Sunday, 18 May 2014

How to make a fire, psychology and a touch of mythology

My story today is about making a fire, not any fire, not a fire when camping, not a fire to cook on, although that brings it's own tale of woe with it, but today is about making a simple little fire in a fireplace in a house in a suburb; but let me not cut straight to the chase.......

At long last Winter is upon us, now for most normal folk this may seem like the oddest statement, for me however winter is the most glorious time of cold, it is a time when I feel comfortable and normal.
Summer on the other hand is heat and sweat, discomfort during the day and tossing and turning in a too hot bed at night. In summer I drive with my aircon on full blast, my office I chill down to about 18C.
So as you see for me Winter is great........but with everything there is a quid pro quo......

Today is cloudy and about 13C which for me is just before it melts my eyeballs - And it starts something like this......

Pam: it's a bit chilly today, how about we have a fire?
Me: *pretend not to hear*
Pam: don't you think we need a fire, it'll be nice
Me: Uh Huh

And with that off Pam goes to church. On Sundays I stay at home to do do the house cleaning, clothes washing and dishes - so domesticated aren't I?
I do the estimates - it is now 9:00am Pam will be back from church around 11:30 so I will start the fire around 10:30 - how cheerful this all sounds.....


But before this happens to happen as it happens, I decide to do a couple of other minor jobs....
Oh I forgot to mention, a major water main burst so we have no water this means no dish washing and no clothes washing - can't go the local launderette as they won't have water either.

But anyway, back to the story and down to the garage; I had to move my bicycles out of my workshop, repack some old wine racks that we're lying around, take photos of a treadmill I want to sell ..... Oh and change the diesel filter in my SUV ( as one does)
Changing the diesel filter should be a breeze, I own a '73 CJ5 jeep that I once upon a time stripped down to the last nut and bolt and re-assembled - again as one does ( that is another story for another time), don't tell Pam; it doesn't run at the moment so I've got it hidden away in a storage garage, got to get it up and running soon.

So to the oil filter..... You are probably wandering what this has got to do with the fire?....... Well actually nothing other than it put me in the "mood" for a fire.

A diesel filter needs to be kept clean and above all free of water, now diesel in South Africa is filthy stuff, lots of water, one can reset the electronics of the vehicle every now and then - which I just happen to know how to do, it also saves money getting the service agent to do this 30 sec job and charging you R450.00 ($45.00) to fool the car into thinking the filter is replaced but sooner or later you have to change the filter. So I open it all up and I find the filter is black with dirt, either they didn't change it at the last service ( highly possible) or the diesel is really really dirty.

Mood is spiraling down hill fast, psychology time yet... No!

Open filter housing
Remove old filter
Put in new filter
Close up housing
Filter leaks
Strip down filter housing again
Re-seat filter
Close up housing
Check again
........ Forget to prime filter..... Car won't start.....
Gnash teeth a bit, prepare to strip down filter
Remember to prime filter
Car starts **PHEW**

Start cleaning out workshop, time is marching on relentlessly........
And now it is Time for the fire and a lesson in psychology

The five stages of just about any process.....

Stage 1: Denial
Stage 2: Anger
Stage 3: Bargaining
Stage 4: Depression
Stage 5: Acceptance

I don't have to make the fire, it's too warm for a fire, it's only 13C it'll get warmer
But I know I have to do it.... So I make a start.

We have a really nice looking fireplace in our one lounges that I know hates me with all the emotion of a totally inanimate object.

So I gather the accoutrements needed:
Fire lighters
Hair dryer........ ?????? Yes a hair dryer

To make a fire: make small fist size bundles of paper, place some fire lighters in with the paper, make a pyramid over the paper and firefighters with thin bits of kindling and apply match.
The hair dryer by the way is to pump as much air as I can in below the fire to get it going, trick I read in Popular Mechanics years ago......

