Against all odds

For purely practical reasons I am not a punter and if I do gamble I fully prepare to lose my money – I rarely win. If I do I get so exhilarated I blow the winnings on the next bet. I tend to bet on my gut feel; ’tis my Irish ancestors….

Just an aside before the main tale. For obvious reasons, I rarely go to the horse races: I usually can’t afford it and if I have some spare cash, I lose it quickly.

But the elements conspired against me. A friend had been given some complimentary tickets to the members’ enclosure. Now, this is quite swanky and has a fine view of the track, the parade ring and the spectators, as well as a well stocked bar. Rugby season was over, so what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

To cut a long story short, a man who I didn’t send to jail but fined heavily for repeated drunk driving gave me a tip, which I put a small bet on, not really trusting the source.

It cruised in at 10-1, so drinks were on me.

I should have sent him to jail. At a subsequent meeting he again gave me a tip and I bet half my salary – the bloody horse is still running….!

Anyway, what I meant to tell you about was an amazing stroke of luck in the middle of the Botswana desert. A group of us were on a fishing trip, travelling in two utes (Australian for bakkies) when I noticed a single wheel overtake us – it was ours!

We had sheared a half shaft. Fortunately we had an engineer with us. Engineers never travel without their tools, but no-one carries spare half shafts.

Unfortunately we were 170 kilometres from Gaborone and 120 from Palapye in the semi-desert of Botswana. There was little traffic.

Our engineer went off to Palapye in our other vehicle; we expected him back in 3 to 4 hours. We were not unduly worried about being stranded in the Botswana semi-desert.

Our supplies were ample: a case of tinned peaches, a case of bully beef and eight crates of beer. We lay down in the shade to snooze (to avoid the temptation of starting on the beer…)

To our surprise, after less than an hour, we were roused by a beep beep beeep!

This is the part that is hard to believe.

About 20 minutes down the road, Peter, our engineer saw a cluster of houses just off the road and a tree with an engine suspended on a chain from a branch.

He stopped and inquired. When showed the broken half shaft, the man said “No problem” and led the way to an Isuzu bakkie, smashed up front. In 20 minutes they had stripped an identical half shaft, paid the man R200 and driven back to us.

It fitted perfectly! We went on to have a wonderful fishing trip.

Once back home the vehicle owner decided to order a spare half shaft, in case of another problem (he was an engineer..) There were none to be had in the Western Transvaal, nor Johannesburg ! Eventually, after a few weeks, a spare was sent from Cape Town!

Now what are the odds one could be found in the bush on the edge of the Kalahari desert?

Bird spotting in the Okavango

Story proposed by Louis Boshoff Thursday 25 March

We awoke early in the morning to a twittering, swirling flock of carmine bee eaters flying above the house we had slept in.

Can you believe the exhilaration of the birders in our party. We stood open-mouthed at our first sighting of this quite rare bird, certainly none were to be found in the Transvaal or Eastern seaboard that we knew.

Our safari had arrived at our destination after two in the morning and fallen exhausted into our beds, having been on the road since about 8 am the previous day and travelling over 1300km’s.

We were a group of work mates who had formed a travelling fishing club. Not for us the muddy dams and turgid rivers of the Western Transvaal – we wanted to get away from there. Not all of us were avid fishermen. Of the dozen or so of us, maybe two were real fishermen. Most of us were more interested in bird watching and beer.

Our first trip had been an 1800 km trip to Henties Bay in Namibia. We hadn’t caught many fish at this legendary locale, but we had drunk Namibian beer, eaten Eisbein and had a great time.

This trip was to Shakawe at the top of the panhandle of the Okavango Delta. Two of our members were managers in TEBA the mine recruiting agency,which had recruiting stations in some of the most exotic places in Southern Africa. Each station had a well appointed, serviced guest house which often went unused for years at a time.

This station had two boats with which to navigate the river. The Okavango river was well known for tiger fish and delectable three-spot bream.

The fishermen pointed out that it was possible to fish, look for birds and drink beer while cruising the river. They were wise men! There was no dissent so we embarked after a sumptuous breakfast of scrambled eggs, boerewors and bacon, with toast and marmalade to accompany strong coffee.

The river tiger fish is a worthy opponent and we lost many more than we landed. Once hooked they will leap into the air and shake their head violently. This is usually enough to shake free the lure which comes whizzing back at dangerous speed.

The river is wide and there were virtually no other boats other than a mokoro. On the papyrus islands in the river, large Nile crocodiles sunned themselves, slipping into the water if we got too close.

A first for us all was seeing African skimmers, fishing by skimming their lower beaks in the water. We saw their nests on sandbanks and had to slow the boat to avoid swamping them.

Fish eagles and kingfishers of all sizes abounded. As did the carmine bee eaters, which nested in the river banks. There were also European, Little and White fronted bee eaters. Birdlife abounds, so the birders were happy.

The fishermen were defeated by the tigers, so we adjourned to a local lodge for G&T’s. In the evening some fished for the legendary three spot bream and caught enough for supper. 

