29 April 2008

Tuesday's Trees # 3 - Japanese Maple

The Arboretum at Hogsback is breathtakingly beautiful, especially at this time of the year when the leaves of the exotic trees are changing colour. I will be featuring many trees from here in the next few weeks.

28 April 2008

I must be mad!

If you reaad my earlier post on camping you will know that I was "traumatised" as a kid and put off camping, but not for life. Today we cross these mountains to even loftier heights - yes, to CAMP. This picture unfortunately does not show the snow that is blanketing the higher peaks of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg - I must be MAD!

23 April 2008

Definitely no smoking

I spotted this "no smoking" sign at a conference centre in Port Elizabeth yesterday. I wonder if it is also making some sort of anti-smoking statement like, "Down with smoking".

22 April 2008

Tuesday's Trees: Blue Gums #2

This old blue gum tree can be seen, reaching for the sky, in the historical Mary's Cemetary in South End.

These wrinkles look good on a gnarled old tree, but on a person...............maybe a candidate for nip tuck?

20 April 2008

Cruisin' the 'hood

I hate it when the telephone rings late at night or early in the morning. It usually means one of two things, either an emergency or the office alarm has been triggered. This morning at about 04h45 my cell phone rang. By the time I got to it, it had stopped ringing and I saw that there was a missed called from an unlisted number. That is usually the security company. A quick call to them confirmed that they had not phoned us.

"Let's go and check any way", said Suzi-k. So off we went, armed with "Harry" and a large cannister of pepper spray.

It was all quiet at the office, so being spontaneous people we decided to check out the neighbourhood. Off we went to Parliament Street. Usually a hive of activity with people overflowing from night clubs that never close and street parties, with music thumping from car sound systems, it was quiet - only a couple of Omega security guards patrolling the streets. We decided it must be the cold front and the rain that has kept the party goers in-doors. (12C might be a warm day in Canada, but it is cold for us).

Central was quiet for once. Ivy Street, Victoria Street, Donkin Street, Chapel Street, Western Road, Govan Mbeki Avenue - all quiet, except for two souls making their way down the Hill into the city centre. We stopped a the "Phoenix Hotel and Stage Door" and checked out the menu posted on the wall and decided to give it a try one day.

And then going up Military Road we spotted a truck, reversed up to a garage at Penelope Court. Penelope Court gained notoriety this week after a report in the Herald claimed that this was where a syndicate of metal and copper thieves operated from, but so far no action had been taken, despite numerous complaints. As we drove past we saw that the truck was in fact unloading scrap metal.

We continued on our way and then decided to go back and check it out again.

Western Road opposite the Edward Hotel was much livelier, than the rest of Central. At Trinder Square an overly enthusiatic fellow, probably of West African origin, tried valiantly to flag us down and ran after us as we turned the corner. I concluded that it had something to do with a black car, slowly cruising the neighbourhood that attracted his attention to us and the fact that this is a known hangout for drug dealers. Needless to say we did not stop.

On the way down Military Road we stopped in front of the truck. The engine was idling and the driver was behind the wheel and there was a clatter of metal being unloaded. I noted the number plate and Suzi-k attemped a photo with her cell phone.

We had no joy in trying to report the incident to the police on any of the emergency numbers. The Omega security patrol assured us that there was a legitimate transport business there. They were quite correct, but this was clearly not one of their trucks.

"Oh well, we have at least tried", muttered Suzi-k as we drove off to see what was happening in Dollery Street - another crime "hot spot".

As luck would have it we saw a police van patroling the street and quickly flagged it down and reported our suspicions. Without any hesitation the van pulled off with a squeal of tires in the direction of Military Road. I suspect that by now the truck was long gone. "Oh well at least we tried".

Dollery Street was all quiet. We noticed that the front windows of the cottage Suzi-k restored a few years ago had three layers of burglar bars on the front windows. We had heard that thieves had broken in and gutted the place of all fittings and copper pipes, after the last tenant had moved out.

As we drove on we saw that the passenger side front window of a car parked in the street had been smashed, the owner peacefully sleeping and bissfully unaware of the damage done to his/ her car and the hassle and expense they would have to get it repaired.

All in all it is interesting "cruisin' the 'hood" at the witching hour.

19 April 2008

Meet the Plover's

Last year a pair of crowned plovers made their nest in the middle of a parking lot, at a factory in Uitenhage. They are not very discerning about where they build their nests. Someone eventually surrounded the nest with bricks, to make it more visible, so that no one drove over it.

