This pair of shoes has been lying at the side of the road at the entrance to our town for the past two days – a step too far for someone perhaps?
No laundry today, instead the wash line is catching raindrops.
Raindrops are falling from the roof of the shed onto the last remaining strawberry plants below – drip irrigation.
Raindrops are decorating the aloe leaves.
They are dripping from the lemon tree.
Raindrops are clinging to an elm tree waiting to burst into leaf.
This might be the coldest day we have experienced for a long time, but it is the happiest. Some rain has arrived at last, a gift for us all.
Modern materials especially manufactured for terracing mean that one does not see much in the way of stone terracing anymore. This one was photographed at Scotts Barracks in Grahamstown shortly before the building and garden were refurbished for a more modern purpose. I like the nooks and crannies that provide hideyholes for lizards, beetles and other insects as well as purchase for small plants that take root. Even the bare patches of stone are more pleasing to the eye than concrete blocks!
I have just enjoyed a pot of delicious Sasini tea whilst catching a wintry sun in the garden. This is a time when I can be contemplative and enjoy watching the birds in peace – and what a variety there were too!
First, the tea: this packet of very fine loose tea leaves was a gift from a friend after a visit to Kenya some years ago. Sasini is one of the major tea producers in that country, so I was pleased to try it out at the time and continue to dip into it now and again. Do not make the mistake of following the traditional recipe of one teaspoon per person and one for the pot if you are not fond of strong tea: this tea is strong, smooth and creamy to the taste. It is a perfect tea to drink slowly while watching birds, reading or enjoying good company. I like it with a splash of milk.
Then, the birds. I was outdoors for only half an hour and in that time noted twenty species of birds. First up was a Blackheaded Oriole drinking from the nectar pub. This was also visited several times by a pair of Forktailed Drongos and a number of weavers – both Cape Weavers and Village Weavers.
Laughing Doves abound as usual and this morning were joined by a pair of Redeyed Doves, a Cape Turtle Dove and the Rock Pigeons that live in our roof.
A Cape Robin cautiously inspected the apples on the feeding tray before it was ousted by a cheeky Blackeyed Bulbul and an overbearing Olive Thrush. The apples were also a drawcard for a Boubou, some Common Starlings, a Fiscal Shrike, and a Blackcollared Barbet.
A flock of Bronze Manikins feasted on the fine seed in the ‘bird house’ feeder and, as I was about to come indoors, a Knysna Lourie made its rasping call from the fig tree.
What has all of this got to do with money? A lot. You see, while I was sipping my tea and enjoying the birds, I got to thinking about how fortunate we are: even though we are in the grip of drought, the crassula is blooming,
Plumbago flowers are putting on a brave show, the air smells fresh, the garden is filled with the sound of birds, and the clear sky forms a beautiful backdrop for the emerging flowers of the Erythrina caffra. Not bad for a drought.
And then … I happened across this quotation by the filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin:
When the last tree is cut, the last fish caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.
Yes, I thought, we can’t eat money despite so many people pursuing it at all costs. We can, however, become stewards of nature – even in our own gardens.
The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns is possibly among the most popular means of introducing young people to classical music and to the different instruments that make up an orchestra. The other is that wonderful symphonic fairy-tale for children, Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. At the end of May this year, the Grahamstown Music Society devoted the first half of their concert to a transcription by Werner Thomas-Mifune for cello and piano of The Carnival of the Animals. Parents were invited to bring their children and “nobody will take offence if they leave at interval!”
I cannot show you all of the animals, but will introduce you to a few – with a South African twist.
The Royal March of the Lion
Instead of hens and roosters you can see a Red-necked Spurfowl
Donkeys will stand in for the Wild Asses
I will have to skip the kangaroos and the aquarium, but a Zebra will step in for the Characters with Long Ears
Skip the cuckoo for now and come to an aviary
Of pianists I have no pictures, so perhaps some Bagpipers will do
The fossils will be represented by a skeleton
Alas, I have no swan so will show you a Yellow-billed Stork instead!
Every time the strong Berg Winds blow, the areas closest to the Municipal rubbish dump get plastered with plastic bags, cardboard and other debris – the rubbish dump is full; it is an eyesore; it seldom – if ever – gets covered over with a layer of soil. The bulldozer / frontend loader is broken we are told as often as a scratched record will repeat that snatch of song until the needle is physically moved along.
When those strong winds blow the flames of veld fires in that area, there are plenty of flammable materials to burn. The dump does not only burn accidentally, it is frequently set alight deliberately by people who wish to extract metal / keep warm on a cold night / enjoy fires … parts of the town become covered in toxic smoke that has residents living in its path snatch up their telephones to complain to the the Municipality … only to have them ringing in their ears until they cut out automatically. Why answer the telephone when you have no answer to placate the irate callers?
I was attracted to my front gate a few mornings ago by the sound of heavy equipment being deployed just across the road.
A frontend loader was muscling its way into the tangle of Cape Honeysuckle and Plumbago growing on the slope edging from our street towards they bridge. A closer look revealed that it appeared to be attacking an infestation of Prickly Pear. You can see the large leaves on the ground in front of the wheels.
The odd stump got knocked over too and collected.
Everything was dumped into the awaiting trucks – doubtless to be removed to the Municipal rubbish dump.
The frontend loader went back and forth as it gouged at the vegetation … and then it and the trucks left, never to return. This is what was left in their wake:
Plenty of Prickly Pear leaves ready to dig in and grow again. So much for Municipal Muscle!
Here are three more pages from my Grandmother’s autograph album. These entries date from 1903 to 1905. It is amazing to think this was done by hand – such a labour of love, patience and good penmanship:
These cats have each got such a character. The headline of the lefthand newspaper reads: FRESH RATS Just imported 1/3 per lb. Cheap. Take your chance. The middle newspaper reads: FOR SALE Tinned mice, locusts, rats etc. All arranged in latest style. The righthand newspaper reads: Music allsorts … A Rat Hunt to be held at Ratfield on Cat Monday. Wonderfully intricate detail!
This is a fun entry too: