A REVEALING REFLECTION

The lake Høvringsvatnet is located about 10 kilometres northeast of the village of Evje in Norway, which my son photographed in December.

As you can see, the surface was as calm as a mirror rendering a perfect reflection.

You know what modern cell phones are like, especially if you have the auto rotate function switched on. When I first looked at the picture above, the screen showed it turned around, like this.

I was astounded by what I saw. Perhaps you can take a moment to look at this version more carefully too and see what you can make out in it. My first thought was that this was akin to an intricately carved totem pole of sorts. Can you see the bearded face at the top wearing an elaborate helmet? I can see another, perhaps a sadder, face below the broad brown band. Above that is a black and white skull … there may be an eagle and an owl …

What can you see?

PICKWICK

What springs to mind when you read or hear the word PICKWICK?

Would it be The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens? Correctly titled, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, this was the first novel that great writer published – not in novel form but initially as a series of monthly instalments published by Chapman and Hall. This is an excerpt from the trial, which I have selected for the delightful drawing alongside.

If you click on this picture you will find the text easier to read.

It comes from an anthology of my mother’s entitled Humorous readings from Charles Dickens by Peter Haworth and published in 1939. Such connections interest me, so forgive my digression: I see he was the Professor of English at what was then known as Rhodes University College – now Rhodes University – in Grahamstown, which my mother attended as a student and where I now reside. I am guessing it was one of the texts she studied at the time.

If reading Charles Dickens is not your cup of tea, would the word PICKWICK ring any tea bells in your head?

Pickwick seems such an English name that I was taken aback to discover that this blend of mostly Sri Lankan teas actually comes from the Netherlands! Not only that, but it was originally known as Douwe Egberts – a name I readily associate with delicious instant coffee that we can purchase here. The mystery was solved when I read that it was the wife of one of the directors at Douwe Egberts, who suggested this very English name after having enjoyed reading none other than The Pickwick Papers, so there is a connection after all!

Note the dew drops (freshness) and the picture of a tea clipper on the cover of the tea bag. In their day these were the fastest trading ships to ply the oceans, so there is a suggestion of speed to underscore the freshness of the product within.

As with so many of the teas I have had the privilege to taste, this was a gift – sadly I have not seen it available in this country for, if it was, I would have no hesitation in purchasing some. This Earl Grey tea was delicious!

TAKING A BREAK

The year has started with its usual nonsense of having to be here, do that, go there, pull this, load that. We need a break – a real one – albeit out in the open. This pile of sand left over from some or other building operation is not only warm, it is soft and good to roll around on. Hey! We almost blend into our background – no-one will take much notice of us!

And so it was that I happened upon this pair of donkeys fast asleep on a pavement in the suburbs. When I stopped to look at them they opened their eyes, looked at me then fell back. The one on the right then bestirred itself to have a good back scratch while it rolled – then they both had more shut-eye.

LET IT RAIN

Last week I was lured outdoors, camera in hand, by the rumbling of thunder. Thunder? We haven’t heard that sound for months! The engrailed edges of the cloud against the bright blue sky couldn’t be the source.

The darkened sky above the fig tree looked more promising.

A strong wind bent the branches of the trees and sent leaves scurrying down to carpet the bare lawn.

Such dramatic scenes covered the sky.

The clouds boiled and grew.

Then the sun came out without a drop of rain falling to the ground.  It was now nearly two weeks since we had received our first rain for months. The disappointment was palpable. Last night, quietly and without any fanfare or drama, the heavens opened its fine muslin cover and allowed 20 mm of rain to float down softly, almost silently, to leave sparkling drops of water on the leaves.

To laugh at our swimming pool wrapped up to preserve the water within.

To make splashes in the bird baths.

And to wet the old stone steps.

It is still raining very softly, very softly indeed. It is RAINING!

 

A POIGNANT SIGN

It is fairly commonplace to find benches in public parks that bear a plaque in memory of someone. These often carry the name of the person along with dates of the span of his / her life and, perhaps a brief quotation that is appropriate to their memory. This one, on a bench overlooking the ocean, doesn’t fit into that pattern:

Who were the old lady and the old man? They must have been well-known in that community. Perhaps they had become part of the scenery, with locals frequently seeing the old lady and the old man sitting on that bench looking out to sea. Did they bring a flask of tea with them or a pack of sandwiches? Was this a resting point for them at the end of a regular walk? I wonder if they used to sit there for a long time each day, long enough for passersby to smile at them or turn to each other and say “there’s the old lady and the old man” as if their presence in that spot at that time made the day right for them. Then, they simply weren’t there anymore. But their presence is remembered. There must be many who know who the old lady and the old man were; who chatted to them; who loved them; and who miss them dreadfully. For the rest of us, this plaque is a reminder of all we know who have passed before us; it gives us a reason to reflect, to remember; it makes us think about love, friendship and longevity. I don’t know who the old lady and the old man were, yet this simple plaque on a bench overlooking the ocean makes me think they were good people who were worth remembering in this way.

OLD PHOTOGRAPHS

Look what happens when you look at old photographs … you get transported right back to your childhood and a host of memories come rushing in, blowing away the cobwebs of time … not that I date back to 1924 or thereabouts! This McCormick-Deering tractor was my eldest brother’s pride and joy for he lovingly restored it, and garaged it alongside the more modern ones my Dad used for the farm.

That is him driving it with me standing between my other brothers on our farm in the Lowveld. These tractors were manufactured by the International Harvester Company.

Several things strike me when I look at this photograph: the water tank on the high tank stand in the background was probably still fairly new then. It was filled from a borehole and provided the water we needed for the farm house. It was a real challenge to climb to the top of this tank, which had a marker to show when the water level was reaching the point when it would have to be filled again. A bulk fuel tank is in the background. A sharp eye will help you pick out the Pegasus logo of the Mobil Company stencilled on it.

The productive vegetable garden in in the background.  Here my Mother is watering the cabbage patch.

Behind her are beans – we always had a variety of fresh vegetables from that garden: tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, leeks, turnips as well as pumpkins and spinach. I loved being sent to pull carrots from the garden for a meal and rinsing them under the tap of the rainwater tank outside the kitchen. I remember the crisp snap of fresh green beans – and still prefer eating them raw so that the juice ‘explodes’ in my mouth as I bite into one. I prefer raw tomatoes for the same reason: imagine finding a shady place to sit in the Lowveld heat with several freshly picked tomatoes and a salt cellar … sheer bliss!

This must be a later photograph for here you can see two bulk fuel tanks for the farm vehicles and just glimpse one section of our farmhouse.

Looking at these pictures reminds me of the heat, the ants that scurried about on the gravel as well as the smell of diesel. It brings home to me how comforting it was to be part of such a wonderful family and how blessed we children were to have the freedom to climb trees, roam the veld and to just ‘be’.

SUNRISE

Each day brings it challenges – here we have been forty-eight hours sans water in our taps – and with each sunrise comes the blessing for things we do have and the hope that other things will improve.