Birding Photography

Nest making

A double collared sunbird female collecting cotton scraps from stakes we used to support plants.

Double collared sunbird collection cotton for nesting
Double collared sunbird collection cotton for nesting
The male looks on
flower Flowers Photography Travel


Once in about a decade the March Flowers or Maartblomme rise out of the harsh Tankwa Karoo soil and bring colour and life to the dry and harsh landscape. We were fortunate to make the 5 hour trip from Cape Town to Nieuwoudtville to see them.

A glimpse of the harsh Tankwa Karoo

The flowers seem to congregate in patches as you can see from this picture.

The flowers put out a spike covered by

Birding Photography

Random photographs

Some photographs from our trip to Riviersonderend


Riviersonderend 2019

Some pictures from 2019 and some earlier. I got mixed up.

Renonvations Riviersonderend

Riviersonderend House

This is an old post. There have been changes since these pictures were taken and you can find updates scattered across this website.

The first picture shows the Jail house and how it sits on the plot. It actually occupies less than half of the actual plot. Everything shown on the right is also part of the property.

Note the afdak on the side of the house

The next picture is a close up of the actual house.
The bathroom is on the extreme left (No windows). The enclosed verandah on the right with windows. A central alley (?) into the front of the house separates the bathroom and verandah. Common access is through the side door under the afdak.

The most commonly used door is the side door and it leads directly into the main living room which was the court house.

This picture was taken with my back to the enclosed verandah (facing east) and shows the common access door on the right, the kitchen and the access to the two bedrooms at left.

The court house or common living area as it is now runs from the enclosed verandah the whole length of the house to the back wall. There are no back windows.
The next picture is of the living room facing west.

The verdandah is fairly typical of verandahs built in the fifties and is shown in the next picture. The living room is now behind me.

Turning your back to the the Verandah entrance, the kitchen area, really only a sink and a wall unit isnext to the door way into the first bedroom.

The first bedroom is a really small room and was at one stage a bathroom. Toilet and wash hand basin marks are readily seen.

It isn’t really bent like this. I just didn’t think of stitching it until long after the pictures were taken.

The main bedroom is off this smaller bedroom

In this next picture you can see the door into the bathroom from the main bedroom.

and leads directly into the bathroom and toilet.

And a fairly large bathroom it is compared with modern arrangements.

The front entrance is seldom used and is a bit of a conundrum. The first picture is facing inwards.

The next picture is facing outwards.

I want to close in this large area and make it part of the flow. Problem is that there is a serious obstacle to the closing in of the entrance hall

Yes, you guessed right. This is an OLD, well used swallows nest and for the life of me I cannot bring myself to close it in and lose my yearly european tenants.
Any good suggestions?

The joists are not hugely pretty, in fact they appear to be trees that have been debarked.

The following pictures show the inside of the roof.

And now ladies and gentlemen! The Cells!

The actual holding cells are to the back of the house and are shown in the next picture.

The keys are of awesome size as shown by the next picture.

The floor problem.

I cut a hole in the floor and did some diving. And made the sad discovery that the floor has borer beetle in it and needs treatment.
Abri from Swellendam did the job.

This picture was taken under the floor and shows supports and beetle tracks.

The under-floor zone is terribly humid and you end up with the camera lens fogging up very quickly.
This picture shows how you might look if you ventured under the floor to take pictures.

The beetle man, Abri told me that there was no underfloor ventilation. He was wrong, there is. Not hugely well planned or terribly effective, but there is ventilation none the less.

Point is although he was wrong, he was also right in a way.
The lack of ventilation was in the living area.
Most of my tenants had complained that the house was “mif”. I am not sure if there is a good english word for it, but it indicates a cold damp that causes fungus to grow on everything. The next picture is of the ceiling in the living room, away from the shower and bath room. The fungus is overwhelming as you can see.

The first time I slept there I left the windows closed (it was a very cold night) and all the windows were running with condensation. While scratching my head over Abri’s comment about the lack of ventilation, I suddenly realised he had provided the answer, purely by accident. You see there are no ventilation holes in the living space. None. I went round twice to check that I had not missed. As an experiment, I drilled holes all over the place more or less where the ventilation holes should be. See the picture.

