28 November 2007

S for Secretary Birds

One of the things I love about Africa is the variety of wildlife. It is a great thrill when driving on the open road to come across a Secretary Bird roaming the savannah. These pictures were taken a few years ago at the Mountain Zebra National Park, with a point and shoot camera and are not of the best quality.

Secretary Birds are recognizable by having an eagle-like body on long crane-like legs, which increases the bird’s height to around 1.3 m (4 ft) tall. It has an eagle-like head with a hooked bill, but has rounded wings. Body weight averages at about 3.3 kg (7.3 lbs) and the wingspan is over 2 m (6.6 ft).

Secretary Birds are endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa and are non-migratory. They prefer open grasslands and savannas rather than forests and dense shrubbery. They roost on the local Acacia trees at night and they spend much of the day on the ground, returning to roosting sites just before dark.

The Secretary Bird is largely terrestrial, hunting its prey on foot. Adults hunt in pairs and sometimes as loose familial flocks, stalking through the habitat with long strides. Prey consists of insects, small mammals, lizards, snakes, young birds, bird eggs, and sometimes dead animals killed in brush fires.

Secretary Birds have two distinct feeding strategies. They can either catch their prey by chasing it and striking with the bill, or by stamping on their prey until it is stunned or unconscious enough to swallow
Secretary Birds are monogamous. Their nests are built on top of Acacia trees, usually 5-7 m (15-20 feet) high. The nest is around 2.5 m (eight feet) wide and 30 cm (one foot) deep, and is constructed as a relatively flat basin of sticks.

26 November 2007

It's good to be back.

I am back after an absence of 14 days. Amazing how one minute you think you are healthy and the next, you know you are not.

Firstly I would like to say a very big thank you for all the support, prayers and words of encouragement to me and Suzi-k, I cannot even begin to tell how much these meant to us.

It all started with the heart attack, which was the easy part. A bit of pain in the chest and shortness of breath and then it was over, but by then I was in casualty. I was still hoping it was a case indegestion or stress.

From there I was transferred to the cardiac care unit, connected to machines, drips and oxygen. I felt like a complete fraud and would have happily left, but the blood tests showed evidence of a heart attack. My condition appeared to be reasonable and the perception was that I would probably need a stent and could go home after a few days.

The angiogram came two days later. It said, "Sorry bud, no stents for you - you definitely need a bypass, make that four". The cardiologist pointed out that the area that had suffered the attack had received colateral support from the arteries on the other side of my heart, which minimized the damage. A few more tests showed that my heart had suffered no major damage. One of the nurses told me I was obviously being looked after by a higher power.

The consensus was that I was a walking time bomb and would need the bypass, sooner rather than later. "How about tomorrow," I suggested. That settled it.

Then followed a series of meetings with the surgeon, the anaethatist, the physiotherapist, a psychologist etc, etc to prepare me for the operation and the post operation recovery. Nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience.

Day three I was sedated prior to going into surgery and was as high as a kite, so remember nothing of being prepped for the operation.

The nightmare of coming aound from the anaesthetic is something I will never forget and may write about that another time. My four days in ICU were tough, with respiratory problems, but I survived and was glad to get into a general ward on day seven, with only a drip.

Day ten - home. Recovery is slow and each day I feel stronger, but have little stamina and have to push myself to do my exercises and take regular rests.

The past two weeks have taught me two things about the human body. One it is very fragile, a small change in the balance can be fatal. Two it is very resilient, with one being able to survive a tough operation, like open heart surgery and be restored to full health over time - in fact I have been told it will make me 15 years younger.

Well guys and gals that is what I am looking forward to - five more weeks to full recovery. And as I have no intention of going back for seconds, I will be undergoing a change in life style.

It took me all day to write this post but it is good to be back.

23 November 2007

Yay Yippee Yay

Max came home today...

So this is Sue signing out with a big smile, and hopefully Max will be strong enough to resume normal blogging soon!

21 November 2007

ABC Wednesday. R is for RECOVERY!

as you can see he looks tired but happy!
Sue here again. It is uncanny because, just last evening, Max and I discussed that I would do a post for him for ABC Wednesday, on his recovery, and I just saw that Walksfarwoman left a message on the previous post saying exactly that!

