31 December 2011

Season’s greetings to all of our dear family and friends.

Les and Sal Powrie Family Gazette
Christmas 2011

The family gathered for our 30th wedding anniversary. Going around the table: Leslie & Sally; Amy Schwartz (in pram), Mom (Margaret, also 80th birthday), Alison, Mark Burns; Cindy; Andrew H, Hannah, Shelly, Joshua Herbert; Andrew P; Ron & Pamela Powrie; Colleen & Rohan Schwartz; Richard.

Season’s greetings to all of our dear family and friends.

I’m writing this a little late this year, for which I apologize. It’s just been one of those Christmas seasons. We hope that you have been having a wonderful and blessed Christmas holiday season.

The year has been a busy one for the whole family. The family is happily growing and developing, as families are wont to do. We have a third grandchild, with a fourth on the way. Children are the greatest blessing imaginable, but this is one grandma who is perfectly happy to no longer be the one to be bearing them. Grandparenthood is the greatest – all the joy without the responsibility. There is nothing quite like tiny arms around your neck – but there’s also nothing quite like telling a miserable child that mommy or daddy wants them.

Les has been busy at work as usual. He was promoted to the position of a Deputy Director: Information Technology Advisory Services at SANBI, Kirstenbosch – but with nobody to really direct. He now has an intern working under him, but apart from that his work continues along the same lines as before. SANBI has some pretty strange ways of doing things. But if you get to work in a place akin to the Garden of Eden, who’s to complain? Apart from that, he continues with his usual clerk work at Church, at which he is always such a great example of conscientious service.

Shelly had her post at UCT (lecturer) made permanent, about which she is delighted. So she gets to carry on working in an office that has a wonderful view through lovely old trees, up the side of Devil’s Peak. She is the course convenor of Financial Reporting 2. (To me what that means is that she’s convenor of the second year accounting students.) There is now a text book published which has her name on it as one of the contributing authors – Financial Accounting: GAAP Principles (3rd Edition). In the midst of all this high-powered academic stuff, she still manages to be a very involved, caring mom. Especially exciting was the fact that she fell pregnant for the third time. The baby (a boy they are naming Caleb) is due in late February 2012. She’s had a lot of problems with a painful pelvis and pinched sciatic nerve, although those have been much improved by a chiropractor. She is a teacher in Relief Society (the women’s organisation at Church).

Andrew H has had an extremely busy year as bishop of Panorama ward at Church, as well as Branch Manager of Federal Clearing, where both he and Andrew P work. Having a lay ministry in our Church can certainly be arduous. But the spiritual rewards are great. He is proving to be a very caring and concerned bishop, as he goes about his work and service in his quiet way. He very obviously adores his wife and children, and would generally rather be with them than anywhere else.

Their children, Joshua and Hannah, are both growing in independence and confidence. Josh is 3½ and Hannah is 1½. Josh is at the Village Educare in Edgemead, next to Edgemead Primary School and he will stay there until it’s time to start Grade 1 at EPS, where uncles and aunts all went to school. Hannah is still with the day mother, Wendy, who periodically looked after our kids when they were little.  When she is 2 she will also go to the same school as Josh. Caleb will then start with Wendy. Hannah is a real little “mommy”, and adores her baby cousin – any baby, in fact. Both kids love swimming this summer and are taking to it like little fish.

Colleen and Rohan had their first baby in May. The day after Hannah’s first birthday saw the arrival of little Amy Rose. Colleen had quite a difficult time with the natural delivery, and her recovery was long and slow. Amy suffered with colic for nearly 5 months, and I think her parents were wondering why on earth they had done this to themselves. But now at 7 months, she is a complete delight. She’s a real little pixie, and definitely takes after her daddy in looks.

Colleen went back to teaching at SACS after her maternity leave, and so has been having to battle the new challenge of being a working mom, with some very long hours (especially on days when she teaches A-level maths at the end of the day). Fortunately, teachers do get school holidays, so she can recover her sanity (what little any mom has) over this period and spend special time with her little one.

