28 February 2008

Autumn is a coming


Suddenly the green is gone. A plane tree, photographed in Richmond Hill early yesterday morning, with the sun's rays catching the leaves, bears mute testimony to the fact that autumn is upon us. Shortly after taking this picture we we caught in a light shower - it would have been more fun if I was not trying to keep the rain off my camera.

27 February 2008

F for Ford



Henry Ford is reputed to have said something along the lines that buyers could have any colour Ford they wanted, as long as it was black. I wonder what he would have thought of blue?

Fords have also come a long way since the Model T, but no fancy Fords will be featured here.



My poor little Ford Bantam "bakkie" braving the road out of the Elands River Valley. For the uninitiated a "bakkie" is a small truck in South Africa. If you are an Australian it would be a "ute". The literal translation of "bakkie" from Afrikaans is a small bowl.



Looking out towards the Groot Winterhoek Mountains and the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, with my "bakkie" enhancing the view.



This old Ford truck is parked in front of the Padstal Restaurant, at Patensie, in the Gamtoos River Valley. It does not qualify for "bakkie" status by today's standards - it is too big - but in its hey day it probably was.

...
It must have presented quite a jaunty sight on the roads, with its blue livery and yellow wheel rims. It is a partner to the Chevrolet featured several weeks back.

24 February 2008

Greetings at the Waterhole




This video shows two young elephant bulls greeting. One of the peculiarities of the Addo elephants is that only the males have tusks.





23 February 2008

Elephants

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

Up close and personal

21 February 2008

Jaguar style

This elegant old lady was photographed at the museum at Matjiesfontein




20 February 2008

Enjoy the Everlastings in the Elands River Valley

This week is just about stopping in and enjoying the beauty of the Elands River Valley

Stopping to photograph the Cocks Comb Mountain

Everlasting flowers grow in profusion in the valley and surrounding hills. They are attractive and popular in flower arrangements


A view of the valley with a profusion of "fynbos" in the foreground


Looking back on the road just travelled

17 February 2008

Nuclear power - “Consultation, what consultation?”

Thuyspunt, the middle penninsular is one of the proposed sites for a nuclear power station.
It is within an stone's throw of Oyster Bay and spitting distance from St Francis Bay, when the South Westerly wind blows.
Do we want a nuclear power station on our doorstep? Definitely not!


I am beginning to get the distinct impression that the term “consultation” in South Africa means different things to different people.

When Eskom and the politicians announce that they are going to consult on important issues, it in fact means they are going to tell you what they are going to do. Yes, you can have your say and you can even voice your opposition, but that is all irrelevant – they are going to do it anyway.

Early last year Eskom announced that the price we pay for electricity was cheap, in comparison with the rest of the world and needed to be adjusted accordingly. The reality is that the revenue from the increased tariff was needed to fund capital projects, like pebble bed nuclear reactors. They said they would be initiating a process of consultation with the public to increase the rates by 18%. They have recently announced that the increase will now be 14% - so much for consultation.

Given the fact that Eskom’s appeal to consumers to achieve a 10% reduction in power consumption, has been exceeded, it means that income wise they will be back to square one – do the maths. So where will the money for capital projects come from now? What will the next surprise be?

Now let’s take this principle to the nuclear power station debate.

I have in front of me a document from Acer (Africa) the environmental consultants headed “ESKOM – ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA: 12/12/20/944) FOR A PROPOSED NUCLEAR POWER STATION AND ASSOCIATED INFRASTRUCTURE”, “DRAFT SCOPING REPORT” for “PUBLIC REVIEW AND COMMENT” dates 28 January 2008. The project documentation can be obtained on the Eskom web site –
www.eskom.co.za/eia.

When you read this documentation you can only get the impression that the process is far from complete and still requires in depth consultation before a final decision is made.

When you hear the politicians and bureaucrats talking, it is as though the decision has already been made. The CEO of Eskom announced last week that the second nuclear power plant will probably be built at Atlantis near Cape Town, but does not rule out some of the other sites.

One could even be excused of coming up with conspiracy theories about deliberate black outs, with the vested interests and the amount of money involved in this development. Inconvenience the public enough and any alternative will become palatable.


Nuclear fuel processing is "sacrosanct" to South Africa, and it "will happen",
Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said in November last year, while
addressing media after government and private institutions from South Africa and
Japan signed a range of memorandum of understandings (MoUs), dealing with
technology transfer and the supply of precious metals.

