Sunday morning on the Kom

Kommetjie’s Slangkop Lighthouse is one of those iconic Cape Town landmarks that is photographed to death, but I still return time and again hoping for something exceptional.  This time it was a spectacular autumn sunrise I had in mind.  Instead, a low bank of mist and muggy skies over the ocean greeted me.  As consolation though, I saw formations of migrating birds and my very first pied kingfisher ever, who kindly hung around the Kom just long enough for me to stop my car in a cul-de-sac and grab my camera.  Such is life :-)

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Quake update: the first 24 hours.

Earth Under my Feet:

A moving and very personal account from a fellow WordPress blogger in the thick of things in Nepal.

Originally posted on Spontaneous Presence:

This was written on Sunday Nepal time, in the first 24 hours after the primary quake, so it’s old news by now:

We are still without power or internet. I am unable to charge anything. We did not get to bed last night until midnight. No one could sleep. I tried sleeping on a couch downstairs…in my clothes and with the outside door open. That didn’t work. When I finally got to sleep on the second floor, I wasn’t sure how prepared I wanted to be for another serious aftershock. I started with my clothes on. Sharp aftershocks at 12:30, 2 and 5am. A couple of them got me moving toward the door before they subsided. Worked online for 15-20 min. Back to sleep.

Phone call from Aryan at 6am. Aryan was involved in recovery yesterday at Bhasantipur, pulling 18 people from the destruction. Another 50-some were found later. The…

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A gift called Leo

It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them.      And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart.               If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”  Author unknown

Losing pets is awful and painful, but saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things I have had to do and the void he has left behind is cavernous.  He was only 8 and still a puppy at heart, but life and a monstrous tumour had other ideas for this remarkable little mutt.  Two weeks on I am still struggling to make sense of things.

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After a fortnight of appointments and seeing five veterinarians in total, it became clear I would have to say goodbye sooner than I imagined.  Following a battery of tests and physical examinations, the specialist vet suggested a costly MRI scan.  My GP, who I have known for 20 years, advised against it saying I should spend the money spoiling him and building his strength for his last days, but I’m glad I followed my heart and did all of the aforementioned, because doing the MRI showed us exactly what we were dealing with and allowed me to make informed decisions.

The vets were stunned by what they saw:  A 15cm mass extending from the right side of Leo’s neck into his intracranial compartment was pressing on his brain and around the right optic nerve.  The young vet who showed me the results on the monitor was amazed Leo was still walking.  It was a blessing though that there was no invasion of the brain.

Our own vet, Sheena, was shocked when she read the report and more so when she saw him again.  The deterioration was rapid.  He was losing weight as well as the sight in his right eye.  Overnight the colour of his iris had changed from his trademark beautiful light green to amber and seemed to be ulcerating.  By now his tongue had “died’ on the right side – a shrivelling which made it hard for him to eat his food normally and although he was still managing to get food down eventually and otherwise interacting normally with me, it was hard to believe I was doing him any kindness by keeping him alive or that he wasn’t in immense pain.  Being a pitbull, it was even harder to judge but he pawed frantically at his temporal bone all the time and painkillers may or may not have solved that for him.  The vets warned that a stroke or seizure was very probable as the tumour spread relentlessly.  Working full time I would never have been able to monitor him around the clock and would never have forgiven myself if I came home and found him dead or maimed.  It was a hard place to be.

And so, after a sleepless night where between his bouts of restlessness it twice seemed as though he had died, I stayed home and we spent the day doing everything Leo loved to do.  He supervised me cleaning the pool as he always did with his muzzle in the way of everything, we played ball (his favourite thing), ate biltong, had a rest in my son’s bedroom so he could smell Dylan one last time, and then I sat on the kitchen floor with him like a homeless person and we shared a TV dinner.  He wriggled with delight as always as tears streamed down my face at the thought of what was to come.  More than once I considered delaying the inevitable.
Leo was a character of note, larger than life and tough to the very end.  Never once did he wince at being poked and prodded. I miss him more than I can describe but I know I did the right thing by him.  He died peacefully in my arms after a day of only good doggie things and not alone from a painful death or by stroke or seizure.  I owed him that. Fittingly he wagged his tail and licked me right to the very end.

In a touching acknowledgement of how much part of the family Leo was to me, my boss quietly drew a line through my Leave Form and deemed it “Compassionate Leave”, something generally reserved for human relatives.  Such was Leo’s reputation.