It was interesting to watch their progress over several weeks.


The male remains in close proximity to the nest keeping watch over his spouse and will do what ever he can to distract any intruders who may approach the nest - even attacking. This poor guy has a large abscess on his left leg, probably caused by staphylococci, which I believ is usually fatal.

"That's close enough!"

When the two chicks arrived, they could be described as anything, but beautiful.

What I found interesting is that with this family the one chick hung around the female while the other stayed with the male. Whenever I approached them, the little guys would run off as fast as their little legs would carry them.

Teenager with mom.

Another teenager

The abscess eventually grew quite large by the time the chicks had grown up, but it did not seem to slow him down or dampen his enthusiasm.

The last time I saw the plovers there were only three and I can only assume that the male passed on to the happy hunting grounds. At least he saw his offspring grow up.

17 April 2008

Sky Watch - Flying into the sunset

Boeing 737 coming in to land at the Port Elizabeth Airport

The early bird catches the sunrise

The sky looked so beautiful this morning, I could not help but grab my camera and take a brisk walk around the neighbourhood to get a better view.

Looking down Callington Street in the direction of the Bay

View across the city centre towards the harbour

Sunrise at Stanley Street

15 April 2008

Tuesdays Trees

This ficus is the first of a series of magnificent trees, I will be posting on Tuesdays that I have photographed, in and around Port Elizabeth. This one can be found near the Conservatory in St Georges Park. It is so big that I had to stitch two photos together, to get this one. This photo does not even begin to do it justice.

One of the buttress roots - no wonder it is not wise to plant one of these next to your home.

13 April 2008

Crows in the park

We have had a sudden influx of pied crows in the park across the road from us. They have become quite tame and can be seen scavenging around here most of the day.

12 April 2008

Rats in the park - tail piece

In a number of my recent posts I have ranted on about the crime rate and the government wanting to take away our rights as citizens from carrying any form of self defence weapons, like pepper spray.

It seems like I am not the only one who has a problem with criminals and the Government's approach to crime.

Our Deputy Safety and Security Minister, Susan Shabangu created quite a stir with her statements at an anti crime forum in Pretoria West this week.

What she said, as reported in the Star newspaper of 10 April:

You must not worry about the regulations. That is my responsibility. Your responsibility is to serve and protect.

I want to assure the police station commissioners and policemen and women from these areas that they have permission to kill these criminals.

I want no warning shots. I want one shot and it must be a kill shot. If you miss, the criminals will go for the kill. They don’t miss. We can’t take this chance.
The Constitution says that the criminals must be kept safe, but I say No!

I say we must protect the law-abiding people and not the criminals. I say that the criminals must be made to pay for their crimes.

Wow! No wonder her comments have created a stir – they run in the face of the Constitution, legal precedent and the usual bleeding heart approach to these issues. Well if she pulls this one off, she has my vote.

Having said that, I don’t want to go to her extremes, all I want is to be able to legally, “Pepper spray the bastards”, if the need arises.

Hearty News #2

Today is 5 months to the day that I had my heart attack, which was followed by a by-pass operation in the same week. That was undoubtedly the worst experience of my life and afterwards I vowed "never again".

This week my doctor told me that the results of my blood test showed that my cholesterol level has dropped from 5.7 to 3.6. I have not seen the full report, but this should mean that I should be near or have succeeded in reducing my LDL (bad cholesterol) from 4.0 to my target of below 2.5.

Unfortunately my cardiologist is on leave, so hope to get the full results from him on Monday and hope to hear the magical words, “
I am happy” that usually emanate from him when he is satisfied with something. He is a man of few words.

Whether it has been the heart pills or my rigid dieting, or both that contributed to the drop I do not know, but what I do know is that when I heard the results it hardened my resolve to stick to my diet.

Speaking of diets, since last writing about ostrich meat, I was “brave” enough to try it on two more occasions. The first was a stew, which admittedly was quite good, but I still don’t like the flavour. Then I tried ostrich boerewors (traditional farm style sausage) which was most delicious (must have been all the spices). I was convinced that I could start now eating the heart friendly ostrich meat.
When Suzi-k and I were next at Woolworths, I snatched a pack of ostrich boerewors from the fridge and then to my horror, I read on the pack that it contained up to 30% fat. I returned it to the shelf quicker that I had removed it. I do not do animal fat anymore.

So the next time I see an ostrich it will probably be in the wild, not on my plate.