She stated
that "I would think that the involvement of Toshiba [Power Systems], which has
the technology that would be required, is an indication that there will be a
partnership" Toshiba Power Systems has nuclear fuel production technology, as
well as nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies, both of which the South African
government has expressed interest in.Sonjica also spoke firmly of South Africa's
nuclear fuel production ambitions. "We are going to beneficiate uranium in South
Africa," she stressed. "That is sacrosanct."

She said that
the agreements would result in investment in South Africa, but did not give a
figure.

South Africa was planning on building at least five
nuclear power stations by 2025, to produce 20 000 MW.
Government wanted to
ensure that the country had enough feedstock to fuel these plants. The country
had traditionally been one of the biggest uranium producers in the world, and
was looking to start enriching uranium. South Africa had before enriched
uranium, while the apartheid government was in power . (Source:
Engineering News and Mining Weekly from an email circulated by CANE)
By the way this is the same minister who when presenting her ten point plan to Parliament to save electricity suggested, “Go to sleep earlier so you can grow and be cleverer”. She subsequently denied this saying her comment was taken out of context, but Hansard, the official Parliamentary records exposed the lie.

What of costs and vested interests. The following is an extract from the Wall Street Journal of Tuesday November 13 circulated by Pelindaba Working Group a member of the national Coalition Against Nuclear Energy.


The U.S. in principle supports South Africa's effort to become a nuclear-fuel
provider and sees promise in its new reactor, said U.S. Assistant Secretary for
Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon. Its efforts highlight Washington's calls for an
international agreement to limit enrichment and reprocessing technologies to a
select group of nations in return for help in developing nuclear power
elsewhere
, he said. He added the U.S. expects South Africa, which has been
plagued by rolling blackouts, plans to add 40,000 megawatts of capacity in the
next 25 years and half ofthat is expected to come from nuclear-power plants.
South Africa's state-owned power utility Eskom Holdings Ltd. at present has two
aging nuclear generators, the only such commercial facilities in Africa.

Much of South Africa's effort is focused on a tiny, low-cost reactor being developed on
the coastline just north of Cape Town. The design has drawn the attention of the
U.S. Department of Energy, which has awarded a $3.7 million grant to study its
potential in other areas. Mr. Spurgeon said the technology is one of a dozen
designs being considered by a $250 million U.S. initiative that aims to bring
small-scale nuclear reactors to developing countries.

The technology is being developed by Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Ltd., which is 15% owned by Westinghouse and the remainder by the South African government and state-owned Eskom.

Proponents said the pebble bed, once commercialized, can be built more
quickly and inexpensively -- in two years for about $500 million. Others are
more dubious about its prospects. Critics cite significant delays and a run-up
in costs since plans for the pilot reactor were first made in 1998.


What we are seeing, I believe, is bigger than just a solution to resolve the rolling black outs in South Africa.

The development of the pebble bed modular reactors has the interest and backing of the developed nations and the large multinationals, who have already made big financial investments in the process. This is new and as yet untested technology, which I am sure the citizens of developed nations will not want on their doorstep and would resist with great vigour. So why not make Africa the “guinea pig” – if it’s a success here will be a lot of money to be made, if not who cares its only Africa.
All this begs the question, are we going through a legitimate process of consultation or are we just through the motions?

My new PA

"Much needed" help from my new PA, Felicity Cat

16 February 2008

Taking flight

cTime for some more aircraft shots from the 2006 Port Elizabeth airshow.

The C47 TP Dakota coming in to land has replaced most of the old Douglas DC3 piston engine planes used by the SAAF.



In 1994 a project was launched to modify all Dakota aircraft to turbo prop status. One of the features of the C47 TP is an extended the fusilage. I believe that the large window on the starboard side is the toilet window.



The cruising speed of the C47 TP has been increased from 250 to 330 kph and their range bas been extended from 2500 to 4000 kms. They have an increased payload of 1000 kg.


The grey and white livery indcates that these are used for maritime patrols

14 February 2008

Dentin' our heritage

On Tuesday night the exhibition on Historic Port Elizabeth opened at EPSAC. My favourite artist, Suzi-k, together with artist Velia Offerman and photographer Bob Binnell put together an execellent collection of oil paintings, water colours and photographs of historical Port Elizabeth.



The exhibition generated a lot of interest and I have seldom seen the gallery filled with so many people. Quite obviously the preservation of our historical heritage is close to the hearts of many Port Elizabethans. Click here to see more of Suzie-k's paintings.

Houses in Central


Historical Port Elizabeth refers to Central, which has a wealth of the old houses and buildings, but has unfortunately it has also seen the influx of unscrupulous landlords, criminals and anti-social elements. And this is where the story shifts gear, because this is not an art review, but rather a commentary on the fight between the preservation and degradation of our heritage.

