Monday, November 30, 2009


We had the the infamous family gathering at Caversham Mill (a restaurant - not Dave getting the family together for grinding). The puns flew the chocolate block (very special red wine) circulated as did most of the food - we all always order different meals as we all like to taste things. It brought back the most obvious thing that makes emigrating hard - moving from the security of that network of family and friends. The farewells along the road make things harder. I am sure we'll make a new network - started already - but it is hard on those who stay too. I must say I find the 'we'll never see you again' very harsh. I keep pointing out that the world is a smaller place, and the future an uncertain country itself

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Survived the Transkei

We have made it back to Durban. Safely negotiating all the animals, alive and dead, along the way. And have said our goodbyes to the Cape. Doing it by provinces, as we are, is making this leaving process very drawn out and agonising!

Still we are having a family lunch today, with all the Freers around the table. I am sure puns will fly, I just pity the surrounding tables! Still it should be a fun meal.
Ha! We have survived the goats, drunks, goats, insane doof-doof taxis (definitely local Bogan variant, with extra Eugh! de toilette) goats, potholes (disguised as road), stray cows, dogs, drunks, trucks, Umtata (Mbatha these days - I suspect that means 'place for inserting enema pipe' -- Ok I really don't like the place, with reason) and goats (did I mention goats perhaps?) of the Transkei and are now back in Durban with our boys(which I believe is very like Brisbane. Hot.)
The goats - besides being a hazard to motorists are turning the Transkei into an eroded desert.

We had magnificent braai (Barbie?) next to my old fish farming buddy Nick's dam with some of the boys Uni friends. A pork joint with threads of dried mango in foil, Beetroot and orange roasted in foil, mushrooms and butter and thyme, a loaf of bread on the fire, and kaaskartoffellen, and some fish for the vegetarians. It was good, and rather different to what the geek-team (hey they talk physics while climbing) expected.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Famiy reunited

Well, this is so good. We are now in Grahamstown, together with our boys. They seemed happy to see us, and it is so great to be here and meet so many of their friends.

We are staying out of town, so are spared all the in town noises, and are enjoying being back in rural tranquility!

We watched a climbing movie yesterday, that really had my hands and feet sweating, it is incredible that my limbs still react after 20 years of not climbing. I still belay when necessary, but have no confidence in my arm strength any more.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the strange things

Okay, so just what is a 'bogan'? Like a 'hoon' or a muttonbird, tinny, or a slab of green, these are obviously things I need to know . And for an active imagination like mine not telling me can be dangerous ;-).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We're driving 10 hours to our kids Uni today. It occurred to me that it's a good thing that we're going from a big country to another big country. It must be so difficult to go from a small, closed in place to a big open one. We had people come out to Finnegan's Wake, who found the darkness and silence at night intimidating -who slept with the lights on. I love the silences and the absence of artificil light makes for woderful star viewing. Ok so there are no (well make that 'few' ) stage shows and the choice of restaurants is a little limited in number... but ah, we have night.

I can't wait to see my boys. I hope they love Australia as much as we did.
Australia, put out your best :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The glut

Back in the dark ages, just after smoking too much killed the dinosaurs and people still had fax machines, B and I moved onto Finnegan's Wake and for the first time a serious go at self-sufficiency. We were bright-eyed and bushy tailed, but our delusions of handsome appearance and sartorial elegance aside, we were also in for a bumper year. Partly this was as a direct result of my ignorance and over-enthusiasm. To put it slightly cryptically - there are about 30 seeds in a pack of courgette seeds. I had the space and compost to plant them all... every plant bore at least 50 baby marrows... And herein lies the devilish detail - I was raised 'waste not, want not'. Did you know that sliced paper thin courgettes (lightly salted, left to stand for 3 minutes, then washed and dried)dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and black pepper can be served as a great salad? No? Well neither did I, before. I didn't know they were good in bread either. Or parboiled, slit from gizzard to zatch and then with a slice of cheese and a piece of rehydrated sundried tomato in the slit, and a slice of bacon on the outside as a wrap, skewered in place with a couple of toothpicks and then grilled is delicious. Yes -I believe I came up with 33 disguises for the humble courgette - none quite as effective as shoving a carrier bag of the things into a visitor's car. Yes the courgettes nearly killed us, and years later even the sight of virulent yellow courgette piccalli makes me blench. But it was the bramble patch that finally hammmered the stake into that old waste-not maxim. It was several acres of thorns and black woody bramble-berries. Free food! We picked with glee. Then with enthusiasm. then with grim determination, then with scratched and battered resignation and, um, whining. And even when we gave up, that was only the start. Jam making continued to the small hours, until every jar and every pound of sugar (we had to go and buy extra -at a 50km round trip, and the cost of sugar and jars it probably would have been cheaper to buy 12 jars of jam.) But we had jam. 6 years later we STILL had jam... and juice... and getting the eager family interested in another picking session the next day (or the next year)... was fortunately not well received.

