Africa, Aitch, Life, Sport

Aitch MTB Club

On finding out that Aitch had belonged to a ladies mountain bike group, a friend said (in Sept 2013) . . “I didn’t realize she was such a keen bean cyclist – seems there were not many things she did not try her hand at?”
Maybe we can fathom why Aitch got so keen on pedalling . .
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“The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands.
And, when it gets old and  shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the whole community” – quote attributed to Ann Strong
“Marriage is a wonderful invention.
Then again, so is the bicycle”  (and – the bike comes with a far simpler repair kit)
quote attributed to Jacquie Phelan
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“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”

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” . . before mountain-biking . . (and electric biking) . . came to the scene, the biking scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm”
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“Work to ride – and ride to work”

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“Four wheels move the body.
Two wheels move the soul”

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“If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride”

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“Don’t ride faster than your guardian angel can fly”

(Quotes written on a blackboard at Aitch’s “Angels Mountain Biking Club” coffee shop)

Here’s their guardian angel – who could ride MUCH faster than all of them . . He led their trail rides and looked after them. I never met him but she told me his name. And she’d kick me for not remembering it!

Aitch's ANGELS MTB club (6)

 

 

Aitch, Family & Kids, Life

Seven Years Today

You would be SO jealous if you were watching down from your cloud right now. The kids are in SUCH a good space. They’re a pleasure to be with. Sure, they give me a bloody hard time often and sure, they manipulate the hell out of me but they love their Dad!

May this last a few more years and then may they depart and start sending money home. Hey, we gotta aim high.

We miss you and talk about you lots still.

2003Apr kombi tom dizzi gayle jess trish 2
Two sober kids in this picture – champagne on the shores of Lake Sibaya

Oh, and Sambucca has gone grizzly about the gills and eye sockets. Past grey, her muzzle is now white. Also her eyesight ain’t what it used to be and she’s deaf. Otherwise she’s fine. Still manages to fool one of us into feeding her twice by promising earnestly that she hasn’t eaten for DAYS, when someone else just fed her. She has recently discovered her bark (I think that’s about all she can hear now) so she has gone from a silent snoozer to an enthusiastic barker who can only be shut up by tapping her on the shoulder and signalling SHURRUP! That causes her to bounce around with glee saying “I KNEW there was someone here! So it’s you!”

 

Sambucca old (2).jpg

Also, we found this in the garage this week: Sambucca’s pedigree! You hid it! So this is why she cost us R2000 when all our previous dogs had come free or with a R20 note tied on their collar!?

Sambucca Pedigree.jpg

So now we know Sambucca was born 23 August 2006. Twelfth birthday coming up, greybeard!

Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Nostalgia

WWAD

What Would Aitch Do? Tom and I had cause to ponder this deep question last night. I saw these cups in the sink. They were there because the usual twenty cups were all used and washing a cup just to re-use it is unthinkable.

I said, ‘Tom, rather don’t use these cups m’boy’ and he said mildly, ‘OK, Dad’ – employing the proven tactic of humour the old bugger, he’ll soon forget about it.

So I paused and said, ‘Actually, I wonder: What do you think Mom would have said about you using that cup?’ ‘Oh, definitely Don’t Use It, said Tom.

I agree then, I said, but I wonder now, peering down from her cloud, if she wouldn’t say ‘WTF, Life Is Short, Just Use it!’.

Tom pondered. ‘No’, he said, ‘She’d say Don’t Use It’.

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*update* They’re in full circulation now. Just cups.

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

Mkhuze with the Excells

Long-time friends of Trish’s from Cape Town days, Val & Pete Excell came out from the UK to visit in 2009. Trish was finished her chemo and was ‘in remission’. She had been with Val when their little Claire – now about 30 – was born. Val had bought two new Nikon P90 cameras, one for her and one for Trish, so they were excited about the four million pictures they were about to take.

We stayed in a beautiful bush camp – Nhlonhlela has solitude and its own cook and guide – sheer luxury! Patrick the Shembe was great and taught us plenty about his ‘home patch’. He showed us a green, a bronze and a black dung beetle and two yellow and black beetles, and taught us how to tickle a scorpion.

Patrick the Shembe teaches

Mkhuze with the Excells 2009

One night in main camp (disorganised KZN Wildlife!), then three in bush camp

The kids were in a lovely pre-teen space and just reveled in the experience.

Mkhuze with the Excells 2009-007

Twelve year-old Jess: Help me Dad, I can do this with you; Eight year-old Tom: LEAVE the wheel Dad, I can do it on my own.

