Just over fifty years ago…

Just over fifty years ago, in a Cape winter storm similar to the one that arrived last night, the SS Seafarer, a passenger ship, ran aground near to the Green Point lighthouse, on the rocks of Mouille Point beach. Mouille Point was a row of houses then, not the row of towering apartment buildings it is today. Marshall, my husband, lived in one those little cottages with his sister and parents. He was nearly five years old at the time, but remembers it vividly. His passion for the sea was deeply rooted even at that young age. His father had helped him build his first model ship the previous year and they were building a real, sea going boat together at the time. Weekends were fun, but he had to wait for his dad to wake up and struggled to contain himself at times. Imagine the surprise he got when he opened the curtains early that Saturday morning to find a big ship right on his doorstep. His dad has since passed on, and Marshall went on to little sailing boats, to bigger and bigger ones until eventually he was sailing his own ships. It was a wonderful day for Marshall, his dad, uncle, and a couple of their mates, as multiple bottles of whisky washed up on shore, while the helicopters buzzed above rescuing all passengers in very dangerous conditions. The family moved to Durban, Johannesburg, and then back to Cape Town, with his mom spending her retirement years in Sea Point Place, right on the corner where Sea Point and Mouille Point are joined by Beach Road. Her somewhat frail condition necessitates me going to see her every few days lately, and knowing the storm was coming, I’m glad I insisted on going through yesterday instead of today. She has just called to tell me her apartment, which is on the fifth floor of the building, sea facing, has been flooded. My first thought was ‘oh dear, I hope she isn’t forgetting taps on now’, but apparently not. I know when I left her yesterday that all windows were closed, in fact they are never opened, and that all was in order. She tells me the waves were ten to twelve ft high last night, entirely flooding the intersection and even crashing on the green grass of home. A part of her bed, and all bedding was wet, as well as a large part of the fitted carpet, where I believe water came through the windows. On the opposite end of the room, at the front facing window, her intercom was also water damaged enough to render it useless today, and her kitchen, which only has one window, was ankle deep in water. She tells me that even people on the eighth floor have been affected, although apparently that is from the roof above them leaking. This is so bizarre, but also the Cape that I love so much.


Bus Shelter


The approaching mother-of-all-storms was the talk of the day in the mile long queue at the urine soaked, beggars paradise of Cape Town Bus Terminus, at 6.30 this evening. Today was challenging and I looked forward to getting home. Looking around at the homeless and street dwellers trying to make a quick buck before night falls, and pondering about how they will cope tonight, is when I noticed several council vehicles doing the rounds offering the homeless shelter from the storm. Well, I respect that. Well done Cape Town City Council and I’m glad to know that not all Council employees are heartless bastards. Keep on caring.


The drought in the Western Cape is severe. We face harsher water restrictions in a few days time. The City Council has done a fantastic job on communicating this to us. What I do not understand is why nothing has been done about the Reclaim Camissa Project. Why are they seemingly blocking it?

Camissa People

The indigenous people of the Cape, the Khoena, did not give every river a name in the same manner as did the Europeans. There were simply rivers from which people could drink water and those from which people could not drink. The former were known as the Sweetwater rivers or Camissa rivers. A maroon group, the Goringhaicona establish the first proto-settlement at the mouth of the main Camissa river flowing from TableMountain into the sea.

Photo illustrating the Cape Times article which follows below. Caron von Zeil in a tunnel under the City, one of many built by the British in the late 1800s, through which millions of litres of fresh Table Mountain spring water run to waste. Picture: COURTNEY AFRICA - Cape Times

Photo link to the Cape Times article on Camissa’s wasted water. Caron von Zeil in one of the many tunnels built by the British in the late 1800s, through which millions of litres of fresh Table Mountain spring water run to waste. Picture: COURTNEY AFRICA – Cape Times

Caron von Zeil, a passionate environment champion of the Camissa water system whom I recently met has a Masters Degree in Environmental Planning and Landscape Architecture. She…

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Should we kill the rat?

Summer in Cape Town can be both exceptionally beautiful, almost paradise-like, or it can be irritatingly windy alternating with irritatingly hot and sweaty. The paradise days are few, but when they do appear, those irritating days fade into a distant memory, even if it was only yesterday.

The grape vines in the courtyard have been here for seemingly centuries, if one is to judge by the size of their trunks. The grapes are hanging in big fat droves, waiting to ripen fully in about a month or two. While we were idly reminiscing about the day, enjoying the blissfully still, perfect day, a housemate noticed a rat crawling amongst the grapes that fall onto the roof. We quickly re-assembled ourselves inside, and once our nerves had settled, called the exterminators. He arrived, did his dastardly deed by putting the rat boxes in strategic places and left, having given us instructions as to what to do next. So now, we wait. Wait for the rat or rats, should there be more than one of them, to come down at some time, munch on the poison, and die.

