The Happy Hookers Fishing Club

(This is an extract from my upcoming book on my years at Vaal Reefs Exploration and Mining Company – most of those 14 years were pretty rough; but there were some happy times too)

Maurice (James) and I and Denis Simpson started talking about a fishing trip to Henties Bay in Namibia. We constituted a fishing club and soon had an eager group planning the trip. Henties was on the West Coast in Namibia and was renowned as a fishing mecca.

Bossie Boshoff, Peter Turner, Alistair Barr and Andries Oberholzer were some of our fellow hengelaars – some were quite serious about fishing, others were mainly there for the beer (no names, but you can guess)

Most of us were amateur fishermen, but enjoyed the associated conviviality and the 4000 km round trip across Botswana and Namibia was a great success – some of us even caught some fish! Maurice and I were also keen bird watchers.

We were joined by Bushy Going from TEBA (the mines employment bureau) which was a major coup. TEBA had fully equipped and serviced manager’s houses in very remote areas of Southern Africa and we managed to visit 3 of the most exotic and exciting of these camps.

Shakawe was on the banks of the Okavango River, near the Caprivi Strip.tigerfish                carmine B eaterThere were boats, wonderful tiger and bream fishing and a rainbow array of birds and wildlife.  There were also crocodiles and hippos…

That trip alone deserves a separate book.

Kosi Bay was situated in a kwaZulu Natal reserve about 200 metres from the Kosi Bay estuary – the only house for miles. We caught no fish over 3 days!

narina-trogon.jpgPafuri is a private rest camp at the northern tip of the Kruger National Park where the Narina Trogon was spotted.

Peter Turner’s family had a house in Morgan’s Bay on the Transkei Coast.fresh-calamari.jpg    We caught only one fish between the two cold fronts that passed over dumping rain by the ton.

We were forced to eat our bait (squid/calamari) – quite good actually! (although our powers of discrimination were somewhat diminished…)

These fishing trips entailed many planning meetings and conviviality and provided great stress relief, during quite tough times.

Going back to Africa

I must confess to mixed feelings now.

It has taken some time to get to this point. Nearly twenty years in fact.

This has been quite a sudden realisation; not so long ago I wrote a poem about returning my spirit to Africa, where I grew up and where 10 generations of ancestors are buried:

Journey

Like a boomerang, we go forwards to go back

to our hearts home where our mum’s wombs rest.

From light to dark and smooth to shoddy.

People simple but direct, not so friendly.

But it’s the home of our heart and soul,

darker Africa, so far and so near.

The warm people now despondent

about unrealised comforts, leached away by lazy overlords,

Maybe blamed on us, who give, build and take.

 

Where I die, twirl a thorn twig,

catch my ghost and take it home,                                         

like a boomerang, back from where we came,

to the bosom of the family we left.

Then maybe I will rest.

 

Now our near family is here, not there. Without a doubt, feelings are mixed.

But now I feel as if I am leaving home, not going home.

I am happy and sad.

(The picture is a twig from the Umlahlankosi tree that can be used to carry the spirit of the deceased from the place of death to a new resting place).

The magic of Edward Lear

One of the sweetest things happened recently: our daughter confessed that  she always associated Edward Lear’s poem: The Owl and the Pussycat with us, her Mum and Dad. The connection had been made via two photos of us dancing: one at a school dance and the other at our wedding.

It is a wonderful poem with delightful images of traditional love rituals.

pea green boat

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”

Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl, 
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?”

 They sailed away, for a year and a day,                                 piggy ring
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?”
Said the Piggy, “I will”
turkey marriedSo they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

by light of moon

Serendipitously, I quoted from Edward Lear’s Jabberwocky in my wedding speech which I related as my father’s advice on getting married:

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! 
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun 
      The frumious Bandersnatch!” 

 

We must never discard the magic interwoven in our memories nor disregard the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

 

Old Friends

Last week I wrote of the passing of a kinsman and how my world seemed to shrink, but the warmth of our association remains.

This week I write about old friends with whom my wife and I spent time over the weekend.