Enter stage 2: Anger

Watch the fire dwindle out
Instant bad mood and foul language.........
Break apart pyramid and start again
Let me point out at this time, you have to get the flue warm to make the fire draw nicely, and we have an odd dogleg shape in the flue to get the chimney out to the house.
So I rebuild the fire....

..........Watch the fire dwindle out


Break apart pyramid and start again

Stage 3: Bargaining

I am now talking to the fireplace, discussing how IT WILL BEHAVE, and I won't hate it so much if it starts working, maybe my position on my knees begging just gives the fireplace power and a sense of superiority because it does not work...... The bargaining that is......
I am praying to Gedi, Vulcan and Huracan** for assistance........ They are enjoying the spectacle as much as the fireplace

Stage 4: Depression

It s not going to light, Pam will be home soon, the house is cold, I'm a failure, the fireplace is laughing at me - I can hear it, the voices in my head have ganged up on the side if the fireplace and are laughing as well

Stage 5: Acceptance

OK so I am useless at making fires, we all know that, I have never been adept at making fires, not even when I was in the military, it's so bad that I won't even braai (barbecue) if I don't have access to a nice little gas cooker - we have a portable gas braai for traveling.

And I'm building pyramids
And lighting
And pumping in air
And starting to blubber

....... And PFFFWWAAAAAHHHHHH it roars into life .......


I know just what early caveman felt.... Immense cosmic power.....

* These epic words are from Dante's inferno; Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

** Mythological gods of fire ( I get desperate at this point)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Close encounters of the Animal kind, and other stories.......

And as it happens it is that time of the year for our bi-annual pilgrimage to the bush, i.e. The Pilanesberg.
A lot of people may not understand why we go there so often, well to put it simply it is one of the few places I feel totally at home and totally relaxed here in Africa.

And so we arrive early on Friday afternoon entering the park in the south with the intention of taking a nice slow drive up through the park until we arrive at Manyane resort where we have a timeshare chalet.

The drive turned into one of the most exciting drives we have ever had, elephants and rhino abounded 

"I'll just lean onto this itty bitty little bush to take the weight off my poor aching legs"

Taking an early evening stroll

Hippo leaving the dam for a forage

Hippo's foraging below the dam wall


As we were finishing the drive and heading for our camp, we took a little side road that we often take but usually don't see much, but did on a prior occasion hear wild dogs barking when all of a sudden there was a beautiful female lioness standing on the side of the road in the bush.....

Screech to a halt to watch .......... the evening went from great to fantastically surreal

 There were the cubs...

"If we all rush together we should be safe"

"Almost there...."

Then the cubs and one of the lioness's decided the road was a great place to relax  

"Damn I'm tired"

"My what big teeth you have!"

Ho Hum.....

And then out came the male - Epic Grandeur at its most regal best.
All in all there were two males lions, 3 lioness's and four cubs.
We sat watching them for an hour before they moved off into the bush and we had to move quickly to make the 18:00 gate exit deadline.

Our Chalet at Manyane Resort

As usual our chalet (not the one we normally have as we were not there on the date our timeshare usually happens) was extremely comfortable with a great patio area to braai (barbecue) and watch the sun go down while the guinea fowl peck around in the grass and as was the case this time we got to watch the impala run riot during the rutting, with the males trying to separate off the females for themselves all the while making the most alarming coughing, retching, gagging, hissing, gasping noises, must be impressive to the females I think.

Patio area where we ate dinner and breakfast

Back of chalet

Path to the front door

Front door

Guinea Fowl foraging in front of our patio
Impala and foal foraging in front of our patio

........... Next Morning 

So there I was, as one does of an early morning; brushing my teeth in the bathroom, the sun is shining, birds are twittering, the impala are still doing their guttural rutting rituals outside, and I had forgotten to close the front door to the chalet which incidentally is right next to the bathroom.......

Lo and behold whom shall enter by said front door.... none other than my old nemesis, my Moriarty, Blackbeard of the animal kingdom (See previous post)..... A BABOON a LARGE BABOON a very LARGE BABOON.    

