Ja he would get back to me. He didn’t. I phoned again. He still didn’t know. I started jumping up and down, cursing the day I had handed them in. I should have trusted my instincts and never gone near them! Then a lady phoned – a Mrs Adams, I think. The MD chickened out of doing the phoning himself, the rat fink.

‘We posted them to Port Elizabeth.’ WHAT!? Why? ‘Oh, we thought you were from Port Elizabeth.’ NO! My arrangement was Do NOT Post Them. Let me speak to your damn fool MD. He was unavailable and remained unavailable till I flew to JHB and confronted him. ‘Oh, but we thought you were in PE!’ ‘And anyway,’ he blustered, ‘Someone signed for them, so we have done our part.’ Can you EFFING believe it?

The stupid incompetent beer-swilling bastard had lost my precious binocs and was trying to dodge responsibility! Eventually I had to pay R1850 and got a new pair. SONS OF BITCHES!!

I still have that 1997 pair, but I use mainly Aitch’s newer 8X32’s.

No doubt about it, as we used to joke as students, Zeiss ist Scheiss!! We didn’t know it then, but it was true.

~~~oo0oo~~~

2004 that was

2004 came and went.

Jessica finished pre-school, and goes to Westville Junior Primary next year. Grade 1 – Bliksem – school holidays! Surely in Grade 1 we can still steal her out of school and enjoy some uncrowded breaks? Thought so.

Tom-Tom changes play-school for pre-school and goes into the Hedgehog group at Cygnet.

Aitch still selling real estate, me still checking eyeballs.

Holidays this year included a long weekend at Simes’ cottage at Lotheni in the Drakensberg (beautiful spot – the best walks in the foothills). Waterfalls were cascading off the high cliffs above us – we watched them through our telescope. Impressive. Eland grazing in the hills around us. Swimming and slippy-sliding in the cold rock pools in the valleys.

In April we walked about 60km along the Wild Coast from Kobb Inn south to Morgan Bay, staying in hotels on the way. What a pleasure! Good weather, lonely beaches, cold beers, light packs, friendly guides.
Other long weekends camping at Basley on the South Coast; and at Mkhuze game reserve, where we realised adult and kid holidays are becoming more and more different! If it wasn’t for the new pool and jungle gym, Mkhuze would have been sad for the kids. Ah, well! We enjoyed it while it lasted. And soon they’ll be grown up and we’ll only be . . . . . HOW OLD!?

Also we camped at Midmar Dam near Howick. The kids loved it, lots of swimming, boating (sail, kayak and power) and biking. Jess decided not to bodyboard behind the 130 Yamaha. Maybe next time. She rode a big girl’s bike for the first time, though.

**

Adult (bratless) gaps we managed by foisting the kids on long-suffering friends (who are quick to take revenge by handing us theirs when they go off!):
In August we went to a lovely camp (Zingela) on the Thukela River and traveled the Anglo-Boer War battlefields around Colenso and Ladysmith. Our guide Ken Gillings (Mike Lello’s school connection from 100 years ago) gave us wonderful descriptions, background and insight into the folly of war, the battles themselves, the people, the hardships, etc. Depending on who won the battle I was a Pom or a Rockspider; Tony Yoell had to be a Pom throughout!

In October we went to Brazil for a week for a ‘conference’ trip. Twelve of us went ahead for two days and visited Iguassu Falls – spectacular. Then to a Club Med SW of Rio on the island- and bay-dotted coast, and on to Rio for some city life. We flew Varig, which was, um, interesting. Not one suitcase arrived for the two days in Iguassu, so we laughed and had a lot fun mocking each other about swapping underpants, etc. Great bunch of people. And beautiful place – lots of birds, butterflies, trees, walks in the forest and overlooking the falls and boat trips upstream to under the falls and also above the falls to islands and lakes.

Christmas at home with a few friends and Aitch’s folks – now about 78 in the shade. Boxing day with Pete’s family on sister Barbara’s farm near Greytown – ole man 82, mom 76.

 

Album Safari 2003

Trish (Aitch) and 5yr-old Jess made a paste-and-cut album when we got back from our trip to five Southern African countries. I found it lying around so thought I’d photograph it and paste it here as a gallery. Click on the first pic and it will open full size, then scroll through the 43 pics in the gallery. Hope you enjoy.

Traffic Directions / Life Advice

We’d had supper and imbibed a few with Rita and a gang of her – now also our – friends and were on our way to a club, recommended by the guys. Much hilarity in the rented car.

I was driving and Aitch was directing, her being a Cape Town local. At an intersection she said “Go straight” which elicited an immediate chorus of “NO!! Gaily forward! Gaily forward!” from the guys.

I nearly pranged the car I laughed so hard.

~~~oo0oo~~~

My second ‘hometown’ Apache Oklahoma

Apache was my ‘hometown’ for a year in 1973 as a Rotary exchange student.

Here you’ll find a collection of my 1973 Apache memories.

Former Apache resident Rebekah Cooksey (about ten to fifteen years after me, I guess) wrote “Top 10 Things Heard This Weekend in Apache, Oklahoma” after a return visit to her hometown. Her blog now seems to have disappeared, but I got these extracts from it.

Here’s Rebekah:

Small town Oklahoma defined my early life. My hometown was Apache. Population: 1500. Our school was so small we had no class electives; My class pictures between kindergarten and 12th grade included all the same people, generally in the same position.

I am the youngest of seven kids; Dad was a minister, Mom was a nurse. I think at one point we were actually below the poverty level but I have such great selective memory that period is all kind of blurry. I do remember being laughed at because of my clothes and wishing that we could live in a mobile home because some of my friends lived in them, and their homes were nicer than ours. While I had good friends (whom I still keep in touch with), I always knew I would move away because there really wasn’t anything there for me.

Those of you who actually read my blog (thanks, Mom!) know that my family and I went to Apache Oklahoma this past weekend to attend the annual Apache Fair.

Going to Apache is always a bittersweet event for me. Growing up in this small town of 1500 people was mostly a frustrating experience, and I spent my junior high and high school years plotting my escape. But even after almost twenty years of being away, I am tied to this place by my memories, my values, and my dreams for my own children — because the kind of town I ran from is exactly the kind of town I’d like to raise them in (but hopefully with a larger population by a factor of 10).

Why bittersweet? Going back reminds me of the many wonderful things about being raised in a town where everyone knows everyone, where the same families have farmed the same land for generation after generation, where the values are so traditional that Home Economics is a required course for girls and Ag Shop (agricultural workshop – welding, woodworking, leather tooling) is a required course for boys. But, it also makes me sad, because many of the store fronts are boarded up, the family-owned businesses have been replaced by Sonic and Dollar General, and the landscape is dotted with barns falling into themselves, rusted cars and vans, and, in general, signs of the struggle of the lower-middle class.

– the main drag –

The best way to describe it, I’ve decided, is ‘Mayberry’ meets ‘Sanford and Son’, with a Native American twist.

So, in a lighthearted way, I’m going to attempt to share with you some of the highlights of the weekend. Again, while this may appear like I’m poking fun – well, OK, it will be poking fun – but remember, I grew up here, so I’m allowed. I’m laughing with my fellow Apacheans, not at them.

Do you feel that breeze? There was a lot of controversy over the installation of one hundred and fifty wind turbines southwest of Apache because of the blight on the landscape. Not surprising: when you have been living with an unobstructed view of the Wichita Mountains for years, and suddenly someone proposes to build wind turbines across the horizon, that’s bound to put a bee in your bonnet. But the Slick Hills (as the foothills of the Wichitas are known) supposedly have some of the best wind in the USA. The Blue Canyon Wind Farm now produces the energy equivalent of powering 60,000 cars on the road. Now with gas hovering just under $4 a gallon, I don’t think the residents mind so much anymore.

– we’ll have to wait our turn to get on the bridge –

We actually didn’t stay in Apache for the weekend; instead, we rented a cabin in Medicine Park, a tiny tourist village about half an hour away just outside the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. If you can desensitize yourself to an over-abundance of junked out cars, scrap heaps, and crumbling mobile homes, Medicine Park is quite a cute destination and the natural beauty is astounding. Definitely worth a weekend trip from Dallas-Fort Worth. But my mention here is just about the one-lane bridge that goes across the river in Medicine Park and joins East Lake Drive with West Lake Drive. You don’t see many of these anymore.

