Friday, April 26, 2019

Springing into May

It's nearly the end of April already. It seems hard to believe, but this year is just flying by. We've had ups and downs, the latter being we still haven't made progress on getting the Hennie Ha fixed. I won't dwell on that as it's too painful a subject at the moment.

On the plus side, spring is here and we've had some beautiful weather to welcome it in. Easter was the hottest ever with temperatures in the mid to upper twenties and dawn to dusk sunshine; the blossom has been blooming and the flowers everywhere are too lovely.

But what do I really like about spring? Well, it's water baby time again. As many of you know I have a fascination for water birds and love watching their activity around the harbour. Very soon now, the mother ducks will start appearing with their little balls of darting fluff, otherwise known as ducklings. I just love watching them from the back of the boat; we all do in fact and Mum trades on our softer sides by bringing her brood around the barges, safe in the knowledge we'll feed them.

Then there's our resident swans, two of which I saw in a bit of love play in the harbour yesterday. It was an amazing pas de deux that culminated in them apparently feeding each other, which I found really touching. I've never seen a swan mating dance before, and it was quite mesmerising. At first I thought they were fighting, but the strange, rather fluid and quite graceful movements made me realise this was something else and much more intimate. I'll look forward to seeing their babies too in due course.

Mating swans: photo Margaret Hoey

Later on, we'll have the coot offspring as well. I expect I'll need to share my rowing boat with them again, as Mr and Mrs Coot always seem to think it makes a good birthing place. I love the way they collect all sorts of debris from the water for building their nests ... the coot version of a stately pile ....which the father coot defends with the dedication of an Arthurian knight protecting his castle.

A baby coot, such adorable little bundles

But is there anything I don't like about spring? Well, only one thing, and that's the seed pods from the surrounding trees that fill the harbour and fly into the barge when I have the hatch open. We all have hay fever as a consequence and I spend the rest of the year finding the seed husks in corners of the barge I can scarcely believe they've reached. That said and sneezes, wheezes and coughing aside, it's a small price to pay for the rest of the pleasures of a sunny spring day, isn't it?

Have a good week allemaal and I hope you are all enjoying the changing seasons wherever you are.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

More nostalgic musings


As I've mentioned in the last few posts, I'm preparing for the release of my last South Africa memoir which covers a period of nearly twelve years in Johannesburg.

It was possibly one of the most exciting, difficult and challenging times to have been there, but I remember Joburg with great affection. We lived in a number of its suburbs and peripheral towns, five to be precise, and each one has its special memories for me. My favourite was definitely the last, Krugersdorp, but it seems I have no photos of our home there, which is something I find hard to accept.

It's not all that surprising, though, because I rarely took photos at all in those days. Before digital photography, photos were just not something we spent money on. It was actually very expensive to have films developed and printed, especially when so often they didn't come out well. I think we forget now(or at least I do) how lucky we are that digital photography makes it so easy to take hundreds of photos without thinking of cost.

Anyway, I do have a few from those days, and they're very precious to me. I've scanned some of them all, but instead of putting them in the book, I've made a link to an album so that readers can click on them if they want to have a look. The quality isn't very good, but at least they give some visual support to some of my words.

When I think back, much of life in Joburg was fairly mundane: we went to work, spent evenings doing chores and enjoyed our outdoor life at the weekends, but for all that, it was a different kind of life and Joburg was an interesting and incredibly vibrant city. There was so much going on at the time, both politically and socially, but there was no way I could write about it all. Even now I keep thinking of things I haven't included that I feel should have been there. Never mind...maybe I can write a supplement to the book, or follow it up with blog posts. Is it important? Probably not, but South Africa, like everywhere, is changing every year, so in a way, it is history, but the kind of history that might well be forgotten in time.

Here are a few of the photos of some of my favourite neighbourhoods of Johannesburg back in the day. These are some that will be in the album.

Melville, an old but charming inner suburb
Melville's main street

Shady walkways in Melville

Norwood, or Little Italy as it was known then
Norwood café, a favourite Italian restaurant where
we enjoyed both the food and the real cappuccinos

I should also say we had some terrific adventures during my years in Joburg. Three of the best were to Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. I posted a couple of photos of our Namibia trip last time, but sadly I can't find any of Zimbabwe at all. However, I went to Lesotho a bit later, in 2000, right at the end of my years in South Africa, so I took one of those disposable cameras that were fairly new and quite popular then. They were great because they came complete with a roll of film installed and once you'd finished the film, you just handed the whole thing over to the photo developers and bought a new one. Hopelessly wasteful really, but I took more photos with disposable cameras than I ever did with my very nice little Olympus Trip 35.

