Look up Blesbok or Blesbuck (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) on Google and one is immediately made aware that these fine looking antelope are popular among hunters! This probably explains why Blesbok are seen in fairly large numbers on farms and game farms in this part of the Eastern Cape, as well as in game- and nature reserves.

These ones are part of a herd in a local nature reserve only a few minutes from town.

Blesbok are endemic to South Africa and are one of the fastest breeding plains game species in southern Africa, so doubtless make ideal ‘fodder’ for the hunting community. Apparently people are drawn to them for trophy hunting – I would far rather see their horns on a live antelope than hung up against a wall. Published photographs of hunters posing with the dead animals, all grinning with their weapon of choice held in various positions turn my stomach – what chance does a blesbok have against a high-powered rifle?

These animals are easily recognised by the distinct white blaze on their faces. They are predominantly a social species, although mature males commonly form bachelor herds.

This large herd of blesbok are in the Mountain Zebra National Park, where their preferred habitat is open grassland with a source of water nearby.

During our regular drives along local country roads, we have noticed how skittish the blesbok tend to be. They are very alert to passing traffic and will frequently snort and move off if we stop the vehicle. At the sound of the car window opening or even the click of my camera, the animals closest to the road charge off. Could this be because they are hunted?


As you can imagine, having experienced months of clear skies whilst longing for rain, many of us find the formation of any clouds fascinating. None of the ones you will see below have brought us rain, yet they have provided and interesting contrast to the usual spotless blue.

A variety of different shapes and hues is very exciting to see.

This one is taken from our back garden.

These clouds amused me while I was waiting in High Street. The clock tower is part of our Town Hall.

These lovely clouds were photographed from our front garden.


I am feeling a little nostalgic today so found myself thinking about my long association with Willow Pattern china. My first encounter with the legend relating to the pattern must have come from a children’s encyclopaedia. I was enthralled both by the story and the attractiveness of the design and have always been determined to own something decorated with such a pattern.

First the story, which will be familiar to most of my readers: it basically involves a beautiful girl who was the promised bride of an old, yet wealthy, merchant. Her father was a Chinese Mandarin who lived with his family in a magnificent pagoda with a lovely fenced garden containing both a willow and an apple tree.  The daughter, Kwang-se, had the misfortune to fall in love with her father’s clerk. The young couple decided to elope across the sea to the cottage on the island. Naturally enough they were pursued and caught. As the father was about to have them both killed, the gods transformed them into a pair of turtle doves. Some versions have them escaping and living in harmony for some years before their home was torched and they were turned into doves. What does that matter? It is a romantic story that captured my very young heart.

At last, when I was already ‘too old’ to play with toy tea sets, I found a china tea set in our local toy shop in Barberton. It remained in its box for years until my parents moved to live on the farm permanently. My mother then set out my little tea set on her Welsh dresser – how lovely the pieces looked against that dark wood!

Some years later, she purchased a willow pattern dinner service which was railed down to her from Johannesburg. She too had a great fondness for the willow pattern and was pleased that I could share her joy.

We were camping in the Tsitsikamma area many years ago when we had to go to the supermarket in George to purchase supplies. My eye was caught by a willow patterned dinner service displayed on a shelf. Camping or not, I simply had to have it! Fortunately each set of four servings was packed in a sturdy square plastic container – the two of which remained packed in the back of our truck until the end of our camping trip.

Since the death of my mother, the remains of her set has mingled with mine. I use the pieces only for special occasions, such on those now all too rare times when some of our extended family can sit around the dining room table.

My mother’s set is a darker blue than mine, which reminds me that although all willow patterns may look alike, small details may differ according to the various manufacturers in terms of the colour, the number of apples, the figures on the bridge and the design of the crooked fence. Ours seem to differ only in colour.