Pikkie’s Book is HE-ERE!

We have a new book out! ( – get it on takealot.com – )

OK, the author has a new book out, his first. School friend Harry ‘Pikkie’ Loots is Harrismith’s latest published author, following in the footsteps of FA Steytler, EB Hawkins, Petronella van Heerden and Leon Strachan. There must be more? Indeed – Pikkie reminded me of Johann Lodewyk Marais and Anita van Wyk Henning.

He has published it as an eBook – and I have now received my hard copy too.

I had the privilege and fun of reading it as he wrote and re-wrote it, as one of his proof-readers. It was a blast! I climbed his mountains without getting breathless – except occasionally from laughing, as we relived the olden daze..

Now you gotta realise, Pikkie is a mountaineer and trekker. These are phlegmatic buggers; unflappable; understated. So when he says ‘we walked and then crossed some ice and then we got here: ‘

. . with lovely pictures and fascinating stories along the way . . you must know what he doesn’t show you:

– 5109m above sea level – the Drakensberg’s highest peak is 3482m –

And this is the third highest peak he climbs in Africa! There’s more to come!

.

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Those of us who climb Mt aux Sources should also remember how we drive to within an hour or two’s leisurely walk from the chain ladder. To get to these higher mountains there’s days of trekking before you reach the point in the picture. And there’s way less oxygen available up there! After reading some chapters I had to go’n lie down for a while.

Here’s the back cover blurb: ( – get the book on takealot.com – )

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Riposte and Touché:

Pikkie appointed a fellow-mountaineering Pom John as another of his proofreaders. This John asked ‘What’s it with you Saffers and exclamation marks?’ I puffed myself up and replied the problem was not that we use too many; the problem was that Poms use too few!

John’s rejoinder was, “Not true. We use our national quota. It’s just that we allocate almost all of them to teenage girls.”

Oooof!!

Bad enough we lost the Boer War, but now THIS!!!!

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The EM Diet

A childhood friend is writing a lovely book on his mountaineering exploits and the journey he has made from climbing the mountain outside our town to climbing bigger and more famous mountains all over the world!!

– Platberg panorama –

Flatteringly, he asked me and a Pommy work and climber friend to proofread his latest draft. Being a techno-boff, he soon hooked us up on dropbox where we could read and comment and suggest.

I immediately launched in to making sensible and well-thought out recommendations which were instantly rejected, side-stepped or ignored, I dunno WHY!!

Like the title I thought could be spiced up. Three African Peaks is boring compared to Free A-frickin’ Picks!!! to lend drama and a Seffrican accent to it, right?! I know, you can’t understand some people. !

John, very much under the weight of a monarchy – meaning one has to behave – was more formal:

‘What is it with south africans and the “!”? (which is my major comment on your writing style!)

Well!!! Once we had puffed down and soothed our egos by rubbing some Mrs Balls Chutney on it, the back-n-forth started. I mean started!!

My defensive gambit was: ‘We’re drama queens!!’

My attack was an accusation: ‘Poms hugely under-use the ! In fact, they neglect it terribly! John was quickly back though, wielding his quill like a rapier:

‘Not true. We use our national quota. We just give almost all of them to teenage girls.’

Ooof!!!

I was on the back foot. When it came to the cover, the Boer War re-enactment resumed. I mean resumed!! I chose a lovely cover with an African mountain and a lot of greenery on the slopes. The Pom chose an ice wall, no doubt thinking of the London market. Stalemate.

Next thing he’ll be suggesting a stiff upper cover.

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A strange thing has happened since John’s critique! I am using less exclamation marks! I have even written sentences without any!! It actually feels quite good. The new, restrained me.

Courage and Principle

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 littleboatsandbigfish@gmail.com –

At the very least, read courageous and principled Adv Peter Rowan’s foreword.

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New Book Coming!

Johnny Vassilaros is a courageous mensch. And an author. And I can’t wait! If you love Durban, get your copy. Write to – littleboatsandbigfish@gmail.com –

Foreward by Advocate Peter Rowan
I have known Johnny since 2003. I have spent many long hours with him, in meetings, in consultations, in Court proceedings, in open debate and in argument (even between us). He is a man of the utmost integrity. He is a man of high intelligence, a man of conviction and undeniably strong character. He has values and standards to be admired, a man of good, fair and even judgement, a family man, a music lover, a historian and environmentalist. A spade is a spade, and he calls it that way. Nothing in the civic domain is done for his own ego, or his own pocket. What he does is motivated by distinguishing between principles of right and wrong, and then, resolutely pursuing what is good for the situation that lies before him. He is disciplined, tough and unrelenting in pursuing his goals.