So the good news is that Max finally moved out of Intensive Care today, and into a normal ward. Yay! He has suddenly turned the corner, and his recovery is really accelerating. On Friday, about 5 hours after he came out of surgery, things were really touch and go. He remembers the nurses shouting "stay with us, stay with us..." Saturday was a bit better, but Sunday the wheels fell off a bit, he was in a lot of pain and battling to breathe. His blood oxygen saturation was too low, and it turned out he had an infection in one lung, which is now being treated. So it has been a bumpy ride, but he is now well on the road to recovery.

He asked me to tell you all how much he has appreciated the goodwill and care that you have all shown.

17 November 2007

You know a person is addicted to blogging when.....

.......they are being wheeled down the corridor to theatre, about to have open heart surgery, and they say "Ahhh, I've just thought of what I want to do for my "R" post..........


If you want an update, I did reply to comments and leave a post over at arty-fartying around.

15 November 2007

Max Update:

Hi, Sue here again. Thank you SO much for all the concern and good wishes. On my blog I described what happened in more detail.

The latest update is that Max has been moved from Uitenhage to Port Elizabeth (little Ethan very excited that grandpa got to ride in an Ambulance!)

He is in the Coronary Care Unit, and I must say he is getting excellent treatment there.
He has had an angiogram, which shows some major blockages in the arteries, so it looks like he will have to have a quadruple bypass. I will be trying to get hold of the doctor to get more details later this morning, but it sounds as if it might be on Friday.

The good news is that, because the Rocklands clinic was so pro-active, (HUGE thanks to their nurse Jenny) the attack was caught in time before any damage was done to the heart muscle, so that, at least is positive.

Thanks again for all the prayers, thoughts and greetings, which I am passing on to Max. He is going through serious cyberworld withdrawal, I am sure he will be blogging like crazy as soon as he is back home and recovering!

14 November 2007

Q for Queen Victoria

Rule Britania

The Sicilian marble statue of Queen Victoria, situated at the entrance to the Main Library, on the North-Western corner of Market Square, was erected and unveiled in 1903 two years after her death. I have focused in on the statue to show the detail of this amazing piece of work.

The statue is a reminder of British rule, from 1806 to 1961 that so profoundly affected the history of this part of the world.

Born at Kensington Palace, London, on 24 May 1819, Victoria was the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. Her father died soon after her birth and she became heir to the throne because her three uncles who were ahead of her in succession had no legitimate children who survived.

What I never realized is that Victoria was almost entirely of German descent. She was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover. Her son King Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Victoria was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India from 1 May 1876, until her death on 22 January 1901. Her reign lasted 63 years and seven months, longer than that of any other British monarch.

Queen Victoria is associated with Britain's age of industrial expansion, economic progress and the expansion of the British Empire; during this period it reached its zenith, becoming the foremost Global Power of the time.

At her death, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.

Suzi-k here, Just to let you know that Max had fortunately prepared this ABC post in advance. He has asked me to post it for him. He had a heart attack yesterday and is in intensive care at the moment. He seems to be doing OK, but we would appreciate your prayers.

12 November 2007

The other side of sunset

Looking East over Algoa Bay as the sun sets in the West

09 November 2007

Grinning rock

You've got to admit that this looks like one happy rock.
Photographed at the Valley of Desolation, Graaff Reinet

08 November 2007

Mobile farm stall

I thought this was a rather novel farm stall.

It is situated on the road between Port Elizabeth and Cradock, just beyond the Oliphants Nek Pass. That is unless it has been moved somewhere else. Electricity was supplied by way of what looked like a 500 metre extention lead coming from the homestead - definitely not a safe arrangement.

Like most good coutry stalls the main product on sale is biltong (jerky).

These guys know that most South Africans cannot resist resist the stuff, its a local passion. Not everyone's favourite though. We once offered some to an Autralian guest, who tried valiantly to eat it, but was too polite to say he did not like it. We let him suffer for a while, before saying it was ok to leave it. This was definitely not a problem as there would be more for us.

I can only imagine it is the farmer's answer to crime. What a good way to safeguard your product and stall. But then it also makes relocating your shop to a busier location much easier.

Jesting with jets

I was quite pleased with the photograph I had taken of an L37 Albatross at last years airshow, so understandably sent a copy to my son, who is a pilot, while we were chatting online one evening.

His scornful reply, "The albatross does not fly, it converts fuel into noise energy and the earth repels it".

As a jet, it may not be in the same class as the Mirage or the Cheetah (click to see previous posts), but I still like the photo.

07 November 2007

P is for Prester John

Across the road from the Feather Market Hall, between the City Hall and the Old Post Office in Port Elizabeth is an amazing statue dedicated to the seafarers who searched for Prester John between 1145 and 1645.

