Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

They say that the camera never lies. Well, I'll tell you another thing that never lies...............a bathroom scale!

And as I write this, I'm once again planning my New Year Resolutions! I remember doing this the same time last year, and the year before……..vowing to cut out all sugar, starch, anything that remotely resembles a cake or a biscuit and picturing myself losing at least 10 kilos before the end of January.

Resolutions, January 1st

Ha! Also, eating half of what I normally eat and going for strenuous walks every day. Ha!

Resolutions January 2nd

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Catalyst Update!

I just had to share this with the cat-lovers among you.
Remember the camp cats that the good folk in Dubai were raising money for?
Well, here is some good news that Catherine sent to us this morning:

'You will be pleased to know that as of the 20th December we have managed to trap 41 cats at the camp. Of those cats, 22 females and 13 males have been sterilised and released. Sadly 5 male cats had to be put to sleep due to severe illness, but happily 1 very tame cat has been sterilised and homed.'
'Without people like you this project would have been a lot more difficult.'

Although I am sad for the five cats that didn't make it, at least they are no longer suffering, and that in itself is a blessing.
And just try to work out the number of kittens that will not be born, not die on the roads or starve to death, not be chased by dogs, or harmed by people; it must be hundreds, if not thousands, from these cats alone.

Apart from the camp cats, in the last few weeks, Catherine herself has trapped and 'sorted' another five cats, including two female tabbies, one limping badly from a previously broken leg. The vet said that the leg had healed and there was nothing further to be done.
These hard working and dedicated people have certainly earned a place in whatever Heaven they believe in.
I wish there were more people like them.

Here is a prayer to St Gertrude of Nivelles, the Patron Saint of cats (and those who love them). She was a 7th Century abbess and shares her Feast Day with St Patrick, 17 March.

           St Gertrude, grant a gentle end,
           To cats who suffer at the hands of men,
           Cats blinded, scalded, poisoned, maimed,
           Some, lost pets, seized when unclaimed,
           St Gertrude, hear my prayer this night,
           And grant them surcease from their plight.


I second that.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Wind, and then some!

We have been having some very hot days lately. Far too hot for me.

It happened very quickly though as a few weeks ago we had several days of the most unbelievable wind, gusting up to 65kph at times, causing tremendous damage both on land and sea. Ships were stranded in Cape Town harbour, unable to leave. One of them was the cruise ship 'MSC Sinfonia' and the passengers spent two days of their cruise, tied up! (Not the passengers, the ship!) Roofs were blown off, trees blown down and at one stage we heard on the radio that the SPCA had warned owners of small dogs not to let them out in case they blew away! Seriously! One lady phoned in to the radio station to say that her large Labrador had been blown sideways into a tree!
Fortunately we were fine here, we walked a little bent into the wind, but Alfie remained firmly on the ground, although his ears flapped a lot! Our roof did a fair amount of creaking and we did wonder if we would wake up to see the stars where the roof once was, but fortunately it held.

The Dry Dock at Saldanha harbour.

We went for a drive to Saldanha harbour, another favourite place of ours, to see what was happening in the dry dock. We were glad to see that two fishing boats were being repaired and painted, they look so different out of the water. Then we had a wander along the wall.

Poor boat.

Sadly we saw that one of the boats had sunk at her moorings, we don't know the story, but it's such a sad ending for a boat somehow. Like a fire engine burning, or a tractor being buried!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Fish Pond Paradise!

Soon after we moved into this house, we were given an old half-barrel that had, at one time, been a small fish pond. However, it had been standing empty for ages and had dried out to such an extent that we could see slits of daylight between the planks! We didn't know if the old pump still worked, and probably the best thing to do with it was fill it with soil and plant herbs in it! However, we like a challenge, so Rob filled it with water and gradually over a few days, the wood swelled and the barrel stopped leaking. And, amazingly the pump still worked! So we decided to buy a few goldfish. I had been given an old gieter or watering can, and Rob rigged this up with rope and cable ties so that the water flowed into the gieter and out through the spout back into the barrel!

A  Malechite male sunbird bathing at the gieter.

And it worked! We bought a few fish and left them to it. The only problem was, the water turned green within a few days and although we regularly changed it, using the pond water for the garden and filling it again from the rainwater tanks, we could hardly ever see the fish through the murk and algae! And after a bad start when we lost a few fish, the remaining two flourished! Eventually they were so big that they could literally only swim in a circle, and we felt really bad that they couldn't see where they were going! Even though they really weren't going anywhere!
So, we decided to buy ourselves an early Christmas present in the form of a new pond complete with filter and UV light! Rob ordered one from a company in Cape Town, and a couple of weeks ago, off we set to fetch it. Luckily it just fitted into the back of the Nissan, we thought we may have to put Alfie in it on the way home, but he sat on my lap and fidgeted all the way!

Let the games begin!

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Hurdy-Gurdy Lady!

I love markets! Mention the words 'bargains', open air', 'food', 'handmade', and I am at the door before you can say 'would you like to go and have a look?' So when Andrew mentioned that there was a big open-air market in Madrid, with lots of stalls and souvenirs, I was ready and very willing! One bus ride later, we joined the throng of people meandering their way between the stalls, some stopping and changing direction, some stopping and turning back, or some just stopping! It was packed!

See what I mean!?

I was worried about losing Andrew in the crowd as my Spanish is non-existent and I would never have found my way home, but fortunately he had Mateo on his shoulders, so I simply kept my eyes on Mateo's head!