Self-sufficiency requires a lot of things - one is getting fellow self-sufficiency people to trade with. And realising that processing what can be an endless excess is actually expensive too. There is a balance in all things. :-) It's a shame that i am not that well balanced anyway.
And when it comes to courgette piccalilli, waste not becomes want not very quickly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Having failed to drown us, the South African weather says fricassee will have to do. It's hot, sticky and unpleasant today – more like the Durban I remember and so wanted to leave. We spent last night with the clann Beck up in Pietermaritzburg, where we had lovely supper (green thai prawn curry, very mild, but tasty and the usual appalling puns. They're dear friends, it was their older son's 21st, and the farewells are sad, but the security aspect of their lives is just exactly what I want to leave behind. Outside spotlights, Area alarms (so for eg, me a 5 AM riser hd to stay carefully out of rooms xyz), burglar bars... and of course sleepy hollow's lovely climate - In winter it's quite pleasant but in summer they end up jumping into the pool just before bed, emerging dripping and putting towels on their beds. Um. No thanks.

I see Tassie is cool today. :-).

21 years

We spent last night with good friends from University days, whose son, Geoffrey, turned 21 yesterday. It was wonderful to celebrate with the whole extended family, and sad to think that when his younger brother reaches his 'great milestone' we will be far away. (though probably Steve is heaving a huge sigh of relief.)
We have started on a round of 'goodbyes' to friends and family, and I think it was a mistake to draw it all out over 5 weeks, but seemed like a good idea at the time! Still we will get to see a lot of people this way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

city life

ok, this suburbia inside a small secure complex, but it does show how used to wild space I have become... we were so exhausted the first night that I barely heard anything beyond waking briefly to yet more rain. (It appears that the weather on our final move day killed 7 people :-(.) Last night, however, I did a lot of waking for trucks, cars, voices, dogs... oh well, the jackal yowling on the hill used to wake me. And the 'piet-my-vrou' dawn chorus (skiet-my-nou! as my mum used to call them.) and the mournful mist foghorn of the rare fluff-tailed buffs on the stream (you'll know why they're rare when you hear them!) and the hadeda ibises - some just flew past - this is suburbia, but Africa. Still, I got used to the jackal, I'll possibly get used to this again before we head out, and there'll be wild sounds of Australia (the roaring puking of the Bennet's wallaby that ate all my veggies and that sort of romantic bush-noise).

Budunet my radio link to civilization and the net out at Finnegan's Wake appears to have been a casualty of the rains. As that is still my principal e-mail addy, I am not gettting much mail.

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Wild Weather batters KZN'

Or so the headlines told us, just in case we failed to notice downed trees and mud-slick roads we slithered and bumped down with everything and not quite the kitchen sink that should have been packed and wasn't... Freer chaos reigns. Oh and the wet stuff. I see they're now forecasting the possibility of snow (yes, I'll post some to Adelaide if you like - it's like dandruff but colder). Anyway, that terrible phase of the move is over. So far saying goodbye to our beasties was the worst part, but teary farewells from 'nThombifuthi (we have found her a new job, with someone she likes, but still...) and Mfanjane (who has a disability pension, but used to come and earn a bit extra once a week), and the forlorn faces of our now ex-neighbour's workers (whose kids we took to school, gave lifts into town, brought 80kg sacks of maize-meal for and and occasionally provided first aid to, and greeted and chatted to), and "you did so much for us" - as one of the dairy guys told B yesterday. True enough I think. We tried to fit in, and make ourselves part of the community, not just a separate caste. It seemed to work (ex-neighbour on the other hand is I gather is having 'labour' troubles. What a surprise - there is little love lost there. Perhaps he should wise up to living in 2009, and not 1809 - his latest petty act of improving staff morale was to lock a gate leading to their cottages - meaning everything (eg, their 80kg of maize-meal, and a fair amount of furniture we didn't pack) has to be carried half a kilometer. It won't stop the people carrying the same things in. Or improve his security an iota. But it'll show them he's the boss. Yes, that'll help. Not.) Ah well, I am glad to leave that kind of idiocy behind, because I only see one long term end for it and it will do no one any good.

The packing up was something of a disaster -partly because we were less organised than we needed to be, and partly because the rain and the packers and estimators and mis-information added a whole new layer of chaos... like we arrived here with 4 loads of wet washing - all of which should have been packed. And wine racks (the plastic -no wood-bugs kind we had in among the others we had to leave) and other things which didn't need to go that did... before we turned around. Oh well, 'tis done. Unpacking may be a bit like archeology ;-) (besides the rock part)

Anyway, we've arrived in Durban, with my sister for a few days, I'll get some writing done, and we'll finalise a few more things. Her little sausage dogs are somewhere between cats and dogs, and remind me how much I miss my dogs and cats. I hope the big black nose can keep the faith.
I miss them.

neither rain nor sleet....

The container - and the family rock finally loaded, and the pair of jumper leads mysteriously like ours (but we were told, not ours, even if appearances were deceptive, were loaded by 5. All Moving estimators -Stuttafords, Elliots, and Magna all WAY overestimated our volume, and we could have taken a bunch of stuff we left/sold/gave away, drat them. Anyway loading the rock was... entertaining. And so was the rain. And the rain. And did I mention... rain. The container truck left and we loaded up a ute-load of garbage, and set out for the dump (as this was not thanksgivin'). We got as far as Reggie- the Retired Lt Colonel about km away, and found the rock was resisting leaving Africa... well, the mud was. The container truck had failed singly at the art of mud-driving and was now jack-knifed at the bottom of the hill blocking our exit. So we too abandoned our quest and went to visit Reggie Purbrick, who is a good friend in need. He has that military organising streak about him (he takes schoolkids on adventure trails to the mountains, or game reserves or the battlefields . I suppose they're not much worse than a regiment to organise... we were wined, fed and provided with baths and beds and sympathy and laughter and advice. I'm really going to miss him, which is more than I say about my other ex-neighbour, who was trying to prove he was a git to my ex-employee. Stupid. And childish and futile too. Ok so I am tired and grumpy... anyway, we finally left the farm in howling wind and rain and mud.... did i mention muddd. The little car (my sons from granny) made it barely. We've left all sorts behind... but we have gone. And in a way being exhausted and coping with a nightmare-ish rain and wind, and the rocky slithery, muddy road stopped us saying sad farewells.
On the plus side the new owners kids were having a ball and so was their calf.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

