Wednesday, December 30, 2009

last day

Well here we are on our last day in South Africa for a while. I have booked the kids flights out to visit us in July, so I feel much better. Not quite so much as if I am deserting my children! They are travelling over with us now, and then come back for Varsity.

We are sorting weights and suitcases and then going out to lunch pretending that this is a normal day, and not the last we will be together with our good friends for a while.

I feel totally numb at the moment, I just hope it lasts until we actually take off!!

The time has come...

The walrus said, to speak of many things" -- principally of leaving, still nervous of some last minute disaster, but we're flying out this evening, and the excitement is beginning to build up.
Australia here we come. Next stop Perth, then Melbourne at 23.15 andd then Hobart in the morning of new year's day.

Wish us luck as you wave us goodbye, South Africa.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To the power of four

Paddy came back to us from Clare, Malawi and the mis-adventures on Mt Malange, (where one hikes with porters and guides... unless you're Paddy who carried own pack, thank you very much.
Carl dropped us here with Pete in Pretoria. That has hard as my brother was also my crayfish diving partner(as well as a lot of other things). Natal reef-crawling as we did (the crays here live in the break zone was a high risk passtime, and your buddy is really your lifeline. You don't do it well without a high level of trust and co-operation. People you can do this with are rare. So here at Pete's place we have been educating James in the fine art of being a plaything for a pair of little precocious, blond, ultra-bright girls - my Godchildren. Tch. he needs to work on his stamina. He told me I would be waiting a long time for those grandchildren. I think - besides the suitcase weighing and balancing act we're nearing ready.

leaving KZN

Well, the next stage in our drawn out departure today. We leave Kwa-Zulu Natal – the province I was born in and have lived most of my life in, where the family rock came from (remember thhe family rock) and where most of our family and friends still live. We went to Gnomie's wake yesterday, (the brother of one of the infamous lemmings (Carl, Brian Shuttleworth and myself – who at the least sign from any other lemming would hurtle to sea and plunge into it, or possibly fling ourselves collectively at cliffs -- diving and climbing partners). Gnomie lived life, diving, climbing, ski-ing laughing... He didn't just pass through it. Cheers. Half the Mountain Club and half the Durban Underwater Club were there, dragged in from all over, people I haven't seen for years. Ach, we'll have to set up a dying roster so we get see each other more often. And I got to watch a certain woman put her pet budgie in her handbag, where it did not wish to go. It expressed this sentiment in the same way pigeons express their fondness of statues. I hope she looks at her cell-phone before putting it to her ear.

Anyway, now it's farewell to Blue and Magic (Great Dane and black cat I have using as surrogates for Roly Puggles and Wensie, and Duchie, Bat and Robin...) it's nice to be abused by a cat again. And farewell to Carl and Gail and my nephew and neice. Sigh. At least there is skype and e-mail – which I wish I had for the dogs and cats.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Now when it comes to sea-food I'll be the first to admit I'm quite picky. Not that I won't eat trawled frozen hake, or hold up my nose at people who like fish fingers, but if I have a choice I prefer to have caught it myself. I've worked on commercial trawlers as fisheries scientist. There are actually some aspects – the gutting and gilling soon after catch, and the rapid chilling/freezing – that they do better. But one thing no bloke with a rod and line does is to drop 30 tons of fish on top of your fish dinner. I've run fish farms (or rather they ran me -intensive fish farming is a mug's game which makes avoiding the normal 99% mortalitiy in the wild something you have to help the fishies avoid, mostly by constant watching and rapid response. Anyone who tells you it's an easy way to make a fortune and needs no skills or training is a snake-oil salesman. You're better off on a street corner with a butchers knife in one hand and a cardboard sign saying ' Cheap Brane Sergiry' in the other.)