Rohan is still working for the same company up on Tygerberg Hill, which is conveniently close by. His contract position was made permanent at the beginning of the year, after his employers made him wait an inordinately long time to find out. So that was a relief for them both. He is serving as assistant Stake clerk, and he and Colleen are both in Primary (the children’s organisation at Church) – Rohan playing the piano, and Colleen as secretary, and leading the singing. Rohan decided to buy himself a second hand violin this year and is teaching himself to play it. Little Amy gets really excited when she hears it.

Andrew P’s biggest event this year was having laser surgery on his eyes at the beginning of the year, so that he no longer needs to wear glasses or contact lenses. This was something he had been wanting for a long time, and it has made a big difference to him. He moved house with his friends to the complex next door to the one in which they were living in Table View, when their lease ended. The house is a little bigger than the previous one and has a garage, which the other did not have. However the rooms are still tiny, as is the case with most of the new houses around here. He is still at Federal Clearing, having been there since he finished school in 2006 – 5 years already. I can’t believe how much time has passed. His favourite activities revolve around his X-Box, and he and his friends spend a lot of time on that. He still does a bit of extra work for Bryan Banfield, and some of his associates, related to the promotion of computer games. He went up to Johannesburg to Rage – a big computer game expo, where he was able to earn a bit of extra money from the work that he did.

Cindy has finished her 2nd year at UCT, with her subjects being Linguistics, Maths and English. She absolutely adores linguistics, enjoys English, and did not enjoy maths one little bit. However, she only needed to have one year of maths to be able to teach it at high school level, and in fact, did very well in it. Next year, she will go back to doing German again instead of maths. She has been exceptionally busy – I have no idea how she managed to do any varsity work, what with dancing and choir and a social life like I wished I could have had when I was a student. However, she did really well in all her subjects, especially linguistics. Dancing is the passion of her life now – she joined the Ballroom Dancing Society at varsity at the beginning of the year, and has progressed well. She took part in the Intervarsity competition and placed well. But, not only does she love ballroom and Latin, she and her dancing friends love to go and “sokkie” frequently at a place out in Brackenfell (the Afrikaans side of the “Boerewors Curtain”). She has continued singing in the UCT Singers choir – and even got to sing for Prince Charles. She decided she needed a new look this year, and cut her hair short – in a style that really suits her. She is as cat-mad as ever, and I got a bee in my bonnet that we needed to give her a kitten for her birthday. What on earth I could have been thinking, I have no idea. She called the kitten “Angel” – but “Demon” would have been more accurate. Anyway, she’s cute and gives us all lots of laughs. Cindy’s managed to get up to the temple 3 times this year, and has enjoyed the time in the temple and mixing with the Joburg Young Single Adults from Church.

Richard is 18! I can’t believe that my youngest is officially all grown up. And to add to that, he got his driver’s license 3 days before Christmas. So there can be no question as to whether or not we have any “children” anymore. The question is more – do we have any cars anymore? Grade 11 has been a really busy year for Richard. He has had his 4th year of being stage manager at school, for all the productions. He was elected to be a prefect, and these duties started in the third term, releasing the matrics from duty in order to focus on their exams. He had a great prefect camp at the beginning of his time in the role, where they had some wonderful activities, at a place called High Africa, out near Worcester. He’s worked really hard throughout the year, and placed in the top 10 in the grade. It’s only his Afrikaans that holds him back. He and I did a fair bit of extra Afrikaans together, to try and help with his vocabulary and sentence structure, but it’s still a challenge. He has two extra subjects – Advanced maths and IT (a more advanced course than is offered by the school as a standard subject). We were really proud when, after 6 years of hard work, he completed the requirements for the Duty to God program and was awarded the medallion before his 18th birthday. For those not in the Church, this would be the equivalent of Springbok scout in the scouting program.

Much to my (Sally’s) delight, I started tutoring at UCT medical school in the second semester. This has been something that I’ve been keen on for some time, but never managed to get the right spot. I have been working with 2nd year students, and this next year hope to be continuing, possibly with students from other years as well. I have been accepted to do a post graduate course in Health Professional Education in 2012. This is a one-year course, and I’m excited and nervous and wondering if I’m a little bit crazy to be doing this. But I really love being at medical school. The students are a pleasure – they’re so bright and stimulating. The course is being taught in a very different way from what I had when I was a student, and I find this new system – Supported Problem-Based Learning – extremely exciting. I have continued to do some writing, but not as much as before, although I have been commissioned to write a few health articles for a magazine.