The nucleus of this book is the story of the Durban Paddle Ski Club, of which Johnny found himself as chairman, during the most taxing period in its history, and which was to have a profound effect on the plight of a most valuable public asset – Vetch’s Beach. This book has many interesting stories to tell. It brings colourful characters back to life by their amazing and often insane deeds in their pursuit of big fish on their little boats. And then, the anecdotes, historical facts about Durban, the pioneers of this city, shipping, the once dreaded “Bar” and shipping disasters off our coast, only a few life spans ago. For the fishing fanatics – just read it!

– Johnny Vassilaros and Pete Rowan – men of principle –


But this book is more than that. It also covers a most serious topic, that being the biggest and most expensive and controversial coastal development in the history of this city – the Point waterfront development. Having read the book, all I can say is “Wow!” The meticulous attention to detail and irrefutable accuracy on the facts is immaculate. Yes, some 250 pages are devoted to the tragedy of Vetch’s, where those who would like to know what truly happened, should read and read again. Johnny does not mince his words. He slaughters politicians, prominent municipal officials and powerful businessmen, decimates major role players from certain water sports clubs, all so justifiably, through their unethical deeds committed throughout the long Point waterfront years. If you don’t know who these individuals are, read about them in this book.

But the author doesn’t go at people simply for the sake of doing it. He acknowledges good and good people and good deeds. He despises bad or useless incompetent people, and most of all, reveals the wrongdoings, the corruption and skulduggery, all of which, we see aplenty in his book. He also provides more irrefutable facts, explaining how all this has led to the loss of the watersports clubs’ premises and the cost to the ecosystem at Vetch’s. 

Johnny writes both from the head and from the heart. He adds comment which is well founded, and where he castigates the unfortunates and criticises others, he does so because it is relevant to the story he unfolds. His words amount to fair and justifiable comment and criticism, made for the public good, all within his constitutional rights and freedom of speech. The events that he describes involved matters that could so easily have been laid to rest around a table with sportsmen and women, as we were all meant to be, acting reasonably,  in the interests of all our wants and needs of our respective sports. That’s what reasonable and civilised people with any sense of decency and good sportsmanship would have done.

But that was not to be. Not this bunch with whom we had to deal. Six individuals, who, as a committee, snuck off and formed a “Point Watersports Club”, with a “constitution” not remotely relevant to the aims and objectives of the water sports clubs, and, most importantly, in total contradiction to a legally-binding agreement they had all previously signed. And, staggeringly, with no mandate from their members and without any of them having any inkling that this was going on. And yet, this continued for years and the members still say nothing to this day.

How much in litigation costs did all of this amount to for the clubs, and ultimately the members? Johnny raises this in his book. I would conservatively estimate that between this “PWC”, whoever they may be, the DUC and the Durban Ski Boat Club, must have paid in the region of R5 million if not more. Look at what it cost the Paddle Ski Club and Save Vetch’s Association to save the beach, whilst others stood by – millions. What a waste! And how much irredeemable human and tangible destruction took place whilst all of this was going on?

And for me, one of the most dramatic standout points. How and why and on whose mandate did Hall, Kidger and Donald come to give away, in 2015, all the clubs’ rights to invaluable freehold property, to arguably own the highly valued land on which they were to build their clubhouse? Were these self-appointed directors simply dancing to the tune of the developer, giving away land that was worth millions, without a murmur? One can only be left wondering whether anyone was ever rewarded, for this act of “high treason”. No matter how one looks at this, it stinks. Rotten to the core. Should we not all be digging deeper into this? If we do, some people might just land up in jail. Johnny’s book lays this bare. Read it with care.

There is one last thing that needs to be published. The man I chose, during difficult times to put my money on, ahead of a multitude of erstwhile friends, the Geriatskis, and all of those who paddle with them. When I teamed up with the Geriatskis, paddling and socialising with them at DUC, it became one of the most motivating factors in my life. It was pure fun and pleasure. What camaraderie, banter amongst, what I imagined true friends to be! But when crunch time came, when it was clear that Hall was leading them down the garden path, and I started to ask questions and take a strong stance, where were these people? It seemed easier for them to step back and drift with the tide or blow with the wind.