In Medicine Park we found what must be the actual model for Tow-Mater from the animated movie Cars. Also in Medicine Park, we were amazed that the most beautiful real estate in at least a 200 mile radius is used by a waste water treatment plant is astounding to me. With a view of the Wichita Mountains, Lake Lawtonka and the surrounding hills, anywhere else this plot would be turned into million dollar homes (or, adjusted for Oklahoman prices, maybe $250K homes). Seriously, it made my heart sad to see the $32.5m facility sitting smack dab on top of the best view in the area.

wichita
– the nearby Wichita Mountains –

I remember when the blinking red stoplight was installed at the main intersection when I was in junior high in the early 80′s. It seemed like no time at all had passed before the light burned out. No one seemed to notice, really, and it took years before it was replaced. Clearly progress has been made because the town’s only stoplight was blinking when we drove through town.

– Hey, the stoplight is working! –
– Apache’s Rattlesnake Festival drew 60,000 people last year –

Rattlesnake Festival – Our little town of Apache is host to one of the largest Rattlesnake Festivals in the USA. The Apache Rattlesnake Festival was created by some local townspeople (one of whom was my high school best friend’s Dad) back in 1986, and features guided snake hunts, contests for the longest/heaviest/ugliest rattlesnake, an ever-growing flea market/craft fair, and a carnival. Last year, they had 60,000 people come through for the 3-day event, and Discovery America was there to film it. Pretty good for this small hometown.

Livestock Fairs – One of the big attractions of the Fair is livestock judging. Most FFA students have animals that they show at fairs such as this for prize money and bragging rights. This night was cattle judging night, so Jack and Luke got plenty of opportunity to see cows. I think this was the first real “Moo” they had ever heard, poor things. Usually it’s me trying to sound like a cow when I sing Old MacDonald.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Glimpses into Me — By Cooksey on August 20, 2008 Blog: MyKindOfMom – ‘Fraid Rebekah’s site has ‘gone off the air’!

Annie and her Sherpas summit Mt aux Sources

Mt aux Sources, winter 1998. Sheila organises a gang to summit the peak. Lots of people. Sheila can organise!

Ann Euthemiou brings two strapping nephews as sherpas to haul her four-poster double bed and duvet up the chain ladder.

I hand out my special paklightna snacks at all stops on the way up.

Once up the chain ladder, Sheils insist we camp in the most exposed spot on the escarpment, where howling gales lean our little dome tents at 45° angles. Aitch went to bed before me to stop the tent from rolling away! I had to brave the gale a while longer to finish the Old Brown sherry. Late at night Doug n Tracey Hyslop fight off imaginary ‘intruders’.

MtAuxSources (3).jpg

Next morning we find out why Sheil had insisted on the spot: That’s the sunrise view from our tent. Hmm . . OK Sheila, but what if it had been cloudy!?

This is why Sheila made us camp in THE most exposed spot!
– sunrise between the Eastern Buttress and Devil’s Tooth –

On top I collect reciprocal snacks from all and sundry who carried heavy packs up all the way up, while I had lightened mine.

MtAuxSources (1).jpg

Chilly, windy, glorious mid-winter morning.

Wasn't hot. Aitch still huddling in the tent!
– Sheila brung Old Brown sherry – Doug & Tracy Hyslop and me –

Peering down at the Tugela Falls – one of the highest waterfalls in the world:

– me, Sheila and Bets Key in front –

Here’s what the falls look like in a fly past by some enterprising glider pilots:

HFC berg gliding

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

It might not have been on this trip, but on a trip up to Mt aux Sources I saw an interesting fly hovering at a flower. I had a good look, memorised him and went searching the internet. Here he is (or a close cousin):

I found a wonderful site – an Aussie Michael Whitehead who does research in Australia and in South Africa. He has some beaut pics of proboscis flies like this one – called Prosoeca ganglbaueri.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Hover flies are also fascinating.

Matt, the other man

When the new boy moved in I experienced times of being firmly relegated to 2-IC, second-best, sidekick, supporting cast – in Aitch’s life. Me and TC had to step back as she fell deep and hard in love with Matt. Here’s when she found and chose him:

matt-arrives-2

He was not glossy, so we called him Matt.

