New Norfolk – Betty King

Marvelous things on our own doorstep! We do not need to travel far to be transported into another world. Transportation was certainly uppermost in out thoughts when Dedrie and I visited New Norfolk in Tasmania and then travelled through Launceston on our way to catch the ferry.

In the New Norfolk town cemetery we came across the grave of Betty Thackeray King .

Betty (born 1767) was a convict. She was sentenced at Manchester 4th May 1786 for seven years transportation for stealing two black silk handkerchiefs and three others.

Betty spent her first year in prison hulks, but when the First Fleet set sail she was aboard the vessel, Friendship.

She proved to be a troublesome prisoner and at the Cape of Good Hope she was transferred to the vessel Charlotte. Betty was a problem for the authorities. In July 1787 she was handcuffed to Elizabeth Pulley (Pooley), (who had her death sentence commuted to transportation), for making their way to the seaman’s quarters.

This did not deter Betty as she repeated the performance. She was then handcuffed to Elizabeth Barber. Lt Ralph Clark wrote: “The damned whores the moment that they got below fell a fighting amongst one another – and Captain Meredith ordered the sergeant not to part them, but to let them fight it out, which I think is very wrong in letting them do so.”

After many months at sea, on the 20th January 1788, “Land Ho” was shouted. At long last Botany Bay was sighted.  officers and other marines gathered around an erected flagpole and history was enacted.

According to anecdote, Betty at the time of arrival at Botany Bay, acted as a Lady’s Maid to the Officer’s wives. The Officer’s ladies were to be the first white women to land. They did not like the look of the surf through which they were to be carried, with the possibility of getting a wetting. Just to be reassured, they asked that Betty be carried ashore first as a rehearsal. This was apparently done.

From Sydney, Betty was transported to Norfolk Island. Trouble followed Betty as she was given 25 lashes for being absent without leave from the settlement.

Samuel King arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1808. Betty, a freed convict then, arrived with other Norfolk Islanders where she married Samuel and they were given land grants at New Norfolk (Back River).

In her Will (1855), Betty left her property to Ebenezer Shoobridge. It was Mr. Shoobridge’s descendant, Henry, who went to lengths more than a hundred years after her death to erect a tombstone to her memory – the one Dedrie is now looking at. This was done by the permission of the Trustees of the Back River Methodist Church. The exact spot of her burial place was not exactly known, so the tombstone was erected “near this spot”. A latter owner of “King Rocks” said that Betty was buried in the corner of the cemetery, about 20

Spion Kopje

A recent visit to the Victorian High Country yielded a most interesting and unexpected surprise! While walking around Lake Guy near Bogong Village I came across a sign which read “Spion Kopje”, with an arrow pointing to a mountain in the distance. It was not the most striking mountain in the area – but a name like that immediately grabbed my attention.

400712: Bogong Village Victoria Junction Dam Lake Guy – Spion Kopje in background

Apart from being the site of the battle during the Anglo-Boer War, where the British, together with Australian colonial troops within their ranks, suffered a defeat, the name appears in many states and cities within Australia and – no doubt – in other countries that once formed part of the British Empire.

Obviously the battle made a great impression and lived on in the psyche of returning soldiers – a defeat at the hands of the Boers!

But my main interest, stimulated by seeing the name in such an unexpected place, was that I knew that my great grandfather Gerrit Willem Smit (Gerrit) and my grandfather Christiaan Hendrik Smit (Chris) were members of the Bethal Commando, and may have been involved in military action at Spioen Kop and Tugela Heights and definitely at the siege of Ladysmith – according to the Standerton concentration camp records which I have for Gerrit and Chris.

Gerrit was captured at Bergendal – the records show Machadodorp on 14th September 1900- so I am assuming Bergendal, as I cannot find any reference to skirmishes within the town itself.  Chris was captured at Vlakplaats much later in the war on the 23rd March 1902.