Thursday, 6 December 2012


According to my 'Pocket Oxford Dictionary', catalyst means 'a person or thing that precipitates change.
Well, that describes my daughter Catherine to a T. She is known to her friends as Cat, a fitting name for her as it turns out!

She is involved now with several animal welfare groups in Dubai – one group who call themselves “Feline Friends” and another named the “Bin Kitty Collective”.  These are all dedicated, wonderful people who took it upon themselves to do something about the sad problem of feral and abandoned cats. Although the cats do a fantastic job of keeping the rat problem at bay, their numbers were increasing alarmingly. So began the TNR, or 'Trap Neuter Release' programme. In the last year, she has trapped over 30 cats. She pays most of the vet bills for these (some people do donate from time to time), she feeds them and tries to find homes for the few that are tame enough to handle. She helps with fund raising and supports anything that helps the cats.

Yesterday she sent this mail to everyone that she knows! Count the cats in the photo below:

Thanks to Cat

'A security guard at a labour camp in Dubai called this week pleading for help with a large number of stray animals that are living in their camp.
On investigation it was found that about 40-50 cats, and a few dogs, are living in the labour camp and being cared for by the labourers to the best of their ability and means. These animals are also breeding unchecked.
The cats and dogs need to be trapped, transported to the vet, assessed and neutered asap, They will also need to be relocated and the tamer ones possibly even homed as the labour camp is moving and these animals will essentially be abandoned as the labourers do not get to take them along.
Several animal groups in Dubai are mobilising to manage this but we desperately need help with funds to cover:
- vet costs and neutering
- transportation
- food
Many thanks.'

If anyone would like to contribute towards this please click through to the Fundrazr campaign or contact her via her blog

While we are on the subject of cats, one of our ex-ferals has interesting sleeping places! Rob came down to make coffee one day last week, to find a different 'fruit' in our fruit bowl!

Our squashed fruit!

It turned out to be Dilly (well named!). A 'purrberry' or a 'catapple'?

Parked for the day!

He also loves to lie in one of my wheelbarrows and watch the world go by.

A pansy by any other name!

And, this is him squashed into a wooden planter that Rob made!

Maybe I should have called him 'Weed'?

He was a feral, he is one of the lucky ones.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Food Glorious Food!

I seem to spend a great deal of time thinking (and talking) about food! And I feel that a holiday must be filled with 'edible memories'! In Dubai, as it was still quite hot during the day (up to 40 deg!), it was impossible to sit outside, so the fantastic lunches that Catherine and I enjoyed were eaten inside air-conditioned restaurants and delis. And I enjoyed every one! Too much! From Lebanese to Italian to Japanese to local, the presentation, quality and taste was such that I could feel the weight settle round my hips!

Our meal in Abu Dhabi!

But that was ok, because I knew that I would be doing more walking in Madrid and therefore I would lose it again!! Ever hopeful, that's me!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Viva España!

Dubai is an incredible place. A mix of very old and brand spanking new, shiny buildings. Clean, green and flowering roadsides rub shoulders with sand dunes. There are gigantic air conditioned shopping malls, man-made islands sprouting from the sea, shops that have absolutely everything from everywhere. My two weeks flew by and it was time to leave. Sadly.

Petunias in the desert!

Next stop, Spain!

The best part of flying is getting off the plane! That sounds odd I know, but, for me, the anticipation of seeing my family waiting in the arrivals hall, makes the whole ordeal bearable! So, when I left Dubai early in the morning after a wonderful holiday, I spent the entire flight to Madrid imagining myself walking through the doors and seeing my son! And after seven hours in the air and another almost twenty minutes after we landed waiting for the 'air-stairs' to be put in place, a march of what felt like ten kilometres, down several escalators, a five minute ride on an underground train, (I kid you not), a ten minute wait in the passport line, another five minute wait for my suitcase, (we took so long to get there, they were just about waiting for us!), a quick loo visit, and a fast walk with wheelie-case and bag, dodging past slower moving people, there he was! With my gorgeous granddaughter Emma! And as I cried with joy, she cried with horror at this strange lady doing a one-person version of a group hug!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

And the Winner is.........

Have a look at this;

Head and neck - 25 points awarded for large head, firm ears, long whiskers, shapely nose and lips, long neck
Upper body - 20 points awarded for large, shapely hump
Front - 15 points awarded for wide neck, strong shoulders, good feet
Rear - 10 points awarded for straight, strong legs
General appearance - 30 points awarded for shiny hair, overall health and fitness, space between toes
Source: Mohammed Abdullah al-Mehairi

You would be forgiven if you were under the impression that these are the criteria used for choosing the next Miss World! After all, apart from the shapely hump and long whiskers, and possibly the space between the toes, a lot of the things that they look for, are similar!

Smile girls!! (All camel photos are thanks to Google)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

International Tongue Twister Day!

I love browsing on the internet and one of my favourite topics is ‘World Days’ or ‘International Days’. According to my research, today is International Tongue Twister Day! However, because the dates seem to vary, some sites said 4 November, some had it as 7 November, one mentioned the second Sunday in November, and the one I chose listed it as today, 13 November, maybe it should be called ‘International Confusion Day’!

I remember hearing them when I was very young. This must be among the most popular and well known: 'Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?' To me it was just a series of words to get my tongue round, but did you know that it is based on a true story! Apparently a French horticulturalist and pirate called Pierre Poivre, was known to raid spice stores and to steal the ‘peppers’! Isn’t ‘poivre’ the French word for ‘pepper’ anyway? As usual, I digress!

Another one based on truth is ‘She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore; The shells she sells are sea-shells, I'm sure; For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore; Then I'm sure she sells sea-shore shells.’ This one is based on a girl called Mary Anning, who in the 1800’s, together with her father, dug up seashells as well as dinosaur fossils and would then sell them. Even as an adult, Mary continued to dig and it is said that she unearthed complete dinosaur skeletons!

Tongue twisters are series of words or lighthearted phrases that seem simple enough - that is until you say them. The combination of the words and repetition of sounds make it nearly impossible to properly pronounce the entire phrase, especially when you repeat it over and over very quickly. Tongue twisters are not confined to the English language only though! Have a look at these:

Finnish: Mustan kissan paksut posket.
Black cat's fat cheeks

German: Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische
The Fischer’s son Fritz is fishing for fresh fish (That’s quite twiddly in English too!)

Navajo: Dii dii thii Billy Lee bilii
These four horses are Billy Lee’s horses

Portuguese: O rato roeu a rolha da garrafa de rum do rei da Russia
The rat nibbled the cork of the bottle of rum of the king of Russia

Spanish: Mi mama me mima mucho
Mum spoils me a lot

One of the longest tongue twisters is this one: ‘Betty Botter bought some butter but, she said, the butter's bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter will make my bitter batter better. So she bought some better butter, better than the bitter butter, put it in her bitter batter, made her bitter batter better. So 'twas better Betty Botter bought some better butter.’ 

One of the shortest is ‘Irish wristwatch’, try saying that after a glass of wine or two!

And, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the most difficult tongue twister is: ‘The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick’

Personally, I disagree. Try this one and let me know!!

Red lorry yellow lorry.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

40 Years for Rhino Poaching!

This was the headline that gladdened many hearts in South Africa this week.

A Thai national was sentenced to 40 years, the harshest sentence ever handed out for a wildlife crime here. I personally feel that the sentence is still too lenient considering the number of murders that he was responsible for.

He then had the gall to 'apologise' to the people of South Africa for causing such an emotional outcry. The judge (bless his heart), said that it was murder, that not only had he murdered the rhinos for their horns, but had left young calves orphaned and destroyed family groups. He went on to say that he wanted his grandchildren to see the real thing, not a photograph of a noble animal killed for greed.

A white rhino, alive, but for how much longer?

When I wrote the 'Run Rhino Run' post in October last year, it was estimated that 400 odd rhinos would die by the end of the year. Well, that figure was a little on the low side; the 'grand total' of murdered rhinos in 2011 was............(drum roll.....) 448.

To date, 2012 has seen the slaughter of 455 and it's still November! Kruger Park alone have 'lost' 272. That is 20 more than last year. And I hasten to add, many of those again at the hands of the very people who are PAID to protect them. To date 207 people have been arrested for illegal trading in rhino horn.

How many more will die needlessly by the end of the year? I shudder to think.

Rob was at Inverdoorn Game Reserve last weekend. They proudly admit that they poison the horns of their rhinos, have a look at their website

Thanks to Inverdoorn's website.

The EWT is heavily involved in raising both funds and awareness and are hoping that their 'RHINENOSE DAY' car 'noses' will bring in much needed money.

Thanks to EWT.

Personally I prefer the bumper sticker that a friend has on her car;


Yes, I agree.

Friday, 9 November 2012

One hump or two?

I must admit that camels fascinate me. They are aloof and distant and although I saw many herds (or caravans, trains or flocks) along the roads when we went out of Dubai, they were too far away for me to take a decent photo. I had to make do with the odd road sign.

Camels ahead!

However, a few days before I left to fly to Madrid, I was lucky enough to get up fairly close but not too personal with a small group. We had gone to the vet to collect two cats that had been neutered (my daughter works unceasingly to trap, neuter and release feral cats), and there, as we turned off the tar, were the camels! The farmer was more than happy to let me take a few photos, and I was more than happy to finally have them in my sights!

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Booze Run!

A couple of days after our Dubai braai, we were getting low on alcohol! Now, that is no problem at all living in South Africa, it is the easiest thing in the world to nip into a bottle store or the nearest chain store and replenish stocks. Judging by our horrific statistics of alcohol-induced domestic violence and drunk drivers, not to mention foetal alcohol dependency, it is probably a little too easy to replenish stocks. In Dubai it is illegal to transport alcohol without a permit, and there are no bottle stores at all. The hotels serve liquor with meals but no-body ever drives after an evening out, and taxis are the only option unless you have a designated driver.

Six lanes either way!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Dubaai Braai!

I know that this is a little late for the real thing, (well, only a month really!) but I want to share my National Braai Day with you! As you may remember, and as the four week gap in the blogging may show, I have been away. I am now fairly nonchalant about airports, booking in on-line, boarding passes, going to the loo before necessary to avoid having to queue when it is very necessary, airline food in plastic packets, balancing a three course airline dinner with cheese and biscuits and packets of sugar and cutlery on plastic trays (and eating said three course dinner with my arms pinned to my sides), drinking coffee during turbulence (eish) and managing to find a movie by touch-screen  which often means jabbing at the screen while the chap in front decides to recline his seat so you can't see the movie anyway because it is now  too close!

