POTTERING INTO PORTERVILLE


 

 

 

 

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As we enter into Porterville and slowly drive down the main road Helen asks me what day it is? Fair question. When you’re on holiday the days blur into each other. I tell her its Thursday. “Oh!” she says, “for a moment I thought it must be Sunday. Where is everybody?”
Another good question. Its mid-morning, on an oven-hot day, 40 degrees Centigrade, we later discover. Not a car in sight. Way down the street, one man leaning languidly against a wall, smoking.
We locate my artist friends’ home, and spend two hours outside, sitting under a shady pepper tree, feasting on tiny sticky figs, a selection of cheese and crackers, and absorbing gallons of tea. Our hosts are seemingly unfazed by the extreme heat and enthuse over the benefits of living in a tiny country town. Peace and quiet, minimal crime, spacious properties, lower cost of living, and still within a 90 minutes drive from urban fun in Cape Town. Plus a weekly farmers’ market, which truly is a local affair, and the source of today’s figgy treat.
They assure us that the extreme heat is only for 6 weeks or so, and the rest of the year is very livable. I’ll take their word for it.

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Driving away with the aircon going full blast, we paused briefly to take pics of an extraordinarily grand church, which reminded me of a wedding cake. My attention was caught by the pillars. But heat fatigue curbed our enthusiasm for more sightseeing and happy snaps.

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MARCH CAPE TOWN ROUND UP


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The big headlines in March are: Eskom and more load shedding. That’s the South African euphemism for rolling power blackouts.
Oh: maybe I should mention our Public Enterprise power producing company, Eskom, is billions of Rands in the red, and unable to cope. Just a tiny little detail. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns, or rather: does not burn. Eskom can’t keep the turbines turning. Sigh. AND, as the cherry on top: a 9.4% increase in the price of electricity coming next month. Our corrupt, incompetent national power supplier Eskom kicking us, and the poor old abused tax cash cow, in the ribs again.
A load-shedding parallel story from the gang-ridden Cape Flats area of our city. A caller to Cape Talk Radio station reported how, during load shedding, crime rises exponentially in their areas. Residents are not even safe within their own homes, due to ricocheting bullets. How his teenage son crawled up the stairs to his own bedroom, to study with a LED lantern; the kid crawled because he was terrified of being struck by a stray bullet on his way upstairs. Words fail me. How can we expect people to live like this?

 
South Africa has but one nuclear Power station, and I happen to live quite close to it. Our wonderful government cooked up a scheme to build three more nuclear power stations, to augment our coal fired plants, despite the glaringly obvious fact that solar energy blasts us daily and is a renewable energy source. Whichever way you slice it and dice it, solar energy is the way to go, but unfortunately it seems there’s insufficient kickback opportunities for our crooked politicians along the solar road, so our desperate need to divorce ourselves from coal is mired in inaction and controversy. One tiny crumb of comfort: the nuclear scheme, via Russian suppliers, was blocked and remains in limbo.
February/ March is the date for the annual Koeberg Nuclear Power Station Siren Test. It always gives me the heebie jeebies. The booming, disembodied voice droning : This is only a test. No action is required. This is only a test. Followed by the banshee wailing of an alarm siren. Supposedly, if Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, 15 kms to the north of my area, has an oopsie – think Chernoybl – theoretically the warning system will alert us to immediately vacate the area and congregate at designated gathering points. Personally,I think if Koeberg blows we will all be toast before anybody can press the broadcast system button.

 

 
Maybe Adriaan Nieuwoudt’s scheme to establish an escape haven for beleaguered whites in his new town of Eureka, to hell and gone in the Northern Cape, is not such a bad idea after all. Abundant sunshine, (solar power; Eskom can take a hike), wide open spaces, beautiful Namaqualand spring flowers, plentiful mutton, what’s not to like? And don’t even think about playing that tattered old Race Card. Boo-oooo-rrring.
Fibre Optic cable is being laid in our Village: the 21st Century has officially arrived! Men in hardhats are hauling cable up out of manhole covers in every street and doing technical additions. I won’t be subscribing to it, because I don’t livestream material, and my current ADSL line works just fine, thank you. Additionally, I’m a POP = a Poor Old Pensioner.

