plane seats on the wings

Story suggested by Rubes Carter Saturday 13 March

Plane seats on the wing is a notion which looks like it may be fun and cool. Closer examination of the idea reveals a number of probably fatal flaws.

Flying on a wing and a prayer was a description of the desperate condition some shot up aircraft returning home after raids on enemy territory, only just getting home…. or not.

Then there are wing walkers who perform crazy stunts for entertainment purposes – not very many people have that sort of confidence.  My tummy wobbles just thinking about it.

At the speeds that aircraft move, it would not be easy reading a book or drinking coffee on the wing; conversation and safety announcements would be a tad awkward too. You would have to rug up too -those lightweight airline dishcloth blankets won’t keep the icicles away!

So plane seats on wings probably won’t go very far as a paying proposition. 

However, for those keen on the idea, if they are willing to accept a compromise, they could sit inside the wing quite comfortably and a lot more safely. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has just partnered with a university to develop the “Flying-V,” a radical new airplane design that puts passenger seats inside the plane’s wings — and it could decrease the amount of fuel needed for flights by a substantial 20 percent.

Modern designs of aircraft are moving away from a central fuselage and towards an all wing aircraft.

Of course, we are really talking about living on the edge. The more confident, some may say foolhardy may try the extreme. Wingsuit flying provides experiences as close to bird-like soaring as human beings are likely to experience, given the configuration of our bodies.

It is possible for a wingsuit flier to approach speeds of 150 mph!

This extreme form of flying makes wing walking look like paddling in a puddle and it really looks like the stuff of dreams.

Once or twice in my life I have dreamed I was flying, just soaring through the skies …. what a feeling it was!

I could do it if I wanted to, but these days I prefer to stay away from the edge.

To see what it looks like, check out this video link to wingsuit flying, it will take your breath away!

So I guess plane seats on the wings won’t fly. 

This video of future flying machines may cure you of your need to sit on a plane wing!

Whatever flight style or seat you choose, remember rule number one: Keep the blue side up!

Conversation with a hyena

Story proposedby Tom Purcell Friday 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!

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

Umqombothi

It’s a lovely word. The ‘qo‘ just rolls of the tongue onto the roof of your mouth with a soft click and the next ‘o’ comes out as ‘aw’: oohm tk awm baww tea

It is the chicken noodle soup of South Africa especially in the Eastern Cape.

It is brewed for special occasions. For young Xhosa men (abakwetha) the introduction to umqombothi is usually painful. It is brewed to celebrate their initiation to manhood, which involves isolation and circumcision. I have never drunk it.

Beer is of course a staple of most civilisations, essentially because back in the day local water supplies soon became contaminated by poor sanitation and livestocks’ lack of regard for water purity. The alcohol in beer killed most of the germs in the water and the grain was extremely nourishing. That is why most wise people like beer – they are survivors.

In Africa where my soul was born, there are a number of natural brews of which probably the most popular is mahewu because of its simplicity. It is essentially ingrained into the rural dweller’s life and is shared communally. Both these drinks are grain based and only mildly alcoholic.

However, as has no doubt been experienced recently in South Africa, where alcohol sales were banned in the Covid lockdown, people go to great lengths to make alcoholic drinks.

I can remember my father warning me never to drink home brewed shebeen beer, makanjane, as brewers often added dubious ingredients to improve the ‘kick’. Such ingredients included methylated spirits and battery acid, as well as dead rats…. Mind you there is a pervasive myth that the secret Guinness ingredient is a beef hindquarter!

The brewing of pineapple beer was part of the unofficial curriculum for most young schoolboys: pineapple peel, brown sugar and water buried in a jar for a few days!

Once when I had mumps and was in bed upstairs in our house in Mbabane, my brother Mpunzane remembered a jar he had buried and forgot about when he went off to boarding school, three months before.

When he loosened the soil above it, the jar exploded, shooting the lid into the eaves outside my room. Impressive brew!

I think that was when we got the warning from Dad.

Mpunzane, who became a beer rep for a while, tells me it is marula season in Swaziland and he has plans for for some muganu – marula beer to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Those of you who have seen elephants and baboons staggering about after eating rotting marula fruit, will know that a potent beer is possible.

