musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: South Africa

The Aloe Festival Ride

The opportunity to ride behind a train drawn by a steam engine is quite a rare event in South Africa, and if the steam engine just happens to be a GMAM Garrqtt then it is even more special.

Two of my facebook friends both ended up on the same train and this post was originally going to be about the intrepid Clinton Evangelides and his bicycle and the train. Clinton entered the 40km Aloe Festival Ride on Sunday 16 of July,  camping over on the Saturday night in 0 degree weather! (better him than me). 

The festival website explains: Participants and passengers will depart from the Creighton Train Station at 07:00am sharp. The train will meander along the Umzimkulu river for about an +- 1h30min before the Trail runners will be dropped off to start their race back to Creighton. The rest of the Mountain bikers and passengers will stay on the train. The train will then turn around at the Riverside Station. On the way back  after about 2h30min the mountain bikers will be dropped off to start their race. Passengers will remain in the train and then disembark once they get to back to Creighton Station.  

Clinton remarked “The bike ride was interesting as we crossed the river few times and also over the waterfall itself. Crossing the waterfall was quite hectic as you either ride 1 metre from the edge over shale rock or take the less risky route by going a bit deeper. I chose wisely. “

Coincidently, Barry Roper travelled on board the same train and offered of his pics to help illustrate the beauty of the area and the GMAM up front. My thanks to Clinton and Barry For the use of their images. 

Where to start?

Image: CE

Creighton is a settlement in KwaZulu-Natal, 35 km northwest of Ixopo. It was laid out in 1865, It was named after Lady McCullum (née Creighton), wife of Sir Henry McCullum, Governor of Natal from 1901 to 1907. And, as the sign says only 95 miles to Pietermaritzburg.

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The loco would have been under preparation long before the event, you cannot rush these machines, they need to be woken up slowly, warmed thoroughly by the fire in their firebox. It is possible the same would be true about the participants.

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The loco up front is GMAM-4074, a Garratt articulated steam engine that was built for the South African Railways in 1953. There are only two of this class of Garratt in running order, one based at Reefsteamers in Germiston, (GMAM 4079, “Lyndie-Lou”)  and 4074 “Lindie” that was restored for Sisonke Stimela. Barry Roper captured the bulkiness of these surprisingly light footed steamers. 

Image BR

Which way is the front? this is the front of the loco, but they are equally at home running tender first. Garratts were once quite plentiful in Natal, but today they are very rare.

Other steam engines await their turn to be restored, but who knows if they ever will be.

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This is 19D-2669 having work done on her innards, while below is yet anther possible candidate for possible future restoration. 

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Then it was time to join the train for the journey. 

image BR

Unfortunately I do not know the sequence of the ride so generally speaking some of the images may be in the wrong order.

The coaches are a mixed bag of steel bodied saloons and slam door subs. The saloons below were refurbished especially for Sisonke Stimela.

Dining Saloon. Image BR

Saloon interior. Image BR

I do not know how they managed to get those large chairs through that small door. 

The Aloe festival was really about viewing the mass of aloes that are in the area, and the views are spectacular in this part of the country. 

Image CE

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Of course there aren’t only aloes on view….

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Sometimes you really need to get off the train and look around you.

Image BR

And while you are off the train it may just reverse and then do a run by, providing you with a view of a machine from a different age as she poses for the camera.

Image BR

And what of our intrepid mountain bike rider? he had this to say: “Never knew cycling could be such fun.” He seemed to get home safely, although I think it was a much more comfortable ride on the train. 

Random Images courtesy of Barry Roper.

Special thanks to Clinton Evangelides and Barry Roper for permission to use of their photographs, it is not everyday that an opportunity like this arises, so I am very lucky that I am able to share these images with my readers. 

© DRW 2017. Created 19/07/2017. Images Barry Roper © 2017 and Clinton Evanegelides © 2017. Used with permission. 

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:23

Bad teeth no bar

Many years ago when I was photographing the WW1 Record cards for the South African War Graves Project I was puzzled by the notation on some of the cards “May be rendered dentally fit in 7 days”.

When I first saw “Discharged: Dentally Unfit” I thought there was typo on the card, but later on I found more like it, and on a few occasions servicemen being discharged for refusing dental treatment. 

That phrase stuck in my head because I could not really fathom what was going on. I do remember that prior to us going up to the Border in December 1980 our whole infantry company was marched off to the dentist up the road in the military hospital, and those who had dodgy teeth had them treated before we flew out to South West Africa (now Namibia) .

This past week revealed another link in the chain when a recruiting poster for WW1 popped up on facebook. Emblazoned in a largish font at the bottom was the advisory “Bad teeth no bar”.

Jokes abounded about how you cannot have a bar if you have bad teeth or can only visit a bar if you have good teeth.

Each time I was called up for a camp we visited the military dentist in Potch too and he noted the condition of your teeth, the reason being that if you were a casualty identification may be possible through your dental records. There was method in that madness after all. I do not know whether this was also true way back 1914,  or if it was just a ploy to gain more cannon fodder for the generals to throw into badly planned and executed attacks. I do suspect that the military back then was more concerned about not having their soldiers all going on sick leave with dodgy teeth. Dental hygiene was quite poor back then, a cavity would not be given a temporary filling followed by an even more expensive permanent one. The dentist just grabbed his biggest set of pliers and let rip! 

Military dentists were not known for their compassion, and for that matter the same could be true of some “civilian dentists”. They were doing a job and they probably saw some horrible things during the course of their day, although a mouth of rotten teeth on a living soldier was much preferable to that of the corpses that were left after a bloody battle. I believe in earlier wars the teeth of dead soldiers became the source of many pairs of false teeth. There were people who picked through the corpses and extracted teeth which they then sold off to the dodgy false teeth creator. It was a perfectly respectable way to earn a living.

My current reading matter is all about Victor/Viktor Capesius, a Romanian who served at Auschwitz and who was put on trial for his part in the “selections” alongside “men” like Josef Mengele. Mention is made in the book of the inmates who were given a pair of pliers and sent to extract the gold filled teeth of the dead, and how Capesius allegedly stole of that ill gotten gold. Given how many people died in Auschwitz the amount of gold obtained from fillings was a large amount, and while most ended up in the coffers of the Third Reich, the unscrupulous nature of the perpetrators of the horrors of genocide in the camps certainly extracted their cut too.  (The Pharmacist of Auschwitz: The Untold Story, by Patricia Posner)

My curiosity is suitably satisfied for now, but you never know what else will pop up in the future. 

© DRW 2017. Created 07/07/2017. Image of the military dentist was taken in Winchombe during the Wartime Weekend on the GWSR,and he most certainly was a decent fellow just doing his bit. 

