Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Visiting more old friends in and around Cape Town

Continued from In and around Cape Town: family and friends

On Thurday and Friday last week (27 & 28 August 2015) we visited more old friends in and around Cape Town.

We went to see Sam van den Berg, a former colleague from the Editorial Department at Unisa, and had dinner with him and his son Maritz at the Salty Sea Dog restaurant in Somonstonw.

Maritz & Sam van den Berg with Val Hayes at Simonstown, 27 Aug 2015

Maritz & Sam van den Berg with Val Hayes at Simonstown, 27 Aug 2015

Sam got into trouble with the higher-ups at Unisa for objecting to the poor quality of study material from the Education Faculty, which we believed amounted to fraud — taking money from students for rubbish. In those days (early 1990s) Unisa wasn’t interested in quality control. I hope that with all the talk of “transformation” there has now been some improvement, and that it is not just talk.

Then the following evening, after our usual day spent at the archives, we visited Jim and Jeanette Harris. Jeanette was an old friend of Val’s from primary school in Escombe, Natal, and they had not seen each other for many years. Jim had worked in a similar field to me, theologicval education and training for ministry in the Anglican Church, so we had a lot to talk about.

Val Hayes with Jeanetter and Jim Harris, Diep Riview, 28 August 2015

Val Hayes with Jeanette and Jim Harris, Diep Riview, 28 August 2015

In and around Cape Town

Continued from Vause family in Robertson

We travelled from Robertson to Cape Town and stayed in the Sun 1 Hotel on the Foreshore. We had stayed there before, when it was known as the Formula 1 Hotel. We like it because it is cheap, clean, and within easy reach of the Cape Archives. The main disadvantage is that it is in an area surrounded by office blocks and industrial buildings, so there is nowhere to eat nearby, though it is close to the Artscape Treatre.

Sun 1 Hotel, Cape Town Foreshore

Sun 1 Hotel, Cape Town Foreshore

During our stay in Cape Town last week we spent each moring doing research in the archives in Roeland Street, which is only a short drive from the hotel. The building used to be a jail, so it has a very high wall around it. We were mostly doing research into our family history. When the archives closed at 4:00 pm, we went to visit family and friends who had said they would like to see us.

The Cape Archives Depot, formerly the Roeland Street Jail.

The Cape Archives Depot, formerly the Roeland Street Jail.

Most places in Cape Town have good views, and the archive depot is no exception. On Tuesday when we came out we found the car battery was dead, and had time to take a couple of pictures while waiting for the AA to bring a new battery. We were glad that it decided to die in the middle of Cape Town and not on the road from Hondeklip Bay to Soebatfonteirn or somewhere equally inaccessible. It died with no warning. When we set off for the archives in the morning the car started fine, but it died as 1:08 pm, at least according to the dashboard clcok.

Devil's Peak, from outside the Cape Archives depot.

Devil’s Peak, from outside the Cape Archives depot.

One of the old friends I visitewd was Mike Preston, now living in a nursing home at Tokai. I had met him when I did a three months’ vac job as a student, with the audit firm of E.R. Syfret & Co, where Mike was an articled clerk. Mike was a car enthusiast, and one day after work we went for a test drive in an Austin Mini, then new of the market, and the salesman drove it on and off the kerb to show us the superiority of its rubber suspension. Mike remarked that it made every other small car look obsolete. Now we ourselves are obsolete superannuated has-beens.

Steve Hayes and Mike Preston

Steve Hayes and Mike Preston, Tokai, Western Cape

Namaqualand spring: 20 Aug 2015

Continued from Going west through Bushmanland

We set out to explore some of the countryside around Kamieskroon and to look at the spring flowers. We drive about 20 km down the N7 towards Garies, and then turned off to the west towards Spoegrivier, one of the places C.J Andersson had mentioned stopping at on his cattle drive to the Cape in 1862, and as Frank Stewardson (Val\s great great great grandfather) was just ahead of him, he too must have passed through there. Actually Andersson referred to it as Spookrivier, which may have been a mishearing of the name, or perhaps the name has changed. The first part of the road was over amazingly green rounded hills, all over bushes. I could not imagine driving several thousand head of cattle over them, and so assumed that the Spoegrivier valley must have provided a more passable route.

