Friday, May 31, 2013

Look out Charlie's Angels!

Apologies for the silence - I have not had internet connection for one reason or another for a couple of days.

Today's post is all about my family, as I have been contacted by 'long-ago' friends asking to see the crew. Fortunately we attended a 21st last Saturday, and so these pics are right up to date.

This is a somewhat blurred photo of the family - my three girls and my wife. For those who know us - the order is Co, Da, De and Ca. And yes, my youngest is my tallest!

Charlie's Angels - here comes the competition!

Here, then, are my girls with their cousins - Natalie (whose birthday it was) is the only person who bothered to look at the camera, and Sam on the far right.

Dancing there was a-plenty - who says us Zimbos can't flick a hoof with the best of the rest of the world? Top of the playlist was 'Dancing Gangnam-style'. Can you tell?

What happens when you 'party with a big stick' - and then have to travel 4 hours home the following morning through a sunny winters morning in Zimbabwe?


The kids of today just have no stamina.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Suffering from piles....

This past Saturday our family went to Harare for a 21st Birthday - and more of that later. However, what is of interest today are some of the curious sights that greet the traveller on Zimbabwean roads. So today is simply a journey down the highway - between Penhalonga and Harare. How many times do you see these on your roads.......?

We drive on the left, and when a vehicle is about to turn onto a main road from a secondary road, you need to 'yield', as the Americans say. We say 'give way'. And to be sure that your vehicle actually stops running onto the road, sometimes the best solution is to stand in front of it until all traffic has passed.........

Should you stop on the road - for example at a traffic-control point where they are fixing the road, you will be swamped with vendors selling everything from apples, tomatoes, bananas, green vegetables and so on.

Once upon a time, someone had a great marketing idea - simple enough in the conception and execution. The idea was this; find some tomatoes, get a small enamel dish, and place the tomatoes in the dish, in a little pyramid - and then place this arrangement on a rickety box by the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. With this presentation strategy, you will sell more tomatoes than if they are simply lying on the ground.

The concept worked.

Rather too well.

In no time at all - everybody copied the first 'thinker', to the point that this tomato-selling point, (which has sadly long since out-grown the hut built to shelter the produce from the sun) in the middle of nowhere, adds a dash of colour to the otherwise bland African bush...

I suppose this is just a bad case of piles?

Quite incredibly the only thing available for sale in this mini-market is little piles of tomatoes. How on earth do you select a) which vendor you are going to buy from, and b) which pile of tomatoes is the best one?

Then there is the particularly African love of slogans or statements written on the back door of vehicles. The thinking behind the phrases is often cryptic enough, but why on earth would someone adorn their vehicle with this particular phrase (which is on the back of all 'Livewire Tours' vehicles)........

In other countries, I believe, they have vehicles called 'passion wagons', or 'love-mobiles'. We have them here too, but what do you call your car if the lady in question refuses your attentions and you press on regardless? Simple really.....

The mind boggles!

Have a great day.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Can Kidz? Of course KidzCan!

We had several responses to the question of the collective noun for a group of grasshoppers - the first past the post being from 'Berea Digital Collection' in South Africa - who suggested "cloud". Hmmm - not so sure. How can a cloud be flopping about on the ground as my grasshoppers have been doing all week? (Though possibly that would be a "fog of grasshoppers"?)

From Robin Steinert in America we had "riot", and from my kitchen staff we had "munch". However I do think that a "munch of grasshoppers" is more wishful thinking than with any basis in fact!

It was, indeed, my own suggestion that was selected as the correct terminology - "hop". Quite honestly, a "hop of grasshoppers" simply sounds right, and so I have given myself the prize of a week in Penhalonga - with very few expenses paid!

Sorry for that.

Now today's blog. Earlier this month I lost my camera - and during that period I travelled to Peterhouse, the boarding school that my children attend, for the 'Jenny Calderwood Memorial Run/Walk'. Today's pics are therefore thanks to Catriona Borman who sent them through to me.