 
Despite all the above gloom (pun intended), life goes on. Polo at swish Val de Vie Wine Estate, sponsored by Veuve Cliquot, and organised by SA swimming star, Ryk Neethling who has obviously handled the transition from water to land very successfully. Cape Town is within easy access to dozens of Wine estates, ranging from the ultra-luxurious to the modest but productive smaller ones, that don’t go in for the added-extras like open air concerts, music fests, wedding and conference venues.
Cape Town has hosted an Ed Shieran concert which was packed. What a good thing our 2010 soccer stadium was left standing to serve as a venue. I say this because a few years ago some genius wanted to tear it down and build low cost housing on the site. Other musical excitement this month is the annual Cape Town Jazz festival which always draws huge crowds.

 
The radio promo for the big musical Chicago, which opened mid-March sings : greed , lies, adultery, treachery …. And all that jazz! Sounds suspiciously like the job description for entering South African politics. Sorry: couldn’t resist that one. I’ve had too  much Zondo Commission info this month.

 

Mid-month brought a lovely story about Mufasa, the lion escapee from the Karoo National Park, finally captured in Sutherland, darted and transported by bakkie* back to the park. Apparently during the loading process, locals gathering around the recumbent lion, saying … ssshhhh … don’t make a noise … apparently worried in case he woke up, jumped out and devoured them all! I wish I had a pic to add to this little gem.

 
Finishing on a happier note: here’s a pic of the pink March lilies that bloom annually along the shores of our local Rietvlei Wetland. I had to scrounge a pic online. Thanks to .http://www.everything.co.za/2015/02/march-lily/ . Oddly, they signal the end of summer, not the beginning as one might suppose. Every time I head down the R27 I catch glimpses of them on my left. Luckily it’s a dual carriageway at this point, so I can sneak a peek if the traffic is light. Flowers, along with books, are in prime position on my list of Favourite things.

• Open truck/ute

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BROWN PAPER PACKAGES


 

 

indexBROWN PAPER PACKAGES,
Tied up with string,
These are a few of
My favourite things!

My favourite things! Sang Julie Andrews . Yes, mine too, when I was a kid. Such excitement! A Parcel! With foreign stamps, brown paper, string and sealing wax. A Proper Parcel which only arrived before or after birthdays and Christmases. Posted by kindly aunts from Overseas, that mythical place.

 
When last did you make and post a parcel? Not a padded white bag, a Proper Parcel. Last week I parcelled up a book, to send to a friend in Napier. Not so far from Cape Town as the crow flies, but he no longer drives and I’m not prepared to drive the distance. So a parcel it must be.

 
First I looked for the brown paper. I knew I had some. But where was it hiding? I finally tracked it down, hiding coyly in a cupboard. Next I dug out my sticky tape, scissors, and my ball of string. Got to have string for a Proper Parcel. Parcel completed, I dug out my old address book and find his postal address. Right – Done! Now to glue my return address sticker on the reverse of the parcel.

 
The final touch: tracking down my very last stick of red sealing wax, Burning my fingers as I held the lighter flame to the wax , but it was worth it, I love the smell. It’s a distinctive smell. You don’t get that bonus from a white padded envelope!

 
I have to confess the white padded thingys are a great deal quicker, but I enjoyed the old, familiar process of making a Proper Parcel, even though it took me at least 25 minutes. I’ve sent hundreds of parcels in my lifetime, because my family are scattered all over the place.

 

How about you? When last did you post a Proper Parcel ?

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(JAP) I’M NOT A HUG-A-BUG)


 

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Go away! Shoo! Please don’t advance on me & fold me in your embrace. A handshake will do, or a light touch on the arm. A genuine, big smile would be lovely. I’m not a hug-a-bug. I’m not a germophobe, neither am I the Ice Queen. I just like my personal space. And I’m not the only one. I thought I was a weird Tribe of One, but it turns out I’m not. In the February issue of Sawubona magazine Thando Ndabezitha titles her Anti-hug fest piece: Hugs Must Fall! * I’m with you all the way Thando. Why this mania for hugging complete strangers? The only people I want to hug are my family and my lovers. Not necessarily in this order.

*a reference to the disruptive student protests ‘Fees Must Fall’

JAP = just a paragraph to keep my blog ticking over, whilst I’m busy with longer posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LAUNDRY LUNACY


Are our homes hyper clean and hygienic ? or are they disgusting cesspits of potential typhoid?