I then went to bed with the windows closed. And (trumpet fanfare!!!) there was no condensation on the windows! Problem solved (at least I hope so!) Proper ventilators will be fitted asap to prevent the local bees from taking up residence.
Interestingly enough you can feel the air flow through those small 16 mm holes. Inwards during the day when the outside temperature is highest and outwards when the inside temperature is highest.
Isn’t science wonderfull?

17th September, 2005. Went back to see Abri’s handiwork. The floors look great. I haven’t coated the floors yet as the ceiling needs painting and I am not gonna drip on newly varnished floors! You can still see the poison that he used to nuke the borer beetles. Hopefully that is the last of that topic.
(It wasn’t. See here and here)

The air in the house was much better, warmer, fresher. Those holes really worked a treat! Now I need to go back and fit proper ventilation grids.

Ok, so now some years later Amanda has joined me in my activities and added some class to my endeavors and look how things have improved…..

We converted the front verandah into a kitchen – temporary but still it works.

The bedroom adjacent to the bathroom is furnished and looks like this.

The main bedroom – east end of the house now looks like this.

The sitting room now has furniture and decorations.

East side of the living room looks like this.


Riviersonderend Cells

The Cells are constructed of two layers of corrugated iron with cement in between. Large rivets hold the layers of corrugated iron together.
The cells had concrete floors which couldn’t have been particularly warm in winter.
There are two separate cells.

The cells used to have toilets in them. These have since been removed. You can see where the toilet used to be. The brown oblong shape is a ventilator.

The windows are high and barricaded with steel reinforcing bar.
The doors are double layered iron.

Strangely enough the door hinges are on the inside.

The keys are huge!

Five star outside ablutions were also providedbehind the cells.
In case you are wondering the shower (on the right) and the basin are only provided with cold water.

Right now, the graffiti. The graffiti is carved into the door jambs and scraped onto the doors themselves. The most poignant bit of graffiti in the whole collection is this one.

The rest? Well I will leave you to decide.


The Mirror

I had to do a pastel painting of surreal scene. I started painting and got this kind of horror image. The poem was prompted by the image.

I will take some of those red flowers, and some blue
I come here every year at Halloween the day she died
I make the same wish every year and it will come true
She didn’t come the last year tho I am sure she tried

But on Halloween the veil between the dead and us
Is so very thin especially as the moon is rising full
She will come this year, I know she will with no fuss
These flowers are the bait, that extra strong pull

She had long and curly hair, now has she cut it there
I brought a ribbon for her. She did so like contrast
Especially when she dyed purple. She had purple hair
The teachers were so cross but the colour didn’t last

Aunt Agnes says I shouldn’t come. That she will be
Changed. Total unrecognisable she will be Aunty said
I told her nonsense, more beautiful she will be
And anyway why should she change? She is very dead

I’ll go and stand and watch the remembrance mirror
It magic lets you see your long lost, beloved dead
She will love the the reds and blues of this flower
Bunch. Thank you so much. I just wish she wasn’t dead.

Well, when it came to closing time and the girl she
Hadn’t come back, so I roused the gardener, old Fred
And we went to that bad mirror on the bridge to see
And there we found her aged grey and horribly dead

Family History

Last letter from a Soldier

The picture below is a scan of a bad copy of the last letter my Maternal Grandfather wrote before being shot in Joubert Park Johannesburg.
The year is 1922 and my grandfather, a part time private in the Rand Light Infantry and is called up to put down the uprising now refer to as the General Strike. Smuts declared Martial Law and my grandfather was called up. The letter was written in Ellis park but his regiment was billeted in Joubert Park.
Sometime during night strikers attacked the encampment and in the skirmish my grandfather came face to face with one of his apprentices. He refused to shoot the man, who promptly shot him only to be shot in turn by an RLI soldier.
Six months later my mother was born.

One quietly forgotten fact about the Strike was that it was organised by Afrikaner organisations allied with the Communist Party.