I am totally uncompromising and unapologetic about what passes my lips, even if it means going without a meal. I have probably taken my diet to the extreme, but then it is my health and my choice. The moral of the story is that I have been given a second chance and I am not going to throw it away.

06 April 2008

The reclining cat

Felicity Cat is not constrained by the dictates of fashion like other Siamese cats. She is seen reclining here, in this candid shot, in her striped outfit.

Rats in the park #2

A follow up

Suzi-k and I like walking around the neighbourhood. We enjoy each others company and are never without our cameras. Unfortunately, it is a sad reality of life in this country that some opportunistic criminal will, if given half a chance, try and part you with your possessions. The only reason that we do take our walks, is because we are able to carry some form of protection with us – like pepper spray or my trusty walking stick. Without that we would not feel safe.

Grandpa's walking stick. A genuine Zimbabwean piece of craftsmanship bought at Mbare Market in Harare, which I believe is still going strong, despite Mugabe's best efforts to shut it down.

Our concern is that the Government now wants to a pass law that will outlaw the carrying of pepper spray and other non lethal weapons. As it is our rights to self defence are extremely limited – where will the removal of that one leave us?..

Grandpa's walking stick unsheathed and ready for "action". Suddenly the intended victim will not be so attractive.

I do not go out looking for trouble, but if it happens to come my way, then I want to be able to respond accordingly.

Since writing “Rats in the Park” last week I have an answer to some of my queries regarding self defence. In an article, “When is it legal to shoot a criminal”, in the Algoa Sun of 3 April 2008 a local firearms dealer said there are circumstances when this is possible.

Our courts have apparently established stringent guidelines in this regard. What they apparently look at is the question of legal justification. That is whether the individual acted in self defence or private defence.

Self defence is when you protect yourself, whereas private defence, allows you to defend and protect someone in whom you have a legal interest, such as your child or your spouse, or any other person you choose to place under your protection.”
The article goes to say that, “You may only use lethal force if there is an attack against either you, or a third party whom you are trying to protect from such attack, and that attack is unlawful, which means simply not allowed by law. The attack must be against the person, a threat to human life and NOT to the removal or destruction of property. The attack must be imminent (about to happen or immediate (already have started).”

Interesting! I may have to research this one some more. It begs the question, if some knife wielding thug demands my wallet and cell phone, is this “an attack” on me or just “the removal” of my property? Given the fact that more than one person has been murdered for a cell phone I will take it as an “immediate attack” on my person and react accordingly.

This is where it starts to get tricky.

“In acting to defend such person’s life, your defence must be absolutely necessary to prevent or stop the attack”. Oh dear, so that means an elderly gentleman beating a retreating burglar with a broom, according to our law is not acting in self defence. I must admit it gave me a perverse sense of pleasure. The burglar of course will never lay a charge, because according to him, he was never there. See here, here and here for previous posts on the burglary.

This weekend I decided to beat the ban and stock up on pepper spray, which is seen here with "Harry", my pepper gun and a selection of ammo (see Pepper Ammo.com): the hancuffs, which I acquired over 30 years ago during the Zimbabwe bush war: a collection of pocket knives (I have carried one all my life).

But that is not all……..“There must be no other way of avoiding the attack, if you can avoid the use of force, you have a legal obligation to do so. The force used to repel or stop the attack must be reasonable under the circumstances”. To my way of thinking a burst of pepper spray in the attackers face is more than “reasonable”. I saw the effect of that on our burglar. It was like he had been pole axed, by the guy from the armed response company.
This is now the best part, “The law requires that if you can avoid a confrontation, you must take reasonable steps to do so – for example, by leaving the scene, if escape is possible.
If you do not try to escape, when it is possible, it may be argued that you contributed towards the confrontation and therefore your actions in using force were not legally justifiable.”
Yeah right. If we turn tail and run we will likely have a knife in stuck in our back in no time at all. Yes, we can take evasive action, like we demonstrated last week. But what if we can’t?

Realistically, what chance does an unarmed couple in their fifty’s have against several armed twenty-something thugs, intent on doing grievous bodily harm. I would rather have the right to defend myself with a non lethal weapon like pepper spray, than with a firearm.

I have dealt with this subject simplistically, from the point of view of someone who just wants to go out and enjoy life in a crime riddled environment. If the police are not able to protect me and my family, then at least don’t take that right away from me.

05 April 2008

Sunrise over Port Elizabeth Harbour

Well it's been a hectic week with little time for much, other than work so I thought that a nice tranquil picture would be appropriate for today. This photo was taken from Richmond Hill looking over the harbour a few weeks ago.