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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Hungarian Goulash

It's now the Saturday after Christmas, and time for me to introduce my readers to another of my personal recipes. This is an extremely tasty dish and is my version of Hungarian Goulash.

Ingredients

750 g Rump steak
1 Large onion – chopped finely
2 Large cloves of garlic – crushed & chopped
1 tin chopped peeled tomatoes
2 green peppers, cut into quarters with seeds removed
½ cup red wine
2– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 generous knob of butter
1 tablespoon thick cream mixed with 2 teaspoons cornflour
1 heaped tablespoon of Paprika
salt to taste

Method

Remove the fat from the steak and discard
Cut the steak into one inch cubes

Heat oil and butter

Add onion and garlic and cook until onion turns clear

Remove from heat. Add paprika and stir in.

Return to a low heat and simmer for 2 – 3 minutes

Add steak pieces and stir/cook until sealed (if necessary add a little more olive oil)
Add tomatoes, green peppers and wine, bring to a simmer, and cook for about an hour.

About 5 minutes before dish is cooked, stir in cream mix to thicken

Add salt to taste


Serve with boiled potatoes, cut into pieces, or baby potatoes, and lightly cooked cabbage

Serves 4

Enjoy

Notes.

You can use other stewing steak but I have always found that Rump gives the best Goulash.
Caution = I once mistakenly used Cayenne Pepper instead of Paprika, much to my chagrin.
Discarded fat can be rendered down into lard and tidbits for the dog.

This dish always tastes better if cooked the day before and reheated before serving.


© Michael J. Mason 2012


This recipe may be downloaded as required but may not be reproduced without the express permission of the copyright owner, who may be contacted at rnaviator@gmail.com

Saturday, 22 December 2012

African Drums

Another Saturday - the End of the World has come and gone, although here at the farm in South Africa's Eastern Cape it feels like it's just around the corner. Outside it's 104°F in the shade - that's 40°C, and inside the house (I don't have an air-conditioner)88.5°F or 31°C. On Wednesday I drove into Port Alfred and it was predictably full of Vaalies (for the uninitiated those are holiday makers from what used to be the Transvaal - Gauteng in today's new Apartheid era.). Most of the influx is from Gauteng (one can only tell by the vehicle registrations), although there is a smattering from the Free State, Natal - oops, sorry - KwaZulu-Natal - and the Western Cape. This is the Silly Season, and the time of year to avoid Port Alfred, especially when the temperature peaks to today's levels.

I write this post to the accompaniment of African tribal drums - no kidding! There are a handful of railway cottages occupied by farm workers a short distance away, and a funeral is in progress. Julia, who runs the local shabeen, is burying her young son, who died a week or so ago in a Grahamstown hospital - I am told of HIV, although that could have been pure speculation. I was given the news by Headman, a jack of all trades who does odd jobs for me from time to time. Apparently, when the railway was still running through Martindale, he was the local station master. He now rents the old station master's house from the railways for just R10 a month. Words from his own lips.

Christmas for me will be quiet. I am still awaiting a parcel from Liz - she says it cost her $60 to post so I'm looking forward to a few small goodies this year. She's now been gone for 7 months - thank Goodness for Skype. I have a little gizmo called MagicJack that comes with an USA telephone number and free calls to all other US numbers, but it stopped working on my Laptop so I'll have to try to install it on the old PII machine. At least we get to chat or live video just about every day - except when her work hours are non-conducive.




Saturday, 15 December 2012

Meanderings of the Mind


It is Saturday in the Eastern Cape - 11.00 a.m. With no paying work expected until the New Year I am spending the next three weeks carrying out domestic maintenance, maintenance of my personal websites and adding a few extra pages and maybe a few illustrations to my autobiography, The Graceful Retirement of an English Gentleman. It is 90° F outside and the humidity way up at 86%, so I guess it’s rather like being in Louisiana in summertime. We had a rainstorm last evening – 10mm in an hour or so – the new guttering I put up last week appears to be working well – I went out to check it during the storm and water was gushing from its open end at about 2 liters a minute. Still some water getting into the bar though, and you can see from the splashes on the exterior wall where, somehow, the guttering is not quite doing its job.

While sweeping water out of the bar a couple of hours ago I noticed a familiar ‘shape and pattern’ under the drinks table – a 45cm night adder. I don’t revel in killing wild creatures but when a potentially dangerous one invades my home, I have to draw the line because of Katie and the two cats. We’ve never had a night adder in the house before – a couple of boomslangs (bright green tree snakes) in the past, and last year a Cape Cobra outside the scullery door.


My next-door neighbor, Wendell Muir, came to see me yesterday afternoon, bringing with him a dozen farm eggs and some rashers of home cured bacon. He stayed for tea and, as luck would have it, Liz called from WA just before 4 p.m., and so Wendell was able to chat with her face-to-face on Skype for ten minutes while I fed the animals. I always enjoy Wendell’s visits – they give me the opportunity of catching up on the neighborhood news. Apparently they have (at last after 2 years) now graded and fixed the Clumber route to Bathurst. I gave Wendell some of Liz’s marmalade and her special Carolina Marmalade. I guess these are some of the things I shall miss when I part from this country life for the new beginning on the other side of the Pond

A delicious farm breakfast was somewhat spoiled by the CNN news of that terrible elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut – now is the opportunity for Obama to get something done about the gun laws in the States. I have nothing against individuals owning guns – indeed I have a Beretta 7.65 semi automatic (legal) myself – but this 20 year old entered the school with a assault rifle and 2 or 3 hand guns. No one outside the military or the police should be allowed to possess an assault rifle and it should be made a criminal offense to be found with in possession of one. I am stating that in my personal capacity and as a Veteran and retired instructor in air warfare and weapons. There has to be a limit drawn somewhere.