Research into the activities of the Bethal Commando indicate that the Commando was led by Commandant H.F. Grobler; with an initial strength of 737.  The Commando was involved in the following battles/skirmishes:

  • Sandspruit,
  • Talana,
  • Ladysmith,
  • Hlangwane,
  • Donkerhoek, in South Eastern Transvaal, and
  • Bergendal.

Unfortunately I will never know whether Gerrit and Chris were involved in all these battles – the only information that I have is that Gerrit was at Ladysmith and captured at Machadodorp. All family members that could or would have known have long since passed on and I was only 9 or 10 when my grandfather Chris passed away.

It is possible that Gerrit and Chris were  involved in the Battle of the Tugela Heights (14–27 February 1900).  This battle is well documented.  Initially the British took the hills of Monte Cristo, some five kilometers to the west of Colenso, outflanking the Boers on Hlangwane hill. The Boers, under heavy bombardment abandoned Hlangwane and withdrew north of the Tugela. On 21 February a pontoon bridge was built which enabled the British to take Railway Hill and Wynnes Hill. They moved the pontoon bridge downstream to the mouth of the Tugela gorge where they crossed the river unseen and outflanked the Boer positions. On 27 February the British took Pieters and Harts Hills, after which the Boer resistance crumbled.

Spion Kopje – Australian sources say that the name seems to have come from that South African peak from which the Boers first saw the promised fields of Natal and that it later became the centerpiece in a battle where the Boers beat the British.

Here in Melbourne in the railway yards, there was a little hill called Spion Kop.   Lloyd Holmes, in his book “A Railway Life”, refers to Spion Kop. Apparently it was on a hill and exposed to winds from every direction. There was at least one hut there used apparently by shunters and train examiners, and everyone was waiting for the hut to be blown away. In winter, it would freeze the medals off a brass general, and in summer you could fry an egg in your hat. The late Norm de Pomeroy also reckoned the place was not fit for man or beast.

Spion Kopje became terminology in railway talk! It was an old signal box between Kensington and North Melbourne, and the flying tracks for the North East Goods line is what the men of the Victorian Railway were referring to when the term Spion Kop was used.

An Irish Spion Kop horse! This was a “strong, handsome bay horse with a white blaze and four white socks, bred by his owner Major Giles Loder who had inherited the Eyrefield Stud near Caragh in County Kildare from his uncle Eustace “Lucky” Loder He was named after the Battle of Spion Kop (1900). Spion Kop’s sire Spearmint had been Eustace Loder’s most successful horse winning the Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris in 1906. At stud, he was fairly successful, siring Royal Lancer (St Leger), Zionist (Irish Derby) and Plucky Liege. Hammerkop, Spion Kop’s dam was a top-class staying racehorse who won the Yorkshire Oaks in 1903 and the Cesarewitch Handicap in 1905, but produced no other winners in a long stud career.

Here again is the Aussie Spion Kopje – from my camera.



Destruction of my birthplace

“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it – if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass ”  (George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860)

How could we know the earth, if we have no earth to know? If all we have of     our childhood memories are disused mines, grey and matted overburden, smouldering discard coal dumps, lakes of acid mine drainage and the foul, acrid stench of coal fires? This poisoned earth is not the earth that the people of Africa knew in the past. It is not the earth people still know in places such as Xolobeni where people are defending their land from mining.

The groundwork Reports explore the state of environmental justice in South Africa. This year, and in 2017, we view the state of environmental justice through the lens of the Mpumalanga Highveld and its destruction through the extraction and burning of coal. Sadly, what we see is environmental injustice, not environmental justice. On the Highveld, people are not empowered through democratic participation. They do not enjoy the fruits of freedom, equality or solidarity.   The   post-apartheid   government   together   with   the 1% keep the majority  extremely impoverished.  They create poverty to  make people desperate for any work that might be thrown their way, even to sacrifice their health at the altar of the coal mines and to live in places where the soil is dead, the water is acid and the air is pungent with sulphur, benzene and other pollutants. As people here do not see equality and solidarity, they live with the degraded environments created by mining and corporate profit.