Proudly South African, our own Iwisa brand!

But I digress!! September the 24th saw me in Dubai, staying with my daughter and her husband so, being true South Africans, we had a braai! The really exciting thing was going to the local supermarket and seeing our Iwisa brand maize meal sitting on the shelf next to other imported brands. I felt right at home!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Up, up and Away!

I am writing this with a flutter of butterflies in my stomach and a dry mouth. Am I going to the dentist, I hear you think?? No, I am about to head to Cape Town, to the airport, ready to board an Emirates flight to Dubai. I make no bones about it, I am NOT a good flyer, I have a fear of heights and I get claustrophobic, not a good combination when I am hurtling in a small time capsule above the clouds! Add to that the desperation I feel every time we hit a bump, and you may have an inkling of how I am feeling right now! I keep thinking, 'this time tomorrow...' but I still have to get through today!!

Fortunately I am not flying alone. This leg! My daughter is with me, she has been here on holiday with her husband who flew back last week. I was so lucky, my sister was here too, and that really was fantastic. I cannot remember the last time that we were all together, and sadly, my son and family were not here this time. Maybe one day............................

At the other end, well, I have so much to look forward to. Two weeks in Dubai, then off to Madrid to meet my gorgeous grandaughter, and to renew aquaintance with my handsome grandson. My case is packed with goodies for them, books, toys and clothes. In between I have shoved a few bits for me to wear, a pair of jeans and two shirts!!

I know that my time with them will speed past, it always does, but I aim to fill every day with as many memories as I can. My camera is packed and ready! I shall miss Rob and Alfie while I am away, I always do, and I know that they will be at the airport to meet me when I return in four weeks.

And the butterflies will have a couple of weeks rest between flights!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Watch the Birdie!

I have just received some beautiful photographs of my gorgeous grandchildren, emailed to me from Spain. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a photograph is 'a picture formed by means of the chemical reaction on sensitive film', but it goes much deeper than that. Without the shadowy images of years gone by captured on little bits of card, I would never have known what my maternal grandfather looked like, as he died when my mother was small. In fact, my mother wouldn't have known either. When I was about seven, or eight, (I think), my dad went through a phase of developing his own photos, and we would be snapped in our dressing gowns, a budgerigar on a shoulder, with mum reading to us, or my sister and I playing in the garden. He then spent ages in the bathroom with towels jamming the door so that no light could show through while he developed and printed them under a special light and strung them up on a makeshift line held in place by mum’s clothes pegs. I still have some of those old memories!

I can spend hours looking though my old photo albums. Remember the ones that had the peel-off plastic sheet that 'stuck' your photos onto the page? They worked for a few years, but eventually the plastic lost its ‘stick’ and peeled off, and all the photos fell out! The little sticky corners that held the photos in place seemed to be a lot better, remaining even after the photo was removed and leaving you wondering what on earth had been in that square! Especially if there was an odd caption handwritten underneath. Something like, ‘Gosh Horace, what a brave thing to do at your age!’

Mine looked exactly like this! (Thanks to Google!)

My first camera was a 'Brownie Box' that had to be held in front of me while I peered down through the lens and hoped that it didn’t move while I pressed the button! The film had to be wound on by hand but there was no ‘safety catch’ in case I forgot to do that in my excitement to capture something, and multiple pictures could be taken on the same bit of film! Somewhere I have ghostly photos of snow on roofs (I just love those old chimney pots that are so characteristic of old London), with my granny floating in the middle of them, sitting in her chair in her lounge! Odd but interesting! The last Brownie I saw was in a museum, how technology has changed.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A Spring Riddle!

Here's a riddle for you:

What do Spring Day and Vultures have in common?
Well, here's the answer. The first Saturday in September is International Vulture Awareness Day, which, this year, happens to coincide with Spring Day! Or Autumn Day for those of you reading this in the Northern Hemisphere!

Thanks to EWT.

The purpose of the day is to highlight the plight of vultures and the work done by conservationists to implement affective measures to conserve the birds and their habitat. South Africa first celebrated the day in 2005, and since then global interest and support has increased. By 2011,  159 organisations representing 44 countries were involved. Hopefully this year will have even more support.

This is what the EWT newsletter contained:

South Africa is home to no less than nine vulture species. Seven of these species are listed in the Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Barnes, 2000) as facing a certain degree of threat of extinction. The Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus, whose range in southern Africa is restricted to the Maluti-Drakensberg mountains in South Africa and Lesotho is classified as “Endangered” and continues to decline in numbers due to a range of factors. The Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres only occurs within southern Africa and the conservation of this species remains one of the main focal areas of the EWT-BoPP. Both the Hooded Necrosyrtes monachus and African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus were up-listed to “Endangered” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species during the last 12 months. Other species, such as the Lappet-faced Torgos tracheliotus and White-headed Trigonoceps occipitalis mostly occur in large conservation areas in South Africa and are listed as “Vulnerable”.

Vultures are faced with a range of threats such as poisoning, persecution, electrocution and collision with power-lines, drowning in farm reservoirs in drier parts of the country, shortage of safe food supplies and loss of suitable habitat. The potential impact of indiscriminately placed wind-energy installations is today recognised as a major emerging threat to large soaring birds such as vultures. A considerable number of installations of this nature are planned for South Africa and it is imperative that the placement of such sites should consider and attempt to avoid the potentially devastating impact that they may have on the populations of these already threatened birds.'                          Thanks to EWT and Andre Botha.

