31 December 2008

Happy New Year

I wish all my blogging friends a really wonderful New Year. May 2009 be a very happy and special year for you and your families.

30 December 2008

Is it just me?

Today I got my first “mwah” and I hope it is my last, because I will do everything possible to avoid getting another one. If you do not know what a “mwah” is, let me explain. Maybe if I try and explain it I will gain a better understanding for myself.

A “mwah” is a new form of greeting to me. Suzi-k tells it is a cheek to cheek air kiss and is very “in” among the trendy circles. From what I understand it is like “shalaam”. Whether you are coming or going you say, “Shalaam.” Whether you are coming or going you do a “mwah.”

Depending on the circles you move in there are two kinds of “mwah”. The technique is essentially the same for both. There is the single “mwah” and then there is the double barreled “mwah.”

The technique is to go up to the intended “victim”, then with exaggerated haste and a big smile on your face and with flamboyant movements, place a hand on each of their shoulders and bring your head past the side of theirs (it does not matter which side) without touching and let off a loud “mwah” and then retreat. For the double barreled “mwah”, you do it on both sides.

I only got the single malt version today and I think I may have fluffed it and I am not going to go there. I am not too sure about when the double barreled one is used and don’t intend to find out. Personally I prefer the old fashioned handshake.

I am something of an unconventional guy - just a common or garden bush baby who has never followed the dictates of fashion or convention. So when something like this comes my way I want to run. I don’t think I can do a “mwah”.

I also don’t do the kissing thing, unless it is my wife.

Perhaps this goes back to teenage traumas. When I was about 16 years old we went to visit some Afrikaans relatives, some of whom I had not even met and I had my first experience of an Afrikaner custom, which I have never embraced.

It was the first time I had met Klein (small) Gert, my uncle Gert’s eldest son. He was probably ten or twelve years older than me. In my characteristic fashion I politely stretched out my arm to shake his hand and before I realized what was happening, he had pulled me towards him and planted a kiss firmly on my lips. Let’s just say that I recoiled and beat a hasty retreat.

From there on my form of greeting was simple. It was still the handshake, but my arm was as stiff as a ramrod and my legs were as firmly braced as if I were in a tug o’ war, to make sure that no one reeled me in. And I have maintained that record for forty years.

I just need to find a strategy to “mwah” proof myself now.

Is it just me…………………………?

Cape St Francis

I missed the sunrise this morning, but the compensation came when my early morning walk brought me to the lookout point above the Port, which presented a view of Cape St Francis. What is nice about this area is that a large green belt has been retained as a nature reserve. Too often we see the coastline being destroyed by uncontrolled development.

29 December 2008

Sieze the day

Our letting agent phoned this morning to let us know that people who were booked into our pad had decided to move out four days early. Yeah, that created a space for us, so we are here for two nights. It is good to be back at the Port.

The place has been given a good face lift and the Port Elizabeth, Cafe Brasilia has opened a branch here as well, where we had an early dinner. Thumbs up for the ambiance and the food.

By the way this is the view from our balcony.

27 December 2008

Only a cat...........

Yes, only a cat can make itself comfortable like this...........and in my favourite chair! So guess who sat on the sofa?

25 December 2008

Sky Watch Friday - Play Misty for Me

We went to East London on Sunday and were met with a wall of mist outside Grahamstown. It was like the sky had come down to us, in a thick pea soup.

These blue gums were shot at the first lay-by we came across. No point in missing a good photo opportunity.

For more great pictures from around the world, visit the Sky Watch site.

23 December 2008

Seasons Greetings

I would like to thank all my blogging friends, for your visits and comments over the past year and hope you have a wonderful Chrismas and a really great New Year

Helicopter - BK117

I have had a lifelong fascination with flying machines, but for some reason I am a terrible passenger. It is not a fear of flying, but rather a fear of dropping from the sky. Even so I will go up whenever I have an opportunity.
This BK117 helicopter was photographed at the Port Elizabeth airshow in October this year, going through its paces.