The statue was commissioned by a Port Elizabeth businessman Johan Eggers and sculptured by local sculptor Phil Kolby. I remember Johan waxing eloquently about his vision for this statue and eventually turning this into a reality. The result is a brilliant work of art.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, Prester John was believed to be the ruler of a vast and powerful empire in the interior of Asia. From the 14th to the 16th century, he was believed to be the king of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in northeast Africa.

It all started in 1165 with a letter supposedly written by Prester John, describing his country as a land of natural riches, marvels, peace and justice. It was given to the Byzantine emperor and to the Holy Roman emperor Frederick Barbarossa. It told of a magical kingdom in the East that was in danger of being overrun by infidels and barbarians.

Thus began the quest for the wealth of Prester John.

It was his reputation that helped drive explorers to find the sea route to India. King John II of Portugal specifically instructed the expeditions of his time to discover this fabulous kingdom. The legend endured until the 18th century and died after the Scottish explorer James Bruce had travelled through Ethiopia.

Though some scholars think that the basis for Prester John came from the great empire of Genghis Khan, others believe it was merely a fantasy. Whatever it was, the legend of Prester John profoundly affected the geographical knowledge of Europe by stimulating interest in foreign lands and sparking expeditions outside of Europe, which is what this statue is all about.

06 November 2007

Do you have ESP?

David’s Weekend Wandering poses the question, “Do you have ESP?”.

The answer to that question, David, is “Oh yes. Not only do I have ESP but I am the fount of all wisdom”.
Where do I start? I’m a father with two kids, both grown up now, but when they were small they believed I had the answer to anything and everything. I am sure many fathers can identify with this.

“Dad, what is that man doing?”
“Dad, why is that lady taking……..?”

“How do you make a…….?”
“Dad, where is…….?”
“Dad, what do you do if…….?”
“Who is that?”
“Where can I find…….?”

Imparting my gardening knowledge to the kids
The questions were endless and the subjects diverse. To say that I did not know the answer was not good enough – they wanted answers and they wanted them now and believed implicitly that I had them. Whatever I told them they believed, so I had to be careful that the answers were not too tall. They were quick to learn and could soon distinguish between fact and fiction.

I became known as the “All seeing, all knowing daddy”.

The legacy lives on to this day. Ian and C live in a country in North Africa and she was desperately trying to get two books for her University studies. Here is a transcript of a Skype discussion:

Ian says: we have tried 10 shops in Kenya, and phoned SA flat to find them, not even the University, the ones who prescribed the books, know where to get them?????

Max says: What are their names?

Ian says: Introduction to Business management, 6th Edition, by Cronje et al, 2004
Introduction to Communication Studies, Cape Town, Juta, ISBN: 0702172618

Ian says: Do you have any ideas?

Max says: I don't see that this should be a problem. We can try van Skaiks or go directly to Juta for the second one

Ian says: Can you please try? It is impossible from this end

Max says: Nothing is impossible with the internet, but don't worry as the all seeing all knowing daddy, I will phone them tomorrow

Ian says: Good

Ian says: Thanks, just remember, in 5 weeks, I am going to be the all seeing all knowing daddy! (They were expecting their first child)

Max says: You will be dumb and stupid for a while then the questions will start and you then you will be all seeing and all knowing. Then when she gets to be a teenager you will be dumb again, but that only last until the early 20's.

Ian says: I am never going to be dumb, I will be the oracle!

Max says: No, you do not decide - it just happens.

In the meantime I was doing a quick search on Kalahari.net and in a matter of seconds found the information they needed and continued the conversation.

Max says: Introduction to business management: 6 Revised Edition
Author: Dr M.D.C. Motlatla; K. Marais; Prof G.J. de J Cronje; Prof G.S. du Toit
Format: Softcover Delivery time: Usually within 5 working days. Price R 325.50

Ian says: how did you do that?

Simple........“I'm The all seeing all knowing daddy”.

On a more serious note I have had many ESP experiences in my life. Here are a few:

I had a close bond with my mother. It often happened when I said I was going to phone her, she would phone me within a matter of minutes. Or if I phoned her, she would say that she had just told John (my step dad) that she was going to phone me. It happened too often to be coincidental.

When I was in the army out in the field I had a very vivid dream about my parents two Ridgeback pups, Mutt and Jeff, drowning. It was so vivid that when I got back to civilization I phoned to find out about them. My mom told me they had drowned in the neighbours dip tank.