Back to Lesotho, though, the adventure was when we went pony trekking. My friend, Moira, her partner and I did a three day trip through the Lesotho mountains with a small group of other people. We had a guide, Johannes, who was a lovely, friendly soul and we spent the night in a rural village with nothing but absolute basics. I actually wrote about it here on my friend's 50th birthday, so if you'd like to read about the fun and laughter we had, feel free to read the post.

I added a few photos to that one, but as luck would have it, I found a few more, so here are some of them. Lesotho was breathtaking and I would have happily stayed there. I really loved it.

View over a Lesotho village

Roll call for the goats at our overnight village

Our accommodation for the night

Giving our bums a break on route

There aren't many rivers, but this was one we reached....

From up here. That's me at the back of the trail, clinging on for dear life.
It was a very steep descent to the river down there

Well, having immersed myself in memories of SA and Johannesburg during the writing and editing of the book, I am now hauling myself back to the present and what is now my real world, that of the waterways, which I also love. But I do miss South Africa. Very much. Writing about it so intensely has brought back so many of my feelings and impressions of the country that it's hard to let go of them and I find myself looking at properties for sale in places I know and wishing I still had the means to spend some time there every year. Still, as my mother used to say "If wishes were horses then beggars would ride." Bless her. Ever practical and grounded, she was. Not like me. My heart is always packed and poised for the next move.

Well that's it for this week, allemaal. I'll be back to boats and things soon. I've just got to shake of my nostalgic yearnings for my former home....after all, when you look at that scenery, you can't blame me, I'm sure.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Looking back in time: my past in travel documents

While I was sorting through my bits and pieces to keep safe now that my official status has changed, I came across two documents that aroused a whole heap of memories from the South African spell of my life, namely my second ever grown-up passport and my South African identity book.

Goodness, what feelings a few stamps can evoke. My old British passport was black (I don't know where they get this blue idea from) and it was issued in 1984 with both my daughters listed as my dependents. In those days, the details were hand written and my height was even recorded. That no longer seems to be the case in UK passports, as my last two had no mention of my height in them. Apparently, I was 168cm in those days. I think that was a bit hopeful even then and when I applied for my Dutch passport, I had to give my height, which I think is more realistic at 166cm. Still, I've probably shrunk a bit since my twenties...but not that much, at least I hope not. No, I think I was stretching things a bit quite literally then, especially the truth.

Anyway, enough of that, what really had me poring over these old documents were the entry and exit stamps I found in them, and much to my delight they confirmed the years we went to Namibia and Zimbabwe, which I've just written about. I was making a thumb suck when I wrote that we'd gone to Namibia in July 1990, but it seems I was right. Isn't it great when you find your memory's served you well?

Another find: Namibia photos
Sand? You're not kidding

Camping in Namibia July 1990

Our campsite in the Naukluft Park, Namibia 1990

Added to the pleasure of these finds were the stamps from when we crossed borders into what was then the Transkei and to Swaziland. Then, of course, the several stamps of visits to the UK and back to visit family. My South African residence permit was also printed into it, so for me, this old passport is like a whole slice of my life and I shall treasure it even more now than I did before. Okay, I didn't treasure it before. It was skulling around in my files, a bit mouldy and unloved, but now it's had a wipe clean and is carefully wrapped in its own plastic folder.

As for my South African ID, that too is fascinating. All in one little green book, it has my birth and marriage certificates, my driving license and a gun license in it. Yes, I know. For a very short time when we lived on the farm, we used to go shooting bottles in an old disused kraal. For that, we borrowed the farmer's 2:2 rifle, but I also used to practise target shooting now and then with a tiny handgun that belonged to me. I was a useless shot with it, and it actually scared me more than the rifle, so I didn't keep it for long. I think the difference was that the rifle wasn't mine and I wasn't responsible for it, but the baby Browning was and I was terrified of losing it. Can you imagine? Anyway, I think we sold it long before we left the farm simply because I rarely used it and didn't feel comfortable owning a gun anyway.

So there it is, all these memories evoked by a couple of old identity documents. I took a photo of them together with a recent British EU passport and now my new Dutch life wrapped up in booklets that tell their own stories. I shall now try and find more photos as I need them for the book. That'll keep me off the streets for a day or two!

Well, that's it for this week allemaal. Have a good one. Enjoy the spring if you're here in the north, and the autumn if you're down south. They are both lovely seasons!