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

Still building the RMS

Buried a few posts back is my progress on building a 1/1250-ish model of the RMS St Helena. If you don’t know what I am talking about I suggest you start from the back.

Where am I now?

*Click here for the 18/06/2017 update*

When last we left the ship she was in a state of…

At that point I had changed the superstructure and was contemplating the well deck bulwarks. In the back of my mind was the feeling that I needed to change them so I ended up ripping them out and replacing them with aluminium ones cut from a beer tin. If only I had thought of that originally I would have saved myself considerable work (and £2.99 for a sheet of brass). The superstructure has been rough painted and filed more or less level with the hull section. I scrapped the original bridge wing scheme too because I was going to make them out of brass, but that idea has also changed and I may see whether it is easy to make them out of aluminium so that I can have a proper bridge wing effect. There is also a section of steel that merges the slope of the superstructure with the bridge wing. I meed to see how that comes together too. 

 As at 19.21 today she looks something like this…

I have made the crane mounting post and added in the well deck hatch and started to see what arrangement I could make for her two cranes. This is not how the new cranes will look. I have made proper ones now but they still have glue drying so haven’t been mounted yet. I am also on the lookout for paint for her decks. They use a light blue on her steel decking so I am either going to have to mix or buy a tinlet. At any rate I am not going anywhere until I have the bulwarks fixed. The bend angle that I used created a empty space between the bulwark and the deck so that needs to be fixed too.  I still have not created her funnel either, probably because I hate working with wood. 

What have I learnt so far?

The well deck may be too high or the deck between it and the fo’c’stle may be too low. I am unable to achieve the slight upward slope of the bulwarks because there is this size issue between the gangway area and the well deck. I do not know how to solve this yet. Actually looking at some of my pics, she has two housings on either side of the deck where the cranes are mounted. I may be able to use that to create my sloping bulwarks. I must investigate that. 

My wooden crane sucked. I do have a length of styrene and it has worked well enough that I have a set of cranes that may work well. 

The aft deck screen around the pool needs to be put in motion, as must the davits. I have the perfect material for the davits and should be able to churn out 4 sets without too much of a headache. But, I have to make lifeboats which means the headache is back. The length of styrene may work for the boats. I must experiment a bit.

I need to start straightening my sheer lines once have the bulwarks sorted and I need to experiment with bridge wings, ah what fun! 

In the meantime, some more views of the real ship. I see on my pics her fo’c’stle was Oxford blue too, that should make my work easier. 

So. That is where we are now. During the week I hope to do more work on her and then will post progress when I am done next weekend. 

10/06/2017. 

When last you we saw the RMS she was looking more RMS-like all the time. However…

This afternoon I attacked her with a saw.

After ripping off her superstructure I cut away a third of the deck and filed it flat. The deck used to end where the patch of blue now is. I then headed off to Cheltenham and came back with basswood and a few more interesting goodies and rebuilt that deck.  Because of the size of the wood I ended up having to use two pieces instead of one. The result looks something like this….

I then refabricated bulwarks and added them in, masked the hull and painted the white area in. (No pics as the paint is wet). On Friday I made the funnel that you can see above, it needs to be flatter at the top though, not sloping backwards. I also added my new crane unit just for show. The issue there is that the one boom stretches from the crane and rests on a cradle affixed to the superstructure front. My one boom is consequently longer than the other.  

I have made one major decision though. This model is far from anywhere near perfect, in fact it is a hodge podge of wood and plastic and really quite poor. However, I have learnt a lot by building it, and I will complete it so that it looks much better than it does now, and then I will consider building another with the knowledge I have gained building this service pack 1. When I started I did not have the one image I have now (which I cannot show because it belongs to somebody else), That image showed me a lot of detail that I could not get off my existing images. Ideally I need the plans but it looks like my brother is trying hard not to be seen. I did ask him to go look for them but I guess he never found them or never looked. Anyway, building will stop this week as I have the landlord popping in to check that I haven’t wrecked the place so my ship and associated goodies are being hidden away till next week. 

11/06/2017.

I have made a lot of progress this afternoon. One thing about the weather, it makes you stay indoors and work on your ships! The aft pool area is more or less completely built although it may change, I have done some preliminary work on painting decks and am experimenting with davits. The issue with them is glue. The super glue is useless and the other all purpose glue is also useless. I may need to add a notch in the decks for the davit to rest on. Thinking about it still. Funnel is glued down and two hatches have been added although crane assy is still not stuck down. She is looking much better, not perfect, but better.

Still to do:

Build 4 lifeboats and 8 davits, mount them. 

Bridge wings. Still need those.

Crane on starboard deck aft

Repaint

Think about gangway

Black topping to funnel and logo… I have no idea how to do that logo on such a small scale. Print it out and shrink it down I guess. √  Sorted! Shrunk a logo to 9% printed, cut out and mounted it. Voila!

Bridge front needs to be done. It does not sit flush with the accommodation but protrudes slightly. 

Mast and associated satnav gear.

Two derricks on well deck 

Two housings on foredeck and associated machinery

Till then…

It is the 18th of June and the RMS is almost done… although “done” has not quite been explained. 

I have added the aft crane, 4 lifeboats, a “mast”, forespike, foredeck housings and am really at a point where I need to touch up paint and finish this puppy off finally.

Those lifeboats were a major pain. The conventional davits that I made proved almost impossible to mount. There was just nothing apart from 2 points where they were glued to keep them in place., never mind to mount a lifeboat on. The davits are a mess. How the heck they make them in this scale (and smaller) is beyond me. That was a major stumbling block as far as I am concerned. The bow shape is wrong, the bulwarks are just exacerbating the problem. Talking of bulwarks… did I mention that I managed to get them on? the small square hole in the hull is where the gangway sits, currently the hole is too short, but trying to enlarge it may be dangerous. The mast is OK, but not quite what I was trying to achieve. The derricks in the well deck are OK, although their booms are pieces of wire and proved to be hell to get to sit in the correct position. The aft crane looks more like a 6 inch gun. I need to change that. I also should have stayed with the yellow I had on the funnel. The yellow I have now is icky. 

Paintwork is an abomination. Because I made so many changes the paint ended up lumpy and short of sanding it all off will always look lumpy. I jumped the gun when it came to painting her and am now saddled with what I have. There isn’t much I can do at this point, although having completed the ship I am tempted to try sand her hull and accommodation down to bare wood and then repaint. I have not decided. I am very tempted to try change the bow shape though, but having almost finished the ship I am now loathe to break it again. 

Portholes and windows? I am thinking about them. 2 Options: either make them out of trimline or create a stencil and paint them in. The former works but the trimline tends to come off. Painting is a pain. I need to experiment. I tried using the trimline option on the bridge front but it ended up skew and the white parts disassociated themselves with the experiment. 