Then there was an incident early in 1977, in the war years in Zimbabwe, when I said to Sue that I was worried about my parents and needed to phone them. I was concerned that there were terrorists in the area. There was really no obvious cause for concern as their farm was not in an operational area. In those days we would phone from a call box, via an exchange. It took anything up to an hour for a call to come through. When it did my mom told me that a group of terrorists had passed through the farm. A few months later my father became the first casualty of the war in that area.

There is also the still small voice that I ‘hear” sometimes. Not literally, but in my subconscious. It tells me to do things, or warns me of something I should have done or had neglected. If I ignore it, I invariably experience a problem. It is generally something out of the ordinary – not anything on my conscience.

I cannot explain these things........there is no logic, but they happened.

Reflections on the sea

This picture makes yachting look so romantic. It was taken when I was leaving on my fateful deep sea fishing trip, which changed my views of being out on the sea forever.

04 November 2007

What next!

In an effort to improve its revenue collection, our city council has taken to sending out reminders via SMS, for clients to pay their accounts. On Friday I was in a meeting, with my mobile phone on silent mode, but noticed that a message had come through. So like any good mobile phone user, I could not resist sneaking a look. Well, when I saw this I started laughing and totally disrupted the meeting. I don't know why I found it so funny, but I did.
It is just another example of bureaucratic ineptitude that is becoming so common place here.

03 November 2007

Chikombe the untold story

treachery, treason or mercy?
I do not know how many reporters are still around who covered the events of the bush war in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe. If there are, this is an untold story that will shed some light on why some of them missed out on the story of Chikombe Mazvidza.

Situated in the Rushinga District, in the North-East of Zimbabwe is the Karanda Mission Hospital. It has been around for a long time and has the reputation for providing excellent medical services. I was posted to one of the Ministry of Internal Affairs outposts situated at the
Karanda Mission Hospital, during the bush war in January 1976, for a period of about two months.

View of Karanda Mission Hospital from my quarters

Shortly after my arrival there I came across Chikombe Mazvidza, while strolling though the hospital grounds. Chikombe was a victim of a gruesome atrocity, having had his ears lips and chin hacked off by terrorists, towards the end of 1975. If you want to read more about that incident just Google his name. The event did not happen in1976 as was reported in one article, but in1975.

When I first saw him, he had already received reconstructive surgery. The mission doctor who treated him had seen service in the Vietnam War and was as a result well equipped to deal with the worst kinds of wounds. The surgery was still in the early stages and the grafts looked like long weals across his face.

I never spoke to Chikombe, who tended to keep to himself, but we eventually got to the point where would exchange greetings with a casual wave of the hand.

One morning, in January or February 1976. I heard the sound of an aircraft landing and when I looked out from my office, which was situated on a hill over looking the hospital and the runway, I saw a Dakota. It had already taxied to the end of the runway and was now disgorging a group of brightly dressed civilians, all armed with cameras and note books. The local and international press I assumed. What I found intriguing though, was how the pilot brought that plane down on that little runway, which had clearly been designed for small aircraft.

I completed the work I was doing and about 30 minutes later I strolled down to the hospital, to see what the buzz was all about. I found out the answer soon enough ……. PROPAGANDA.

When I arrived the group was quite agitated – they had traveled a long way to get here, to interview and photograph Chikombe and he was nowhere to be found. The officials from the Ministry of Information and the psychological warfare boys were running around very officiously, trying to locate the missing “prize”.

The end of the runway, with an Alouette helicopter refueling

I stood and watched the circus for a while and soon got bored and left. For some unknown reason I took a more indirect route back to my quarters, through the hospital grounds. As I rounded the corner of one of the wards, I walked into Chikombe. It is a sight I will never forget. His eyes widened and he looked at me with what amounted to blind panic. He had very obviously been trying to avoid the group and had now been found. I was now faced with a choice - to tell or not to tell. It was a split-second decision and  I held up my hand and told him to relax, I was not about to tell anyone where he was.

What happened next would have probably cost me my job in those days. I stepped back so that I could see the group and monitor the movements of the “search party”, now made up of officials, police and hospital staff. With a series of hand signals and after a few narrow escapes, I managed to guide him away from the buildings to some bush, where he could safely hide out.

He gave me a wave and may even have smiled if he had been able to, just before disappearing. I turned about and I walked back to my quarters on the hill.

Later that morning the Dakota flew off with its disgruntled passengers.

That evening while having a drink with some of the members of the police force, who were also stationed there, we talked about the events of the day and they said that they could not understand what had happened to Chikombe. He was always around and no one had been able to locate him. I just smiled quietly to myself.