Aftermath of the Great Storm of 1902


There were a lot of Central campaigners at the exhibition, but I want to single out two stalwarts.

At the forefront of the rejuvenation and preservation drive is Pierre Voges, the CEO of the Mandela Bay Development Agency which has been mandated to upgrade the Central area. Pierre is doing a great job of upgrading the inner city. The first major project was the upgrade of Govan Mbeki Avenue we took a walk down there recently and it is really a pleasure going into the od CBD again.

Then there was the “protector”. Jeremy Davis, the Democratic Alliance, City Councilor, who works tirelessly to protect the interests of Central. He has a no nonsense approach to dealing with any issue that negatively impacts the area and is loved by those who are passionate about Central and hated by those who are out to “destroy” it.

Amidst this august group, imagine our surprise when slum lord Ken Denton arrived – he is not at the forefront of the popularity stakes. When the Irish billionaire started buying up property in Central some years back, we saw this as a vote of confidence in the city and expected to see the area being upgraded. How wrong we were. The exact opposite has occurred – many of the buildings have fallen into a shocking state of disrepair, some have been burnt out and many bricked up to keep out vagrants. Despite his promises to repair the buildings I have seen no evidence of this – one can only speculate as to his motives.

A prime example is the row of historical houses on the Donkin Terrace. These houses have been declared national monuments and were lovingly restored by the late Dr Nick Woolf some years back.



Once one on the show pieces of Port Elizabeth, sadly this is what the Donkin Terrace has been reduced to.



A few close ups



Of course we were unaware of the drama playing out behind the scenes between Jeremy Davis and Ken Denton at the exhibition. Headlines in today’s Herald thanks to the efforts of Jeremy Davis.



If we had known that Denton was going to be there Suzi-k could have done a special painting of one of his buildings - just for him. Who knows, maybe he will catch some of the passion we have for Central after coming to the exhibition.
Hats off to those who fight so tirelessly for the preservation of Central - we take pride in our city and will not tolerate those intent on bringing it down.

13 February 2008

D for Derelict houses

One of the characteristics of the Elands River Valley is the number of derelict labourers cottages dotting the countryside. Many look as though they are staring at the world around them through unseeing eyes.



The reasons for this are many. The need for a large labour declined when wheat production stopped due to the drastic drop in rainfall in the past 20 years; many farmers prefer not to have people staying on their properties, because legislation makes it almost impossible to evict tenants and many people have simply moved on to a "better life" in the cities.
We nearly drove past this one, but then stopped for a closer look.



I thought it would be a nice "fixer-upper" for weekend getaways, but Suzi-k was not too keen. I can't understand why.



Nice finish to the front door



So the back door may need replacing, but that is not the end of the world




The inside door panels possibly need a bit of work - and the floors need sanding - no problem



The windows need some glass, but that can be arranged



It even has a bed



And a fireplace



One distinct advantage though, Eskom can't cut the power - it has none.

12 February 2008

Crime, crime, crime

Today was just another day in South Africa and despite all the assurances form the politicians crime is alive and well in our country and our city.

Headlines in today’s Herald read:

• Crime wave puts marine sanctuary in jeopardy
• Youth shot dead
• Fake guard alarm
• Bungy firm burgled
• Woman beaten and raped in Richmond Hill attack (quite openly in a street around the corner from where we live)
• Plan to improve parks problems (drugs, littering, urinating in public etc)
• Street patrol initiative in Zwide will help protect community
• Fast tracking transport, tackling commuter crime (crime is rife on our passenger trains)
• Web exchange website set to reduce illegal dumping
• Durban cops probing insurance firm fraud
• Child rapist 71, given 20 years behind bars

And let me not forget, we have again been victims of crime. Yesterday the wing mirrors were stolen from Sue’s car, while she was setting up for an art exhibition.

If I say I hate criminals - rather strong words - they have earned it. You see this is just another crime in an already long list experienced by my family, employees and friends.

When I tell people that there was a time when we did not lock our home, they look at me in disbelief. But it is true. Today, you keep your home locked, even if you are at home - even then it is not a guarantee of safety.. The headlines of this week’s PE Express yell out, “Robbers want you at home”. This makes life easier, as they just ask what they want, including your ATM pin. As most homes have high security wals, no one will even know what is happening.

I remember the days when a violent crime or a murder made headline news for several days or weeks. Today, there are not enough pages in the newspapers to report all the violent crimes. Now, unless it is a high profile person or a particularly horrific case, they seldom receive more than a sentence.

