We stayed at an old sheep shearing station in Lesotho one winter – 2001. The innkeeper welcomed us on a chilly night with a deep bath full of hot water, a hot coal stove burning in the kitchen and warm friendliness.
We had taken our time on the way, so it was dark when we arrived.
The main lodge was the residence of successive traders who ran the Molumong Trading Station, the first of whom was apparently a Scotsman, John White-Smith, in 1926. He got permission from Chief Rafolatsane – after whom Sane Pass was named. Just look at the thickness of the walls of the old stone house in that open window.
We ate well by candle-light and slept warmly. The next morning I braved the outdoor chill. Overcast with a Drakensberg wind blowing. Sheep shit everywhere, from the front door step to as far as the eye could see, the grass munched down to within a millimetre of the dry brown soil. No fences, the sheep have to have access to everything growing.
I wandered over to the shed below the homestead where a Bata shoe sign announced:
“Give Your Feet A Treat Man!”
Soft Strong Smart
An elderly gentleman sat on a chair behind the counter, his small stock on the shelves behind him. I greeted him, taking care not to slip into isiZulu here in seSotho country. “Dumela” I said. “Good morning, lovely day!” he answered in an impeccable English accent.
He was the last trader at Molumong before it closed down, Ndate (Mr) Gilbert Tsekoa, who was retired and instead of trading wool and arranging the shearing, was now running a little shop in the shed, where locals and lodge guests could buy sweets, soap, headache powders, cooking oil, salt, rice and other basic necessities.
WHAT an interesting man. He told me a bit about his life and the days of the wool trade. I wish I had recorded him speaking! Here he is with good friend Bruce Soutar on another visit. Ndate Tsekoa is the younger-looking one with hair. Bruce and his optometrist wife Heather kindly arranged for Ndate Gilbert to have his cataracts removed in Durban, which made his last years better and clearer. He passed away in 2009. Bruce tells me he sent his sons to study at Oxford University in faraway England.
Later, when the sun warmed up, I gave three year-old Jess a warm bath alfresco on the lodge front lawn. We’d put her straight to bed the night before when the hot water was available.
Magnificently isolated on the gravel road between Sani Pass and Katse Dam, surrounded by the hills on the high plateau between the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains, the lodge offers self-catering rooms and rondawels, serenely electricity-free and cellphone-free: Truly ‘Off the Grid’! Three-day pony treks to southern Africa’s highest peak, Thabana Ntlenyana (3482 m) can be arranged with a local moSotho guide.
The house can accommodate twelve guests, the backpackers another eight and the rondawel sleeps two in a double bed. You can also camp in the grounds.
You can tan me hide when I’ve died, Clyde, and hang it up in the shed. ‘Cos I have developed a quite – not a very, but a quite – thick skin. I meet Bruce for a beer at The German Club, which has become a bit more like an Old Rhodesians Club. This is some years ago.
I think Bruce phoned ahead and asked to speak to the chairman. The man who’d answered said ‘Chairman? Ve’s all blutty Chairmans HERE!’ I think he did, but I’m not sure.
I’m with TomTom who sticks out a bit in this euro-centric, deathly pale, colonial atmosphere. There are some stares. Tom has a blue lollipop which he pops into my empty beer bottle and raises every now and then for a suck, which looks like a swig! Ah, well, we’re used to stares.
Hell, in the years since then its got way more challenging and my skin has thickened even more. I have an Epic Epidermis. Since I became a Mom, I have loitered around many a lingerie department asking store ladies to please measure Jess and make sure she gets a good bra fit. I have discussed panty sizes with skeptical shop mamas. I am quite used to ‘Ja, Right!’ looks . . I just give a huge smile, make a joke, ask nicely, act matter-of-fact. Most people are just fine. Some are simply magic and ‘adopt’ Jess and take her under their wings for a brief while. They’re the STARS!
Where they act weird I just let it go. It’s like a duck’s water off my back.
It’s a real challenge. This having to navigate the world surrounded by dof friends.