The road to Spoegrivier, Namaqualand. 20 Aug 2015

The road to Spoegrivier, Namaqualand. 20 Aug 2015

At 9:30, after driving about 20 km from the main road, we came to the valley with a little town in it.

The village of Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

The village of Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

The river was dry, like Namibian ones, though perhaps there was water underground for the cattle. There was a crude handpainted sign at the entrance to the dorp, saying “Welkom in Spoegrivier”, and an Aids ribbon underneath, so we wondered if Aids was a problem there.

Welcome to Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

Welcome to Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

It seemed to be quite an isolated community and we wondered what people did there, and whether there was a settlement there when Stewardson & Co passed through. Perhaps in their day it was all Nama huts covered with skins, but there didn’t seem to be any trees to make the huts, just bushes.

Namaqualand daisies on the hills near Spoegrivier, 20 August 2015

Namaqualand daisies on the hills near Spoegrivier, 20 August 2015

We passed through and then followed a farm track, which the bloke at Kamieskroon had told us would eventually lead to Walleskraal. It was much roughter and narrower, and so we drove slowly up, and on the other side of the hill where we arrived about 10:05 were spectacular scenes of spring flowers such as one sees in pictures, stretching across to the horizon, mainly orange Namaqualand daisies, looking almost fluorescent, interspersed with tiny yellow ones that looked little more than small pollen balls.

More daisies near Spoegrivier

More daisies near Spoegrivier

There were also rounded bushes, covered with yellow flowers, and several other varieties.

More flowers near Spoegrivier

More flowers near Spoegrivier

We passed through several farm gates, and farms as well. and one there were several people in a farmyard, and we asked if we were on the right road to Hondeklip Bay, and they said we must go straight, and that if we had GPS, which we didn’t, we should ignore it, because it lied. There were tracks leading off in various directions, presumably to the farms, so it was quite confusing, We joined the road between Walleskraal and Soebatfontein, where a grader was going down a hill, and the road had recently been graded for most of the way to Walleskraal, which we reached at 11:15. It hardly seemed to be a settlement at all, just a couple of buildings, and no shops that we could see.

Walleskraal, Namaqualand, 20 August 2015

Walleskraal, Namaqualand, 20 August 2015 – not snowdrifts, but flowers

There were also plenty of flowers there, lots of white ones interspersed with orange ones, and the white ones looked like snowdrifts, and in a river bed they looked like rivers of blood through the snow. Some of the white ones were vygies, but I think most were daisies. There seemed to be relatively few of the magenta vygies.

Orange and white flowers near Walleskraal, Namaqualand

Orange and white flowers near Walleskraal, Namaqualand

From there we went over more gently undulating country, with fewer flowers, for about half an hour, until we saw hills that looked like mine dumps, and it seemed that that is what they were, and there were signs saying that there was a rehabilitation project to try to regrow vegetation on them. It seemed that they were diamond mines, and I was rather surprised, as I thought that most of the diamond mines were further north, between Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay. We reached Hondeklip Bay at 11:47, and it was as unprepossessing as I had expected it would be, a kind of Henties Bay south of the border. a resort for weekend fishermen, with the coastal fog visible from some way inland.

The west coast town of Hondeklip Bay

The west coast town of Hondeklip Bay

We looked for a shop where we could buy biscuits and cold drinks, but there was only a drankwinkel, and Sam’s Restaurant. Val got a couple of Coke light, the only diet drinks they sold. The harbour was grey and looked dirty, with a dredger and a small boat, perhaps a fishing boat, bobbing in the swell. A little further out was what looked like a wreck.

