Friday, 31 March 2017

Cry the Beloved Country!

I don't quite know where to start this week's post.

If it was tomorrow, I could head it 'April Fools' but it all has taken place today!

Firstly, the shattering news that fracking has been approved! The beautiful part of the land that is magnificent in it's starkness, the beautiful Karoo, will be fracked and cracked and attacked, all in the name of greed. We have a country that is desperately short of water, and yet the go-ahead has been given. I cannot believe that a huge amount of money didn't change hands, and I feel desperately sorry for the people living there who have tried so hard to stop the rape of this ancient land of contrasts.

Then, just when we thought things couldn't get worse..... our 'Esteemed President' in his 'wisdom' (and I use that term very very loosely), takes it upon himself to fire the Minister of Finance and his Deputy (among other Ministers). Pravin Gordhan, who has proved himself over and over again as a morally upright man, was recalled from his overseas trip and ceremoniously fired. Goodbye overseas investment, goodbye keeping the government spending to a minimum and hello anger, sadness and a probable downgrade to 'Junk Status'.

I could go on and on about this, but the country is reeling at the moment from shock and disbelief. Everyone is now calling for Zuma to be thrown out, opposition parties are working together to force change. (I guess that is one good thing that has come out of this ghastly chaos.)

And we are all hoping that the few ANC Members of Parliament who have spoken out against Zuma in the past, find the backbone to vote in the only way that can possibly help our country.

The drought remains. Our dams are 28% full. That means they are 72% empty. Taking into account the fact that the last 10% cannot be used, there is enough usable water for a few weeks.

But, as I write this we have a light drizzle falling, just enough to dampen the cats.

Finally, a lighter note.... Dagga, or cannabis or marijuana, has been given the all clear in the Western Cape! So, you may now grow it in your garden for use at home, you may now smoke it, chew it, make tea with it, whatever you like.

It is legal.

Just in time, I think a few more people will be taking advantage of this now.

Pass the matches.

It might make the future look a bit brighter.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Passports Take 2!

I know this is a little late.......I seem to start a lot of my meanderings this way. But, it took me a while to recover from the shock that we received by SMS last week!

Read on;

For those of you who do not read my blog on a regular basis (and why not I ask?), and for those of you who read and forget, like me, here is a quick reminder. Two months ago Rob and I girded our loins and headed off to Malmesbury to the Home Affairs Office to renew our Passports.

Thanks to the hundreds of people already queuing when we arrived, we abandoned the whole thing!
But, the expiry date was rapidly approaching so we realised that we would have to try again, and very possibly spend a few hours shuffling forwards until we had completed the chore. We were not looking forward to it at all, so we asked our friends in Malmesbury to keep an eye on the queues, as they drove by regularly on their way to the shops. Pam decided that the best time to arrive at the office was just before lunch. Then the morning queue had abated and the afternoon influx had not yet arrived!

Right, so we had some sort of time frame! We also needed to keep an eye on the temperatures, as Malmesbury can climb to the high 30's and I don't do high 30's. I am not keen on low 30's either, so we had to pick the right day.

Then my daughter came to stay with us for a few days and told us that it was much easier to fill out the forms on-line, pay our R400 via EFT and simply pop into the Home Affairs where it was a simple task to have photos, fingerprints and signature captured, et voila, job done.

So we looked at her with sheep-eyes and she tutted and shook her head (bless her heart), and proceeded to do the whole form filling thing for us!

And so, on Wednesday the 8 March, we set off! We arrived at Malmesbury at precisely 11.00. There was not a single person waiting outside the Home Affairs building, and we managed to find a parking space right outside the door!

All good omens! So we rushed to the building before anyone else could get there before us, and burst through the door! And there we stood looking at a room full of people all looking back at us! There was nobody on the Enquiries desk, so we stood nonchalantly trying to catch someone's eye. Eventually I was given number 82 and Rob was 83. We found seats and sat. The electronic information board and the mechanical voice told us that number 43 was to go to Booth 3. That meant there were 40 odd people in front of us! But these places have a system of their own, unknown to us lesser mortals, because suddenly our numbers were called to go to the photo booth, where minutes later our photos were taken, and our fingerprints and signatures were captured.