Mkhuze with the Excells 2009-002

Lots of slow walking in the lush green countryside.

MkhuzeExcells2009 Val Pete_2

 

When we had to drink  for medicinal purposes, the kids manned the kombi-pub, pouring the champagne and opening the beers and savannahs.

Aitch, Family & Kids, Life

Prof Chris Barnard’s Farewell

At the airport yesterday I saw a new book on Professor Chris Barnard by James Brent-Steyn: ‘Heartbreaker’.

It’s fifty years since the world’s first heart transplant and the famous surgeon and playboy is in the news again.

A while ago I had found Aitch’s 1983 diary . Her entries to record her overtime as a cardiovascular perfusionist doing heart ops had abbreviations likes “palliative VSD 1.5hrs; MVR 1.5hrs; CVG”. One of her entries in December was ’17h00 Wed 14 Dec Farewell for CNB, Nurses Lounge, Clarendon House’. I knew that CNB meant Christiaan Neethling Barnard as she worked with him at the time. She would run the heart-lung machine to oxygenate the blood while he and the other surgeons worked on the patient’s heart.

I had time before my flight so I  thought I wonder if they have anything about his retirement in the book? and flipped through it.

And there she was on page 216:

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (2)

So I had to buy it to show the pic to Jess and Tom. Jess said “Cool”; Tom shrugged: “We knew Mom was famous!”