Hondeklip Bay -- the port

Hondeklip Bay — the port

We left and drove north along the road to Koiingnaas, but before we reached it turned off to the north-east along a road that led to Springbok, which had boneshaking corrugations like those on the road to Odibo. Along the way there were several more strips of white flowers that looked like snowdrifts, but most of them were on the other side of the valley of the Swartlintjies river we were travelling up, and quite far away. The coastal plain was about 20-30 km wide, and then it became apparent why the cattle drivers from Damaraland must have followed the route along the coastal plain, perhaps quite close to the mountains. There was more vegetation, and probably water, there, and more grazing.

Fields of flowers along the Swartlintjies River, on the road between Hondekip Bay and Springbok

Fields of flowers along the Swartlintjies River, on the road between Hondekip Bay and Springbok, again, not snowdrifts, but daisies

At 1:15 pm we reached a crossroads, with the road from Koiingnaas to Springbok crossing one from Komaggas to Soebatsfontein. We had travelled 147.7 km from Kamieskroon. Andersson had been camped at Kommagas when he rode to Hondeklip Bay to fetch his letters, and it had taken him two days. It must have been heavy going riding a horse through the bushes. We turned south towards Soebatsfontein, and about 10 km down the road stopped for lunch, amid fields of white flowers, near Wildeperdehoek.

Daisies on the road from Wildperdehoek (Wild Horse Corner) to Soebatsfontein

Daisies on the road from Wildperdehoek (Wild Horse Corner) to Soebatsfontein, where we stopped for lunch

Val had made us egg rolls for lunch, and we drank the Cokes we had bought in Hondeklip Bay. We drove on from there, towards Soebatsfontein, and we stopped to take photos of gazanias growing at the side of the road, with dark orange-brown flowers, like the ones we had had in our garden a few years ago.

Picnic among the flowers

Picnic among the flowers

We didn’t see any shops in Soebatsfontein, apart from the inevitable drankwinkel, so just stopped to take a couple of photos and drove on.



We took photos of what we thought may have been the Grootberg, also mentioned in Andersson’s diary, and turned back along the road to Kamieskroon.

Possibly the Grootberg mentioned in Andersson's diary

Possibly the Grootberg mentioned in Andersson’s diary

which crossed a couple of steep passes, and more fields of orange daisies on a farm, and got back to Kamieskroon at 4:00 pm, having covered 215 km on our round trip.

Kamieskroon, Namaqualand

Kamieskroon, Namaqualand

We bought a newspaper at the shop on our return to Kamieskroon, mainly to use as kindling for the fire, as the previous night had been quite cold. It was the previous day\s Die |Burger, and had an article on the spring flowers of Namaqualand, and mentioned many of the places we had visited — Walleskraal, Soebatsfontein and Wildeperdehoek, and the author said the flowers were the best he had ever seen them.

Continued at Namaqualand Spring: Lily Fountain and more flowers

Ironveld and Augrabies

After breakfast at the Azalea Guest House in Kuruman, we drove up to the historic Moffat Mission, which was the main object of our stay in Kuruman, as a kind of missiological pilgrimage — it marked the start of Christianity in the region, and northwards into Botswana and Zambia, but we found found that it was closed, with a threatening notice saying that treaspassers would be prosecuted.

ZA missiological pilgrimage to the historic Moffat Mission in Kuruman

A missiological pilgrimage to the historic Moffat Mission in Kuruman

We left Kuruman reached Kathu, about 60 km from Kuruman. It was not a place I had been aware of from previous journeys along this road, in 1969 and 1991, but it seemed to be quite big, with lots of new houses, many apparently unoccupied, visible from the road as we passed through, and signs of further expansion. The houses seemed to follow uniform designs, so it looked like a company town, probably something to do with iron mining.

At Sishen, 80 km from Kuruman, where the actual mines were, the vegetation around seemed to be red, as if it was rus ing. We stopped for petrol at Olifantshoek, 198 km from Kuruman. It was a much more pleasant town than Kuruman, and we recalled staying here 24 years ago, because we were driving without lights, and so had to stop at sunset. But the most memorable thing from that trip was opening a bottle of 5th Avenue Cold Duck (sparkling wine)and the cork squashing a mosquito on the ceiling.