Much of the Highveld resembles the post-apocalyptic nightmare of an already dead and dying land. While people work to save what’s left, the powers that be are hell-bent on pulling it apart and violating it, all in the name of the poor but actually for the enrichment of a few. Well, the poor need jobs – regardless of what those jobs are – so that the elite can make their ever-growing fortunes.

The same flowers will not come up every spring for, besides the earth being wasted by mining, it is also being wasted by climate change. What we knew as children, we will not experience as adults. So why should the youth of Mpumalanga consider the earth differently? With love? There is no joy in the wasteland that they experience, so maintaining a world that for them does not really exist is impossible. Activities such as mining, which will entrench the death of their earth, might be considered their only hope of getting away from this doom. It is only through the work of imagination that they can find the seeds of another world.

What is alarming in this year’s ground Work Report, is the evidence that in the era of democracy things have got worse rather than better. Sadly, our democratic leadership lacks the creative imagination to think beyond the apartheid-created minerals-energy complex that depended on cheap black labour in polluting coal mines to produce cheap energy for the extractive industries to accumulate profits for a white local and global corporate elite. Now there is a tinge of colour to those elites!

In the 1990s, when environmental justice emerged as a narrative in South Africa, it was in hotspots such as Mpumalanga where people stood up and raised their concern about the destruction of their lives as they lived above old burning coal mines. I heard these stories when I worked for the then eminent environmental movement, the Environmental Justice Networking Forum. But during my three years there I never had the opportunity to visit these burning mines and so never understood the reality from a personal perspective. Then, in August 2015, for the first time I visited the area to bear witness – along with a group of parliamentarians. The fires were still burning. I saw it, smelt it and felt the heat of it for myself. This is not unusual in the global South. India is also known for its hell fires – as Nigerian anti-oil activist Nnimmo Bassey, of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, refers to burning coal mines. I also went underground where local people dig for coal to have some form of subsistence after mine owners absconded and left the people with abandoned, burning and collapsing coal mines. Underground, I crouched and crawled to the working coalface in this murky underground world lit by old headlamps and, believe it or not, candles. People are desperate.

The story concludes with the reality that mining seeks to extract and then offload the costs of its profits onto the environment and people and the promise of jobs and riches for the locals is nothing more than a mirage or blurred hope in the smog filled, polluted Highveld morning. People are left not with wealth but with no good air to breathe, no land to till and no water for crops.

The brutality of mining is shared with all in this ground Work Report. It pulls no punches. It recognises that mining is a doomed venture and that it has a history that does not allow us to have faith in its promise of delivery of jobs and development for the people.

There has always been a debate about sustainable mining, but the pipedream fades in the light of reality. Around the world people are saying no to mining and this resistance is becoming more organised. “Yes to Life and No to Mining” is the name and slogan of a movement of communities that recognises “that when we say no to mining, we stand in solidarity with the planet, with precious ecosystems and with the future generations of all species.” There is no blurred area about a hope for sustainable mining. It is clear: No to mining.

Marikana and the Niger Delta are the evidence that mining and fossil fuels kill. It is widely recognised that mining is “taking an enormous toll on people, undermining democracy, democratic institutions and political life; it is just not helping to solve Africa’s developmental needs,” as Bishop Jo Seoka put it at the Bench Marks’ annual general meeting in October. This legacy is well documented, but also long documented. In the “Open Veins of Latin America”, Eduardo Galeano grippingly pulls together how mining and the extraction of minerals have made Latin America undemocratic and have wasted its lands and ruined its people. So the evidence of 500 years of destruction is documented and the groundwork Report is not the first to do it. But the conclusions of analysis are not always the same.