TC and Matt at their bowls - Touched up using FxFoto

Then he grew. And his coat became glossy on the expensive vet’s food Aitch fed him. He was at the tail-end of the docked-tail era.

TC thinks WHAT the hell is this!!!? matt-tc-river-dr-4

matt-tc-river-dr-2 dogs-river-dr-matt-tc

This was back when these dogs were our children (prior to adopting two of the longer-lasting, more expensive, less appreciative, two-legged kind!).

I found Matt on the freeway late one rainy night. He was probably after an intriguing new smell which enticed him out (he hadn’t wandered before). He was a growing boy, after all! Hit by a car on the M13 when he went loping off thinking “Love Is In The Air”, he was dead. His collar with our details on it was still attached.

We shed tears. I dug his grave. We buried him in the garden.

Then we got a lawyer’s letter and the guy who hit him sued us for the damage to his car. He was entitled to do that, and we paid. Felt crappy, though.

True love – Aitch & Matt; Matt about 1989 to 1991.

True love - Aitch & Matt; Matt about 1989 to 1991 - buried at 7 River Drive

Aitch at SabiSabi for ‘Seven Habits’

At SabiSabi River Camp Trish broke the ice and got the “Seven Habits” weekend going when her loud peal of delighted laughter allowed everyone to relax, forget stuffiness and start relating as equals. Colin Hall wrote to her afterwards:“Your contribution was so special so wholesome so special – you may never know just what magic you made. We really wanted you here!”

Colin was then CEO of Wooltru and had the “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” franchise for SA. He wanted to adapt it to African conditions, as it used references to American farming practice and Colin wanted to allude to the African bush and the lessons it could give us. He needed the OK from the Covey top brass, so they sent Roger (co-founder of the Covey Leadership Center – now FranklinCovey Co.) & Rebecca Merrill to assess a trial run. As it was a trial, Colin invited people to participate, and it didn’t cost us a cent! As he would say: YeeHa!!

What we didn’t know was a whole bunch of notables had also been invited. We were the minnows there. Captains of industry, politicians, struggle icons and rising business people in the old and new South Africa were there. It was September 1994, the New South Africa was five months old, everyone was optimistic and it seemed the world was our oyster.

When the group first gathered, all strangers, all important and all wary, we were given one of those ice-breaking group exercises where the answer seems impossible, but very obvious when explained. Like many others, Trish didn’t “get it”, but unlike them when it was explained she let out a peal of delighted “Oh no! You fool!” self-deprecating laughter which broke the ice in the best way possible. She was the darling of the bunch from then on – and revelled in the limelight!

The challenge: Cross the river without falling off the bridge
Focus!
Gabi __ and Aitch on left
SabiSabi book crop

Colin Hall wrote:“Your contribution was so special so wholesome so special – you may never know just what magic you made. We really wanted you here!”

Other comments she got were:

Thanks for your ‘ubuntu’ – Daphne Motsepe

– Daphne Motsepe –

I’m glad we were thrown into this struggle together! Love always – Monhla Hlahla

– Monhla Hlahla –

Your spontaneity is very refreshing – Div Geeringh

Its a great experience and you’ve both added terrifically – Judy Gathercole

Trish, was great being around you. Keep the soft core intact – Sej Motau

Its been great with you. Keep up the laughs – Khumo Radebe

It was a pleasure to guide you driving blindfolded – Anton Moolman

Best wishes for the future as we strive to implement the 7 Habits – Sheila & Lungi Sisulu

– Sheila Sisulu –

A great experience! Valued your team efforts at “Go Getters!” – Gaby Magomolo

– Gaby and Nana Magomolo –

A quiet, telling comment came when Gaby, sitting next to me said words to the effect of, ‘Only when we have established ourselves’ when Henri, tearing up, spoke emotionally of ‘Letting go the past.’ Some clear-eyed sense amongst the blurry-eyed sentiment of 1994.

It was some experience to watch you behind the wheel coming down the bank! – Grant Ashfield

Hey! Big Spender!

scan0019.jpg

0,19 whole carats! Aitch built up her biceps carrying that lot around!

Oh, well! We were focused on holidays in the bush. We spent lots on those . .

About eighteen years later Aitch’s ZEISS binoculars got stolen, and also this ring. She replaced the binoculars . .

Priorities! She had ’em right.

~~~oo0oo~~~

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