 

Both ends of the spectrum, but where do we fit in? and does it matter? I’ve been reading on-line articles that reveal some Northern Hemisphere residents are dementedly washing duvet inners once a fortnight, and changing face cloths and bath towels daily. Oh: and let’s not forget the curtains – washed annually or more often. What are these people doing with their curtain, for goodness sake? Using them as dishtowels? On which topic : full scale germophobe hysteria.
When I’d finished reading, my overall impression was: how wonderful to live in countries where water is in such an abundant supply that people can cheerfully wash and clean like demented germophobes without a care in the world, using litres and litres of water in the process. My mind slid back to our recent drought, where we were down to using no more than 20 litres of water per person, per day, to stave off the dreaded Day Zero. We managed to do so by a combo of strict adherence and blessed rainfall in the nick of time.

 

For myself, I’d rather have continued access to water and to hell with laundry hygiene! How about you?

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FAST & FURIOUS FEBRUARY: CAPE TOWN 2019


 

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South Africa Armed Forces Day, 21 February 2019 / Image: Luke Daniel – TheSouthAfrican.com

 

Whizz-bang-splat! That’s February done and dusted before we knew what hit us. It being a short month – only 28 days this year – doesn’t help. If you feel like time’s flying past at supersonic speed, try this article by By Ephrat Livni, qz.com. Right: Yes! Well? No, fine … as we say (in this case, doubtfully) in South Africa.

 
Christmas 2018 continues to trickle into February 2019. Two Christmas cards, one from Scotland and the other from Tennessee, USA, arrive in my post box on 6th February, mailed at the end of November 2018. That shows the state of our broken postal system. The cards will be added to my tiny display come December this year. Right now I’m looking wistfully at the snowy scenes of a Northern hemisphere Christmas and cursing the 38 degrees C temperature turning my house into an oven. Climate change, anyone ?

 
Cape Town has fried, baked and boiled with temps soaring into the high 30s. Thirty eight degrees Celcius is way too hot for me. Mercifully our renowned South-Easter wind has cooled us down on some of the days, but not every day. Air con, an automatic built-in feature of homes elsewhere, is not common in South African homes. Occasionally on unbearably hot afternoons, I’ve sheltered in the coffee bar at the next door hospital simply because they’ve got aircon! Which makes a change from my usual reason for hospital visits. Recently I told the Admissions clerk that they ought to arrange a designated parking bay for me, I’m there so frequently. Her only response was a sideways look!

 
And then we had the street closures and traffic gridlock brought about by the Military staging a massive display on 21 February on nearby Tableview Beach front to celebrate World Armed Forces Day. . A huge grandstand was erected so the dignitaries could view the display and aircraft whizzing across Table Bay. Us locals were unable to attend, because all the access roads were closed, and to walk in this heat with a 35 kph wind wasn’t a proposition. And, worst of all, what did it all cost? I should be phoning the SPCA and reporting our poor abused tax cow which is bellowing unhappily.

 
Furthermore, why do we have to participate in World Armed Forces Day when we have over crowded schools and a limping health services? I ask you! I have enough sour grapes this month to make litres and litres of vinegary wine.

 
Our annual SONA event – State of the Nation Address – took place on 7th February with a not-unexpected fracas at the end, featuring the red boiler suited EFF . I refuse to spend more time thinking or writing about their pointless disruptive tactics. Post -SONA every talking head in the country is offering reams of analysis on what the President did/did not say, what they think he meant; what the sub-text hinted at … oh for goodness sake! How about more action? Active hands instead of motor mouths?

 

The nation is in a state of Commission Exhaustion after listening to Mr Angelo Agrizzi’s explosive testimony at the Zondo Commission of Enquiry . Collectively we’re addicted to Commissions of Enquiry; it makes us feel as if we’re doing something useful. We’re not. More talking, is all. If our myriad COEs resulted in widespread prosecutions, now that would be another matter entirely. Very high on my Wish List.

 
The Zondo COE is delving into the labyrinth of State Capture, Corruption and … oh, just general and widespread skullduggery at every level of Government. Every time Agrizzi opened his mouth we reeled, clutched our foreheads and gasped: No! What! Surely not … accounts of money laundering, bribes of staggering amounts, couriers delivering sacks of money as monthly stipends to crooked officials, literally a payroll to look the other way . You couldn’t make this stuff up. On and on went the scandalous testimony, for over a week.

