I can remember having to annotate sketches of grasshoppers while in primary school, firstly identifying the head, thorax, abdomen, wings and legs. Later on the latter had to be annotated further to include the femur, tibia and tarsus. I loved the sound of the name tarsus.  These milkweed grasshoppers, Leprous grasshoppers (Phymateus leprosus), were very common and we often used to catch them – then quickly let them go as they exuded an unpleasant foam, doubtless for protection.

Seeing this one recently brought those primary school memories right back as if it were yesterday. What always fascinated me about these grasshoppers is the green saddle-shaped pronotum with two large bumps for it looks like serious armoured plating. Equally ferocious looking are the double rows of spines on the tibia. Even the knees of this grasshopper look armour plated!

Note: Click on the photograph if you wish a larger view.



Everything grows old with time. Everything wrinkles and decays. Some things take longer than others. Some age gently and beautifully. Some reach a point of inward decay. No matter what, there is beauty in ageing if one cares to look. This thick plank has reached a point of no return, yet as it crumbles it provides a home for beetles, lizards, ants and wasps.

This wagon wheel holds a wealth of stories beneath its metal rim that still holds fast even though the wood has shrunk and wrinkled over time.

The inner hub is flaking, flecks of paint remain on the outside, yet the spokes hold firm like muscles straining with every tendon.

Breaking point is reached and the sawed felloe sections no longer meet in places.


For many South Africans having a braaivleis by cooking meat over an open fire is second nature. A braai can be made at home with family; when friends come round – given the price of meat, it is common to have a ‘bring and braai’ where guests will contribute meat and/or salads to the occasion; when camping or fishing – and now that Eskom switches off our power for two and a half hours three times a day – sometimes out of necessity.

As the braai is essentially a social occasion, some people like to start with a large fire and chat around it until the wood has burnt to coals of just the right temperature; others use charcoal; most like to build a fire after the food has been cooked to brighten the darkness and create an ambience that encourages friendly conversation. South Africans braai as a matter of course no matter the time of day.

Here is a ‘tame’ braai for a quick snack: boerewors and chicken sausage cooked over glowing charcoal.

It didn’t take long for the meat to cook and, as the fire was still hot enough to cook more food, we offered the use of it – and our braai grid – to the foreign couple camping next door. What prompted that gesture was not only a desire to not waste the fire, but the sight of a length of boerewors curled up in a tiny pan about to be cooked over a tiny gas stove. Horrors, that boerewors would have boiled in its own juices! The offer was taken up with alacrity, only … the chap didn’t know how to cook the meat over the fire. Our pre-teen granddaughter willingly came to the fore to show him how, keeping the fellow company and advising him when to turn the meat and how to tell when it was cooked. He and his companion were delighted by the taste.

This is a typical sight in places such as the Kruger National Park as darkness settles over the rest camp: the start of a braai fire.

Then there are the serious braai places with room for all sorts of dishes to cook at the same time. Breakfast is about to be served …


Why would the South African National Parks name an ablution block next to the coast Oordeelsdag?

This is an Afrikaans word meaning: Judgement Day or Doomsday.

At first it was an ‘ordeal’ to visit this particular ablution block which, although very clean, stank to high heaven. The odour was so dreadful that most campers avoided it by walking to the block at the far end of the camp site. A day or two later the source of the smell was revealed: the rotting carcass of a seal that had become wedged between the rocks! Once that was removed, the whole camping area was cleansed of the discernible sewage smell and this particular ablution block became well used by those camping close by.

It still doesn’t explain the peculiar name.

Do you have any ideas to share?


Does anyone play kennetjie (meaning ‘little chin’) anymore? I am not aware of my children ever playing it and I haven’t seen children playing the game in camp sites anywhere. Have grassed / bricked / paved school grounds ‘blocked’ opportunities for playing, or has kennetjie lost out to the allure of computer games? Two sticks and a hole in the ground is all that is required for a lot of fun.

I loved playing kennetjie as a primary school child. While I have seen it played as a team game, I regularly played kennetjie in the dirt road below our house with a boy from my class, who lived just below it. We would make a trench in the hard ground about 3cm deep and 15cm long and choose the two sticks very carefully: a short one of about 100mm long and about 25mm thick, which is known as the kennetjie, and a long straight one, about half a metre in length, to use as a bat. If we had particularly good ones, we would leave them at the side of the road and hope they would still be there to play with the next afternoon. Johan and I would play until his mother called him home to wash his hands for supper, then I would rush up the stone steps and wooden stairs to wash my hands before my father got home from work.

To begin the game the first player places the kennetjie across the middle of the hole in the ground. The tip of the long stick is placed in the hole and the player now flicks the kennetjie as far as possible. Of course we were only two playing the game, so if Johan caught the kennetjie it would be his turn to bat.

If he couldn’t catch it, he could try to throw it towards the long stick to try and hit it in order to bat. Failing that, I would hold the long stick in my hand, gripping it between my thumb and forefinger, and place the kennetjie on my hand to form a cross.  I would then flip the kennetjie into the air and try to hit it away as far as possible with the long stick.

Essentially, one has to defend the hole by hitting the kennetjie while it is still airborne when the fielder throws it towards the hole. I am quoting the rest of the complicated rules from http://gonecamping.co.za/index.php/camping/entertainment/kennetjie:

Regardless if the batsman could hit the kennetjie or not, after an attempt by a field worker to hit the hole, the following applies for Right handed players and is inverted for Left handed players:

  1. If the kennetjie is within one stick length of the hole, the batsman is out and the field worker who did the trick, is the new batsman. If in the actions that follows hereafter, the batsman misses the kennetjie, he is out.
  2. Within two stick lengths (Voetjie): The kennetjie is placed on the toes of the left foot, flipped in the air and hit with the bat.
  3. Within three stick lengths (Tip-Top): The kennetjie is held with the left hand and must be flipped in the air with the long stick and hit as far away as possible.
  4. Within four stick lengths (Bokhoringkie): The kennetjie is placed on the ring finger and thumb flipped in the air and hit with the bat.
  5. Within five stick lengths (Elmbogie): The kennetjie is placed on the elbow of the left arm, flipped in the air and hit with the bat.
  6. Within six stick lengths (Ogie): The kennetjie is placed on the left eye, flipped in the air and hit with the bat.
  7. Within seven stick lengths (Oortjie): The kennetjie is placed on the left ear, flipped in the air and hit with the bat.
  8. Within eight stick lengths (Kennetjie): The kennetjie is placed on the chin, flipped in the air and hit with the bat.
  9. Within nine stick lengths or more: The batsman gets and extra life. The player with the most lives wins and a live can be used to play again if he is out.

If the batsman drops the kennetjie in any of the above moves, the field worker who made the last throw, becomes the batsman.

I am grateful to the above mentioned site and those below for enriching my memories and reminding me some of the complicated rules of the game.




It was hot. The daily temperatures had hovered between 34°C and 42°C for the past week, making Angie feel exhausted. It wasn’t only the heat that drained her of energy, it was having run a three-day training course and the prospect of the next two days filled with meetings. She sat on the edge of the swimming pool, cooling her bare feet in the water while sipping a gin and tonic Ian had poured for her.

“Thank goodness the weekend is beckoning,” she said dreamily. “I just want to feel at peace with the world and not have to deal with any people.”

“You haven’t forgotten dinner on Friday night, have you?” Ian peered at her over his reading glasses.

Angie swirled the not-so-cool-anymore water with her feet, noting the ripples fanning out towards the middle of the pool. She listened to the crickets in the garden and noted the high pitch of the yapping dog that lived further up the street. She studied the last of the melting ice cubes in her glass and counted four vehicles passing the house before she turned round, hoping Ian wouldn’t notice the tears she was willing back into their wells.

“You did say Friday would be a good night.” Ian folded the newspaper he could no longer read in the fading light. “Everyone has accepted the invitation: six-thirty for seven is what you suggested.”