Andrew and Shelly were very keen to get themselves a business, and happened to find a biltong shop for sale. They wanted us to go in with them, and David and Daphne van den Berg joined to bring in the butchery skills. The little shop is doing so-so, but perhaps its location doesn’t encourage a lot of passing trade. Anyway, it’s a learning experience for all involved. Although I have had very little to do with it, Les has been fairly involved on the maintenance, website, publicity and technology side.

One other major event in our year was our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a lovely dinner at our place for the family, granny flew down from Pretoria for this and we included a surprise birthday party for her 80th birthday for those members of the family who could not make it to Johannesburg for her big celebration in October.

I think that more or less covers our family’s major doings this year. We hope that you and yours are happy and well, and that you have a wonderful 2012.

All our love and blessings
Les, Sally
Shelly, Andrew, Joshua and Hannah
Colleen, Rohan and Amy
Andrew, Cindy and Richard


Hannah, 18 months
Our address etc.
Powrie family, 45 D’Urban Street,
Bothasig, 7441 South Africa
Phone: 021-558-4693
e-mail: sallypowrie@yahoo.co.uk



03 July 2011

Les & Sal Powrie celebrate 30 years of marriage with the family

On 1 July 2011 we hosted a family celebratory dinner at our home. All of our family (Sally & Les Powrie, Shelly & Andrew, Joshua and Hannah Herbert, Colleen & Rohan and Amy Schwartz, Andrew, Cindy and Richard Powrie, as well as Sally’s mother Margaret Burns, brother Mark Burns and girl friend Alison, my brother Ron & Pamela Powrie.
We made up our tables and chairs, and borrowed three chairs and some cutlery and crockery to meet the needs.


Table settings, and flower box outside the lounge window, which has just been made by Les.

Then delicious dinner was laid on - Sally’s famous Lasagne with tossed salad, coleslaw, beetroot, garlic bread and avocado pear. Sprite was added to red or white grape juice or apple juice for a refreshing drink.

This was followed by granadilla and strawberry cheese cakes made by Cindy.

Clockwise around the table from the left: Sally & Les, Amy (in pram), Margaret, Alison, Mark, Cindy, Andrew H, Hannah, Shelly, Joshua, Andrew P, Ron, Pamela, Colleen, Rohan, Richard.

We combined the evening with an early celebration of Sally’s mother’s 80th birthday (3 October 1931) – a surprise for her. She came from Pretoria for our celebration, and to see the great grandchildren, little suspecting that she would also be a star of the show. But most of us will not be able to make it to her 80th birthday celebration in Pretoria in October, so we included her in these celebrations.

This was a wonderful evening, proposed and masterminded by Sally.
Excitement was even added by a drunk vagrant woman collapsing at our front door – just in case anyone needed more excitement.
We had a joyous family get-together and look forward to another 30 years together! Then that should be getting just about in time for an eternity together.

04 May 2011

Comment on the Royal Wedding - and the blog by A Well Behaved Mormon Woman

I read this post Every temple marriage is a royal wedding and tried to paste a comment, but it seems that maybe the comment got lost in cyberspace. So here it is.

I grew up in a family that had been sealed in the London England Temple when I was fifteen years old, and I was regularly reminded that I am a prince in Israel, and I am very fortunate to be married to a wonderful princess in Israel.  So, I guess that, being prince and princess, we had a royal wedding! We were married in 1981 just weeks after some other royals, Charles and Diana, were married. We married in a chapel in Pretoria, South Africa, and then went to the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed a few days later. 

I have often thought about the 'until death do you part' or 'as long as you both shall live' and have concluded that civil marriage ceremonies are performed by officers who receive their licences from the state, and no earthly government can make any binding contract that extends beyond the grave. Yes, many people who know nothing of the LDS doctrines believe that they will see their loved ones beyond the grave. But they cannot count on being married unless their marriage is sealed by the power of the God of Heaven who married Adam and Eve and intended that all marriages should be eternal. That is why it is so wonderful to go to the Temple and perform proxy marriages for those who love their spouses and families, as Emily in Wonderland says, so that they can enjoy the benefits of marriage beyond this life.