 
And another chapter in our COE sagas : our national power supplier, ESKOM. Revealed as being corrupt, mismanaged, run into the ground, and billions and billions in debt. ESKOM gave us a week of savage power cuts, locally called ‘load shedding’. Doesn’t matter what its called: there ain’t no power. There were reports of deliberate sabotage, of political manipulation as a reprisal for our no-nonsense Minister of Public Enterprises’ plan to unbundle the giant into three separate business entities. Which sensible plan set off the Trade Unions, powerful political allies of the ruling ANC, into paroxysms of rage over anticipated job losses. You just can’t win! As usual: nobody’s happy.

 
I’ve often heard stories of South Africans who’ve emigrated to Australia, returning to RSA after six months or a year. They say that life in Oz is dull, over-regulated, and nothing ever happens, so back they come. Inexplicable. So: if you’re fed up with snow, ice, winter gloom and Brexit come and join us. We can guarantee blue skies and sunshine and more excitement than you ever dreamed of !

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South Africa Armed Forces Day, 21 February 2019 / Image: Luke Daniel – TheSouthAfrican.com

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THOSE ELDERLY ELECTRONIC LUDDITES!


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Yes: I’ve hauled out my soapbox again for another rant. This time it’s the elderly Luddites, who have incurred my electronic wrath. And I can be a rudely wrathful as I like, as it’s a 100% certainty they will never read this.
It so happens I co-ordinate two social groups, and wishing to make my life as easy as possible, I communicate with the one group via WhatsApp, and the second group via e-mail. What could be quicker, cheaper and easier?

 
Except that in both groups there is one – always just that one person! – who, for whatever unfathomable reason, refuses to use a cellphone, and if perchance they actually own an ancient, brick-sized Nokia, it’s operating system can’t cope with the WhatsApp programme. No, they say vaguely, I don’t have that – whatchcallit? All my grandkids use it, but it’s not for me. Actually, they add, in confessional mode, I usually keep my cellphone switched off.  Then please explain to me why they continue to give out their number?

You are probably reading this and shaking your head in disbelief. But I swear to you, that’s a direct quote from one old dear.

 
And the other group of Luddites refuse to go anywhere near a PC or smartphone, and never, but never ever, communicate by e-mail. They might, very reluctantly, divulge their nearest and dearest’s e-mail address and hesitatingly say: “Well, I suppose you could send me an e-mail to my son’s e-mail address, but he’s so busy, I don’t know …” and of course, any e-mail you do send to Sonny Boy never gets passed on to his dear old Mum. Grrrrrrhhhh.

 
So what? you’re thinking. Where’s the problem? The problem, dear Reader, is that these Luddites constantly complain : But nobody ever told ME the date had changed / the meeting will be two hours later / the venue has changed / our monthly meeting is cancelled . Nobly refraining from leaping up and throttling them, you reply through gritted teeth: Well: if you had WhastApp /email then you’d be up to speed, wouldn’t you?

 
Thanks for reading this. I feel better now I’ve got that off my chest!

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HANDS UP! YOUR CELLPHONE OR YOUR LIFE !


 

 

 

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You think I’m being overly dramatic?
No I’m not. Ask Eric, one of the gate guards who works at the Complex where I live. He’s finally back at work, after weeks in hospital and three surgical procedures to repair the stab wounds to his abdomen. He was attacked and robbed of his cellphone , en route home from his shift at our gate.

 
Despite the attack, and the ensuing medical dramas, he managed to survive. For which, let us be devoutly thankful.

 
Part of daily life in South Africa, I regret to say. South African crime statistics are jaw droppingly horrendous. I don’t even want to Google them, so I can back up this little piece of writing with solid fact. If my readers are interested they will have to do it themselves.

 
Years ago, driving the familiar route to the office, through a leafy suburb, I spotted a fresh wreath fixed to a street light pole. I was profoundly shocked when I discovered what the wreath was commemorating. A young student, in his late teens, walking home, was stabbed and killed for his cellphone. His family had fixed the wreath to the pole to mark the place where he died. Every time I subsequently saw the wreath, I was saddened. And that incident took place fifteen years ago.

 
In the interim, things have grown significantly more dangerous. Life in South Africa. And yet I continue to live here. I know the alternatives are either : work for change or go live elsewhere. Easier said than done, when you’re elderly

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CAPE TOWN CALLING : OFF WE GO IN JANUARY!