Now that I look at her, she actually looks kind of like the RMS after all.

A new iteration?

Things have changed a lot since I started this project. I have better images and I have a set of deckplans (thanks Glynn), I also have better wood, tools and know more about how the ship comes together so a new version should be an improvement (almost anything would be an improvement). However, my eyesight and sausage fingers are just not allowing me to work to such small scale (old age they call it), and I need to sort out the glue issue, this stuff I am using now is a major source of irritation. And of course the thought of those damn lifeboats and davits leaves me frazzled. I would build a scaled up version but the problem with that is… railings. I rest my case.

This post is the last of the construction posts. Next time you see it I will be completing the ship. 

Thanks for watching this space, soon there will be a new space to watch.

© DRW 2017. Created 04/06/2017. Updated 18/06/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

Shot at Dawn

In April 2015 I visited the National Memorial Arboretum and one of the many Memorials I saw on that day was the “Shot At Dawn” Memorial. 

Shot at Dawn Memorial

I commented at the time:

“The subject is a difficult one to read up on, because of the controversy of so many of the hasty decisions made by those who endorsed the executions. It can be argued that in many cases the sentence delivered did not take account of the circumstances of each individual, and the age and maturity of so many of those who were executed.
It is true that there were executions for offenses that were not related to cowardice or “lack of moral fibre”, some men were executed for murder. However, the fairness of the court martial process is often questioned, and those high ranking officers who sat on these tribunals were often seen as being totally out of touch with the reality of the situation of soldiers on the ground. It could also be argued that in many armies, the benefit of any sort of hearing did not exist, and the men were shot outright, often on the field of battle.”

Each wooden post that has been driven into the ground represents one of those who had their lives taken from them by the court martial process. 

The statue is fronted by 6 similar pillars, representing the firing squad who had to do the deed. A target was pinned on the person to be shot, and supposedly none of the squad knew whether his bullet would end the life of the accused. However, if blanks were used they would easily know whether their rifle fired a blank or a live round.   

This past week I read a book entitled For the Sake of Example, by Anthony Babington, first published 1983. It is an oldish book, but it is the first one I have read that dealt with the issue of those who were “shot at dawn”. It made for very sad reading because many of those deaths were not necessary in the first place. The common thread I saw in the book was the phrase “setting an example”. I also read a lot between the lines, and there was evidence of very perfunctory “trials” (Field Court Martial), with a swift verdict and the case would be “shoved upstairs” for some higher up to agree with and so on until it reached the desk of Field Marshall Haig or whoever was the end of the chain.

Once they rubber stamped the verdict and passed it back downwards the sentence would then finally be read out to the person who had been found guilty and often he would be shot the next day. It is doubtful whether anybody of high rank gave those meagre findings more than a glance and probably muttered “setting an example” before passing the buck to the next person in the chain. Many of the cases I read about were the result of poor decisions made by the man who was about to be shot. No real account of domestic circumstances was taken, and neither was much attention paid to the mental health of the soldier apart from a brief lookover by the closest doctor.  Many of the men who lost their lives were suffering from what we call today “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD)” , and given the horrors of the typical First World War battlefield it is understandable why so many ended up with the symptoms of PTSD.

One comment was made quite often: “unfit to be a soldier” and it was used in negative way, irrespective of whether the soldier was a success in civilian street, or a good father or dutiful son. The career soldiers with their rubber stamps did not give a hoot. Would we be able to say the same thing about them if ever they ended up on civvy street? would we condemn them as being “unfit to be a civilian” and take them outside and shoot them?

It is an incredibly difficult decision to take a person’s life, although if you were used to sending off complete battalions to their death in nonsensical attacks surely one more wouldn’t make you loose any sleep. I get this feeling that the Tommy on the ground was really just a number, irrespective of whether he was a regular soldier, a conscript or even a volunteer. Let’s face it, many of those who flocked to the colours were under the impression it would all be over by Christmas and they got a rude awakening when it carried on until November 1918 instead. A large number of those who flocked to the colours were young, often under 20, as were some of those who had their lives brutally ended by a squad of men from their own side. The shooting of a soldier often propelled his dependants into poverty as they no longer had the income that was sent home by the soldier, and if my memory serves me correctly a least one solder was shot shortly after he got married, widowing his bride even before he got to know her properly.  

The First World War did bring about many changes to the military, and fortunately the practise of shooting somebody for taking a stroll down the road to visit a girlfriend or local tavern was not as prevalent in that war. It could be that many who had served in the first slaughter avoided the mistakes that were made back then. Political pressure was also used to change the way these situations were dealt with, although it was way too late for the 20,000 who were found guilty of offences carrying the death penalty. 3000 soldiers received the death penalty and 346 were carried out.

In 2006 the British Government agreed to posthumously pardon all those who were executed for military offences during the First World War, but that was too many years too late for the families of these victims of officialdom. The irony is that even though a pardon has been granted, the pardon “does not affect any conviction or sentence.”

*Update 09/08/2017*

While uploading images to Lives of the First World War,  I encountered a private memorial to Arthur James Irish who was “executed for desertion” on 21/09/1915, although the grave (and CWGC record) states he was killed in action in Loos, Belgium. He is buried in Sailly-Sur-La-Lys Canadian Cemetery

This is the first time I have encountered a grave connected to one of those who was executed by firing squad, and I will do some more reading about the case. It could be that the information is incorrect, or it may be a genuine case of mistaken identity. In any event it does not excuse those who rubber stamped these executions without looking into individual circumstances. 

Executed for Murder.

There are three interesting cases in South Africa that need mentioning, although none are from the Western Front during the First World War. 

The first being that of “Breaker Morant” and Peter Handcock.

Lieutenant Harry Morant was arrested and faced a court martial for “war crimes”. According to military prosecutors, Lt. Morant retaliated for the death in combat of his commanding officer with a series of revenge killings against both Boer POWs and many civilian residents of the Northern Transvaal.

He stood accused of the summary execution of Floris Visser, a wounded prisoner of war and the slaying of four Afrikaners and four Dutch schoolteachers who had been taken prisoner at the Elim Hospital. He  was found guilty by the court martial and sentenced to death.

Lts. Morant and Peter Handcock were then court-martialed for the murder of the Rev. Carl August Daniel Heese, a South African-born Minister of the Berlin Missionary Society.  Morant and Handcock were acquitted of the Heese murder, but their sentences for murdering Floris Visser and the eight victims at Elim Hospital were carried out by a firing squad  on the morning of  27 February 1902.  Morant’s last words were reportedly “Shoot straight, you bastards! Don’t make a mess of it!”

