musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: West Rand

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

Those last few days

Monday 03 April.

I am now in my last week in South Africa, and it has been an interesting trip with a number of things changed and different paths considered. My flight leaves on Thursday evening but between then and now anything can happen, especially given the political situation in South Africa.  I will not comment on what is going on, I do not have too much interest in it, instead I will concentrate on the aspects of the trip that are relevant. 

Amongst the changes that I saw were the decline in shops at what used to be my local shopping malls. A lot have simply closed their doors and no longer exist, while some have probably moved elsewhere. However I would like to put on record that in most of the places where I had to deal with staff behind counters the service that I received was excellent, smiles abounded and staff really went out of their way to help me. The other thing that I noticed was the increased cost of basics in shops. When I left in March 20132 we were already feeling the spike in prices thanks to the exchange rate, increased transport costs and overall greed and lack of ethics. Petrol was sitting at R13.31 pl of 93 octane, although it was supposed to drop slightly on Wednesday.  I tried to make some comparisons with prices that I could remember and frankly I was shocked. Once I get the images off my cellphone I will post some of the more drastic ones that I encountered. 

I revisited three cemeteries in the time I was here, (Brixton, Florida and West Park), and of course I visited my mother whose condition is of major concern. Unfortunately I do not have an answer to her situation, it is beyond my experience, I do not know what can be done. The plus side is that somebody has cracked the whip at the place where she lives and the disgusting corruption that has gone on there has hopefully been stopped and some heads will roll. That is long overdue. It is very sad to see how the corruption thrived there, almost everybody knew about it but nothing was ever done because it was rotten all the way down.

And, during my last few days there were a number of things that happened that may be worth remembering: a series of earthquakes happened, one being centred in Botswana and another in Klerksdorp, the finance minister and his deputy were recalled and fired by the president and a new (and more compliant?) one appointed. Consequently South Africa was downgraded to “Junk” status by S&P Global Ratings. and naturally the Rand has started to wobble, and at the time of writing (04/04/2017) it was  R13.80 to the $, R17.21 to the £ and R14.72 to the €. There is a mass protest planned for Friday, and I like to think it will bring about change, but already I am hearing the voices of those who have been “captured” or are just too plain stupid to read the writing on the wall. Who was it that said “May you live in interesting times”? (Fitch has subsequently downgraded South Africa to junk status too).

I also moved the remaining bins of my possessions to a new storage area, and took pics during the drive there and back. As usual Johannesburg was traffic laden, something made worse by the metro police who should spend less time holding roadblocks or sitting behind cameras and more time policing the roads.

I also revisited the shopping centre where I used to work, formerly a Drive-In it used to still have a screen in the parking lot. That is now gone too.

There have been a number of superficial changes to the public side of the centre, but it was like a morgue on the day I was there. 

I went around to the back of the centre and it was quite sad to see the building where I worked from 2005 till 2011. It is now part of the Action Cricket industry, and the Bosch Service Centre is no longer there either. I remember how much time, money and effort we put into making that building a safe and better workplace, but once we were bought out it was obvious to us all that our days there were few. I specifically recall how we had that section of fence erected but with hindsight it was really a dumb idea. 

I revisited my friend in the building where I used to stay and am happy to report that I finally saw the Rietbok in the Kloofendal Reserve. Unfortunately my flat used to face the street instead of the reserve.  

 The nitty gritty of prices.

As I mentioned before, prices were crazy, and I noticed it already in 2014 when I last visited SA. Unfortunately I did not write down the prices of items back then and this time around I photographed a lot of advertising leaflets to keep if one day I want to make the comparison. I drew R1000 at an atm in SA and it cost me £64.60.