This has been some of my family’s experience with crime:

The past two years
1. Unscrupulous letting agent stole R8,500 from us and the state refuses to prosecute.
2. Security lock forced at offices. Two cell phones and a wallet stolen while my colleague and her friend were on the premises. Took the police 1.5 hours to arrive. Cost to secure the security gate: R2,200.
3. Intruder’s trying doors of flats in complex using keys stolen in a mugging. Still waiting for the police to arrive. All the access codes had to be reset.
4. Garages broken into in our complex where we live. We caught the sod, at a cost. Sue’s arms were badly lacerated and she was stabbed, it took over two weeks to get the police to come around and take a statement. And lo and behold, I should not have beaten him with a broom, even though he tried to stab me, because I can now be held up for assault. Medical bill – over R1000. Additional security measures R4,400. R200 bail for him.
5. Unsavory characters confronted while photographing Sue’s car with a cell phone camera. They do this as they are commissioned to fulfill orders. They beat a hasty retreat when we openly started photographing them.
6. Jewelry stolen from sister by worker she hired. This was left to her by our mother. It means nothing to this sod, but a lot to us.
7. Sister fights back and foils attempted mugging. She moved to a small country town to escape this and becomes the towns first mugging victim.
8. Sue confronted two unsavory intruders – young black males – in the office, trying to convince her that the security gate had been open and that they wanted d├ęcor advice while checking out the offices. They refused to leave until she got tough with them.
9. Car thieves observed outside our home checking out Sue’s car and making arrangements for its theft on a cell phone.
10. Tools stolen by assorted contractors from building we renovated.
11. Intruder evicted from offices by staff after he managed to open the security gate. We have tried to secure the lock with a metal plate. He has been back several times ands is quite brazen about trying to open it. I have bought all our female staff a pepper spray canister. Cost R260.
12. Washing stolen from washing line at daughter and son-in-laws home.
13. Colleague who lives near office followed home by two unsavory characters with bad motives. When they were about to accost her a passing motorist stopped and they fled. They sped off even faster when her boy friend went after them with a hockey stick.
14. Morris chair stolen from verandah. Subsequently recovered quite by chance, when Sue drove past a furniture restorer around the corner and saw it being restored.
15. Outside light stolen from daughter and son-in-laws home.
16. Daughter's car stolen several weeks after returning to SA from Zimbabwe. It was never recovered.
17. Complex broken into and car’s window smashed. Nothing taken, but it cost R250 to replace the window. Police made it clear that nothing will be done.
18. Backdoor of new business premises kicked in. The break-in was foiled by the neighbours.
19. Nephew’s cell phone stolen in smash and grab at a traffic light.
20. Nephew foiled attempted hijacking, while entering his town house complex.
21. Niece foiled attempted hijacking.
22. Attempted break-in at shop in Westbourne Road foiled by armed response.
Last two to five years
23. Three cell phones stolen from our shop.
24. Locks trashed when criminals attempted break into our two garages. Cost R240.
25. Two bicycles stolen fro garage. Value R5,000.
26. Expensive beadwork throw stolen from shop. Value R1,300.
27. CD shuttle stolen from Sue’s car, as well as my wind cheater.
28. Several unsavory characters foiled in shop. Usually arriving as a team they and distract you while their colleagues do the stealing.
29. Garden fork stolen.
30. Garden spray stolen.
Last five to 15 years
31. Radio tape stolen from Karen’s Opel Kadet.
32. Ian’s wallet stolen from suite at cricket match,
33. Radio trashed in Karen’s VW beetle, as it was secured in a way that it could not be removed.
34. Battery cables cut when thieves attempted to steel VW beetle battery, but could not as it had been chained down, to prevent it being stolen.
35. Sound system stolen from Karen’s VW Beetle.
36. Ian’s class mate and friend sexually molested by his teacher. Teacher eventually got house arrest and community service.
37. Brother-in-laws car stolen. (Never recovered)
38. Radio/ tape stolen from Sue's car
39. Battery stolen from Karen’s VW beetle.
40. Radio stolen from my car.
41. Bicycle stolen by builders.
Last 15 to 25 years
42. Reported suspected child molester. The case was not taken seriously until 18 moth’s later when the child went to preprimary school. The father got six years for doing unspeakable things to his two children.
43. Numerous chickens stolen from small holding over period of ten years
44. Fostered two sisters for as year, one of whom had been sexually molested.
45. Ian, confronted by a knife wielding child who demanded his bicycle. He received a hiding from his father for his efforts.
46. Harbored a battered wife for several months.
47. Clive our gardener was stabbed in the corner of his eye. Fortunately he did not lose his sight.
48. Tools stolen by labourers.
49. A gang of youth’s attempted to accost Sue while she was out riding her horse. Fortunately she was able to outrun them on the horse.
50. Sister’s handbag snatched when she was shopping.
51. Arrested a rapist, who attempted to rape a 10 years old child.
Last 25 to 30 years
52. Car stolen, but recovered the next day.
53. Attempted car break-in foiled in Johannesburg.
54. Brother-in-law murdered by poachers.
55. Step father murdered on farm.
56. Burglary in flat while we were sleeping. My wallet and Sues id card and passport were stolen.
Last 30 years plus
57. Poaching on farm.
58. Fishing rods stolen from pump house on farm.
59. Petty theft at boarding school.
60. Enduring school bullies. Yes they are not a new phenomenon. Many of the people I went to school with were rotten to the core. I wonder how they turned out as adults.