I wrote to my ‘friends’ – it might have been early one morning; they might not have been fully awake: -original message- Subject: Where’s that? From: Pete <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 06/06/2011
I was embarrassed that I had never heard of Sanya, a city that looked bigger than Durban, with huge bridges, high buildings, man-made islands and world-class resorts. It’s China’s southern-most city. Well, today I tested Midi Yan’s eyes and he and his brother had never heard of Sanya either! OK, they are from Tianjin in the North, which is thousands of km’s away, but it made me feel a little better that they also hadn’t heard of this city in their own country.
Bruce – after reading with one eye? – wrote: Pete I`ve been there with you IN A BOAT – Legend of the Sea = tHERE AFTER THE BOAT DOCKED IN VIETNAM AT HA LONG BAY WHERE WE WENT ASHORE AND DRANK BEER
Janet wrote: So, Pete, it’s just the memory that’s going…
Rita wrote: That too!
I tried to straighten them up: Don’t be dof, people, I was embarrassed THEN that I had never heard of it. When the “Chinas” came to visit me last week I told them I’d been there and THEY had never heard of it. THEY said ‘Where’s That?’ So I didn’t feel so bad about not having heard about Sanya BEFORE I went there. Get wif ve program.
Rita persisted: Well clearly, you were not clear.
Steve backed her: ‘Fraid thats the way I saw it too. Sharpen up Koos.
Janet made things worse: Hair today gone tomorrow????
**** SIGH ****
confession: I may have tidied the language of my posts ever so slightly to make my point clearer here . . . in order to emphasise their dofness, see . .
On our first visit, with Bruce and Heather Soutar, the remains of the old hotel were still there. You walked into the foyer under a roof, the reception counter awaited you; But you soon walked out into the sunshine, as it was just a remnant of roof and a built-in counter with nothing behind it, only three of the walls still standing. Less than this:
But that was OK as it was the hot baths we were after.
While sitting in the warm water of these old baths drinking beer, we heard a loud ‘Pretty GEOR-gie’, looked up into the tree overhead and saw this:
Then they had a big revamp, demolished the old hotel and did up the baths like this:
Now it has fallen into disrepair again and in 2019 there’s this:
I looked up some of the history of the resort:
In a 1900 school geography and history book, Robert Russell, the Superintendent of Education in the Colony of Natal wrote, ‘The Ehlanzeni and Kranskop districts are noted for their wild country. Hot springs with a temperature of 101°F, more or less sulphurous, are found in the Ihlimbitwa.’ These were Lilani’s hot springs.
In 1905, Mr St Vincent Erskine, on behalf of the Grand Lilani Hot Sulphur Springs Syndicate Ltd, leased 10 acres of land around the hot springs from the Natal Government for a period of five years at £25 per annum. The “syndicate was granted a lease of two of the warm springs to develop them for the benefit of the sick as a ‘sanitarium’ – especially to overcome rheumatism and nervous disorders, though they soon claimed way more benefits than that, including curing constipation. One would hope that particular cure wasn’t instantaneous; like, in situ, ne?
An article in the local newspaper announced that as of the 1st August 1906 a charge of two shillings per day was to be made for the use of the hot springs to non-syndicate shareholders. During this time facilities were being built down at the hot springs. The initial part of the hotel was then built which included accommodation for the proprietors. The first access road was built to the top of the northern escarpment at the present day village of Eshane, and people descended on foot or were carried down by litter into the valley.
Later a rough road was built to the hot springs resort.
In 1908, a new lease for 25 years was drawn up, increasing the land from 10 acres to 32 acres, in favour of the Hot Springs Syndicate, owned by Messrs Menne, Matthews and Gibbs. This was then sublet to Mrs Matthews for 10 years from April 1910. Dr J Wright Matthews, M.D., was the resident physician and Mrs LV Matthews was the manager of the Sanatorium. In 1914 the Hot Springs Syndicate went insolvent and the ownership of the lease passed to Mrs Matthews.
Advertising and Publicity
Advertising was not shy: “The panoramic view of the surrounding mountain scenery was said to be truly magnificent, and the climate, one of the most equable in South Africa.” “The wonderful powers of the hot mineral springs found here have long been known to the Dutch community in Natal, and an analysis proves that the waters in a great degree possess the same chemical constituents as those which make Harrogate and other spas of a similar character in Europe in so much request.”