saved by the duvet

Well, one bed was not packed, and we also had the blow-up = we're ok, even if the house looks rather bare and boxed.... Oh dearie me, dearie, dearie me, it's about 4 degrees howling winds and... somehow both B and i didn't exclude the sleeping bags. er. Ooops. and the mud is thick so going bed-hunting elsewhere is an act of un-wisdom (so why didn't we automatically do it then? ;-)). Um, fortunately we'd donated a couple of old kids duvets - liberally coffee-stained - Pads was infamous for falling asleep with coffee in hand.) to n'Thombifuthi and she had left them in the kids playroom. So with a mattress, and old duvets and a fire were fine - and we toasted bacon on the end of a carefully washed file.

I'm just a little worried about things being nicked. we can't watch half of what is going on... and a bunch of lire (now worthless) tucked into a little box have been trousered by someone. They're of no value, but I wonder what else. Oh well. Onward.

We have a trace of sun today - and the container arrives. My dats and cogs slept in Durban last night (so at least my babies were warm enough)

Packed (nearly)

This is just a quick trial post on the eee, as the desktop is now packed. around me the scream of taping boxes continues viciously. I'm dead-beat... but still it continues.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The hardest of days

The furkids have gone. I felt... like a traitor. A judas-goat - I led Roly and Puggles and Wednesday into the travelling cages. Helped put my kitties in them. I wish, desperately, that I could explain. I miss them. I miss them terribly.

The house is getting packed. There is still a ton to do - cleaing and prep. The movers came late, but are packing with speed. The pets-en-transit guy was later still - got stuck -twice on the road - here and back. Then he had to call about their rabies certs... I nearly went spare with worry that something would still be wrong.

I emptied out the drawers of my desk. Threw away 74 rejection letters...

We're moving on.

The next phase

Wow, today got off to a slow start, with the movers arriving later than they said. But we ran around getting 'everything' ready for them. Once they got here, boy, did they start packing!! Problem was 4 of them started in 4 different places, and I found there were all sorts of things I hadn't sorted yet. So it was grabbing items from them as fast as I could.

Still we are about a third packed. One of our cats, Legolas, has gone to his new home, with good friends of ours. James will be spending his Easter vacation with them, and will be able to see his cat then. The rest of the dogs and cats will be fetched any time now, and will go into kennels for their quarantine period, before they join us in Aus. Seems to be just around the corner now!!

Tomorrow we pack up the computers, and then we will have Dave's Eeee, for all our computer needs until our furniture is unpacked on Flinders, hopefully some time in Jan. (Thank you Sarah for the Eeee.)

So if we post less often, please bare with us!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Put the cockrel under a creel...

Because in theory it is Sunday. Some of the Medusa list is done. Some isn't. I slow roasted a leg of bushpig (the real thing, shot next door, not the Australian version - yes I DO know what that is) in a lot of red wine, sherry, herbs and black cherry juice. I served it with an unmentionable pasta :-). Very appropriate. The doggins got a huge helping, and Wednesday said it was just so delish, she had her feet up on the table when I was watching (yes, she's a bandit. And a thief. I still love her.) The kittties are being very clingy for independent minded beasties. I wish, desperately, that I could speak dog and cat and explain to the furkids that, far from abandoning them, we've moved heaven and earth and a good few bits between to be able to take them to the Island. Ah well. It is. And that is the way it must be. Our hearts go with them, always. That is why we have done this.

It's turned cold, damp and miserable, and the paint I have put on things is not drying... Also I am about 1/3 through the manuscript cupboard (tricky - do not throw out anything that may not exist on paper (sold) or only sold electronically.). I have roughly one and a half cubes of paper to go through... Yes, actually I do write a lot. Maybe too much.

Our visitors were sweet, and rather welcome by that stage... Told us they were envious of our adventure. Um. Right now it feels more like a runaway trainwreck.

Oh and B got stung on the cheek by a bee, as a parting gesture. Gee, thanks.

I went through my clothes and did manage to throw out a few things... I really am fery, fery, fery 'careful' about clothes. I hate throwing away something that has some use in it. It's a good thing I am not the vain kind - because I don't declare clothes 'dead' until any self-respecting scarecrow would turn up his nose at them.

B and I were sorting out wetsuits - she actually got into the custom-made one I bought her before Paddy was born - OK it took a wee bit of wiggling and some determined shoving and pulling - but my word, that's quite something. It'd take a shoe-horn to get me into my wedding suit. Must be all the muscle being married has put onto me... around the waist. ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The far pavilions...

