Conversation with a hyena

Tom 5 March

Hyenas are as clever as they are ugly. It is reported that they are cleverer than chimpanzees which probably means cleverer than a lot of guys with whom  I played rugby. They are also meaner than junkyard dogs and hippos with toothache.

Contrary to popular belief, hyenas are not cowardly animals. The smaller ones who are scavengers might be shy and cautious but they fiercely protect their interests if threatened. A bold strategy of the spotted hyena is to lock on to the prey’s testicles and hang on until the victim bleeds out. 

However, if you ever sat down and talked to a hyena, you would be amazed by the variety and self-deprecating humour of the conversation.

That’s one thing about hyenas, they giggle quite a bit. So you giggle too, because its probably a good tactic – their jaws can crack a giraffe femur and they are a bit temperamental (with the emphasis on mental).

The other thing is: don’t mention the smell around hyenas. They have scent glands around their anus and are continuously wiping their arse on grass to tell you they’ve been there.

If you are determined to talk to a hyena it is probably prudent to first get to know the aardwolf. They are the gentlest of the species and usually eat ants, so you should be quite safe. Like most hyenas they sleep in the day so remember to seek them out after dark . Nothing like waking a grumpy dog for a chat, or anyone else for that matter.

The smallest hyena is the striped one and he is very shy and misunderstood and reportedly endures significant bullying. However it is the national animal of Lebanon.

It is perhaps wiser to seek conversation with the male spotted hyena. Males are generally more affable and smaller than females, who are always leaders of the pack. In fact males are at the bottom of the hyena caste system and will probably talk to anyone who shows remote interest in them.

Like most females, lady hyenas (respect goes a long way) have complicated anatomies. When I investigated this I skipped a great deal as it was eye-wateringly uncomfortable sounding.

Apparently the spotted hyena’s extraordinary sexual equipment remains “one of the most interesting mysteries in biology.”

It seems lady hyenas have plenty to be bitter about.

Save to say that they were thought to be gender fluid hermaphrodites but closer observation disclosed this was not so. Perhaps they could be adopted as a mascot of the less certain citizens of the LGBTQ rainbow?

Some people seek out the company of hyenas, so they may well be good company

Probably the best  topic for conversation with a hyena is food. It may be wise to only raise this after a meal, as if the conversation becomes too descriptive they might get hungry. Hyenas can and do take down buffalos so a well fed human would be a piece of cake.

Oh crumbs!

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My fondest memory of my son

Janita 4 March

I have two sons and three daughters and all or nearly all of my memories of them are fond. I can’t remember any that are not fond, but there must be as nobody’s perfect, except perhaps John Eales. (it’s a rugby joke).

Bringing up five children, we practiced a sort of communist regime – everyone got the same share, first last time is last this time and always check that the dogs have water.

Our children were  and remain unfailingly good, mischievous, serious, loving, clever and beautiful and many other things that it hurts to remember.

They are all bright, talented and independent and love a family braai on a Sunday. They ask advice, listen and even sometimes seem to heed it. I think they ask me just because they know it makes me feel good. They ask their Mum when it’s something serious.

All of them are university educated, paid for by themselves, and have travelled abroad. They all like dogs and are polite and kind to people too.

I suppose the fondest memories I have of my eldest son is his pride in catching a slimy barbel on the farm, when he was about seven and his colours awards for hockey and Academics. 

The fondest memories of my youngest son is him consoling me in my rage when someone else was awarded Best Player when he  should have got it, and him reading to his baby daughter.

This is very difficult as I am somewhat sentimental. I think they all know that I am quite fond of them.

Patting a cow for the first time

for Max 3 months old 3 Mar Weds

Cows are friendly critters. 

They will remember you 

Mind you, there are cow pats and there are cow pats. You can pat a cow, but don’t pat a cow pat. Ask your Daddy to tell you why.

The first time I remember patting a cow was at the Hennessey’s dairy farm. They had a herd of Jersey cows and a few Shetland ponies.