Some conclude that sustainable mining is to be hoped for and must be strived for. They speak of the rehabilitation of lands so that crops can grow again and of new economies to be created with the wealth from mining so that, when the ores are mined out, people will have a new tomorrow. They pin their hopes on social and labour plans (SLPs) which outsource development of roads, jobs, education, housing and services for the people to transnational corporations or even ‘smallanyana’ fly by night local companies to whom the transnationals sell depleted assets and growing liabilities. At the end, they extract what very little blood of the earth – as the Uwa People of Columbia understand crude oil and fossil fuel – is left in the veins of coal seams and dump the liabilities on society and environment. Big or small, the corporations take the profits, move onto their next venture, plead poverty, declare insolvency, and dash whatever hopes were created through SLPs.

Various organisations have done critical work on understanding the impacts on mining in 2016. The Centre for Environmental Rights has exposed the brutal reality of poor governance and its entrenched nature. The Centre for Applied Legal Studies has clearly shown that the SLPs, promising a new life for those whose lands are destroyed, has failed to deliver. The writing is on the wall. Mining does not work for people. So let those of us in NGOs and in fortunate and privileged positions be very careful about how we reflect and pronounce on the subject. The debate to mine or not to mine is a brutal one at the level of the community where jobs are promised and where desperate people, because of a failed system, now live in hope that ‘any job’ will do. Let us be careful about pushing the false promise of sustainable mining when our own research, our own experience, our own photos, our own documentaries show the brutal reality. We should never be the organisations to start people on a one way, dead-end road when our own work shows that someone will be sacrificed at the altar of ‘sustainable mining’.

As the ink dries on the paper of this report, we read in the newspapers that the earnings of Wescoal will jump by more than 350% this year. This is indeed great news for the investors, be it elite black capital in South Africa or global capital. But ask the people of Arbor, where Wescoal’s mines blast dust and pollution on them, did the “development” in their neighbourhood improve 350%? Have they had a surge in wealth from being next to mines that are clearly profitable to someone? They did have a surge in something but that most certainly was not their earnings. They have had a surge in pollution, a surge in sickness, a surge in unemployment and a surge in poverty.

All of this happens in the context of a government in crisis. A weak and divided ruling party has made the real issues of governance secondary to its internal squabbles. It cannot hold onto any semblance of the governance that is promised in the Constitution, as political factions within the ANC fight to make the country’s wealth their own. And while this happens, the business-as-usual of extraction continues whether by a transnational corporation or a ‘family business’ such as the Guptas. When the profits are all done they abandon their liabilities and will, if they can, make off with rehabilitation trust funds meant to pay for the ‘restoration’ of such mines as Optimum.

Nevertheless, even in the bleak landscape made by the minerals-energy complex, our thinking concludes with the reality that people are winning. The end of coal is nigh. People’s movements, environmental and social justice organisations, and conservation organisations are all challenging coal. We can be successful but only by building and working with democratic processes. Because, no matter what the future, it is only democratic practice that is going to ensure we survive in a world where there is less of everything; and we should surely all agree that we need to have enough for all forever.

Let us collectively save the little we have left so that the children of the Highveld can grow up loving the earth.

ALEXANDER – A Highveld Farm in the Old Transvaal

I Googled the name of my cousin Stephanus Venter, or ‘Fanie’ as we knew him and the name of our family farm ‘Alexander’. I had been trying to contact him on a mobile number that I had for him – this had been in vain. I was hoping that I could find his number on the internet. What came up however, was a post which read – ‘Farm Murders – On the Increase’, with a name in the post – ‘Fanie Venter’.

With disbelief I read the post, which featured an extract from a newspaper report. It went on to describe how Fanie, an elderly bachelor living alone on a farm in the Bethal district in South Africa with his mother, Aunt Hannetjie, was brutally murdered. Disbelief turned to dismay as I read about the events that had occurred. There was no mistake about it, my cousin had been the victim of a brazen farm murder! Somehow my aunt had managed to escape a similar fate.

‘Could this be true’, I questioned – ‘there on Alexander’?

