Louis Trichardt

Around Here

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I’ve been having a couple of jump up and down tantrums because wild creatures refuse to sit still and have their photos taken – they apparently don’t at all care that I’m still new at this. I do have lots of photos of tips of bird tails and feathery backsides, so I’m guessing that at some point I might just get the whole thing – I might have to venture forth too rather than waiting for them to come to me. There are the most amazing birds zooming around now all busy with their nests and babies. I love watching the weaver birds doing their wild thing best of all. They’re the cleverest little guys, even though I could be a bit biased.

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Jelly and Button have never shown the slightest inclination to go outside, and on the couple of occasions that a door has been accidentally left open they’ve run away from it not towards it. Outside is a bit of a scary place for my guys.

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In the wild they construct the most amazing nests in huge noisy communities. These are in a thorn tree, so good luck with that any snake who fancies a snack.

Wild Weavers

My two little guys zoom around busy all day making their own constructions, and singing their little hearts out. They have their own kind of tunes that I’ve never heard from a wild weaver. Anyway, a couple of people have wondered what it’s like around here. Weather wise, I think it’s sub-tropical. Louis Trichardt (here) is a little town situated at the foot of the Soutpansberg Mountain range, and only a couple of hours drive away from the Kruger National Park (I’ll get there yet). It’s a mellow place right up at the top of South Africa very close to the Zimbabwe border, and the people are lovely, both the townies and the farming community. The national highway runs through the town, and if you blink twice you’ll very probably miss it. Wherever you look there are gorgeous mountains. I hope sometime not in the too distant future to head out a little ways and get some pics of just how gorgeous this place is to share, but for now – a couple of shots around and about where I live.

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Louis Trichardt 5

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Baby Steps

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Things have been a bit hectic for me for a couple of days, so no writing, editing, or indeed anything computer related has been done so far this week. Also it’s raining so my internet sucks. Life’s funny sometimes when you have to run as fast as you can and you still don’t keep up. Never mind. I’ve got thousands of emails and notifications again, so if there’s anything important that I should be doing that I could take a while getting to, please yell at me. Loud as you like. I don’t mind at all.

I have figured out that I’m a bit of a coward. I decided that seeing as how I would be forced out into the big wide world and have to stand in queues and do horribly tedious things for days, that I would take along my camera just in case I spotted anything interesting. Well. Just holding a camera in public gets you stared at, and also glared at if you look like you’re going to aim it in anyone’s general direction. Much respect to all you street photographers out there. I gave up on that pretty quickly after getting a couple of pretty boring and bad shots, and lots of resentful and possibly threatening stares. I’ll have another go though – when I’m not feeling pressurised to do other things, because I’m collecting elements for my future cover art project. I could maybe get into the whole glaring thing when I’m my normal self – it’s actually a little funny now that I’m happily back where I belong right here at my desk.

I’m quite excited with my cover design thing, and really hope that I get it right. I was telling a friend the other day that when I was a teenager I was obsessed with sketching pictures that told a story. They ended up looking quite “different”, and I was strongly encouraged to draw normal things instead. I remember doing one of Elvis entwined with tablets, a syringe, a pink Cadillac, and a peanut butter sandwich, so I can see where that was good advice at the time. But thinking back now I also see a frustrated cover designer – hopefully. I also remember writing a terrible song about a robot, but I’ll say no more about that. For the rest of this week I’m just going to be catching up with blogs and comments, and doing mini edits on my published books, correcting gremlins still lurking in them, and then changing their paper book formats and sizes, so WIP’s will only be got back into next week.

Diving into catch up mode now, and anyone contemplating prying me away from my desk for the foreseen future can anticipate worlds of pain. Worlds. Now – a couple of my furtive and wobbly shots on my first ever camera outing. I only had the zoom lens with me, and I’m pretty sure I had it on the wrong setting – so…

This huge cross lives on a hill overlooking our little town, and is lit up at night. Whether you’re religious or not, it is strangely comforting.

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Taxi Rank

Smiley Face

Brothers

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Owie!

Broken Head Bone

Birdies – of course.

Birds

Leaving Zimbabwe

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Leaving Zimbabe
Leaving Zimbabe

Next month it will be a year since we left Zimbabwe to come back home to South Africa. Although living up there for almost two decades it was also home to me, and I wouldn’t exchange the memories of it, both good and bad, for anything in the world. Apart from the fires – those were terrible, and were mostly started on purpose.

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For all of those years we lived in rural areas far away from any sort of town, which is why I used to go on my epic once a month shopping trips and stock up on everything needed till the next month. A couple of hours drive each way to Harare, being stopped by endless roadblocks along the way, being fined US$20 for having dirty tyres (truth).

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And being nearly squished several times by ancient, overloaded, but still very zoomy buses and taxis. It was all a massive adventure though, and I remember all these things now with a smile.

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After the farm invasions started and the economy collapsed there were several really lean years – years of fear too, because there was no rule of law. Large groups of youths went around beating people both black and white, and very often killing them. The currency was worth nothing, not that you could buy anything with it if it wasn’t though. Shops closed. The end. People in rural areas died of starvation and disease – hospitals had nothing. Power went off for days, sometimes weeks. No more water on tap in the capital, and sewage pipes left broken with effluent in the streets causing cholera, and more death.

I’ve never seen a people with more heart than the people of Zimbabwe though. Apart from those who had the power to harm whoever they felt like harming and did, the vast majority of Zimbabweans are a wonderful and very canny lot. Plans were made. There was a mass exodus of white people at that time, and not only farmers. Some got out in time to hang on to any cash they had, but when the economy collapsed those left behind lost everything including pensions, and any investments people had been building for their entire lives crumbled to dust before their eyes. So many were fearfully stuck there with no money to get out, but there were also quite a few of us who stayed because that’s what we decided to do. We knew that it was dangerous, especially out in the rural areas on farms, but I guess guardian angels were working overtime those days, so even though I had the daylights scared out of me quite a few times, nobody ever managed to physically harm me. Apart from all the hurting though, Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, and there was also lots of laughter and joy, even from those hurting. Regardless of whether or not you’d be munching on an old potato for lunch, or if you had “made a plan” and would be having something a bit more filling, the houses up there were always gorgeous. I do miss a couple of things. I miss my freshly picked veggies, and also seeing all the wildlife and birds that crept around the garden – although not so much the black mambas and the baboons lurking behind bushes waiting to scare the pants off innocent me. And I really miss looking out of my window and seeing shining tranquil water. Our front lawn meandered down a couple of terraces to a gorgeous dam.

If you fancied a swim, in you popped. Not that I ever ventured out too far because there was the meanest monitor lizard in the world who used to hang around on the wobbly old jetty that would hiss and leap at you without any provocation at all.

Still, it was a lovely place to watch the sun go down behind the fields of tea on the other side of the water.

I miss the palm trees loaded down with nesting weaver birds every year – especially the one right outside my office window.

Weaver Birds

Would I ever go back to live there? No – I don’t think so. There was so much hope a couple of years back. After seeing the misery and the hunger on the faces of those people who I came to love and respect so much for their strength and humility in the face of appalling abuses by their own, I actually used to grin like an idiot and shed a tear or two when I saw them happy, well fed, and hopeful again. Now things are going so badly again – I couldn’t bear to see that again.

For now I’m very happy in my sleepy little rainbow nation town. I certainly don’t miss that constant small feeling of not being safe, but I’ll always treasure my years in Zimbabwe, and strangely, the fact that the very hell that everyone went through brought us all so much closer, and I got to know and love so many people of that country in ways that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere or anywhen else.

Louis Trichardt