Sobering words.

Vultures are also very mobile and can cover hundreds of kilometres per day in search of food. This makes effective conservation difficult as they happily cross borders in their search, and conservation priorities differ greatly from country to country. Cumbersome and comical on the ground, they scrabble and clamber over a carcass, tearing and pulling and poking into corners and holes. When they perch in trees they look just like mourners at a funeral, but once they take off and catch the thermals, they become almost poetic.

Let's hope that they do not become just another memory in years to come, like so many other birds, animals, plants and marine species.

Oh, by the way, Happy Spring Day!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Tracks and Tunnels!

Yesterday we went for a drive in a northerly direction along a lovely road that runs next to the sea before heading off on a meandering journey through vleis, farm and flowers before re-joining the sea at the little coastal village of Elands Bay. However, because we were heading towards the sun, all the flowers were facing that way too, and we had to keep peering in the rear view mirror to see how gorgeous they actually were! Anyway, because the road meanders so much, it has several bridges  across the railway line that runs from Saldanha Bay to Sishen, a long straight track that covers 861 kilometres.

As far as the eye can see in both directions.

I used to be terrified of trains, the noise and the size and the power turned me into a gibbering idiot. I remember my mum asking the Station Master at Ealing Broadway Station to please tell me that the trains wouldn't hurt me! Now I love them, I wave to all the drivers and get quite annoyed if they don't hoot and wave back! So every time we passed over the bridges yesterday I stared in both directions to see if anything was coming. Because we had Alfie with us (of course), we headed off the main road at Elands Bay to let him have a run and a drink (and other things) and parked close to the tunnel entrance/exit (depending on which way the train goes!). As we were standing there, a bakkie arrived and a chap leaped out and climbed down the embankment and into the tunnel where he began to hit something with a long metal tool that he had. So, naturally, we stopped him on his way out to find out exactly what he was doing!

The Bobbejaansberg Tunnel.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Tortoise time!

I think that I have mentioned the fact that we can have all four seasons in one day? This last week has certainly proved that, and if that is true, then we have had four years worth of seasons in the last few days! So, yesterday we decided that as the weather was being kind, the wind had dropped to a tiny tickle and the clouds were fluffy and benign, we would go for a little flower spotting. The fields around us are beginning to burst into colour, even though they have been battered with the rain and freezing wind that we have had. Our bougainvillea took the full force of the wind one night and several branches stand naked now.

Next to the road, bright and beautiful.

So, timing our drive so the the flowers would be open towards us, (and the sun), we set off along the back road that leads to Saldanha, and we were not disappointed! Patches of colour in the form of bokbaaivygies (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis) and rain daisies were flowering next to the road, and the vivid red malvas were beginning to open.

Like jewels in the sand!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wild, Wet and Windy!

I know that it's a bit soon for yet another blog, but I just had to share the weather with you! We have literally had all four seasons in the last thirty-six hours, with a cyclone thrown in for good measure! (Well, it felt like one.) I decided to show you the Weskus version of snow in a field, so we went for a little drive on Thursday and saw just what I wanted. Look, white with snow hey?

Snow Weskus style.

I cannot tell a lie, so I have to admit that you are looking at a field of flowers! These are Rain Daisies, or Dimorphotheca pluvialis, to give them their correct name! We have had lots and lots of rain, so the flowers are expected to be good this year, and this is a start.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Winter Wonderland!

When people think of South Africa, the word 'sunny' usually comes to mind. Well, think again! It's snowing over most of the country, in fact we have just heard that it is the first time that snow has fallen in each of the nine provinces at the same time. In Kwa Zulu Natal some roads have been closed, leaving people stranded between towns. In areas that don't usually experience the 'cold white stuff', work has come to a stand still while people rush out to frolic and throw it about and generally behave like children! Rob's daughter Angie, who lives in Johannesburg, sent us this picture of her with her work mates, look at the snowball! When this was taken, it was a chilly minus 2 degrees! And that was at 3 o'clock in the afternoon!

Angie (second from the left) sent us this pic. Thanks Angie!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

'B' is for ..............Boomslang!

We have spent the last week peering out of the 'office' window across the road at the neighbours house. More specifically at the wall of the house. And more specifically still, at the ledge at the bottom of the wall where the stone cladding stops and the plain wall begins. And the reason is this, see below!

Look at the huge eye! 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Games of the XXX Olympiad

As I write this, the world is counting down to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, officially known as the 'Games of the XXX Olympiad'. Taking place from 27 July to 12 August, it has cost a hefty 800 million pounds! London is the first city to host the games three times, once in 1908, then 1948 and now in 2012. Last evening we watched the the torch being carried to Hyde Park, and Rob's nephew has actually been involved! His sister's elder son Alun can be seen here holding the torch, impressive hey? The torch with runner, visited them at work.

Alun proudly holding the torch. (Thanks to Bev)

Friday, 20 July 2012

Happy Savings Month!

Do you recognise what is in this photo?

Rare? Almost extinct!

Yes, it’s that rare thing we call money!

July is National Savings Month. Can it be a year since I wrote about stokvels? I wonder how many more have been set up in the last year? And I also wonder how on earth people can afford to save when we have been shown that the cost of simply living has increased by nearly 6% this year?? And have pensions kept up with the rate? I wish! Alan Winde, the Western Cape Minister for Finance has a catchy phrase for us “Start early and save smartly!” He recommends that we try to save at least 15% of our monthly income. Yes, well.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

Are you suffering from Friggatriskaidekaphobia?