Pensively my thoughts turned to the farmhouse veranda where I would stand as a child, early in the morning viewing the grand orderly sweep of the green corn fields, neatly separated by the tractor tracks. Next to them, the sunflower fields, would mimic the early morning highveld sun above. From these fields, the land gently sloped down to the creek in the west, and then, in a northerly direction, to the stone walled paddock or ‘kraal’. The crisp, early morning air would be punctuated by the call of Turtle Doves from the many Blue Gum Trees within the farmyard.

Within the kraal, the red-brown Afrikaner cattle could be seen, with their great horns curving downwards, lazily jostling each other, bellowing to be let out, awaiting a leisurely day in the veld.

I gathered that Fanie may have been busy somewhere near the paddock when he was murdered!

Visits – long, long ago

My thoughts went back to visiting Alexander – a highlight for us city kids – our only holiday that my parents, with a large growing family, could afford in the post-war 1950s. Our arrival in a Ford Prefect car was an occasion for great excitement. The farm track descended from the crest of a knoll down to the farmhouse in the distance.

With a laugh, I recalled that my anxious mother would, without fail, hysterically advise my father to avoid the road down to the farm coal mine, as plunging down into the mine workings would result in dire consequences for all! As the car bumped along the uneven track, figures would emerge from the farmhouse in the distance as soon as the sound of the car was heard – aided by the blaring of the hooter.

Led by Fanie, cousins would suddenly emerge from the front gate, running wildly to meet us, arms flailing, shouting repeatedly – ‘It’s Aunty Kotie’ – it’s Aunty Kotie’. As the car ground to a halt in front of the gate, the kids would be joined by my Oupa and very large Ouma, my Aunt Hannie, the African servants and a cohort of growling and snapping dogs. Bloody hell, they were vicious! We could never work out if the bared teeth were signs of overt affection or a desire to rip us to shreds! The dogs would be driven off whilst Aunt Hannie would shout to someone to call my uncle, Oom Thys who was always somewhere else on the farm. There would be tears from my mother as she hugged and kissed all and sundry. Aunt Hannie would affectionately greet us all with a few epithets and benevolent profanities – she was the only aunt that I had that could swear like a trooper without missing a beat!

But Fanie was always there to lead us into adventure and high-risk activity!

After all the elaborate greetings were over, all the children, under his instigation, would madly head for the barns, the stone walled cattle and sheep pens and farm machinery sheds, in that dizzying order. Usually, the first port of call would be the cattle pen, which we all would enter with shouting and great gusto. If we were early enough, we would rush into the milking area to ‘assist’ with milking, where we would be greeted good naturedly by the African farm hands, and invited to try our hand at the exposed teats squirting streams of milk into buckets. Tails swished, heads moved; bovine eyes, not so dull, sized us up with hooves clanking against the milking bucket. Ah – I can still feel those teats, with milk shooting into the bucket making a ‘swish-swish’ sound!

We could, and did explore every nook and cranny of the farm. Hours were spent climbing onto old disused ploughs, rakes, tractors, trailers, rusted trucks and combine harvesters. These were all stored under Blue Gum trees some distance from the farm house. We were out of sight and out of mind, as far as the adults were concerned.

Fanie knew how we needed to behave with all the farm hands, particularly with ‘Aasvoel’ (the vulture), who, it was well known on the farm, had an ‘attitude’. Aasvoel terrified us. He would show his mock displeasure at seeing us in the farmyard, threatening ‘instant death’ if he saw us again! He would look up at us, flash his white teeth in a mock smile and put his finger to his throat, telling us what he intended to do to the annoying little city ‘bana tsoeu’ (white kids) running wild and upsetting everything!

A feudal society

Fanie and I would furtively sneak up to the shed next to the farm house and peer through a crack between the locked doors, when justice was to be delivered. In the 1950’s, much of rural South Africa resembled a feudal society; it was common practice for justice to be summarily meted out in these areas. Here at Alexander, offenders were tried, convicted and sentenced to a good thrashing in the shed. The tribunal consisted of my Oupa, Ouma, Uncle Thys and other farm workers – who supported the system of instant justice. Theft, insubordination or loitering on the farm could result in a thrashing. Sometimes, farm workers appealed to my grandfather to teach members of another tribe or clan a ‘good lesson’. A sjambok (heavy leather whip) was used for this appalling punishment.