21 December 2008

To be or not to be #2 - Keep it green

From about the mid 1800's until 1903, when they were forcibly removed from the area, the Mfengu people lived in Richmond Hill, in an area that was known as the Strangers Location. These were people who worlded predominantly on offloading ships that arrived in the Bay. The Strangers Location was established by an act of Parliament, which meant that there was security of tenure. That is until the bubonic plague broke out and as a result of sweeping powers that were granted to get rid of the plague, the Strangers Location was burned to the groound and the residents were moved to New Brighton.

The park in Richmond Hill was originally the cemetary of the Mfengu resident and is recorded as such on the early maps of the city. Over the years the cemetary became public open space and eventually a park. Part of it was integrated as a playground for the old Erica School.

The old Erica School Play ground, which is marked on the old maps as part of the cemetary, looking towards the St Phillips Church, which was established in 1884 to serve the community.

The National Department of Public Works and the SA Police service now want to build a 1011 call centre and a 50 metre lattice mast on part of the cemetary, but before they can do so they have to comply with with the heritage laws. This requires that the NPWD and the SAPS have to follow a lengthy public participation process before they can even consider building on the site. Hopefully the reaction of the Mfengu people and the duration of this process will throw a spanner in the works and they will rethink their blighted strategy.

Notice required by the developers to locate persons with an interest in the cemetary. The fact that this should be in the official languages of the province, does not seem to have occurred to the developers.

We certainly do not want an ugly four storey admin building dumped on the edge of our park and will continue with our protest action. We feel that this should remain a green area and that a small monument should be erected on the site, in memory of the contribution of the Mfengu, to the early development of the city.

20 December 2008

World Cup Soccer Stadium

I visted the World Cup Soccer Stadium yesterday afternoon and for the for the first time since the project started, I got feeling of real excitement when I saw the progress and the buzz on the site. Somehow, the roof cladding has made the difference.

Now for confession time - I have been watching this development rather dispassionately, over the past months. Perhaps it is because I am not a soccer fan, or maybe it is because I can't understand why billions of rands are spent on a structure, where a few games will be played ..................... and then its all over.

On the positive side, we will have a world class stadium that can be used to attact more big games to the city. You cannot deny that these days "sport = big bucks" - so bring it on and let the city benefit.

If you are interested I will be posting more pictures of the stadium on Port Elizabeth Daily Photo over the next few days.

18 December 2008

Sky Watch Friday - Sunrise in the mountains

Sunrise taken up in the mountains, at Mt Moorosi in Lesotho in April this year. Other than the beautiful view all I can say was that it was cold.....very cold and I don't do "very cold" that well.
For more great pictures from around the world, visit Sky Watch site.

17 December 2008

Gracious old lady - Ford Deluxe

This Ford Deluxe sedan, probably a 1947 model, is on display at the SA Airforce Museum in Port Elizabeth. She is really a symbol of a bygone era - imagine running one of these at todays fuel prices.

15 December 2008

Avian update

When I arrived at work this morning, there to greet me was a brand new Crowned Lapwing chick, or for the South Africans a Kiewietjie. It must have been newly hatched, because it was still quite unsteady on its legs. (See For the Birds posted on Friday, 12 December). It wont be winning any beauty contests.

When I came out about an hour later, a second one had arrived and by the evening the chicks were quite mobile. The only problem with the chicks is that it is impossible to photgraph them together, because as soon as anyone arrives, they split up and each one runs to a separate parent.

When I wrote about the Dikkops (Spotted Thick Knees, for the purists), in Pavement Specials on 16 November, I expressed my concern about the survival of the chick. I am happy to report that he, or she, has survived and I often see the family running about in the park at night feeding. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get an up to date picture.
The chick looks just like the adults now, only slightly smaller.

Taking time out

I am not too sure what species these ducks are, but I think they are Cape Teal. They were photographed in a wetland, near the Domkrag Pan in the Addo Elephant National Park at sunset.

13 December 2008

To be or not to be - Part 1

The activist in me has re-emerged after lying dormant for many years, so here goes.......time to vent my spleen.

The community of Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth is up in arms over the the intention of the National Department of Public Works and the SA Police to build a four story call centre, with a 50 metre high radio tower, in the heart of our historic suburb.