First I will tell you a bit about these ponies. They are very small which is just right for little people to ride. Some can be bad tempered and some can be sweet.

When I was about seven years old my parents gave me a Shetland pony for my birthday. Her name was Sweetie. I will tell you why that was not a good name for her. 

Mum had invited all my friends to a birthday party for me. Even June Rose who had lived next door to us in Bremersdorp was there, looking very smart in  a bonnet and a frilly dress. She was only five.

The best thing about the party was that we all got to have a ride on Sweetie. Everybody was thrilled, except for one person. That person was Sweetie, who was not happy to have to carry lots of little children around the garden on her back all afternoon.

So, she had a huff. 

When ponies have a huff, they toss their heads, then jump forward onto their front legs and throw their hindlegs up into the air. If there is someone on their back, they get tossed off, over the horse’s head to crash down to the ground.

Poor June Rose, she landed in a rose bush and got quite badly scratched. That really spoilt the party. 

Sweetie was sent back to Hennessey’s farm, which is I suppose what she really wanted.

I always thought it was weird that June Rose was bucked off in the rose garden. Perhaps if her name was Daisy she would have been tossed into the daisies?

Anyway back to the cows. Jersey cows are a soft beige brown colour and have big brown eyes and long eyelashes.  They have big udders which give lots of milk every day. 

The farmer showed us how to milk a cow, after we had patted it of course. Cows like being patted and if they know you well enough will give you a big kiss. A cow kiss is a lick across your face!

Its not that difficult to milk a cow. You squeeze one of the teats on the udder and warm milk squirts out into the bucket under the cow. Sometimes the cow stamps her foot  and swishes her tail because she doesn’t like flies bothering her.

We gave some of the milk in a bottle to a calf, which was very sweet with big brown eyes too. It wanted more and sucked and sucked and moo’d  very loudly.

We patted its head and scratched its ears and it seemed to like that.

We didn’t want to go home, but the farmer said the calf had to go to the barn to sleep as it was getting dark.

It was lovely day – we got to pat a pony, a cow and a calf. We also patted the farmer’s dog and his cats. And he gave us a bag of big forest mushrooms called makhowe  to take home for our supper. 

Harry the Chocolate King

King Harry is a big dog. He looks like a king, even if he is quite old. His coat is dark chocolate brown as he is a chocolate Labrador. (It doesn’t mean he is made of chocolate, that is his colour; he is made of dog).

I meet him often as he strolls around the parklands near his palace in Hilliard Park.

He is often in the company of the Duke and Duchess of Hilliard, who are his Lord and Lady in Waiting.

Even though he is a king, Harry doesn’t wear a crown or fancy robes like some other dogs. He is cool and casual.

When I meet him, I greet him in siSwati, and he understands everything I say, which is weird as he is Australian, but then kings are special.

King Harry is getting on in age, but he still has a twinkle in his eye, especially when he meets Miss Lulu, who is Schnauzer who wants to be a ballerina. He will even roll in the grass in some places, to show that he is just an ordinary person, groaning softly, squirming and grinning.

Talking of grinning, King Harry is a grinner; he always has at least a smile on his face. I believe he is a happy dog.

When he walks, without a leash of course because he is a King and well behaved, he has a languid step, never hurrying. He strolls sedately and politely greets everyone who he meets. They all feel honored by his attention and bow and wait until he approaches them before they speak.

Mind you, he will sometimes put on a leash to show other dogs that he is on their side. He hasn’t actually said that people should be on leads not dogs, but I think he thinks so.

If he is feeling particularly happy and his gout isn’t troubling him he will even indulge in a frisky caper, a little dance to encourage the young people who gaze at him adoringly.

It is so nice to know that we have a king living nearby.

Cradle Rock

Story proposed by Tim Jackson Mon 1 Mar

This singular hard rock formation can be seen as an icon representing the ethos of St Marks School in the 1950’s and early 60’s.

