Category Archives: Uncategorized

A MAN CALLED OVE – by FREDERICK BACKMAN


Source: A MAN CALLED OVE – by FREDERICK BACKMAN

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MY 2015 READING YEAR IN REVIEW


Source: MY 2015 READING YEAR IN REVIEW

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CHRISTMAS CARDS


Santa

I’m feeling sad at the lack of Christmas cards this year.  Dec 25th is fast approaching and  I have no festive cards to display. One reason is the Postal Strike which has messed up, clogged, bollixed up, and paralysed the departure and arrival of mail. For four months we’ve either had no mail deliveries whatsoever, or – more recently –  sporadic deliveries of wodges of postal items, some of which date back as far as August.  I’m writing this post in mid  December.  I suppose this is proof that somewhere, in one of the vast Postal Mail Depot Warehouses, wekkers (South African pronunciation of the word ‘workers’) are unenthusiastically delving into the mountains of mail that have formed veritable mountain ranges within the warehouse.

Recently a picture was circulating on the Internet, purporting to show the interior of a Mail Depot in Joburg. When I looked at the photo, I wanted to weep.  Mail was spilling down to the floor, from overloaded metal racking. The floor was a sea of envelopes a  carpet of mail, on which were scattered plastic crates. Each crate was stuffed to overflowing with mail items. The piece’ de resistance was the shot showing the doorway to the Mail Depot.  The roller shutter-doors  were rolled up and letters had blown randomly over the tarmac into the yard …  Like I said, I felt like crying when I saw the picture.  I’m a lifelong supporter of the postal system: letters to friends and family, penfriends far away; magazine subscriber;  recipient of bills; mailer of parcels and cards on birthdays; and latterly, a keen member of the international postcard exchange called Postcrossing.

To sum up, I’m missing the usual display of Christmas cards: the bright reds and greens, the cards with sparkly glitter, all the kitch Santas, ho-ho-ing, the Star of Bethlehem cards, the whole jolly lot. But notwithstanding this, there’s a fair amount of Christmas cheer surrounding me, plus a couple of delightful unexpected gifts and I’ve found Pannetone (which I adore) in Food Lovers’ Market, so yes – Christmas is here. But my local Postman had better not knock on my door and ask for a “Christmas Box”.  Not this year! No way.

Wishing all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas, and a New Year filled with health and happiness.

 

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A SILVER LINING TO A DRAGON CLOUD


 A recent common complaint in my social circles has been the creeping colonization of our country by the Chinese – all sorts of people are complaining about finding Chinese shops, from big malls in the cities to small shops/cafes in the smaller towns and dorps. Why, I’ve even seen Chinese pedestrians walking back from the shops (presumably, because they’re carrying the ubiquitious plastic bags) in my own neighbourhood, and this is a first for me.

My son travels on a monthly basis on business to three African countries : Angola, Nigeria and Ghana and he says he sees growing evidence of Chinese business enterprises in all three countries. Apparently the Chinese are heavily into big construction projects all over Africa, and sadly, they insist on importing their own Chinese labourers to work on these schemes.   How they get away with this beats me – actually, I know how they get away with it – the word is ‘corruption’ which is endemic all over Africa. But it’s a crying shame, given the vast, unemployed, unskilled pool of labour readily available in Africa. They’re hungry for jobs, education and (often) food. And yet African government ignore their own citizens  and permit the import of foreign labour. Makes no sense at all.  On a recent flight to Luanda, Angola, my son said there were so many Chinese passengers on board that the flight attendant gave the safety spiel in Mandarin!  That should tell us all something!

Given the high level of rhino poaching in South Africa – and it has reached epidemic proportions –  forecasters are saying that within 30 years there will be no rhinos left.  And this to feed the Asian trade in traditional medicine. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that many Asians regard powdered rhino horn as an aphrodisiac? Which – scientifically speaking – it is not. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the greedy traders and poachers. Public opinion and sentiment says it does the trick to revive a wilting willy.  One of the  cruel ironies of this situation is that in China, if anybody is caught poaching the Chinese National Animal, to whit, the Giant Panda, they automatically receive the death sentence.  Finish and klaar. No messing around. That’s it – bang, you’re dead.