“Remind me why we had to invite the Simpsons.”

“Betty recently started working in my department and William heads the biggest NGO in town.”

“And that makes them influential?”

“It’s not about influence Angie.” Ian could sense a storm was brewing inside her. “As the departmental head, I think that newcomers to our town would find it helpful if they met some colleagues on a more informal basis.”

“William writes such trash in the newspapers, Ian. Who on earth will want to talk to such a self-opinionated person?” Angie gulped the last of her drink and dried her feet on the towel lying crumpled on the brick paving.

The first e-mail from Betty arrived on Thursday evening: Please note that we do not eat fish, red meat or potatoes. Noted. Angie revised the menu in her head.

A second e-mail arrived on Friday morning: I understand Andrew and Alison Fincham are coming to dinner. He is such a bore, please don’t seat me next to him. Fine. Angie gathered her notebook for her meeting.

Another e-mail arrived before lunch: We do not drink red wine.

By the time the first guests had arrived, Angie already felt a wreck with a throbbing headache to boot. The Mannings brought red wine and a box of chocolates; the Finchams brought a bottle of white wine (“Thank you ever so much Alison! I never get enough white.”); and the Beckhams brought red wine and a small bouquet of flowers. There was no sign of the Simpsons.

Angie was plating the starters when she heard a commotion at the front door. ‘Let Ian get on with the introductions,’ she thought darkly. William walked into the kitchen and, without acknowledging her presence, opened the fridge. He pulled two bottles of white wine from a large leather bag and shoved them in between the cheese and the milk. “No-one is to drink these,” he spoke curtly, “they’re for me and Betty.” He eyed the gifted wines on the shelf. “Quite a collection you have here,” he commented more cheerfully and left.

Ian was already pouring wine when Angie brought the starters to the table. Betty was turning her glass of red round and round while staring into the depths of the ruby liquid. As Ian was about to pour red wine into William’s glass, Angie stopped him. “He might prefer white darling.” She turned to the assembled company. “I hope Ian offered an alternative; we do have white wine.” Alison returned the knowing wink. William appeared to scowl at her and accepted the red.

Angie placed the beef roast in front of Ian to carve. The roasted potatoes jostled for attention with the other vegetables on the sideboard. “There is rice, if anyone would prefer, and a chicken dish is at the end.” She looked directly at Betty, who shook her head and giggled girlishly.

So, this is a rice and potato household! Ian, I thought you were far too refined for that!” She clinked her wine glass against Andrew’s. “Do you and Ali also serve the two carbs together?”

Angie was fuming. “Do serve yourselves,” she announced brightly then sat down, wishing everyone would leave her to nurse her headache in peace. William had been quick to open another bottle of red wine. Angie noted that he hadn’t been into the kitchen once. She also noted with increasing anger that both Simpsons had piled their plates with beef and roasted potatoes! She defiantly served herself chicken on rice.

When the evening drew to a close at last, Angie walked into the kitchen to get the potted herbs she had promised to give Jenny Manning. She nearly fell over William, who was stuffing ‘his’ two bottles of white wine into the large leather bag and then reached for the bottle Alison had brought.

“Excuse me, but that’s not your bottle of wine.” Angie tried to sound light-hearted.

“It’s not yours either, love.” William added it to his bag and followed Angie to the lounge, where everyone was bidding each other farewell.

Amidst the thanks, the compliments about her cooking, and the farewells, Angie was sure William had returned to the kitchen. ‘Perhaps his conscience has got the better of him’ she thought as Betty gave her a perfunctory hug and then beamed at Ian. William pushed past her. “G’night” he mumbled and moved to shake Ian’s hand vigorously.

Angie walked into the kitchen: the bottle of white wine hadn’t been returned and one of the gifted bottles of red was missing too. She turned on her heel and marched down the passage. “Those two are never darkening our door again,” she hissed at Ian. “The man is a thief and the woman is a liar!”