I am grateful for my eternal royal wedding. It is sad that the marriage of Charles and Diana did not last as ours did. We wish that William and Kate, and every couple, could be at least as happy as my wife and I are. And through the power of the priesthood of God, and the Temples, there is that promise for those who are married (or sealed) for eternity while in this life, or sealed in the next. Everyone is a child of God, the King of Heaven, so every wedding should be a royal wedding. At least, as one comment said, we ought to rejoice that the royal couple William and Kate chose to be married as so many in England these days do not. And so we rejoice in every choice to marry as husband and wife, and we wish each couple a truly happy marriage. It is regrettable that many people forget their royal heritage and that their Heavenly Father wishes that they would have a royal wedding. 

01 March 2011

Fed with manna in the wilderness

Les Powrie, August 1993

Dunes near Gobabeb
The Kuiseb River - a long, linear oasis
I enjoyed this sunrise on one of my many early morning walks.

There is a desert out there.  You have heard that it is hot, boring, big, unpleasant - well, miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.  You need to pass through this vast expanse of nothingness because you have to get to the other side.  You resolve to dash through in the dead of night so that you can get to the other side and not have it affect you too much. 

But then you have a breakdown which keeps you in this area for a day, maybe more.  You do what you can to get the attention for the car that is needed, then with nothing else to do you begrudgingly accept your fate and go for a walk in the desert.  You set out at 10:00 and you walk.  You walk, and you walk, stewing over the dilemma - you are stuck in the Namib desert!  You are stranded!  You cannot imagine what could be a worse fate.  You trudge through sand dunes, over hot, dusty plains.  You see gemsbok, black backed jackal, dry grass, scorpions, lizards which dive into the sand and disappear, tok-tokkies, trees in the middle of nowhere, ants, wasps, lizards, grasshoppers, green plants, stones that move suddenly and you realise that they are beetles, melons, water holes dug by animals who know where to find water that fell 320 days ago and has been underground for 315 days, even a village near a river bed. 

Suddenly you realise that you are no longer stewing over your car, but you are fascinated by this desert.  The snakes, hyaena, springbok, jackal, scorpions, beetles, lizards, gemsbok and all are here, they are healthy, they are able to sustain themselves on this nothingness, and then you realise that you have seen more than nothingness.  You have seen some of the most fascinating plants and animals that you have ever seen, and you are amazed at how many different kinds there are.

They are not as striking as the flowers and plants to which you are accustomed, to the lush green rolling hills near East London and in the Transkei, the beautiful forests and bushveld in the eastern Transvaal Lowveld, the subtropical Natal coast, or the magnificent Fynbos of the Cape.  They are not as delicate as the familiar garden subjects.  But you realise that you are developing a fondness for this unusual beauty.  All of this has come to you without anyone showing you what is to be observed and learned, and you realise that with a guide there would be even more to be seen.  You start to see what has lead to my great fascination for deserts for as long as I can remember.  I have spent time getting to know the Namib and the Karoo and that is why I have such an enduring love and respect for the arid parts of our country.

Let me now share some things that I have learned, and maybe your next experience in the deserts or semi-deserts around us will be more meaningful, more pleasant, more exciting, more fulfilling than you ever imagined.

Let us look at some of the things that are not readily seen because they are camouflaged; or which take time to observe; or are so small that you have to get right down to earth to see them as I did here one day when I had to allow my clothes to dry out after being soaked in a Karoo rain storm.

Take time to observe, seek a guide to help you to observe, and then become a guide so that you can help others to find joy in their encounters with the wilderness.  But far more important to me than the simple fascinations that I have for the Karoo are the lessons about life that I have learned there, things about the desert in which we live even if we live in one of the lush parts of the world.

I would like to draw two parallels with the rush through the Karoo.
One is expressed in the sentiments of Robert Louis Stevenson that 'we are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best that we can hope to find is an honest friend.'  We see violence, war, poverty, sickness, tragedy, discord. horror, disaster, and in short, all that is as far from what we dream to be ideal as it can be.  The ideal is peace, luxury, wealth, harmony, perfection, beauty - in short - paradise.  Instead, life is kind of like the desert - hot, boring, big, unpleasant - well, miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.  Many people are loath to bring children into this terrible world, as they see it.  Some kill themselves to free themselves from it all.  others simply deem it their right to add to the problems in the attitude that if you can't beat them you may as well join them.