We finally got the house-sale money and B spent forever on the Bank arranging the transfers to Pets-en-transit (So far the best company I have ever dealt with, period) and the SA quarantine station (Paws resort! - I spoke to the boss, and he sounds a good guy). Thanks to Save the Dragons the project Walt talked me into braving (and it was braving -it's not the sort of thing I do easily. My dogs and cats are my responsibility, and, um, I am the sort who takes these things seriously. Not being able to take them was absolutely tearing me apart. As is... it's still really costing us more than we can afford, but we may be poorer in money, we're richer in love and self-respect. And, come hell or high water, those that bought into Save the Dragons and gave us $25 or more WILL get their signed books.) which has raised about half the money we need for this bit of insanity. But I would rather be insane, and my B goes along with it. I'm a lucky man.

Other than that the rock 3 coats of sealer, I finished repairing the door to the corner cupboard. B painted her old desk, and I scrubbed (with sandpaper, wire brush on a drill, and cleaned and painted some tools and have made an inneffectual start on my office. You can see wood in some places on my desk. Honestly ;-)

Tomorrow is so full of list it may explode. And people who have waited 8 years to visit Finnegan's Wake... are coming to visit.

Hope they like chaos.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Rock (part 1)

Today... well I managed to get the the old ute started and into the workshop. It's probably going to be sold for a pittance for scrap :-( Oh well. It's 14 years old and been a lot of places. We collected the carpets (having been washed) and tried to find a hinge for the corner cupboard.

And I bleached and scrubbed and polished the family rock. Tomorrow it gets a coat of stone-seal.

The rock... ah yes. It's a handcut block of sandstone weighing I guess at least 400 pounds from Barbara's Great Grandfather's farmhouse in the Drakensberg... from about 1870-ish when that was the last wild frontier still. Cut on the farm, dragged to the house by oxen on a 'sleigh' of a big forked branch. The block was a lintel, leading into the foundations, just below the main bedroom... It wasn't a posh farmhouse, just a comfortable, much loved place, that generations of the family had gone back to. For us... the rock is a repository of much laughter, tears, heartbreak and dreams and even more love that happened there. Of countless Christmases and births and deaths.

Barbs and I went up there probably the most of anyone in the family. It was our dream to get it up and productive again. A lot of hope, and a lot of work. And then the farm was expropriated to become part of a park. They bulldozed the old house. It nearly broke our hearts.

It took me years to go back... but 18 years later we got permission to go back and collect the rock. It took 5 of us and a wheelbarrow (which bent) to move it from the ravage of bramble and wattle where the house had once stood to the Ute. It was heartbreaking... but we endure. And so did the rock. One day Barbs and I and our sons (I will save that bit for when they're there. Besides it will take all of us to move it) will build the family rock into our house, so that it can be a link between the past and future. That it can go on accumulating the secrets and laughter and the tears of more generations.

Yes, I am crazy. But then, that goes with being me.
Dreams and determination, that's us.
We go on.
And the rock goes to Australia. With us and our beasties.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Against the tide

Let's see... After a poor night in a much smaller bed occupied by 16 cats (or maybe 32), I started my day with a letter fro Baen with more Proof-reading (SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS, the paperback) - in the middle of our move - I took Wednesday (black lab) in to get her teeth done. Then I went out to the rabbit warders, who were robbed last night, and then I went home. En route the truck (the unsold one, that we need the money from) died. My cell-phone is a pay-as-you-go one - and I plz call me's set up by my cell literate clever son... only I adopted my sister's old phone - with my sim and no clever set ups... and I was out of money in the middle of nowhere (it could be worse in SA). I made various failed attempts to message and contact anyone. Anyway 3/4 of an hour later, just as I was setting out for the 18km walk, someone happened along and I was able to call B. Needless to say after that cars came in quick succession. B came and fetched (and was off to drop one last load of firewood, and to send a fax authorising the lawyers to pay the movers, as surprise-surprise, the money has not yet arrived with B) so I went along - and met the guy coming to buy my dad's old woodworking machine off me. He was something of a mechanic so we went back to the truck and he diagnosed water in the diesel. We got it going... for some 7 or so Km. and it died again. He gave me a lift home. I sold him the machine, and he left - and then I hopefully sorted out the quote for moving dogs and cats - if it is all in and OKay tomorrow... (which given the rate of disasters... If not, Pets-en-transit are my heroes) B went and fetched Wednesday, and I got the burglar guard we need off to get my table out, unscrewed, some metalwork sorted and cleaned for packing.

The post brings me a notice saying I have to get a new drivers licence - they're moving everyone expensively (for us) onto a third system now, and they are doing F... which means my licence will expire 7 days before we leave.

The mechanic called, to say he was lost, and then the woman from Elliots (the movers) called to fuss about payment. Now they need to be paid the day before moving and as that's a Sunday, so they want payment on Friday - tomorrow. The money has arrived with the lawyers, but not us yet, so the lawyers are supposed to pay them. They haven't although Elliots seem to have trouble telling Friday from Thursday) then B got back with Wednesday (the excercise of vaccinating and microchipping and teeth cleaning cost neatly twice what I got in for selling off the old machine...) The guy from the workshop came out and changed the diesel filter and said it was running a bit rough, but all good... It got me to our gate. It's not just water in the diesel.

So then a guy arrived to buy the vehicle -- which is now stuffed.

And our son Pads called to say he had to be back at Uni even earlier, as he is now head student for his res. (ergo, we will have to change bookings on 3 flights - an expensive process.)

Anyway, that was my day. If the dogs and cats are finally sorted it sort of cancels all that (and I wait for Murphy's law to screw that over), but I reckon a thirty thousand rand day. Not one of the best.

