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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Thanksgiving - and more

This afternoon I am babysitting my grandchildren, Gracie and Owen. Jake and Julie have gone Christmas shopping in Tilton at the outlet mall. Next week is Thanksgiving, and the day after is called Black Friday, traditionally the day on which prices tumble in an annual sell off.  Many outlets have already dropped their prices, and this week we invested in a new washer, a dryer and two-door Samsung fridge, saving about $1,000 on the usual retail price by taking advantage of the Black Friday deals. Jake and Julie will pick up Luke from day-care in a couple of hours' time and relieve me of my duties.

We have now entered my fourth season in the States, and a little more than a week ago the first snow fell - earlier than usual, and just a couple of inches here. On Wednesday there was a severe winter storm in New Hampshire that left some 200,000 people without power over Thanksgiving. Nine inches fell here, and another two the following night. With the daytime temperatures below freezing it was no wonder that I slipped and fell on the ice - still I should have been more careful, and can only blame myself. Many of the New  Hampshire and Vermont ski resorts have already opened up, and the pistes are open weeks before they normally do.

A little over a week ago Liz and I moved out of our tiny apartment and into a house in Littleton. We were going to use U-Haul, but they completely screwed us around. In the end my daughter Julie loaned us her Town & Country minivan, and we got almost everything moved the 13 miles in 5 or 6 trips. Jake helped out with the larger furniture when he got back from Pennsylvania a couple of days later. After a few hiccups with the pellet stove (I think the house has been empty for many months) everything is now working smoothly. It is wonderful to be living amongst one's possessions and to have enough room to swing the proverbial cat.

On Thursday I hosted my first ever Thanksgiving - the menu a mixture of Southern and British cooking. The main course consisted of the traditional turkey, which I cooked along with baby carrots and roast potatoes (which my family has always liked), and Liz cooked a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, a green bean casserole with french fried onions, and a blue raspberry fluff with fruit and marshmallows. We also had sweet corn, stuffing and gravy (mine). To follow (at least an hour later) Julie had brought a home made apple pie, which was accompanied by cream, ice cream or snow cream (there were 11 inches of fresh snow on the ground). A filling time was had by all.

Saturday. I am feeling sorry for myself right now. On returning from the supermarket late this afternoon I took a tumble on the ice between the car and the front door, opening up a deep cut on my left cheek and a smaller one on my left eyebrow. Julie and Liz patched me up, but soon after Julie and the kids had left for home, I tripped over a chair leg and opened up the deep cut again. I have been sitting here with an ice pack waiting for the bleeding to stop.

Sunday. A good night's sleep and ready for another day. I have been in the States for almost seven months now. When I arrived at the end of April there were no leaves on the trees - just a few cherry trees in Boston had donned their Spring blossoms. Liz and I were living in a tiny (750 ft²) apartment. It was so small that there was little room to move, so small that when our possessions eventually arrived from South Africa after a 3-month journey, most of the 125 cardboard cartons had to be put into storage.

Well, the seven months has been enough time for me to have witnessed all four seasons. The maples, oaks and birches are once again bare, save for the blanket of snow on their branches. The brilliant green hues of Spring and Summer gave way to the browns, reds, yellows and oranges of Fall, and instead of decking the trees the leaves are now lying on the ground beneath eleven inches of snow. Today the daytime temperature has risen above freezing for the first time in several days.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

South Africa Postal Unrest

The motto that appears on the South African Post Office press release page is "We deliver - whatever it takes". However, following several months of unrest, strikes, violence and pure vandalism, that is not the case and anyone thinking of sending Christmas parcels or indeed any type of post to South Africa should seriously consider how they send it - there is a much greater chance of delivery if it is sent through a courier company. Unrest in the post office started as early as 27th January 2014, and at the time of writing is still not resolved.

On the last day of January Mr Lungile Lose, SA Post Office’s Group Executive Corporate Affairs, stated that  the casual workers in mail sorting centres that had started an unprotected strike on Monday (27 January 2014) had not returned to work (an unprotected strike is one which that does not comply with the terms of South Africa's Labour Relations Act).  Striking casual workers were demanding that the SA Post Office employ them into permanent positions. This was not possible for reasons of affordability and operations; it was not possible to accommodate the demands of the striking employees as such a move will result in unstable financial consequences for the SA Post Office.  The total number of casual employees on strike was 1286 on this date.