Even the grass and bushes look rusty round the iron mines at Sishen

Even the grass and bushes look rusty round the iron mines at Sishen

From there it was a long monotonous haul to Upington, 230 km from Kuruman. We stopped at a sitplekkie along the way and took photos of shaggy birds’nests in a syringa tree, with last season’s berries, and no leaves. Though there were two rubbish bins, there was rubbish all around them and very little in them, a sharp contrast from our visit to Botswana and Namibia two years ago, where they were all scrupulously clean, except for the ones close to the South African border.

A scruffy birds' nest among the syringa trees

A scruffy birds’ nest among the syringa trees

We reached the Augrabies Falls National Park about 2:30 pm and after paying the entrance fee, R38.00 each, walked down to look at the falls, passing a lot of very tame dassies in the gardens.

A dassie, said to be the closest relative to the elephant

A dassie, said to be the closest relative to the elephant

The place was much changed from our previous visit in 1991, with new viewing platforms built of wooden poles and concrete slabs, which were less of a blot on the landscape than the previous metal ones. The new ones took one much closer to the main fall, and we took lots of photos.

Augrabies Falls -- the whole flow of the Orange River sdqueezed into one narrow channel

Augrabies Falls — the whole flow of the Orange River sdqueezed into one narrow channel

There was less water in the river than on our previous visit, and one could hardly hear the water from the office — perhaps that was because of the three dry years that had immediately preceded this, so more water was being taken from the river for irrigation.

In the old days this was the closest visitors could get to the Augrabies Falls.

In the old days this was the closest visitors could get to the Augrabies Falls.

There were more dassies on the rocks by the falls, and lots of lizards, ordinary ones and multi-coloured ones with blue heads.

Another dassie -- the Augrabis Falls National Park abounds with them, and they are as tame as pet rabbits

Another dassie — the Augrabis Falls National Park abounds with them, and they are as tame as pet rabbits

I thought of Lawrence G. Green, whose description of the Augrabies Falls in “To the river’s end” made me want to visit the place when I first read it in high school. There it sounded remote, a place hardly anyone had ever heard of, but now the road to it is full of farms and very well travelled, and only the park itself looks as it did when Green visitred it. And we probably had a much better view of the falls than he did, with the viewing platforms and paths leading to them, which make it possible even for old crocks like us to have a good view of the falls.

We went to the shop on the way out, and I got an Eskimo Pie, but it was nothing like the Eskimo Pies of my childhood , which were vanilla ice cream covered with a layer of chocolate. This was just some sort of frozen chocolate-flavoured confection on a stick. We went back to the town of Augrabies, to the Quiver Tree guest house, where we spent the night.

Canon cameras: caveat emptor

As we are planning to go on holiday on Monday, and thought we might see some scenery and meet some people we had not met before, I counted my pennies and thought I could just afford a better camera, and so bought a Canon 1200d.

Canon 1200d Camera -- would not format memory card

Canon 1200d Camera — would not format memory card

When I got it home, however, it would not switch on at all. We charged the battery fully, but nothing happened. It was completely dead.

So today we took it back to the shop. They did not have a replacement in stock, so they phoned around their other branches, and discovered that their Centurion branch had one in stock, so we drove over there to collect it. I switched it on in the shop to verify that it did actually switch on, and we broughjt it home.

But when we tried to use it, it said it could not read the memory card — we should either format it, or insert a new one. So we tried to format the card, but it didn’t do that either. We tried a different memory card, with the same result. I tried formatting both cards in my computer, just to check to see that there was nothing wrong with the cards themselves, but they formatted fine. We tried a low-level format in the camera, but it gave up after a couple of seconds.

So there we were, with two dud Canon cameras in a row. It’s too late to get another one now, before we go on holiday, so we’ve asked for a refund. We’ll continue to use our cheap point-‘n-shoot compact cameras. The problem with point-‘n-shoot cameras is that sometimes it is impossible to see what the camera is pointed at at all. In bright sunlight the viewing screen is invisible, so you just point vaguely in the right direction and hope that you won’t just have a picture of the blue sky. Composing photos as you shoot is impossible. When you get home, cropping with photoediting software can improve the composition somewhat, but not all that much, if all you got was the blue sky.

