Africa, Family & Kids, Free State, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Victor Simmonds, Artist

Dad: “Victor Simmonds was a lovely chap and a very good artist. He was a little man, grey, a lot older than me. What? How old? Well, I was probably 35 then and he was grey. He was probably 50. He lodged with Ruth Wright on the plot next door to ours, Glen Khyber. I doubt if he paid them any rent, they were probably just helping him out. He moved to the hotel in Royal Natal National Park where they allowed him to sell his art to the guests and that probably paid his rent.

“He was a hopeless alcoholic, unfortunately. He used to come to me begging for a bottle of brandy late at night, his clothes torn from coming straight across to Birdhaven from Glen Khyber, through the barbed wire fences. I said ‘Fuck off, Victor, I won’t do that to you,’ and sent him away. I wish I had bought one of his paintings. Sheila found these paintings he gave me for nothing. He said he did these as a young student. As I took them he said ‘Wait, let me sign them for you.'”

– maybe a self portrait? –
– nude with amphora? –
– semi-nude with two amphorae? –
– maybe the Kak Spruit at Glen Khyber? – possibly –

So I went looking and found a lot of his work available on the internet. Once again Dad’s memory proved sound. Victor was born in 1909, thus thirteen years older than Dad.

Victor Simmonds’ work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $126 to $256, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2012 the record price for this artist at auction is $256 for South African landscape with two women carrying wood, sold at Bonhams Oxford in 2012.

– South African Landscape With Two Women Carrying Wood – Golden Gate area? –
Shrubs beside a cascading stream

I just knew this scene! To me this looks like the stream above the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal National Park – So I went looking, and at Love Camping I found:

– spot on! – an image locked in my brain for forty or more years! –
– sunset, poplar trees, a river – the Wilge? –

A number of his paintings are available for sale. I’d love to see his ‘The Gorge, Royal Natal National Park, Showing the Inner Buttress and Devils Tooth’ but I’d have to subscribe for one day at 30 euros! That one was apparently painted in 1980, so he kept going for at least 23 years after he stayed in our neck of the woods. That would have made Victor around 70 and his liver a resilient organ.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Nostalgia, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Secrets of the Cavern

Off to the ‘Berg with the kids. To a hotel! A real hotel! The Cavern in the foothills of the Drakensberg. At last their Dad listened and took them somewhere they didn’t have to cook and clean! (This was back in 2012).

They loved it. Especially once they worked out one of the secrets of the place: If you gave any hotel employee your room number, he or she would give you anything you wanted under the sun. They had discovered the key to endless riches. They loved it. They no longer needed me. All they needed was to quickly invent their first signatures. When I said I was going off on a hike, did anyone want to come along? No! Go! Enjoy yourself Dad, BYE! They watched impatiently as I packed my rucksack with lunch and binocs and books. Go, Dad!

Movies, the pool table, tennis, drinks at the pool – all ‘free’!

With them happy in civilisation it was up to me to enjoy the hills and valleys, wildlife and – especially – birdlife.

This long-tailed grass lizard looks like a snake as he whips through the grass after grasshoppers. But look closely at his body:

– his tiny legs can be seen in the red boxes –

The next day I encouraged a bit more action. With some trepidation these townies went horse-riding.

– and loved it –
– Tom tried fishing –

The other secret was mine: a secret rendezvous with a buxom lady I had met many years before.

Africa, Aitch, Free State, Vrystaat, Nostalgia, Travel, Travel Africa

Annie and her Sherpas summit Mt aux Sources

Mt aux Sources, winter 1993. Sheila organises a gang to summit the peak. Lots of people. Sheila can organise!

Anne 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’.

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Next morning we find out why Sheil had insisted on the spot: That’s the sunrise view from our tent. OK, 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.

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Chilly, windy, glorious mid-winter morning.

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

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

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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.

Hover flies are also fascinating.