On 4th February strikers had ignored their employer's final demand t return to their posts and a total of 1461 employees did not report for duty on that day. However the strike was resolved by arbitration on 11th February and striking workers returned to work on the following day. Further unrest occurred in late June that was quickly settled. However casual postal workers in Tshwane and the East Rand went on strike again on 18th August, supposedly because of the slow speed of conversion of some 900 casual workers into permanent (yet part time) positions. Striking workers received an ultimatum to return to work by 0800 on 22nd or face dismissal. At the same time the Post Office started to lay criminal charges in all cases where damage to property, intimidation or violence occurred, striking workers actions having been typified by intimidation and violence, by the blocking of workplaces, assaults on employees and wanton damage to property. A number of post offices and mail delivery depots had to be closed so as to ensure the safety of customers and employees. On 29th August the Post Office started issuing dismissal notices.

By 1st September a total of 473 casual and part-time employees that had taken part in the illegal strike had been dismissed, a Post Office spokesman stating that "All efforts to resolve the industrial action – which included negotiations, ultimatums and a Labour Court Interdict – came to nothing.  Therefore, the SA Post Office could not envisage of any other alternative but to dismiss the striking employees." The strike continued to spread and by 16th September after violent intimidation more than 80 post offices in the Johannesburg region were closed "for the safety of customers and employees".  A further 16 offices in Cape Town were closed as well as many others around the country, including Pretoria, Polokwane, Germiston and Benoni.

As of 16th October Negotiations to end the strike were continuing, and at that stage the Post Office had put several proposals on the table, which were then under discussion. In Bloemfontein, eight men were charged with common assault after they had allegedly assaulted and partly undressed a Post Office employee, who was on her way to work, at the local taxi rank. They are due to appear in court on 6th November.  Also in Bloemfontein, one person was charged with intimidation and he will also appear in the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on 6th November. The Post Office’s security personnel continue to work closely with the SA Police, who are investigating a further 41 cases relating to the strike, including arson and assault.

As at the time of writing, mail in Gauteng Province (the Johannesburg, Pretoria and East Rand region) is currently delayed by around four weeks. The effects of this so called industrial action are far-reaching. For example chronic medication is not reaching patients, the University of South Africa (Unisa) has been forced to extend the dates for thousands of students to submit their assignments,  and direct marketing companies have been stuck with millions of pieces of mail.  — the South African Post Office is once again crippled by a strike.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Instant Recall from my Schooldays

About a half hour ago I walked down to out mail box - it is about a 50 yard walk down a steep incline and is surrounded by maples and oaks. I was immediately taken back more than 50 years (gee - am I that old?) to my schooldays. It is autumn or fall here in the North Country, and already many of the colorful leaves of the woods and forests of the area are lying on the ground. Today there is steady rain falling outside - it has been falling for some time and is due to continue into the early hours of the morning - indeed there is s flash flood warning out for the region, with much heavier rain forecast for later today. So how was I taken back all that time?

Well, my High School education was at Bromsgrove School in the County of Worcestershire in the UK. Back in those days the quad (I believe it is now called Gordon Green) was surrounded by horse-chestnut trees, and at exactly this time of the year, when the leaves were on the ground and had started to rot, they gave off a distinctive and, to me, very pleasant aroma. I experienced that same aroma today for the first time in all those years (I never once experienced it during my 42 years in southern Africa), and my brain or or consciousness immediately recognized and recalled where I had last smelled it.

The brain and our consciousness is a wonderful thing, with billions and billions of connections between its neurons - more than the number of stars in our galaxy. I have several previous posts that refer to it - just do a search for "consciousness" at the top of the page if you would like to read them. To be able to instantly recall something that has been "in storage" for 55 years is quite remarkable.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Fryeburg Fair

In concluding my previous post I promised to write about our visit to the Fryeburg Fair. Fryeburg is the oldest town in Maine's Oxford County and was settled in the mid 1750's. The town's Fryeburg Academy, a day and boarding prep school, was founded in 1792 and is one of America's oldest schools. The fair is held every year in late September and early October, and attracts more than 300,000 visitors, the season coinciding with a massive influx of tourists to the region to view the Fall foliage.