It’s just turned midday, the wind has sprung up and, predictably, the first rumbles of thunder can be heard on the North side of the house. I have no doubt the rain will follow a little later on. A break here for a G & T and to watch a little football. No Not soccer – at a risk of offending some of my readers I don’t think I have watched a single soccer game over the last 20 years – maybe 40!! No, I have been watching “my team” the New England Patriots play against the Houston Texans. The Patriots were 21 – 0 up after 2 minutes of the 2nd Quarter. Tomorrow they’re on Sunday Night Football (I just love Faith Hill !!) I believe playing the 49ers. I took a short break just now to watch the remainder of the 1st Quarter. Great game and Tom Brady is playing a blinder! Go Patriots!





Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Chicken and Potato Curry

I have decided from time to time to share some of my recipes with my readers. The first one is a Chicken and Potato Curry. Now don't try to amend this by substituting the various spices with a curry mix - I promise you that you will spoil the curry. The ingredients and method should be followed precisely, with the possible exception of the amount of chili powder that you use - I know some people prefer milder or hotter curries. These ingredients will give a middle-of-the-range heat.

Chicken and Potato Curry

8 Chicken breasts (without the bones) each cut into 3 pieces
2 Medium onions – chopped finely
3 Large cloves of garlic – crushed and chopped
Fresh ginger – chopped, about 2 teaspoons
1 heaped teaspoon each of coriander, fennel, gharam masala, cumin
1 level teaspoon each of chili powder, aniseed
8 cardamom seeds
2 tins chopped peeled tomatoes
½ cup white wine
3 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 generous knob of butter
3 medium sized potatoes cut into quarters
1 tablespoon thick cream mixed with 2 teaspoons cornflour
salt to taste
1 further teaspoon gharam masala


Heat oil and butter
Add onion, ginger and garlic and cook until onion turns clear
Remove from heat. Add all spices and stir in.
Return to a low heat and cook spices for 2 – 3 minutes
Add chicken pieces and stir/cook until sealed (if necessary add a little more olive oil)
Add tomatoes and wine, bring to a simmer.
Add potatoes. Simmer for 1 hour or until potatoes cooked.

About 15 minutes before dish is cooked, stir in the further gharam masala
About 5 minutes before dish is cooked stir in cream mix to thicken
Add salt to taste

Serve with rice and sambals (chopped tomatoes, apple, pineapple, onion as required)

For a smaller dish halve the amounts of chicken, tomatoes, potatoes and onion

Enjoy

© Michael J. Mason 2012

This recipe may be downloaded as required but may not be reproduced without the express permission of the copyright owner, who may be contacted at mike@mikescopywriting.com

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Freeing the mind


Workwise I have had an extremely illuminating time recently. I have been writing the content for a number of mini-websites - so far about 60-odd with hopefully more to come. Writing web content can be both interesting and didactic, especially when researching a completely new subject – new in the sense that one previously has known little or nothing about it. As an example, about a year ago I was contracted to rewrite the content for an Orthotics &Prosthetics Practice website. Where, beforehand, there was a void in my knowledge, there is now enough understanding to hold at least a brief conversation on the subject, and at the same time a lot of sympathy for the unfortunates who have to make use of these artifacts.

Recently my writing has been around motivation, and has included such subjects as life coaching, investing, trading, property investment, motivational speaking and the like. Since I was involved in Jaycees (or Junior Chamber) many years ago I have always maintained a keen interest in motivation, although I am ashamed to admit that I have frequently lapsed in the past. This present assignment has re-awakened my mind, and taught me how it is possible to completely change one’s life around for the better by positively controlling the mind. Now I may be getting a little ancient for that right now, and living where I do prevents me from attending any of the local seminars anyway, but I am deeply grateful to CL for giving me the opportunity of doing the work for him.



Our smallholding remains unsold. As I write there are three or four glossy starlings chattering away to each other in the wild plum tree by the gate. The largest of our four cycads has been carrying two huge cones for several months, and only during the last few days have they started to split open, revealing the fleshy red fruit inside. Some species of cycad are indigenous to this part of the Eastern Cape, and one species, Encephalartos latifrons, is close to extinct. Cycads are known to have been around for more than 250 million years, one of the oldest of all plant families.




Last night I managed to have a lengthy telephone conversation with Liz, who is now awaiting her first Christmas with her daughter and grandchildren in Washington State. This will be our first Christmas away from each other in the ten years we have been together. If it were not for Katie I think I would have gone crazy months ago. She is my constant companion and guards the property on my infrequent trips to either Grahamstown or Port Alfred. Since the new shopping mall opened at Rosehill a couple of years back I have been avoiding trips to G’town, and only venture there once a month to pick up my prescription. Shopping at the Rosehill Super Spar is a far more pleasant experience anyway.


Friday, 30 November 2012

Blog Followers

What do I have to do to get more followers? I guess it would help if I were a little more active in this blog for a start. If any of my readers can leave a comment with a constructive idea I would be most obliged. I currently share on Twitter and Facebook - some ideas please!

Back to reality. Still stuck here at the farm. Things are moving out there though. I had a viewer come through a week ago, and another query from an East London estate agent specializing in farms on Monday. I'm being very positive about it, more than anything else because I miss the Love of my Life. Today I will repost some farm ads.