Old Gold Tomato Sauce R22.79/700ml

Sedgwicks OBS R34.99 750ml

2 litres Clover milk R29.79

Eskort streaky bacon R33.99

Forex (06/-4/2017)

Rama R32.99 (500gr)

Butter: R84.99 (500gr)

Beacon Easter Eggs R68.99

These are just a few examples that I spotted, and some items may have been on sale. The items are not indicative of my own personal preferences and are sourced through leaflets and shops I visited in the West Rand. The prices below come off leaflets and have no illustrations: (I will be adding to this list as I go along)

Milo 500gr tin R51.99

Enterprise Bitso Bacon 200g R29.99

Stork Country Spread 1kg R29.99

Dewfresh milk 1 Litre R14.99

Gordons Gin 750ml R99.99

Hunters Dry 12x440ml Cans R129.99  

30 Extra large eggs R44.99

Ultra Mel Custard 1 Litre R22.99

Enterprise Back Bacon 200gr R23.99

Fresh chicken breast fillets R59.99/kg

Nature’s Garden Cuntry Mix frozen vegetabkes: R24.99  (1kg)

Sea Harvest Oven Crisp fish portions (6 portions)  400gr R35.99 

Sea Harvest Haddock fillets R59.99 500gr (4 portions)

Pot o’ Gold garden peas 400gr tin R9.99

Black Cat plain or crunchy peanut butter R24.99 (400gr bottle)

Selati white sugar 2,5kg R64.99 

Snoflake self raising flour 2,5gr R29.99

Hisense 299 litre fridge/freezer R3999

Defy 196 litre chest freezer R2599

Parmalat 6×1 Litre long life milk R69.99

Coca-Cola 2 litre bottle R13.49

Frankies old style root beer 500 ml R15.99

Sansui double solid hotplate R249

Bakers Romany Creams R17.99

Cadbury chocolate slabs 80gr R10.99

Lipton ice tea 1,5 litre R15.99

Ferrero Rocher 16 pack R59.99

Joko Tea 100 tea bags R26.99

Steers Wacky Wednesday R45.00, King Steer R61.90 (burger only), Regular chips R15.90 

and finally, an indication of prepaid data prices from a service provider.

20MB? gee, you can do so much with it, even Telkom dial up was more affordable.

© DRW 2017. Created 08/04/2017 

Updated: 11/05/2017 — 18:10

Photo Essay: Return to Florida Cemetery

Florida Cemetery was one of the many that I went to when I was photographing war graves in and around Johannesburg. There is one CWGC grave, one Border War grave, and two private memorials in it. It is also not too far away, and while I was in the area I decided to stop for a quick visit to rephotograph those graves.

It is a pretty cemetery with a mix of headstones and a number of family plots. It is hard to know when it opened, but it was certainly busy in the 1920’s. I photographed two graves that date from 1889 and 1891 respectively, both headstones were of slate and very legible.

Sadly the little office at the gate was vandalised many years ago and when I was there it was being used to stash some of the tools of the guys cutting the grass. 

There are quite a few children’s graves in the cemetery, and the small china statues that are often used on those graves are broken. Some of those small graves are very old, and the mortality rate for young children was very high in the era when this cemetery came into being.

This particular example dates from 1948.

The one thing I did not like seeing was the detritus from people; litter, tins, broken glass, paper etc. Even though the cemetery is fenced it is reasonably easy to climb the fence or just open the gate. The area around it has deteriorated too, and that leads to all sorts of undesirables using the cemetery as a place to do what they do best. 

Florida was also a mining area many years ago, and I am certain that many of the graves here will tie into the mining industry, although there is no real way to extract some sort of data on who is buried here. The odds are that there are graves that are reserved for family members although who knows if they will ever be filled.

And, like so many cemeteries there is a population of birds and small rodents that live in and around it. I think the bird is a “Spotted Thick Knee”, and I encountered them in most of the cemeteries in South Africa that I visited. They are quite aggressive during the breeding season and given the haphazard scrapes that they build I can see why. Unfortunately they are easy prey to marauding cats, and there are quite a few around given that this is a residential area.

And then it was time to go…

Florida will always stick in my mind as it is such a unique cemetery in an area of ever changing demographics. How much longer it will remain relatively intact remains to be seen, things can change very quickly in South Africa, hopefully it will all pass by and leave no impression on this small haven of tranquility. 

Random Images.

