FARMERS

A typical morning at a local business where farmers and others can buy a variety of items relating to agriculture and the feeding of animals.

Note the dusty vehicle from driving on dirt roads, the goat on the back, and the casual way in which the bakkie is parked exactly where the sign on the left exhorts customers not to! It was a quiet morning and I imagine the farmer might be one of this group solving the world’s problems a little way off:

Even though it is winter, Eastern Cape farmers typically wear shorts and caps – the only nod to the weather being their jackets and hands-in-pockets. Everyone wears masks these days. The numerous water tanks seen in the background have become items of necessity as the drought continues. Not only farmers purchase them anymore – many suburbanites now have them in their gardens to catch and store any rain than happens to fall.

MAINTENANCE AND A MYSTERY

Our municipality won’t win any prizes for maintaining the infrastructure of the town. Grass verges are not mowed anymore; street lights do not always work; potholes get wider and deeper – never expect the holes dug up to repair water mains to be properly filled in and tarred over; sewage seeps across streets for weeks until stinking rivulets form; the electricity department tries its best; the water department probably does too – let us give them the benefit of doubt. Despite the long drought we have experienced (the ideal time, I would think) storm drains are never cleaned …

Speaking of storm drains, the cover of this one has been missing for years.

You can see that it is filled to the brim with leaves, twigs and grass – and, hidden from view, are plastic bottles, papers and cardboard. This one is situated on a corner (almost opposite our fig tree) and when it rains, really rains – as in buckets down for a day or two – the water bypasses this choked drain, dams up, and then spread across the road. The trouble with this is that it is at a low point and so all the soil, leaves and other debris is deposited there too – a road hazard.

A little further on is another storm drain on a straight section of the road. The cover of this one is, surprisingly, still intact.

It bears the name East London (just over 180km away if one travels via the N2). Presumably the cover was manufactured there.

Now the mystery: stuck in the tar, right opposite our front gate is this very old looking metal pin.

Could it be a survey pin? If so, why would it be in the road? If there were ever any markings on it (should there have been?) they would have been worn off by decades of passing traffic.

CATHCART WAR MEMORIAL

The War Memorial in Cathcart, Eastern Cape, is set in well-tended grounds along Main Street.

A uniformed soldier stands guard at the top. Traces of red paint from an earlier bout of the vandalization of monuments was still visible in 2016.

Even more so from behind.

The monument bears a plaque: THIS MONUMENT IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE MEN OF THE TOWN & DISTRICT OF CATHCART WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918. Apart from giving their ranks, the names of the eighteen dead are written out in full. Two possibly come from the same family, if not brothers then they are surely cousins: Scout John Henry Ferguson and Private Arthur William Ferguson. The sentiment ‘laid down their lives’ refers to the giving up of one’s life for a good purpose or to die for a good cause. The implication that we should honour these men for doing just this is thus clear in spite of the reminder – so in keeping with many memorials of the time – in the familiar quotation from John 15:13 – “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN MAY LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS” at the end.

What no-one realised at the time was that another sacrifice of loved ones would be called for during the Second World War. LEST WE FORGET this plaque, erected by the M.O.T.H.S reads ahead of the ROLL OF HONOUR OF THE MEN OF CATHCART AND DISTRICT WHO MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR. This time, as well as their rank, twenty names are given in full – all from families that remain in the Eastern Cape. The final quotation is “NOT FOR OURSELVES BUT FOR OTHERS”. This, I understand, is derived Cicero’s treatise On Duties.

That is where most war memorials would have ended, except that South Africans have been embroiled in other conflicts since. Another plaque was erected. This one is headed DIED IN SERVICE TO THEIR COUNTRY and contains only the name of Cpl. Paul Kruger.

The red spray painted letters of ANC is still clearly visible on the stone.

Lest we forget is a phrase we have become used to associating with Remembrance Day services. While the concept of not forgetting is mentioned in Deuteronomy 4:7-9, the phrase was popularised by Rudyard Kipling, who used it several times in his poem Recessional.

BROEKIE LACE

Several examples of the Victorian fashion of cast-iron (or carved wooden) lattice trellis work can be seen in Grahamstown.

This ornate ironwork is charmingly known as Broekie Lace because it resembles the lace edgings on women’s underwear (broekies = panties).  Introduced by the English settlers, these trims were applied to the eaves of corrugated iron veranda roofs, which were often supported on slender cast-iron columns and cast-iron brackets.

Cast-iron railings made an attractive addition to homes and gardens.

A BALCONY FOR NO-ONE

Mention a ‘balcony scene’ to someone and the first thing to pop into mind would probably be the one made famous by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – even if the said someone had never read the play or knows what it is really about. It is the same with the oft-quoted O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? The words spoken by Juliet. I have taught that play more times than I care to count and each time Juliet comes to the window – and each illustration or film shows her leaning over the balustrades of a balcony. Balcony it is then in the minds of readers and those who ‘know about’ the play. You even get what are known as Juliet balconies in architecture:

‘Balcony’ is derived from the Latin ‘balcone’, meaning a scaffold. Juliet balconies have become popular in some of the many blocks of apartments that have sprung up in our town – far from generously proportioned, they barely provide enough room for a foot to step out on but have sliding doors behind them and so, presumably fulfil the function of allowing air into one’s abode as well as a ‘safety net’ of sorts. If I could drive around town I could provide you with a photograph as an example, yet I am sure you have seen these tiny cost-cutting protrusions.

There is more space on the Vatican’s famous Loggia delle Benedizioni on the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, where over time Popes have stood to give the public their blessing at Easter and Christmas. There is room for him as well as a camera and camera-man at least.

During the medieval and Renaissance periods, balconies were supported by corbels made either from stonework, or large wooden brackets. Much more recently supports of cast iron, reinforced concrete, and other materials have become common. The roomy balcony shown below has two concrete corbels and a cast iron balustrade. One could comfortably seat at least two people on it, along with a small table and even a portable braai!

It has a major drawback though – this balcony has no entrance!

There is a delightful article about the history of balconies if you are interested: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200409-the-history-of-balconies