Life goes on in the cycles it has followed since the world began. I have been thinking about the many things that have made me happy in my life and my thoughts naturally turn to my children and grandchildren. I could fill pages of cute baby photographs compared with the adults my children have become and how my grandchildren have turned into interesting people – but I won’t. Well, to warm to the theme of growth, let me slip in one idea of how little hands later become large hands capable of doing so many different things:

We tend to think of living things when we mull over a theme of growth. While rust does not reproduce or eat in the way a living organism would, it is a chemical reaction we are familiar with the consequences of: if we leave rust alone it will destroy almost anything – like this cannon:

Think of growth in a different way, such as in how each puzzle piece contributes to the growth of a complete picture:

Then, back to the living as we admire peach blossoms that will, in time, turn into delicious peaches:

Baby fork-tailed drongos will grow to adulthood and will, in time, end up feeding young of their own:

Finally, among the many small pleasures that keep me alert whilst providing peace for my soul is the way single letters – combined with brainpower – fill a crossword grid. That is a very satisfactory kind of growth!



I have endured a difficult few months prior to the final wrench yesterday when I lost a second son to another country. It was while we were perusing his impressive collection of books prior to packing them for storage that I borrowed what turned out to be the first of Lee Child’s novels featuring Jack Reacher. Talk about a page-turner! Killing Fields gave my mind a complete break from the sadness hovering in the wings. I whipped through it in a single sitting and felt refreshed afterwards. While browsing through a second-hand bookshop in Bathurst before Christmas, I came across another Jack Reacher novel.

I was hooked and purchased another novel from a bookshop in Port Elizabeth several weeks later. We had already reached the stage of ‘the last’ of this and that and I found comfort in the quick-action dimension that required no thought or emotional investment on my part.

As the impending departure loomed darkly, a friend and I met for coffee and she returned a pile of Ann Cleeves novels I had lent her during a difficult time. “What do you think of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels” I asked, thinking she too may find them a distraction.

“I have a heap of them at home.” My eyes must have lit up for she called me a week later to collect them. They teetered on a to-be-read pile on my desk.

I was bone tired from sorting, packing, cleaning and having to face up to the impending departure. Sleep evaded me during the final week and so I tackled the pile – finishing each novel somewhere between midnight and 2 am – then waking with my mind refreshed and cleansed of the previous day’s concerns.

On our return from the final farewell at the airport two hours away, I felt too emotionally drained to do anything useful other than to brew a cup of tea and curl up in a chair to read the last of the Jack Reacher novels in my pile. I have now read my fill of them and know it is time to move on.

Months ago another friend gave me a pile of old delicious magazines she had found in a charity shop. Feeling tired and emotionally drained, I picked one up at random before going to bed. It is dated November 2022. While idly turning the pages, my attention was drawn to this illustration that seemed so ‘me’.

Hands cupped around a warm drink, a notebook at hand, something to eat, and the autumnal background all ‘spoke’ to me for it clearly illustrates me carving a slice of peace in a busy day as I sit in our garden and watch birds whilst eating breakfast or enjoying mid-morning tea. Then I saw the post-it note from my friend.

The title of the article is ‘The comfort of simple pleasures’. Yes! That is where my comfort will be sought in the coming months. I sent her this message: Lying in bed tonight after an exhausting week and a particularly sad day, listening to the wind howling and trying to warm my feet, I picked up a copy of delicious[and found your note]. Both are balm for my bruised soul.

How serendipitous it is that I picked up that particular magazine and was blessed by her unexpected note when I needed it most!


Gargoyle … don’t you think that is a lovely sounding word? Similar to gargle you might say. All that gurgling and spluttering … which brings gullet to mind. These words all have something in common. Most gargoyles are shaped in the form of monsters, laughing or scowling humans, dragons, or demons. A distinctive feature of Gothic architecture, many gargoyles have troughs cut into their backs to catch rain water and  spouts that direct water away from the sides of buildings. This prevents rainwater from running down the stone walls and eroding the mortar that holds them together.

According to Oxford Languages, gargoyle comes from Middle English, which is derived from the Old French gargouille, meaning ‘throat or gullet’; also ‘gargoyle’ (because of the water passing through the throat and mouth of the figure); and is in turn related to the Greek gargarizein  which means ‘to gargle’ (imitating the sounds made in the throat). There we have it, this lovely sounding word is actually onomatopoeic because it resembles the gurgling sound of the water as it passes through the gargoyle and out its mouth.

Gargoyles became less common after the eighteenth century, once more modern drainpipes were developed. This one – on the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels in the Eastern Cape town of Queenstown (now called Komani) – has clearly been made superfluous thanks to the modern guttering.



According to various dictionaries, when used as an adjective, plump means having a full and rounded shape, whereas round means circular or cylindrical. Of course those of us whose shape is not exactly lean are used to being referred to as being plump [in the sense of having a full and rounded shape or being chubby and somewhat overweight.] Should you take offence at this description you might quickly be assured that ‘plump’ in this case is meant to describe an ‘appealing roundness’. Let us look at some examples of creatures with this appealing plumpness.

I don’t think I have ever seen a dassie that looks thin!

Olive thrushes always look ‘cheerfully chubby’.

Unless they have very recently been shorn, sheep also have an appealing roundness about their appearance.

As far as round things go, look at the spherical shape of this dung ball – courtesy of the work of a dung beetle.

Dandelion seeds are appealingly round.

The shape of these rings on a gun carriage may generate a discussion on the difference between round, circular and spherical – we can leave that for another day!


Read them? Of course we can read them!


Did you know you can cook them – although you shouldn’t! This is not a recipe for book soup or book stew or even book bobotie, but a cautionary advisor not to follow in the footsteps of many a bookkeeper or accountant who has dishonestly altered facts or figures in order to illegally enrich themselves. Their nefarious activities often end up in newspaper reports, leaving me gasping at how they must have explained their legally unexplainable wealth to family and friends.

It is not only individuals who do this, but some companies may employ such accounting sleight-of-hand tricks to make their financial results look better than they really are and so fraudulently encourage more investors. In December 2017, for example, a local headline read Cooked Books Leave A Bad Smell At Steinhoff, referring to allegations that Steinhoff had made false statements about its earnings and invented bogus sales in order to hide major losses inside the company.

Interestingly enough, you can bring someone to book by calling them to account for their misdemeanours or punishing them appropriately for the offence they have committed. In this country millions of Rand and years have been spent getting various people in high places to explain their corrupt dealings … so far to little avail.

Ah, but we can also throw a book at someone. This isn’t recommended literally if you care about your books and prefer to keep them and their covers intact. Restrain yourself should you feel a desire rising to toss the book you are reading at someone who has annoyed you.

On a different level, many South Africans are waiting for the day when a judge finally throws a book at some of the people mentioned earlier. Leniency has not helped the country, any more than turning a blind eye to certain goings-on has. Instead, we would love to see public miscreants being punished as severely as possible. In this case the book would contain the required laws or rules.

On a much brighter side, you can always take a leaf out of someone’s book. Careful here: if it is flat and dry it may be in the book for sentimental purposes and you may find yourself in trouble. If it is juicy and green … well, you may be thanked. No, we’re talking about books here and because we are readers we know that the pages of books are also called leaves. To be precise, a single page is a page but the sheet of paper that makes up two pages is called a leaf [all to do with printing and binding and none of it convenient for our purposes]. Warning: never literally tear a leaf (page) from anyone’s printed book! Our brighter purpose would be that if we wish to try out a new idea or improve on what we are already doing we can emulate someone else who seems to have been successful at it – thereby taking a leaf out of their book [copying their experience].