Liz has been back in Washington State for six months now - sent her a GPS unit for Christmas so she can find her way around. Liz was never that good at navigating, and when working for Chris & Terri in Woodmead would phone me at KDHS asking for me to email her directions to some address in Pretoria or Sandton or wherever. I don't miss the big city at all.

There's a steady drizzle falling at the farm today, in this idyllic corner of the Eastern Cape. My nearest neighbor is some 2 miles away and occasionally stops by with farm eggs , home cured bacon or, a couple of weeks ago, a honeycomb. Talking of honeycomb, a couple of years ago a bee-keeper who has a honey farm near Southwell stopped by and asked if he could place some empty hives on the roof of our workshop - of course we agreed and he left four. He collected them, each full of bees, a few months later. We were most surprised when, a few weeks after collecting them, he dropped off a container with 2½ kgs of honey - I still have about a kg left over. That's the way things work in the countryside!

The swallows have finished rebuilding their nest and are now lining the interior with small pieces of straw and feathers. When they've completed it they will raise a new nest of fledglings - last year there were 3  . By the way honey, sorry I didn't vm last evening but my landline was down. Seems to be working gain today though. I'll see you in my dreams.




Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Update

I've been very lax about keeping my blog up to date over the past couple of months - I think mostly because I have been kept extremely busy - have written content for some 60 or 70 mini websites during that time, as well as content for a South Carolina holiday resort company. I must say that writing for the local company has gotten me very motivated as well as opening my eyes to wealth creation methods that I didn't think were open to the likes of me.

Liz has been back in the States for 6 months now - we chat either on Skype or the telephone just about every day. She now has a job, working for the DoD no she's not joined the Marines! - something to keep her occupied and bring in a few dollars locally until I can get this farm sold and join her. The farm sometimes feels as though it is an albatross around my neck. Liz has gotten over the culture shock of returning from a third world country (let's face it - we may as well be!) to what is technologically the greatest country in the world. She has rediscovered what it's like to be up to date with the latest tech. She's been busy too - a presidential election, a hurricane, the extreme heat of the Louisianna summer and now the advent of winter.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, the swallows have returned for their third year. They broke their nest again and have just completed rebuilding it with a third entrance tunnel, having blocked off the first two, which are still there attached to the roof of the patio. Back in October we had 400ml of rain in three or four days - the worse I have seen here in Martindale during the seven years we've been at the farm. So much rain that the water table was higher than some of the rooms, and there was an inch of water in two of the bedrooms, the lighthouse room and my office. Fortunately all but the office are tiled, so not too much damage. I was forced to move my office into the lighthouse room, which is where I am now.  I'm getting a regular trickle of people interested in the farm, but no actual offers since those first two I shook hands on a year ago. I shall endeavor to be a little more active in writing this blog in future.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Martindale Make and Mend



Today I decided to give myself the day off; after all, this government has its Women’s Day and its Youth Day and a number of other totally unnecessary local holidays, so I decided that today, here in Martindale, it would be My Day. Yes, today I awarded myself a Make and Mend. Now many of you will not be familiar with the term, so let me explain. It is a term that is used to this day in the Royal Navy to designate an ‘afternoon off’ – however in my case I decided to take the whole day off. The term goes back to the times of the old sailing ships when sailors would be given time off to ‘make and mend’ their uniforms. Since Liz has been back in the States for nearly three months, leaving me to stay behind and get the farm sold, I decided to carry out a little necessary maintenance. My “favorite” tracksuit trousers have been coming apart along some of the seams, so I have carried out the necessary work, having found Liz’s stash of needles and thread in the storage room.

Once my work was complete I decided, for a change, to sit outside in the sun. The temperature was up in the seventies, unusual for this time of year in the Eastern Cape. But here on the farm it is peaceful, and today you could see the sea from right where I am now sitting. The Coral trees (we have eight of them) are a mass of color, and I armed myself with a pair of binoculars and the Book of South African Birds to try to identify some of their visitors. Although you cannot see all of them, the air is filled with the constant sound of songbirds. Up in the Coral trees a pair of weavers were competing with each other for the sweetest blossoms, and for the first time I witnessed two  Black Sunbirds with their wonderful long curved beaks feasting on the sweet nectar found deep in the heart of the Coral blossoms.

A Fiscal Shrike had staked its claim in our Wild Plum near to the front gate, and from time to time would sweep down to pick up a bug it had spotted, sometimes landing just a few feet from away from me. Most of the birds I saw today were common local residents – species such as the Redwinged Starling, the Glossy Starling and the Drongo. I did get to see a few not-so-common visitors, notable of which were a Blackcollared Barbet and a trio of Trumpeter Hornbills, which had taken up positions in our huge Rubber Tree, and were taking it in turns to announce their presence.

I have been in Southern Africa for nigh on forty years now, but the time has come to move on, which is why the farm is up for sale. I shall miss the peace of Martindale and the friendliness of the local farmers. But while I am still here, waiting for that elusive offer, I will make the best of the peace and tranquility that this farm has to offer.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Thinking of Relocating


Thinking of escaping from the big city? This is the ideal property to escape to, with 7.3 Hectares of peace and tranquility. The traffic consists of a few farmers' bakkies that pass by each day, and maybe a couple of cattle or pineapple trucks. When you do want to get to town it's a quicker drive than that daily commute in the city. We came here 7 years ago, and have not regretted a minute. The time has come to sell so as to be closer to our grandchildren across the Pond.

The property consists of:



425 m² mainhouse with 13 rooms and tiled throughout. There's a Jetmaster fireplace in the lounge and enough wood on the property to last for years.