We drove down to Fryeburg on Saturday 4th October, my grandson Luke's 2nd birthday, following Route 302 through Littleton, Bethlehem, Bartlett and North Conway. This route takes you through the spectacular Crawford Notch around the foot of Mount Washington, and past the renowned Mount Washington Hotel, which opened in 1902.

It was unfortunate that the enjoyment of the day was marred by inclement weather. One of the main reasons that Liz and I visited the fair was to see the exhibits in the Natural Resource Center, which I had strong recollections of from my previous visit to the fair 9 years ago.This time we made some interesting woodworking contacts as well as meeting several people of interest. One of the most out of the ordinary exhibits was that of Antique Wagons, all of which turned out to be wonderfully restored Gypsey wagons. It's a pity that they were the only genre!

We returned to the North Country by way of the Kancamagus Highway, which winds through New Hampshire's White Mountains from Conway to Lincoln. On the way the rain, which had been mostly drizzle until then, became harder and harder, and by the time we hit Littleton it was a regular downpour. All in all though, a memorable day.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Fall - a Time of Change

It is a time of change here in New England. Autumn (or Fall as it is called in the States) started officially a few days ago, heralded by the pagan festival of Beltane. The magnificent forests of the North Country are starting to change into the glorious colors that Fall brings. The ever-green hardwood trees of summer - oaks, elms, maples and birches - have started their seasonal change of costume, bringing red, brown, orange and yellow hues to the already beautiful landscape. This is an event that has to be seen, and sees thousands of tourists pour into the region to witness it.

Today's picture

The time of change has come to our lives too. A few weeks back I discovered that I did not need to fly back and forth to the UK every 90 days, and have submitted the appropriate forms, documents and moneys to the USCIS. At about the same time Liz started a new job. She had been working at the local county nursing home in dietary - a job she had come to hate - the 5 a.m. rising, lack of benefits and an environment in which she was surrounded by Alzheimer's and other age-related ailments. She loves her new job, is making new friends, will soon be getting excellent benefits, and has regular hours.

At about the same time all of our freight arrived from Cape Town - all 105 boxes of it. We have only been able to unpack a small amount - the apartment we have rented is only 725ft² - ridiculously small when compared with the 4,570ft² of our Eastern Cape farmhouse. Anyway to cut a long story short this has prompted us to look for a larger property, and a few days ago we viewed what would be an ideal one. It is a good size, has loads of storage space, a heated workshop - in short, just our cup of tea, which has just prompted me to switch on the kettle. We also found what would be a good vehicle for me - a 2002 Subaru Legacy AWD station wagon with only 67,700 miles on the clock. Now all we have to do is raise finance for the to items, so "hold thumbs" please and say a few prayers for us.

In a little over a week's time Liz and I will be taking in the Fryeburg Fair in Maine. I visited it this time 9 years ago and was awestruck. Look forward to a report back on this page shortly.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Quantum Entangled Scrambled Eggs

I'm always making note of when I can see some sort of proof of the Quantum Entanglement theory working, and this morning added to the many examples that I have documented when skyping Liz from a distance of 5,000 miles. Today though we were much closer. I was seated at the dining room table with a fresh cup of black coffee, and thinking to myself that in all the time I had been over here, we had not once had scrambled eggs for breakfast. As I was about to take another sip of my hot coffee, Liz said "I think I'd like to make scrambled eggs for a change". Now if that is not QE then I'd like to know what it is, and whether any of my readers have had similar experiences.

For the uninitiated let me explain. Quantum Entanglement is a branch of Quantum Physics, which in turn is the science of physics at a sub-atomic level. You are probably unaware that billions of dollars are spent every year in Quantum research. One of the results of this research is that quantum physicists have shown that many of the phenomena known as paranormal can be explained quite logically at the subatomic level. Consciousness itself has been theorized as being a quantum event that happens in the brain - which would account for this morning's breakfast treat. Included in the paranormal phenomena that can be explained are extra sensory perception, ghosts, deja vu, UFOs, telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance and near death experience. Even the afterlife can be explained in terms of quantum physics.

By the way - the scrambled eggs were delicious!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Don't fly Emirates Airlines - Emirates sucks

I have been in the UK for a little over a week, having completed the first, and I had hoped the last, of my 90-day visits to Liz, Julie and the grandchildren. I fly back to Boston on Monday for another 90 days. I just wish that Homeland Security or Immigration or whoever back in the States would pull finger and get on with processing my I-130 and all it implies. Flying backwards and forwards across the Pond does not come cheap. Which brings me on to my title piece.

