CELEBRATING DONKEYS

Apart from the increasing Urban Herd, we are also seeing a lot more donkeys around town. Some people pat them and feed them apples or carrots; others chase them away from their properties; most residents have become so used to them now that they simply let them be. The Cock House Guesthouse and Restaurant has taken this tolerance a step further and commissioned a mural that runs the length of one side of the property. I will let the images speak for themselves.

Postscript:

I inadvertently omitted the last photograph showing the tag of the artist of this lovely wall art:

Sadly too, I have noticed that since these photographs were taken someone has spray-painted blue graffiti (of the nonsense kind) over a section of this mural.

FORT POST RETIEF REVISITED

My first visit to the Post Retief Barracks was in February 2017 during a period of rain that had turned the grass within the fort a lush green.

Four years later, and at the end of winter, not only was the grass dry and pale, but there were further signs of deterioration of these historic buildings designed by Major Charles Selwyn of the Royal Engineers in 1836.

Local clay bricks and sandstone were used in the construction of these buildings – both materials are showing serious signs of wear and tear. A stone lintel that was already bending and cracking four years ago despite being shored up with timber, has cracked further.

Compare the state of the first of the buildings in this row between 1917 and 2021.

There are other aspects of this fort that are worth returning to later. I will end, as I did with my earlier post, with the narrow gate in the wall opposite the officer’s quarters through which one had to pass to draw water from the Koonap River below.

TAPHOPHILIA

I was introduced to cemeteries as interesting places to visit while I was still in primary school. My father had taken it upon himself to clear the bush encroaching on a chapel and cemetery situated not far from Sheba Gold Mine in the then Eastern Transvaal, where he was the Mine Captain. It was from seeing the graves of babies and children younger than I was that I learned about the scourge of malaria, while other graves informed me of the horror of a local train disaster.

It was in this half-forgotten cemetery that I became fascinated by the different epitaphs and shapes of gravestones; where I discovered my interest in the choice of symbols and biblical verses; where I learned something of the life expectancy in the late nineteenth century; and found interesting references to where people had come from – these were all things my father was happy to talk about.

Over the years I have discovered that there is much of historical significance to learn from visiting cemeteries, be it social, military, or related to families and religions. Should you spend any time there, you soon realise that cemeteries are, in a manner of speaking, outdoor museums that require you to look carefully – and possibly do later research – in order to interpret what you are seeing. My father was a keen amateur historian, who was particularly interested in the turbulent military history of his adopted country. As a result, many of our journeys were broken so that we could visit significant graves and monuments along the way.

I did not know then that during the years to come I would continue in this vein, as well as visiting various battle sites, with my husband. I also didn’t know that there is a word, tapophilia, to describe this interest in what old cemeteries have to offer. The word comes from the Greek taph (tomb) and philia (fondness or admiration). Sadly, many cemeteries in our platteland towns have been more or less abandoned either because of indifference by the local municipalities or simply because the towns are no longer thriving. Some, like the old cemetery in our town, are no longer safe to visit on one’s own although the aptly named New Cemetery is a different matter.

Of particular interest to me are the many symbols evident in older cemeteries especially. Angels are commonly regarded as the messengers of God who act as a guide to help the soul of the departed towards Heaven. Winged cherubs watch over the graves of babies and children to convey their innocence. The unbroken circle of a wreath represents everlasting life.

While the Celtic or Irish cross, taking the form of a cross within a circle, generally represents eternity.

A broken column indicates a life cut short; a memorial to the death of someone who died young or in the prime of life, before reaching old age.

Obelisks, on the other hand, apparently became popular after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1801.This one also depicts the commonly used Masonic symbol of the compass and square, which represent faith and reason.

Having found the word, tapophilia, and given my interest in cemeteries, the depiction of symbols and the history reflected by gravestones, I realise I must be a taphophile.