I thought, wow, easy, let's go........but no.

We had to wait until we were called to Booth 3, so that we could prove that we were who we said we were and sign again to verify!

And that happened 2 hours later! And people came, people went, babies cried, children became restless, old people coughed and yawned and we sat and enjoyed the air conditioning as the day 'hotted up' outside. I have to admit, the thought of needing the loo crossed my mind a few times!

By then we were chatting to the girl sitting next to us who had come to have her surname updated. She got married two years ago and needed her married surname to buy a car. But, when she was finally called to Booth 3, she discovered that the marriage had never been registered........ so she left, confused and angry at the waste of time. And slightly hysterical I think, as she was laughing as she went through the door.

There was a tiny baby there with her parents who had come to register her birth and do a few other things. They looked as though they were camping out. Bags, books, packets and bottles, they were there when we arrived and still there when we left! The husband went off to buy some take-away for lunch, and came back with a rather prickly looking plant in a pot as well! Then followed a very jolly time as they (and Rob) decided to name the plant and register it too seeing as they were in the right place! It was one of those 'you-had-to-be-there' moments, because the names were becoming more and more outrageous, but I think they had come to the end of their tethers and were just desperate to leave! Even the officials were joining in the fun.

And then it was our turn and we signed again, showed our ID books, and that was it! Two hours after we arrived, we left. Lunch with our friends followed and then we drove home.

And then...... on 15 March......just a week after we had completed our paperwork, we received a SMS from the Dept of Home Affairs, to say that our passports and new ID cards were ready for collection at Malmesbury office.

We shall collect them this week..............

Once we have recovered from the shock!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Facebook.... Fun or Frustration?!

Well, I have done it!

I have finally joined the millions (millions?) of people around the world who are on Facebook!

I held out for years and years, silently congratulating myself for being sensible. I refused all offers of friendship and when I was asked if I was on fb I proudly said that I had better things to do with my time. When I was asked to 'like' something or check on fb for directions or to read about the latest recipes or products from companies, I was quite happy to see the look of disbelief on faces.

'You're not on Facebook? Really? I thought everyone was on Facebook. Oh, well, try and google it then. You do know how to google?'

I finally broke down! Not in the way a car or a washing machine does... but I decided that if I can't beat 'em then l must join 'em! So I asked Rob to help me get going, and the first person I 'friended'  (a whole new vocabulary comes with it!) was my daughter who remarked rather rudely 'Well well well, the mountain has moved.' Or something like that... but you can find it on my 'timeline' on Facebook!!

I have entered the mysterious world that I promised myself I would never enter. I now understand words that before were simply words. Like messenger, friend, un-friend, share, like and comment. I have watched video clips that made me laugh, cry and shake my head in disbelief. I have seen things that I would never have believed possible. I have watched people make the most interesting and useful gadgets from old plastic bottles. I have learned how to clean my toilet using only two household products. I have added my 'thumbs up' to good things and an 'angry' moticom (is that what it is?) to things that have made me angry or sad. I have made fairly explicit suggestions on what to do with rhino poachers, but haven't yet used the 'f' word, much as I would like to.

I now have half a hundred friends! I know some people have several hundreds, but after only a couple of weeks of being a groupie, it's not bad! The thing that amazes me though, is having requests from complete strangers! I think they are complete strangers... unless my memory is far worse than I thought. But I did have a request from a Plastics Engineer, and I think I would remember knowing someone like that!

It does seem a bit daft being Rob's friend as our computers are in the same room and we sit back-to-back commenting and tutting and quite often reading the same things! And often one of us will say 'Oh, you must come and read this!'

I must admit that my idea of what Facebook is is completely opposite to what it actually is! That sentence seems a bit garbled, never mind, read it slowly a few times and it does make sense. I thought that it is a place to 'chat' with friends, to catch up on their 'doings', to read about their lives and let them know what I have been up to.

But there is no time for that!

Everyone is too busy posting pictures and videos and asking everyone to 'share' or say 'yes' or 'like' to bother to with all that stuff!

And although my daughter has talked me through how to put pictures in my 'photo' box, I still don't understand, so it will remain empty and abandoned! But that is ok because there is always something new to read or watch and gasp with astonishment and amazement.