Anyway I seem to have wandered away from what I was going to write about, which was the prawns we cooked last night. They were farmed prawns (shrimp? In the US and it would appear sometimes in Oz -when?) which was where the thread started. Like shellfish, prawns are one of the more sensible aquaculture targets, because they naturally occur in high denisties, grow fast and sell for a good price. And if the farmed ones aren't as tasty as the wild ones, they're at least affordable if not cheap. We had a few kilos of them last night with my brother. He uses a small sharp knife to butterfly 2/3 of the way up the tail. I've always used small scissors to cut down the back, de-vein and open up the shell a little. Carl has always just deep fried in a wok on high heat from there, and serve with garlic butter. I like to marianate them first. Last night I used soy sauce, pink port, crushed garlic, and a fair amount of fresh sliced ginger. The trick is to get the mix under the shell – which is why I loosen the shells a little. I also like to deep fry them – but in Spillers peri-peri oil (sunflower oil infused with chilli). We did a batch each way (all in a mix of peri-peri oil and straight sunflower).

The unanimous result was deathly silence and a lot of gorging. (Dinner-time conversation is something polite society hostesses want. Cooks... we want the sound of chewing, with interruptions for serious matters like 'pass the garlic butter'.)

My concluslion is that butterflying Carl's way is worth doing, and for appearance, his prawns looked better -perlescent pink and white, whereas mine were stained with soy sauce. But marianaded ones – with the subtle zing of ginger and a bit of saltiness from the soy to contrast the sweetness of the prawns, I thought was a winner.

Still needs more work though.

staying out of the kitchen

Well here I am manfully making my way through another slab of home-made ginger-loaf and a cuppa. No one appreciates the enormous sacrifices I make to avoid lacerating the cook's delicate sensibilities. But I will soldier manfully on, even through the mountain of prawns fried in piri-piri oil that I will be forced to devour tonight. Poor me... ;-). Going from my sister who won't boil an egg if she can avoid cooking, to my bruv – who likes to cook nearly as much as I do, is hard on the waistline. I'm feeling a desperate need for exercise I won't get for a few days. My brother, more by accident than design has ended up with his own pub and restaurant 68 on Main – where I spent the morning. In theory anyway I was going to absorb grist for my mill (a writer always needs to know more, and as a writer who loves to cook, doubly so.) In practice I mostly stayed out of the kitchen. It was fairly busy and the last thing they needed was another person there. So I worked on my waistline, which doesn't need help. James has gone up to the 'berg with his cousin and Marcus – where after their early start (read dawn-for-a-19-year old – ie. 9 AM (picture teenager making sign of a cross and backing away fearfully)) they got there in time for the mid-day thunderstorm. The first 8 hours (since dawn) had been hot and perfect, but these seldom last in our mountains in summer. The wind and rain came along just in time to greet them.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Howick

It's Christmas day and we're up in Howick which is delightfully cool and damp today – A delight as the Freer's have Yorkshire style cold weather Christmas dinner. You know, the stuff to stuff that'll stick to your ribs (and your waistline) and insulate you against winter's freezy breezes. Yeah just great when it's 35 degrees Celcius in the shade and your eyeballs are gently steaming in the sun. Tradition I guess, imported lock-stock-and-pickle barrel from 'home' to make it seem a little more familiar here in Africa. The whole family gathered with the exception of Paddy who is up in Malawi with GF's family (“He's gone. Stapled, sealed, nailed to the floor,” as George said with a sad roll of eyes when he heard this. Grin. She climbs and reads. And doesn't do the clothes and shoe-shopping bit. When I found a lass like that I didn't even let being taken to the farm and meeting 50 (and I mean 50) rellies put me off.) As usual Carl and I cooked, but KC did a little 7 litre trifle and B made brandy butter. Bad puns, good wine, too much hot rich food...

I swear next year we'll breaak from tradition and do warm-weather food. But as it probably won't be the mob we'll probably do tradition yet again for the same reasons it got imported to Africa. It's a time that we become aware of family and place.

Mind you -- I draw the line at boxing day slices of Christmas pudding , dusted liberally with sugar and fried in butter for breakfast – unless we have snow on Flinders.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Van Deiman's Land

"Van Deiman's Land is hell on a man, to live out his whole life in slavery... (Christy Moore, Back home in Derry)
My son took me to the Blarney Brothers concert last night as a belated but much appreciated Birthday or early Christmas present. Mostly they play cheerful variety of pub Irish folk music (although they did do 'Jerusalem' (not the Corries version - 'last night I borrowed a full dress suit, to go to a full-dress ball, the trousers were too large for me, the jacket was too small, I cut 3 feet off the trouser-leg, and then I tried it out... and I walked across the floor... you could hear the people shout: "You're losing them, YOU'RE LOSING THEM...")