Taking a strong value judgment call or a moral stance, or simply for the stark ecological sake of saving the beach, was not for these folk. But they paddle across that stretch of water, saved by others making huge sacrifices, day in and day out – conscience free, having done nothing to save the reef they so guilelessly now use. They went along with Hall because it was convenient and expedient. As tough and as sad as it has been breaking away and being excised from a strong group of wonderful erstwhile friends, and sad as the lonely situation is that I have now found myself in, I would suppose a gregarious fellow by nature, I wouldn’t swap Johnny Vassilaros and his solid principled fishing ski guys as friends for any one of these fickle souls – in my view, may they forever hang their heads in shame every time they paddle across the Vetch’s basin. Read about it.

I associate myself with all the facts set out in this book and with the words of the author, having been part of the action and privy to the multitude of documents and the voluminous court papers, which I still have in my possession. I am in the privileged position of being able to support or refute either the content of the book or any further comments that may arise. I challenge those who disagree with the content to revert, by way of constructive written exchanges, and back their views with adequate proof. I also challenge any one of you to take us to Court on whatever cause of action you may wish to rely upon.  

I salute this man, Johnny Vassilaros, for his tenacity and his courage in disclosing the truth. He is a man who I would want alongside me if ever we were to go to war. 

Advocate Peter Rowan SC       (Durban February 2020)

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We’re Famous!

Us Blands have published a book. One of us was the author and one was the photographer.

OK, it was tenth-cousin Hugh that actually did both!

Mind you, I do play my small part in keeping this particular trappist monastery afloat by testing eyes there mahala every second month! Who’da thunk I’d ever help the Catholics? Holy me! Thank Allan Marais for that. If it wasn’t for us Hugh might not have had Marianhill to photograph.

– marianhill monastery –

Well DONE, cousin Hugh! That is quite an achievement; your book is stunning.

Here’s another beautiful book by Hugh:

. . this one includes sister Barbara and husband Jeff’s Umvoti Villa homestead, now inhabited by niece Linda and husband Dawie, MissMadam Mary-Kate and Meneer Dawie jr:

Hugh has driven thousands of miles around KwaZulu Natal photographing things that interest him. If you like old buildings, graves, churches, farms, railway stations, shops, government and church buildings, houses in towns and cities, hospitals, monuments n kak, seek no more! Go here. 70 000 images!

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mahala – free

You can get your own copy of Hugh’s books here or here.

New Best Book Ever

I have not been this excited about a book since Tramp Royal, by Tim Couzens. Well, Trader Horn’s The Ivory Coast in the Earlies, and then Tramp Royal.

My own The First Safari by Ian Glenn just arrived and it’s beautifully made; a real old-fashioned book, hard cover complete with elegant dust jacket, map, real paper – dry matt, not glossy – and full of fascinating detective work on the trail of its subject, Francois Levaillant, explorer of the unknown-to-Europe (well-known, of course, to the people who lived there!) interior of the Cape Colony back in 1781.

I’ve only just started but already I have to rush to report: I have a little thing about how a lot of these guys wrote how they went here and they went there and they shot a bloubok; and how often – almost always – they were actually taken there by local people with local knowledge. Their routes, their water holes, their finding animals for food and animals, birds, reptiles and plants for specimens was mostly done by, and thanks to, people who lived there. These local people weren’t ‘exploring;’ they were earning a living as guides. Here’s just one good reason explorers often took along a host of local people: Getting back safely! Not getting lost.

So here’s what I learn in Chapter 1: Far from an intrepid lone explorer, Levaillant actually had plenty of assistance on the quiet: A wealthy collector in Holland sponsored him; He put him in touch with the local VOC ‘fiskaal’ – like a magistrate – Willem Boers; Boers obtained the release of a prisoner jailed for murdering a Khoi woman. This man knew his way around and could act as a guide and helper for Levaillant.

This prisoner’s name? Swanepoel! A criminal ancestor of mine lucked out and got to go on an amazing adventure – the First Safari!

– The First Safari –
– just wow! – all books should be like this –

Later: OK, so now I’ve read it and re-read it. If you’re at all interested in exploration, birds, and early Africa, you’ll be fascinated. Learn how the Bateleur got its name. In addition, if you’re interested in fairness, giving people a fair shake, you’ll like it – Levaillant was criticised and his contribution to ornithology was downplayed, probably mainly because those critics were English or American and he was not. If you like mystery, there are things not (yet) known, still to be discovered;

And lastly, if you like detective stories, this is like searching through caves, Indiana Jones-style, but with far more interesting treasure. The caves are museums and the treasure is real old Africa, not mythical stuff. You’ll love it. My kind of book!