Yes. Emirates Airlines really sucks. They are completely unhelpful and remind me of the Middle Eastern attitude that I experienced in Abu Dhabi 25 years ago. Here's what happened just 3 months ago. I flew with Emirates from Johannesburg to Dubai and after a 4-hour stand-over from Dubai to Boston at the end of April. While disembarking in Dubai mu laptop was left behind on the Boeing 777 - something that I immediately realized and did something about. This included reporting the incident, contacting the aircraft cleaners, the police and the lost luggage department. I was assisted in this regard by a very helpful Emirates ground hostess.

Once at my destination I phoned Emirates, and was given an email address to write to, which I did, explaining the incident carefully and the lost laptop in detail. On 1st May I received an email from Emirates advising me that my laptop had been found, and that if I would advise them of the airport to send it to, they would forward it sine mora. I wrote back with those details (Boston Logan) immediately. Imagine my surprise when I received a further email a day or two later advising me that my laptop had been forwarded to some third party at the King Fahad International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

Naturally this sparked off a number of emails from me to various Emirates departments, asking for the situation to be clarified. To this day I have yet to receive a reply - in fact I have been completely ignored. The whole business reeks of incompetence and a complete lack of interest in helping out a desperate passenger. I estimate that the value of hardware and data that went missing is far in excess of $10,000, and if anyone can recommend a lawyer who might be willing to take on a case against Emirates I would be most grateful.

My laptop case and laptop contained more than Internet 6,500 articles, landing pages and entire website content written by myself, an unfinished copy of my memoirs, photographs and other memorabilia collected over a wide span of years, a 500 gB external drive,  hard copy documents such as birth certificates and other important documentation. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

New England living

It is a quiet Saturday afternoon, and I have been thinking about some of this week's happenings. One of the great things about living where we do, out in the countryside and surrounded by the forest, is the ability to be "at one" with Mother Nature. This is an essential part of my spiritual beliefs and those of my wife, Liz. She encourages smal visitors to our wooden deck by leaving out small donations to some of Natures smaller animals - gifts such as birdseed, peanuts, and deformed strawberries from our small garden. This has resulted in regular visits onto our deck by a chipmunk and a pair of gray squirrels.

Yesterday evening we had an unusual and rare visitor - a skunk, that tucked into some small pieces of bread just three feet from our open front door. Needless to say, we were careful not to disturb it lest it decided to give us a squirt. A little earlier on this afternoon one of the gray squirrels decided to investigate an apple core I had placed on the deck. After taking a quick taste it ran off to its den with the core in its front paws. I heard on the local news today that a bear had broken into a house just three miles away, so I guess we should be more wary in the future.

One of the things that has impressed me more than any other is the high level of culture that is found in New England. I can listen to classical music on one of the local radio stations 24/7, and there are many summer music festivals and live concerts in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine. In addition there are any number of active theaters scattered through the region - as a "retired" thespian (do we ever retire?) this is something that I truly appreciate.

I have just acquired a new domain - North Country Web Services. The website is still very much under development so don't expect to see much there right now. I have noticed that there seems to be a complete dearth of people offering web design, content and general revamping up here near the Canadian border. Most of those options are gathered down in the South of the state closer to Boston. My other local website is starting to get more and more visitors, a pleasing affair.

We often sit out on the deck until dusk to watch the bats starting their nightly forays from the space between the roof and attic. That's also the time when the lightning bugs come out in their hundreds, giving a spectacular firework display. Last night we were also treated to a group of coyotes howling down by the Ammonoosuc River a half mile away.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Newsletter from over the Pond

I have now been settled in our tiny apartment for seven weeks. Liz has made a wonderful job of furnishing it on a shoestring. She found me a Lazyboy recliner - 2nd-hand but very functional and extremely comfortable. A couple of weeks ago we went to a barn just outside Lancaster - a barn full of every conceivable kind of bric-a-brac from saddles and harness, books, vinyls, tools and countless household items. We picked up a rocking chair and footrest (also rocking) for Liz, a practically new Black and Decker cordless drill/driver, and a new turntable/tuner (which we will need once my vinyls arrive) each for just $20.