The cluster of large granite boulders near the top of a steep slope, looked like a cradle. It nestled on the mountain in full sight of the school, a daily reminder of the challenge it posed every year.

St Marks was a small school with the boarders comprising the majority of pupils. Day bugs made up about a quarter of the school and were generally regarded with a slight sneer by boarders, who had no doubts that they represented the core and backbone of the school.

In keeping with the times, discipline was severe: corporal punishment for boys was administered by the Headmaster and his Deputy, all housemasters and prefects and sub-prefects. One had to be very diligent and careful not to commit some infraction incurring cuts – strikes with a cane, coathanger or in some cases a cricket bat.

Early morning runs in winter and swims in summer were compulsory. As were the cross-country runs after school in summer – about 4 miles of dust, then mud. If you were slow you had a very muddy bath. 

But the real glory was a test of toughness, witnessed by the whole school. It was  a fast cross country scramble across the valley through a gum forest, up the rockstrewn side of Malunge mountain, to seize the cup, placed on top of Cradle Rock.

All boys took part and points were awarded to your sports house depending on your time. To gain points you needed to complete the course in about 20 minutes.

We all ran barefoot in those days, helter skelter down from school, over the golf course bridge, then a choice had to be made. Either shorter but steeper and rougher, straight up through the trees and over the rocks, or around the side on the road past Jimmy’s Pool, then striking right up the hill, longer but faster. 

Michael Connolly won in ‘64 and Mapipa Long in ‘65. I believe the record time was about 14 minutes.

In the mischief and mayhem after year end exams and break-up day, some gentlemen who remain nameless, climbed the mountain under cover of darkness.

There they beautifully enhanced the front facade of Cradle Rock by painting in large white letters “Queens”.

Just in time too, as in 1967 the sports house was re-named Taylor to honour Miss Tilly Taylor, who had served the school for over 20 years.

The Cross of Lorraine, from our school badge, was painted large on the vertical rockface a few hundred yards away on the  same mountain, after Gordon Highlanders painted their badge there.

Those are some memories inspired by the Cradle Rock .

The paint on the rock has faded now and most of the trees are gone; there are houses quite close. But Cradle Rock endures.

(* To see a photo of the view of the rock taken from the school, go to the webpage by clicking the Title)

Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis, of course!

The Future of shops, offices and money

Story proposed by Tim McQuoid Mason

Hmmm! I think a good old egg and bacon fry-up with boerewors and mushrooms is called for.

(At least the meat tastes like the real thing, (which I haven’t eaten since 2024), even if it is earthworm protein.

Today, I am off to Bunnings to collect the customised shovel I had ordered this morning – a glitch had caused a drone jam, so it couldn’t be delivered immediately.

Amazing really – all I had to do is think about what I needed and tell Siri who placed the order, giving my specifications. Bunnings will have it printed by the time I get there and they have offered me a complimentary coffee as they could not deliver immediately.

The self-drive Uber Flicar whizzed off, covering the 10 km distance in 7 minutes, while I flipped through my voting preferences on the issues before e-Parliament.

My shovel was loaded at the roof touch and go landing pad and my coffee was handed to me – they know exactly how I like it. Siri had already paid Bunnings.

I told the Flicar to return via the Protein Bar Co-op so I could pick up some fillet steak – the new worm algae protein meat barbequed magnificently and gave me a perfect medium rare. The Bar took a box of my tamarillos, pawpaws and apple chives in exchange.

The fillet would be accompanied by fresh salad from my own vertical garden and home-made sauerkraut. I was also going to toast some crickets as they were now juicy and plump. That was why I needed the new shovel – to be able to transfer compost from our waste processing output to the garden rows and insect farms.

Digital currency replaced cash in the 2020’s and the universal basic income eliminated poverty, so the old capitalist wealth inequality has become largely irrelevant. Wealth accumulation still occurs mostly through stock exchange barter and innovation development. Fifty percent of corporate profit is channelled into New World Exploration and Technology.