Private memorial in a family plot

CWGC grave

Marklew family plot

1902 grave

 
 

1891 grave

 

1889 grave

© DRW 2017. Created 03/04/2017

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:20

Going home

Early on Monday I started my long journey to South Africa. It entailed 4 train rides and an 11 hour flight. I am doing a direct flight this time around so won’t have that long layover in Dubai to deal with and two flights. Frankly I do not mind flying Emirates but really dislike that airport and I am struggling with my lower back and hip pain.

It is worth noting that my destination is no longer what I consider “Home“. 

Why am I doing this? My mother is 87 and doing poorly. My original intention was to head down there next year, but I am sufficiently concerned to change my plans. I do not know what the outcome of this trip will be. Actually, if things do not go well in the future I will be flying back anyway. 

The chances are I won’t be posting many updates until I get back in April, so till then keep the powder dry, and boil the kettle!

And don’t forget to put the cat out, although I did not know he was on fire.

Getting underway…. 

I left Tewkesbury early on Monday 20th from Ashchurch for Tewkesbury Station. It was a cold and gloomy day and from there I traveled to Cheltenham Spa and boarded the GWR train to London Paddington Station.  I had last been at Paddington in June 2016, so was more confident of what I could do or not do from the station. 

Our loco; 43187, was one of the recently repainted GWR operated vehicles, and she was  branded as “The Welshman”. My plan was to leave my luggage at Paddington and grab the tube to South Kensington and then go visit the Science Museum as well as photograph the interior of the Natural History Museum. I had allowed roughly 3 hours to do this before I had to get back to catch the train to Heathrow,

However, before I did anything I went to the War Memorial on the station that has really taken on a deeper meaning since I read the book (Letter to an Unknown Soldier) that is based on this famous statue.  

I then caught the Circle Line at Paddington, heading west towards South Kensington Station.

There is a subway that runs under the streets from the tube station to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, and that saved me a long walk through Kensington Gardens in what could have changed to wet weather.

Emerging from the subway I was at the Natural History Museum.  I had seen the building in 2016, but had not really taken much notice because I am not really interested in a museum like that, however, the building is magnificent and unfortunately the entrance where I emerged was closed, and at that point alarm bells started to ring in my head.

The museum was boarded off and my heart sank when I realised I was not going to be seeing the interior of the building. I had seen it briefly in the Paddington Movie and that is what really spurred my interest in seeing the interior. Unfortunately, this part of the museum was closed and I had to make do with a few long shots and not much else.

Around the block I schleped… thoroughly browned off at this happening, a similar thing had happened when I first arrived in London in 2013 and went to visit the Imperial War Museum.

My walk around the block did reveal one interesting object worthy of photographing:

Known as the “Queen’s Tower” it is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The unveiling stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 4 July 1881,  The Imperial Institute building was demolished between 1957 and 1967 and between 1967 and 1968 work was carried out to enable the tower to stand on its own and the lower portion of the tower was substantially rebuilt. (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/about/history/queens-tower/)

The London Science Museum

The London Science Museum

My first Science Museum visit in June 2016 was by necessity a short one. I had missed the entire flight exhibition and I really wanted to explore it further.

The London Science Museum

I have created a post dealing with the Science Museum visit but I will expand it when I return home in April, This post is really a quickie to establish some sort of continuity, and as such we will jump forward to Paddington Station where I boarded the Heathrow Express  and headed off to the airport to board my onward flight to South Africa with Virgin Atlantic.

It cost me £22 for the one way trip, while the trip from OR Tambo airport to Marlboro Station in Johannesburg on the Gautrain set me back R150. It is an interesting comparison. (£1 = ±R15)

Check in was easy although I kept on dropping everything, and after a shortish wait I was on board the Boeing 787, with a row to myself. This particular aircraft is called “Birthday Girl” and it would be the first time I have flown in a “Dreamliner”. 