We were very fortunate to get this apartment, although it is far too small for my liking and the stairs to the upper floor are too steep. We are going to know it when our 105 boxes arrive from Cape Town in 4 or 5 weeks time. We do, however, have a small patch of garden in which I have planted potatoes, onions and scarlet runners, and which already has a mass of strawberries growing - we shared the first one yesterday. Although the smallest of the 4 apartments here, we have the largest wooden deck - 12' x 45' and facing South, so it gets the sun all afternoon until it dips below the tree tops, which rise some 300' immediately to the West.

We are visited each morning by a chipmunk, that runs across the deck from one end to the other, returning with its cheeks swollen with birdseed. It has stolen them from the adjacent apartment deck, where a black bear knocked down the bird feeder a couple of nights ago. Yesterday it actually came in through our open front door, looked around and then left again. We were also visited yesterday by a friendly squirrel, which sat on the deck,s balustrade eating peanuts (left there by Liz accidentally on purpose). There are also bats in the attic, and we have seen a marmont and white tailed deer close by.

Julie has gone down to Maine with the kids - Gracie, who won 5 medals at the State Gymnastics Championships, is attending a Gym Camp there for the week. We will look after their animals while they are away, and Julie will get a well earned break, to be joined mid-week by Jake.

As I compose this I am sitting on the deck, surrounded by the forests and green meadows of the North Country. In the far distance I can see Mounts Washington, Lafayette, Lincoln and Osceola.We are taking a coffee break. A robin is perched on a tree trunk, staring at me. At this time of year the weather is almost identical to the UK, so I will be well acclimatized when I fly to see my sister in a few weeks time. I guess that's why this region is called New England. It will be different when winter arrives. During this past one the temperature remained well below freezing, night and day, for three months. Even the Ammonoosuc, a usually swift flowing river, was frozen over.

I recently spent a little over $640 on a new laptop to replace the one lost by Emirates during my journey over here. I have had to send it back to Dell as the operating system was not seeing the camera - an essential piece of equipment in this day and age. It was delivered in Texas overnight, so I'm hoping it will not be long before it gets back to me. In the meantime I will continue using Liz's machine,

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Hello America

I have been to this side of the Pond once before – back in 2005, when, during my 3 week stay, I was lucky enough to have witnessed the forests of the White Mountains turn from their summer green to the that autumn mass of color. That was just a short visit – this time I am here to stay (subject, of course, to USCIS). Thanks to the world economic downturn it has taken something like 4 or 5 years to eventually sell the farm, and in the end I practically gave it away. But at least it is now out of my hands. I heard just today that our 104 cartons of possessions are at last about to be loaded into a container and sent on their way. I guess they’ll take another couple of months to get here, and we’ll have to hire storage space until we get a larger place to live.

On my first night on American soil we stayed at the Salem Inn in Salem, Massachusetts. Liz has a passion for witches and Wicca, and I am a Free Thinker, so it was in all aspects an appropriate place to stay. And anyway I needed to replace a ring that I had lost somewhere on the farm, a ring with a particularly sentimental value. That first night was somewhat marred by circumstances. We had planned to go out for dinner, but with 40 sleepless hours behind me along with the loss of my laptop in Dubai – well, I’m afraid that the evening turned out to be an expensive damp squib. I did notice one thing though – having heard that everything in America was BIG, I noted that even the loo paper at our hotel was at least 10% larger than what I have been used to elsewhere.

But seriously – I have now been here for one month. Yesterday we sent the I-130 off to USCIS to start the ball rolling for my permanent residence. I will be flying to the UK in late July for a couple of weeks to keep legal, and will have the pleasure of staying with my sister and her husband Peter, and of seeing her three kids (?) and grandchildren for the first time in 15 years. My 5 weeks on this side of the Pond have been wonderful – eye opening, to say the least. It is particularly wonderful to witness efficiency, clean streets and highways (a story here), unbiased radio stations, the very latest technology and a wide variety of culture – available for all.

Driving north on Interstate 93 the other day we witnessed a State trooper meticulously going through a trash bag that someone had dumped on the side of the highway. He was searching each piece of trash for some clue that would trace it back to the culprit. Wow! Efficiency!