All world citizens are enabled and required to be self-sufficient by producing their own food and bartering surplus for goods they don’t produce themselves in their own living areas. Local co-operatives ensure you can get those products you or your neighbours don’t grow in exchange for your surplus produce.

I am really proud of the fact that Bahr Place precinct is self-sustainable and produces sufficient to supply fresh produce to the 10 families that now shared our precinct and still have plenty for barter.

This is the original 800 m2 section that we bought in 2013. I added two high rise blocks with four apartments each and our tower has two apartments. This allows space for a recreation area which has real grass.

The old city centre office blocks were converted to residential usage after the Covid plague required remote working from home. They rapidly converted to residential use and filled. Population pressure drove up the cost of land, so increasing residential density of suburbs was imperative. Robust design and continuous building inspection and monitoring ensured safe and healthy living standards. Everything is built remotely, then flown in and installed on site in a matter of hours. IKEA overtook Amazon some time ago.

 The chickens give me eggs and meat and are happy scratching through our vertical gardens on all the walls and the rooves. The water tanks give me prawns, mussels and trout. Admittedly my fruit trees need to be pruned regularly as the basement area is under 3 metres high. The arnica did exceptionally well and was great for aches and pains from a hard day’s gardening; as did the marijuana I grew under licence for pain relief of the few remaining cancer victims not cured by gene therapy.

My beer and kombucha brews are very popular at online barter markets on Sundays. Uber drones allow instant delivery.

Of course we print most of our clothes and hard stuff we require on 3-D printers. We sometimes have to source the print materials from vendors. It is ordered automatically and droned in to our rooftop immediately.

We harvest and store all our water and energy needs, so have no reliance on large utility corporations of the past.

We have little to complain about – I am only 95 and Siri told me my body indicators showed I was in perfect health and can expect to live another 30 years at least, before I get treed*. I am proud of the fact that I have reversed cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s and still have one each of my original knees, eyes and hips!

(I have refused my great grandchild’s request to clone me for her next child –  I believe we are all unique and special in our own way and should stay that way).

*Click to follow the link

Farouk – Floppy and Fearless

Story proposed by Amory Cobbledick  

The names of our pets reflect the world at the time of naming. So when my Shetland pony, Pikkie (Afrikaaans for little one) had a foal, my father christened him Timoshenko, after a World War 2 Russian General.

Our neighbours in the late 1950’s, got a dog and he was christened Farouk. I assume something about this large bull mastiff must have brought to mind His Majesty Farouk I, by the grace of God, King of Egypt and the Sudan.

The name means “the one who distinguishes between right and wrong”. Not a good name for this dog who struggled to make that distinction, nor I believe, could his namesake.

 Farouk 1 was of 10/16 Circassian 3/16 Turkish 2/16 French and 1/16 Albanian descent – in other words a real mongrel. Ruki, the name we called the dog, was pure-bred, but also behaved like a mongrel.

The Bullmastiff breed was bred to tackle and pin a poacher that comes onto private land which was sometimes awkward.

Ruki was also called Slobber Joe on account of the copious saliva slobber he produced. This young dog was very big, undisciplined and randy – he tried to knock down any running thing – and then he would mount and hump it, which could be embarrassing or hilarious, depending on your viewpoint.

It happened frequently to all of us. I can remember being paralysed with laughter when it happened to others and absolutely mortified when it happened to me.

Invariably, the subject of his affections was covered in slobber. He also hated horses but was otherwise quite friendly stupid.

While talking about dogs and embarrassment, I will share an agonising experience, if you promise not to tell. Sir Brian and Lady Riva Marwick came to say goodbye to my brother Tim and I at our boarding school, St Marks. Sir Brian was the retiring Resident Commissioner of Swaziland and an old family friend. As briefed, we were waiting, polished and clean in front of Duncan House, when the Austin Princess with fluttering flag rolled up. We could hear the whispers and scuffles of the boarders peering through windows and doors.

