2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Wall of Love, 30 June 2013


In a quiet residential street in Sunnyside, Pretoria, cameramen and video editors are reading the morning papers, waiting…

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I, on the other hand, have come here, to appreciate my fellow South Africans love for a man born in 1918, while the Great War was still being waged.

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Struggle icon, lawyer, father, husband, grand dad, Nobel laureate, President, my hero Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, gravely ill in the Pretoria Heart hospital and constantly in our thoughts.

On the surrounding wall, I look at the outpouring of love and support for Madiba.

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From professionally made banners, to hand written post it notes from school kids.

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And the question on everybody’s mind, is this where the long walk to freedom will end ?

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The Wall of Love


In a quiet residential street in Sunnyside, Pretoria, cameramen and video editors are reading the morning papers, waiting…

DSC02538

I, on the other hand, have come here, to appreciate my fellow South Africans love for a man born in 1918, while the Great War was still being waged.

600x600[1]

Struggle icon, lawyer, father, husband, grand dad, Nobel laureate, President, my hero Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, gravely ill in the Pretoria Heart hospital and constantly in our thoughts.

On the surrounding wall, I look at the outpouring of love and support for Madiba.

DSC02529

From professionally made banners, to hand written post it notes from school kids.

DSC02536

And the question on everybody’s mind, is this where the long walk to freedom will end ?

DSC02533

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Civic Matters


The Pretoria
City Hall was built to celebrate Pretoria’s city status, attained in 1931.
Designed by FG McIntosh and John Lockwood Hall, this classical Italian style
building has charmed residents and visitors alike since 1935.

Soaring 47
meters into the Highveld sky, the clock tower boasts a careillon of 32 bells,
donated by George Heys, famous owner of Melrose House.

10 solid
granite columns support the massive cornice and pediment, the latter sculpted
by Coert Steynberg. The designs represent the progress of the city.

The two
statues in the walkway in front of the City Hall, were also done by Coert
Steynberg. Andries Pretorius, after whom Pretoria was named and his son MW
Pretorius, founder of the city and first President of the ZAR.
(Zuid-Afrikaansche Republic)

Inside the
foyer a Walter Battiss  painting catches
my eye. It depicts the fauna of Pretoria 1855, with all the surrounding farms
named after animals depicted in the work.

Even though
most of the current council offices are found elsewhere in the city, some of
the chambers are still in use to this day. I peek into a vacant one, and I am
struck by the name on the huge mural, rather than the art work itself. Jan
Juta.  In the Pretoria of my childhood
one of the only 2 bookstores in the city, was called Juta’s.  Surely there must be a connection ? Turns out
Jan Juta’s grand father was the founder the bookstore in which I spent many happy
hours.

So, next
time you are in Pretoria, be sure to visit  the City Hall.

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Diamond Hill aka Donkerhoek


Boer General Louis Botha probably wrote in his diary…11th of June 1900…it’s a week after the fall of Pretoria…bitterly cold Monday morning…we are hidden in the hills at Donkerhoek…ready for battle…

Britain’s Lord Roberts  probably wrote in his diary…11th of June 1900… it’s a week after we advanced into Pretoria…bitterly cold Monday  morning…we are approaching the plateau of Diamond Hill…ready for battle…

Me, writing in my diary…11th of June 2011… 30 kilometers from my house…bitterly cold morning…sitting in the Diamond Hill/Donkerhoek garden of Remembrance…the brutality of war…

Two different names, same battle.

Over the 2 days, heavy fighting occupied both commanding officer’s minds, at the largest military engagement in the history of Pretoria, this during the Anglo-Boer War.

This was the last attempt by the Boers to defeat the British by conventional means. On the Tuesday night, Louis Botha decided to end the battle, to evacuate his 7 thousand men and retreat undefeated, thus robbing Roberts and his 14 thousand men of any claim to a victory.

The few Boer casualties might have been buried at the site or on nearby farms, all I am left with are some of the 128 British dead, as well as the remains from other nearby battlefields, brought here in 1961/2.

The loss of life saddens me…alone on a desolate hill, I pause at the grave of the Earl of Airlie. Lieutenant Colonel 12th Royal Lancers. “ Who was, as he had always desired, killed in action at the head of his regiment. “ 11 June 1900. He was 44 years old.

As I am driving home, I am reminded of the profound words of General William Sherman :  “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine… War is hell. “

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The Pilgrimage


Some people are of the opinion that you should never go back to a certain place and retrace a childhood memory. I totally disagree, because that is exactly what I did today, and I loved every moment of it !