Still, in the odd sideways and roundabout way my mind works, I got to thinking about the transported convicts - many Irish and Scots, some criminals by our modern standards, some victims of circumstance and a social system that was largely non-existent, and some political prisoners, seeking to break free of a repressive system. And Tassie - green, fertile, well-watered Tasmania was the place for the worst. And they found it -- besides harsh gaolers -- tough to survive. Escape? you'd likely starve (or turn cannibal). A far call from our 'pampered' -- by comparison -- move. Still it does seem that if there is an easy way and a hard way to do things, we'll pick 'hard' everytime, even blindfolded. yesterday we took the McGyver crates with dive gear, tents, climbing gear, to be airfreighted... today we had to go back. because the crates were too heavy - not for Australia, but for Hobart. So now 8kgs of stuff needs to get into our luggage or stay behind. Fun... The bank called saying things were sorted there... and B's been there for several hours. Our dinner plans - a chicken deboned and stuffed with a tongue cooked in red wine had to have a radical re-think. Our departure from Howick is now one day later -just in time to pick up Pads - as we have a Wake to go to. And so we muddle on... Still I hope we find Tassie more bountiful than those convicts did and don't imitate the many shipwrecked early sailors here -who starved to death in the midst of plenty that they didn't recognise.
"And a rebel I came, and I'm still the same, though my comrades ghosts march beside me."
Here's to us, and here's to memory of the Ghosts on the land. May you all have a joyous Christmas - it must just about be there now. And I must go and see to the choc-based pecan nut pie.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2 more coast days.

We are down to our last 2 days at the coast, and I can honestly say we have not been near the beach yet! We have spent all our time eating, shopping and swimming in a pool. Organising all the things we want to take with us has been interesting. We bought a plastic crate to put everything we couldn't fit in our luggage in. And then bought a second one, I am not sure we should not have got a third, but we will have to just edit as we go, we have too many belongings anyway.

More goodbyes are in the pipeline for today, with some really good friends, andthe last of the Christmas shopping. Dave also needs to get food for the 2 Christmas dinners he is cooking. No the menus are not decided yet. Watch this space and prepare to salivate!

way oh a-weigh

Today was B's birthday, which we celebrated in exemplary fashion... if by that you mean swimming, 500 metres again, and tent scrubbing and packing and weighing all our stuff (and us)and um... going to buy another McGyver crate, cause we don't fit.
But in another sense it was a real milestone day with us finally getting our Ferry booking to the island. We used Skype Out and the sound quality was great -like chatting to someone across the room - which is a little bizarre when this person has a strong Australian accent. We... made her day I think. Barbs starts with "I'm calling from South Africa... which was probably not your everyday sheep-and-cattle move call. "We're a freight company, we don't take passengers."
"Yes, we know, we want to take a, um, whatchallit, ute to the island."
"Oh. well it'll be 800 and something return." Barbs: "We don't want return tickets."
Kindly woman speaks slowly (you know, as if to South Africans)"You do need a return..."
Barbs: "We're moving to the island. We're going to live there."
(moment of stunned silence, followed by a snort of laughter hastily contained. "That'll be quite a change for you."
Heh. It will be. By the time we had explained that we couldn't give her a length for the Ute because we hadn't bought it yet, and that while we could give her our phone number, calling it would cost her rather a lot, she was sounding as if she was going to say 'curiouser and curiouser' in an Alice tone. She was laughing as she put down the 'phone ;-). Australia it seems, plainly lacks sufficient loony South Africans, a task I will manfully undertake or you for 4 years (after that you will have make do with loony ex-South African new Australians.)
We'll be sailing from Lonnie not Bridport on the 13th.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Sunday we had a huge farewell tea with Bentley clan, with almost enough mince pies for Martin and James. Martin is good lad, and has come out well in spite of a near lifetime of associating with us. Today was bank (who are full of, ), and getting dive masks (I'm down to 1 by now – byproduct of diving in a washing-machine sea) and cases and a big plastic crate for shipping our unaccompanied baggage, and a couple more suitcases. I am now the proud possesor of a spiderman handluggage bag (it was cheap. And besides, why not). After all a man who managed a 500 metres swim should have spiderman handluggage I think.