Tomorrow we try to tow the truck in, and scrub and seal the family rock, and the rest of the list.... I wish I had the patience and tolerance of the rock.


Someone asked me today what I would do on the island while Dave was writing? Would I not be bored? I could do 6 months of boredom right now.

Today Dave was stuck at the side of the road for 45 mins with a broken down vehicle and no cellphone time. Wednesday, our black labrador, had an anaesthetic to sort out her teeth. The gentleman who wants to buy the vehicle turned up to find it broken down and we refused to sell it to him, until we find out what is wrong with it, as it may be something really major. We would feel really bad to sell him a total dud.

I returned the crib we have been housing for the last few years to the church it belongs to, got a deposit back on our empty gas cylinder, took our wonderful housemaid to be interviewed for her new job, delivered a load of firewood, (thought it was the last ever load, but got an order for another load to be delivered tomorrow or over the weekend.)

All in all it was a day that seems to have been several weeks long, a bit of boredom looks really good!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Run Around

Well, it is amazing how much can be done in one day. We now have a house that echoes with emptiness. The carpets are gone, to be cleaned before packing, a lot of our sittingroom furniture has gone and our bed has been sold! We are now sleeping on a much smaller, but more comfortable bed that we are taking with us. Unfortunately all the cats decided they had been badly treated and needed to sleep with us! I am sure we will get used to it.

A sad parting and microchips (where is the macrofish then)

It's been another tough day. Before you think this blog too bleak and whingy to bother with, fill your mind with the mental image of Barbs and I trying to insert 4 cats into two containers. Yes we have the blood and wounds to prove it. I know you're all frightfully clever and have already worked out that this is a ridiculously, insanely stupid thing to try and do, because both cats need to go in at the same time, and 2 pairs of hands need to come out, sans the cat/s. It took us about 3 tries for each catbox... and of course two 'phone calls mid frantic cat persuit and insertions...
"Oh Dave, I didn't want to call when I heard you were leaving..."
Dave - holding cat with buzz-saw legs. "Jenn, I am wrestling with a very angry cat... can I call you (MEEOWWWWW HISSS YOWL)."
"But I just have to chat to you..."

Anyway mission accomplished, 4 cats injected, 3 microchipped (at James's request his cat is staying here with his best friends who he will spend his short holidays with. Hard... But Legsie may be better off, and will be spoiled, I think) Three dogs microchipped injected and inspected.

And sadly we have had to send my little Button to the long sleep. She was very very old, blind (needed a seeing eye human) deaf, senile (she used to know her way everywhere) and the last few nights has been struggling for breath. We always said that when she was in distress, we would call it time. Two years ago, she was supposedly on death's door. It was still very hard.
I held her in my arms, B stroked her and the vet helped her to the rainbow bridge.

Sigh. Salute to a loyal little brave heart. Why do we give our hearts to our dogs to tear?

Tomorrow hopefully we will finalise the details of the dogs and cat's quarantine. Roland despite his age passed his medical exam. Despite the project (without which it would simply not have been possible) we will be hit financially terribly hard by this (sadly this particular author fits the starving in a garret and not much financial acumen mold). Still, more money we can maybe make (or not). But I think if we had not tried to do this, I would have lost far more. So we go forward... poorer, but still ourselves.

Today is the 11 of 11th... Rememberance day, which is all but dead here. Well, my parents both served, and so did B's. Salute. To the living and our dead. The sun will never set on them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A drinking society with with a writing problem

We had the French cousins (the ones whose sons christened me 'Robinson' after I introduced them to our idea of fun - catching and collecting food, and cooking it over an open fire at the beach.) I did mussels in an annisette scented tomato base, with black squid ink spagetti and green olives, a lemon and orange and lemoncillo sorbet, and then venison with sauce of bacon, ceps and artichoke heart, with jerepigo and cream, with home-made pears in spiced red wine. I cooked for South Africa, and they ate for France. Soon I will have to cook for Australia.

Today was our writers group meeting - or rather a drinking society with a writing problem, which has finished late and maudlin. It was rather nice to have people tell us they appreciated us, but they'll manage fine without us, I reckon. The level of talent - and the variety, is amazing. The dead fat lady story was a candidate for being banned by the Geneva convention as a weapon of mass-construction. It's been a lot of fun to watch it grow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

dogs and cats and quarantine

I've been very reluctant to post about our dogs and cats despite the fact that they're our stay-at-home stand-in kids providing much of the amusement of country life, to say nothing of affection (and mud. And shed fur) Moving them is difficult and very expensive because of the quarantine issue. They're not easy to re-home being country animals used to having 3-4 acres of garden, and of course humans on tap 24/7. I've always got at least one with me... but the costs are extortionate, and authors are classic starving artists :-(. It was tearing me apart. But we just couldn't do it. (there is a breakdown of the costs on Save The Dragons in the FAQ). Anyway thanks to Walt and Francis we managed to make some kind of plan - to sell one of my books on the net to try and bridge PART the gap. (it's a huge gap) and thus was born. And of of course more ulcer-material because there is nothing like hope to make you afraid. I love them - especially my big Old English Sheepdog, very much (actually, all of them. But he was born on my lap). Anyway - we're about 3/4 of the way there - enough to trust that we'll scrape in the rest, somehow. It's making us a lot poorer (lets' put it this way, we could fly our family over and back 5 times for the cost of moving them) But has meant leaving everything very late and worrying a lot. It's going to be hard sending them into quarantine and you can't explain. Sad too, as Buttons (my 18 year old somewhat senile maltese) can't go. She's been on death's door, but not in distress for some time. Last night however she was struggling to breathe. It has always been our decision that if she was in distress, we'd call time. I think it is very close now. Legsie (my son's cat) will stay with his friends with whom he will spend holidays, so another farewell. Still, they give us their loyalty and love: what would we be worth is we did not try to do as much?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Farewell to friends we leave behind