Of course the best thing about being on this side of the Pond is that I have been reunited with my family. With my wife and soul mate Liz, and with Julie, Jake and my three grandchildren Grace, Owen and Luke. We have an apartment just three miles from Julie, three miles along the Ammonoosuc River, and are surrounded by the forests and mountains of the North Country. From our deck we have views of Mounts Washington, Lafayette, Lincoln and Osceola as well as a number of the smaller mountains of the region.

Last week we drove down to Portsmouth to watch Grace compete in the State Gymnastics Championships – she came away with 5 medals and a very proud grandfather. My theatrical background kicked in during the Awards Ceremony in the school auditorium, where I counted more than 50 floodlights above the stage as well as numerous spots and follow spots. There must be numerous small theaters that would give anything for that lighting set up, and this just in a local high school. Liz and I drove back along the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee, stopping briefly at Weirs Beach so that Liz could get her feet in the sand – the waters of the lake were still just a few degrees above freezing, and far too cold to get her feet wet.  

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Goodbye South Africa

I write this post objectively, and would like to assure my many friends and few relations remaining in South Africa that I mean no offense.

It has been more than a month since I wrote my previous post, but a month in which my life has completely changed – for the better. At last I am free from the servitude and nepotism of South Africa, and am able to look at the country and its people with a clear and fresh mind. I have now spent a month in a real First World country, and can say quite categorically, and this is for all South Africans who think otherwise, that South Africa is a true Third World country – nothing better.

In many ways I rue the decision that I made 42 years ago to relocate to southern Africa, but had I not made that decision, I would not have the wonderful family and friends that I have today. Everyone makes mistakes, and I am the first to admit that I have made many, but the decisions we make, whether good or bad, shape our future life. My 42 years in Africa have been colorful, enlightening and edifying, and I left the country last month wiser and more erudite than I could possibly have been had I remained in the United Kingdom all those years ago. During my time in Rhodesia I spent more than 130 nights “treading the boards”, and many more in rehearsal, often in the company of professional and internationally known actors and actresses. I have met and shaken hands with politicians from either side of the aisle, including the recently passed Nelson Mandela and Ian Smith. Above all I have had the pleasure of living in a beautiful part of the world, have come face to face with Nature, and can truthfully boast, in the words of Karen Blixen, that “I had a farm in Africa”.

When my wife, Liz, came out to South Africa in 2002, one of the first things that I told her was to watch out for the direction that education and healthcare were going. These were the first visible signs of the impending rot in what had become Zimbabwe, and from which I had fled with my family in 1981. We all know what has become of that country. South Africa is fast going the same way. The deterioration in education and healthcare started several years ago, and were instrumental in our decision to relocate. Today South Africa is a cradle of mismanagement, nepotism and neo-apartheid. If you happen to have a white skin, forget about applying for a job. There are few ways that you will guarantee a future - by starting your own business, by ‘knowing someone’ or by joining the ANC.

I could write a whole new blog post on South African banks. I have traveled to every continent, and can safely and categorically state that, in my opinion, South African banks are probably the worst on the entire planet. I have yet to come across another country where one has to pay a fee for depositing cash into one’s bank account. Not only that, there is a fee for every single transaction. I know for a fact that, for an individual such as myself, a checking account in the USA and the UK will actually pay you interest on a monthly basis when you have a credit balance. The powers that be in banks such as I am speaking of (if there are exceptions I am not aware of them) will try to justify these charges with a lot of balderdash and twaddle – probably because they themselves have been brainwashed and programed to do so. South African banks suck!

I will say no more, other than “Goodbye Africa!”. Now that I have experienced just a few short weeks in a First World country for the first time in many years, I have absolutely no desire at all to return to any part of that continent. I will spend my remaining days (may there be many of them) enjoying clean streets and highways, unbiased radio and television stations, the latest technology, a wide variety of culture, efficient government departments (it is still quicker in South Africa to send a letter with a runner and cleft stick than to rely on the post office) and a country free from the mismanagement and corruption that is so prevalent in South Africa, its businesses and its government. Goodbye

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Sold the Farm - really did this time

Unlike my post of 11/27/2011, which was written immediately before the South African banks let us down on the first of several occasions, we really have sold the farm this time. Papers are signed and the money's in the bank - not nearly as much as we would have liked, but enough to get significantly more personal possessions across the Pond. Liz will be reunited not just with myself, but with her collection of shoes, clothes, beads and beading, lighthouses and witches. I've been following the New Hampshire weather during their winter - I don't think I've seen the temperature rise above freezing for at least 2 months. I guess that if I miss Africa at all, which is unlikely, it will be at this time of the year. Still - I did spend 8 years living (off and on when not at sea) in the far North of Scotland, so I have been used to those conditions in the past, albeit many years ago. I guess I'll get used to it - I'll have to, won't I?