But when we stop to look around us we see that beneath the sensational headlines of the media there is actually a lot of good, a lot that is honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, lovely and of good report and praiseworthy.  But it requires taking stock, stopping, getting out of the car, and observing.  We tend to be so involved in the hurly-burly of life that we fail to see beneath the surface of humanity, that most people are actually not warmongers, but they interact peaceably with each other.  In fact, I like people.

I have also seen a parallel with people viewing the scriptures as a desert - hot, boring, big - well, miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.  They avoid travelling through the pages of these special books, and if they are persuaded to open the book they rush through them hoping to get to the other end of the journey hoping with their lives as little affected as possible by the boredom that they are convinced exists in these outdated texts, and especially in older English translations.  But those who have stopped and wandered about the words on the pages, have seen many gems, many beautiful and comforting words.

Behold the fowls of the air:  for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?... Consider the lilies of the fields, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe ye, O ye of little faith?  (Matt. 6: 26-30).

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:  Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer and gathereth her food in the harvest.  How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?  when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?  Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:  So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man (Prov. 6: 6-11).

But besides the valuable lessons I've learned while exploring in the pages of the scriptures, I have also gained wonderful insights about the scriptures while wandering in the desert.  I have seen that plants which grow in the most harsh parts of the desert are more able to endure hardship than the same species in softer conditions.  Scientist debate at length and point out that plants in these extremes are not stressed, because they are accustomed to the hardships.  It is those that are in 'ideal' conditions that suffer when exposed to even moderate hardship because they are not hardened to these conditions.

Plants either endure drought, or they avoid drought.  Succulents lay up reserves in their leaves and thus endure periods of hardship, and we have been counseled to lay up temporal reserves as Pres Ezra Taft Benson has said 'I ask you earnestly, have you provided for your family a year's supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel?  The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.'  We are also challenged to be self reliant in education, health, employment, resource management and social, emotional and spiritual strength.  Deciduous plants drop their leaves so that they do not lose moisture through evapo-transpiration, and we have been counselled that 'if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee:  for it is better for thee that one of thy members perish, and not that thy whole body be cast into hell' (Matt 5:30).  There is much to learn of endurance from these plants which live for hundreds, and even thousands of years.

From the Karoo I have learned about the restoration of the Gospel, that it is not like the efforts at veld restoration which farmers attempt as the substrate has become so altered through years of abuse that species and soil are lost, and the veld can never be the same as it was.  But the Lord has restored some virgin veld that has never been abused, and is the only true example of what the veld should be, not just what experts believe it would have been five hundred or a thousand years ago, with a few species missing and veld composition altered such that they know that they cannot hope to see the veld return to exactly what it had been.

From the magnificent blossoming of the veld in the spring I have learned that flowers bloom where they find room - and this is true of people too.  It is interesting to me that the Namaqualand fields which are most beautiful in Spring are those which are most overgrazed.  We, too, can turn rough times into times of bright blooming which will delight the eyes and gladden the hearts of those around us who also face difficulties - and who doesn't?

From a recent visit which Sally and I made to the Tanqua Karoo we saw that, just as it is the effort of every blade of grass that keeps the meadow green as my mother frequently said, so it is the effort of many little flowers which make the fields into carpets of yellow, mauve, pink, orange, white and mixtures of colours.  It it the effort of each of us which makes the desert of life into a delight to those who take the time to see beyond the doomsday reporting in newscasts in the media.

The Saviour taught and lived in an area which is much like the Karoo.  he took examples of that veld for His parables.  For example, in the Tanqua Karoo I realised how the shepherd could leave ninety and nine sheep to go and look for one that had strayed - I saw sheep follow a strait and narrow path the width of a car tyre, to the extent of keeping in the narrow track made by the car, even following the twists made as the car slewed in the soft sand.  The sheep did not deviate from this meandering path, although it took them in a crooked line when they could perfectly well have gone straight.  So the shepherd could trust the flock to follow their normal track to the sheepfold while he sought the one lamb that had left the strait and narrow way.