Breathless reports in The Greytown Gazette, Friday, 26 July 1912, page 4, col. 5 : ‘A large party comprising several families, left Greytown at the beginning of the month for the ever-famous Lilani Sulphur Hot Springs, which are under the able management of Dr and Mrs Matthews, who at all times show unstinted hospitality to visitors. On arrival at the Springs the party camped out in 15 to 20 large tents erected around the place which presented a gay appearance. The baths are very healthy and bathing commences as early as 4.30 in the morning and is indulged in till ten and eleven o’clock in the evening. The patent oven, dug out in a large donga, in which bread is baked comes in for a great amount of attraction and the bread produced from this oven is both delicious and wholesome. In the evenings Dr Matthews entertains the visitors with magic lantern lectures, which are greatly appreciated.
The party are having a most enjoyable time at these Springs and are expected to return to Greytown early next week.’
Later a Mr and Mrs Hobbs ran the resort. During the Second World War they went to one of the large POW camps in Pietermaritzburg, where many Italian Prisoners were detained and chose three prisoners to work at the Lilani Hot Springs. The three men were Frank, Mario and Inchenso Caruso. The men worked there from March 1945 until 1948; building, terracing the gardens, and generally helped with the running of the Hydro resort for a shilling a day. In 1948 Frank Caruso applied to remain in South Africa and was accepted. Mr and Mrs Hobbs and Mr Sayer offered him a partnership in the resort which he accepted on the condition that he was given a trip home to Italy the following year, which condition was granted (Caruso, 1996). They now called the resort the Lilani Hydro Mineral Hot Sulphur Springs, Holiday and Health Resort. Trips off the tongue.
‘I’m from government and I’m here to help you’
In 1966 the Apartheid government decided to make sure resorts were strictly Whites-only or Blacks-only, so they terminated the lease and paid the owners R44 000 for their improvements. In 1972, having done sweet buggerall with their investment, they tried to get Frank Caruso to take back the lease, but he declined.
Correspondence and financial transactions before EFT and email:
Dr J Wright Matthews, the first proprietor of the Lilani Hot Springs Spa, applied for a prospecting license to search the valley for gold, asbestos, whatever. His application was granted and he paid the sum of £2.10 shillings as a deposit to the Natal Native Trust, Colony of Natal, on 28th July 1909.
In a letter, dated 21st December 1911, Dr Matthews applied for the return of his money as he had not used his prospecting license. In the reply to his request, dated 28th December 1912, his request was granted by the Acting Chief Native Commissioner in Natal, on the condition that Dr Matthews forwarded an affidavit to the effect that no surface damage was done under the prospecting permit. This affidavit was duly drawn up in Johannesburg, dated 5th January 1912. The Acting Secretary for Native Affairs in Pretoria was then instructed to forward a cheque to Dr Matthews by the Acting Chief Native Commissioner in Natal in his letter dated 9th January 1912. Nineteen days from application to ‘Refund granted – please pay the man!’ Not bad by any standards. Especially over Xmas / New Year time.
The hot springs
Six springs are known in the vicinity. Their temperatures range from 35°C to 40°C and their flow volume per hour from 770 to 3500 litres. The total flow of over 10 000 litres per hour would thus fill an average home swimming pool in about five hours.
The original founder of the Lilani Hot Springs as a spa
Mr Mbulungeni an early member of the community and who could have been an inkosi of the community, is spoken of in oral tradition as the ‘founder’ of the Lilani Hot Springs. Mr Mbulungeni is said to have sat on a large rock while waiting for the sun’s rays to shine into the valley, either before or after having a bath in the hot springs. When he died he was buried beside the large rock and to some of the community it is known as Remembrance Rock. It is situated above the road, at the last fork to the right before the turning circle at the old hotel site.
The history from a 2000 thesis by Ross Johnathan Hoole for his MSc in Geography at UKZN Pietermaritzburg – thank you!
Bruce Soutar thinks I know things, so he sends me stuff. Which I really enjoy! ‘What’s this?’ he often asks. This was a moth on his car in Mbona, an ‘eco estate’ in the KwaZulu Natal midlands.