Unfortunately it seems that no camera shops in South Africa stock decent brands, like Pentax. Our film Pentax cameras are nearly 40 years old, and still work fine. It’s just that film photography is so much more expensive.

Update: Third time lucky

Today (Sunday 16 August) we returned the second dud camera to the shop in Centurion, where we had got it. The staff were very helpful and found another branch that had one in stock, and we went to the Colonnade to collect it. We were most impressed by the firendliness and helpfulness of the staff at all three branches of the retailer, Photo & Beyond, trading as Kodak Express Digital Solutions. It wasn’t their fault that the cameras didn’t work, and they went out of their way to be helpful even at times when they were pretty busy. We got the feeling that the firm treat their staff well, and that they are happy in their work.

Walter and Albertina Sisulu biography

Walter & Albertina SisuluWalter & Albertina Sisulu by Elinor Sisulu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the things that I like about biographies of political figures is that you get a more personal view of the times they lived in. Here one gets two for the price of one — Walter and Albertina Sisulu were a married couple forced to live much of their life apart, and for several decades it was rare that there would be a time when there wasn’t at least one member of the Sisulu family in jail or banned.

Walter Sisulu was Secretary Gerneral of the African National Congress (ANC) at the time it was banned in 1960, and resumed his organising activities when he emerged from prison and it was unbanned 30 years later. Albertina was a leader of the ANC Women’s League, and was in jail, detained without trial, and banned for many years.

They belonged to my parents’ generation, but the second half of their life story was about times that I myself have lived through, and so casts new light on those times for me. It was written by their daughter-in-law, Elinor Sisulu, who knew them personally, and so they come alive in a way that is not possible in biographies written by impersonal outsiders. And perhaps because Walter was a political prisoner, the securocrats kept much of his correspondence from jail, and so, even though what he wrote was censored, there is something very warm and human that comes across in his letters to family and friends.

On reading the story of the Sisulus, I am acutely aware of how the leadership of the ANC, and of the country, has deteriorated since then. We will not see the likes of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu again, more’s the pity. The time that Albertina Sisulu was a Member of Parliament, from 1994-1999, was a high point in our country’s history, though we did not realise it at the time. It is sad to see how much things have declined.

But the Sisulus would be the last to claim the credit for that. They believed in party discipline, and collective leadership. They believed that leaders must be responsible to the community, and this comes out in the sharp contrast between the disciplined and humble Albertina Sisulu and the publicity-seeking loose cannon Winnie Mandela. There were events involving Winnie Mandela that received a great deal of publicity at the time, such as her notorious football club. One did not know what to believe in the media reports, so I held my own counsel at the time, because judgements based on incomplete reports are usually wrong. Albertina Sisulu held her own counsel too, but now the story can be told.

One of the things that struck me was that in a sense people like Nelson Mandela, the Sisulus and the Tambos were larger than life, and this seemed to contrast with the idea of collective leadership and being responsible to the community, in fact collective leadership works best with people who stand out from the crowd, yet see themselves as part of it.

One small point that shows how far the ANC has fallen is that when Walter Sisulu was invited to visit the People’s Republic of China, and the latter asked him not to visit Taiwan, he refused, saying that he went where he was sent by the ANC, and not by the hosts of one of the places he was visiting. The contrast between that and the present ANC government’s refusal to give visas to the Dalai Lama could not be more stark.

In some ways the book is also a family history, and here there is a shortcoming. There are pedigree charts showing the ancestry of Walter and Albertina Sisulu (though not of Walter’s father, who played little part in his life), but there is no chart of their descendants, and as they had numerous grandchildren a family tree chart (or even several) showing them and their relationships would also have been useful.

It is also a love story. One of the lasting effects of apartheid was to destroy family life, especially for black people. But in spite of having to live almost half of their married life apart, Walter and Albertina Sisulu were an outstanding example of family life, and life as a married couple.

It is, however, a readable and well-researched book, and for anyone interested in South African history from 1940-2000, it’s a must read.