Old as in ‘older than us’ from where we lived before, who are still good friends.best old ones

We were neighbours and shared a love of plants, summer lunches, sometimes heated discussions, poetry and word plays. We shared similar Southern African origins and discovered that we were almost related, with a sister and an uncle romantically linked for a  while.

alphabet friendsThe word “friend” comes from Old English “frēond”, which is actually the present participle of “frēogan”, which means “to love” and “to honor”.
a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

Synonyms: 1. comrade, chum, crony, confidant. 2. backer, advocate. 4. ally, associate, confrere, compatriot.

Tick all boxes!

goodbye friend

 

 

 

Autumn Leaves (one for my brother – he ain’t heavy)

 

This time of year brings to mind that song sung by Doris Day on her Day by Day album, released in 1956, music of my older brother who went to boarding school in a far-away city. He also introduced me to Rosemary Clooney’s (yeah, Georgie’s auntie!)  Come on-a my house and Irma La Douce, a fairly risqué musical about a mec (cool dude/pimp) – who fell in love with his poule (prostitute). This is the story: Valse milieu

Inadvertent education for a 6-year old (me); my brother was a sophisticated sixteen.

Talk about being led astray… this was supposed to be about the changes in nature that Autumn brings, but I wandered away down memory lane. Oh well, I enjoy doing that!

We don’t have a dramatic leaf colour display apart from a few exotic trees in public places that I try to avoid. However, trees like the paperbark gumPaperbark flower and the Golden Penda, come into flower and lure birds in flocks; driven to fatten up before winter. golden pendas tree

The ground below the trees is littered with flower wreckage. The raucous Rainbow Lorikeets are there and thus absent from our garden, so Bluebird, the ring-necked Indian Lovebird who has adopted us, comes to dine 5 or 6 times a day!

We are also visited by the Butcher Birds who gather in choirs and sing and whistle at each other in some sort of boundary identification ritual. Sometimes a few of them will fly straight up, high into the sky, then tumble and glide back down in graceful arcs. They too drop in for a crust quite often. Butcher Birdsong.

Magpies also start policing their boundaries, viciously chasing away juveniles. A pair swooped onto a young bird in our garden recently, pinning it to the ground and stabbing at it with their vicious pointed beaks.

Lulu 22 Oct 2016Fortunately, Lulu took exception and ran over and barked them away. I watched them chase the bewildered bird into the distance at great speed. A hard way to start adult life away from home

 

I suspect my thoughts are about growing old gracefully and accepting nature’s inexorable cycle.

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Old Insults, not profane!

old fashioned insults

Hey! You scobblelotcher! Thy vile countenance curdles milk and sours beer!” 

Now that is a nasty, personal insult which is likely to generate some reaction from an idler toying with his nose contents instead of attending to his duties

.better insults                              nasty look

Snollygosters, gobermouches and gnashnabs will seize on that one and add it to their repertoire of groans unless someone heads them off with an irrelevant deviation.

However, if aimed in your direction you could robustly deny being a whiffle whaffler and retort:  Zooterkins! I will not take that from a zounderkite and fopdoodle such as you, whose klazomaniac shouting only serves to bumfuzzle and create a catawampus. Stop sitting there and doing diddlysquat – you will get your dipthong in a twist.

prob pronounce

I discovered these words in Dictionary.com – a veritable treasure trove of such gems. I must confess that they are very expressive and I regret that they are no longer in common use!

Do use a few – if only to bumfuzzle others!

Here are some Shakespearean words which you may like to combine in a best-insult competition.shakespeare list

Mind you it will be difficult to surpass the devastatingly nasty subtlety of Winston Churchill: “We know that he has, more than any other man, the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.

 

 

The love of Christmas

angel-goldI could see the high treble voice soar up to the vaulted cathedral roof, so agonisingly sweet the tears stung my eyes and I looked around for my brother or my Dad, knowing their voices would have caught in their throats too…

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…

Of course, they are not here, one in Heaven and the other in the Swaziland bushveld, (which is near there). But they sent a butterfly angel which floated by as if listening…

Hark the herald angels sing…

More angelic trebles. I think I will be alright; so long as someone doesn’t sing Danny Boy – fortunately, it’s not quite the season. That maudlin, sentimental ditty catches me every time: such a simple declaration of love.

Just to top it off, here is a recording of Away in a manger, which really seized me up and dampened my cheeks. Somehow this child’s prayer has always signified much of God’s love to me.