This is a fund-raising function for KidzCan - an organisation which assists with looking after children with cancer. The function is named after the wife of the previous Rector who passed away from cancer, and is growing from strength to strength every year.

Everyone who attends this particular KidzCan function pays money to walk or run either 5km or 10km through the Marondera bush. At the start, everyone also buys a helium-filled balloon, and these are released just before the walk/run. This year there was a very moving speech by a father who had lost his child to cancer while the child was still at school.

The signal for everyone to release their orange balloons was a bubble of balloons (bet you didn't know that 'bubble' is the collective noun for a bunch of balloons??) floating into the sky - and pretty soon they were overtaken by the solo balloons....

At the given signal - everyone released their balloons in relays (totally unplanned) - and they were let go over a 10 minute period, such that the first ones were out of sight by the time the last ones slowly drifted skywards....

Once the balloons were aloft - everyone set out to run or walk. This is the start of the 5km walking crowd making its way through the African bush - by the end of the walk, the line spread back well over a kilometre and a half.

So this week's question is this - just how many people ran/walked for kids with cancer? Obviously the correct answer will win this weeks prize - which be a chance to wear my clothes for a day. In order to calculate the correct number - just count the heads - this is roughly a quarter of the crowd, and then multiply your answer by four.......

Isn't community spirit such a wonderful thing? Congratulations to Peterhouse and KidzCan for a truly wonderful and uplifting event.

Have a great day yourselves!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A bunch, a clompie, a huddle, a heap? You tell me!

Winter is upon us poor Zimbabweans, and as always there is something in flower. This time it is the red hot pokers in my garden. Hmmmm - I wonder why they call these flowers 'red hot pokers' - because they aren't hot at all. In fact they were very cold with the morning dew....
This is another pic of the red hot pokers - but can you see something strange here?
Of course you spotted the clump of grasshoppers hanging onto the stalk of one of the plants.
This is what they look like close up.....
Later on in the afternoon I found the same group of grasshoppers on the grass - still all huddled together. This is a defense mechanism because they walk around in a bunch (first person to give me the correct collective noun for a clompie/group/bunch of grasshoppers gets their name published in the next blog!) and they look like a large animal - so much so that the birds leave them alone. The ones at the back walk over the ones in the group until they are at the front, and then they get walked over by the others. As they are at the bottom of the heap, they eat the grass, until it is time for them to move forwards again. So the mass moves slowly around the garden.
This is the same bunch - after I waved my hand over them a few times. 

It was all very funny to see them scatter - but unfortunately a bird came and ate them all up once they were on their own. Nature can be so cruel at times!

Just kidding - have a nice day!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who's been sleeping in MY bed???!?

Some days just don't make sense!

There is a mad woman living in the Imbeza Valley, pa-Gowera. Which means 'at Gowera's place'. In Zim we say 'mad', while the rest of the world says 'mentally ill'. But it is the same thing really.

Treatment for mentally ill folk in Zim is generally non-existent, unless they start posing a clear and constant danger, and then they are whipped away and locked up. Thus it is that Theresa has been able to wander around the valley with impunity - and yesterday she visited La Rochelle.

Somewhat cooked in the head, Theresa is generally harmless, but every once in a while her family get sick and tired of her, and send her out and about. This must have happened in the last week, and so she made her way to La Rochelle, where started staying in the small cottage by the entrance gate to the hotel - until the National Trust gardeners noticed that someone was sleeping in their store, and locked it.

Deprived of a roof to call her own, Theresa walked around the outside of the hotel until she came to an open door - which just happened to be the door of Stateroom - the large room just after the bar. We leave the outside door open in the daytime to air the room.....

Wandering into the room, she obviously tried the bed, just as Goldilocks once did, and found it wanting. We know she tested the bed because she left a dirty mark on the bed covers. But not good enough....

and so she went out of the door of Stateroom, across the passage, to where the door of Room 3 stood invitingly open.....