View all my reviews

Why all the fuss over one lousy lion?

There is a meme running through Facebook, and possibly other social media sites as well asking why people are making such a fuss over the death of a Zimbabwean lion at the hands of an American dentist. People seem to be making more of an issue of that than they do about various other deaths that they think people should be paying more attention to.

I first became aware of this meme when someone posted a link to this article from Facebook

Why aren’t we as universally outraged over Sandra Bland’s death as we are over Cecil the lion?: It is a credit to humanity that we can be unified in outrage at the death of an innocent creature like Cecil the lion, the 13-year-old protected Zimbabwean lion who was illegally poached by wealthy midwestern dentist Walter Palmer last week.

However, one has to wonder why we cannot similarly come together to condemn the deaths of women of color who die in police custody like Sandra Bland.

The loss of a rare and beautiful creature like Cecil has stirred outrage from around the world. The only controversy seems to be which continent gets to prosecute Palmer first.

Why aren’t we as universally outraged over Sandra Bland’s death as we are over Cecil the lion?

Why aren’t we as universally outraged over Sandra Bland’s death as we are over Cecil the lion?

Since the link was posted by a South African, my response was that the difference was that the USA is daar doerrrr oer die see and Zimbabwe is right next door, and people in the USA are always going on and on and on about their inalienable right to carry deadly weapons and kill each other, but when they cross the sea with their weapons and kill our lions we get pissed off. Their right to bear arms stops at the low tide line of their shining sea.

But we can bring it closer to home too.

why do we make a bigger fuss about Nkandla than about Marikana? Because we think wasting money is a more serious matter than wasting lives?

Cecil02But it seems that people in the USA have also taken up the meme, and that the publicity often seems to go to relatively minor things, while bigger issues are ignored. The meme is a universal one, and Cecil the lion is only its latest manifestation. So all sorts of people have jumped on the bandwagon, and are asking why people are making more fuss about Cecil the lion than about their favourite cause.

What then emerges is the huge number of causes various people think are more important than the death of one lion, and come people have also asked why we aren’t sorry for all the other animals killed by the lion. After all, lions have to eat, and they eat by killing other animals.

SaveTheLionsFrontThere are, of course, the 35 deaths at Marikana, or the more recent figure of 54 policemen killed by criminals since the beginning of this year, and a similar number of farmers killed by criminals. Why don’t we care about them as much as about one Zimbabwean lion?

A US dentist spent $55 000 to go to another country and kill one lion. How much does US President Obama spend  to send his drones to other countries to kill hundreds of people?

Yes, the fuss is disproportionate, and that is partly the fault of the media, which plug one story and sideline another. But, to judge by social media, it seems that a lot of their readers like it this way.

I said the meme is an old one, and I recall that back in the 1960s, about 1968 or 69, a group of demonstrators against the Vietnam War set fire to a dog in their demonstration on the West Coast of the USA. As they predicted, the media and the public made a much bigger fuss about the fate of the dog than they did about the children who were being burnt in Vietnam by napalm dropped from US planes.

farmersHere in South Africa we are feeling the pinch of draconian immigration laws, which are a bureaucratic nightmare. Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Home Affairs, says these laws are needed to save children from slavery and child trafficking. Even if it saves only a few children, he says, it will be worth it. But what if it saves a few children and causes misery to thousands of others, because of the decline of tourism and the loss of jobs? One of the biggest causes of child trafficking is unemployment, and parents sell their children because they can’t afford to feed them. Gigaba is attacking the symptoms while spreading the disease.

issuesSo yes, it is important to keep a sense of proportion, and to say no, the life of one lion is not more important than the lives of 25, or 54, or hundreds of human beings in various places. But at the same time it is surely not wrong to be concerned about the lion and the circumstances of his death.

It is possible to be concerned about more than one issue.