B and I have bounced around SA -University, various jobs, and then picking a place close to the kids school (Treverton). And the one thing I can say is although you may bind to a place, and love the mountains or the trees or the ocean... there remains the fact that we are social animals, even solitary blokes like me. I've lived in cities with populations of several million - had friends and enjoyed some of what the city offered. But we've usually been at our happiest in smaller places, where individuals matter. Yes, if you have a secret hamster fetish and it's an intolerant and narrowly conservative community, or you have three bits on the side or don't pay your bills... A small community can be hell. But if you're a dull bloke without any major deadly secrets and you didn't really care if quizzy old auntie Clara and the switchboard operator (ah days gone by) were listening to you chatting to your wife, a small community - if it's the right one - can be a very supportive place to live, and manage to offer a social life that the big city just can't. Of course... if you're bright or interested in a specialised field (physics or writing or making model airplanes) a city is more likely to get you face-time with similar people. But the internet makes a lot of difference there.

So the issue then becomes 'the right community'. And that is actually harder and more difficult and varied than you may realise from a city-dweller's perspective (and that's where I came from). There is a lot to it which is less than obvious, and it's hard to predict without being in it. My brother and I ended up in two small towns which are 30 km apart in Southern Zululand. My brother is more gregarious and easier to get on with than I am. Our town was maybe 40% larger. His was ruled a social heirarchy and a few queen bees who were not too keen on newcomers. Status and money were hugely imortant, and status was determined by TPB (the powers that be). As the town engineer, you'd have thought he'd be quite well thought of in a heirarchy... but no. Not as an incomer. My bruv had a rough time there, and was glad to leave. St Lucia (town) where he went next was a lot more pleasant. In theory B and I started pretty far down the social pecking order in Eshowe, with her working (she's a radiographer) and me horror to your rural SA male, at home, looking after kids and writing. It's amazing how people who can't actually write two coherent paragraphs, and don't read because it is too hard can still say they wish they were writers, work when they felt like it, or - as many people have, ask when you're going to get a job. I've written a M.Sc Thesis. Some of the books I have written took less work... I do on average at least 14 hours work a day, and up to 16 at times. Yes, I start at 4AM in summer, and I work 300 days a year. I've got 11 books out and another 3 in press right now, and a slew of shorts and work for younger readers. Mostly these days I just shrug, and say: "Why don't have a go at writing then?" Hmm. Tangent. Anyway, if 'showe had been like Melmoth was when Carl was there (Small town social dynamics change), we'd have had a misery of a time. But it wasn't. We came there from a place called Hoedspruit which I'd rate on personal experience the place in SA you'd least want to live - rabidly racist, anti-English-speakers, 3 degrees hotter than hell (I'd run a fish farm there) and Eshowe was friendly and ended up as the second most friendly and sociable place I've ever lived in. When we left Hoedspruit we said goodbye to one person. When we left Eshowe (because of kids schooling) we had a farewell party for a 170 adults - and got trouble for leaving a few people out. We still see and talk to people from there. And my brother - the sociable one - had managed a handful of friends with whom he rapidly lost contact from the next town - not a problem he's ever had since. Here, oddly enough we have a nascent queen bee situation with some people thinking themselves FAH too important and wealthy to associate with the common herd (and is this ever small pond syndrome). Fortunately we have the Mad Lieutenant-Colonel (British Army, retired) the Rabbit warders, the wine cellar people, the local paper editor, 'nThombifuthi etc., who are the salt of the earth. We have a lot of aquaintances and a few solid friends. So it is somewhere betwixt. We turn out to fight fires, serve on local committees, we fetch and carry (particularly those important people's labour - this is Africa -WE get on well with them and and are liked and respected. Their employers would not lower themselves to that level. Oh well. Their choice. Their stupidity IMO). Anyway, I'll be sad to leave the place, and some of people. But I wonder just what sort of social set-up we're going into. Will it be like hate newcomers Hoedspruit, or Queen-bee Melmoth or moderately friendly Mooi, Eshowe or Maclear (the nicest little town I've ever been to - which has basically died since)?

I'm rather glad we're renting a place for a year at first. And if no one talks to us I can talk to the fish. They don't answer either, but at least it is perfectly acceptable to catch them and eat them.

A tool using creature

Humans are tool-users by nature. And besides junk we collect, we male ones like to play with these toys (no, it's not an exclusively male passtime, and there are plenty of women with their own collections. Some, like my mum, value stone grinders and fret-saws and little hammers, and mysterious and arcane gardening implements, others tend toward masses of quilting stuff or cooking devices - although I'll give them a good run for their money there.) But my tools - mostly relating to gardening, woodworking, and the craft of surviving are in general not an impressive, shiny lot. Nor are they the smartest and best makes... Mostly they're old, solid, and very well (if somewhat ineptly) used. Some of them belonged to my great great - and they still work. There are darn few tools I've gone out and bought because I wanted a new toy, so almost everything has a history. Fencing pliers, pipe wrenches, key-hole saws. Many are unusal things that you can't easily find (a brass foot-pump), various files in odd sizes and shapes... that sort of thing. The sort of thing we are not allowed to take to Oz.