The only bit of this that I could read was the phobia part at the end! I can't pronounce it, let alone spell it! But it's easy really, it is simply the fear of Friday 13! And as superstitions go, according to Tom Fernsler who is a mathematician and expert in the field of number thirteen at the University of Delaware, it is number one in America (where else really?) with approximately 17 million people believing that something really bad is going to happen to you on that day. Apart from Friday being a bad day, add the fear of number thirteen to it and there is a recipe for disaster!

Interestingly, this is the third Friday 13 this year, which is the most that can occur in a single calendar year. And for the first time since 1984, January 13, April 13 and July 13 were exactly thirteen weeks apart! That will give all the triskaidekaphobics (fear of the number thirteen) something to think about!

Now, I am not at all superstitious of either Fridays or the number thirteen. I always loved Fridays when I was teaching as it heralded in the weekend, and my mum always maintained that thirteen was her lucky number. Our house was number 213, and there were thirteen days between her and my dad's birthday. However, I never walk under ladders for fear of something falling on me, like the man on the ladder, and I would never, ever push my luck by flying on Friday 13. That is simply my phobia of flying, not my phobia of days and dates! But if I had to, I would cross my fingers and touch wood, and find a lucky rabbit's foot to carry in my pocket. (I wonder how the rabbits view that idea?)

My lucky black cat!

But, I have a black cat around who wards off evil spirits and keeps me safe. Or is it bad luck to have a black cat cross your path?

Superstitious? No, not me!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Tennis Anyone?

Ask any sport lover what event the words 'June and July' conjour up in their imagination (apart from rugby, or F1 motor racing, or golf, or the Durban July horse race), and I bet a good number will answer 'Wimbledon'! Well, that's what I think, and its my blog!

So, this weekend we settled down to watch the Finals. I must admit I lost a bit of interest once Rafael Nadal had been knocked out in the second round, an unheard-of tragedy. (I have a friend who calls him The Sleeveless One, he used to play in vest-type shirts!) I also loathe watching the females who yell like stuck pigs every time they hit the ball, Maria Sharapova has the honour (?) of holding the record for the loudest grunt at 101 decibels. Is that really necessary? When she plays another shrieker you almost have the background beat for a rap song and I am forced to mute the sound or switch off altogether. I think Monica Seles was the first to start that, no wonder someone stabbed her, he was probably deafened and desperate!

Bring back the ladies of yesteryear, Chris Evert never made a sound when she played!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Powerless....but not for long!

We have a joke here in South Africa that goes something like this:

A woman goes to answer the door and finds a hooded figure holding a scythe, on the doorstep. "Yes?" she asks. "I am the Prince of Darkness" answers the cloaked figure and the woman turns and calls to her husband, "Darling, the man from Eskom is here!"

(Eskom is our power provider! And we have Koeberg, the nuclear  power station, just down the road near Cape Town.)

Koeberg Power Station (thanks to the website)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Steam Tug Alwyn Vintcent.

Living close to the sea, as we do (she said grinning!), things nautical tend to mean a lot more to us than to landlubbers! I have mentioned the huge ore carriers that pull into Saldanha, we often see them as the head their way into or out of the harbour, and we cross our fingers that they pass our rocky shore without mishap.

I think my favourite vessels ever are tugs! They are gutsy and noble. They bully and snap at the towering iron ore carriers, bustling and shoving, heaving and holding, like a Daschund at the heels of a Great Dane. We have several stationed at Saldanha and we love to watch them at work. Now, these are modern tugs with all the technology necessary to help them in their daily tasks.

But have a look at this tug, pictured below.

Alwyn Vintcent in 2008 (Thanks to the official website for the photo.)

This is the (SteamTug) Alwyn Vintcent, the last remaining steam tug in South Africa, and as I write this, she has just completed her final journey.....................a 408 km road trip inland to Villiersdorp! At an estimated cost of R500 000, or R1200 a kilometer! And the mayor of Villiersdorp was so excited to welcome her that he is planning maritime public holidays in her honour.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

World Sauntering Day etc!

Yesterday was World Sauntering Day! Seriously, for those of you who regularly follow my writings (thanks very much!), you may remember that I mentioned it a few months ago? Well, we are extremely well equipped for Sauntering, we have the loose clothing, we have the time and we have the obligatory dog with flappy ears! We saunter every day with like-minded friends and while we amble along and chat and talk about the weather, the dogs do what dogs do best and we return home refreshed and not at all tired! A cardio workout it is not!

Ready for a saunter anyone?

We are having the most glorious weather at the moment, warm and sunny with very little wind and midday temperatures in the high teens. Now, that sounds great but it really isn't good for this time of the year. It should be wet, cold and wet. Cloudy, cold and wet! This is our rainy season and so far we have seen very little rain. 'They' (the weather powers that be), said that we would get lots of rain after the 19 May, so we planned for that, did all the washing, sorted the garden, brought lots of fire wood inside, decided not to bother washing the windows, and smugly waited for the downpours. Which didn't come.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Superstition to Super!

You know how things come in 3's? You hear about an accident and then another one, and until you hear about a third one you stay at home? Or you drop a glass, then a plate and almost throw a bowl onto the floor to get it over with! Well, at the beginning of May, we decided to go away in Gemsquash. Rob found a perfect place only a couple of hours drive from here, pet friendly and away from 'civilisation' so we spent a happy couple of days sorting out and packing and organising food and bedding and making sure that Alfie's toys were ready.