The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, opened its gates in 1899 and has since been consistently ranked in the top 15 zoos of the world.

Even on a drizzly cold May Day, hundreds of families enjoyed nature in the midst of suburbia. From squeals of delight in the penguin enclosure to the solitude  in  Africa’s largest walk-through aviary, the Zoo caters for every need.

The 85-hectare gardens with approximately 6 kilometers of walk ways, got a bit crowed at lunch time, and the golf cart traffic I found slightly irritating.  Fortunately I was there at 8.30, so for about an hour it felt like I had the whole place to myself.

Still my favourite things after 45 years…

The pink flamingos were positively the most exotic birds to my 5 year old eyes, and still are.

The imposing cast iron fountain looms large in my childhood Zoo. Now I am aware that this Victorian masterpiece stood on Church Square from 1906 -1910.

The 4 life size female figures symbolise : Commerce, Art, Science and Literature. Presented to the Zoo, by a hero of mine, the indomitable Sammy Marks.

The regal and graceful cheetah impressed me then, and still does.

The elegant, gentle giant exuding brute strength woed me then, and still does.

Even in the 1960’s the hyaena enclosure was not the most popular and still seems like that today, allowing me an up-close and personal moment, with this powerful animal.

My life long love affair with birds started then, and how could  it not, with such an imposing selection, from African spoonbills to the Spotted Eagle owl.  And for a mere R200 you too can adopt such an owl for a year.

The R55 entrance fee also covers the Aqaurium and Reptile park.

This definitely  is the closest I ever want to be near any shark, ragged tooth or not.

A raging Apies river flows through the gardens, and I loved crossing it via the various suspension bridges.

No visit to the zoo is ever complete without stopping at any of the many primate encloses. Entertaining then, and maybe even more so now !!

I vividly remember outside the entrance gates, rows upon rows of curio sellers on the side walk, then my first joyful introduction into Ndebele beadwork.  Today I spoke to 70 year old Katie Tlou, who has been selling her handiwork here in Boom Street since the early 1960’s. I buy 3 strings of colourful beads, just as I had wanted to do back then.

I had thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Zoo today. Maybe I should do this more often.

Need to know more ? www.nzg.ac.za

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1982


The year in which Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands,  “Chariots of Fire” won the Oscar for best film, Prince William was born, Italy triumphed in the FIFA World Cup, Princess Grace of Monaco was killed in a car crash, and I was starting my first proper job.

Freshly graduated, I was little more than a filing clerk and glorified messenger in the halls of the Department of Foreign Affairs. My office was in town, whilest Foreign Affairs also occupied offices in the Union Buildings.  A shuttle ran daily trips to Meintjes Kop and I was the chief volunteer to carry documents across town. This was way before fax machines, let alone e-mail !!  And thank goodness for that.

I absolutely loved going to the Union Buildings. Partly to get out of a stuffy office but also to enjoy the grandeur of the Union Buildings as well as the magnificent gardens.

Now for the first time in 29 years,  I am driving up Government Lane.

Memories came flooding back, as the splendour of Sir Herbert Baker’s creation is sort of hidden, because you are approaching it from the side. It is only until you are parking in front of the majestic structure, that the Union Buildings tower over you.

It was a staggering building project for 1910…imagine  83 cranes dotting the site, 15 electrically operated, 3 steam driven and the remainder worked by hand…14 million bricks and 40 thousand bags of cement were used and up to 1 265 men worked furiously to finish the building in November 1913.

There are various statues and memorials scattered in the grounds of the Union Buildings.  My favourite by far is the replica of the Delville Wood Memorial, also designed by Sir Herbert Baker. It commemorates that epic First World War battle, during which a brigade of 3 400 South African soldiers were ordered to clear the woods and hold that position against the enemy. They did just that. When the 5 day battle was over, only 3 officers and 140 wounded and weary men emerged alive.

Lifesize figures of Castor and Pollux clasp hands across the back of a fiery steed. This monument was unveiled in 1929 by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick.

In the Eastern corner of the gardens, stands the Police Memorial, quiet testament to their service and sacrifice.

I wander through the lush gardens, down the hill to the statue of General Louis Botha. South Africa’s first Prime Minister gazes resolutely down Church street.

Walking back up the hill, my eyes are drawn to the massive clock towers, all of 55 meters high. As the noonday chimes ring out, I take one last photo, and then one more, and one more,  as I can not stop looking. Still in love with the Union Buildings, 29 years on.

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