They propose to build this ugly, ill conceived and poorly planned edifice alongside the old Erica School building, which is one of the historic landmarks of the City. Not only that, it will front right onto the park and also take away the afternoon sun from the residents in St Phillips Street. Oh, and let's not forget that the view of the Erica Building will be obscured from many directions.

As people who are at the forefront of fighting crime in our neighbourhood, we are fully supportive of the need to upgrade the 10111 call centre, with the latest technology, but not at the expense of our quality of life, or the negative effect this will have on our heritage or the value of our properties.

Despite strong opposition, which has been dismissed as emotive, the bureaucratics have decided to push ahead with the project. The community has decided to fight it with equal, if not greater determination. The authorities still need to go through a process of public participation and do an environmental impact assessment on the radio mast, and a Heritage Impact Assessment on the old burial site, so we have a while to go.

Why many of us are emotive, is not surprising, as the authorities have applied the mushroom principle with us, by keeping us in the dark and feeding us crap. We have arranged all the public participation meetings. It was through our efforts that it finally emerged that it was not a two storey building, but a four storey building that was to be built. It was us who pointed out to them that they were about to start building on an old Mfengu burial site. The tender process started before the public participation process..........I could go on, but will not.

As far as the SAP is concerned they will play it by the book and as long as the project fulfills all the legal requirements, it will go ahead. We say, it may be legal but that does not make it right.
It is very easy to dismiss as emotive, the views of the community, but the reality is that we live here. We will have to live with the building blocking our views. We will have to live with the impact of a 15 month building project on our doorstep. We will have to live with the disruption of the comings and goings of shift workers at all times of the day and night, on our already crowded roads.

Accoring to the consultants, "there are no panoramic or excellent views that will be impaired to such an extent as to significantly deminish the market value of any of the adjoining or neighbouring properties." We beg to differ!

The way we see it is that the SAP have been tardy in their planning and now want to push through the project, without a Plan B, because the upgraded call centre is one of the requirements for the 2010 World Cup Soccer. Time is running out and this is the quickest way to solve their problem. We do not believe that the fabric of our community should be sacrified for the short term expedency of four days of soccer. There are alternative sites, which will be better suited to this project.

If anyone from the community wants to join the protest I will be happy to send you a copy of our 24 page submission.

For the birds

Many years ago when I first met my wife, I was still a wild at heart country boy. I had grown up on farms and in the bush and was passionate about wildlife, more particularly the mammals.

At this stage I was also trying to impress my new family.

My mother-in-law was an avid bird watcher and would often point to a variety of birds in the garden, which she had identified. I would nod my head wisely (typical man speak) and say nothing, because I had no idea what the names of these birds were. I was not totally ignorant as far as birds were concerned, because I could identify the more common ones, like guinea fowl.
From my reaction and background, she assumed I was quite knowledgeable.

One day she pointed out a bird she had been trying to identify and asked if I knew what it was. "Yes," I replied, "a tweety bird."

Let's just say that amidst much laughter, I was exposed for the fraud that I was.

To make amends and brush up on my bird knowledge I went out and bought, Roberts Birds of South Africa, which in those days was the definitive guide on the birds of Southern Africa.

I have since become an avid birder, but sadly, my knowledge of bird names is still sadly lacking. My edition of "Roberts" still talks of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South West Africa (Namibia). Not only that, but in the past 26 years, many species have been reclassified - in fact 100's have been reclassified.

I was getting very rattled at Addo recently, when trying to tick off birds in a bird checklist I had just bought. I then discovered seven pages, at the back of the checklist, devoted to the new names. No wonder the real "experts" gave me strange looks when I knowledgeably pointed out certain species.
What this means is that many of the birds I have featured on my blog have new names. Just goes to show that knowledge is changing all the time. It also means that I will have to get the latest version of "Roberts" and start the learning process all over again.

This Crowned Lapwing, which up until two weeks ago I called a Crowned Plover, has made her nest in the middle of a busy car park at a factory in Uitenhage. They do that. I have put rocks around her nest, to make her more visible.