They are both buried in Church Street Cemetery in Pretoria.

The next incident is the case of a Veldkornet, Salomon Van As who was executed by firing squad on 23 June 1902, against the back wall of the jail in Heidelberg, having been found guilty of the murder of Captain Ronald Miers at Riversdraai 12 miles south of Heidelberg.

On 25 September 1901, Captain Miers approached a party of Boers under a white flag most likely with the intention to convince them to surrender. What exactly happened is not known, the British claim the Captain was shot in cold blood which made this a war crime, however Van As claimed he acted in self-defence. 

Today the bullet holes from that execution can still be seen on a stone that has been picked out in white paint on the back wall of the building. 

Two years after the war the British authorities apologised to his parents and offered compensation after admitting that false witnesses had been used against him during the case. He was buried in a shallow grave close to the old cemetery (Kloof Cemetery) but reburied on 13 October 1903.    

 

Executed for Rebellion.

Our next example is equally interesting because of the emotions that it raises.  Josef Johannes “Jopie” Fourie was executed for his part in the 1914 Rebellion in protest against the decision to invade German South West Africa as part of the international war effort against Germany. Fourie was an Active Citizens Force (ACF) officer in the Union Defence Force at the time and had not resigned his commission. As a result he was tried under court martial and was sentenced to death. This quirk also means he is eligible for commemoration as a casualty of war by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and his name has been put forward for consideration.

He is buried in Pretoria’s Church Street Cemetery. The same cemetery where Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock were buried. 

© DRW 2017. Created 02/06/2017, updated 09/08/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:21

Leaving Reuven

23 years ago my mother moved into a complex known as “Reuven” in the South of Johannesburg. At the time it was being managed by Johannesburg Association For The Aged (aka JAFTA). I do recall that getting into the place was very difficult as you had to get on the list and go for an interview etc. As luck would have it she managed to get a place quite easily and moved in shortly thereafter.

The “unit” was really a single room with a small bathroom and kitchen and a bit of space to have a garden. It was basic, but not horrible. The rents were cheap and the facility took people on outings and there was a working kitchen that used to supply lunch for those who were interested. There was also a laundromat and realistically it was a pleasant place to live, assuming you did not have the neighbours from hell and there was a resident caretaker who ensured that work was done and the complex was maintained. 

The block where my mother lived had the local “dragon” as well as a long term resident who considered that she had fallen on hard times and was always muttering about leaving. There was also an elderly man who lived above her and they gave him absolute hell, hounding him from the complex.

(A quick note. I am not going to supply names in this post, but will describe many of the residents with their associated nicknames and faults. Many have since passed on).

At the time there was a caretaker who lived on the premises and who ensured that the council labourers performed their jobs properly. They kept grass cut, removed litter, trimmed trees, emptied dustbins, etc. They also earned a few rands doing “unofficial” jobs for the residents. It was really the sort of place where you could live out your old age in relative peace and safety (assuming that you never had the neighbours from hell and the status quo was maintained.)

Somewhere along the line things started to wobble; I cannot put a date to it, or a specific event, but things just started going wrong. Maintenance slipped, the caretaker left, grass was no longer cut, litter became commonplace and sadly the lady who used to look after the kitchen passed away (Thank you Mina, we will remember you with fondness). There was also a lot of unauthorised modifying of the units, and the usual stirrers stirred the pot. Even at that point it was still very affordable for those who survived on the meagre state pension. Technically a means test was done on new applications, but many who moved in were getting much more than the state pension. You could see it in the new cars and DSTV dishes that sprouted all over the place.

Then things went even more pear shaped and the dirty hand and greasy palm of corruption reared its ugly head. Bribes were paid, and units were “bought”. Blind eyes were turned and the road through the complex became a battleground because some residents appropriated sections as their own personal parking space. It was so bad that traffic cones stand sentinel while the residents are out and about in their cars. Curtains twitched like mad and shouting matches erupted regularly. It would have made a perfect soap opera if anybody had set up cameras.

My brother and I visited my mother every Sunday at Reuven since 1994, and often I could only shake my head at some of the goings on there. The dragon upstairs faded away and the next door neighbour would leave and never return. In fact we always used to comment on who had passed away that week. Like many places it also attracted its share of dunks, wife beaters, dementia sufferers and ne’er do wells. And each left their nasty mark on the environment. There were no repercussions for any wrong doing. It became a free for all. 

Petty theft was rampant, and one incident made me extremely angry. Two “plumbers” were sent to sort out a leaking tap or toilet and they stole my mothers engagement and wedding rings. My brother and I wanted to call the police but my mother would have nothing of it. But I could see she was very hurt over the episode. The lack of maintenance meant that when a geyser failed it was not replaced, when the toilets leaked nobody did anything. Grass became junglelike in appearance, cars were driven up the pavements and parked outside flats, fallen trees rotted where they fell, and money changed hands on a regular basis. Some residents did not pay their rent and the whole web of corruption just continued and nothing was done about it.

At some point pre-paid electricity meters were installed, which was good news because Johannesburg City Power were physically incapable of delivering a bill that made sense, or even reading the meters on a regular basis. My mother was on the receiving end  of their incompetence, paying larger and larger amounts every month because they just carried on messing her around. By the time they installed a prepaid meter they alleged that she owed them almost R1500 in arrears. How a single person in a small flat could use so much electricity was unbelievable. In spite of numerous attempts to sort the problem out we were unable to get them to do their job properly. At the time of writing they have never refunded  the money that was paid by mother through their incompetence. By the time I left for the UK in 2013 solar geysers were installed in the flats and when my mothers geyser stopped working she relied on it.  She complained for almost 2 years and they never bothered to fix it, or even came out to look at it. The geyser was really her bugbear because it leaked for years and nothing was ever done because she did not offer a backhander.

In March this year I returned to Reuven as it was evident that she was no longer able to cope on her own and we had to make a decision and at some point she would have to  leave Reuven and move into a care home. She lived in her flat for 23 years, the longest that she has lived in one place her whole life.  When I was there I could not help but feel very sad to see the remnants of her life and independence that remained. Her dressing table has been with her since before I was born, and she still uses some of the cutlery from her original dinner service. She replaced her bed when she moved in and has slept on that bed for 23 years. She is still using the fridge I bought in 1986, and while the TV and DVD player is relatively new, I do not think she has been using it since the beginning of this year. In fact she used to listen to the wireless a lot, and now Radio Today has lost one of their only fans  😉  Her current neighbour has been a pillar of strength, and without her I do not know what we would have done. 