Away in a manger
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowingaway-in-a-manger
The Baby awakes
A little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
‘Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there

Then there was the saintly King Wenceslas and his devoted page:

page-afterSire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,

Fails my heart I know not how, I can go no longer…

Mark my footsteps good my page, treads’t thou in them boldly

Thee shall find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly

There’s a message there.

 

May you all be blessed by the love of loved ones and happy memories of Christmastime.

Christmas of my childhood

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” 
Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

My earliest memories were from colonial days in the 1950’s, when we lived in Swaziland. There were certain rituals and traditions some of which have lived on through the generations.

xmas-treeThe first was the hunt for a Christmas tree. I seem to recall that there was some subterfuge required as pine and cypress trees in and about the town were council property. Daddy could not participate as he was a high panjandrum in the government, so it was up to Mum.

Suitable trees would be identified during the year. As it got dark, Mum would drive to the spot (usually next to Mbabane Oval) and the tree was quickly felled with an axe and the tree stowed in the boot and we would hasten home trailing pine needles. Dad would splutter but faced with a fait accompli he was powerless.tree-decorating

Decorations came out of a box: beautifully coloured delicate globes and silver and gold tinsel, with the Star placed on top by Daddy, which made him an accomplice. Presents were piled around the foot of tree – cause of much speculation and dreaming. Quite a few presents as there were six of us and Gogo (as Granny Vialls was called), Bessie (the dog) the servants: Samuel, Lamzima, Jane and Tsabetse, our convict gardener.

We also made streamers by cutting and plaiting strips of red and green crepe paper.

nativityCarols by candlelight were held at the amphitheatre. Daddy who loved to sing,  would sing protracted Noweeeeeeeels, much to the amazement of all in general and our acute embarrassment! There were a little crib and a live donkey: I always loved Away in a Manger thereafter.

The Christmas box was a local tradition where little gifts were given to deliverymekids-treen and service people like rubbish collectors. We carried wrapped sweets in the car to throw out to the Swazi children who would run along the side of the road calling out ma-sweeet, ma- sweeti!

Oxmas-sockn Christmas Eve we would be given orange bags as stockings to hang on the end of our beds for Father Christmas presents. We retired very early and awoke at about four a.m. to start investigating … soon rustle, rustle would turn to yips of glee and look what I’ve got’s.

The best gifts for my brother and I were a space-age machine gun which emitted a ferocious rattle and flashed sparks. No-one slept after four am that Xmas.

Gogo would make mebos (tart apricot preserve) which was a great temptation. As we would be going to communion we were not allowed to eat until after mass. The mebos suffered at the hands of early morning sinners…

Father Botta knew better than to delay his parishioners by a long sermon and we invariably passed the Anglicans as they came out of church. Dad would say: beat the Prods again! (Not very good behaviour for a papal knight!)

After breakfast, there would be tidying up and the grown ups would sip port and nibble mince pies, while we hovered around the Christmas tree where the family presents were piled.xmas-kids-and-dog

Eventually, Daddy relented and Tim and I being the youngest had to deliver presents after he had read the label.

Then tidying up again, laying the table, trying to sneak charms out the crackers and stealing nuts and mebos

Wxmas-faree still managed to eat turkey with cranberry sauce and roast potatoes, wearing silly hats and reading silly jokes… then came the pudding, bathed in blue flame with glints of silver treasure. In the pudding, Mum had inserted sixpences and tickeys (threepence) which was big money – our pocket money was tickey a week.

Then a toast to “Absent Friends” and Daddy would choke up and Mummy would finish for him.family-cricket

We’d clear the table and set up the kitchen table for the servants’ dinner; somewhat hurriedly as there was lawn cricket outside. We managed a few overs before Daddy nodded off behind the wickets.

 

We do it a bit differently in Australia these days and have Christmas braai (barbeque) on Christmas Eve, as it can get quite hot here in the day. But we still have port and mince pies and always remember “Absent Friends” which becomes harder as we grow older and the list grows longer…

One of our children has gone off meat so next year we will have vegetarian options:

  • Borshch (beet soup).
  • Vegeducken – layers of pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini and asparagus are filled with a crispy hazelnut stuffing and baked to perfection.
  • Vushka (small dumplings with mushroom).
  • Varenyky (dumplings with cabbage and potatoes).
  • Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage roll)
  • Kutia (sweet grain pudding).

merry-christmas-austrli

felinavidad