If you have ever seen a rat die from poison, you will know that it is not a pleasant site. In fact, it is revolting and seemingly very cruel. I had the misfortune of seeing one die like this, about 15 years ago when I owned a house in another suburb. It was horrible, and the memory of it every time I hear of someone having a rat problem, is vivid.

There was a huge bougainvillea plant in the back garden. Being an avid gardener, Saturdays were spent trimming, pruning, picking, weeding, and various other chores in the garden. This Saturday was no different, and the bougainvillea was scheduled for a major pruning. While standing back and planning where to cut, when suddenly these two smallish rats (they could not have been mice) ran up the trunk. It was startling, but considering the huge spiders and other bugs sometimes encountered while gardening, I thought nothing of it. In fact, I naively decided that they must have been living in the neighbour’s garden. Well by the following Saturday, there was no doubt they were multiplying rapidly. Nine rats ran up the trunk. That was the deciding point. There was absolutely no way I wanted them in the house, so it was time to take a decision. After consulting with various dispensers of rat poison, i.e. the chemist and hardware store man, who assured me that it was the best and most effective way to deal with the problem.  Rat poison was then laid down in strategic spots. At the time, I did not think to cover it to make it hard to reach for other creatures, so unfortunately lost a few garden birds in the process. About a week later, I stood on the same spot and waited to see if any rats were still alive. They seemed to have disappeared, which was a satisfying feeling. Even better, I had not noticed any dead ones around, or any dead rat smells lingering. About to turn away, a rat crawled out from under the beams in the garden. I could see he was half-dead, and wish I had looked away, but he slowly crawled towards me and then died, blood spurting out of all orifices. It was a terrible feeling. As if, I was and am the worst serial killer on this planet. Of course, I knew the rats are unable to regurgitate, therefore rendering any poison ingested quite effective. It just did come to mind at the time. Most over the counter rat poisons contain warfarin, a common blood thinner which taken in the correct doses, is very effective in preventing blood clotting in humans. In rats, in high quantities, they just bleed to death. I still have doubts whether it is a humane manner to deal with them.

What is the most effective way of dealing with this problem though? What happens if one doesn’t ‘get rid’ of them? Is there such a thing as a rat catcher, who comes and relocates them? Is there another, kinder method of merely discouraging them? I do not know the answers, but would be interested to know how you have dealt with it.



Be an INSPIRATION to another – be PASSIONATE about it.

pass-correctionAt the outset, that may sound a little corny, but give me a chance to explain a little.  We are not born with the kind of fiery passion that sets some of us apart from the rest, it is something we learn and make a conscious choice about in life.

In the current socio economic climate, not withstanding the political environment, which does not seem to be better or worse anywhere in the world, it all creates pressure on us as people. As mothers, as fathers, as leaders, as children, as followers, as survivors we all bear the burden of a crumbling society severely lacking in morals, in leadership, or perhaps as people we just struggle to remain positive in a seemingly endless negative environment. The higher we climb, the bigger the pressure, not only from a responsibility point of view, but also in our social standing.  No one likes to be the one who tried and failed. The one who rose to fame and fortune and then crumbled because they could not keep up with the workload, the pressure, the mask, or whatever it is that breaks them in the end.

Who are the people who succeed then, and how do we measure success?  Who is counting anyway?

I am primarily an artist, the medium being mostly oil on canvas paintings.  I also write, and edit, and review and interview.  Although it has been a lifelong dream to do this for a living, it was not until a few years ago that an opportunity to follow my real passions in life opened up.    It is not everyone’s ideal vocation in life, and although at times it may seem as if my head is in the clouds all the time, or most of the time anyway, it is not.  Being creative all the time is hard work sometimes.  After all those years of being silent, the creative self finally has an outlet.   Observing human behaviour became a favourite pastime. Ordinary people were usually the most inspirational. The people who accepted their limitations but performed their duties with passion and pride were the most inspirational. They create reasons to be happy, they seek joy, and are a real inspiration to meet, or observe.

Starting out as an artist, I painted mostly landscapes and scenery.  It was probably because of insecurity and fear of failure, having never had an art lesson in life.  Before long, passion for art and people merged and it remains the most inspirational topic.  I have painted people in just about all forms, from ordinary, to portraits, to an erotic series I have just completed and hope to exhibit soon.  I am currently painting a series of ordinary people on the streets who inspire me, the vendors, the homeless, the healers, the passersby.  Besides the joy of being passionate about the job at hand, I have also made some wonderful new friends. Without the lows, one never knows the highs of life either. So embrace them.

Jenny Calder

September 2016