Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

the sign says it all.....

Wishing all my friends in blogland the very best of everything in 2009.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Skywatch, it's good to be back!

Here's something you don't see every day!

The small helicopter landed in a swamp, and started sinking. In order not to lose it, the large one was called in for an emergency recovery, to pull it out before it disappeared under the raft of papyrus reeds! To see more Skywatch photos, go to the site and follow the links, you'll see wonderful photos and meet a great bunch of people from around the world!

I have been out of blogland for a while, but am looking forward to visiting around tomorrow, now that life is getting back to normal.

Friday, November 21, 2008

taxi lunacy

Ok, so it is a sort of unwritten, accepted fact that, when you live in Africa, life is seldom logical and predictable. In fact it is one of the attractions of living in this crazy-colourful-charismatic-chaotic continent.... you know, life on the edge, adreniline rush just by waking up, that kind of thing!

But sometimes the things that happen in society, and the way the government reacts (or fails to react, most likely, in our current dispensation) are so gobsmackingly illogical, destructive, STUPID, that even when allowing for the 'life in Africa' factor, they cause you to sit back and shake your head in wonder.

Minibus Taxis are the subject of much heated debate in South Africa. The industry emerged out of the repressive Apartheid years, mushrooming as freedom of movement was suddenly allowed, and government control over public transport ended.

They quickly set themselves up as the mafia of movement, the terror of transport, the scourge of the streets, the killer of commuters....... you get the picture.

Over the years, a kind of dumb acceptance has settled in, there is one set of rules for taxi drivers and another for the rest of society. The rules of the road apply to normal drivers, taxis have only 1 rule... 'stay off my turf or prepare to die'.

Now I know all this sounds extreme, and by now you are thinking "what is this woman ranting on about? She must be exaggerating."

Well I wish I was. In South Africa, to enter a minibus taxi is to play Russian Roulette.

  • If you are a woman,or even a child, there is a very good chance that you will suffer some form of abuse. It has been publicly announced that any woman boarding a taxi in a short skirt is making a declaration that she wants to be raped.
  • Overloading is the norm, and taxis designed with tight seating for 14 have been frequently found to have up to 30 onboard.
  • Roadworthiness of the vehicle seems to be a relative thing.... normal cars need to meet certain standards, taxis can fall to pieces around their passengers with impunity.
  • if you happen to enter a taxi involved in a turf war, you stand a good chance of being caught in crossfire, shootouts between taxi drivers have become so common that they often don't even make it into the press. Occasionally if an innocent child or bystander gets killed, it may receive a mention.
  • speeding down multi lane thoroughfares, weaving in and out of the traffic, stopping suddenly in the middle of a lane of traffic to pick up or drop of passengers, and hooting loudly the whole way is standard taxi behaviour.
  • the traffic accident statistics are regularly boosted with horrendous taxi accidents in which, due to the overloading, unnecessarily large numbers of people are killed or maimed.

The latest actions of the taxi owners in Port Elizabeth eclipse all this selfishness. Because of all the rah-rah over the 2010 World Cup Soccer, and the sudden realisation that we need infrastructure to cope with the hoped for influx of visitors (don't even get me STARTED on that subject, we'll be here all day!)... the powers that be are constructing a special bus route and upgrading the public transport system.

Perceiving a threat to their strangle-hold on the transport of workers (after all if people have a choice about how to get to work, you can be sure a lot fewer would subject themselves to the abuse handed out by the taxi drivers) they decided to go on strike! Their plan is to let a few hundred thousand people miss work, bring industry to a halt, jeopardise the jobs of the workers which are already under threat due to the economic crisis, and shoot at any bus or car that tries to help them get to work, in order to force the Municipality to abandon plans for improving public transport. To read the response of the Mayor of Port Elizabeth to their letter of demand, go to MyPE.

Now that all this liberty has been won, and the democracy achieved at so high a price, I find it hard to come to terms with the type of people, taxi drivers, politicians and fat cat business men amongst them, who are set on a path of self enrichment at the expense of their own people. There are many thousands of people who depend on taxis to get to work every day, and who work on a 'no work, no pay' basis. Thousands of scholars also rely on them, and those writing their Matric final exams have been unable to get there. They are the ones who are paying for the greed of this handful of people who control the lives of so many.

I will give you just one example. I have a domestic worker who comes to my house twice a week. She works for someone else for another two days. She is a widow in her mid 50s, with 4 children to support. One is studying, (on a bursary) one is still at school, and the other two have left school but have been unable to find work. She is an unskilled worker who works slowly and not very well, largely due to poor health. I pay her well above the average that is paid for such a job, but even so, she earns a pittance for her 4 days of labour. Every cent counts. She was in despair this morning when she phoned and said there were still no taxis or busses, so she can't come to work today. I offered to collect her, but she said no, it is not safe. Even though I said I would pay her, because it is not her fault, it will still be only next week before she can come and collect her money.