Monday, December 21, 2009

omelette du fromage (cheese and chooks)

Well, I am more or less recovered from cheese and chicken mayhem and B being sick on Friday night. Had her in extreme discomfort and me (watching her, and worrying) trying for the underslept and braindead championships. Yeah, I know, I'm winning anyway. She seems fine now. So let me recap in more detail some of the bits I might want to remember.

Ok cheese – I am very fond of cheese (and spare me the man or a mouse comment ;-). I already know I am a rodent – or at least an ex-rhodent). About the only Australian product we didn't wax lyrical about was the cheese – there probably are good ones, but our small selection of the soft-ripening French-style ones (brie-camenbert sort of thing) consisted of the dull cardboard brick variety. Very useful for cardboard brick houses, not much of a positive addition to a slice of bread. I guess if that is what you are used to, you might like it. I've been told that there are some good Aus cheeses (some from King island I believe), but I need to win the lottery or at least do something more lucrative than write. Ergo – the thought – why can't we make our own? After all, Etruscsan peasants were doing it tens of centuries ago, even before the internet.

Hmm. I am now filled with new respect for those Etruscan peasants and had not been aware that digital watches and thermometers had been around so long. Warm curds (after the addition of rennet and culture-stuff you buy from little boutiques at opera houses and art galleries -- which explains all sorts of things – or if you want to be dull you can buy them freeze dried from the internet. I don't know what those poor Etruscans did.) have the texture of slightly glutinous black dam mud and feels much the same if a different colour. And warm. That creeped me out a bit. I kept expecting leeches. You then cut the curd to help the wey get away. There is way to much wey, and you weight it to waste awey... ahem. Anywey... anyway moving on. What struck me is how similar the early stages of this process are and how varied the end result. And how DULL the stuff in the middle part tastes. Oh and that Cheddar comes from a bloke near Bristol tossing his slabs of off milk into the gorge, and the furious bloke at the bottom hauling it out and tossing it back at him. Ok I made that bit up, but cheddaring is an amazingly labourious process of slapping slabs of curd on top of each other, and then hauling the bottom bit up and putting it on top. Etruscan peasants might have made cheese, but it has become quite precise and requires a lot of attention. Still, I reckon a decent camenbert style cheese is do-able, and Feta too. Don't know about the hard cheeses.

I battled a little (ok a lot) with with the chicken killing. “Pull the neck down and then up...”
Ok so we're doing neck yo-yo. And it's not happening. Bergen stepped in because we're both firm believers in quick clean merciful livestock killing. I will leave to your sordid imaginations the chicken drawing (it's where the cheese culture for art galleries comes from, maybe) except to say that violating a still warm dead chicken's tail end is over-rated. But I can do it. Might have to get an elephant gun for the killing though. As for plucking – is there a Mexican hairless equivalent of chicken? A lot more pragmatic information about chooks, roosters, breeds, and broody hens (look a bit like Lord Byron) which I will probably wish I could remember came my way. I fancy English game hens, I think.

Anyway I got my own back on Bergen with the de-boning (less than usual, he's handy) and we had lunch beside stalag bunny, where we learned to sex ducks by their quacks and curly tails, and how to tell when a chook was going to lay an egg.
B: “is that chicken all right? The one over there, cackling.”
C: “She's fine. Just getting ready to lay an egg.”
D: So that translates out of chicken to ' Give me an epidural, NOW!'
C: 'Medic! You should hear when there's a bunch of them laying. They all get in on the act, encouraging each other. 'Push Muriel, push!'
I wonder if they compare egg sizes?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Midlands said 'goodbye' in style.

We had a truly fantastic evenings fishing at a remote dam, in a beautiful green valley, with buck and herons looking on. Then took the first step towards cheesemaking, which is a LOT more time consuming than I thought. But looked possible with determination and a much patience.