Then, the day before we were due to go, Rob's glasses broke! They just cracked across the bridge of his nose and fell off! Thank goodness he had his old, heavy ones as backup!

Then, we decided to switch the caravan fridge on so that I could simply transfer from the kitchen just before we left. Nothing, it was dead. No reassuring hum, nothing. Rob checked the wiring and the plug, and even fitted a new plug just in case!

Now, remember we had given Gemsquash a facelift and that involved moving the fridge, so Rob pulled it out and found a loose wire! But, he wasn't sure where it went and rather than make things worse, he did the right thing and called an electrician who promised to call round early the next morning.
That was the second thing, and we just knew that there would be a third waiting for us! The next morning the electrician arrived dead on time and fixed the fridge in a matter of minutes. Phew, it rattled into life and we were set to go. Packing completed, we loaded the dog into the car, and put our shoulders to the caravan ready to push.

Then, the fates laughed and sent number three! The jockey wheel jammed solid and we couldn't move it! It would go backwards and forwards but would not allow us to turn left or right. Rob did a spot of DIY with a four pound hammer and managed to break the handle too!! By now I was wondering if there was a message hidden in this somewhere and was ready to unload and unpack!

Just then a black cat crossed my path.......not unusual seeing that we have two of them!

We decided to take a chance and go! We heaved and shoved Gemsquash into the drive and Rob reversed the car with precision, thanks to my perfect hand signals! And we were off!

What a wonderful place it turned out to be. A citrus farm with the camping area right on the edge of the Olifants River. We parked on the grass under huge trees a stone's throw from the water.

Taken from the water's edge.
A little manoeuvring was necessary to get the caravan into position before Rob unhooked it as the jockey wheel didn't miraculously unjam itself on the way, but as we were the only people there, there was plenty of room to do this.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Beach cleanup!

The older I get, the less I understand people!

We live in a tiny village on the coast, and of course, we get a lot of fishermen (and ladies and children) who regularly come here and spend a few hours, or longer, fishing for whatever happens to be around at the time! They obviously spend some time before they set off, packing their cooler box with bait, cool drinks or beer, packets of chips or sandwiches, biltong and whatever else helps the time to pass and take their minds off the fact that there is not a lot happening on the end of the line. By the time they leave, they are far too tired to make sure that whatever came with them, goes home with them and our beaches become littered with empty bottles, packets, bait boxes and plastic wrapping. And if that is not bad enough, they leave tangles of fishing line, it wraps itself round bushes, gets knotted round whatever it can find, and is simply abandoned. Instead of sorting the line out, they just cut it lose and forget about it.

Every time we walk, we pick up enough fishing line to knit socks and hats and fishing nets. Some of it with hooks and sinkers still attached.

So I did some research on pollution left on our beaches and it is horrifying!
According to John Kieser (see below), 80% of all marine litter, mainly plastic, originates from land. A great deal of this then becomes entangled around sea birds or seals, causing restriction of movement, strangulation, severing of carotid arteries, infection, and eventually, death. Apart from that, turtles and seals often ingest plastic bags, as the clear ones floating in the sea, look like jelly fish. This of course causes other problems, often resulting in death.

John Kieser is passionate about sustainability. 
I thought you may be interested in the ‘Top Ten’ rubbish finds:
Heading the list is plastic bottle tops, followed by plastic beverage bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers/containers, rope, cigarette filters, straws, stirrers, fishing line, glass beverage bottles, and beverage cans! Another interesting fact is there is also a large number of condoms found, 90% unused and still in their wrappers!

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Diamond Jubilee!

Rob and I spent the whole weekend, more or less, in front of the 'telly'. Not for sport (although we did loudly cheer the Stormers win over the Blue Bulls ha ha!), but to watch Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Although she became Queen on 2 February 1952, the actual Coronation took place the following year on 2 June 1953.

The Royal Family (Thanks to Wikipedia)
A reign of 60 years, and I remember Coronation Day!

Look at the BBC camera!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

There's a Wally on my stoep!

The story of Phez led me to share one more rescued cat story with you! Remember the photo of 'Twin' cat coming to eat at the table? Well, here is another one of him to remind you.

Thin and hungry, our Twin feral.
He first appeared in our garden over a year ago, thin and hungry, and would sneak into the house at night through the cat-flap to finish off the 'crumblies' that the others had left. Never one to hang around, he appeared, ate and left. As time passed, he became bolder and braver and would arrive at twilight to eat the food that by now, I was leaving on the outside table for him. The minute he saw us watching him he left, helped along by Alfie who decided that he did not like him at all.

Friday, 25 May 2012

There's a kitten in my coffee!

I was going to be making everyone jealous by writing about our last caravan trip, but my sister Diz (a nickname since I was small)), sent some photos that her husband Norman had taken of their latest rescue kitten, and I couldn't resist sharing his story with you.
That tastes good!