Never will I forget the cries of the young African, between the methodical crack of the sjambok.

I return again to Alexander

My thoughts turned to another era – years later I returned from Australia for a visit to the farm, after the release of Nelson Mandela, which saw the demise of the apartheid regime.

I drove up to the huge padlocked gate and the farmhouse surrounded by towering barbed wire security fences, disembarked from the car to inspect the gate, only to be greeted by a pack of snarling, barking dogs which appeared from nowhere. They kept jumping up against the gate, the snarling cacophony and bared fangs ensuring that we maintained a good distance from the gate.

The din was interrupted by distant shouting. A khaki clad figure emerged from the farmhouse and walked to the gate.

It was Fanie, lashing out at the dogs with a ‘kierie’ (walking stick)!

The dogs retreated, protesting and snarling, led by a bitch with the largest teats I have ever seen. ‘They won’t bite, I assure you”’, he said – a huge grin on his face. ‘They only bite kaffirs they don’t know’. I winced at the obvious subconscious bias he still displayed towards fellow African country people. Many of my Afrikaner relatives and friends in South Africa at that stage were anxiously trying to adapt to the new milieu and to expunge such bias. Nevertheless, we shook hands, hugged – again he was the enthusiastic cousin I had always loved to visit and follow. I introduced him to my father and mother – in – law, Dirk and Dina Beukes who had accompanied me. He beckoned to us to follow him. We were thankful to get into the car, looking in all directions to be sure that there was sufficient distance between us and the dogs!


I recalled my disappointment at seeing a monstrous building on the horizon which now obscured the once pristine, rolling green veld. This was the Kriel Power Station – I was to learn. On the way to the farm, we had passed the huge SASOL petrochemical and synthetic fuel plants and the informal growing settlements of African industrial workers. It was as if Alexander itself cringed in the shadow of these industrial monstrosities. This experience proved to sully all idealistic memories I had of the Alexander of old!

We all entered the house from the verandah. It was still the old farmhouse that I remembered -modernised here and there. Inside we were greeted with laughter, hugs and kisses and the expected profanities from Aunt Hannie. My Oupa and Ouma, long since gone, stared down somberly from the oval frames, still hanging from the wall.

After lunch, Uncle Thys and Dirk, my father-in-law, launched into a heavy right wing political discussion, which rapidly degenerated into an unpleasant mudslinging match. To prevent an all-out feud, I suggested that we all visit the farm cemetery; always a mandatory diversion during visits. It took some effort to calm everyone down again and usher them out by the back door to the cemetery located amongst magnificent Blue Gum trees, as handsome as any found in Australia.

Gravestones tell their stories

As I remembered the inscriptions on the gravestones, stories about our family came to life again, stories passed down by my mother. Stories about the treatment of women and children during the Anglo Boer War, the wanton destruction of the farm, burning of the farmhouse and burying of precious crockery and jewelry in the bed of the creek that ran through the farm, were always tinged with sadness and resentment. The stories also told of the exploits and capture of my great-grandfather and grandfather at the battle of Berg-en-Dal and skirmish at Vlaklaagte – followed by their internment in the Standerton concentration camp, together with all the residents at Alexander – some 53, according to the well documented records in the British archives!

The story of the horrific death of Uncle Trompie, my grandfather and step grand-mother’s only son, resurrected again in its full detail. On returning from a hunting trip in Swaziland, he pulled a shotgun from the back of a truck, by the barrel, which then discharged as the trigger hooked onto something. The helplessness and panic of all as he lay dying in front of the farm gate.

The story of my grandmother who died in childbirth, when my mother was only four years old. An old lady at the funeral gave her a peppermint when she repeatedly asked when would her mother be returning from hospital. My mother always wept when she told us this story.