Now the things I battle to come to terms with are these....

The people who are most at risk in all this are the passengers, who are PAYING CUSTOMERS!! These are the people who had the courage to stand against a repressive regime and use passive resistance and mass action to win their freedom. Yet they tolerate this abuse and blatant disregard for their lives from the taxi drivers.

I cannot comprehend how someone will, day after day, PAY someone for a service, and willingly submit to being treated so badly. With the high level of unionization in this country, and emphasis on human rights, workers rights, consumers rights, democratic rights and freedom to choose, it is just beyond me why a lobby has not yet been formed to insist on the taxis putting the comfort and safety of their customers first.

And I also wonder where the law enforcement in our country is whenever the taxis break the law.

Do the taxi operators think that being "previously disadvantaged " gives them the right to trample on the rights of all the other previously disadvantaged people who stood side by side with them, to bring about the freedom from oppression that makes their industry possible?

The best quote that comes to mind in this regard is one of my favourites from former President Nelson Mandela...

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What I've done.........

I found this on Janet’s blog, and thought it looked like fun. If you want to play along just copy this and then bold the things you've done.


1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee


100. Ridden an elephant

Wow 52, more than half... One thing I really really want to do sometime is go to Antarctica, but somehow doubt if it will happen. ..... in the meantime I travel vicariously, I read everything I can find about it, and drool over iceberg photos!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

erratic blogging

Hi, I am shocked to see that it is almost 3 weeks since I last posted, I don't know where my life is rushing off to, but I feel like I am trailing behind! One thing that has been happening is the arrival of our son, his fiance and their daughter from Sudan, along with friends and family from around the world, and they are getting married on Friday. So we are having a great time getting to know the visitors and showing them around, and of course it is wonderful to see the kids again.

It is SOOO great getting to know our granddaughter, who was a pink blob the last time we saw her, and is now an amazing little person with a strong will and delightful nature.

On Saturday we went off to the much anticipated airshow, and had a great day of ooohing and aaahing over the aerial antics, while simultaneously keeping an eye on energetic grandchildren at ground level, and getting pretty sunburnt and wind buffetted into the bargain.

Last week I went out with the plein air painting group, and had a fabulous time ferretting around in a steam train graveyard, I took enough photos to fill a blog for months! So as usual, I emerge from the whirlwind, wondering where to start when it comes to posting photos.
Perhaps I should start with one or two of each of these events, and then if time permits, I will enlarge on them later.

The airshow was great fun. Even the little Miss Millie was fascinated by the helicopter display. Since she lives near a runway in a war zone, I guess this is par for the course as far as she is concerned!

There is something very bizarre about watching 3 large noisy machines, decked out in camouflage colours, dancing gracefully together through the sky, to the strains of Bolero.... really cool!
This year's airshow included a real action packed mock hijacking display, with fake baddies attacking a fake tourist bus, holding hostages, firing automatic weapons and throwing grenades at the special task teams and dog units sent in to catch them. A sniper in a police helicopter mopped up and the medical rescue helicopter airlifted the "casualties" to hospital. The crowd loved it, but as a tourist, Miss Millie's mom found it a bit un-nerving that the South African audience were watching this as if it is an everyday occurence.... which it practically is in some areas!
What none of us realised at the time was that a real life drama was going on during one of the displays, and one of the helicopters was diverted to track down some thieves who had been spotted breaking into a home, and were being pursued by the home owner, before taking cover in thick bush. One of them was arrested, while the other two got away!

Even with all this excitement going on, little boys have a short attention span, but boredom and impending nagging to go home were skillfully dealt with by grandpa, who bought a toy helicopter in the nick of time, and bought us a few extra hours of enjoyment in the process!

For me, the highlight of any airshow is always the formation flying. I adore the artistry and skill of aerobatics, but when it is combined with the precision and teamwork of flying close together at high speed, it makes for breathtaking displays.

The Apple Express is narrow gauge steam train and a very popular tourist attraction in PE. In its heyday, it was run by the railways, and had a few pristine engines to choose from. Sadly it was allowed to get into a sad state, and was eventually rescued and taken over by a private enterprise. These enthusiasts struggle along, trying to keep it viable, whilst working hard to keep the high maintenance trains going. In the old Apple Express yard, all is now ruin and decay. the buildings are falling apart..........
and several old trains are rusting away on a siding.
Whilst this is a great shame, it also gives rise to wonderful photo opportunities, and I will do a post sometime on some of the images I took while we were sketching the trains.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


PE has a reputation for being the "4 seasons in 1 day" city.... so rapid changes from 1 extreme to the other are no surprise to us. Funnily enough, our climate is actually relatively mild, in terms of heat and cold, we never get snow and whine if it goes below 6 degrees C, likewise if it is hovering at 30 degrees C we are swanning around feeling the heat, so the label might be a bit misleading.