I know now that this pup that never grew up was on loan to me, sent with the purpose of demonstrating unconditional love.  No matter how I reprimanded him for chasing birds, wrecking the garden or for pulling me on walks, he would always come back with his tongue lolling and tail wagging ready to love and be loved.  He was a precious and special gift and I was lucky to be his Mom.

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Bon voyage little man, you were so very loved.  Until we meet again. xxx

Scatterlings and Great Hearts

It’s little wonder his weekend concert at Kirstenbosch was sold out weeks ago.  At 61, Johnny Clegg, icon of the South African music industry, still makes the hair on my arms rise when he performs songs that were instrumental in bringing South African Afro-pop and Mbaqanga* music to the world stage.

It’s powerful stuff that makes my heart beat and my hips sway in tandem to the rhythm of Africa and I’m reminded as I stand photographing this legend performing to a crowd of 5000 Capetonians of just how far we have come as a country since the dark days of apartheid when Clegg and collaborators such as Sipho Mchunu (below) transcended racial and cultural divides with traditional song and dance.  Clegg’s Jaluka and Savuka became household names in those gloomy years.

Activist, anthropologist, singer, songwriter and academic, Le Zoulou Blanc (The White Zulu), is true South African music royalty. 9-IMG_8295 8-IMG_8284 7-IMG_8283 5-IMG_8275 1-IMG_8230

a style of South African music with rural Zulu roots.

Robins return

After last year’s sad loss of one of the resident Cape Robins (who was killed by a rat trap) I’m over the moon to see another pair hopping around my garden.   They’re elusive as always until you turn on the sprinkler.

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Sunbird Magnet

It wasn’t even up for half an hour and the double collared sunbirds found the new sugar water feeder.  They’re always flitting in and out of our garden, but I suspect that after the recent devastating mountain fires, a lot more wild birds are turning to gardens for food.

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Later, gregarious little White Eyes, a Cape Bulbul and even a Cape Robin stopped by. The photo quality isn’t great, but for now I am taking pictures through a closed window, afraid of frightening them off.

Libraries Connect People to Each Other …..

It’s the theme for South African Library Week which runs from 13 to 21 March and reminds me a lot of the blogging community too :-)

In celebration, a quick phone pic of some of my favourite books and some still waiting to be read.

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Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela

Explore the Elements

There are still a few days left for all of you Travel Photobloggers out there to enter UK-based travel company Thomas Cook’s Travel Photoblogging Challenge.  The aim is to showcase the elements and your own unique interpretation of the four categories, Earth, Water, Fire and Air, so dig into your travel pic archives and get those entries in.  There are also some great prizes to be won.

Huge thanks to the uber talented Jude of Travel Words for nominating me.  Her posts are always a delight to read and a wonderful reminder of my childhood in England.

Be sure to study each category description carefully.  And with that, here is my submission:

Earth:  Represents the hard, solid objects of the earth. Associated with stubbornness, collectiveness, physicality and gravity4-IMG_5166

For EARTH I selected one of my favourite pictures taken in Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique.  Life is so carefree in Ponta that children abandon their bicycles and bags at the water’s edge to play soccer on the beach after school.  For all of us, Earth is what holds us up, the foundation for most things.

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Water:  Represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. Associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism 3-1873

Just as Earth is solid, water is the fluid, ever changing essence of life.  Without water, the seals and birdlife around Pelican Point Lighthouse off the Namibian coast wouldn’t survive.

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Fire:  Represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. Associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit

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Dune 45 at Sossusvlei in Namibia represents Fire for me.  Blow by the wind, the dunes are ever changing in form and ignited in the sunlight to huge, glowing embers of copper and ochre as they spread across the parched earth.  The dunes are best climbed in the early morning before the sand heats up enough to scald your feet.

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Air:  Represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. Associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom 4-07-IMG_1054Birds are synonymous with freedom of movement and this elusive breeding pair of African Black Oystercatchers photographed at Cape Point, a species of high conservation, highlights the need to be free to grow and continue the circle of life.

How you enter:

  • Entrants must follow the online ‘Explore The Elements’ instructions to create their own blog entry.  Those entry instructions form part of these competition terms and conditions.
  • Only one entry per person is permitted. Multiple entries will be invalid.
  • Entries must be received by Thomas Cook by no later than 23.59 on 16 March 2015.
  • To qualify for entry, entrants must also nominate 5 of their fellow bloggers within their blog post.

My five nominations are:

  1. Janaline’s world journey
  2. Scarlet Nguni
  3. Sliding Sideways 
  4. A Glass Half Full
  5. Herman van Bon Photography 

Don’t feel obliged to join in, but best of luck if you do :-)