The Goatitudes – 4. Bear Witness

The old man gets The Witness delivered to his gate daily. He has fetched it at the gate at around 5am for decades. His 96yr-old legs started protesting against this chore so he recently roped in the kid next door. For R20 a month the kid now hangs the packet it comes in on the back door.

The paper – as The Natal Witness – was first printed in 1846 and it has been going continuously ever since. Today the old man tells me has read it for 91 years, since he was five. His Dad used to sit on his ‘captain’s chair’ holding it spread out in front of him and Dad used to creep under the paper, lean against Oupa’s boep and ask ‘Wat’s daai? En Wat’s Daai? En Daai?’, pointing at pictures and words.

When he moved to Harrismith he subscribed to it through the local bookstore.

Ah, but now he remembers: After a few years the lady there said The Witness was stopping delivery. The schlep of delivering a single copy to the station late at night, hot off the press, for it to be railed from Pietermaritzburg to Harrismith was just not worth it. So no longer would The Natal Witness fly along the rail, past Chievely, Estcourt and Weenen where the Boer War was fought and Churchill was captured, die blerrie rooinek. Through Ladysmith which was besieged and relieved; Nor up the Drakensberg mountains over rail bridges my Great-Grandfather built, through van Reenen, through Swinburne, over the sandstone bridge over the Wilge River to Harrismith station; up to Havenga se boekwinkel, fresh for delivery to Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel, formerly of Pietermaritzburg, The Natal Witness’ home town. No.

So he subscribed to The Star, which came from Johannesburg, but now he got it one day late. So his reading of The Witness, which he continued once he got back to PMB some twenty years ago, was not continuous.

Still, it FEELS as though he has read it for 91 years.


Jessie’s Safari

She passed her matric, so got to choose her holiday! A Safari, Dad! Well, wasn’t Dad pleased!





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At Nambiti outside Ladysmith. Springbok Lodge. Jess loved the accommodation and the food and the big beasts.

There were also wonderful little beasts.

Then this! The best sighting: I had been polite about birding all along – it was Jessies’s trip and she wanted big furry smelly creatures. Also we had Poms on board. But when a quail flushed and Tascha drove on saying ‘common quail’ I said ‘Whoa! Let’s have a look, please.’ Luckily it obligingly came out of the grass and back onto the track where we could see it was special. I got a reasonable picture, but Tascha had a better camera. This is her pic:  A Harlequin Quail!

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The food was really special, the chefs took great pride in their work. Jess took to our Ranger Tascha the Pom and loved the drives.

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Here she watches three male lions try to attack hippos in a dam. The hippos were having none of it, so there was a standoff. Threats and splashes.

On the other end of the scale I watched a tiny green mantid nymph (half the size of a matchstick) rock and sway, trying to look like a leaf, then dart forward on his four legs – no wings yet – then sway and mimic a leaf in a breeze. Amazing feisty little fella was stalking ants, it seemed. I clean forgot to take a picture!

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Well done, Jess! And thanks for a lovely celebratory trip, my star!!