Now I am of strong constitution in tight corners and suspect situations of which this was very much one... 
So electric toothbrush in hand and assuming my best swordsman's pose, I proceeded to lunge backwards and forwards making it seems very similar guttural noises as the previously mentioned Impala... 

                                   rrruuhhaaahhh.......bbbruuubbewaahhhaaa ........

Now these noises were accomplished with a mouth full of foamy toothpaste that was now spluttering all over the place included with and not excluding spray from the still running electric toothbrush.

I was I must comment, an impressive sight that would have put the fear of God into any and all living creatures ........ 

all except ...... 


It just stood there and looked at me, I bounced around, feinting and lunging , it looked, I made more noise, it looked, I bounced around some more feinting and lunging..... it looked, I may have even detected a slight raising of its eyebrow at this point
But by now I had horrible visions of my breakfast muffins making a very leisurely exit stage left out the chalet.

Pam on hearing the commotion from the bathroom strolls in from the bedroom sees the baboon, imperiously waves her hand and says "SHOOOO"....... Mr Baboon-Nemesis turns and bolts out the door......

Well that's that, you may say...
And why was I using an electric toothbrush as a weapon.... well I was in a bathroom in a chalet, one uses electric toothbrushes there, maybe If I was in a tent I wouldn't have had an electric toothbrush, but rather a sword, who knows......

So off we go again, into the bush for a leisurely drive, the afternoon before had somewhat in the extreme exhausted us mentally and emotionally, the conversation ran something like this....

Me: Don't know about you but I am exhausted after yesterday
Pam: Me too
Me: I wont mind too much if we don't see anything
Pam: Yes, we can drive around a bit and then maybe come back and relax at the chalet
Me: Sounds good
Pam: I hope we see something
Me: I'm sure well see lots
Pam: Hope so
Me: but if we don't its also OK

And so it went on in that vein until ..... OH MY GAWD..... there's a black backed Jackal.... and then the search was on for more game....... 

Black backed Jackal

Can't keep good spotters down.... NO SIREEE BOB.

Off to Sun City and the Valley of the Waves for the afternoon as the game was scarce due to the heat of the day - May month in South Africa - start of Winter - 35C heat

Sun City - Valley of the waves

Sun City - Valley of the waves - a beach in the middle of the bush

Time for a spot of dinner at the Cascades hotel and a bit of entertainment.

I think my aforementioned Nemesis or one of his cunning band of cut-throats and thieves - Mr. Baboon has followed us and is now  wreaking havoc on the hotel 

One of the hotel guests at a table next to us was laughing and joking about Mr. Baboon, and "Oh Look, someone has left their window open... HA HA HA.... HA... OH MY GAWD ITS OUR ROOOOMMMM" and off dashes the husband while we are further entertained to said baboon entering and exiting the room with an apple firmly clutched in his hand. 

I'm absolutely sure when he reached his room he grabbed for his electric toothbrush and proceeded accordingly... then again... maybe not

Mr. Baboon on his vantage point

Long empty road in the park



Where we stopped for breakfast on Saturday morning

Warthog wallowing


Zebra at the salt lick

Banded Mongoose

I can seeeeee you!!!!

Little bit of slow hoof shuffle


Kudu bull

Rhino in the bush

They still have their horns, but the rape of the bush continues unabated with rhino being poached at an alarming rate even though the authorities are doing there utmost to prevent it.

And the elephants came out two by two

Actually the elephants came out four by four

" If you don't behave I'm sending you home to grandma's"

"Does this bush make me look fat"

Grass or veldt on the side of the road

Bush scene

All was quiet well as quiet as the bush can get, when all of a sudden elephants came pouring out of the bush right next to me, I didn't know that I could get an automatic car into reverse so quickly and peddled back the way we had come with much alacrity

And they poured out playing and tussling and pushing and shoving...........




"OK everyone calm down and into into the bush, you've had your fun"

Vervet Monkey

Warthog foraging

Terrapin just hanging out 

Pied Kingfisher

Cormorants and terrapins just hanging out together