LOOKING BACK OVER A THOUSAND POSTS

This is my thousandth post since I tentatively began my blog in December 2013. Apart from trawling through my archives or wanting to find out more about me, the three posts that have attracted the most views since then have surprised me. This might be an appropriate time to tell you how they came about:

The most viewed post is Weeds with a History (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/weeds-with-a-history/) published in June 2015. While only ten bloggers have ‘liked’ it and it took three years before anyone responded to it (thank you Joy!), the post about three of the most common invasive weeds in South Africa (Khakibos, Blackjacks, and Cosmos) has been viewed nearly eight hundred times. Are viewers interested in weeds, or does the ‘with a history’ attract their attention? It came about as a result of one of our many travels through this country when we were climbing up Yeomanry Kopje outside Lindley in the Free State to view the graves of British soldiers buried there during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). As we walked through the inevitable swathes of Khakibos in the long grass it struck me then that these weeds had not existed in this country prior to that war. Having researched the subject, I gave a short talk on it at the Eastern Cape branch of the South African Military History Society. The interest shown there encouraged me to publish the post.

Following close on its heels – and closely related to it – is War Horses: the role of horses in the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/war-horses-the-role-of-horses-in-the-anglo-boer-war-1899-1902/) published nearly a year later. I have long been familiar with the Horse Memorial in Port Elizabeth, having first seen it as a child, but visiting the Horse Memorial on the campus of the Weston Agricultural College in KwaZulu Natal brought home to me the role that horses have played in war and in the Anglo-Boer War in particular. This post is very basic – written while I was feeling passionate about the topic but had not yet researched it deeply. Only nine bloggers have ‘liked’ it and Nature on the Edge is the only one to have responded (thank you Liz!), yet it has been viewed nearly seven hundred times. My interest in the topic grew and the more I found out about the role played by horses, the more I wanted to disseminate this. Thus I have since expanded it and addressed the Military History Society, The Grahamstown Historical Society, our local U3A and Friends of the Library – incorporating poetry and a variety of illustrations to embellish the message.

Surprisingly, the third most viewed post is on the topic of Flying Ants (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/flying-ants/), also published in 2016. Although only four bloggers have ‘liked’ it and only Summer Daisy Cottage responded, it has been viewed close to four hundred times. We actually used to receive rain three years ago and I happened upon the alates emerging from the ground, having been alerted to this by the interest shown by a variety of birds in that particular section of the garden. I thought it would be interesting to record what was happening. Perhaps most of the viewers need to look up ‘flying ants’ for their school projects!

 

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A TYPICAL RURAL SHOP

Once thriving towns all over rural South Africa are falling into decay. As franchise shops leave and buildings become vacant, other entrepreneurs move in: residents still need certain goods, there is still a certain amount of money with which to purchase what is required – not a lot and so overheads must be kept low, which means the bells and whistles must be dispensed with. The new shops tend to be in rundown buildings, often with little light; they are not necessarily large or attractive – yet attract customers they must if a living is to be made. The solution: place a range of goods on the narrow pavements so that passersby will see them, even if it means having to walk around them.

Among the items on display outside this tiny one-roomed shop in Fort Beaufort are cast iron cooking pots – South African readers familiar with these will be interested to note the sale price for these is R650. Cheek-by-jowl with these are aluminum cooking pots, sets of dustpans and brushes, soccer balls, an electric bar heater, cloth shopping bags featuring the Eiffel Tower, as well as full aprons. Of course there is air time to be purchased too: truly something for everyone.

OFF THE GRID

Much has been written about the righteousness of living ‘off the grid’ as it were: to be self-sufficient with regard to water and especially electricity. Architects have won prizes for designing such homes; residents have spent fortunes on building such homes; articles fill pages exclaiming the virtues of such abodes. In this final look at our sojourn in the Transkei, I turn to elements of ‘living off the grid’ which are a necessary reality for so many.

Thatched rondavels do not lend themselves the collection of water running off the roof. Some of the modern galvanised iron roofs have gutters that feed into a rainwater tank. The latter are expensive and are not easy to transport into the rural areas from the towns. Communal stand pipes exist, although these are not always conveniently situated for householders who then have to collect water for their needs in a container of sorts and carry it back for some distance to their homes.