In the time she lived there she did not really associate with most of the residents, although there were those who she befriended. One was an elderly coloured lady called Katey who used to visit her and do odd jobs for her. My mother and her were very close, but she passed away suddenly and my mother was devastated, as were we. It was part of the problem of living in a place like this, many would walk in and be carried out. Residents died regularly, often unnoticed until the smell of decay raised eyebrows.

The sad thing was that if something did happen to a resident, they were helpless. There was no help available. There was no regular nurse or caretaker or medical service.   And unfortunately, when somebody passed away it became a regular free for all with residents to see who could get there first to remove furniture or white goods.  Never mind that the former resident has not even been buried yet.

The whole Reuven experience was interesting because I saw the best and worst of my fellow man. I could write reams about the disaster that it became. Yet, for many it was home, and for many it was the last home that they had.  It is such a pity that it was allowed to become a hot bed of corruption, and I sincerely hope that those responsible get locked away for a very long time for exploiting the aged. And, those that were paying the bribes get to feel the weight of the law too. It take two parties to be corrupt, and a blind eye of those in authority to allow it to thrive.

The one interesting part of visiting Reuven was the collection of old cars that some residents had. It provided a lot of material for my website.

For my brother and I a chapter closes on  this part of our lives. We may never pass Reuven again, although I may end up there myself one day. Anything is possible.

I am sure my mother was just as scared of moving to this final home in her life as we are, only more so.

Rest in Peace Katey, thank you for all you did, and for being so special, and thanks to all of those who were a part of my mothers life. As for the rest? you know what they say about the wheel that turns? 

Postscript.

My mother finally moved a week ago and my brother emptied the flat this weekend and gave away most of her furniture and appliances that she would no longer need.  For me it has been very sad because I suspect at some point I will be in her position, the only difference being that I will have nowhere to go. 

© DRW 2017. Created 7 May 2017, finally posted 28/05/2017. 

Updated: 28/05/2017 — 14:33

Moving the Dak

This is another retrospective post that I am doing based on images that I have in my collection. The exif data of the images says that this event happened on 05/04/2009, but, it may be incorrect due to my frequent file movements.

Anyway, one fine Sunday in 2009 I headed off to the South African Museum of Military History aka “The War Museum” in Saxonwold. I vaguely recall the reason for it, but somebody forgot to tell me that they were holding a military themed fair on that day. I hopped onto the M1 North, intending to bail out in the vicinity of St Andrews or Oxford streets, Unfortunately, the universe was not playing fair and as I approached the turn off I realised that I would not be turning off at that point because there was a thumping great Dakota blocking the exit! Now Daks are not the sort of thing you expect to find on a highway, they tend to congregate around airports, airborne invasions and occasionally rusting away in backwaters of the world. Some still insist on flying, and you know what they say “you cannot keep a good Dak down”.

This unfortunate Goony Bird was being towed tail first towards her destination (which was probably the same as mine), her wings had been shed but her engine housings were still intact. However, there was no way I could fit past her and given the fact that this was a highway meant I could not stop for a quick squizz, I had to get back into my lane really quickly and find the next off ramp. I do not know that part of town so well and there was a good chance I would end up taking one heck of a detour as a result. 

Eventually I managed to orientate myself and was in the correct area with the War Museum in front of me, although the place was buzzing with cars and people. I was very tempted to up the hook and head off for home instead.  I have just checked my images to see why I was at the War Museum and the reason was that I wanted to get pics of Nancy, the Springbok Mascot.

I forked up vast amounts of dosh to go into the War Museum, and it was packed, however, I first had to get my image and headed to the display where she was. Images taken, I went outside to look at the exhibits and displays. There was a small contingent of re-enactors  in military uniform and some of them were really amazing to see. The people responsible were Battle Group South. 

Special thanks to the guys that I photographed, especially the sinister looking guy in black. I have blanked his face to protect his privacy. 

There were the usual purveyors of militaria at the show and I wandered around, occasionally examining items or drifting back to the museum exhibits. I did not take too many pics that day for some reason. It could be that the crowds distracted me and I left after doing the rounds. However, there was a surprise in the parking lot!

That Dak and I were destined to meet again! 

The question is: what is the history of this aircraft? fortunately the history could be found at the Dakota Association of South Africa website. In a nutshell:

C/N 27099, Delivered to the USAAF on 11 January 1945.

Transferred to the RAF on lend-lease at RAF Nassau on 18 January 1945 as KN231.

Arrived in South Africa in May 1975 for the South African Air Force as 6850 (2) delivered August 1975.  Was to be donated to the Dakota Association of South Africa but was sold to private concern and displayed inside Caesar’s Palace Casino near Johannesburg International Airport in April 2000.

Sold once again to private concern and donated to the SA National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold Johannesburg in 2009, arrived Sunday 5 April 2009.

It was obvious that she would be a new exhibit, although I do question her arriving at one of the busier days at the museum. It was awhile before I was at the museum again, and the first place I went to was the only are large enough to house a Dakota. 

I must admit I did a lot of looking at this old lady because they are really becoming quite rare birds. 

Random Dakota Images

Who knows, maybe one day somebody will come along and buy her and she may fly again, at any rate, considering this old lady is now 72 years old she is a tribute to her builders and has a special place in the heart of all aircraft buffs. 

There is another Dak at Swartkops AFB that I grabbed 2 pics of… 

You ncan view more images of the SAAF Museum at Swartkops on allatsea.

What other aircraft does the War Museum have? 

The museum has a number of interesting aircraft, but they are not very easy to photograph in some areas (it is even harder now because of the no photography policy they unilaterally brought in).

Other Museum Aircraft.

My aircraft identification skills are not fantastic, but I can generally tell what they are but not what version they may be. I will slowly add data as I work towards finishing this post. Apart from the Dak there is a….

Hawker-Siddeley Buccaneer S.50 ‘422’

Dassault Mirage IIICZ

Aermacchi/Atlas Impala Mk II

 

Supermarine Spitfire F VIII

Hawker Hurricane IIc ‘5285’

De Havilland DH98, PR IX LR 480 “Lucky Lady”

Messerschmitt Bf109E3

Focke-Wulf Fw190A-6/R6

Messerschmitt Me262B-1a/U1 VH519

Messerschmitt Bf109F-2/Trop ‘31010

Hawker Hartebees Royal Aircraft factory SE5a

Aircraft Manufacturing Company DeH9

 

© DRW 2009-2017. Retropsectively created 23/05/2017.

Updated: 24/05/2017 — 12:48

Building the RMS

*Click here for the 20/05/2017 update*

I have always wanted a model of the RMS St Helena, but they always evaded me because there are not too many available in the first place.  The easiest way to get one is realistically to scratch build one and see what that turns out like. There are however, a few problems with that scenario. The first being: where do I get plans from?