We moved onto meat, and had a lesson in butchering chickens, which also included plucking and Dave retaliated with a lesson in how to debone one. Wow, I might get that right in a year or two.

Having had really wonderful weather in the midlands we are now back in drizzling Durban and have to finish off the tents. I just presumed the weather would stay fine for us to do the second half, so we may need a rethink.

The next task is to work out how much we need to send as unaccompanied baggage, and to get it dry, and then sort what suitcases we have, and what we need to buy. It really feels like this the final stage, the last push. Just 11 days and we are off. Suddenly we seem to have lots to do, and no time to do it in. And all the rest of the world just wants to get ready for the holidays!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

say Cheese

Today we made cheese. Well, started... but learned a lot -incuding how icky cheese curds feel...;-) Reminds me of that glutinous claying swamp mud, only white. And yesterday B caught 3 Bass on as perfect an evening as the Natal midlands has ever seen. Tomorrow we go a chicken-murdering. I'll update it all when we're back at my sister's place. We're staying at Craig and Gaynor's place, which is quiet, beautiful and dark. Good hosts ad great friends, lots of fur-kids... it's this that makes leaving hard.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The trouser lizard

Well Gecko anyway. My sister's place is well-populated with rather inefficient geckos (inefficient, like they are not keeping up with the mosquito overpopulation) They're translucent pink slightly googly eyed plump beasties with remarkable wall-and-ceiling climbing ability and even more remarkable falling off the ceiling into dessert ability.

We left the farm in the torrential rain, and therefore in the chaos of packing up have some things which were best abandoned including a pair of trews which have the distressing habit of falling off, possibly at the dire shame of a couple of holes in the bum. They got tossed in a throw-out/rags bag when we got here. Perfect for the wet and soapy task of tent scrubbing I thought...
With my mind on other things I pulled them on... only to find I was sharing my trousers with a previous occu-pant - The Gecko wasn't much happier than I was at this situation.

I went straight up vertically with a dulcet cry and absolutely no foul language.

Unfortunately so did the gecko. (Not sure what it said, don't speak much gecko). The Gecko hastily tried to run the other way -- unfortunately I too was inverted on bed trying to remove said trousers. Trousers which normally descend with no viable excuse are being stubborn. Best reason for kilt wearing I have come across for years. Anyway frantic all-round scrabbling - with funny little feet running all over bits on which feet are not welcome, results in a 3 way split. Lizard, me and trousers in different corners of the room. Gecko with baleful googly eye stare dives behind some books, doubtless on his way to the ceiling to drop a token his appreciation on the bed. I gather myself and put on the trews... a twitching gecko tail slowly cascades down my leg.

The tent scrubbing was less of an epic than we expected, with the only exciting bit being me attempting to use a watering can to was soap off the dirty spot I'd given a second scrubbing to. Ugly scenes ensued when rugged-I'm-not-afraid-of-creepy-crawlies Dave had no water come out the spout - then a wet Gecko plopped onto the tent, hurtled across my foot (and thank heavens not up my leg) to go and write a fairly harsh letter to the gecko and allied trades union. I have no idea how I came to be 10 yards away from the scene.

I would like to inform the powers that be that I really do not need any more close encounters of the extra gecko kind in my trousers. I am quite happy with the status quo.
I can haz international driver's license! The truimph of sheer bloody-minded determination over circumstances!

It was actually embarrassingly not the life-or-death hardship mission.I had psyched myself into a 20km walk in sun... The Servo lent me a car, (a beemwobbleyou yet - me. How will my image survive this?;-)) The traffic police were efficient and pleasant - I returned the vehicle, walked to the fly fishing place in search of yellow polaroids (a fail - but rose tinted glasses are so dull - heh, they're great for driving in mist.) and then Chantelle (the rabbit warder from Stalag-bunny) took me out to our writer's group's final Christmas dinner (and the the next episode of Big Bobby the Fonzie) and the saga of Stalag-bunny and the Police Howick police (which was what I expected out of Mooi's traffic dept. SA is weird like this. Just when you expect incompetance... you find yourself dealing with efficient people. And then you have the others. Anyway, I got back in the dark and Durban's drivers made the place as welcoming as the mozzies and the stinking hot night did. I put on mosquito repellent with a trowel - and the mozzies rubbed their stripy legs together in slavering drooling delight and in a high-pitched squeal of glee yelled "barbecue sauce, our favourite!"