300 m² Steel constructed shed with single phase electricity and large inner lockable workshop/storeroom 


75 m² Cottage - could be converted to quarters or to tack room & stable or just keep it as a cottage 


Land consists 2 sweet-veldt camps, 2 dams (both full), 1540 l/hr borehole with the sweetest water within 50 kms, a guava orchard, nartjie trees, and close to the house are 8 Coral Trees, a huge shade rubber tree and 4 Cycads, the former full of sunbirds at this time of year. Security is excellent.


View our website http://martindalefarm.weebly.com for a full photo gallery and a short 2 min video of the property. All reasonable offers will be considered

The price has just been reduced for immediate sale. We are relocating overseas so as to be closer to family. If you are interested, please contact me and I will be happy to show you around the property at 24hrs notice.

Property can be sold with all appliances & furniture.



Nature and wildlife are abundant along with peace, quiet and serenity - a truly small corner of paradise, with numerous private game farms in the surrounding region. Some of the birds I have personally seen on the property may be seen on my blog.

By the way, adjacent to the property are 212 Ha of land that are available for purchase from a separate owner, which together would make a perfect private game farm.

Bathurst 18km, Port Alfred 30km, Grahamstown 30km

Click on Location link at bottom of blog to see a Google Map of the location of this property

GPS: -33.3745 +26.8325

Contact me through the link in the sidebar or at (+27)046 636 2505

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Musical Birds


I am prompted to write this following a strange happening yesterday. It is winter in the Eastern Cape, and it had been raining for much of the morning and the previous night, but in the afternoon the wind had dropped to a serene calm – not enough to stir the wind chimes on my porch. I was watching one of the few local satellite Olympics channels, when the wind chimes started ringing out their music – something these particular chimes had not done for many a day, since the sail and clapper had been missing for some time. I decided to investigate this weird occurrence and peered out through the window.

Some time ago I had made a perch for a pair of swallows nesting just a few feet away. It is just a length of stiff electricians wire put there to replace a string of Christmas lights that the swallows had become used to. There on the wire was perched a glossy yellow-eyed starling, a frequent visitor to our yard. The starling had decided to play with the shiny silver tubes of the chimes and with the strings from which they are suspended. I would be interested in hearin whether this was typical of the behavior of this species.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

An External Facelift

The New Look

It's now a couple of months since Liz returned to the States to stay with her daughter - I will follow just as soon as I have sold the farm. Speaking of which, I decided to carry out a bit of a face lift on its exterior. I had been quoted R23,000  by a traveling decorator from Natal a couple of years ago - no doubt a quote today would be far more. Well, I hired a local man (actually he also doubles as the local preacher ) , who gave me a quote for the complete job for R750 (labor only). I supplied the materials and hardware and Headman got to work at the end of last month - he finished the job yesterday, and as a result what was a dirty pink color that had been untouched for more than 20 years is now a pristine white with a gray trim. Total cost R1,150 for materials and R1,000 for labor (I gave him a bonus of R250), one tenth of what was originally quoted. The sole object of this exercise is to try to get the farm sold a little quicker.

The Old Look

If by chance you're interested in more details you can see them here. I'm very happy with the results.




Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Reflections


It has been quite chilly of late, especially early in the morning, which is to be expected in May in South Africa, since the Sun is already 6 weeks into the Northern hemisphere. Today is quite unusual - 87°F (that's 30°C) here in Martindale. The farm is looking good after the 2 inches of rain we had during a thunderstorm about a week ago. The lawn is green but has just about gotten into its winter hibernation program. This is the time of year when molehills start appearing, but so far there are just scattered examples - warnings of things to come. 

The farm is still for sale (and will remain so until sold). One prospect who looked over the place 3 weeks ago took 2 weeks to let me know it was too far from Grahamstown and lacking in security. How little they know, this must be one of the most secure farms in the area - not one incursion in the six years we've been here, other than the locals collecting firewood, which I have no objection to. I have enough wood here to build a couple of houses and to keep the stove hot for several years. A German couple turned up with Philip, an old friend, on Saturday to look over the place. They are interested but have to sell their property in Deutschland. They did enjoy the Guavas though, and carried of a few handfuls. I'm glad someone likes them - I personally cant stand them, and I have 14 guava trees (4 pink and 10 white) on the property, as well as nartjes. A local farmer phoned a few minutes ago and has taken the details of the farm. He seems fairly interested so will join the list of hopefuls.

 Headman, who is the local preacher and "odd job man" had his last remaining teeth removed yesterday - presumably at the government hospital in Grahamstown. He was told, and I find this odd, to expect his false teeth to be ready for a fitting in December - 7 months? I guess that's yet another sign of the way things are going in this country. I think everyone (except for HRH Robert Mugabe) knows how Zimbabwe became a god forsaken country. It seems as if South Africa is going the same way - a little more slowly perhaps, but the signs are all there. Even today there was an extensive item on CNN investigating the gradual failure of democracy in the country.

 Liz  has now been back in the US of A for 2 weeks - how time flies, and yet the days are very long when she's not here. We chat either on the phone (MagicJack) or Skype every afternoon or evening for a good 30 minutes or so. She looks very happy, and clearly enjoys being with Dena and the kids. Come on someone - buy this little corner of Paradise so that I can fly myself and Katie across the Pond to be with her. What I need is some keen philanthropist who wants to set up a small home industry school, or some other project, for the local Martindale community. At present they just exist, and there will be few opportunities for the 14 kids who attend the farm school in the future, unless someone steps in. This place would make an ideal base for such a project. Indeed, one of my prospective purchasers (who was turned down by the banks) had such a project in mind, had the sale gone through.