Over our three days there were nudges from crocs and charges by hippos and lots of laughter. The only bird we missed seeing was the Pel’s fishing owl, but our faculties became quickly distorted after nightfall; we would likely have missed a passing ostrich by then!

That was a trip to Paradise and worth the thousands of kilometers. I would like to go again.

Tin Mines in Mbabane

Following the discovery of gold in the Transvaal, prospectors swarmed all over the sub-continent of Africa, fossicking and digging and squabbling over access to likely ground.

In 1874 two Scots acquired the first mining concessions in Swaziland, then a region ruled by Mbandzeni with an unsophisticated people still embracing Iron Age technology.

There was no regard for the environment or the interests of the people who were easily corrupted by modern trade goods, particularly alcohol.

By 1890 so many concessions had been granted for so many purposes that practically the whole country was covered two, three, or even four deep in concessions of all kinds and for different periods.

White settlers flooded the country and Swazis quickly took up favours offered without concern for regulation or control. Settlers pillaged the country, despoiling the land and rivers, consuming the game animals and generally corrupting the Swazi, under the guise of civilization.

The tin miners were the worst. Mbabane was initially a tin mining village before it became the capital in 1902. Tin mining was very simple, they washed away the hillside to expose the nuggets of tin that lay above the bedrock. This meant that miners needed long canals to get enough water pressure  to hose away the hill.

It took until the 1950’s to stop their depradations. This accounts for a large amount of deep erosion gullies  as seen at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

The soil that was washed away tended to accumulate and create swamps or wetlands, polluting the rivers and streams with silt, killing cattle.

I remember the dams  and claybelts all around Mbabane. Playing in the dams was strictly forbidden as a few years before a child had drowned in Lake Adelaide. I recall my Dad telling of having to dive in to retrieve the body, which was tangled in reeds on the dam floor.

However our gang of young boys found an old raft of petrol drums with a deck of wattle sticks on a small dam which we couldn’t resist, and had an inspired  pirate game. Unfortunately one of the gang lost his pellet gun overboard there – we were too scared to dive for it.  I wasn’t too sorry as he had shot me in the leg once, possibly by mistake…

Below Mbabane Club there were a number of claybanks which saw many a clay fight. Fortunately we could wash some of the red clay off in the river afterwards.

We later moved to Havelock Mine nestled in the East Drakensberg Mountains in the north of Swaziland. As boys we roved the hills and mountains and found prospectors’ trenches and implements all over the area.

Tin, gold, asbestos, iron ore, coal, diamonds lured many who came to love the land and its people. But they have run out now, so the burgeoning population has to rely on other ways of selling their resources.

Overpopulation and a lack of planning and control of development is turning many areas into semi-desert. So sad.

Photos courtesy of Swaziland Digital Archives

The sound of bellbirds in the kowhais

Story suggested by Veronica Wilson Tuesday 16 March

The bellbird is called korimako or makomako in Maori and is endemic to New Zealand.

These birds are a type of honeyeater, a bird that mainly feeds on nectar. They mainly sip nectar from native and introduced plants. However, they also feed on fruits and will even eat insects.  Sadly, it is one of the native birds that is impacted by the introduction of exotic mammalian species like stoats, rats and possums.

The blooms of the kōwhai are widely regarded as being New Zealand’s national flower

The word kōwhai is also used in the Maori language for the colour yellow, because of the bright colour of the flowers

Bellbird song can be heard all over New Zealand, but it is Tuis’ calls which are more widelyknown, starting with Wellington airport where taped recordings echo continuously through the building.

Bellbirds and Tuis can be heard all over the country in woodlands and add a sweet and almost mystic experience.

The bird and the flower and especially the birdsong are New Zealand icons. The bird itself is not particularly remarkable other than its song. Brown and similar hues seem to be the most popular colours for inhabitants, other than the flashy Tui.

Sadly there are very few bird types in New Zealand. Born and bred Kiwis are amazed by the plethora of birds in neighbouring Australia and the raucous cacophony they create. They somewhat resent the few rainbow lorikiets that have been blown across the Tasman to North Island. They are very loud and garish – quintessentially Australian.

But Kiwis love what they have got, and that is good.

Tok tokkies

Story suggested by Susie Drake          Wednesday 10 March

I have always  had a little confusion about tok tokkies.

I knew they were insects but confused them with ant-lions, about which my elder brother is an authority. When he was about eight or ten he was sent to St Marks, a boarding school in Mbabane, about 75 miles from Stegi, which was home. He was in Duncan House and his best friend was Tienie Herbst. Sixteen years later I was in Duncan too and one of my classmates was Hennie Herbst.

My brother and Tienie kept ant lion farms. But back to tok-tokkies…

Tok-tokkies are clever beetles that live in the desert and collect moisture from fog. Darkling beetle is their formal name (Tenebrionidae if you want to be technical). 

They make a clicky-knocking sound to lure females. That is why they are called Tok-tokkies, after the children’s game of knocking on doors then running away.

I don’t think I have ever met a tok-tokkie beetle.

But I have met a number of ant-lions, which we called tok-tokkies, so I can tell you about them. They are fierce predators that dig pit traps for unsuspecting prey.