Having said that, it is true that in PE, we get into the habit of dressing in layers, that can be peeled off or added on as needed, because we never quite know what the day is going to turn out like. Yesterday seemed like a standard, slightly drizzly day. As a point of reference I have included this picture of how a normal rainy day looks from our dining room window, taken around this time last year....

But yesterday around 9am, after the sun had already been up for over 3 hours, A belt of mist came across and it suddenly got so dark that the streetlights came on. It is the first time I can remember that happening in the morning, since we got here 30 years ago, it was VERY dark.

We couldn't see the little church down the road at all. Even the street lights were barely visible!

It cleared slightly, and the cold front was clearly visible curving across the sky, with a tumbling mass of clouds below it on the horizon.

As you can see from the grass in the park, it has been quite dry lately.This was taken at 9.18 am, just as the heavens opened in earnest, thunder, lightening, the whole 9 yards.

By 9.47 the park looked like this....

Throughout the day there were warnings on the local radio station of high winds, hail and heavy rain, road closures and traffic accidents, as we followed its progress across the region. Today it is cold and very windy, and the mop-up begins! So much for spring ..... Think I'll curl up with a book, a cup of coffee and a couple of cats on my lap..... !

......Nothing like a bit of escapism when it seems that the world around you is going completely mad! In the midst of all the hectic activity in our lives, running from one art exhibition and neighbourhood watch meeting or late night patrol to the next, we woke up one morning recently to find our State President had been fired... Now don't get me wrong, he was pretty useless, and spent so little time in South Africa that he was totally out of touch with what was going on here, but in comparison with the alternative, he was a way better proposition. It has been nothing short of disgusting (not to mention a little discouraging) to see the ANC wrangle and tangle, with no regard for the country that elected it, in order for a few leaders to get themselves out of legal hot water, and establish their power bases. With the unbelievable situation in Zimbabwe dragging itself out to the North of us, and the economy free-falling, it seems like the former sane and stable part of Africa is on the brink of becoming like the rest of the continent.

But wait, who is this knight in shining armour we see riding over the horizon? And he seems to have a jovial companion in a purple robe......
Looks like former defense minister Mosioua Lekota and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have had enough! They have taken a stand against what the ANC is doing, and have spoken out against all the members who are so busy chasing their personal agendas at the expense of the Nation. Good for these courageous men, all strength to them as they try and turn the tide of political self interest that is sweeping our nation!

In the meantime, kettle is on, where's my book? ..... come kitties.....

Sunday, September 28, 2008

heave to me hearties!

I have mentioned before how alluring tall ships are to me.... the romance of a bygone era, the courage of those early seafarers, the craftsmanship of the ship builders and the sheer aesthetic beauty of these ships really does it for me! So imagine my delight on hearing that the Portuguese Navy Training vessel Sagres would be paying us a visit.

Along with half of Port Elizabeth, it seems, we went there this afternoon, and smuggled our cameras into the harbour to capture her beautiful lines (har har very punny, but seriously, speaking of lines, those thick white ropes everywhere were very impressive!)
So here is a bunch of pix to share the joy, so to speak!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

this 'n that

Hi, here are some random shots taken in the last few weeks. I am busy preparing for another exhibition so blogging time, for both posting and visiting, has been very sparse lately. There are all sorts of political issues i am dying to rant about, but they will have to stand in line and hopefully my addled brain will remember to come back to them when time permits!

A stroll along the beachfront one evening resulted in these shots, it was SOOOOOOOOOOO restful and beautiful absorbing all that reflected colour!

And just as breathtaking was the sunrise as seen from the Donkin reserve on Sunday the week before last.

The coral tree was in full bloom, they are interesting indigenous trees that drop their leaves and clothe themselves in masses of flowers which look amazing against the bare branches and blue skies. (Erythrina Caffra for those who need a formal introducion)

And after years of frustrated attempts to get inside Fort Frederick, we finally found it unlocked the other day. I enjoyed taking pix, but to be perfectly honest, after all those attempts, it was something of an anticlimax. I know the history of the place, (built in 1799, earliest remaining structure built in PE etc) but for any tourist who happened in there, the lack of any info would make it a pretty lame stop. But then what do I know, I'm just a girl, young Ethan was wildly excited by all the "big guns" (canons) around the walls and ran around making suitable machine gun noises.

Sepia seemed an apt medium to give a sense of history to the thick old stone walls of the blockhouse.

And then, unusual in this part of the world, we had a wonderful pyrotechnics display the other night, courtesy of mother nature, with the odd hailstone thrown in for good measure.
(A bit wobbly, handheld, there is a better one on PEDP.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

recent storm claims victim....

Sadly, my pet giraffe, who lived with her partner in our back courtyard, lost her head in the gale....

Literally! ...........

Her husband was rocked by the loss of his spouse.........

while a ferocious feline predator took full advantage of the unexpected windfall!