That was the last time that I saw Fanie, just after migrating to Australia.

The murder report

The report, from a local tabloid, gave a graphic and sensational description of the events that unfolded on that fateful Sunday morning. The heading read: ‘Executed Bethal Farmer Fanie Venter’s mom Hannetjie Venter, 79 – walked 4km to get help’.

The details were: ‘BETHAL – February 7th, 2010 – An elderly Afrikaner Bethal farm woman had to walk four kilometers to get help after three farm attackers had killed her son, execution-style on Sunday-morning – a popular time for farm-attackers – and stole her mobile phone so she couldn’t call for help. Hannetjie Venter, 79, didn’t see them kill her son Fanie, but did hear the single shot the robbers had fired into his head. A friend of the family, Sakkie Pretorius, says her ordeal started at about 08:30.

He says Hannetjie saw the black gunmen – apparently three of them – and tried to warn Fanie who was busy elsewhere on the farmyard.

He probably didn’t hear her. One of the men put his hand over her mouth. Fanie, who always carried a firearm, was caught unawares and was shot in the head.

When she got to him, one of the men said her son was ‘just sleeping’. But there was blood everywhere and she could see that he was dead, according to Pretorius. The robbers held a gun to her head and forced her to unlock the safe. She asked: ‘Why don’t you shoot me as well?’

The farm attackers could have looted all the contents of the homestead at their leisure – but they only stole a shotgun, mobile phones, money and Hannetjie’s handbag. Francois van Dijk, a neighbour, said ‘because the robbers stole the Venters’ cellphones and Hannetjie can’t drive, she and their dog walked about four kilometers to Van Dijk’s house to get help. ‘She got here at about 10:00. She walked all the way. It was very traumatic for her.’ Van Dijk immediately alerted the police and neighbours, but the men – who’d arrived in a car – were long gone’. So, the report ended.

After reading the report, I attempted to contact the local police in Bethal to obtain some information regarding the murder and the whereabouts of my aunt – to no avail.

In a recent visit to South Africa, I was able to establish that the farm lies abandoned with gates padlocked and secured with heavy chains and that the farmhouse is slowly succumbing to the onslaught of mining operations, vandals and the environment.

Alexander – I will never forget you. Fanie – we’ll explore the meandering Alexander Creek again and run wild where the cosmos flowers forever bloom, our faces young and spirits free.







As Spring approaches rapidly, we decided to visit friends at Monbulk and had a most delightful day. The chooks, alpacas, border collies), magpies, blackbirds, cockies, doves, ducks put on a special show for us in the lovely garden that is being preparing for the onset of the warm weather





Defining, describing, modelling, deciphering – whatever means deployed
Should fail – without tools, performance standards, where do we start?
Programmed to add, subtract, linearise and build with zeroes and ones,
What do we get, approximations – lines, rectangles, circles and all the variants?
Cannot construct this we see!
Step back, aside, gently breathing, until….we see.
That it’s always been there – embryonic programming.
That is the reason – too close to see.


Pretty Rough to be a herbivore in Arusha!

We didn’t have a thought about Wild Dog Hunts – had a lot of confidence in this guy
Beguiled by these beauties

Our last day’s visit with Hilda to Arusha National Park made us thankful that we were shielded all round by the body of the Rav 4WD. We had just got out of the car to view the Flamingoes and were driving contentedly along when Dedrie shouted – hey! look! a Warthog chasing the Zebras, Giraffe and Wildebeest. Surely not? Then – to our dismay – we saw that we were witnessing a Wild Dog hunt – the Warthogs were actually Wild Dogs creeping along their bellies in the long grass . “Der hund begraben”!!

We’re not gonna be your tea tonight!
This is not good!


Mikumi National Park – Tanzania

After a full day’s driving from Dar-es-Salaam, arriving at the main gate at about 10 pm, we raised the ranger at the main gate who booked us into a lodge for the night. Thankfully we had at that stage given up plans for camping at one of the camp sites for the night.