If you are totally teetotal in rural Africa, your other and probably only alternative is amasi, which is yogurt before it was invented.  

Sorry for you!

Story proposed by Mike Ellis

Pancakes

Even though I say it myself, I regard my culinary talents as adventurous, even challenging!

I only married in my 30’s, so had a fair bit of cooking experience in my bachelor days, despite living in Africa where cooks were often employed for most meals. Of course being an African male, I am an experienced vleis braaier, which is Afrikaans for ‘meat guerrilla’.

The braaivleis, known as barbeque in many parts of the world, is a cultural practice which involves the cooking of piles of meat. The cooking often takes place after a few drinks and is not really that important; the meat just has to look cooked. It often does in the evening twilight, after a few beers…

But I am not here to talk about meat, of which, I have realised, I eat too much. Accordingly, I have resolved to give up meat for Lent in accordance with older traditions and instead of beer, …. Maybe next year.

My wife is perturbed as I said that I would eat more fish, which she is not fond of. So I have set out to show her that there is no need to fear, by cooking some fishcakes as a surprise.

In order to ensure a special dish, I used my pilchards in chili sauce, which I had been saving for a treat. I combined it with some bread crumbs of the nutty, seedy bread she prefers. To make the mixture more special and because she doesn’t like raw onion, I used sliced pickled onion, which I thought was quite innovative. To add some colour, I added a couple of sliced pepperdews, small red capsicums in a sweet syrup. I mixed in an egg for binding, salt and pepper seasoning and some finely chopped parsley from the garden. Simple!

Please note, this was my own recipe!

The mixture made six and a half cakes, which I fried in olive oil. Even though I say it myself, they were delicious! (A couple fell apart, so I had to eat them for lunch).

To my consternation, my wife turned down the fishcakes without hesitation – she doesn’t like tuna, chili or my cooking, especially when I try different ingredients…

Looks like I’ll be cooking for myself for the 40 days of Lent.

P.S. I had a nibble of half a cake before I went to bed. I must confess I had a very weird dream about riding an Afrikander bull which was chased by a lion past a lion reserve full of identical lions following each other, holding the tail of the foremost one in their mouths…

Ooops! Sorry… did you say pancakes?

Hey those are easy – I made some on Tuesday. Just add water to the mix, skud die bottel and fry on a hot pan. Delicious with Maple Syrup and Lemon Juice.

I ate them all – no dreams even.

The head in the window

You’re dreaming – there’s nothing there. The house is all broken down, no-one has lived there for ages, it’s dangerous. Look the doors are boarded up.

I saw a man, he was smiling. He was wearing a striped t-shirt and had sideburns.

Oooh! Was he good looking too? Maybe your Prince Charming! In your dreams!

 The girls left and ambled home. They knew they couldn’t tell anyone where they’d been as the house was strictly off-limits.

But the experience plagued, her curiosity itched like a flea-bitten cat. She had to find out.

The next day Patsy gave Ursula the slip, lingering in the library until her friend had gone off with others to hockey. She had a sore toe anyway, so wouldn’t have gone…

It was a rash thing to do, but Ursula had been so dismissive and teasing, she didn’t want to ask her to go back there. So she sang the song her dad had taught her:

I’m a brave, brave mouse, I go marching through the house,

And I am not afraid of anything….

She arrived and stood nervously in front of the window. She took a deep breath and called out:  hellooo, …. anyone there? My name is Patsy and I live down the road. I won’t tell if you want to be a secret.

Hellooo! …. Isn’t it lonely up there with no-one to talk to?

Helloooo …  she saw a flicker of movement at the window, so she waved saying: here I am, its only me here …

Go away, leave me alone! The reply was muffled, but not that emphatic.

Patsy was a bit of a bulldog; when she set her mind at something, she persisted.

I will if you really want me to, but it must get lonely up there with no-one to talk to.

She heard nothing, then faint footsteps and a door at the side of the house opened with a creaking screech.

Her heart leaped into her mouth and she gripped her schoolbag, ready to run. Then she remembered the man had smiled and he had sounded so lonely!  I am a brave, brave… she walked slowly forward and peered round the door.