Late Posting

For some obscure reason this post was never published, so here it is a little late!

Faster than the blink of an eye, 2011 has come and gone – well, almost. In a little over 12 hours (at the time of writing) we will be in a whole new year. It is unfortunate that Time has the habit of running out on us – sometimes quicker than we would like it to. Indeed, always quicker than we would like it to. Time is something that each of us is given at birth. It is a commodity that, if wisely used can appear to stretch out. Time appears to pass more slowly the younger we are. When we are in the autumn of our years it passes all too quickly. I recall reading somewhere, sometime, that some part of the brain compares the passage of Time with the total length of Time we have experienced since birth. I guess that makes sense. I am now at the age where I have stopped counting my birthdays – I merely try to guess how many I have remaining. I recall that in my youth I often wondered whether I would be alive to experience life in the 21st century – well, I have now lived through eleven years of it.

2011 has seen time run out for a number of individuals whom I personally considered evil – Osama bin Laden, Gaddafi, Kim Jong-Il are the three that come to mind. There are plenty more evil leaders still hanging on to Time – Mugabe immediately comes to mind - he can’t have much Time remaining in his coffers. And there’s that chap in Syria, what’s his name? It would be nice to be a god and to be able to pick out Earth’s most evil characters and just snuff out their candle. It doesn’t work that way though, does it?

What about the celebrities who passed to the other side during the passage of 2011? There were actresses Elizabeth Taylor, Dana Wynter and Jane Russell, Apple founder Steve Jobs, actors Peter Falk and Pete Postlethwaite, boxer Joe Frazier, IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon and Betty Ford, widow of former president Gerald Ford. The list goes on of course, and I have named only a fraction of many celebrities who are no longer with us.

The year has not passed without its disappointments of course, the greatest of them being that of failing to find a new owner for the farm. We thought we’d sold it just a few weeks ago (see “Sold the farm – whoopeeeee!” blog) and at a good price – even shook hands, but then their bank refused or at any rate failed to come up with the money. We had hoped to have been celebrating tomorrow in North Carolina but – well, it just wasn’t our Time. So what now? First and foremost I want to get Liz to Louisiana to her daughter’s. I may have to beg, borrow or steal the money for her ticket (any takers?). She actually has a job offer in NC right now, but will have to turn it down. Meanwhile I am building up a valuable potential client base on the East Coast. Liz will be able to spend the time, until my eventual arrival, changing her name and applying for a spousal visa for myself. And me? Well I’ll let you know tomorrow – if I have the Time.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

My Bonnie lies over the Ocean

Well, it finally happened. One more step in the Grand Plan of the Universe fell into place. My beloved Liz has arrived safely in America, and judging from a conversation I had with Dena, her daughter, yesterday afternoon, none too soon. But that’s another story, and one to be told by another writer.

I drove Liz to the Airport on Tuesday afternoon. We had just topped up with fuel in Colchester when her phone rang. It was British Airways asking whether she could make the check in by 2.30 p.m. rather than 5.00 p.m. as her flight had been delayed and there was no guarantee of her making her connection with Quatar Airways to Doha. Fortunately we had decided to leave Martindale early (at noon) so we were able to make it. She was fined R3,000 for overstaying the last date of her visa – if she doesn’t pay it while in the States she will not be allowed back into the country – what a difficult decision to make!

So, now I am alone for a while – hopefully not too long. It’s now all down to selling the farm, and I’m hoping that the people who came to view on 19th will come through. Technically I’m not completely alone. I have Katie our White Shepherd, (you may remember her dad passed over in late January) and Bob and Jack, the two cats, to keep me company. We have someone who has offered to take the cats, and indeed Katie, but it is still our intention to send her over to the States just as soon as the farm is sold.

I keep on finding little notes hidden away throughout the house. Just little things like “I love you” and “I miss your touch” and, this is the one I like, “I love you more today than yesterday. I will love you even more tomorrow”. So far I’ve come across six of them. Thank you Liz, and I love you and miss you and can’t wait to talk to you on Magic Jack in a couple of hours’ time.

I received an sms from Michael jnr earlier today. He was coming to collect his Toyota Land Cruiser on Friday. He is still coming, but will probably arrive late Saturday evening with Andrew, one of his climbing friends. I’ll prepare his favourite dish, parsley chicken, anyway. That can always be heated up if they’re very late.

Love you Princess 

Saturday, 21 April 2012

South Africa - don't get ripped off!

Way back in November of 2011 I published a blog post entitiled "The two G’s – Gullible and Greedy", and a couple of days ago I had to do some research that backs up just how greedy many South Africans are. I still have an old cell phone - a Nokia 6020 - which has served me well over the years. I'll wait until I get to the States before upgrading, for reasons that will become obvious by the end of this post.  About a week ago I noticed that I was having to charge the battery on my phone every day. Obviously, I thought, the battery was packing up and I would need to replace it. So I started doing some research and discovered the same battery priced at £3-68 in the UK - that's about R46 at today's exchange rate.

I started looking for the same battery here in South Africa - the first website I went to ( pricecheck.co.za ) listed the battery at R421 - wow that's a 900% increase. Two other websites I checked were R262 ( bluestream.co.za ) and R283 (phoneextreme.co.za ) only 570% increase on the UK price. Now when you consider that all of the batteries, whether here or in the UK, are manufactured in China, how on Earth can those SA prices be warranted? There should be government legislation preventing such blatant profiteering.