What a pity that African countries don’t adopt the same strategy – poach our rhinos and elephants for the horns and ivory and you get the chop. Again – corruption is the answer. Greedy politicians are making way too much money out of the trade to stop it.

A recent joke doing the rounds on the internet showed a sign proclaiming : Dried testicles from rhino poachers – best natural Viagra!  Now there’s a brilliant thought, don’t you think so?

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HELEN’S GARDEN


april 2009 006

It’s a sunny morning at the beginning of April, and I’m sitting on the deck, looking out at an idyllic scene: a little stream, bordered with bushes, flowers, rushes, marsh grasses, birds flitting in and out of the water,taking tiny sips before flying off again, birds splashing, fluttering, bathing. The water runs downhill, murmuring as it flows over the stones. To me, the sound of softly running water is one of the most relaxing sounds in the world. Where am I?  I’m in Kwa Zulu Natal, sitting in my daughter Helen’s garden, enjoying the morning, the birds, the little stream.

And now, if I tell you that this is a fake stream running down the hill in her garden, you’ll probably think :”Huh? What? Why?”  Look at the pic below and see if you can spot the fakery? Bet you can’t!

april 2009 007

It looks real, doesn’t it? The plants, the water and the birds are as real as real can be. But the river bed, ending in a pond further down the slope, was cleverly constructed by the landscaper, and – believe it or not – the rocks are fake! But to the eye they look like perfectly ordinary rocky rocks – amazing what can be manufactured nowadays. The river bed is edged with rocks in varying sizes which form the banks, the water follows the slope of the ground downwards, culminating in a reed fringed pond.   Initially, the pond was stocked with fish, but this proved to be an abortive venture  –  the hammerkops and herons descended and made short work of those fish. So that was the end of the fish. Sometimes you just have to concede defeat.

On the far bank of the little stream are Marsh grasses, and  down at the pond, taller Papyrus wave their spiky heads. All the plants are indigenous – for instance the lanky yellow flowers, another plant with long stems ending in bushy flower heads  bursting with pinky lavender flowers. There’s one alien plant, a clump of red zinnias, which ‘just volunteered’, the way plants do in a garden.  At the top of the stream the thick vegetation gives a grotto effect, and hides the water inlet pipe. Somewhere down by the pond is a pipe leading to the pump that sends the  water back uphill again.

In the foreground there’s a Leopard Tree, so called because of its spotted bark.The tree trunk is wreathed in canary creeper, the bright canary yellow flowers contrasting against the mottled trunk.

Garden 2013 001

If you get tired of listening to the river (and I never do) there are plenty of  birds to watch. The Hadedahs parading and pecking on the lawn, for once silent, being fully engaged in their food-hunt.

Fat doves are bullying hordes of LBJs (you know:Little Brown Jobs) on the grass, under the bird-feeder which  hangs from the lowest tree branches of the pigeonwood tree. The birds are pecking at fallen seeds which have spilled from the tray above, amidst all the fluttering and squabbling over the seeds.

Grey crested mousebirds flash the orange undersides of their tails as they  perch on the mimosa tree branches, they’re eating insects hiding in the foliage.

I’ve seen smart Bulbuls with their black faces topped by black caps and  backs,  with their contrasting pale bodies under the black top feathers.

If I’m lucky I’ll see the Ground Thrush with his bright brown-orange chests, always hop-hop-hopping. They’re such hoppity birds you wonder when they ever find time to stop and peck up something to eat.

The water attracts the Wagtails, eternally chirruping, and eternally jerking their little grey tails upwards. They remind me of warthogs, who always stick their short tails up at 90 degrees before trotting off.

I’m still hoping to see the Robin with his orange chest and  white brow stripe. Helen says they do come to the water, but not that often.

april 2009 003

I can recommend a combo of river and bird-watching as a balm for tired souls, and if you’re exhausted and out of sorts, go and find the nearest river and spend some time sitting close by, doing absolutely nothing. Let me know how your river visit turns out.