NH wild turkeys taken 30 minutes ago
What will I not miss about Africa in general, and South Africa in particular? Well, I never wanted to live in SA in the first place anyway, but was forced here by circumstances. Since democratization I have witnessed a country where reverse apartheid is blatantly being practiced - I'm not saying that BEE is a bad thing - far from it, but the way it has worked out in most cases has exposed corruption, nepotism and bad management at their worst. The poor in South Africa are still poor, whereas the well-off have lined their pockets and those of their cronies at the expense of the underprivileged. You only have to look around you at present. As many as 4 years ago the Mail & Guardian exposed the scandal behind the multi-million rand upgrades on Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home - upgrades carried out at the taxpayers' expense (for those who have never heard of him, Zuma is South Africa's multi-wife president). Today, 4 years later, the scandal lives on

I will miss none of the above. What I will miss is the bush and the wildlife. The fragrance after that first rain shower after a period of drought. The ability to take a drive of less than an hour and be among a 30-strong herd of elephant, the bush buck that live on my farm, the monkeys that scatter when I drive to Bathurst, the sound of the jackals as they hunt at night, the call of the frogs from our small dam after the year's first rains, and the call of the fiery-necked nightjar - these I will never forget.

Yesterday I took my monthly drive into Grahamstown. The main street showed up mismanagement at its worst. Imagine taking a trash bin - well, probably taking dozens of trash bins - and emptying them along the sidewalk and gutters. The amount of trash just lying there was appalling. The thing is, the ANC have individuals all over the country in local government, mayors and councilors, who have no idea how to run a craft booth let alone a municipality. And they are all riding around in new Mercedes and BMWs. I'm not jealous - just sorry for the many individuals who cannot escape from the situation. Which makes me very glad of the decision I made when I first arrived in Africa - never to give up my British passport.

There is so much to get done during the next 58 or so days. Police Clearance Certificate, hand in Beretta, international driving permit, stop Eskom, stop Telkom, stop DStv, stop Post Box, change of address with various agencies, sell furniture, stop car insurance ... the list goes on. My clients will find my new telephone number on my main website, and I will still be available for work from South Africa. Just remember though, that if you call me the difference is 6 hours in SA winter and 7 in summer.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Musings before relocation

Many of my regular readers will have come to realize that I have a deep interest in the Quantum Theory – indeed the greater part of my present beliefs and thoughts regarding consciousness, paranormal phenomena, ESP, and other closely related subjects, are based on such related subjects as Quantum Entanglement. My interest was recently given a boost when researching a series of articles I had been commissioned to write. These included such subjects as Positive Thinking, Goal Setting  and Law of Attraction. It was only recently that I came across the Science of Noetics, the study of how thought can influence happenings.

Quantum Mechanics has many skeptics – but then I am very skeptical about religion, and will never accept the dogma associated with it. That does not mean to say that I am not spiritual, for I am. But my beliefs are fashioned by science and in particular by the Quantum Theory. Yes, I believe in prayer, but in the sense that consciousness and positive thinking can and does influence events. All of those leadership courses, goal setting, team-building and so on are merely, in my mind, another manifestation or expansion of the theory.

I chat on Skype with Liz most evenings, except when she is working the morning shift at the other side of the Pond. I am amazed by the number of times that we have witnessed a quantum event. Actually, if truth be told, I used to be amazed but no longer am, for it has become common place for each of us to make the exact same remark and hit the send button simultaneously. So much so that when it happens these days, we immediately each type in ‘qqqqqqqq’ to signify to each other a quantum event. If I were to go back through the history of my messages, I could quote to you some of the instances, but you must just take my word for it.