Of course, I immediately knew – after asking Roy Goff of African Moths. He identified it as Pingasa abyssinaria – ‘a regular from that end of the continent. It has an unusual resting posture which often makes people notice it.’
Common name: Duster. Bruce’s picture (shown) is better than any of the pictures I could find on moth websites – not bad! Maybe we can call it The Mbona Duster? Thank you to African Moths and Christeen Grant’s magic Midlands nature blog for info and the use of their pictures temporarily till I found Bruce’s pics.
Judging by the beautifully fringed trailing edge of its wings, I’d guess it flies very quietly – the better to dodge bats and nightjars and other predators.
Unlike this Moth with Moth-eaten passenger which flies anything BUT quietly.
. . that Soutar was sold a story which he swallowed as he swallowed the fourth free sample they gave him in Ballito.
I don’t think this whisky:
. . is made in KwaZulu Natal.
Reason being they also make Cape Gins and they talk of Cape florals n shit.
But Soutar roared back:They said it is made in Mtunzini and taken to Cape Town for barrel age-ing. (then he adds unpatriotically) . . it was not very nice in comparison to the single malt Irish and Scots of which I had many. I only had one tot of this SA one – So Waaaaa !!!
Me: Mtunzini!? I’m beginning to like it again. I can just imagine . . . the connoisseur sniffs, sips, and says ‘hmmmm – subtle hints of crocodile shit . . . ‘
Low-key at home. Jess did it all herself; drew up lists, hired lights, organised a DJ who brought her own equipment; we bought some stuff; we bought booze. Jess invited a few good friends round, and so did I.
The oldies came early, we had a slide show on Jess from the early days. I was being a bit Nervous Norman, so thank goodness for hooligan friends. First the Lodders added their usual mayhem. Then star Lydia our Gautengaleng student friend stepped forward, deciding things were a bit quiet for a 21st. She took over the bar, mixing cocktails and getting the kids to pour them down their throats. The party was launched!
The adults disappeared except me in the background. Jess and her gang had a lovely evening with their favourite music and lots of chatting. Later, some boys arrived drunk but peaceful and friendly, and joined in. At eleven a neighbour complained about the music. I told him ‘just relax till midnight.’ – mea culpa, I had forgotten to tell the neighbours about the party! At midnight the DJ’s mom arrived to fetch her, they packed up and peace returned to the Palmiet valley.
We joined the Hills on their annual pilgrimage to Ponta Milibangala in the Maputo Elephant Park in Southern Mocambique. I think ca. 1999 – must check.
We needed 4X4 to get there, so swapped our smart, sleek up-to-date VW kombi for Bruce’s old rusty battered VW kombi 4X4 Syncro. OK, so that description wasn’t strictly true, but you’ll see why I needed to make it soon – upfront – for strategic reasons.
It was hot on the way. Between Xmas and New Year. Windows down wasn’t enough so we opened the front doors and a breeze wafted around our legs. That was better. Up and down we see-sawed in the sandy dunes. It had rained and water pooled in the bottoms of all the dips between dunes.
Then we hit one of those puddles a bit too fast. I was amazed at how big the bow wave was! We really weren’t going fast, but it still WAS too fast. Muddy water flooded the cab. I stopped to clean. It cleaned easily except: There was muddy water in the headlights outside and in the speedo gauge inside. I thought I saw tadpoles swimming at the 40km/h mark. Later they emptied but a high-water mark remained! At the camp I gave the kombi a big cleanup again, but the mudstains inside the headlights and speedometer were out of reach. There was no dodging this: I would have to confess to Howick’s Mayor-in-Exile, Broose Soutar.
Theo – 50kg Kingfish – latin name. Trevally – Spear fish
We snorkel’d with a whale shark – briefly. With no seeming effort he just swam away, too fast to keep up with.
Update 2020: The Hills went to Mili again – its about 22 years now that they made their sacred annual pilgrimage. The family has grown in all directions. Here they are, minus Tatum, but two girlfriends added:
McCord’s Zulu Hospital is a well-known institution in Durban. It was started in 1909 by Dr James B. McCord, who had studied medicine at Northwestern University in Illinois, qualifying in 1891.