Consider the many special experiences which have been had in the wilderness - Jacob at Peniel where he saw the Lord face to face; Moses who saw the Lord face to face on Mount Sinai; Elijah who was brought food by birds which the Lord sent to him while in the wilderness hiding from Jezabel; Nephi who saw the spirit of the Lord and was taught about the birth of Christ, the tree of life and other lessons; Enos who prayed through the day and the night while in the forests, and who heard the promise from the Lord that his sins were forgiven him; Joseph Smith who saw the Father and the Son in a grove of trees.  Moses, Elijah and Christ all fasted for forty days in the wilderness, showing us that we must not expect to receive great spiritual blessing if we only spend a few moments saying prayers, but we need to stretch ourselves a bit more.

Next time you go through the desert - the Karoo, society, the scriptures, or whatever else seems to be dead, take time to see beyond the reputed lack of life, and you will be rewarded with a revelation of an abundance of life.  You may find your impressions changing as did the lady who said 'Good gracious, this here is nothing but miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles!" and a few days later said 'This is the most beautiful, the most interesting and rewarding desolation one could ever dream of.'  You will also learn that the richness of learning to be had extends beyond what you will experience on site, just as many of those who dash through the Karoo hoping to be as little affected by its nothingness as possible, often sit down at the other side to relish a delicious meal of Karoo lamb which gets its special and unique flavour from those very bushes which they are convinced have no worth in their lives.  We will be blessed with special experiences and insights in all aspects of our sojourn in this apparent wilderness of life, if we take the time to browse from the pages of scripture, and if we take time out from the hustle and bustle of life to observe the wealth of good in our society, just as the children of Israel were fed with manna in the wilderness.

Book review for Manna in the Desert by Alfred de Jager Jackson

Alfred de Jager Jackson
Manna in the Desert: A revelation of the Great Karroo

Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Brevitas cc, 2006
270 pp. ZAR 285

ISBN 1-874976-48-1
First published 1920, second edition in hardcover published 2006 by Craig Elstob. The second edition includes the original black and white photographs as well as some recent colour photographs and an Afterword by Craig Elstob.
I have spent a fair amount of time as an ecologist in the Namib Desert in Namibia and in the Succulent Karoo and Nama-Karoo in South Africa. My impression was one of hidden beauty and concealed vitality and about 20 years ago I presented a talk entitled 'Manna in Your Wilderness'. One can only imagine my surprise to see, in a recent visit to Sutherland the Karoo, reference to a book published in 1920, Manna in the Desert by Alfred de Jager Jackson. The librarian at Kirstenbosch obtained a copy for me and I was expecting a book like this.

And I was very surprised to see a glossy cover, and found that the book was republished as a second edition in 2006 by de Jager's great-grandson Craig Elstob.

To add further to the surprise, inside the back cover one finds that Craig has the middle name Dryden, and his great grandfather x 5 married a Dryden in the UK, and all the family have the second name Dryden. This name has very particular significance for me as both my grandmothers (two sisters) were daughters of John Little Dryden who was Port Captain and Shipping Master in Port Alfred from 1882 to 1896, and then Harbour Master at Mossel Bay from 1896 where he lived until his death in 1914.
The author, Alfred de Jager Jackson, spent his youth on a farm near Beaufort West in the Great Karoo and shares many anecdotes about his experiences in the Desert. The book sets out to share the emotional and spiritual upliftment experienced by the author living in this semi-desert area. He talks about the plants and animals of the Karoo, and gives his insights into the web of life on the farm, and how the humans fitted into this web. The author gives his object in writing the book as drawing 'men towards a right and reverent regard of Nature, particularly as exemplified in the Great Karroo, in the abundance and variety of its animal life, in the wealth, diversity and complexity of its plant life, in its splendid skies, and in the intense contrasts of its natural features, both of air and earth.' De Jager clearly has a great love and reverence for his childhood farm and tells of more than 50 plants and several animals, giving quaint spellings (like rispers as opposed to ruspers, Dubbeltjiedoorn which is also know as Duwweltjiedoorn, or Devil's thorn) clearly influenced by Dutch, and 'translations' (Kougoed translated as 'cold' rather than 'chewing' goods) of common names, but very few scientific names. He gives some very interesting insights and accounts of farming in the Great Karroo, transport, accommodation, animal husbandry, tutors, farm workers, researchers, expeditions and so forth. He describes plants, animals, insects, birds, reptiles, seasons, climates, and more that paint an inviting picture of the 'vast solitudes', 'great valleys',  'rugged mountains' and 'splendid skies' of the karoo. He writes about several of his tutors, some farm-hands and their antics, several pets of either domesticated or wild origin, and dear memories and recollections that stayed close to his heart for as much as sixty years. His informal but pleasantly descriptive writing style would appeal to a very wide readership.