She was surprised! She recognised the young man who stood inside the room, away from the door, looking nervously behind her.

Who are you, Is there anyone else with you, do they know where you are, why are you here, did they send you?  

His words were gabbled and fearful; he retreated into a corner, where there was a sleeping bag and a rucksack.

Are you hungry? I have an apple and a cheese sandwich in my bag, I don’t like cheese but Mum says it’s good for me…

His eyes lit up and he licked his lips: I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning.

I know who you are, you’re from the family who moved in round the corner from my house. My name’s Patsy by the way and I am in year 4 at St Marks, aren’t you supposed to be at uni or work or something, why are you hiding here?

 He was wolfing the food down, clearly famished. Penny was fascinated.

Nobody knows I’m here, I’ll get into so much trouble, but I knew I saw a face and you looked so friendly but all alone. Ursula din’t believe me and said I’m a dreamer…

And are you? A dreamer? I am, maybe that’s my problem..

Well sometimes, not really but …  I do have weird thoughts Ursula says. She’s my best friend. I skipped hockey to come and see if you were real. Why are you here?

I’m hiding from them, they followed me to our new house, I thought they would stay in Mount Pleasant when we moved.

Who are they? No-one saw me come here, I came along the path that runs near our house

They stand in the shadows, but I hear them speak… they say terrible things. It’s okay if I take my pills but I lost them when we moved and they found me.

Well! said Patsy, with all the authority that a 9 year old can muster,  you can’t stay here forever with no food, you better come with me. I’ll take you to our house and my Mum can get your more pills, she’s a nurse and my Dad will go to your house and chase those voice people away. He’s a policeman and people listen to what he says, or else!

The young man balked but without much energy and the child chivvied him to pack up his stuff, which he did.

She took his hand and led him home and all was as she said it would be.

Jack Smythe had been missing for 3 days.

Story proposed by Patsy Youngleson

Working in a mad house

Mimics abound. One can’t clean the windows without a number of offers to help and wide advice on technique. Taking out the trash is hazardous as someone is bound to follow.

Places like this are different, full of friendly, lonely and knowledgeable people. There are some who are unresponsive to their environments, smothered in their inner agonies, but they keep to themselves, sometimes gazing at static screens for hours on end.

Most are happy but bored and seek any stimulation and opportunity to espouse their important advice. At least three or four people ask me to listen to their theories and analyses each day – all for a willing ear, just to be believed.

It’s the data! It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t say what I mean! What can I do next, who can I ask?

Look out for Henry, he’s brilliant but he is a terrible narcissist, I bet he’s a psychopath – he tells such lies! But he’s so convincing nobody challenges him.

Just because I am not computer literate doesn’t mean I’m a dummy – why am I still here, they treat me like a cabbage.

If I have to speak to another nutcase who thinks research is a conspiracy I am going to scream….!

Why are we here?

Everything is so easy for some people – look at him, he just knows what everything means all the time – he’s a bloody genius!

 I think that woman is a nympho, look at the way men are drooling at her, they should lock her up… and them too!

The other day the way in was blocked and no one could get in and no-one could go out. They even called the Police.

Lunchtime conversations are varied and entertaining and disclose a great deal about morale and the culture of the place.

I’m there because I have to clean up afterwards. As I say there is never a shortage of willing helpers – they are not eager to get back to the grindstone.

Working as a cleaner in a research company is worse than working in a madhouse!

Story proposed by Michelle Craik

We are history makers

I must confess to being addicted to Downton Abbey, which my wife and I have binge-watched over the last few weeks.

I revel in the furnishings and costumes and displays of the times. The fashions and the cars have been wonderful. The treatment of the themes and developments of the day and the changing technology, culture and traditions has been well done.

In perspective, the series covers approximately the period from my father’s birth year in 1910 to just before the Great Depression. To think that at the start, there were no telephones and motor vehicles were new-fangled.

How lucky students of history have this rich live display of the times to better understand the context and concepts of values and societal change … and how close we are to history as it happens.