 

 

 

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Table Mountain on the left, from the Silo District, V & A Waterfront

 

Despite the blue skies and sunshine, January is generally a gloomy month. Chiefly because our credit card statements were terrifying, and because our purses were scarily empty. We all know we shouldn’t overspend at Christmas, but guess what? We always do. South Africans are not very good at saving, despite campaigns to encourage us and offers from our major banks to open a savings account.
The Road Death Toll for the 2018 Holiday Season figures are released. As usual, they are staggering. In, the Western Cape Province, the total was 169 fatalities, over the December/January period. And still we continue to drive like maniacs and disregard the rules of the road. Statistics reveal that over 50% of road deaths are alcohol-related. And yet we continue to drink & drive. Arrrggggh. You venture forth at your peril!
Schools re-open. The tiny tots start their School careers on Day One with either floods of tears or wild delight . Mums agonise and helicopter around the kids Other parents wake up and realise they should have booked their kid’s place in the local school last year, around June 2018, so now there’s no place for little  Bongi  or Devan except in a school that’s 20 kms from home and not on a bus route. Pandemonium, threats, panic, (and probably bribery) ensues.
No sooner has the furore over school placements subsided, and the annual tsunami of grumbling over the (admittedly high) cost of school uniforms staggered to an exhausted halt, we are galvanised all over again by reports of rural schools in far flung districts that have not received any textbooks for 2019, never mind the promised water-borne sanitation that was promised at the beginning of 2018. Life in S’Affrica!
Fire Season in Cape Town flares up  every summer. Our famous Signal Hill, part of the Atlantic seaboard/CBD, was ablaze – fanned by 40 kph South-Easter winds. Wuppertal a small historic town in the Cedarberg (350 kms away) is demolished by fire. The Overberg region is ravaged by fires for days.  Apparently the initial fire was caused by some bright spark  letting off a flare on Old Year’s Night. Our noble fire fighters battled the blazes for weeks on end. They all deserve medals.

On the brighter side – yes, there is one. A fire crew discovered a traumatised baby duiker in a fire zone, the little buck had badly burnt feet/hooves. They were able to catch it, and take it to a nearby vet in Somerset West, who treated and saved Bambi. Yes: that’s what the fire crew christened the little survivor, and, even better, the vet rehabilitated the animal free, gratis and for nothing! Us Saffers have big hearts when the chips are down.

 

Some much needed comic relief: in a recent development, the proposed new Gatvol Party* is sulking because the Electoral Commission won’t let them register their party name because “ the name might cause offence to some people.”  *Gatvol is a very vulgar Afrikaans expression, indicating complete disgust – I’m not even going to try to translate this one!

 

And the cherry on top: The Independent Electoral Commission announces over 240 parties have registered to contest the election in May. We can only hope this is fake news!
All this and it’s only the end of January – sterkte+, as they say in the Afrikaans classics!
+ strength

Dockside, at the V&A Waterfront

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THE GERIATRIC DIY FIEND


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I live in a gated Village for those who are over 50 years old. So far, so good. Consequently we are a mixed community of those who still have jobs or careers; those who are in their mid 60s and upwards, and the very elderly who truly are geriatric.

 
New neighbours moved into the house opposite mine, mid December . So far, so good.  Christmas is over now. All the visiting families have departed, we are into the early days of 2019 and New Neighbour turns out to be a D I Y fan of note. He hammers, bangs, and wields his electric drill with gusto, literally from morning ‘til night. What on earth can he be doing? Re-fitting the entire damn house with new cupboards? I happen to know the house has more than adequate cupboard space.
What’s equally baffling is that he’s over 80 years old, and quite stooped. When I met him in the street he gave me a tortoise grimace and pallidly shook my hand.

 
Sir: you’re supposed to be relaxing on your verandah with your cup of coffee, or snoozing in front of the Sports Channel on TV. I’m told his wife is a sweet lady and from the little I’ve seen she doesn’t fit the profile of domestic tyrant raising hell over the lack of cupboards. For goodness sake, there’s only the two of them,  not a family of ten!

 
Who knows? Meanwhile, I’m gritting my teeth and muttering : live and let live . Trouble is, our houses are jammed very close together. So any noise is shared noise. Yay.

 

Dear previous neighbour: don’t you want to come back to my street? I never really appreciated the excellent qualities of a nice sedate older school teacher until now!

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