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (1)

~~~oo0oo~~~

Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Life, Nostalgia

Time Scurries

Hate it, but it’s true: Things fade. A month late on our annual tribute. Six years now. Don’t worry, you still do occasionally cause changes to the way we do things, and “But Mom said . . ” is still used to some effect!

Jess still regularly asks if there wasn’t more we could have done to save or cure Mom. When she hears of a new treatment for some or other disease she’ll ask “Why didn’t they do this for Mom?” I explain the difference between bacteria and viruses and cancer to her each time.

Here’s what she wrote to you this Mothers Day:

Jess Mom's Day 2017 (1)

Jess Mom's Day 2017 (2)

Yeah, I cried . . .

She was on her Bhejane field guide course up north of Hluhluwe and lonely as anything. Her selfie was taken in the little wooden Wendy hut she stayed in.

 

Aitch, Life, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Recent Hella Hella History – Including a Wedding

My potted history of the two farms on opposite banks of the Umkomaas below the Hella Hella:
About fifty years ago when The Beatles were still The Quarrymen, a Pom family Wimbury hopped on to the mail ship in Pomerania to boldly go forth and do work in the colonies for the Great White Queen.
On board that ship was an 18yr old nubile South African on her way back from a gap year before they were called gap years, in Europe. Especially Italy where she learned some Italian, some Italian cooking, and did you know Lyn had a magnificent opera singing voice?
The Pom family and the Seffrican lass hit it off on board and soon the Wimbury family of England met the Payn family of Hella Hella on the banks of the mighty Mkomazi.

Hella Hella 2016 (5).jpg
The Payn homestead at Hella Hella

Meantime elsewhere a Jo’burg architect called Porter was making a good living and buying farms as a hobby. One of them became the Harold Porter Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay. He sent his son Barry off to PMB varsity to get a BSc agric and then bought him a farm on the right bank of the Mkomazi opposite the Payns. This magnificent 5000 acre farm had the imposing Hella Hella mountain on it.

They called it Game Valley Estates and stocked it with nyala, impala, zebra, wildebeest and blesbok to add to the bushbuck, duiker, warthog, reedbuck and oribi that were there. That was the only time they ever stocked it. ca 1970.

Well, Barry had a Landrover cabriolet and wore short pants and long socks, and Lyn wore dresses so it was inevitable. They spotted each other across the mighty Mkomazi, their eyes locked and the two families were united in a river dynasty, solving the problem of parts of Barry’s farm being cut off from him and him having to traverse the Payn land to get to Ottos.

Hella Hella 2016 (15)
Otto’s homestead nowadays

Except not really, as Barry and the Payn parents had quite a prickly relationship, kinda like porcupines meeting and sniffing but not embracing. So the farms were never united, Barry would grumble about how they didn’t appreciate the value of game fencing and when Mrs Payn put the farm up for sale and Barry could have negotiated they never got round to discussing a price and Trevor English bought it for a good price and Barry STILL had the prickly feeling of having to traverse someone else’s land to get to the other half of his farm! And English didn’t appreciate the value of game fencing.

Barry stayed at Otto’s at first, so his and Lyn’s eyes actually probly locked while he drove his Landie across their lawn, not trans-river. Once they got wedlocked they moved up to Highover.

Barry & Lyn's old Highover homestead from 1974 (Warren was a 1yr old!)
Barry & Lynne’s old Highover homestead from 1974 (Warren was a 1yr old!)

Where they had a little porcupine – rescued when a Ford F150 did a caesarian section on its Mom at 65mph. It used to scurry around in the walls of their house between the corrugated iron and the rhino board inner walls. They also had Warren there and we bumped into him by chance a couple years ago and together we checked out the ruins of the house where he was born forty years prior.

Meantime Barry and Lyn built a lovely new home at the foot of the Hella Hella, and the little Wimbury baby girl was growing shapelier and shapelier and she went nursing at Addington where the Weermag had sentenced a newly-knighted luitenant in the Medical Corps to hard labour: “You arre herreby sentenced to live in Doctorrs’ Quarrterrs and test eyeballs, including those of the 600 nurses ensconced in the Addington Nurses Res”.

What could I do? I obeyed. One of them was called Richenda Wimbury and she said you must come with me to a farm called Hella Hella. I took a peek at her legs and said OK. And so I met Lyn and Barry. It was 1980.

Me, Barry, McDuff, Richenda, Warren and Lynne at Hella Hella
Me, Barry, McDuff, Richenda, Warren and Lynne at Hella Hella

Later Richenda did audiology and moved to Wentworth hospital where she met a cardiovascular perfusionist called Humphrey in 1985, arranged a Sunday braai and introduced her new friend to me and my friend Bernie the Jet. That was Aitch and the rest of that part of this tale was history.

Porters Hella Hella (1)

In 1988 Aitch and I got married at Hella Hella. We had been frequent guests and would continue to visit often for years to come. The farm meantime had been declared a Natural Heritage site. It was going to be the first marriage on the farm, but a Pee Aitch (professional hunter) and his chick got excited one night around the braai fire and suddenly got married. Technically, you could call theirs a shotgun marriage, right?

Here you can see the Natural Heritage plaque and certificate on the wall behind the bride-to-be:

. . and you make sure he knows who's . .

KCC mate Andre Hawarden made our wedding invites, complete with named rapids on the Dusi, Umgeni and Umko in case any guest wanted a quick paddle on the way!

Invite by Andre Hawarden (see how he has Duzi, Umngeni & Umko rapids named)

Hella Hella. Game Valley Estates. Lyn & Barry Porter our hosts
The Hella Hella behind us

We started raising kids around 1998 and that led to less visits. Later Barry & Lyn sold the farm to a consortium led by a local estate agent who – finally – united the two Hella Hella farms into one logical unit, doing what I wished Barry could have done decades earlier. Of course it’s always easy with someone else’s money! Oscar Wilde said “Advice is wonderful stuff – in the giving”.

They bought a lovely unit in a complex in Umzumbe and Barry hit the trail, traveling far and wide on birding trips. Their son Warren was selling big trucks nearby; Barry’s brother’s Litchi Farm was close – outside Port Shepstone; McDuff, the younger son did heavy duty diving (oil rigs n stuff) all over the world; Lyn got busily involved in local orchid society – ‘The Akward Society’ we joked – and other affairs.

After Aitch’s first chemo in 2007 we went to Hella Hella for the first time since those days, staying in the lovely new cottages next to The Approaches. We woke up one morning and there was a big furry creature on Aitch’s pillow. It was her hair!

Then in 2011 Lyn died of breast cancer, Barry got a leg infection and died, and Aitch died – also breast cancer. February, April and July. Annus horribilis.

Recently a vulture hide in Oribi Gorge was unveiled: Barry would be delighted that it’s not just called “Barry’s Hide”. It’s called

The Barry Porter Memorial Vulture Viewing Hide.

 

 

You’ll understand why he would have loved the full formal title when I tell you he made us a tool to dig up plants. It had a handle like a motorbike, footsteps to step on to dig deep and the blade was made of the high-tensile steel of a cultivator blade. A Plant-Digger you might think? No. It had a neat label on it:

Porter’s Powerful Patented Plant-Pincher.

He also made us an intricate bird feeder labeled:

Barry’s Bizarre Balancing Bird Bistro. I found a photo with a bit of the bird bistro in the background behind Kiza Cele holding Jessie in the garden at 7 River Drive Westville. Note the dead branch for photography so you didn’t get artificial metal in your pic; the platform for seed; the various arms had spikes for oranges, cradles for bananas and pawpaws and small holders for suet and nuts. A full-buffet bistro indeed!

River Dr Kiza Jess Bizarre Bird Bistro

 

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