As it happened I didn't need to purchase a replacement battery. Liz suggested switching off the phone and removing the battery, which I did. I placed it back in the phone and recharged it. Guess what! The phone has remained fully charged for 4 days, and shows none of those original symptoms. Thanks Liz - gonna miss you after Tuesday.

My Internet Services

Friday, 13 April 2012

Fine Food? Hogwash!

I have decided to start a campaign - a campaign against Fine Food, and have found a suitable acronym for it - OFFAL, but am looking for suggestions for the three empty words, perhaps someone could help me there. Here in South Africa (hopefully I won't be here much longer, but will be winging my way across the Pond to join Liz) there is currently one of those ghastly television series for Top Chef. The judges appear almost as phony as the food. I am probably biased in my opinion, but am equally sure that there are others that hold a similar one.

Fine Food - those dishes where there is more plate than food, dishes that are meant to look good and are priced way beyond the pocket of the average man in the street. To me, food is food, and I believe that there is nothing better than a good, tasty plate of food at the end of the day.  I pride myself in being something of a cook, and can produce a good sit-down meal for a table of eight that I guarantee will be enjoyed by all and sundry. I'm talking about Sunday Lunch, about that special dinner for a group of convivial friends. In my personal opinion any good cook should be able to produce a meal where the diners get to help themselves to its various constituents. I'm talking about dishes such as:
  • A whole poached River Spey salmon served with new potatoes, young peas and carrots with a green parsley sauce
  • Hungarian Goulash
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Spaghetti Bolognaise
  • Poached Chicken in parsley sauce
  • Roast Rack of Lamb served with a freshly made mint sauce
  • Roast Sirloin of Beef  - of course with Yorkshire Pudding
  • Roast Suckling Pig
The list could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. If I wanted to impress someone (which I wouldn't - I'm far beyond such desires), the last place I would take them would be to a Fine Food restaurant or a Sushi Bar. I would rather cook them a meal to remember and serve it with a good wine.

I have another gripe. I have visited and eaten in more countries than the fingers and toes on my hands and feet. I have even eaten with royalty, but I have to assert categorically that I have never found Brussels Sprouts that taste and look as good as mine. I would stake my life on that. Yes, I have a secret little recipe, and it will probably go with me to my grave.

What ever happened to the family restaurant? Fine Food? Pigswill!

© Michael J. Mason 2012

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Migratory Season is upon Us

Some of this blog may only make sense to people who read my posts back in November regarding our visiting swallows. It seems that the Migratory Season is about to arrive. About three weeks back our two parent swallows announced to the world the arrival of three offspring, and they have been carrying out flight practice over the last three weeks. It has been an eye-opening and enlightening three weeks. Where there were two swallows swooping low over the garden, now there are five. One entire morning was spent in teaching the young to fly high in the sky, yesterday how to cope with strong winds.

Every day at precisely the same time the family of five arrives back at the nest after a day's training. They perch on the wire I had erected 2 years ago before, one by one, entering the tunnel that leads to their nest for the night. One of the young took a little time to master alighting and entering the tunnel, but is now a master. As autumn approaches I am expecting them to have, one day, flown away, just as my wife is to do in a couple of weeks.

Yes, Liz is returning to the States, and in 2 weeks time will be jetting over the Pond to pave the way for our relocation. She will be staying with her daughter, Dena, who was good enough to pay for her ticket. Thank you Dena and Andrew! Liz will be changing her still-official (in the USA) name to mine, and then applying for my spousal visa. Unfortunately I still have to sell the farm. Potential buyers who came to view it on Sunday have just phoned to inform me that it is just a little too far from Grahamstown, where they have a business. They have, though, offered to take Jack and Bob, our two cats. I will wait until Liz has left before taking up their offer. I want to be ready to up and leave when the time comes.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Google proposes sweeping new changes penalizing over-optimization

Google has announced sweepig new changes to its search algorithm. To be implemented within the next few weeks, the searches will penalize the blatant over-use of SEO . Websites that have pages that contain links that are simply not relevant to the website will be penalized against, as will the over-use of keywords.

In future Google will make less use of keywords and more of understanding what the content of a website is all about. You can see pertinent videos here;

2 Minute Video announcing Google changes

8 Minute Video commenting on the Google proposed changes

If you would like me information regarding these changes, or would like to discuss content for your website, please contact me

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Telkom update

I was very surprised on Friday (3/16) to receive a telephone call from Telkom. Now Telkom never call people unless they are late with their account payment. You will recall from the previous post that I had reported my land line out of order on 2/28 - so that's already over 2 weeks that I have been without a land line. The lady who phoned me (on my cell phone, of course, and reception on that is a little dodgy out here in the countryside, since we're so far from the nearest cell tower) advised me, very politely, that the service would not be restored until the end of April. That means that I and others in the area will have been without their Telkom line for no less than 2 months.

Now 2 days might be an acceptable time for a telephone line to be out of order, but 2 months?. That is completely unacceptable in 2012. The problem is, what can I do about it? Imagine the business that is being lost because of this Telkom failure. We have our house on the market, so this means that no-one will be able to contact us with an offer (unless they just happen to have our cell numbers. I cannot see any way in which Telkom can justify their inability to restore our connection within a couple of days.

This only serves to amplify my feelings regarding the demise of everything sane in this country.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Telkom going downhill and unable to fulfil its commitments

I live out in the countryside, six miles from the nearest tarmac road and 20 from the nearest Telkom office. Now, when I first "signed on" with Telkom some 30 years ago, I understood that their part of the agreement was to supply me with a serviceable land line. Out here in Martindale in the Eastern Cape my telephone line goes on poles for a couple of clicks to where it is connected to a battery driven radio transmitter that is backed up by a solar panel. Anyway, apart from the usual breaks when the locals have stolen the copper wire connecting me to the transmitter, or when they have stolen the solar panel - these faults have always been dealt with fairly timeously.