McCord joined the Student Volunteer Missionary Movement at Oberlin College in Ohio and there met his future wife, Margaret Mellen, who was born in Natal when her parents had been missionaries there. She and James fell in love and decided to go to Africa as missionaries.
In 1899 he was sent to Adams Mission in Amanzimtoti as a medical missionary. Medical services for Africans in Natal at the beginning of the twentieth century were meagre at best and at worst non-existent.
So, right at the start of the Anglo-Boer War, James and Margaret, accompanied by two young daughters, travelled to South Africa in a troop ship carrying British soldiers! In 1902 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in London. He then moved to Durban where he remained for the rest of his working life. Initially he opened a clinic and a dispensary. To establish his hospital for Zulus in a fashionable part of Durban Dr McCord had to battle ingrained prejudice and unfounded fears. In time McCord’s Zulu Hospital became a well-known institution in Durban, gaining a reputation for excellence both in its treatment of patients and for its teaching and research. Predictably some whiteys agitated for it to be removed from the Berea to a ‘black area’ but – not predictably – they didn’t get their way.
It was here that the McCords trained the first African women to become nurses, and fought for them to become registered by the nursing profession overcoming suspicion and the deadweight of bureaucracy. They received great help from Katie Makanya, whose knowledge of isiZulu and allround capabilities were essential to their success. At first he was assisted by two doctors who worked part-time and one trained nurse. His wife Margaret served as nurse and business manager. Much later the hospital staff expanded to include nine doctors, and 150 nursing sisters and trainees.
By the time of Dr. McCord’s retirement in 1940 at age 70, African female nurses were being licensed for the first time. His dream of establishing a medical school to educate and qualify African doctors was realized in 1947, three years before he died, when the University of Natal in Durban brought into being a Faculty of Medicine for black students, now named after Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Our own dealings with McCords were all good. When Trish’s Mom Iona was well in her eighties the orthopod there advised her to rather not risk a hip replacement. Sound advice we thought.
In 2014 the Provincial Government of KwaZulu Natal took over the McCord’s Zulu Hospital and converted it into a specialist eye hospital, McCord’s Provincial Eye Hospital. I now readily refer people without medical insurance to McCords these days for cataract and other eye surgery. They get great treatment there.
Dr. McCord wrote his autobiography My Patients Were Zulus (Rinehart & Co., New York, 1946); His daughter Margaret wrote The Calling of Katie Makanya (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1995) about McCord’s first translator, theatre nurse and ward supervisor, who worked with him for over 40 years.
From a paper by Prof Dennis Luck of Oberlin College Ohio, sent to Bruce Soutar. Bruce and Heather took Dennis – who grew up in Durban – and his wife to see Ohlange Institute at Inanda, a high school founded in 1900 by Rev Dr John Langalibalele Dube and his first wife Nokutula. It was the first educational institution in South Africa to be founded by a black person. Like Dr McCord and Prof Luck, Dube had studied at Oberlin, and was a founder of the ANC. Nelson Mandela cast his first free democratic vote in 1994 at Ohlange school.
Pics from Hugh Bland’s great Natal-History-Saving site KZNPR. Go and have a look at it.
Do go and look at a new book The People’s Hospital by Julie Parle & Vanessa Noble is available free to download online. Wonderful old photos like this one in a spacious ward:
Bruce Soutar sent this to his connection in the USA, who replied:
From: Prof Dennis Luck
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018
Many thanks for sharing with me comments from various people who have read the “one-pager” on James B. McCord. It seems that they found it interesting and informative.
I’ll never forget the day, some years back, when I stumbled across McCord’s autobiography, My Patients Were Zulus, in a second-hand bookshop in Oberlin that was going out of business. What a lovely connection between Durban, where I was born and grew up, and Oberlin, where I taught at the College for 33 years before retiring in 2005. I never knew that James McCord was a graduate of Oberlin College until that time!