A line drawing of the ship is easy to find, I have quite a few on my computer as it is.

I have been lugging around lots of images of the ship since she first entered service, and amongst my stuff is the A&P Appledore publicity handout above. That will serve as the basis of my project. 

Problem number 2 is that while I do have accommodation plans of her, I do not have a top view of her, so there things are going to be somewhat icky.

Interestingly enough a 1/1250 waterline model does exist, and I have been “in the market” as they say. However, they are very scarce and probably way out of my budget range. My usual supplier, Tim at Convoy Models managed to lay his hands on one, and this is what it looks like.

I have a sneaky suspicion that this was a concept that never reached fruition, probably because the RMS is not one of those well known glamourous Cunarders that everybody swoons over (or should I say used to swoon over?). She is a working ship and is really a hybrid between cargo ship and cruise ship.

That also means that she is an interesting project to tackle. Theoretically she is straight forward, there are not too many curves and odd lines that could make my life difficult.

The ship is 105 metres long, and according to my handy scale converting tool, a 1/1250 model should be about 84 mm long, with a beam of 19,2 mm (15 metres). The problem is… how do I scale the drawing down to that size? I first printed out the image and then tried a few things but kept on hitting a brick wall. Eventually I decided to shrink the image down to the size I needed on a scanner. Some rough calculating and trial and error led me to reduce the size of the drawing by 34% which left me with a image roughly 86 mm long.   

Now, what will I use to build it with? I have some balsa wood hanging around from when I modified my display cases and I managed to create a block of balsa longer than 85mm and 15mm wide. Theoretically, if I then attach my reduced scale image to the block, then mark the specific sizes onto the top of the block I will have something that theoretically should look like the RMS! I used the term “theoretically” because there is no guarantee that it will work, or that I will ever finish the project. 

The really irritating thing is that back in South Africa I have a proper plan of the ship which I got from one of the officers on board her in 1993 when I sailed on her. It never occurred to me to bring the plans back with me in April, but then I had too many other things on my mind at the time.  

So, where do I sit now? I am cutting out the image and affixing it to my balsa block and will then see how viable it is to build the superstructure as a separate entity and affix it to the hull once I have created the hull. It is early days yet, and I only really work on this sort of thing over a weekend. 

So, this is part one of my ongoing project to build an RMS. I have not scratch built anything in ages, so may just give up at any juncture, it really depends on what I can do with the limited tools that I do have at my disposal. Ideally I would have preferred a harder wood for the hull, but Balsa should work, at least for the MKI. 

After finishing this post I worked a bit more on the ship and after basic the results look something like this:

At this point I am convinced that shedding the accommodation block may be a good idea. It may be better to build it separately than to try hack what is there already. The Balsa wood is easy to work with but it splinters easily and it is going to be difficult to smooth out the vertical sides. I may try get some Jelutong or Basswood and start from the bottom again. But, I will see, it is early days yet. I do however need to get wood filler, some plasticard and a sealant/varnish so that I can seal the Balsa. I will think about it.

A few days later…

Today is the 20th and between when I first posted and now a number of things happened.

Firstly I sent the balsa model to the breakers. It was just not working out. I did some homework and was not able to source Jelutong or what is known as “basswood”, if it was available the sizes were way out of what I was looking for. However, the remnants from my display cases did provide me with a length of wood which is a millimetre thinner than what I needed. However, I will not tell if you won’t. I marked up the sizes and used my handy saw to cut out a rough shape. This morning I was sanding like crazy and the end result is as follows…

However, when creating the bow I hit a snag that I will have to work around. The ship has a decided “knuckle” as well as a very raked bow. I was not able to recreate that effect so may end up having to revert to some judicious use of a filler and I will have to sleep on that problem. The one option I do have is to to slice off the deck and create a new piece and glue it in place. You can see the knuckle in the image below.

 

Her accommodation looks like this    ——————-> 

The red area on “B” Deck is a recessed area on her superstructure that is the entrance to her insides, and where the weather deck access is and the gangway is stowed. I am not quite sure how to deal with that yet.

“C” Deck does not have to be created as it is below the weather deck level. and apart from the recess I do not have to do much work on it either.

“A” deck is more or less where my superstructure is at now, however, I may need to add a section to increase the height of A deck. The biggest problem that I do have is the height of each deck. I suspect they are roughly 2,5 metres high, allowing for about 7 foot ceilings with the remaining void being used for pipes and cables. 

The Prom deck and upwards are the major bits of accommodation that I have to build. Above the prom deck is where I am having to refer to memory. There are two deck levels above it, and the first level is slightly shorter than the prom deck but is the same width as it (after looking at pics I am not quite so sure of that anymore). This is the level where the lifeboats are, and their davits terminate at prom deck level. The pool is also on the prom deck and there is a recessed cargo hatch on that deck. 

Above that deck is the navigating bridge and chartroom and I think the radio room is there too. The funnel is partly on top of that deck, and it houses the mast too. 

Navigating bridge

Funnel and mast

The ship has had a few structural modifications to her accommodation, but I am really going for the look of the ship as she was when I sailed on her. Incidentally, her hull colour is “Oxford blue”. I have not really considered the weather deck, I need to fabricate 2 cranes as well as hatches and deck machinery, and that will not be easy.

On Sunday I did some exploration work with balsa and technically this is what it may look like.

What have I discovered?

The deck above the Prom is possibly a bit too short, but given that there is a pool there and cargo hatch it may be right. I need to bear in mind that aft mooring deck is not properly done yet either. That will cut down on available deck space.  The deck around the  bridge area can be walked around, so it needs to be smaller than the deck below it. The funnel shape needs careful consideration because it is kind of distinctive. Then there are bridge wings to add, and of course the angled side to the superstructure ends. There is a ladder in that area so I may have to experiment more in that area. Balsa ain’t gonna work!  Davits! I need davits!

Yesterday I was looking at my Leda Model which is 1/1250 as well, and she does present me with interesting comparison and references for cranes, lifeboats and superstructure. 

Leda was 133 metres long which is a bit longer than the RMS so it isn’t too hard to make a comparison. However, against the Leda my RMS is out of scale. 

So this is where we are now. If you hear any woodworking noises you at least will know that they come from me.

27/05/2017.

Where are we now? I managed to get some 2mm plastic and have been reworking the superstructure block. The plastic works quite easily and can hold a sharp edge and doesn’t splinter. However, I still have to find an adhesive that will attach it to the wood hull.