The lodge was most pleasant with great views – but excessively expensive. We had to pay in US$ for rather run-down facilities. At night the place was teeming with Masai guards. Wish we could have had them when we went to the camp site!!!

Next morning we drove to the ‘camp site’ near the Hippo Pool. We knew from the outset that this site epitomised remoteness. We had to share the camp site with all the giraffes, impala, warthogs, finches, swallows, snakes and predators in the area . Not known to us, though, was that we were also in the hunting area for a pride of lions! No – we were not warned or informed about this! One of the rangers did however shiver as he made an off-the-cuff remark that he hoped that we weren’t afraid of lions! Wiping the sweat off his brow, he said that he was terrified of the lions near the camp site.

Little did we know what to expect. See the locked kitchen area at the back. That night – Hilda & I drove in the dark to fetch that darn key from the rangers at the main gate. That is when the nightmare began.
Driving back – worried about Dedrie alone at the site, we got lost and found our road blocked by this fellow. He would not get out of the road. Eventually he let us pass, his yellow eyes glowering at us in the headlights. We eventually found the camp site. But where was Dedrie? The little camp fire was out and it was pitch dark. We eventually found her zipped into the tent – ‘bloody lions’ she managed to say – ‘they walked past here and I jumped into the tent to be on the safe side’. No wonder the Masai guard was missing.
These sleepy cats (nearby – the next day) frightened us as we cooked dinner, grunting, roaring and scaring the wits out of the Impala – frightened eyes peering at our torches as we walked to the tents in close single file. The pouring rain did little to deter these girls at night.

Apart from these encounters, where we learned a lot regarding the ‘predator-prey’ relationship in nature, there were many delightful and beautiful poses for us by the visitors to the camp.  Giraffes would stare at us from under a nearby tree for hours on end, thoughtfully chewing cud.

Didn’t realise that these creatures are so inquisitive?
Ullo ullo!
Goodbye Mikumi – goodbye Tsetse Flies – they nearly bit the hell out of us. They anaesthetise the skin before they put the proboscis in – then you don’t feel a thing. And can they suck up a lot of blood! Dedrie found a big fat one in the vehicle which got me on the neck – filled with blood. Fortunately none of us has come down with sleeping sickness!


Family time & time with old friends!

Another ‘blast from the past’! Nico Hoogendoorn. Living on the Lesotho border. Last visited in Bloemfontein 1980’s sometime. We spent a great time ‘solving’ the problems of the world and reminiscing about the good old Durban days and the South Africa we all grew up in.


Robert de Beer’s birthday – Robert and his brother Roy’s family attending Robert’s birthday. A very pleasant and interesting afternoon. Last saw Roy and Esme when Tante Nellie was still alive – at least 30 years ago.
Xmas day conviviality – Greens, Beukes’s and Cuz Robbie de Beer
The pool at Dinokeng, day before Xmas, was a winner!
Was a great pleasure catching up with family and friends over the Christmas period. Cousins not seen in 50+ years! What a special occasion. We drove past Sharpeville to Vereeniging. The last time I had been there was in 1962 during the infamous Sharpeville uprising. We were evacuated on that day.
Breakfasts, brunches and generally good food in Plett
Visited Oom Tjaart and Tannie Miena in Pretoria. Both in their 90’s now – but contented in their new residence.


Early Spring!

Blossoms out during the first week in August! Is this a climate change phenomenon, an El Nino effect or the very dry Winter we have just had? Stradbroke Park – a favourite oval near our house in Kew.

Black Wattle in full bloom – sadly, reminds me of “Blouboskraal” this time of year.

The King Parrot – she was agreeable and paused for this moment!

Two regular Spring visitors – safe terrain – want to avoid Gippsland in a few weeks time!

Although Lil B decided on a full charge – met with disdain as these two languidly took off, circled the oval and descended a few meters away – continuing to feed on luscious insects that survived footy boots!