Once the prey falls into the trap, the ant-lion springs out from its cover and seizes a leg in its gruesome jaws and injects its venom. Slowly, inexorably, it drags the struggling prey under the sand and devours it.

I can remember tok-tokkies from when I was in Duncan. I suppose they were the descendants of my brother’s insects. 

They are very entertaining and can keep one absorbed for hours. There were some pits in the sand, near the boiler we went to smoke cigarettes.  If you tickled the sand of the crater with a grass stalk, the lion would spring out of the sand and grip it and you could lift it up to look at it.Even better was to get an ant and drop it into the pit. Quick as a wink it was goodbye Mr Ant.

To even the competition we got bigger insects, like a small hotnotsgod, a praying mantis. They could usually get away, but sometimes lost a leg.

After eating enough over a couple of years the ant-lion spins a cocoon and retires into it for a while. When the moon is full, it emerges as a delicate lacewing beauty who flies off in avid search of a mate. Her search is frenzied and relentless without pause to even eat. Once mating is over, she lays eggs in the sand, and dies.

Talk about Beauty and the Beast

Just imagine if there were giants of the species …. aarghhh!!

Learning about religion

Story suggested by Barbara Hatfield Tuesday 9 March

Religious rituals imprint emotions and memories early in life, for those raised in religious families. I suppose that is their function.

I am not talking about Christmas Carols and Easter Egg hunts and associated, market controlled commercial events, but family occasions.

Early Sunday was a tough time in our house, as my father hated being late for anything, especially mass. And my sister could never get her act together. I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t an early streak of the rebelliousness which bloomed in her older life. Certainly the nuns at Loreto could not quell it; in fact they probably caused it!

So driving to mass with a smouldering volcano and muttering sister was a fraught affair and my brother and I skulked low.

At mass, we were separated. He sat with Mum in the fourth pew from the front on the right, I was jammed into the space between the organ and the wall in the choir, of which Dad was the bass section. This was after we once had a fight over a holy bookmark card.

The little church was packed every Sunday. The best was when the Bishop came and there was incense and a throne for him. Except we had to kneel and kiss his ring which we didn’t care for.

Our Saturdays too were interfered with by religious stuff. We received religious instruction at Catechism classes, which were held at our house. As the priests and nuns were mostly Italian or Swazi, whose English was poor, my Mum used to take the classes.

A good illustration of Mum’s disciplinary powers was at meals if we forgot about “elbows off the table please darling” our elbows got jabbed by a carving fork. So we two Purcell boys mostly behaved. 

The others were four or five Smiths, mostly girls, a couple of Allardices and the occasional O’Kelly or two. They were wild boys and sitting still was not their forte. Adept at slipping under the tables, they tickled and pinched and generally disrupted proceedings.

They were eventually persuaded by the promise of cake and biscuits afterwards, or the threat of having to recite a decade of the rosary, out loud.

Nevertheless, a number of us duly made out first Confessions, which were always difficult as the concept of sin was so seriously guilty or not guilty. We resorted to a litany of transgreessions like:  bless me Father for I have sinned, I told a lie to my friend and thought bad things and I forgot to say my prayers… It was not easy to sound original every time.

Then Communion and the terror of not chewing Jesus’ body which  sat dry on the tongue or stuck to the roof of your mouth, while you looked pious and holy, which required a great deal of concentration. But I think there was a feeling of grace for a while afterwards.

Confirmation was weird – you had to choose a saint’s name and remember it was you they were talking to (don’t ask me why). We all lined up at a special Sunday parade and the Bishop came along and asked you a  question (you’d been told the answer). Then he marked your forehead with oil and slapped your face – apparently to chase the devil away.

Strange this practice of marking the head with oil and ashes on Ash Wednesday. We have no right to look sideways at the Hindus and their tikas.

For a while I was a devout Catholic, bound by duty and ritual and desire to please my parents. I was often the only boarder from school that walked the two or three miles through the winter frost across the icy river to mass. Then back again, too late for breakfast, if no-one gave you a lift.

I even entertained a fantasy of becoming a priest and saving lepers on a remote island like Father Damien. Maybe it was the island name Molokai that resonated some significance.

As life exposed the temptations of the flesh, duty and the basis of faith were examined and rationalisation gave excuses to avoid. Conveniently, I think, I embraced the mantra of Domine, non sum dignus * to avoid Communion, as I knew  I would continue to commit sins of the flesh like over-indulgence, idleness and neglect of holy obligations. It was sort of a sidestep about which I felt a little guilty.  

Over the years I have come to understand the place and need for religion in society. The vast number of different faiths and rituals seem to me as expressions of need, not the presence of gods in different forms.

Nevertheless the rituals still carry some reverence for me and I am conscious that we must acknowledge sin and need to try to improve. So a little stuck.

Sadly few of my Catholic contemporaries seem to have retained much devoutness. Some of my Protestant friends are more devout, but they have a wider menu and less demanding regime to follow. Generously, they include me in their prayers.

* Lord, I am not worthy

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. 

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!

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 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 proposed for 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.