Verneuk Pan

Verneuk Pan is approximately 100 km from Brandvlei, a small town in the middle of the Namaqualand semi-desert.
Brandvlei is approximately 600 km from Cape Town and it looks like this:

Gardening is not a favourite pastime in Brandvlei. Well with soil like this, who wants to dig in the garden? Not much water either for that matter.

The local pub called is called Die Windpomp – directly translated the Wind Pump, more correctly The Windmill. It has a friendly atmosphere and a suitably cheerful and chatty owner.

You notice the fire in the fireplace? It gets achingly cold in Namaqualand. This is not the coldest I have seen the temperature on the Subaru.

But it does come close and, when you consider that I was baking in 40 degrees the day before, it has got to be the most extreme. It looked like this when the temperature was 6. And yes, you can see camera shake. At 6 degrees in a light jersey, you shake.

And now, off to Verneuk Pan, but first a short history lesson. Malcolm Campbell was a man who specialised in breaking speed records. Verneuk Pan is flat and long. Two attributes that you need for a high speed race track. The race track takes a smallish portion of the Pan. The original racetrack, marked out by half sunken car tyres is 19 km long and over its entire length drops 15 cm. Verneuk Pan is 53 kilometres long, so the race track fits easily. It is also covered in the finest dust I have ever experienced. About the only time I ever got dust into the car when it was sealed was at Verneuk Pan.

My Subaru at the starting point

That glimmer on the horizon is not water. It is what gives the place its name. Verneuk Pan translates as the The Cheating Pan. Early travellers got out onto the flats of the pan.

The heat shimmer appears to be a kilometer away. It surrounds you and you end up in a circle of heat haze.

Everywhere you look is shimmer, as you advance toward it, the shimmer retreats, luring you on to your death from dehydration.

I left the track and headed out into the unmarked pan to experience the isolation of being off the track.

When I turned around to find the track I must admit that I was glad that the GPS was still on and functioning.

The end of the race track and the end of the pan.

Did Malcolm Campbell succeed? No, he didn’t. You see that black line running across the pan?

There are thousands of those lines, mostly smaller than that one, made up of the local shale. It raises a lump about 2 or 3 cm high on the track. There is a cross line of shale every 200 metres or so. As the vehicle speed increases, so does the instability of the car. Each time you hit a lump, the car bounces slightly. The faster you are going, the higher you bounce and the sooner you hit the next one. At 185 km/h the Subaru was airborne longer than the wheels were on the ground. Very disconcerting, believe me. At the 400 km/h that Campbell was aiming at it would have been impossible to control the car.
Interestingly, the Subaru did not like accelerating on the dusty surface and the take off from the start was slow and sedate.

Here is a short video of driving on the track


Granaatsboskolk – Getting the and recognising the fact

When a friend heard I was going to Verneuk Pan he insisted that I visit a small settlement called Granaatsboskolk. He gave me a GPS and the co-ordinates and sent me on my way rejoicing. Why, I hear you ask do you need co-ordinates? Well simple, look at the pictures and you decide how you know if you have found Granaatsboskolk.

And no, there isn’t a place called Lus 10. I couldn’t find it so I had to ask. It is the special cell phone station for the Sishen Saldhana Railway line.

By the way, the locals didn’t ask why I needed a GPS, they just wanted to know why this mad Englishman actually wanted to go to Granaatsboskolk.

Half way there I found a hill. Mind you in this type of country, a hill can be just a gentle rise in the road. This picture was taken from a rise that the road prudently went around. The hill was huge. At least 10 metres high and about 500 metres long.

That is the way back to Brandvlei.

And then I was there. Uhm, correction, I drove straight through the place and when the road curved which it hadn’t done much that day, I knew I had missed Granaatsboskolk. So I drove back. Checked the GPS and the road signage and decided where to stop. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is Granaatsboskolk. It is a cross roads, one clue that you have arrived.

Looking toward Brandvlei.

Off to Kakamas.

A Telkom installation.

The only dwelling in Granaatsboskolk.

And if you don’t have a GPS, how do you know you have made it? Simple really. The sign boards stop talking about it.