Meet Phez, he is the one with his head in the coffee mug! He is the latest (but not the last I am sure), in a long, long line of rescued, donated and abandoned cats, ranging in age from elderly and doddery, to young and skittish. Each one is loved and cherished and when their time has come, they are buried with love and sadness in a corner of the garden. I seem to remember that at one stage they had about twenty two or so. What is the collective noun for cats? A purr? I like that! A scratch? My daughter suggested a cuddle or a knead! Anyway, several weeks ago their vet phoned to say there was a tiny kitten wanting a foster mum, was Diz interested? Her first reaction was 'No', and that was that. Five minutes later she phoned the vet back and off they went to fetch Phez. They thought that he was about four days old, but two days later his eyes opened, so he was about ten days! And weighed less than 100 gm. That is less than an average size tomato! Go and weigh one to see, I did and couldn’t find one small enough!
Weak and wobbly.......and tiny!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Facelift for an 'Old Girl'!

No, I am not the 'old girl' in the title, although I really feel that I could do with some sort of re-vamp, having had my 65th birthday last week! At the time we were away in Gemsquash, as we were last year, so we have started another family tradition, let's hope there are lots of birthdays ahead to carry it on. But, as usual I digress, and my next blog will be all about the wonderful time we had.
The 'old girl' is actually our dear old Gemsquash herself. She is a vintage caravan really, (or is that veteran? Or classic? Or simply old?), as she first hit the road in 1981. So, we decided to do a couple of things to spruce her up. I had already made new blue and white striped curtains for her, cleverly made from a huge, quilted bed cover that we brought with us when we moved and had never used! After much unpicking and measuring and cutting and sewing, voila, brand new curtains. And they made a huge difference in brightening up the interior. So, our thoughts turned to the walls which were plain marine ply. Sturdy and brown and  boring! Off to the paint shop where we chose the palest of grey for the final coat, and armed with sandpaper, undercoat, rollers, brushes and paint tray, we headed home to tackle the job!
Still smiling at this stage!
Alfie was horrified as we literally stripped everything from inside and he refused point blank to return until the cushions were replaced and the bed was made!
Alfie left soon after this picture was taken.
The bed has gone!
Suddenly we were faced with acres of wall to paint and what seemed a good idea at the time started to fade a little as we strained our shoulders and neck sanding every piece of wall and getting into and under all the nooks and crannies that a caravan has. Plus, a caravan is not the largest of spaces anyway and Rob and I were doing soft shoe shuffles every time we wanted to change ends! I was doing the twiddly bits around the windows and cupboards and he was in charge of the roller. The undercoat looked ghastly, patchy and thin and I was wondering whether we would manage to cover the wood properly. We left it for two days to dry properly and then we did the first coat of grey. What a difference, we just loved it. The second coat went on the next day and the walls shone with pride! So did we, and aching muscles aside, we were very pleased with the result.
Compare this picture to the 'before' shot!
But, we were not yet finished! The knobs on the cupboard doors needed replacing as there were two different kinds. As the original plastic knobs had broken over the years, they had been replaced with wooden ones, so off they all came and we bought lovely stainless steel ones to match the grey walls! See, we planned it all very carefully!
Alfie approves! See the new knobs?
But, we were still not finished! The curtains had originally been on stretchy wire and although it is practical, it isn't pretty, so Rob bought curtain track instead and we used proper hooks!
But, we were still not finished! Off we went to track down new flooring and found the perfect one, a soft yet tough floor covering in a mock limewashed wood pattern which would bring out the colours of the walls and reflect the new door knobs. It was perfect and we enquired the price of just 3 metres. We gasped, gulped and left!
Who needs a new floor, the old one is perfect for the next 30 years!!

Saturday, 12 May 2012


We have a full moon every 28 days, obviously, and we always look at it and say things like 'wow, doesn't seem that long ago that it was full last time' and 'we'll have a high tide later today' and then we carry on with life for the next 28 days!

But this month we had perigree moon!

We had this amazing 'Supermoon' on Sunday 6 May. We were told that it would be enormous and 16% brighter than normal as it was at it's closest approach to the earth, a mere 356,955 kms away in fact. Apparently there will be several in 2012 but they vary by 3% because the moon's orbit is not perfectly circular.

Apart from being a day early to go out and ooh and aah, (we were given the wrong information and rushed out to look at a nearly full moon), when we finally got it right, it was beautiful. We watched and waited and it rose behind our house and climbed above the small hill behind us. We always have a wonderful view of the moon and stars here as there is very little light pollution. I tried to take a photo of it between the houses but it did not do it justice at all.

Perigree moon between the houses

I remember when I was small, mum used to talk about 'Harvest Moon', and farmers only planted when the moon was right, I remember something about no rain if the moon was lying on it's back. And then there's Blue Moon, where there are four full moons in a season (3 months). The word 'lunatic' comes from the Latin word lunaticus meaning 'of the moon' or 'moonstruck'. The moon plays an important part in our daily lives and I was most impressed when Rob found the following information on the names of the different moons.

January:   Old Moon, or Moon After Yule
February:   Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, or Wolf Moon
March:   Sap Moon, Crow Moon, or Lenten Moon
April:   Grass Moon, or Egg Moon
May:   Planting Moon, or Milk Moon
June:   Rose Moon, Flower Moon, or Strawberry Moon
July:   Thunder Moon, or Hay Moon
August:   Green Corn Moon, or Grain Moon
September:   Fruit Moon, or Harvest Moon
October:   Harvest Moon, or Hunter’s Moon
November:   Hunter’s Moon, Frosty Moon, or Beaver Moon
December:   Moon Before Yule, or Long Night Moon

I presume these names are for the northern hemisphere as we would never have a Snow Moon in February! Hopefully!