I very much enjoyed this insider account of the area that I have visited as an ecologist, learning of some of the practices and thoughts of the past and how they compare with present thoughts and practices, and how they may have affected the present practices and condition of the veld. I think that this book is worth reading for its ecological content, the writer's passion for the karoo, the delightful word pictures he creates, and well, I really enjoyed reading it!

24 February 2011

My birthday memories - 57 years old

Yesterday was the start of my 58th year on this beautiful planet, and more specifically in the Fair Cape.
Well, I awoke and got about my day. My family wished me well, and I was reminded of the special birthday present that Cindy (with a little help from Richard) has given me - she cleaned out the vegetable garden and planted some seeds so that I and we can enjoy a harvest at home. That does indeed give me good joy - the working in the cleaned garden, and the anticipation of the harvest.
After several hours at work one of my colleagues came in and wished me well. I had been with another colleague most of the day and he said 'Oh, is it your birthday? Well, you know me, I forget my own birthday!" So one person remembered my special day as I approach retirement - now 8 years to go!
Then home to what was to have been a special family supper, except that Sally has been really ill with a tummy bug and so Shelly invited Andrew P, Cindy, Richard and me for some Chinese spring rolls, sweet and sour chicken and beef chop suey. I enjoyed that! Andrew H was also ill with the tummy bug and did not join us, so it was Shelly, Joshua and Hannah hosting us.
Then off to home teaching - a visit scheduled for two weeks ago, then postponed to last week, and then while on our way there postponed again until this week - so I home taught on my birthday.
Home to my family, and giving some caring attention to Sally, then off to bed about 22:20.
I had received a few birthday wishes, some from my two university alumni offices, Internet service provider, retailers, and so forth, but some from friends. Well, one SMS sent by a friend was sent 08:28 on 23 Feb. I have no reception in my office, so I did not receive the SMS.
This morning I was woken by my phone beeping.....
It beeps every five minutes after a reminder - or after receiving message. So I woke and think to myself that I must have missed my 04:50 reminder that wakes me to start my morning and do my exercises. So up I get, drink some water, wash my face, say my prayers, go to the toilet, and go and do my exercises. All the while I am feeling rather tired, and slightly nauseous as I was exercising, and I hoped it was not because I was brewing the tummy bug.
After doing my ecercises I am confused as to why Richard is not up and getting ready for his day. I run the water for my shaving, and go to the kitchen to get my breakfast. I look at the kitchen clock - it says 01:55 and I think it must not be working properly, except that it is ticking away as it ought to! I check other clocks, and they confirm that it is indeed nearly 02:00 in the morning. No wonder I am tired, and Richard is not up! Sensible him!
So, thanks for the birthday wishes, all of you! Even Gerald who sent it timeously and cannot be blamed for the foibles of modern technology that deliverd his message 18 hours later and got me up at well before the crack of dawn three time zones before mine!
I decided to not shave then, and went back to bed with an alarm set to wake me at 05:20 - after all, I had already done my exercises! Understandably, I am tired now, and looking forward to getting to bed after a long day, mostly in a meeting of the National Vegetation Map Committee.
May the remaining days of the years before retirement go well too! Maybe even better than this unusual start to my day.
My greetings to each of you - and may you have wonderful birthdays, remembered by loved ones, and hopefully not frustrated by the happenings caused by gremlins crawling around in the entrails of computers or alsewhere!
Really, I am serious when I say I have a wonderful life. Beautiful roses have thorns, but they are still a joy to smell and to behold.