I didn't have to swim today - I kind of bounced off the chlorine on the itchy spots, but we still managed some of the steps forward -- I got my international drivers (which we'll need for oh... 4 maybe 5 days) and then failed dismally to find cooking chocolate for choc-based pecan-nit pie. (Some people may view this as a step back.)

We did some more tent-washing. It's a complicated African ritual involving a small bucket, 2 people and a lot of dancing around a washing line. The falling cursing and getting wet are optional, but it brought in the clouds. It's nearly as good as cricket at rainmaking. B was doing this on her own yesterday - which proves that she has had more than one lapse of sanity in which she married me. Normally she's clever one with common sense.

Hopefully the kids medical Aid (I detest my present crowd -Discovery - about whom I have made a discovery - something about squirming) is sorted, and we have a hire car for Hobart too I hope...

Oh and James managed to eat some supper - Spag bol, which he says is a lot more satisfying to the twenty year old tum than jelly and cursed-tart

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tents and Tending

Dave has gone off to the KZN midlands for the day, with few plans, many tasks and my cellphone with all the numbers and call time in order to make it all happen. He phoned me on his phone to say he had arrived safely, but his battery died before he could finish talking. I have now recharged his phone, and I wait with baited breath for his next call, to hear how much he can manage to do in one day while the car is serviced. The places he needs to go are up to 20kms apart, and there is no public transport! It also includes sorting his drivers licence, which is enough to try the patience of a saint on any day.

James, our toothless son, (well 4 less than yesterday anyway), has survived the night, and can now talk normally while only opening his mouth halfway. This is a huge improvement on yesterdays sign language. Yes, I am quite good at charades but his signs were not always clear, apart from NOOOO!

The sun has come out in Durban at last, so my plan for the day is to start washing 2 big 5 sleeper tents. I will start with the fly sheets and see how it goes from there. The plan was to do it while all 4 of us were here, but it rained or drizzled the whole time. So I will give it a go on my own, it should get up to 31C here today so they should dry alright.
Well, another day spent in hospital - but we're home and mostly OK - James is less 4 wisdom teeth, and has a sore throat and mouth and jaw. We did go and swim early and I mananaged another 100 metres or so. I must get back to at least half a km before we go. I'd like to do a km or more again, but time and opportunities are few.
I'm supposed to ttake the little car up to Notts for servicing, get my license and go to our final writers circle - and keep an eye on my boy. So we'll see.
There is still cheese making and rabbit and chicken slaughter planned.

Monday, December 14, 2009

We went swimming at the local municipal pool this morning - I did 200 metres and was dead-beat - to my shame. (B also did 200 metres and wasn't even breathing hard, but said she was tired. She's nice to me.) I got up to doing 1.6km in a session last summer so 200 metres is a big come down, and is barely safe if I am swimming in pursuit of crays. Fins and a wetsuit make a difference of course. Being city-bound now and my sister doesn't grow any food in her little garden beyond lemons I am really longing to get out into the water and also to plant stuff again. It's enormously satisfying - for me anyway - at a primal level to provide food for my family. So we'll be back at the pool tomorrow, weather permitting. In the afternoon James is having his wisdom teeth out, poor lad. Ice-cream and jelly and maybe scrambled egg for dinner...

And so we move slowly closer. Am missing my beasties fiercely, like a sort of permanent dull ache.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

shacks and squatters

I saw in the Examiner in land tax saga on Tas a whole lot of stuff about shacks... is that where really poor people put up corrugated iron and cardboard shanties on vacant land... or is it Oz code for a holiday cottage? Some things are really very confusing - "squatter mounted on his thoroughbred";-) a la Waltzing Matilda - our squatters here are obviously a lower class of squatter than Australia got. ;-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Migration Mazurka

... which goes two steps forward, one back, three left, four right, half a step back, step left, pay more money...

B did her doctor stuff, and James did his dental Surgeon consult and has wisdom teeth hauled on Monday. Of course, Discovery Health (one of the better reasons for leaving SA) won't pay. Oh well, hopefully their last ever squirm.