The list is probably not complete. I can go on and on ……………. some petty some serious. Each crime adds to the next and contributes further to my anger. An anger that is aimed at the criminals and the authorities, who do not seem to have the will or the ability to deal with the problem of crime.

As a matter of interest, other than where specifically stated, only one of these criminals has been brought to justice. Case number 4 – Sue and I spent an unproductive morning at court giving testimony, 18 months after the event. Haven’t heard of the outcome yet.


Is crime decreasing? I think not. If it is then my family is getting more than their fair share. It is no wonder communities are taking the law into their own hands.

The result of all this? I am angry at having to constantly be looking over my shoulder and worrying about the safety of my family. I am disillusioned and am rapidly losing faith in the ability of the justice system to protect its citizens. And I worry about the person this is turning me into.

Guess what – I am not going to be a victim. I will fight back that is a promise.

PS: I have not included the five murders of people we knew, two armed robberies , a severe assault and numerous car thefts of friends and acquaintances

11 February 2008

Up, up and away........

Some sections of the road leading from the Elands River Valley to the Gamtoos River Valley are not that great, so it helps to have a vehicle with a high ground clearance. My little bakkie (truck, ute, van) is a bit low slung and there were some horrible scraping noises at times - but it was fun.



This photo was shot through the window while we were on the move.

10 February 2008

How green is half of my valley

As you climb out of the Elands River Valley into the mountains before the Gamtoos river Valley, there are the most stunning views that seem to stretch on forever. The country side is also characterised by a profusion of fynbos - most prominet being the erica, proteas and leucodendrons.


I found this valley very intersting with one side being green and lush and the other dry and stark. In the foreground is a leucospemum (pin cushion protea) in full bloom.



The leucospermums on the mountains are not as full and rounded as those in the valleys. I think it must be something to do with the high winds and the cooler weather.

09 February 2008

Of walls and willows

This willow tree is growing just below the spillway of the dam, on the Sand River in the Elands River Valley

07 February 2008

Meet Felicity

Ever since our Siamese cat Josh died last year in May, we have been on the look put for another one. Our quest has been fruitless and we were told that Siamese cats were very scarce at the moment. On Monday Sue received a call from Cat Care to say that they had a Siamese kitten and asked if we wanted it. What a question. The poor little tike, along with two siblings had been left on a rubbish dump. She was at the vet we were told, with a dose of kitty sniffles and could be collected in a few days.

The little waif. Did not want to traumatise her by taking too many pics.


We collected the poor little waif at 6.30pm this evening. What type of person would just dump their animals like that - that is despicable. As she is still contagious, we have to keep her away from the other cats for at least another week, so guess what she has moved into our room. For a cat of her diminutive stuture she already has a strident Siamese meow, that is disproportionate to her size.
Let me in now!


Ferguson, the brat cat with an attitude, is as equally determined to meet her, as we are to keep him out of the room. He has not let up for the past hour and a half trying to get into the room. He has tried bashing the door down and when that did not work, managed to get in through the fanlight. His intentions seem honourable, but he will just have to wait.

Please......!

Introductions to Ferguson will not be a problem, but the White Thing (aka Dee Dee) is another. She is stone deaf and mean spirited and made Fergies life hell when he arrived. However, he has turned the tables and keeps her in line now. We can expect some interesting feline dynamics over the next few weeks.
The White Thing in a mellow mood


Felicity Cat in the meantime has been returned to the kitty basket, because being given free reign of the room was too traumatic for her. She has settled down and just needs time to get used to her new home but will soon rule the roost.


Welcome to your new home Felicty Cat.