Testing the bed, she must have found it "Ju-uust RIIIIIGHT!" - whereupon she settled down and fell fast asleep. This is what we later found.....

She then woke up feeling a little peckish, and drifted through to the Reception, where she met David the waiter. She asked him for some food (as you do in hotels) but unfortunately for her, David recognised her as 'the penga woman from down the road', and kicked her out. It was only later that we discovered the bed and towel as pictured above!

So - if you ever want to stay for free at La Rochelle - just help yourself!

Have a great day.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The day of the shredded pup.

Today is not for the squeamish!

As regular readers of the blog will know, I have 2 white-eyed dachsunds as my pets - their names being Caramel and Honey. Distinctive as a species by their 'horror-film' glowing eyes, they are an integral and important part of my family..

What regular readers may not know is that their sisters also live on the property - one of whom is called 'Dooby'

A couple of days ago, Dooby went a-hunting, and came back severely shredded. So much so that she needed 15 stitches to put her back together again.

15 stitches in a small dog is quite a lot.

 We do not know what attacked her - thought the current suspects are monkey (probably not), Serval cat (again probably not as there aren't any rips from sharp, retractable claws), Genet (possibly as they are on the property) or long-tailed mongoose (my own suspect - because I know they live in the Dell - down by the aloes, have sharp little teeth, and are more than prepared to fight if cornered).

Whatever it was, I am guessing that she found and attacked something, and the thing retaliated with a vengeance. Here you can make out her shaved and stitched lip

Dooby also had a couple of stitches in her ear - visible despite the grainy pic. (Sorry)

Her side received particular attention, and needed several stitches to hold everything together....

The worst damage, though, was to her butt - and the overlying skin was ripped away right down to the muscle - such that there was actually nothing that could be sewn.

Hugely tender, and moving very slowly, I am pleased to report that Dooby seems to be on the road to recovery.

But anyone wanna bet whether she will go 'hunting' again in a hurry, or not?

Have a great day!

Friday, May 17, 2013

How do you grow a bulldozer?

Only two photographs today, I am afraid, but this paucity is simply because they are two of the most incredible photos of hitherto unseen transformations in nature.

A bulldozer growing!

OK - how do you grow a bulldozer? Well - two farming friends of ours have achieved the almost impossible - growing a bulldozer from seed.

Bulldozer seeds are hard to come by. They fit in your hand, come in boxes marked 'Dinky', are made of metal and generally are bright yellow. You have to find a suitable piece of land, plant them about 6 feet below the surface of the field, and then build a centre-pivot irrigation system which will irrigate the entire surrounding area. Bulldozers need an awful lot of water to grow.

If you are lucky, they sprout, and in the right conditions can grow quite large. Here then is a D4 bulldozer that the 'Farmer Palmers' managed to germinate and grow....

Incredibly they kept watering it and in no time at all (I think Sarah said 5 days) it had grown from a D4 into a D6.

Magnificent, isn't it?

Apparently the Palmers had been intending to let it grow right up to a D9 - but unfortunately the electricity failed, and did not come back for 2 days; the water pump failed, the centre pivot stopped going around, and the 'dozer stopped growing.

Once they stop - that is it.

For those of you who doubt the veracity of this story (and I suspect there may be one or two) - please go out to Ferndale farm and see for yourself the homegrown bulldozer.

Have a great day one and all!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Just birds, nothing else.

Time today for another look at our South African trip - this time the birds of Montecasino.

On one of the days that we had spare, we visited the Bird Gardens at a shopping complex called Montecasino - in one of the suburbs of Johannesburg. We had been there twice before - and had seen the 'flying display' which they put on, but on this occasion we arrived too late. Still, the colours of the birds are amazing - and the facility gave us the chance to see them close up.