11 December 2008

Sky Watch Friday - Sunset at Maitland River Mouth

If you want a good sunset or just a walk on the beach then the Maitland River Mouth, near Beachview, is the place. This is a view across St Francis Bay, looking towards Jeffreys Bay.

For more great pictures from around the world, visit the Sky Watch site. Just wait until after 19h30 Greenwich Mean Time, when the link is activated.

10 December 2008

Blog of Note - Who me?

When I checked my e-mails yesterday afternoon, I noticed that I had a flood of comments and then read a few congratulations for having been selected as a Blog of Note. That is the last thing I expected and all I can say is, "WOW", in more ways than one.

First of all I often browse through the Blogs of Note, but never expected to be on the list. In fact I generally try and keep out of the lime light, but this time round I guess I can't, so thank's team Blogger for the recognition.

Secondly, it has unleashed a wave of visitors and comments that is simply unbelievable. There have been about 8,000 hits on my site since yesterday morning. That is amazing.
I have always blogged for my own pleasure and have enjoyed the friendships and interactions that have developed over cyber space and just want to say a big thank you for all the visits and comments. There are just too many messages to respond to at the moment, but I will make a point of visiting everyone who has left a comment .............. except the spam merchants of course.

In case you are wondering about the warthog, the only reason he is here is because I like warthogs.

Life with Suzie - Man-speak Part 2

A while ago I wrote about the secret language of men, "man-speak". For the unenlightened it is the ability of a man to hold a conversation with monosyllables, grunts and other non-vebal forms of communication, which most men understand perfectly well, but which inevetably drive a woman mad.

My Suzie is a warm, friendly and gregarious person, who has never been able to grasp the fundamentals of "man-speak".

On our last trip to the Addo Elephant National Park we stayed overnight and rose early to look for the lions. We drove to the place where they were last spotted, but as luck would have it we saw everything but lions.

Then along came a ray of light - a game viewing vehicle. Suzie was quick to flag it down and very cheerfully said, "Good morning, have you by any chance spotted any lions."

The young man looked at her, pushed out his lower lip and then shook his head, once to the right and once to the left and unceremoniously drove off.

"How rude," she said, "I can see why he became a game ranger and chose to work with animals."

I laughed. "Man-speak," I said, "he has just told you that he has not seen any lions, despite having got up early and driven all over the park looking for them. He is also very disappointed that he has let his clients down."

"Yeah, right," she responded.

We carried on and about an hour and a half later, we saw the same vehicle coming towards us. This time the young man gave us a lopsided grin and a half-hearted wave.

Before Suzie could say anything, I said, "There you go, the two of you are now friends."

"How is that possible," she asked.

"He obviously enjoyed his last conversation with you," I said.

09 December 2008

Innocence Lost

When I made my commitment to become involved in the fight against crime a while back I never in my wildest dreams knew what this would expose me to. In the last few months I have seen a seamy side of life that makes me wonder where it is all going to end and why do I live here and what is it all about.

This commitment also comes with a price. You give up your time - a good two to three hours of patrolling over weekends, you attend meetings, you fight with the police to get things done and you lose your innocence. Nothing is taken at face value anymore, you lose your trust and faith in mankind. This is not surprising when you see what goes on in the streets after dark.

Last weekend we were scheduled to patrol from 04h00 to 06h00 on Sunday morning. Better have an early night we think.

At 21h00 I walk out onto the front porch and see a car parked across the park. I am immediately suspicious, as I was told that drug dealers are active in the area.

I call the guys on patrol to take a look. Before they arrive the car leaves only to return shortly afterwards. It is not long before they arrive and drive past the car, turn and drive up to my front gate. I go out to greet them and they tell me it is just two guys sitting in their car. Before I can start to convince them to take another look, we see one guy climb out the car and walk to the perimeter fence and stoop down. We think he is making a drug pick up.

How fortuitous, a police patrol van comes past and we flag him down. The police quickly intercept the vehicle and search the suspects and their vehicle. They don't find anything and the both cars drive off. "They probably threw it out the window." I think to myself.

Just then a familiar car, belonging to a local pimp I exposed the week before, drives up. He parks next to the flats and walks down the path to the perimeter fence, bends down, picks something up and puts it in his pocket. How wrong we were. This guy was making the pickup. The other two were the runners. He walks back briskly to his car.