At some time in late February my phone line went dead - I reported it on 28th February ( reference 83CEZ280212 ). and two full weeks later I am still without a phone. Not having a landline out here in the countryside (where cell phone coverage is somewhat limited) puts one at a distinct disadvantage, and what worries me is that, should something happen to either my wife or myself, we would have no way of communicating with the emergency services. I have managed to get through to an operator twice. On the first attempt I was advised that the matter was in the hands of a supervisor (Hassim ??) and he had been sent a message to contact me (I am still awaiting that contact more than a week later). On the second time that I managed to get through to an operator I was advised that Telkom was waiting for delivery of a "card" and that it had to be imported from France.

If anyone reads this and has the time or inclination, perhaps they could, on my behalf, direct a few newspapers to this posting in the hope that someone can start putting some pressure onto Telkom. Maybe there is a lawyer out there who would be willing to sue the company on my behalf - it would have to be pro bono though. You can contact me through my contact page - I have removed the Telkom number!!!

I take this as being just one more sign of how South Africa is going downhill, weighed down by the pressure of corruption, bad management, reverse apartheid and bad government.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Withdrawal of ATM Services

It was brought to my notice last week that one of South Africa's largest banks had blatantly withdrawn an essential community service, as a result of which many thousands of people around the country are having to travel many extra miles in order to withdraw a little cash. I occasionally used to withdraw cash at an FNB automatic telling machine located in the village shop and butchery in Bathurst in the Eastern Cape. The machine was used by many of Bathurst's mostly retired residents, as well as local farmers, farm workers and pensioners. Some minor employee of the said bank, presumably hoping to make a name for himself (or herself) up at Head Office, took it upon themself to order the withdrawal of ATM machines from a large proportion of the country's smaller communities. Pensioners, retirees and farm employees alike now have to find the time and the money to travel 35 kms each way to either Port Alfred or to Grahamstown in order to withdraw a little cash, a huge expense and inconvenience, especially for the district's pensioners.

The only comment I have is - Shame on you, FNB . As if the banks don't make enough money out of us already!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Visiting Amphibian

Living out in the African Bushveld, one expects to see plenty of wildlife – sometimes though the wildlife is not quite what one would expect. We have a – here I hesitate to use the word “pet”, so let’s say “tame”, we have a tame frog – I think from studying pictures that it may well be a Tremolo Sand Frog. It measures about 9 to 10cms from nose to tail (i.e. legs NOT extended). It is a frequent visitor to our lounge, hopping across the room while we are watching the goggle box. When we don’t see Froggie of an evening there is sometimes evidence the next morning that he has been around the night before. This is usually in the form of gathered dust or cobwebs in Katie’s bowl of drinking water, or occasionally in the form of a calling card, usually solid but from time to time liquid. Katie is our white shepherd, by the way.

The other evening Liz called me to “rescue” Froggie. He had somehow found his way into our bathroom and was hopping around the base of the loo looking for a way out. I caught him in a plastic container and put him out onto the lawn, still wet from a recent rain shower. The following morning, as I was feeding the cats, there was a splash as Froggie jumped out of their water bowl. It didn’t take him long to find his way back. Our pets generally ignore Froggie. The two cats are just not interested, although Katie occasionally gives him a quick sniff if he happens to cross her path. Living in the countryside does have its rewards.

Friday, 17 February 2012

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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Positive Thinking

I don't think that anyone can dispute the power of positive thinking. It is the basis of many prayers, schemes, spells and of much corporate teaching. I can personally recall a number of times when positive thinking has, in one way or another, altered my life. The big question, therefore, is not whether positive thinking works, but rather, how it works. I place it on a par with telepathy or with ESP. The former I have personally witnessed many, many times, as I have positive thinking. I rely on others for any facts regarding ESP, but have no misconceptions about its existence. Without actually trying to communicate, I frequently find that I have been thinking of the same thing at one and the same time as my wife, Liz. Indeed before we actually met face to face, we frequently chatted on the Internet - she in Colorado and I in Johannesburg. I would frequently (not just once or twice) be thinking of a particular item or idea (such as the Red Sox) when through the ether would come the question "Did you see the latest Red Sox game?". That was over a distance of 9,000 miles. Today I can be thinking of closing the curtains when up will stand Liz and do just that, with nothing being spoken at all.

I think it's all to do with Quantum mechanics, or that dark or hidden force or whatever. I'm happy with the idea of identical happenings many thousands of miles apart being instantly linked by that quantum forcefield. I don't profess to understand it, but am happy to accept the theory as being a fact. I believe that the same concept is responsible for ESP and indeed, positive thinking. I will try to add an article about this concept to my website.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

I Dreamed a Dream

Last night I dreamed a dream, and it made me think long and hard about the brain, about the quantum theory and about time. But about my dream - the characters in it were drawn straight from my distant youth. There was Alf Withers and his wife, whom I will call Mrs Withers, as I cannot recall her first name. Alf and his wife kept a greengrocer’s shop across the road from my birthplace, Dennis Lodge, where I was to spend the first few years of my life. They had three children, Alf jnr., Chic and Patricia. I remember Mrs. Withers for her “I’ll just go and put the kettle on for a cup of tea” each time my mother went to buy vegetables. The kettle, as I recall, sat on a huge (to me) Aga stove in a room to the rear of the shop. There was also an outside loo that was occassionally stocked with the tissue paper that had once wrapped individual oranges - a welcome change from the usual scraps of newspaper and a foretaste of the first toilet tissue! Dennis Lodge still stands (52°28.205’N 2°09.262’W), and is believed to be a dentists' practice, although the Withers’ shop has long been demolished. 