So we went to get our international drivers licenses. Erhm. My license expires on 23/12. The last time I might drive in SA is 26/12. My first act in Tas is to register for a Tas license
But I need an international drivers for that, and that is only valid while my SA license is valid - so I have to renew - at a cost of R180, but being SA they won't be able to issue it for several months - which is fine as you have a grace period... but the international license... doesn't. So I need a temporary license -- which is a major process requiring more photographs and considerable cost, and of course going to another office, and more queues etc.

Then it appears only certain cell-phones work on the island. Telstra. The island has apparently next 3G coverage. Does this mean we have to have 3G phones before they'll work - ours aren't but to replace them here means we have to RICA - with a utility bill and a fixed address - which we don't have.

I think I need more tea. Or maybe a Scotch...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lack of internet access

I must apologise for the absence - we've been in the hinterland and the normal runner-with-cleft-stick has been eaten by lions -- or in other words we've been visiting people with very dodgy internet connections. This is an exercise to make me appreciate it working... Ok after murder-game we delivered Paddy to the tender mercies of SAA and airline food. Result, Airline Food went down to a superior side, and the lad is now in Malawi with Clare. I gather he is going to climb Mount McGungie er... Malange. Very beautiful I have been told by my bro who was part of a long-ago expotition there to find the East pole (with apologies to Pooh Bear). A steep walk on the side I hope Pads goes up, a vertical jungle on the other, with a distinct lack of the cracks we climbers rely on.

We then proceeded from the traffic chaos to farm near Standerton where we stopped by to visit some good friends, and learn about grazing sheep, the fertile/milking cycle of cows and how to wean bull-calves, and the insatiable appetite a border collie can have for stick-chasing. Exhausting though they are I think they're gorgeous dogs, bright and utterly hyper.
The bizarre thing is on a huge farm - the house is next to main road near a mining town. Not quiet. Once again we were reminded of the semi-siege state of much of SA, with walls and mast-spotlights and electric fences. They've given up keeping sheep - too much theft. They've given up on beef cattle now too, after the horror of finding a bunch them hamstrung and being butchered in the veldt. Pete keeps and breeds and adores these exotic Parroty beasts - which are valuable to other ornamental fanciers. I hope no delightful bandit tries psittocotophagy or he may go go completely mad. I planned to sneak out and show them some parrot-porn (you can find anything on the net ;-)) so they will breed and they can afford to come and visit us.

We then returned to cradle of mankind (a place near Lanseria airport) -- via the overdue for changing nappy of mankind - AKA the road-system of Johannesburg. As nervous wrecks we descended on SA's international ballooning champion - B's cousin Felicity who lives thankfully out of town on a sort of nature reserve place. A good thing we got there after the container was packed or we might have had a bubble car and a marine diesel engine in with us -- Her son, Pete (the 3rd) has just bought a collection of these including a Messerschmidt that I loved. Flea refused to come and ferry our future Ute to Flinders by Balloon - which I thought was very poor spirited of her ;-). Her business is repairing and I think making hot air balloons and I'd like to put her in our hand-luggage, although I think the large boerboel puppy may be an impediment to this cunning plan.

Then we picked up James after his Kruger park holiday and hit the long road back to Durban. The heat was vile -until we got here - where it is very very humid, but raining. Hey we have washing to do (not a lot of clothes). Inevitable.

Oh and my Publishers have sent me my hardcovers of the next Karres. very nice. But it is 6.5 kg - and we have airline weight restrictions. I have begged them not to post to here, but to Flinders -- but it seems there are always multiple postage addresses in the system. Oh well.

Back at the sea

We are back in Durban with our younger restored to us, after a week at the Kruger national Park, animal viewing and partying with friends.