Secret Africa by Lawrence G.; Green (book review)

Secret AfricaSecret Africa by Lawrence George Green

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading or re-reading quite a lot of books by Lawrence George Green lately, mainly because of my interest in family and local history, and I’ve been compiling an index to some of them. He is, or was, a raconteur and teller of travellers tales, which are often interesting and entertaining, if not always accurate. He was a journalist, and his books often read like a collection of newspaper features, which they probably are. He sometimes recycles stories, so that they appear in more than one of his books.

Secret Africa is one of his earlier books, and was rather disappointing. It was written before the Second World War, and reprinted in 1974, I thought I might index it, but discovered that there is nothing much worth indexing. Some chapters read like a lazy journalist’s rewrites of press releases, the sort of advertorials one sometimes sees on TV. The only thing interesting about them was that they are 80 years old, so one gets a view of a different period. The title, Secret Africa is misleading. There is nothing secret about most of it, it’s just PR stuff that people want you to know.

Even the more personal chapters — a description of a trip to Mauritius, for example — have the feeling of plugging a message from the sponsor, and are full of racism and snobbery as well.

The final chapter, a description of gold mining in Johannesburg, is full of statistics, so that it reads in places like a company report — how many tons of ore it takes to produce an ounce of gold, how much bars of gold were worth, how much it cost to sink a shaft, and of course the marvelous accommodation, food, recreational and healthcare facilities provided by the benevolent mining companies for their native mineworkers. Perhaps I’m unduly cynical about this, because at the same time I’ve been reading the biography of Walter and Albertina Sisulu by their daughter-in-law Elinor Sisulu, which describes how they helped to organise a miners’ strike to protest against the poor housing, pay, food and all the other stuff that Green praises from the PR blurb.

Lawrence George Green‘s best work was written in the 1950s and 1960s, and his earlier and later work seems to be dreck. This one definitely falls into that category. It seems to have been written before he hit his stride, and in the later ones he seems to be coasting on empty.

View all my reviews

Visit to Western Cape

friendsWe hope to visit the Western Cape in late August. Unless we win the Lotto or something this will probably be the last time in our lives that we’ll ever go there, and so will be the last opportunity to visit friends and family who live there, so it may be the last chance we’ll ever have to see old old friends, and cousins, some of whom we’ve met, and some of whom we haven’t.

famtreeIf you would like to see us when we are there, please use the form below to give us your contact information, so we can get in touch with you. We would not like to get back home after the trip and have people say, as so often happens, “Why didn’t you get in touch when you were here?”

There are more details about this proposed trip on our family history blog here.

So far the following are on our list of “people to see”:

  • Sam van den Berg
  • Edmund van Wyk
  • Lindsay Walker
  • Michael Preston
  • Sandy Struckmeyer
  • Brenda Coetzee
  • Jean Mary Gray
  • Jeanette Harris
  • Chris Saunders

Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed Actually Works | TIME

facebookLDFacebook is one of the most popular web sites on earth, but most of us have at times felt that we are being manipulated and messed around by Facebook’s algorithms — showing you lots of stuff you have no interest in, and missing out things that are vital.

If you don’t “like” enough things that someone posts, Facebook stops showing that person’s posts to you, so after not seeing anythimng from them for several weeks and wondering if they are ill or have died, you look them up and “like” everything in sight, whether you actually like it or not.

This article suggests that that is about to change.

Facebook is injecting a human element into the way News Feed operates. The company’s growing army of human raters help the social network improve the News Feed experience in ways that can’t easily be measured by “Likes.” A new curation tool launching Thursday, for instance, called “See First” will let any user choose which of their friends they want to see at the top of the feed, rather than having the decision dictated by an algorithm. via Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed Actually Works | TIME.

I have a suggestion for Facebook, to improve this for users.

First, that they should allow one to categorise things that one posts. Categories could include things like:

  • Vital family events – birth, marriage, death, serious illness
  • Other family events – moving/renovating home, graduation, holidays etc
  • Work-related stuff
  • Recreation, hobbies, travel etc
  • Religion, spirituality etc
  • Society – politics, economics etc
  • Art & literature
  • Travel
  • Technology
  • General

And then allow you to say which kind of stuff you would like to see from any particular friend.

That would do a great deal to improve the Facebook “user experience”.


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