Let me place you in the time scale. I was born during WWII and lived with my mother at Dennis Lodge, my paternal grandparents’ home, until soon after my father returned from France after the end of hostilities. I recall, it must have been after things got back to normal, making forts out of old banana boxes in a storage building to the rear of the Withers’ shop. (What did people do with old wooden banana boxes – you could hardly send them back to the Caribbean?). Chic was to marry a Dick Garrington who became one of the Midlands’ first importers of VWs. Alf jnr., whom I recall was the owner of a scrambler bike and played the trumpet, stayed in the business until well into the 60s, maybe even later, for I remember him delivering vegetables to The Bell Hotel, which was to become my home from 1960, when my parents took over its management. 

I was to become quite good friends with Pat, even though she was several years my senior. I remember cycling the 20 miles each way to Worcester and back with Pat and two of her friends, Dalveen and Liz, when I was 14. Pat was later to emigrate to Australia, never to be heard from by myself again. My dream brought back memories from more than 60 years ago. I wonder which little part of my brain could have been storing them for all this time. I was only thinking the other day that a mere ten times my lifespan, going back in time, saw the attempted extermination of the Knights Templar in France. What a tiny drop in the vast ocean of time-space my life is. Still things amaze me. Liz and I still have a quantum thing going between us. Only this morning I was thinking “I must go and open the curtains” only to find Liz doing just that immediately after I had thought about it. Quantum Physics continues to have a great influence on my all-too-short life. I am a firm believer that it can explain so many yet-to-be-explained occurrences.

Edited version 2 1/30/2012 after some input from my sister, Suzane.






Monday, 23 January 2012

New Chapter

Enough sadness! Sandy is now in greener pastures and running around chasing rabbits (or whatever they do over there - knowing his preferences here on the farm he's probably chasing chickens). Sandy brought joy and happiness to both Liz and myself, as well as the many others who knew him. It is now time to start a new chapter. We will remember him with all the love and fond memories he so richly deserves.

Now it is time to concentrate our full efforts into the relocation to NC. We will make the move this year, come Hell or High Water. We had a couple of queries about the farm over the weekend, so we'll keep on with the promotions on the Internet and elsewhere. By the way, if you would like to see our farm you can do so at its own website here.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Fond Memories of a Best Friend.

I have been putting off writing a new post - maybe my mind has been a little too preoccupied. Sandy passed to the other side some time between 11 am and 11.30 am local time. He had not been able to use his legs for two or three days, and we made the decision a couple of days ago to phone Dr de Bruyn to arrange for the inevitable. He was meant to pick up Sandy yesterday morning but was called out to a farm on an emergency. We had been giving Sandy a morphine based pill twice a day to attempt to ease the pain a little. I can't help feeling that if we had not had that biopsy done he would still be limping his way around the farm.



Maybe this was all in the Universal plan of things. We were going to take Sandy and his daughter Katie to America with us - that was the plan. Sadly it has had to change.  This is a sad week and a sad day. We will miss you, Sandy. Rest in Peace and wait for us on the other side.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Sandy Mason

Sandy is a White Shepherd – he came to our cottage when he was just a couple of months old at Christmas in 2003. There was a note attached to his collar saying he wanted to adopt us as his parents – we had looked after him while his then owners were away on holiday, and he had become completely attached to us. Sadly, a few weeks ago our local veterinarian, while examining him to see why he had been limping badly, had found a large growth in his bicep. A biopsy was taken about ten days ago and the lump was diagnosed as being cancerous. Sandy was dropped off at our farm by the vet on the Friday evening, and for a couple of days was very weak.


He has recovered somewhat, but still has to get around on just three legs, and is obviously in much pain. Liz and I have been struggling over when the inevitable must happen, which is very sad because Sandy is more like a son to us than a dog. He has a personality, and has had a long standing disagreement with one of our male cats, Bob, over who is the stronger alpha-male. Now he has a sad look in his eyes - it’s almost as though he knows now that he will not be coming to America with us. There are times when he is quite lively, especially when he starts barking at passers-by and running as best he can on three good legs. The strain on his good legs is beginning to show, probably aggravating the arthritis in his joints.  We will make his last days as comfortable as we are able to, and will probably keep on putting off the inevitable. Sandy will be remembered after he makes the journey to the other side – maybe we’ll meet up again, I hope so.



Thursday, 5 January 2012

ANC to Sacrifice Animals

When I heard this morning on my local Eastern Cape radio station that the ANC were planning to sacrifice animals in church during their centenary birthday celebrations in Bloemfontein this coming weekend, I could scarcely believe my ears. Indeed, I had to check out the information before writing this article. I guess that I should now be worried as to whether this news is covered by the much debated Freedom of Information Act, or whatever it is called. I found the confirmation in an article in The Citizen. Apparantly the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the small fundamentalist African Christian Democratic Party has slammed the ANC leardership and is snubbing the celebrations for their "adherence to ancestor worship and offering sacrifices to the spirits of the dead".

We live in a supposed civilized society, and associate animal sacrifice with countries such as Haiti, where Voodoo is commonly practiced, or with ancient civilisations that no longer exist. I suppose that we should now be prepared for this uncivilized practice to occur on a regular basis. After all, the corruption and mismanagement associated with the neo-apartheid practiced by the ANC deserves to be classified in such a manner.