I phone 10111 to get a police van dispatched to the area, but the operator is unable to understand me. She hands the call over to another operator, who has no sense of urgency or understanding of the problem - she must go through the bureaucratic red tape. I see the lights of the car turn on as it starts up and watch him drive away.

In exasperation I call to Suzi-k to phone our neighbourhood watch leader, who is in direct contact with the drug squad. I then tell the operator not to bother and hang up.

The neighbourhood watch and drug unit spring into action to see if the suspect vehicles can be located at any of the local hot spots.

Our leader drives up to our home after a having done few circuits in the area and I accompany her to Govan Mbeki Avenue.

Most of the street lights are not working because of extensive road works, and the area is lit by the shop lights. People are wandering up and down the road. Pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. All ready to offer you their services at a price. We drive slowly down the street and but do not find any of the cars. We do a u-turn and drive up the other side of the road.

There is an atmosphere of brooding evil that makes one want to get out of the "rats nest" as quickly as one can. We carry on.

A big four wheel drive bakkie (truck, ute) with CW registration plates, is driving slowly in front of us. He quickly turns off the road, into some off street parking bays. As we pass him a tall, slim young woman, with blond hair, barefoot and wearing tight shots and a T shirt strolls along the pavement. Two other young girls wearing mini skirts and knee high boots are standing in the shadows propositioning passers by. I look at them with sadness and wonder what it was that brought them down to this level in life.

We decide to do another circuit and a car stops on the side of the road in front of us. The driver climbs out, steps onto the pavement and urinates against a shop window. As we drive past he walks back to his car doing up his fly.

Across the road we see the blond lass climbing into the vehicle with the CW registration places. "I wonder what his wife would say if she knew what he was up to?" I say.

I suggest that maybe we should try and see if we can get help for these young woman, with one of the local support groups, such as The Potter's House.

Cynicism, or is it a reality check, creeps in. It probably won't work I am told. The pimps make sure that their "charges" are so addicted to drugs that they will never leave. I am reminded that many of these young women never became prostitutes by choice, but are victims of human trafficking syndicates.

Our impromptu patrol yields no fruit and we head for home. It is going to be a long night.

05 December 2008

Sky Watch Friday - Zuurberg Mountains

Early morning view of the Zuurberg mountains seen from the Addo Elephant National Park.

For more more great pictures, visit the
Sky Watch site.

04 December 2008

Cape Buffalo

In all our years of visiting the Addo Elephant National Park this was the fiirst time we encountered the herd of buffalo during the day. Don't be fooled by the docile bovine look, this is one of the most dangerous animals you will encounter in the African bush, when it is provoled.

The big guy ................

.........and the little guy

01 December 2008

Ecological day - Flightless dung beetles

Dung Beetles are found all over South African and perform a vital cleaning up job, even if they do not realise it themselves. Not exactly a job I would like, but then I was not born into it.

The Addo Flightless Dung Beetle only occurs in the Eastern Cape Province, in a small area, but it is fairly common within it's range. This terrestrial invertebrate occurs in habitats such as the Fish River scrub and Spekboomveld. They often congregate in 100's in the Addo Elephant National Park, which is the best place to see these special beetles.

The dung beetle is a member of the families Bolboceratidae and Scarabaeidae.

It is quite common within it's very restricted distribution and range, mostly in the main game area of the Addo Elephant National Park, but it also occurs in the rest of the Greater Addo National Park.

The dung beetle has right of way on the roads, but are often driven over by careless motorists.

The Addo Flightless Dung Beetle adults gather at African Elephant dung for feeding and at Cape Buffalo dung for feeding and breeding.

These insects shape the dung into large round balls, which are then rolled away to be buried. See Port Elizabeth Daily Photo for more pics.

The dung beetles only nest once a year and in this time period they produce only one young beetle. Their conservation status is vulnerable as they depend on 2 large herbivores for survival: Elephant and Buffalo, of which there are fortunately plenty in the Addo Elephant National Park.

For more on Ecological Day visit Sonia at Leaves of Grass.