(Thanks to Helen Buckle for the pics)

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THANKS – An Award !


To Fethiye and Beyond …     recently awarded me theirSunshine award

 

Thank you so much to The Smidge – I’m honoured .  Of course, as with every award it is now my duty to pass it on along with a set of rules which are:

  • Include the award’s logo in      a post or on your blog.
  • Answer 10 questions about      yourself.
  • Nominate up to 10 other      fabulous bloggers.
  • Link your nominees to this      post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been      nominated.
  • Share the love and link the      person who nominated you.

So, here goes:

What inspired you to start blogging?   Probably a combination of  wanting to have a platform (& on occasion a soapbox) for my writing, and just because I could …. you know, if not, why not ? 

How did you come up with the name for your blog?   After a great deal of effort, after making a list of possible names all of which were awful, suddenly despatches from timbuktu just fell into my head! I liked the fact that it referred to Africa, to faraway places, and the word despatches  had the ring of  bulletins from battlefields, or progress of daring explorers.

What is your favourite blog that you like to read?  Difficult to answer but probably another wordpress blog : life to reset, which has marvellous pics & accounts of Japan, and sometimes Taiwan.

Tell us about your dream job:  The thought of having to work again after 12 years of retirement does not appeal, but … hmmm … owning my very own small, quirky bookstore crammed with all the books that I like (not to worry about prospective customers!). There’d be shelves of cookery books, travel books, poetry books, futuristic/speculative fiction/SF novels, comic novels, and art books. So if business was slow, I could just park off & read. Now that couldn’t be bad, could it? I might even make some money, if I wasn’t careful …

Is your glass half full or half empty?   Neither – it is absolutely overflowing. I love my life. That’s right, LOVE it. And when you love your life setbacks are merely little hiccups that can be easily overcome. As Terri Guillemets said ‘How can something bother you if you won’t let it?’  (Thanks to the Smidge for this response – I couldn’t have phrased it better)

If you could go anywhere for a week’s holiday where would it be?   Oh the agonies of choice.  Just a week? Venice, I think. But mid-Autumn. I don’t want to be fighting off hordes of tourists.

What food can you absolutely not eat?  Tripe –  a horrendous experience at boarding school, which I won’t go into.

Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?   Dark, laced with orange, please. Alas: strictly on the forbidden list now … sigh.  

How much time do you spend blogging?   Not that much – it depends. I spend more time writing my blog posts, I think.

Do you watch TV – if so what are some of your favourite TV shows?   Yes, I watch TV. Sherlock – both the British & American versions; Big Bang Theory;  Northern Exposure; Blue Bloods; Master Chef Australia. Pretty much anything on Travel Channel.

My Sunshine Awards go to…

  1. Life to Reset
  2. Soulshine Traveller
  3. The Fantastical Voyages of Flat Kathy
  4. Dharmagiri
  5. Travelling Mudskippers

Yes I know there are only 5 but I felt it made it all the more special to award just a handful of the wonderful bloggers I follow rather than just award them all – although I enjoy  each and every blog I read, these 5 are  that I read regularly and enjoy the most.

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B A K & THE CARNAGE CONTINUES


Uganda Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna collaris)

Uganda Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna collaris) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

B A K ?  Back at Keyboard, of course. Do try  to keep up.

If I sound a little waspish it’s because my return to home, cat and keyboard has not been a restful transition. After a delightful fortnight in Kwa-Zulu Natal, surrounded by family and friends, enjoying lunches, a prawn braai, a visit to a game reserve, an evening at the theatre, splashing in the swimming pool  – in short, that rare event, a relaxing holiday, my return was angst ridden in the extreme.

My brand new laptop got mixed up with another laptop in the overhead compartment of the plane, and I landed up with a battered old IBM in an identical carrying case. There was no identification in the case and the laptop was password-locked. 48 fraught hours later the dilemma was solved, laptops were exchanged, and I will never ever travel with un-labelled luggage again.