The funnel started out as a rough shape and may not be the final shape I want so it may be redone. However, I still need to make changes to the superstructure decks. I have deliberately created the block wider than it should be so that I can file everything square once it is mounted because the RMS does not have a lot of curves. I have also cut away the gangway points in the hull. With hindsight though I really need to file that open deck area down by at least 2 mm more and raise bulwarks on that deck to maintain the deck height and sheer line. Naturally I have no idea what I can use to do this (it always happens). Scrap plastic anybody? 

27/05/2017 much later that afternoon.

I attacked my ship with a file and dropped the well deck level considerably, certainly lower than it was and after much work was rewarded with this…

I also measured her up against my 34% image and she is very close to the image in proportions. I am seeing progress at last, but tomorrow is another day.

It is now tomorrow. I added in some bulwarks and redid the 2nd layer off the superstructure block after getting an image from somebody that cleared up the area for me. The one mistake I cannot rectify is the bow shape and after adding in the bulwarks it made the bow even steeper. The only real way to solve the bow problem is to reshape it from scratch and that will impact on the length of the ship. I have decided to stick with what I have and to complete the ship anyway. I have come far enough with it and do not feel like building another hull. Once day I will create another, but not this week/month. I added in a sheet of plastic under the bridge and trimmed it to support bridge wings that I have made out of small pieces of wood. I may change that to proper bridge wings if I can figure out how. Thin brass would be nice. 

I also painted the hull in a rough coat of blue and white and assembled the ship as it is. The funnel is still the temporary one.

And here she is. I think she is starting to look like the RMS! I need to add the screens around the pool area which will extend the accommodation block and fill that empty deck area, and consider how I will create hatches for the well deck and foredeck. And at some point I need to glue the superstructure blocks together and file them smooth. But that will not happen in this blogpost. Anything done after today will end up in next months posts. 

Continued  thataway ——————–>forwardbut

© DRW 2017. Created 15/05/2017. Updated 20/05/2017.

Updated: 11/06/2017 — 14:57

Remembering the Telegram

While rooting through my stuff in SA I found an envelope related to the passing away of my father in 1981. Apart from the usual cards and leaflets there were a few telegrams of condolence. It got me thinking about how telegrams were used way back in my day,

Telegrams broadly fall under “Telegraphy”,  and while I do not know how they were used in 1981 when these telegrams arrived at our home, in later years I did a course in the Siemens T100 range of Teleprinters and the idea is roughly the same. 

In short, you popped into your local post office, grabbed a form and filled it in. I think you paid by the word, or possibly by letter, either way they were not cheap to send. The operator at the sending station would then type out the message (or use Morse or a telex machine) to send it to the receiving station. The receiving station would then print or write it out on long strips of gummed paper and stick those to a form (as above) and it was dispatched via a special telegram messenger on his bicycle, the recipient signing for the telegram when they received it. 

The telegram messenger on his bicycle usually signified that somebody was going to get bad news as it was common to send telegrams of condolence to a family who had lost a loved one (as per my example above), or congratulations for the birth of a child or a special event. There were also the sinister telegrams from the military in their buff windowed envelope, cancelling your leave or calling you up for a camp or a parade.  They also had to be signed for, which meant that technically you received it even if you didn’t actually read it. The beauty of the telegram was that it was convenient and quick, and was one way to get your message across before the advent of the fax machine or email and instant messaging. 

During the wars many thousands of families would receive notification of the death of their family members in the forces, and it is possible that this was one reason that everybody seemed to dread the messenger on his bike with a small pouch on the crossbar.  The movie “We Were Soldiers Once” has a poignant scene in it that deals with the delivery of those dreaded telegrams and how they affected a community. If you consider the Pals Battalions from the First World War and how they were wiped out in battle, you can get some idea of what those messages did to a community when casualty notifications were delivered. 

Strangely enough the telegram is not dead, in the UK you can still send a telegram, although it is now handled by TelegramsOnline.

The first telegraph services arrived in South Africa in 1859 and in 1860 the Cape of Good Hope Telegraph Company opened its Cape Town – Simonstown line This was a single-wire earth return telegraph line (circuit run) on wooden poles between Cape Town and Simonstown. In 1922 The multiplex telegraph system (aka “teletype”) opened between Cape Town and Johannesburg. This allowed four telegraphs to work in each direction simultaneously on a single line. (More about the Telegraph system in South Africa at https://mybroadband.co.za/news/telecoms/133136-how-south-africa-went-from-its-first-telegraph-service-in-1859-to-100mbps-fibre-in-2015.html)

Westrex teletype machine (London Science Museum)

The whole concept of the telegram has changed since we can now sms or email somebody in another country almost instantaneously, in fact communication has changed so much that the days of the letter are almost coming to an end, and the fax machine clings on grimly as its market shrinks too. 

The telegram is rapidly heading into the history books, but I am  glad that I was able to see those telegrams from 1981 once again, Those forms with their gummed strips tell the story of people reaching out from far away places, to express their condolences. It was the right thing to do, that was just how people were. Today they would just send an sms instead.

© DRW 2017. Created 23/04/2017.

Updated: 24/05/2017 — 12:49

Changed Lives for an old church

While in the UK I have photographed a number of churches and cathedrals during my travels. They can be very beautiful buildings and the weight of ages does hang heavily on many of them. Back in South Africa I never really did pay much attention to the churches because in the pre-digital days photography was expensive and leisure photography was reserved for holidays or special occasions. However, I won’t pass up an opportunity to see the interior of a church, and of course take photographs.

The “state religion” prior to 1994 was the Nederduitse Gerformeerde Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) and their churches were to be found in cities, towns and suburbs throughout South Africa.  The older ones were very beautiful buildings but at some point the church design lost that beauty and reverted to functional and pointy instead.   The church above is in Heidelberg and is known as the “Klipkerk”. The foundation stone for this church was laid in 1890 by Cmdt-Gen PJ Joubert. 

The church that I visited on my way to the airport is a good example of the functional and pointy style of church design.

 

(The spire of the church does not lean at this angle, it is really a product of the camera lens. The tip of the spire has been added into the image afterwards).

The cornerstone of the church was erected in 1967, and it served the surrounding community for many years.

However, changes in demographics and falling congregations meant that at some point the church would close down or be sold or leased to somebody else.

A friend of mine was a member of the “Veranderde Lewens” church and with a growing congregation they we able to make this building their new home and place of worship.

It does help if you know somebody on the inside and that was how I managed to see the inside of the church as it currently is. I had been to it before but had not seen the interior, only the hall and exterior.

The NG Kerk was not really into the many trappings and ornamentation that the Anglican and Catholics have, there was a certain sparse functionality about their churches, and the building as it is now is probably very close to what it may have been when this was the church for the North Ondekkers congregation.