I had been faced with one of those situations where one is forced to make a split second decision. I could have stepped back and divulged his whereabouts to the officials looking for him. But on the other hand, when I saw the panic in his face I chose to respect his wishes and his right to privacy.

Would I do it again? You bet I will.

Updated 13 July 2015

Wolf, wolf what's the time

Bed time.....................
Now leave me alone!
The Wolf Sanctuary situated between Plettenburg Bay and Knysna is home to the off spring of a pair of Canadian Timber Wolves imported in the 1980's for breeding purposes.

I was really hoping for some good shots, but these guys had no aspirations to be celebrities. In fact it is more like a study into the sleeping habits of wolves.

It is such a pity that these magnificant cretures will have to spend the rest of their days in captivity.........I would love to see them being returned to the wild, but after a life in captivity this will not be possible.

02 November 2007

Heather and thither

I took these pictures when on my early morning walk at Edens Touch, last week end. I have not been able to idenfify them, but think they are from the heath family....not sure from which branch though.

01 November 2007

12 Amazing Ostrich facts

There were so many questions on the my Wednesday ABC post on Ostriches that I decided to respond to the comments with a separate post, with 12 amazing facts about Ostriches. Please note that some of these facts will not be found in any definitive works on Ostriches and are being published for the first time.
One of the remaining feathers from our old decor shop
1. There was a lot of speculation about the taste of Ostrich meat. In my opinion the taste is….…..fowl. Tried it once and did not enjoy it. Suzi-k on the other hand likes Ostrich steak. But then in our family we do draw a distinction between “boy’s food” and “girl’s food”. So, if it is a toss up between lean, cholesterol free Ostrich meat and a fatty lamb chop there is no contest – I’ll take my chances with cholesterol.

2. Let’s not forget the eggs. One Ostrich egg is equivalent to about 24 chicken eggs. I have never tried one, but believe that they are very rich. So here’s the deal, I have no intention of trying out ostrich eggs, a boiled chicken’s egg is more than enough for me.

K riding an Ostrich when she was still little 3. Oh yes, another use for Ostrich eggs is for décor purposes. The yolk is removed and the eggs are sold for display purposes; or they have kitsch and I mean kitsch pictures painted on them and sold to people with an unusual taste in décor; I have seen them carved with intricate patterns and so it goes…….

4. We once bought bottled water in a container shaped like an Ostrich egg. I do not know what it was, but Suzi-k and I could not bring ourselves to drink the water. It was all psychosomatic…. as soon as we lifted the bottle to our lips, something triggered the egg smell in our brains and down went the bottle. Coupled with that was the image of how the eggs come into the world. Yes, I know the bottle was plastic, but we do have vivid imaginations.

Ostrich foot

5. If you want real gross, it is an Ostrich foot converted into an ashtray. By the way you do not want to get on the wrong side of these feet - they can do some nasty damage.

6. Someone remarked on how unhappy Ostriches looked. You would too it you knew that someone was about to pull your tail feathers out to make a feather duster.

7. For those of you still think there is some truth about Ostriches sticking their heads in the sand, let me dispel the myth. You would need a jack hammer to dig a hole in the ground, in some of the areas where Ostriches live. It is something like the saying that a guinea pig’s eyes will drop out, if you pick it up by its tail. What probably lead to the myth is that when they are feeding and their heads are down, it can look like the head is in the sand from a distance.

8. Ostrich leather is really classy and is used to make high quality shoes, purses, brief cases, upholstery and so on..…. all of which are sold at extortionate prices. And you can get it in a stunning variety of colours.

9. Did you know that you can ride an Ostrich? This picture is of an Ostrich race taken at Oudtshoorn many years ago. Not a very comfortable ride, but a ride nevertheless

One of Suzi-k's designs, the Jester Chair with an Ostrich feather tassle on the right

10. The feathers are still very popular in décor and fashion circles. They are used to trim cushions, a personal favourite with any self respecting cat. The feathers also make nice boa’s and fashion accessories.

11. Several years ago the local Ostrich industry took quite a knock with avian influenza. Many farmers opted out of the business, but others just picked up the pieces and soldiered on. That’s why we are still able to buy feather dusters ………. and all the other things I have spoken of.

Herding Ostriches
12. And that is not all, once they have been domesticated you can herd Ostriches like sheep. These were photographed outside Oudtshoorn, headed for the abattoir. No wonder they look so unhappy.