If you are not interested in feathered birds, then today is not for you! And not much for me to say today except............'birds'!

and more birds

and more birds...

and more bird

This last is of a fairly drab little fellow who met us on our walk. He was on the pathway, and my daughter stopped to greet him - whereupon he started eating her false fingernails!

Soooooo - if you happen to visit the Bird Gardens at Montecasino and find a dead bird on the pathway - now you know what happened!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The sword of Damoclese

So - the camera was found! I had apparently put it into the pink striped bag that my wife uses to carry stuff to her Bible study group!


OK - so here we go again. This goes back to just before the children went back to school. For those of you who don't know - my kids attend Peterhouse Girls - a boarding school about two hours drive from La Rochelle. There they spend about three months at a time.

The Saturday before they went back to school, we hosted a dinner at the hotel where various children were given swimming awards. These are my three ready to party....

So on Monday we took the girls back to school - here they are about to enter the hallowed portals....

However - the smiles belied a dreadful truth.

I had spent a week making sure that each of the girls had everything they needed to survive the rigours of a month at school before we next saw them. Clothes, stationery, blankets, sports equipment, school shoes, toiletries and the like were all sourced and packed. It was only when we reached school that we realised....... Courtney (my youngest) had left her history and IT books at home on the dining room table where she had been studying!

With the 'sword of Damoclese' hanging over her head in the form of detention, there was only one solution for it - to send Thomas off to Peterhouse with the forgotten papers! He woke up at 01.30am on Tuesday morning, walked to the Harare road which took him well over an hour, and then he caught a bus to Marondera. At the school gates he 'dropped' (Zim-speak for 'alighted') from the bus, and walked down the school road, arriving at the school reception at exactly 07.30am as instructed. Courtney collected the envelope precisely 12 minutes before her class.

Plenty of time.

Thomas then caught a bus home - not this one, but one like it....

And here - returned from his travels, is Thomas - looking much relaxed after his journeys! He made it back by 13.30pm - just in time for the two o'clock shift!

Slightly bedraggled after his journeys, but quite ready to spend an afternoon at work watching the roses grow.

Nice to be back - have a great day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

So, now, here's the thang....

Regular readers of this blog will have wondered why the sudden silence..........and so here's the thang:

I've 'lost' my camera.

Quite how this has happened I have no idea, and I am still clinging to the diminishing hope that it will return - but the outlook is not good, as I have scoured all the likely spots and come up blank.

I last took it to Peterhouse to drop the girls off (and had a wonderful blog planned involving my youngest daughter Courtney, her history homework which was left on the dining room table, and Thomas the waiter who woke up at 01.30am to walk 9km to the Harare road to catch a bus - managing to get it to her just in time to avoid the dreaded 'detention') and I know it came home with us. But from there - nada.

Quite aside from the fun it has provided, it also has some serious sentimental value, and so I continue to hope it returns.

Failing that - I am not in any position to buy another one at this time, and so I guess I will temporarily have to suspend service. Because the blog without pics will just not be the same.

But - I'll be back.

I just don't know when!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Caveat Emptor

Let the buyer beware.

Today's story takes us back to our trip to South Africa - and the Shopping Malls of Pretoria.

I am not in any position to judge, but I am sure that the shopping malls of Pretoria in South Africa are on a par with the same facilities around the world. But..........what happens when a bunch of country hicks like us "hit the Mall"? Well, obviously, chaos!

First off - everything is very clean and slick - palm trees abound and fountains splash water while music softly lulls the senses....

To my untutored eye the range, scope and extent of the goods for sale in some of the shops was simply staggering. You 'first-worlders' out there may find the following picture of just the cold meat section of a Supermarket (with bakery in the background) perfectly normal - but remember I come from a place which once had nothing but condoms for sale in the entire supermarket. Mind-blowing.

Despite all this organised vending - there are several folk with 'tables' set up in the walkways - and at one were some pretty persuasive Italians selling beauty products - at an exorbitant price. They got their hooks into my wife Della, but the smarmy Italian salesman blew his chances by telling her she 'was-a as-a beeyoootiful as-a my Momma'. She flounced off in a huff.