So today we had our friends the rabbit-janitors come over and load them up. Weldmesh, barbed wire, tree-nets. A legacy of bolts, nuts, nails, screws and rivets. Bergen was nearly squeaking with girlish glee (and you'd have to see him to even begin to grasp how funny this was.) Sigh. To sell - except to another nutter like us - and they have no money by definition... not much. To replace... a lot, and lot again, as they don't MAKE wrenches the way they did 50 years back. And grumble all the sort of things I will need to build with. Ah well. C'est la vie.

They brought us a rabbit and a roasted chicken - one of their own chooks - and we had home-made kir (with blackberry juice and champagne) and herb and tomato bread. I think that's my own invention, with tomato juice for the liquid, and a orange, lemon and vodka sorbet for dessert.

And so we move on. I'm going to go and look at Google Earth to remember why I am doing this. And maybe the South African news - (grin) I cannot tell how I love the wild excitement of the Examiner (Northern Tas Paper). One of these days I might long for more excitment and a tumultuous world, (I could try the Mercury (Hobart)... but for now I am with Nevil Shute's character from A FAR COUNTRY. It will be good to live in quiet, safe, well-organised country that has values that I can identify with and respect.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ups and downs

Life at the moment is a series of highs and lows, with moods that do not always match!! We have found work for the wonderful lady, Ntombifuthi, who has been working in our house for the last 8 years. We have sold our Colt bakkie, (ute), but can continue to use it until we leave the house, but not the country. We cannot book our ferry ride across to Flinders yet, and we keep having thunderstorms that stop all computer use, if they not turn off the electricity completely.

We thought we had wonderful homes for 2 of our cats, and we would just go with the other two. But one has fallen through, which I quite understand, but now we need even more money. But on the other hand we do not need to say 'goodbye' to one of the cats!

Dave has another dentist appointment, and we are taking another load of furniture to auction. another load of memories goes, but I hope their new owners enjoy them.

Vices and flies.

No news from pet people. Ulcer making. Other than that - taking all fur and feathers out of my fly-tying stuff (the remainder - some synthetics, cotton, chain-eyes and wire and odd size 24 hooks is pitiful). I'm down from 4 large boxes to one small one. 20 years of gradual build up gone. Oh well. My vices happen to be the kind you tie flies on. Well, some of my vices. I have metalwork and woodwork ones too :-(. I'll have to take up debauchery instead as that is something customs don't seem to check on.

We had a couple of guys out to read the meter, and they showed interest in the Utes. We shall see.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ferry - interesting times...

My mind, I wonder how it works

I am reading a lot at the moment. Lots of pleasant escapist books. Tonight I picked up a book I have not read for many years, and just remembered it as being set further north than her first book which I have read often.

Halfway down page one:-

I cannot say that everyone should live as we do, but you might be happy on an island if you can face up to the following:
1. Dinner guests are often still with you seven day, weeks, months later...
2. Any definite appointment ... acts as an automatic signal for the ferry-boats to stop running
7. Anyone contemplating island dwelling must be physically strong and it is an added advantage if you aren't too bright.

I wonder if my mind remembered it, and caused me to reread it, as a warning to put my brain on hold for the next few years! Still Betty MacDonald is fun to read anyway, so I will now finish the book to see if she has any other good advice for me.

A bowsaw on high

The snow had damaged these branches so that they hung low over the road. Too low for the container. This is me (up the tree) and our helper Mfanjane.
It involved some interesting angles, but did give me something to think about besides the cost

of moving our furkids. Our quotes had of course expired... Now we wait - one is in a little bit more expensive. They were more expensive first time. - the site some fans helped to set up to sell one of my books to earn extra for this horrendously expensive excercise has helped, but we're taking major strain on this. I'm finding it very hard to talk about or deal with, as I'm a hopeless soppy about my rescue moggies and silly dogs.
The proofs of Sorceress of Karres are now in. For years we had epics with couriers delivering proofs to me, and failing to find this place and leaving them at some bizarre spots (the hotel bottle shop, chicken farm, post office...)
It's a pity that Baen have taken to sending them as .pdf files... it saves them money and trouble but costs me a great deal of both, as I now have to print them on my dodgy old printer -- and I am inevitably out of paper or ink or both, and this situation is tricky now, but it'll be a lot trickier on the island. Besides, there would have been some small schadenfreude in having the courier fly in and try to hire a car to find me - or bliss, have to walk (or hee hee take the ferry) and try to leave without delivering to me. Yes, I know. Not the same couriers as messed me about here, and in actual reality I would have done my best to help - probably collected it from the plane and let the airline sign for it Launceston. But allow me the happy little nasty vision of a lost fedex courier truck blundering about the island. ;-) - with a week to spend before the ferry goes back.
Anyway besides poor B nearly poking her eye out, and being scratched to pieces in the acacia that she wanted to do (um. She IS rather stubborn about these things. When you've been together for as long as we have... if she wants to do it, she must have a go. She's quite daunting to lesser fainting violet women. Finest kind ;-)) the road now b'long cargo.

