Cry, the Beloved Dorpie

What a beautiful setting and what beautiful people. Everywhere I go there are friendly greetings – Dumela ntate! More oom! Morning! and howzit? Service in the shops is friendly and quick. The food at Erika’s home outstanding and plentiful, washed down with lots of red vino and black coffee. Two years ago the Ford agency fixed my Ranger bakkie so well that I brought it back for its 300 000km service and a road trip check in which they have also decided to fix my tie rod ends and my propshaft, whatever those are.

Erika and Pierre patiently hosted me as I waited two weeks for an appointment at Ford. I was surprised. They’re certainly busy and the town seems full of Ford Rangers – I saw far more than Toyotas!

A lovely town, but the dark cloud of corruption and maladministration of the “Ace” days still hangs over the town. The roads are abysmal and we have had power interruptions and lack of water in the two weeks I have been here. Erika and Pierre are ace organisers of the non-“Ace” variety and had already equipped their house for electric outages and their guest house next door for electricity and water. But when an explosion hit the main power station and we were told we could be without power for quite a few days, Erika decided to step up her off-the-grid equipment and bought a new generator so the guest house could have its own. Batteries have been schlepped for testing and charging, LED lightbulbs with batteries that burn after a power outage fitted, the DB board has been rewired, the new generator installed, lots of activity with plenty of help from their workers at home and at their businesses, Aletta who runs the guest house, Paul who does the two gardens, June the handyman, and Thys the electrician. Next she’ll tackle catching her roof water like happens in the guest house, and more solar charging of the batteries.

Everywhere the attitude is help each other, make it work and keep smiling. Up yours, Ace.

Next: On to la métropole parisienne


Good friend Steve added this pearl in a comment; I’m copying it here for easier access: ‘In Bethlehem (just to the west of the route you took) we had a Dutch baker called Kraai. Back in the 60’s, a wag called him Kraai the Beloved Baker, to the amusement of some of the locals.’


Dumela ntate – greetings father

More oom – morning uncle

howzit? – howzit; how is it? On cold Harrismith winter mornings in 1969, Larry the Yank used to answer, ‘two inches shorter than usual’


What would we do without batteries? I just put new ones in our TV remotes.

The latest are lithium-ion and they’re amazing, but they are expensive, contain a flammable liquid and can be dangerous. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery showed us that. Researchers have even come up with lithium-ion batteries with built-in fire extinguishers now! The battery has a chemical called triphenyl phosphate, a flame retardant. If the battery’s temperature rises above 150 degrees C, the plastic fibres melt, the chemical is released and it prevents the battery from catching fire.

A new battery prototype known as “all-solid-state” – no liquids – has the potential to store more energy while maintaining high safety and reliability levels. It’s based on sodium, a cheaper non-flammable alternative to lithium.

Many other technologies are being tested, and according to each one’s marketing department they are going to charge your phone or your car in seconds, last forever, boost your love life and cost nothing. Don’t laugh, some of that will come true.

The first battery may have been made in Baghdad, Iraq back around 200 BCE. At least that’s the guess about what an earthernware jar with an iron rod surrounded by a copper sleeve may have been.

Baghdad battery

The first known battery was made by Alessandro Volta in Italy after Luigi Galvani noticed that metal and frogs’ legs could produce a current. Gotta love those Italian names, don’t they just galvanise you and produce a voltage across your brain cells?!

Volta put a stack of zinc and copper plates with salt water-soaked cloth between them and invented the voltaic pile in 1800 – a battery about equivalent to today’s AA. Not as portable but.

Volta's voltaic pile

Improvements followed and in 1859 the precursor to the familiar lead-acid rechargeable battery was invented by Frenchman Gaston Plante. This was a big boost to horseless carriages! Earlier, between 1832 and 1839, Scot Robert Anderson had invented the first crude electric carriage, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells. Studebaker Automobile Company made the first mass-produced electric vehicles in America in 1902. Plante’s rechargeable battery would have been a big help to them.

In 1954, Americans Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery, converting the sun’s energy to electricity using silicon.

Other things being used experimentally to convert energy into battery power are plants, dewdrops, air, your skin, your movement and your urine. Check it out – 37 different ideas for batteries!

Time will tell which ones will make it to market. I hope its not that last one!