Meanwhile, back at the home front, on return from the cattery, Chocolat was being sociable and affectionate, and sharing quantities of little red ticks she’d picked up on her outdoor excursions. Three tick bites later (have you any idea how itchy tick bites can be?) much brushing and combing of cats, purchase of one tick & flea collar which did no good at all, purchase of more Frontline which is anti-tick monthly muti, the ticks seem to have abated. Now I’m waiting to see if I come down with tick-bite fever. I sincerely hope not. It’s unpleasant. Other family members have been bitten during trips to the bush, and laid very low thereafter.

In between these excitements, Chocolat caught a large dove, which she carted inside and proceeded to harass. Luckily I arrived while the bird was still alive, and confiscated it. Miraculously it flew when I released it into the garden, but then I spent a long time picking up dozens – maybe even hundreds – of tiny feathers inside the house. Ho hum.  And two days later Madam marched in and laid her latest trophy at my feet: one small scarlet-collared sunbird, claws pathetically still locked around the branch where it had perched. No problem to Chocolat, who brought the whole lot indoors, bird, branch, the whole jolly lot. At the moment I’m off my cat, in a big way.

My latest read has followed this trend: the Swedish bestseller Silenced  by  Kristina Ohlsson – the grim tale of a family murder. Suffice it to say the reader realises by the end of the book that it is very unwise to upset one’s siblings, lest they take revenge. Be especially nice to your siblings, lest they be harbouring old grudges, and are plotting, right now, how best to achieve your downfall – if not total extinction. You have been warned.

Yup: I’m B.A.K. But not with a happy smile on my dial.

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Says it all!

A Frank Angle

interfaithlogoYes, I believe in Santa Claus, and the reason is simple – Santa Claus is a spirit of giving and kindness that transcends all cultures.

This post is for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, secular humanists, Atheists, agnostics, and all other belief systems because this my way of saying thank you with hopes that it brings a smile and warms your heart.

To me, there is no other day like Christmas Eve as it brings a sense of calmness. I smile when driving by closed stores with empty parking lots. Traffic is light as we pass houses with outdoor holiday lights. Listening to calm, classic music of the season adds to the sense of calmness.

In the spirit of Santa Claus, here are my gifts to you – my visitors – for I owe you for the many joys you’ve given me here and throughout WordPress.  So, go under the…

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2011 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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How do you choose a title for a brand new blog?


Titling a new Blog

Who knew this would prove to be so difficult?  Initially my brain seethed with possibilities – quirky, original ideas. I made an efficient list. I worked my way through the possibilities. My dismay increased exponentially  as I approached the tail-end.  This one was too twee;  that one was too solipsistic; this one was too obscure; that one was too naff; this one was just plain stupid; that one wasn’t as funny as I’d first thought.  How could this be so hard?

I earnestly re-read The Rough Guide to Blogging  by Jonathan Yang and confirmed that  the header (i.e. blog name) is crucial, it’s the hook that draws in your potential readers, the brand name that builds you a devoted tribe of eager fans.  Okay, right, I get it.  Back to the drawing board.

How do I find a header that encapsulates the contents of my as-yet-unwritten blog? I mean, how do I know now what I might write about in the future?  I see blogging as a glorious opportunity to write about anything and everything (note to self – how about From Cabbages to Kings ?  Umm.  This pre-supposes familiarity with Alice in Wonderland. And didn’t Johnny Depp do wonders for Wonderland in last year’s movie?) But I digress. See how easy it is to slip from one topic to another. How about From Depp to Darwin?  That covers a lot of ground.  But do I want to write about evolution and its tricky cousin, creationism?  And could I ? should I ? write about the movies?  Do I want to write about the movies? Barry Ronge is doing a terrific job, so maybe let well alone.

What I chiefly want to write about is Books, and reading.  Plus anything else that takes my fancy.  Cats, for instance; or food; or Mah-Jongg; or the fact that truth is always stranger than fiction; or obscure words that I encounter on Lexulous; maybe I should just title the wretched thing The Whole Gemors and leave it at that.  Non-South African readers will just have to figure it out for themselves. Or not, as the case may be. I’ll add The Whole Gemors  to the list and ponder some more.

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