We have done another round of farewells to family and friends, and had our share of parties. Now it is off to the doctor tomorrow to find out when James can have his wisdom teeth out, maybe Monday, Dave has writers circle on tuesday, and the car gets serviced, 2 hours from where we are staying!! Life is all go at the moment.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

In Pretoria, to pop Pads on a plane to Malawi to visit Clare (At Uni in England, Parents in Malawi, him at Uni in Grahamstown, his home and parents about to be on a remote island off Tassie) - We really don't do anything without making it needlessly complicated. It appears this trait is genetic and heritable. Anyway we're staying with my best buddy from Uni days and the puns are flowing. This afternoon we'll have a murder... well, hopefully not literally but a murder mystery party. Do I look suspicious to you?

Friday, December 4, 2009

On the Sea

Our belongings are now sailing. They set out from Durban on the first on a container ship called MSC Lugano. The only photo I can find of it shows a huge load of containers and a white superstructure. If you see a ship like that please wave to it!

It is due in Australia on 26 December, but I am not sure at which port, we will have to wait and see. This is all getting very exciting!

We have a curry dinner tomorrow night, and then a Murder Party on Sunday, life is all go at the moment!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our animals

We have just received these pictures of our pets in their kennels sent by Mark at Paws-Resort! It is so great to see them happy and smiling (Panting?)

More Medical

We are trying to ensure that we are all well before we fly out. So having done the teeth, hair and eyes, (Dave's frames look sooo distinguished, they make him look really scholarly.) I am now starting on the Mammo and Gynae bit. For the first time ever I have been told not to put on deodorant before my mammo??? I said I hoped they had scented masks to wear. Today is very muggy and hot and my appointment is at midday!

Paddy is going to climb while I am tortured, they have a 3 storey climbing wall at a shopping centre close to the hospital with a huge range of climbing grades, so at least one of us can have some fun. He has been stuck in the house with his parents and Aunt for long enough.

We are starting to long for sun, we haven't seen it for a week or so, but on Saturday we drive up to Pretoria and I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot too much of it, but at least we can possibly get some washing dry.

spiderwebs of rope

I have a sneaking feeling that winter in Tas is going to make a tumble-dryer an essential. We've had 4 days of rainy mizzle and occasional hissing-down rain... and loads of washing. All hung out in the one little gap in the weather. By today - when we had some almost sun - it was beginning to smell a bit musty. When the rain came in again, we dug out 150 feet of old climbing rope (rated at 1.5 metric tons - nearly strong enough for my socks) and spiderwebbed the garage-rafters with it, and the washing. Only mildly tied the security gate up. It's really not difficult to get in and out - if you are an athletic, acrobatic contortionist midget.

If this weather is winter in Tassie, a tumbledrier starts to move up the list...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In which we have along day and I need glasses

A 5.20 AM start took us to our dentist - now nearly 3 hours away - for a final checkup. He patched a couple of fillings, told B not to ea until supper - no breakfast yet! and sent us on our merry way, to Mooi, where I was due to get an anti-tet shot they owe me, and collect the post and pick up Pads meds from our old pharmacy. 1 out of 3 is not a great success rate - we didn't have our box key any more (it's er, still on a key-ring) and the sister I had arranged to get the anti-tet from was missing. Anyway, so if you posted us anything... try post restant Whitemark, Flinders Island, Tasmania 7255...

The haircuts were as haircuttish as haircuts can be. My new name is shorn. Matrix did case my hard-drive for me - but as this is a linux machine without outlook - I can't get all the addresses I need off it. Still nice to have it. If you were expecting mail from me... mail me. I can still get mail just not the address book.

James successfully caught his bus off to join mates in Kruger Park.

We got coffee - a success. Then the eye stuff. My vision is great long and even medium -for reading but I can't tie size 22 flies any more - heaven knows if he glasses will be any use as she kept asking me daft questions - is this better or that - they were mostly pretty much the same -rotten or otherwise. Drove the optometrist (and me) up the wall I think. Anyway, eventually I was guessing what was better. I am afraid this will be another buy Dave a cellphone good idea. (cell phones are wonderful for other people. For me they are something 1)off 2) out of airtime 3)in my other trousers - I have some, really. just wouldn't want to spoil them wearing them.4)With flat batteries. Anyway, we'll see.

Frames...I have a very skew nose and broad head and the frames are designed for other things... like looking good. The poor little lady was fluttering around frantically offering me mirrors. If I wanted to like my reflection I'd want something to make my vision worse, not better!