Yikes!! That is a sobering thought! So much has happened since my Dad was born … 

In his lifetime:

  • the horse largely disappeared
  • there were two world wars, his father served in one and he in the other.
  • the atom was split
  • a man stood on the moon
  • telecommunication enslaved the world
  • the degradation of the world was accelerated by oil.
  • the balance of power moved eastwards

I think what we are left with is that change is constant and it is better to anticipate it and embrace it, rather than resent and deny it.

Martin Luther King was wrong: we are the makers of history; we are not its product. Its time we accepted this.

 

The Jam of History

Way back it was just God and Adam, who was lonely.

God was not, but had compassion.

Eve arrived to brighten the night.

All was good … for a while.

 

A snake whispered: whisper to me

the woman said why?

He couldn’t deny

and it all went awry.

 

Exile and exodus, murder and flood.

 

Never look back, just follow the man,

He’ll take you back to where it all began.

Or fail you, like He did in Japan.

 

The pot keeps boiling, sticky like tar.

We can’t recall what went in the jar.

We can’t look back, it stretches too far.

Cockatoo

Crocodile Dundee calls it the Kakadu; the place where he bewitched water buffaloes and baffled crocodiles.

That’s where herself and I spent a few days camping in a tent – once next to a billabong in which we saw three crocodiles. freshie

Alright, they were only freshies, but they are not exactly toothless or harmless you know. One of our camp neighbours was over three metres long!

We were lucky enough to be invited to join friends doing a Grey Nomad trip through the Territory in their caravan. We sourced a tent and self inflating mattresses and hopped on a plane. Such spontaneity for 65+ year olds is invigorating!

The Kakadu National Park is part of the Northern Territory and very much on the caravan route which could be called the grey fringe of Australia because of the  continuous flow of  middle aged caravanners, campers and tourists which clog the camps and roads.

That is,  in the dry, up North; in the wet monsoon and cyclone months most of the area is under water or subject to flooding at a moment’s notice.

In the summer months 75% of the area is burnt off. The result is a open  savannah with burn scarred trees, rejuvenated grass, anthills and lots of  cycads. Sadly, we saw almost more roadkill than live animals: a few feral pigs and wallaroos. Despite lush grasslands, there were not many water buffalo in parks and a few cattle in areas outside of parks. I was reminded of the rocky ridged cattle country near Nomahasha in Swaziland.

Waterways were busy with birdlife and crocodile seeking tourists. Every roadside, park entrance and river bank is posted with warning signs about the danger of salties: the ubiquitous and lethal estuarine crocodiles.

Paradoxically, the most popular tourist venues and camps were those adjacent to beautiful billabongs, pools and streams where swimming was deemed safe. Nevertheless these places were studded with signs advising that estuarine crocodiles were know to visit all waters, but were removed when observed; freshwater crocodiles were always present and harmful if provoked!

The waters were clear and refreshing with gushing waterfalls and darting fish. Everyone swam, including herself, who has a known aversion to chilly water.

There were quite a few birds, many of which were clearly kin to African counterparts:

rainbow pitta

Cockatoos, storks, coucals, cormorants, flycatchers, bee eaters, ducks, geese and rainbow bee eater

hawks and eagles. I think I saw a Rainbow Pitta, which I have not seen before; my dream birds, the bee eaters, followed me all over the North.

The best bird was the Jabirua black stork, with a powerful bill said to be strong enough to pierce a croc’s skull. Certainly they were ignored by large passing salties.ro jabiru

If you are brave enough to fish, the Barramundi, provides fine sport and is a very tasty fish dish. The only one I saw caught was a ten kilogram plus beauty, snapped up by a huge crocodile.barra-croc.jpg

We had a really good trip with our good friends and tenting was quite fun; certainly no hardship. Beer and wine seemed to go down quite well despite the fact that it is more difficult to buy alcohol in the Territory than it was in Alabama during Prohibition.

There are huge social problems with Aboriginal communities as a result of generations of drink dependency which necessitate such measures.

I was left with a somewhat surreal impression of empty land with crowded roads and camps, lovely waterways and an economy greatly dependent on a population of crocodiles, once nearly exterminated by hunting, now nearing over abundance!

The Kakadu must be very interesting to see in the wet, but with temperatures in the 40’s and humidity consistently close to 100%, I will rather read about it.