Nothing New Under the Sun

The quote ‘there is no new thing under the sun,’ comes from the Bible book of Ecclesiastes, which is said to be written by a King of Jerusalem. ‘He’ tells of his experiences and tries to learn from them. He is often refreshingly self-critical. The author writes under the pseudonym ‘Kohelet’ – translated as Ecclesiastes.’

He introduces ‘the kohelet’ – thus not himself – as the son of David. Who the author actually is, is never revealed. Only right at the end does he change from ‘quoting Kohelet’ and give his own thoughts, proclaiming all the actions of man to be inherently vain or futile, as . . . we all die.

At least he does endorse living wisely; he says we should live a good earthly life, even if it has no eternal meaning. Enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one’s work.



You have to marvel. Awesome wonder and all that. Be gobsmacked. Cameras were invented around 1826 and the first personal cameras were sold to the general public around 1900 when Kodak Brownies cost $1.

1000memories blog tells us this –
By 1930 about a billion photos were being taken a year
By 1960 about 3 billion photos a year
By 1970 10 billion
By 1980 25 billion
By 1990 57 billion
By 2000 86 billion

And then we decide ‘Fuckit let’s REALLY start taking us some pictures!’ – let’s all carry a camera around all the time. And even if there’s nothing to photograph, let’s just take a picture of ourselves. That way we’ll ALWAYS have a subject.
Brilliant, aren’t we?

So today we’re taking about 380 billion photos a year AND we’re keeping them. Many early photos got lost, nowadays most don’t! Not even the ones where you cut off Aunt Enid’s head. Nor the close-up of that sandwich you ate. Holy guacamole!

My kids add to this treasure trove of priceless art:

– Jess does it –
More selfies
– Tom does it –
LoddersSoutars Baldy
– I have done it –

Here’s where this ‘fine art’ is stored:

– facebook has the most photos BY FAR – then flickr – then instagram –


Pulling Frontwards

FRIDAY 31st JULY - 18H00 Meet Ken in the Conference Room for a talk, “Zulu Military Systems”.
SATURDAY 1st AUGUST - 09H00 Depart for the Kerkenberg, to see where Piet Retief’s daughter wrote her father’s name on the rock; and the Kaalvoetvrou (barefoot woman) Monument at Retief’s Pass. From this magnificent vantage point on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, you’ll be told the story of the arrival of the Voortrekker parties, Retief’s visit to King Dingane and the tragedy that unfolded in the valleys below.
Return to The Cavern in time for lunch.

Ken makes it all come to life. But no thanks. I had enough of “the arrival of the Voortrekker parties” back in the sixties and early seventies to last me a few more decades, thank you. “The Great Pull” – Die Groot Trek – was an oft-repeated, always mocked theme throughout my lo-ong Free State school years.

Before we had Boy Scouts in Harrismith my good mate Leon Crawley joined the FrontPullers as we used to call them. The Voortrekkers. Later he told me they were going on a camp and made it sound so good I asked if I could join. Only if I ‘sluited aan’ said the Kommandant and Korporaal and Hoofleier and all those other menacing military-sounding mense that ran it. With their berets and badges and uniforms.

So I sluited aan and went to a pre-camp session, then joined them for that camp in winter in a wattle plantation on a farm outside Swinburne. Bok Venter’s farm. Where we sang lying songs and listened to lies exaggerations.

I did have fun, but I resigned the next week. So yes, I abused the Voortrekkers, I’m afraid. Used them, rather. Used, not abused.

wooden tent pegs.jpg

I remember the tents: Canvas with sloping roof and vertical walls, wooden poles, rough hessian rope guys, some metal pegs some wooden pegs. Remember wooden pegs?

No groundsheet, just bare dusty ground (no grass in a wattle plantation). We didn’t pitch them, they were ready-pitched. We didn’t dig trenches on the uphill side, though best practice said you had to do that – though it must be said there’s very little chance of rain in a Vrystaat winter. I didn’t think the FrontPullers weren’t big on actual camping lore though, and that’s what I wanted to learn. I had American Boy Scout books and I wanted the camping and survival stuff, not the history stuff.

A few years later we started Scouts: 1st Harrismith Troop. Now that was fun. Sure, the uniform was also military-like, but it felt more . . . anti-establishment somehow. Had I known more about British army atrocities in SA and the Scouts’ beginning in the British army in Mafeking in the Boer War I may have had a different outlook, I’m sure.


But, ignorant, I loved it! The 50 Mile hike down Normandien Pass. A blind-folded trip to Nondela and a compass-guided walk back.

Nondela koppie Drakensberg
Nondela on the Natal / Free State border

Being a Patrol Leader, choosing our name as Cheetah Patrol with brown and burnt orange shoulder tabs. Fishing. Canoeing. Cooking meals. Camping out. Sleeping out alone – character-building – that was a lo-ong night! Killing my first chicken and cooking it – character-building also. Building rafts and platforms. Watching a sheep being slaughtered – can’t have mutton without death, right? Father Sam of the Anglican church ran Scouts, assisted by Dick Clarke our municipal electrician, and Charlie Ryder, electrician and Dusi canoeist. Robbie and Wally Sharratt supported us and let us use their farms.

Good times, good people.


sluited aan – joined;

Die Groot Trek – mythical epic heroic trek into the interior; actually trekking away from the abolition of slavery and rule of law;

Beating a Not-So-Hasty Retreat

The Dundee (pronounced DinDear locally) athletic club and the Dundee Hysterical Society run a 21km foot race called the Isandlwana 21 or The Fugitives’ Trail half marathon every January on the closest Sunday to the 22nd which is when the homeland-defending Zooloos routed the wickedly-invading Poms in 1879 and gave them a well-deserved smack on the snoot. After this thrashing Mrs Queen Vic dished out her Crosses by the dozen like smarties to cover up their embarrassment. A fig leaf for the Empire’s nakedness, I say. ‘Have one of her crosses, mate, just don’t tell her what actually happened, mKay?’

The race starts on a hill overlooking the Isandlwana mountain and ends at Rorke’s Drift.

I went to run it one year and it was very special: Half the club members manning the water tables dressed as Zulus in full regalia, and half dressed as pith-helmeted, redcoated Poms. Some of the former were pale and some of the latter dark, to add to the hilarity. I was appropriately dressed in my Savages Club black n white vest with my number 482 on show. This was quite a while ago, shortly after the actual battle, I spose. When I joined Westville Club in the 21st century I was given number 8754357808F. I don’t think they valued me like Savages did.

The oke who started the race looked like a drunken Pommy colonel, his nose as red as his jacket. He had no gun, no whistle nor no trumpet. He had a moustache, and he rambled on about who had done what to whom in 1879 – a potted history in which I think he underplayed the extent of the well-deserved smack on the snoot. And then, when the ‘off’ time arrived, he shouted:


‘Course, in my specific case, all the Zooloos running that day were well ahead of me. Nevertheless, just like Mrs Queen Vic, the DinDear athletic club dished out Victoria Crosses liberally that day, even to slow coaches.


redcoats n zulus

The race result was something like this photo above.

We crossed the Buffalo river at Rorke’s Drift and finished at the famous mission of the same name:

I think the finishers medal is rather special – a cross between a Victoria Cross and a Zulu shield:

My VC from Isandlwana 21km

I later gave mine away to a great cause.