John Dube, by the way, was not a graduate of Oberlin College: he attended the College for only two years,1888-1890 (thus overlapping with James McCord), before returning to South Africa. On a return visit to the US in 1897 he studied at the Union Missionary Seminary in Brooklyn, New York, for two years: in 1899 he was ordained as a priest thus becoming the Rev. John Dube. Finally, in 1936 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of South Africa, becoming Dr. John Dube. Oberlin College is very proud of him, and claims him as one of their own!
Another by- the- way: my field was biochemistry, not microbiology. Sorry to be so pedantic – I guess it comes from being an academic!!
The de Havilland Tiger Moth is a tailwheel biplane first built in the 1930’s. It was used by the RAF and remained in service until the early 1950s. Many of the military surplus aircraft remain in widespread use as recreational aircraft.
Recently my friend Bruce went for a spin in one and sent me some pics:
Astonishingly, this plane is older than this pilot!
Our Environment Minister Valli Moosa had at last grasped the nettle and was closing the beaches to hooligans! We approved, and time and research has shown it was the right decision. It has had a positive impact on the ecology of the coastal zone, with a recovery of resident reef fish species and breeding birds.
Regulations for the control of use of vehicles in the coastal zone (Government Notice 1399 of 21 December 2001) published in terms of section 44 of the National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998).
But! We admit: We do love driving on the beach! So Bruce Soutar was quick to spot the opportunity for a Last Drive before the regulations came in to force, so he gathered a bunch of people to both celebrate and mourn the closure.
We had the Soutar VW Kombi, Kemp Jeep, Gail Pajero, Duncan __ and Swanie Ford and one other –?
This from my LepSoc newsletter: Hi everyone; We will be doing a day trip to Tswaing crater, just north of Pretoria, on the 24th September, where special butterflies such as Brown-lined Sapphires, Saffron Sapphires, Hutchinson’s Highfliers, etc. can be seen.
~~~~o0o~~~~ Us lepidopterists see not only these high fliers, but others such as Skollies, Nightfighters, Pirates, Policemen and Admirals. Playboys and Pansies are also sought-after! One can go prancing after them wearing a pith helmet and waving a net! What’s not to love?
There’s even one called swanepoelii and one called brauerii
Lepidopterism is one of the more fun diseases to contract, and lepidopterists lead exciting lives! ~~~~o0o~~~~
Keep your net stockings on.
We off to Karkloof today. Will try to bring back a dead Karkloof Blue.
That and a Pink Elephant.
¶¶ . . and a Stuffed Delegorgue’s Pigeon, a Dead Cape Parrot and . .
¶¶ Planks from a Yellowwood Tree . . ¶¶
Hey! We could write a song like that . . .
steve reed wrote:
When we lived in Clarens we had an annual visitation by what must have been the self-same Swanepoel. Khaki clad solitary figure, fleet-footing round the village with his net like something out of Peter Pan. Regarded by the locals with great interest (and a good level of suspicion ) . . .
A Real-Life Lepidoptometrist:
Hilton Pike is a nimble optometrist fella who darts around lithely with a butterfly net, holding it rather like Obelix doesn’t hold his menhirs. A talented lad, young Hilton, he builds fancy hi-fidelity speakers, refurbishes phoropters and mounts butterflies with pins on polystyrene in glass cabinets, all the while making children. Lovely chap, I miss him. Where is he?
One of me own: Lepi Fordus radiatorii
Swanepoel, David Abraham (1912–1990). Swanepoel began collecting in 1925. Pennington’s Butterflies of southern Africa (Pringle et al. 1994) describes Swanepoel as follows: ‘Probably no other person has spent as much time and effort in the pursuit of butterflies in the field as this great collector, who had the tremendous gift of being able to excite others about butterflies. His immaculate collection is in the Transvaal Museum. He discovered many new species and subspecies and published many descriptions of new taxa.’
His list of publications includes the book Butterflies of South Africa: where, when and how they fly, published in 1953 in Holland at his own cost. At the time, it was one of the most valuable reference guides to South African butterflies, citing his many collection localities across the length and breadth of South Africa. He collaborated closely with both Georges van Son and Ken Pennington. Popular names for many of South Africa’s butterflies were proposed by him. (SANBI Biodiversity Series 16 (2010)6 – ).