It is a very large space inside, and from what I hear the services are packed. We were kindly shown around by the “Pastorale Leeraar” (Pastoral Minister) Dr Berrie De Vos, Unfortunately I do not know the English terminology of  many of these terms and am learning as I go along.  

Looking from what is now the “pulpit” towards the organ and main doors.

The view from the main doors towards the “pulpit”.

There was not a lot of ambient light in the church and my flash really batted to cope, but my pics are really it is about the context of the church rather than specifics. 

There is no real ornamentation outside of what was on view, a more progressive church really embraces technology and visual aids and often uses music sources outside of the more traditional church organ. There are those who frown on guitars and drums in a church, but if that is why people do not attend then they were probably going for the wrong reasons anyway. 

“Tell, Deepen, Renew, Change”

The organ loft above the main door also has limited seating and may have been used by the choir at some point

 

The pulpit is more of a lectern, and it would be interesting to see what the original looked like. Because the church has been renovated a lot of interior detail may have changed, it is difficult to know what this space was like before.

 

There is new life in this old church, and that is a god thing because a building like this can easily be the target of vandalism and neglect. Many former churches get re-used by other religions and causes but realistically they are not easy buildings to reuse. Long may this building be the home of Veranderde Lewens.

Special thanks to Dr Berrie De Vos for the opportunity to see the interior of the building. 

Other Church buildings in South Africa.

As mentioned before, I never really took much notice of the churches in South Africa, many of then are unapproachable because of security measure or because they are always closed. Here are a few exteriors that I have seen in my meanderings:

Roughly 0,5 kilometres from the church is another example of that particular style of NG Kerk.

Gereformeerde Kerk, Ontdekkers

Ned Herf of Gereformerde Kerk Waterval Gemeente (1928)

NG Kerk Heilbron Moedergemeente

NG Gemeente Horison-Noord

Gereformeerde Kerk Pretoria (1897)

Nederduitsch Herformde Kerk. El Flora

Dutch Reformed Church Cottesloe (1935)

NG Kerk Moedergemeente Bethlehem (1910)

Former St Andrews Presbyterian Church Fairview (1903)

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Germiston (1905)

Former NG Kerk in Fairview (1906)

Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Wits University (1938)

Regina Mundi Church Soweto

Methodist Church Heidelberg 1895

Former NG Kerk Langlaagte (1899)

© DRW 2017. Created 14/04/2017

Updated: 19/04/2017 — 19:35

Return to the UK

On the 6th of April I packed my gear and prepared to go home from South Africa. I still struggle with the idea that South Africa is no longer home, and that I really was doing things the other way around. I was flying Virgin Atlantic again, and would use the Gautrain to get to the airport.

The weather had been typical summery weather (even though it was Autumn), but rain was forecast for the later that week, although by the 6th the rains came.  

Driving in Johannesburg is a challenge, the roads are crowded, potholes are large, idiots abound and law enforcement is usually absent. The highways are really a free-for-all and at times a giant parking lot. After having lunch it was time to go and my friends took me to Marlboro Gautrain station where I caught the airport link to Oliver Tambo International Airport. It started raining just as we left and fortunately we were heading east as opposed to west where the traffic was bumper to bumper. I did attempt photography from the front seat but the combination of rain, vibration and everything else rendered the images useless.

Once at the airport things got really slow as we queued to go through immigration. So much so that by the time I got through it the gates for boarding were open and I was not able to take any images in and around the international departures. The one thing I do recall was the exorbitant price for half a litre of  water (R35), at one vendor and R10 at the duty free.

The flight was scheduled for over 10 hours and we took off at 8.30ish and it wasn’t too awful and there were just over 250 people on board. It always amazes me how some people consider 5 items of luggage as being perfect for carry on luggage.  Service was much better on this return flight than it had been on the departure flight and I didn’t watch too much though. A rewatch of Rogue One was in order and I also took in Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. Those two were really good watches and I recommend them both. 

I had an aisle seat in the centre aisle and for once I actually remembered to show what food was available on the aircraft and the menu is to the left of the text. I had the Bobotie and the eggs for brekkies and they were not great. 

I managed quite well during the flight and my bladder did not make a nuisance of itself for once, and I did not sleep at all as we headed North with the longest stretch over Africa.

We landed around about 6.30am and after a long queue at immigration I had my baggage and was on my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch my ride to Paddington. I had used the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow initially, but wanted to use the Heathrow Connect for this trip so that I knew it for the future. The Express does not cut too much time off the trip to Paddington, but is more than double the price of the Connect option. The first time I landed in the UK I had used the Tube to get me to my destination, although that made more sense considering I was heading to South London whereas now I had to get to Paddington Station.

The train is comfortable and got quite crowded as we got closer to Paddington and it appears as if it is used by a number of locals to commute with. The cost for a ticket is £10.30 (or thereabouts)

At Paddington I finally stopped and grabbed a breather. I had almost 3 hours to kill before my next train to Cheltenham Spa was due. It was too short a time to go into London but very long if you have time to spare. If I had not had luggage with me I would have spent the time in reckless abandon in London on what was a really nice Spring day. I had deliberately planned the train time to be able to deal with any eventualities or delays along the way.

Paddington Station is an interesting space, especially when it comes to the roof. And, while there is not a large variety of trains in it you do get unique images if you look for them.

I am quite proud of seeing 4 HST’s under one roof on the same day!

The new shopping area is also open and I found that they had installed a Paddington themed shop in it too. 

I also found a neat Paddington shaped collection box in the shop and was able to donate some of the heavy change that I was accumulating along the way.

Paddington Station can be very full at times, and there is a constant hussle and bustle as trains arrive or depart. My 11.36 train appeared on the board at roughly 11H10, and was listed as “preparing”. 

They put up the platform number roughly 10 minutes before scheduled departure and then there was a mad rush as we all headed to the platform for our train. 

I arrived in Cheltenham Spa close to 13H30 and managed to grab the bus to Clarence Street Bus Station and then a bus to Tewkesbury where I found that there was no real way to get home with my luggage unless I hung around to 15H45 for a taxi or 15H17 for the local bus that goes through the area where I live. It was too far to hoof it with luggage though so once again I waited. 

It was all done and dusted. I had used 8 trains, 2 aircraft and 3 buses on this trip, I had covered a lot of kilometres, and discovered that even though I had last driven 3 years ago, still knew how to drive. Unfortunately my trip was not about pleasure and more about reality, it was not a holiday either, although I did get to renew acquaintances with friends I had last seen in 2014. 

South Africa has changed and is constantly changing as people get more cheesed off with the powers that be. At some point something is going to have to be done. The events of 7 April show that more and more people are getting very unhappy with the status quo. Whatever happens I just hope that it does not involve violence. 

And, to make matters worse it is back to work on Monday.

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