Sir Brian and Lady Riva alighted and bade their adieu’s and we blushed and mumbled. Just then Fly, the school mongrel arrived to see what was going on. Unbeknown to His Excellency, Fly cocked his leg and piddled against his tall grey flannelled leg.

Immediately Tim and I gasped and snorted and squirmed and bit our lips; while the audience erupted in poorly suppressed giggles. It was sheer agony.

Fortunately Lady Riva had seen what had happened and hustled him into the car and away. Oh dear! That was extremely painful and funny.

My Dad’s dog Bessie, a red bull terrier kept us in line: she was patient and wise and more sensible than any of us.

Sometimes on Sundays, we would go on a hike into the mountains around Mbabane, taking Farouk and Bessie to look after us.

Mum wrapped tomato sandwiches in greaseproof paper and we would take Daddy’s army haversack and water bottle and off we’d go climbing the hill behind the Police camp. Bessie would lead the way and try to curb Ruki’s exuberance.

We must have made an inspiring sight: three small barefooted boys in large hats accompanied by a towering mastiff and led by a grey muzzled bull terrier.

One terrible day, we met an old grey horse and Farouk went for it, leaping up and biting its throat.

It galloped off bleeding from the throat and we fled. We heard it was found dead and lived in terror for many days…

I don’t recall any other adventures with Farouk, so maybe he was moved to an area where there were no horses and people didn’t mind being knocked over and humped!

I also cannot think of that dog without a grin!

Eating litchis

Story propsed by my grand daughter, Elba Rose, 3 years old Tues 2 March

It appears that some people spell and pronounce the word as lychee (ugh!) 

The litchi is a member of the Soapberry family, but should have been classified under sugarberry. It is a small juicy, deliciously sweet fruit. Accordingly a number need to be eaten at a time.

Delicate people choose to pierce the thin, slightly spiky skin with a knife and peel it off with their fingers, thereby losing most of the juice. For a number of good reasons, I just bite into the skin.

That way, if you simultaneously slurp, you get most of the juice that explodes from the fruit. The rest runs down your chin and neck. I have got used to that and shower after finishing as many as I can eat.

Once the skin is pierced and the first juice splash slurped, delicately peel off the top half of the skin shell with your teeth. Then squeeze the bottom half with your fingers and the fruit pops into your mouth. Savour the soft sweet flesh, then bite softly to the hard smooth pip in the centre and peel off the flesh which can be swallowed without hardly any chewing necessary. Discard the pip and the peel after ensuring any remaining juice has been slurped.

We had great pleasure introducing my daughter’s well brought up young Englishman to litchis.

He is highly observant if somewhat hasty, as young men can be. He skilfully mimicked my bite and slurp with a masterly tilt of the head and salacious slurp. To our surprise and glee, he then chewed and swallowed the pip! He had been too shy to ask, and just assumed!

 It was also the favourite fruit of a Chinese Emperor’s favoured concubine. The emperor had fresh fruit delivered from Guangdong to the capital at great expense by a special courier service with fast horses.

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!

 

 Litchis contain several healthy minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, such as potassium, copper, vitamin C, epicatechin, and rutin. These may help protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The pip may be slightly poisonous. 

My eldest brother, Mpunzane is a litchi addict. Whenever he noticed a litchi tree in fruit in his suburb, he would send in my brother and me under cover of darkness, to liberate a sample of the fruit. After some close calls and an attack of conscience (our mother’s), he planted a litchi tree in his garden. 

In those days he didn’t have Google to tell him that the trees bear fruit in about three months. Somebody told him it took seven years. We would be taken to inspect the tree each year. It never yielded any fruit, until it was seven years old, at least twenty feet high and wide. After good early rain it gave rise to a myriad of fruit flowers, then cascades of fruit started developing to everyones’ joy.

Yet, no ripe fruit survived. Until on a visit, I awoke very early one morning and went for a walk. I heard noises from the tree and went to investigate. There was the gardener hauling down branches and plucking the fruit which he dropped into a sack. 