However - my two daughters - Cara and Dayna, and their friend Aimee, were not so lucky - and in 5 minutes he had charmed the three of them, kissed their cheeks, told them they 'were-a multo bellissima', winked at them outrageously, and made them all blush at least twice.

They all left clutching packets of creams which they neither needed nor wanted. And all their pocket money........gone.

Here - taken furtively the next day, is one of the Italians relieving some other poor doe-eyed shopper of her hard-earned cash...

This is a picture taken at breakfast the next day, featuring the three girls who splashed out all their worldly loot on some 'Dead Sea exfoliating cream' - just because a dreamy Italian gave them a kiss on the cheek and his phone number. In the background - the R1,200 purchase being waved as evidence!

Suffice to say, when I found the three of them waiting, as arranged, at a Coffee Shoppe looking ashen-faced and sweating as they considered spending the rest of their holiday without a penny between them, I marched off and returned the cosmetics to the Italians, and received a refund. Unfortunately the girls had opened one of the packets - (in the vain hope that a genie would materialise and right all the wrongs of the world for them I suspect) so I could only return two out of the three packets. Things did get a little heated, but I succeeded.

However - I leave the final say in the matter to my daughter Dayna, who stated with conviction....

"But, guys, you gotta admit.......... it was WORTH at least R1,200 to be chatted up by those guys - even if we did get ripped off!"

Ah yes - "Live and don't learn"! That's my family.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fred plays out of his skin.

Fred our pet chameleon will be well known to regular readers of the blog, and previous posts have shown him a mottled green-grey colour. However during the past week, he has been decidedly green.

See if you can spot him - again the wire helps him hide, but I can assure you he is easy enough to see...

As a reptile, part of growing up is the need to shed as he gets bigger. All scaly-skinned reptiles do this. Here is the skin of a Mozambique spitting cobra that we found at the hotel - the scales at the very tip of the tail break, and they just wriggle out.

So when we found Fred looking rather tatty - it was obvious to us that he was in the middle of changing his clothes, so to speak. The brown in the picture is the old skin sloughing off.

Here, then, is Fred's contribution to the 'Dead Skin Society'! This is part of his hind leg - and with all this readily-available material floating around I think there may well be scope for a recipe book of some kind!

What do you think?

Yeuch! Right?

For those of you who failed to spot Fred in the first pic, he is hanging onto the wire on the left-hand wall of his cage as you look at it - completely out in the open.

Have a nice day!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Can you identify this snake?

So today - another little visitor to the hotel Reception. And this time - simply too small to identify. At first, I thought he might be a baby brown house snake - because of colour, but the head was enormous, and whereas a brown house snake has a triangular-shaped head, this fellow was more 'coffin' in shape. As I said, his head was huge in comparison with the rest of his body.

He also raised his head instinctively - and though he didn't 'spread', my feeling is that he may well be a baby Mozambique spitting cobra. The other thing which made me err on the side of caution was the fact that, as tiny as he was, he turned to face every movement of my hand - obviously ready to do his best to inflict harm.

I trapped him in a plastic ice-cream container and placed a pen next to him so that his true size can be seen. Whatever the case - he was tiny, and had probably hatched that day - certainly not more than three days ago.....

Because I wasn't entirely sure what he was, the only thing to do was to release him. With many of our poisonous snakes here, the newly-hatched ones are just as lethal as the adults in terms of the potency of their venom. So this little chap was sent on his way, and very soon was lost in the undergrowth.

This is my youngest daughter Courtney, playing with what is definitely a brown house snake. As you can see - the head is somewhat triangular, though the colour of this and the baby are almost identical.

And my middle daughter Dayna with the same snake..... She apparently finds snakes more ticklish than scary!

Zim kids are a little strange that way!

If anyone out there can identify the baby from the somewhat grainy picture above - I would love to know that you think?

Have a great day!