My maternal grandfather was an engineer, and in 1912 was in charge of the starboard engine room of HMS Thunderer, where he spent 18 months fitting out machinery. He later made a name for himself during WWII as the designer of the 12,000 lb blockbuster bomb, which earned him the title Blockbuster Brooks and an MBE from King George VI to boot. I did not learn about his connection with the Royal Navy until a couple of years ago, but now wonder whether there was some sort of influence from the other side that caused me to commission. I specialized as an Air Warfare Instructor flying off carriers in the Buccaneer strike aircraft. It was only after his passing that I inherited his scrap book, which is full of press cuttings about the brave exploits of RNAS and RFC aviators during WWI. Could this have been yet another quantum event, or was it just a coincidence? If any of my readers are interested I have published jpegs of some of those clippings in a previous post to this.

If all goes according to plan this will be one of my last posts from African soil. I have resided in southern Africa for 41 years, seen the transition and subsequent demise of Zimbabwe under the autocrat Mugabe, witnessed the first signs of failure in South Africa, where education, health care and local government, to name a few, are falling foul of mismanagement, corruption and reverse apartheid. I will shortly be joining my family in cooler climes, where the 32 kbs/sec download speed I am paying through the teeth for will be replaced by one of 12 mbs/sec., where guinea fowl are replaced by wild turkeys, and where the wild animals are bears, elk, whitetail deer and moose. It will be a totally new environment for my writing, and one that I can’t wait to tackle.

WW1 Press Clippings

In my next post I will be referring to a number of press clippings kept by my maternal grandfather during WW1. For the most part these articles refer to the 'daring deeds' of the pilots and observers of the Royal Naval Air Service and of the Royal Flying Corps. Some of these clippings are set out below and may be downloaded if not clearly visible in this post.






Sunday, 12 January 2014

Video not working in Skype

Ever since I upgraded Skype after the Microsoft takeover I have been plagued by bad video. I chat nightly with my wife, Liz, who is several thousands of miles from me. I can usually see her - all-be-it very pixelly - but I battle to get my video camera working. I sometimes have to recycle the built-in web cam dozens of times before there is a see-able picture, and even then the connection is frequently dropped. I did some research through Google and came up with a solution on the Skype Community website. You will need to completely uninstall your current version of Skype (don't worry - you won't lose your settings - well I didn't anyway). There is a special version of Skype that solves the problem. I have only (so far) used it a couple of times, but each time the video worked immediately - in fact Liz says that she has never seen a better picture - no pixels, she can even see the time on the wall clock behind me.

So here's what you do:

That's it - simple. As I said earlier, I have been battling for months but this special version seems to have done the trick - for me anyway, although there are a few comments that say the procedure did not work for them. 

BTW I'm using a Lenovo G550 laptop with built in webcam. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Bolognaise Sauce

It has been 41°C (105°F) in the shade here in Martindale today. Many of the immigrants from out of province who have been here during the silly season have left and are making their ways home. I thought that it was about time that I published another of my recipes. Last week my good friend from Bologna in Italy (is there another one?) was staying with me and treated us to his version of this well known sauce. However, the following recipe is my own, and you will find it is delicious. Obviously the sauce is best served with pasta, however I have to admit that I am not a pasta aficionado, so although I will happily make this and serve with pasta, I personally use the sauce with mashed potatoes and green beans or Brussels sprouts.

This pic is to cool you down - Liz took it yesterday

The Ingredients

450g Lean Beef Mince
1 medium to large onion
3 large cloves of garlic (actually I use more as I love the sauce to be garlicky)
2 - 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tin (410g) Tomato Puree
½ tin chopped peeled tomatoes
1 tsp each of dried Basil, Marjoram, Thyme (fresh is better if available)
3 Bay leaves
Ground black pepper
½ Cup red wine
salt to taste.

Optional: 4 or 5 mushrooms sliced and cooked in butter.


Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan until nearly smoking. Remove from the heat.
Chop the onion finely, crush the garlic and add to the oil. Return the pan to a medium/low heat and cook the onions until nearly transparent. Add the herbs and black pepper, stir and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the beef mince, stirring and breaking up any lumps. Cook until the mince is browned right through.
Add the wine, tomato puree and tomatoes, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for ¾ hour.
At this stage I frequently add the cooked mushrooms and stir in.
Add salt to taste

As a variation you can also add a little Cayenne Pepper or Chilli Powder with the herbs.

Tip. The above will easily serve four, but if you happen to be single or living alone, divide the sauce up into containers (I use old plastic margarine containers) and freeze. The sauce will keep well and can be defrosted and used at a later date.