More tree cutting

Having finished the proof of Dave's next book, it was back to the trees, to cut enough for the movers. Dave did the really, really high plane tree, so I thought I had better do the next one. A really thorny Acatia type thing. I was scratched and poked all over, but at least the drive is now container friendly! Then in stepping over a cut branch, I managed to get a thin twig in my eye, That put a halt to my gallop and I retired to put ice on it, while Dave finished clearing away the rest of the cut branches. Apart from an occasional throb it is fine now, but I really feel I am not really pulling my weight in this moving business.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Today has mostly been taken up with proof reading Sorceress of Karres and asking pet movers for updated quotes. Very depressing. And the new owners of Finnegan's Wake came out. I walked them around the fruit trees. The Olive is a mass of blossom.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ah cut down trees ah eat ma lunch...

And to follow through with the song -if I could station the convenience above the Mooi River municipality and shower them with my 'appreciation'... I would. You remember that rates certificate that had to in with the deeds office by Friday that they promised - after we'd overpaid them that they would post? well guess what...

They refuse point blank to give to us to let us deliver it by hand last week. They had to deal with an incandescent Barbs today. She got it and delivered it. But of course... the whole thing is now late, rot them. So we don't know if we'll be paid in time. Ah well. It's character building. I reckon if you join B and I's character's together by now... we could build a bridge and walk to Australia on it.

The cut down trees part - we've been cutting a 4.5 metre arch to get the container in. Trust me, in 3 years you won't know it happened - we had to do the same when we moved here - the tree is about 35 metres high and as wide. Oh and Elliots (movers) seem to have lost the plot. Pop-top -what pop-top? (see another 3 feet on character suddenly go up with pilasters and small decorative arches. They promised to get back to me. Maybe they tried. I was up a tree.

So today has not been spent writing but cutting large branches. I really must start wearing gloves for this sort of thing as I have a battered thumb. Thing is rock-climber was up the tree sawing. And gloves are not safe to climb in. On the plus side being 6 metres up on a whippy branch doesn't worry me as long as it is not with a chain-saw (tied on see, and out of fall on and/or whip zone - but falling off with a chainsaw could be deadly.) So the high stuff was done with a bow-saw. This is not that bad as none of the branches were more than 8 inches thick - but I'm going to be an imitation English gentleman all over and not just my upper lip tomorrow. Hot bath time. The worst were the cypress - B wanted to do a branch and had to cut right through. I ened up doing another 4 while she went to tear strips off Mooi Muni. I had to do the same - and finish 2 with a panga. The pin-oak branches were far less tough.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Up high in the branches

We have just come in for lunch. While I was in town today, Dave cut a huge number of big branches off the pin oak tree, so that our container can get in here to be loaded. Luckily there is still a canopy of tree over the driveway, it is just a lot higher, as we were told the truck will be 4.5m high!

So I thought I had better pitch in and do my share. So I climbed the 4m ladder that had only been constructed this morning, out of newly cut green branches. (Any idea how springy they are?) Then another meter or so up the tree, I proceeded to cut one of the offending branches.

Wow, that is higher off the ground than I have been for years, and Dave thought the bow saw safer than the chainsaw, so I burned off a lot more calories than I had planned on. Still one more branch hit the dust, and then we stopped for lunch. Just 3 more branches to come down, and then clearing up all the chaos on the ground! I just hope we have no visitors for a day or so, they may battle to drive around.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

skweeee! A lot of seeds!

So following a tip off (thanks!) after my comments about veg-seed in Tas I went to this blog... (which is very worth reading especially if you're into plants or kitchens) and followed the link to
Sigh. I could order the entire catalogue :-) They have Scorzonera (I have wanted forever). Radicchio! Collards (never tasted -I was only just talking to o'mike about them theis morning)Melons I have never even heard of (and melon with my salami or proscuitto is just magnificent). New Zealand Yams, Purple Dragon carrots, and white Belgian carrots... The only thing that dread is just how much money I could spend on this catalogue, without even trying. Sigh - here I could buy roma, I think 3-4 varieties of red salad tomato (determinate and indeterminate), coctail red (jam) a coctail yellow pear. And that's IT. Forget black or large yellow or... I counted 101 varieties! help Advice?;-)

The only disappointment was the luffa... (I assumed it was a logga, and stirred its coffee with its thumb) tch. Loofa! Luffa humph. and everyone knows they are mined from loofite in the midwest.

fruit and nuts

Almond x2, Apple x 4 (2 bearing), apricot x2, cherry x2, fig x 3, hazel x 2, kiwi x2 (large vines+male), grape (not very tasty katawba), lemon x 2, Mulberry, Olive x 2, nectarine, pear x 5, white peach, cling peach x 4, plum x 2 (red heart and yellow), Pecan x 2, raspberries (lots), Walnut x 2, quince.

That's what I have established here - a list to remind me. Sometimes we're awash with fruit. The apples can give us half a ton of fruit, and plums and Kiwis fifty kilos. Of course there is constant war with fruitfly, leaf-miners, monkeys, and various birds - who can leave us with nothing. I've always felt the key to small-scale agriculture was diversification. Grin. How perfectly this suits my jack of all trade nature.

I'm never going to get any of the nuts that I planted, but someone will (maybe my wild cousins the monkeys). But it's a poorer world if we only plant what we will harvest.

I know there are various biocontrol hurdles, but I am looking forward to seeing what will grow. (and doubtless many happy hours of swearing at wallaby, possums, and various birds.) And I will miss bananas - but by the time they get in by plane or ferry, I reckon gold will be cheaper. Anything I should consider growing?