Buy local: raru books – ISBN barcode 9781431427338 – hardcover around R220.

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You could also try to buy a copy of Levaillant’s amazing book on African birds in six volumes – LEVAILLANT, François (1753-1824). Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique. Paris: J. J. Fuchs, An VII (1799)-1808. Asking price if you can get one – around R250 000.

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VOC – Dutch East India Company

An Inordinate Fondness For Beetles

Asked what could be inferred about the Creator from a study of His works, British scientist and naturalist JBS Haldane replied:

“The Creator, if he existed, had an inordinate fondness for beetles”.

I have just re-read the delightful book Jayne Janetsky gave me in 1999 and learned again:

– Every fifth species of known animal in the world is a beetle;
– Beetles come in the most beautiful array of shapes and sizes and colours.

Absolutely fascinating! And right up my alley!

I show here just three of the 350 000:

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The book has a few more!

Beetles fondness

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In a letter to the August 1992 issue of The Linnean, a friend of Haldane’s named Kenneth Kermack said that both he and his wife Doris remembered Haldane using the phrase ‘an inordinate fondness for beetles.’

‘I have checked my memory with Doris, who also knew Haldane well, and what he actually said was: “God has an inordinate fondness for beetles.’ JBSH himself had an inordinate fondness for the statement: he repeated it frequently. More often than not it had the addition: “God had an inordinate fondness for beetles and stars.” ‘

Haldane was making a theological point: God is most likely to take trouble over reproducing his own image, and his 350,000 attempts at the perfect beetle contrast with his slipshod creation of man. ‘When we meet the Almighty face to face he will resemble a beetle or a star, and not Dr. Carey’ said Haldane. [Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury].’

Rhinoceros beetle
– um, your grace? –
– dung beetles – over 5 000 species – we saw this one in Mfolosi Game Reserve –

. . and a few more:

a tray of beetles
– 350 000 different species! – this cab cause some challenges

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Colonel Freddie Hodgson

I suddenly thought of old Freddie and wondered where his books were. He came to me for his eyes and sold me a book he’d written: From Hell to the Himalayas. Later he added to it and published a second, thicker edition. Made me buy one of the new ones too! A charming and persuasive rogue was old Freddie, Colonel CF Hodgson.

He must have been about ninety in the shade in 1980 which means born ca 1890. Got pushed around in a wheelchair by his young girlfriend – probly a mere seventy year old. She was very good to him. He ordered her (and everyone else) about with supreme confidence, pointing his walking stick at things and directions to go. Yes, he was in a wheelchair but he still carried a walking stick. He was an officer in the British army after all, and was stuck in the days when that meant you were king of the world.

Having thought of him, I went looking for him. On the ‘net of course. Eventually found something on germanmilitaria.com. It seems he must have shuffled off this mortal coil, gone to the big officers mess in the sky, as his medals and his book are for sale as a bundle.

Col Freddie Hodgson

The writing on the card the medals are pinned to reads: “Bombardier to Colonel; C.F. Hodgson, Royal Field Artillery; Commissioned 8:8:17; Wounded; Wrote a book ‘From Hell To The Himalayas’; Book comes with medals and medal entitlement card”;

The seven medals (three WW1 and four WW2) and the book can all be yours for $875. The sales pitch:

An interesting grouping of seven medals ranging from WWI to WWII and a career that is documented in his written autobiography of “From Hell to the Himalayas” (King & Wilks Publishers). The medals are affixed to a section of heavy white coverstock with a handwritten notation. The medals are in order: 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal 1914-1920 (engraved “2 Lt. C.F. Hodgson”), Victory Medal (engraved “2nd Lt. C.F. Hodgson”), 1939-1945 Star, British Commonwealth Africa Star, Burma Star and the 1939-1945 War Medal. The hardcover book is a first edition, printed in 1983 with a colour dust jacket. The book measures approximately 15cm x 21cm and consists of 206 pages with a section of 12 pages with black and white photographs to the center. Also included is a black and white glossy photograph with “Col. C.F. Hodgson (France)” to the reverse, as well as photocopied pages showing his career in WWI as a Bombardier in the RFA, through to WWII.

I can’t find his books on my shelves at the moment. They’ll be here somewhere. When I find them I’ll quote some or other bombastic comment by the bombardier. I’m sure there’ll be one!

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