To cut a long story short, he had been doing this every year, hence no fruit, since year one.

Well now,  with the thief gone, we could look forward to a harvest. We left them for a few more days to ripen perfectly. The evening before thay long awaited, glorious first harvest we heard an ominous sound – the happy call of a vervet monkey. We rushed to the tree and 30 monkeys scattered. The ground was littered with fruit peels and pips. The total harvest was 17 fruit – the monkeys and thieves got the rest – every year.

That should tells you something about the joy of eating litchis.

How I went from ordinary to extraordinary!

I chose to accept the topics proposed, so I accepted this one – I would not have chosen to do so, it is quite personal.

I was never ordinary, I was born extraordinary.

But my parents did the right thing, they treated me as ordinary. So I learned to do ordinary things and didn’t feel different

The fact that I was physically extraordinary just meant I looked different and did things differently.

My family and friends took no notice, sometimes trying to help if I was slow. I rejected these attempts, sometimes rudely. I can’t remember anything my contemporaries could do that I couldn’t. I often wasn’t very good but neither they nor I cared.

They did me right.

Some tasks were perhaps a bit more challenging so I developed some sort of tenacity or determination to persevere. It was sometimes embarrassing – I recall a fancy dinner at the Royal Swazi Hotel with a friend and his parents.

I ordered lamb chops and insisted and persisted on cutting them up myself, rebuffing all offers of help. Everyone, including me, was mortified. I usually order spaghetti if I go out these days.

In some instances I was downright dangerous and once I gave up. I still feel sick about it, even though I know it was the right thing to do.

I was a Personnel Superintendent on a shaft sinking site of a new mine and felt it important that I visited the workplace. During the years 1995 and 1996, Moab Khotsong recorded the worst safety statistics in the mining industry

Eventually sick of my nagging the Mine Manager took me with him.

We climbed into a bowl suspended on a cable and were lowered down the shaft a few hundred feet. It stopped and we dismounted onto a narrow platform on the side of the shaft, which was only about 800 meters deep by then.

The rest of the descent was via a vertical ladder. My hands became so slippery with sweat that I surrendered at the third rung and returned to the platform. I chickened out.

Extraordinary is someone else’s judgement.

I am not extraordinary, I just do things differently. I have no claim to anything but ordinary, except maybe my sense of humour.

Story proposed by Rubes Carter

The ups and downs of immigrating

All my bags are packed

 I’m ready to go …

Taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing its horn,

Already I am so lonesome I could die

‘Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again …

That about wraps the downs. They hit immediately, like jumping out an aeroplane door – you realise you really don’t know anything about parachute landing.

Doubts are huge and the final rituals of departure are agonising.

The children are with you and it doesn’t help them to see your snot en trane – so you have to pull on a brave face and smile.

Immigration is a bureaucratic odyssey of queues, forms, fees and fretful clerks. Fortunately my wife is calm and patient; if it had been left to me we would have been extradited immediately!

For years after you get there, you watch aeroplanes flying west, wistfully. You wonder whether you did the right thing, you feel you have denied your heritage, abandoned your roots and you long to return to your siblings – even though you usually fight with them after a few days together!

The ups are realised only years later, when we saw our children graduate, intelligent and independent and unscarred by the dichotomy of the society we had left, with only happy memories of the land of their birth.

We really enjoyed the high ups of immigration after our second immigration – this time in search of the sun, to a bigger land where our children were settling. This time we were on our own and free to choose without having to leave family too far behind.

Those that stayed were close enough to visit. Our dog came with us.

There was little pain on leaving and happy anticipation of the new promise of The Lucky Country.

So I suppose your emotional buoyancy depends on why, when and where you go and what you leave.

The security and calmness of your new world compared to the degradation, dishonesty and deceit of where you started, is consoling.

It is a gentle emotion, not raw like the verlang for tuisland, which lingers.

Story proposed by Linda Owen Guy and Rose Glen