This water is used for cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, providing water for the pigs and chickens: no pumps, no washing machines, no tumble driers – walking, carrying, and using the natural elements of the wind and sun for drying one’s laundry.

At the Swell Eco Lodge a generator provided electricity for certain periods during the day; gas cooking stoves are provided, and the outside cooking areas were lit at night by solar-powered lamps such as these.

Every rondavel had these solar-powered Consol solar jars, which provided perfectly adequate lighting once the electricity was switched off. The solar-powered lid collects sunshine during the day, which powers four built-in LEDs inside the glass jar at night.

ON THE BEACH I

If you have never read Neville Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, On the Beach then give it a try. It is probably more appropriate to read now – when nuclear threats are so real – than when it was first published in 1957. The novel came to mind while we were walking along an isolated beach in the Transkei, where we hardly saw another soul. I thought of the splendid isolation, the peace that comes with it, and marvelled at the ‘treasures’ not trampled or smashed by hundreds of human feet kicking up the sand. The contrast between our reality and that of the people in the novel awaiting the arrival of the deadly nuclear contamination from the northern hemisphere was a stark one. Here then is the first instalment of some of those ‘treasures’:

CHILDHOOD GAMES: SOFT BALL

We all found it very exciting when soft ball was introduced as a sport in our primary school. Given that the Sheba Gold Mine Primary School, from Grade 1 to Grade 7, probably never numbered more than forty pupils, it proved to be a wonderful game for boys and girls to play together. Getting used to the shape of the bat took some doing, but once we had got the hang of the game it was time to pit our skills against other primary school teams in the area.

I can no longer recall how successful our motley team was. Strange as it may seem, winning was never such a big deal. Far more exciting was being able to travel to places such as Malelane and Komatipoort. There was no school bus and the safest form of transport the mine had available for us was – wait for it – the dynamite/explosives truck!

Arriving in such a vehicle made us the laughing stock wherever we went. None of us minded though: it was high off the ground and was open at the sides, at what would have been window level, with strong bars across these openings. Hard benches had been fitted inside around the sides. All our kit rolled around on the floor in the middle and the dust rolled in the openings as we travelled along the dirt roads until we reached the tar.

During the early 1960s it was common to see mountains of citrus destined to rot as the blemishes on the skin of the oranges made them no good for export under what was then the well-known Outspan label. When we played at either Malelane or Komatipoort, we were usually allowed to take home as many oranges as we could carry once our soft ball games were done. These golden orbs would roll this way and that on the metal floor. Many oranges were devoured during our home journey, the golden juice dripping onto our chins and making our fingers delightfully sticky.

Playing soft ball against the primary school at Skukuza, in the Kruger National Park, was especially thrilling and was usually combined with some competitive tennis. What can be more exciting to a primary school child than visiting the Kruger National Park – in the dynamite truck – and overnighting in Skukuza? I still clearly remember the scary thrill at the sound and sight of spotted hyenas knocking the lids off the metal dustbins outside our dormitory accommodation at night. [Note: My brother has reminded me that the openings of the dynamite truck were covered with chicken wire for our safety when we visited the Kruger National Park.]

For me then, the game of soft ball opened the door to a range of adventures and life experiences.

A FINE WELCOME

The National Arts Festival is currently being hosted here and this welcoming committee was patiently waiting at one of the main entrances to our town.

The rest of the Urban Herd were grazing further up the hill. This particular group of cattle have been in the area for the past week. Yesterday some of them wandered into this road in the face of oncoming traffic. Festival visitors who are clearly unused to sharing main roads with farm animals merely press their hooters and swerve out of the way without slowing down. I keep hoping the animals won’t do this at night for our street lights do not always shine.

A LIGHT SHOWER OF RAIN

Rain, any rain is welcome here at any time for we remain in dire need of water to fill our dams and provide sustenance for the veld and garden plants. I was waiting in the car-park outside our local supermarket when a light shower of rain appeared as if from nowhere.

It rained a little more.

The sun was shining by the time I got home ten minutes later!