Swanepoel ended his book with these words: ‘In laying down my pen at the end of what has been to me a pleasure able task, I take occasion to dedicate this book to all naturalists and friends, without whose kindness and ungrudging aid it must inevitable have left much to be desired; and to those naturalists who may one day wander over the numerous paths that have afforded me so many happy, unforgettable hours – these would hardly have been possible without the grace of the Creator of all the beautiful forms described in this book. As mentioned in the introduction, this work is by no means complete, and if one day it is revised by some future observer, may he fulfil my dearest wish by building a great entomological castle upon this small foundation stone.’ (Epilogue of D.A. Swanepoel’s book, page 316).
Read more about David A Swanepoel and other pioneering flutterby enthusiasts – here.
I was lucky enough to meet Ivor Migdoll, who wrote the next butterfly book (as far as I know, the first field guide) in 1987. He came to me for his glasses in Durban, and we had some good chats and I loved using his book (since mislaid!). I found it!!
And of course we are all lucky now to have Steve Woodhall, who has built on these two books’ foundations – as well as the big Pennington Butterfly ‘bible’ – and brought out his vastly improved field guide in 2005. He tells the story of how Ivor Migdoll became ill and quietly withdrew from public life. Pippa Parker of Struik Nature told him they were planning a completely new edition of the Field Guide to Butterflies (Ivor’s best-selling book) but could not get hold of him. I did some digging and discovered that he had a horrible, little-known condition called ‘burning mouth syndrome’ and could hardly speak. Hence his reluctance. And so the new book was born:
It wasn’t that we were actually, y’know, OLD, but . . . well, we needed a break and a brief flashback to our glory days, when the chicks used to hurl themselves at us. Well, that one. In the harbour, remember? So we piled into a kombi and headed off to the Wild Coast, looking for That Famous Stuff they sell down there, and hoping to rendezvous with the Swedish Hockey team. OK, the Swedish Old Girls Hockey Team, who were rumoured to be doing pre-season training in Lusikisiki (or, as we called it after crawling out of The Shy Stallion shebeen) Lo-squeaky-squeaky.
As we neared the coast there was a lo-ong downhill ahead of us and I stopped the kombi and got onto Abbers’ mountain bike and whizzed down with glee. As I reached terminal velocity I did think Uh-Oh! as I felt the effects of the Black Label kicking in. At the bottom I coasted to a halt. I don’t do uphills.
It was the Black Label by the quart and sweet wine that did it, I suppose, but when we got to the actual coast where the waves break against the rugged shore, we were looking for some action. We needed a break from all the Sixties music we’d been playing, broken only by one awful interlude when Bruce snuck an Amy Winehouse CD into the player! So we lay down and had a snooze.
But Abbers had brought that borrowed mountain bike, and we no longer wondered why. Seems he wanted to get away from the competition and meet up with a longtime connection he had met when salvaging the good ship BBC China which foundered off Grosvenor back when he was but a boy in his forties. Off he went on his own, heading vaguely south, trapping that fiets stukkend.
When he got back much later there was a distinct whiff of some smoky vegetation about him and the Msikaba mosquitoes avoided him like the plague. We pumped him for information, but all we got was a mumbled “Loose-titty-titty” and the fact that he had not found the now-overdue Swedish Old Girls Hockey Team, but that when we did he dabzed wrestling with the goalie. Abbers’ head did clear after a few days and he set off fishing so as to be able to answer spouse Les reasonably honestly, give or take; but the fish were having none of it. You could actually see them giving his bait a wide berth and wrinkling up their nostrils.
wikipedia: MV BBC China was a 5,548 GT general cargo vessel. In October 2003 the ship was diverted to Italy while carrying gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment to Libya. In October 2004 it ran aground near Port Grosvenor, was declared a total loss and subsequently demolished with explosives. BY ABBERS! This is true.
trapping that fiets stukkend – pedaling vigorously
Meanwhile, unbeknown to us . . . a few rivers further north, the Swedish ladies K4 paddling team was training on the Umtamvuna:
This is true. OK, they might not have been there that same weekend but they did go there! And they were Swedish. And gorgeous.