After all.
If it is on Facebook then it must be true!

Friday, 3 March 2017

World Wildlife Day!

Today, 3 March is World Wildlife Day. A day when we celebrate the wonderful diversity of wildlife, not only in our country, but around the world.

But, sadly, what is there to celebrate?

When we see the ghastly statistics of animals killed for 'fun' by rich head-hunters who think it is a 'sport' to collect the Big 5 to mount on a wall, or the number of rhino and elephants killed each month to keep some Oriental Gentlemen happy, then I am afraid that in a few years time, the 'World Wildlife Day' will become 'Remember Wildlife Day'.

And a few years beyond that............. 'Remember Our Planet Day'.

I get despondent and angry every time I see dead animals on the road, some of them run over just because they are there. Our snake population is one of those targeted every year as fear and stupidity become the reasons to kill them.

But, before I write something that I regret at a later stage........ simply read the letter from the Endangered Wildlife Trust. 

And weep!

Keeping wild animals as pets
As much as we all love wild animals, the EWT discourages keeping them as pets. There are serious welfare issues to consider, such as whether you can provide the correct diet, proper exercise, socialisation and as natural as possible way of life for a wild animal. Of equal concern is the threat that the illicit trade in wild animals as pets poses to wild populations. Every year thousands of chameleons, snakes, iguanas and other reptiles are illegally removed from their natural habitats and smuggled between countries all over the world. For instance, Sungazers, a species of lizard found only in South Africa, are under increasing threat due to illegal capture for the pet trade. These special lizards do not breed in captivity, and sadly also fail to thrive if removed and then returned to the wild. Other iconic species which are at risk due to illegal trade are our cranes, which are being taken from the wild and turned into domestic pets in many parts of Africa, including here in South Africa.

The lack of successful and strict regulation of the trade in some wild animals means that South Africa may very well be assisting the decimation of biodiversity in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Madagascar. The current legal import into South Africa of thousands of African Grey Parrots; chameleons and mammals from the island of Madagascar; Abyssinian Ground Hornbills; Southern Ground Hornbills and Grey Crowned Cranes from East African countries (all wild-caught species) are examples of how poor regulation assists with the decimation of wild populations of animals in other countries.

It is important to bear in mind that wild animals generally do not make suitable pets, and often end up dumped when they become unmanageable, which is a further act of cruelty. In most instances wild animals are incapable of expressing their emotions or discomforts and thus pet owners are blissfully unaware of the suffering of these animals, particularly the reptiles, amphibians and birds kept in small tanks or cages.

Irresponsible wild animal experiences
In this era of social media, wild animals are also falling prey to the selfie generation, with more and more stories arising of animals being removed from their natural environments so that they can be photographed – often with tragic consequences for the animals. Tourists also desire a one of a kind experience and instead of appreciating the natural wild state of our environment, many look for quick bucket list ticks – petting a lion cub, walking with a cheetah, riding an elephant, swimming with dolphins, or even just guaranteed Big 5 sightings. The EWT encourages responsible tourism and is opposed to wild animal interactions.

Petting zoos and “walking with” experiences are especially popular, particularly with large carnivores such as Lions and Cheetahs. While these experiences may seem remarkable, they are fraught with problems. Cubs are often removed from their mothers for hand-rearing and use in petting zoos. This is unethical and stressful for both the mother and her cubs. Carnivores are generally good mothers and there is no biological need to deliberately and routinely remove cubs from their mothers. Cubs can be handled by numerous people in one day, which is stressful for the cub as it should spend a large part of its day sleeping. It is reported that cubs are sometimes drugged to keep them placid for petting. Especially concerning is the fact that there are links between Lion breeding facilities and canned hunting of Lions. When cubs get too old and boisterous for petting they are removed from the touch programmes and many enter into the supply chain for canned hunting. Other welfare concerns include a lack of regard for social structures and a lack of enrichment for these animals in captive facilities, leading to boredom and stereotypical behaviour.

Other wildlife interactions, such as elephant-back riding and baited shark diving, also raise serious welfare and ethical considerations, as the animals are not engaging in natural behaviour.
(Thanks to the EWT)

It seems that the Human population is to blame for every wildlife problem.

We should be ashamed.