As far as flights go it was not too bad, the food was ok, the onboard video service was reasonably good, although I only watched 3 movies. What I did find poor was that that they did not come around with beverages often and luckily I had a small water bottle with me. Service wise Emirates wins hands down, but I was not as sore and tired after this flight as I would have been had I done the stopover in Dubai.  The interior of the aircraft changes colour which explains the pinks and purples, and the windows do not have blinds, instead they have a button that either lightens or darkens the window when needed. I was however concerned that there were not as many toilet facilities as on the other aircraft I have flown on. 

Because I had a row to myself I was able to indulge in some photography too as we headed south.

And then we were on final approach to OR Tambo, and I saw Johannesburg in the distance. I had last been here just under 3 years ago, and considering how much I had read about the economic and political situation in the country I was not too sure what I would find.

Approaching ORT, with Johannesburg in the distance (1500×964)

Because it was “Human Rights Day” the airport was relatively quiet, and by 8.30 I was on my way to Marlboro where I was collected by my brother.

24/03/2017

My mother is doing very badly and drastic action has to be taken and tough decisions made and I do not any quick and ready answers. To be frank I was shocked, and at times I still cannot believe it. However, we can only do our best with what resources we have and then take it from there.

© DRW 2017. Created 21-24/03/2017.

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 12:39

Remembering Rita

In memory of Rita Elizabeth Kyriacou. 06 Sept 1967 – 20 Mar 1971

This afternoon I was working my way through this blog moving images and deleting posts that were of no relevance when I bumped into the post for Forgotten Children, dated in 16/09/2012. As I reread the post I realised that one of the children mentioned on that post died on 20 March 1971. 

Somewhere in that space is my 1st cousin (1 times removed), Rita Elizabeth Kyriacou who was born on 06 September 1967. I was 6 years old when she was born, and her family lived in another town, so I did not see her much, but what I do remember is a dark curly haired moppet that was very naughty and who doted on her grandfather. Her home life was a loveless one, the family being broken up when the husband had to leave South Africa for military commitments in Cyprus. They subsequently divorced in 1968, so it is unlikely that Rita knew much about her biological father.  

Tragically she died in a drowning incident on 20 March 1971, and was buried in Sterkfontein Cemetery in Krugersdorp. I do not know the circumstances of her death, but sadly there is no headstone to remember this small girl who never became a woman. I do not know whether her father attended her funeral, or whether he was ever notified. But she is probably long forgotten by her mother and everybody else. 

I did not forget her though and eventually managed to find her grave after long searches in the registers at Sterkfontein cemetery. The irony is that the only real love that she may have had came from her grandmother and grandfather, who are also buried in unmarked graves not too far from where she is. 

I like to think that somewhere there is a place where she went to and that she finally found the love that she deserved. There is no photograph of her, and no longer any real proof that she even existed. Did her father ever know about her death?  Does he have a faded picture of her?  

Rita, wherever you are, My family have not forgotten you. And while I only knew you for a short while, but you made an impression on me and you always were at Sterkfontein waiting for me to find you.

Rest in peace little one.

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 07:26

Rest in Peace Dokes.

This morning I got the news that one of the pets at my other home had left us. It was an inevitable passing though, he was 20 years old, and when I saw him in May he was obviously on his last days. 

 

Like most pets he was part of a family, he was always there, it is hard to remember a time when he wasn’t. He decided to adopt the family many years ago, moved in, took over and soon became a cherished family member. 

 

And like all family members he had his foibles and his routines.
 
We used to joke about the discoloured wall roughly 30cm’s high where he used to rub himself as he walked. In fact he was famous for not being able to walk past anything without first rubbing himself against it. Then there was the morning water drinking session out of the handbasin. The water had to be the right height, and fresh and he would delicately lap at it. Nobody was allowed to use the bathroom while this happened, and he could drink for hours. At one point he was notoriously obsessed with his food, he would only eat “pilletjies”, and would look disdainfully at anything else. He was also responsible for the demise of numerous catnip plants, as well as numerous birds, lizards, mice and anything that caught his eye. He once considered taking on a Hadedah, but decided it was just too much of a mouthful
 
In his younger days he was a bit of a streetfighter, coming home after an evening brawl with a sullen look and sometimes bleeding and battered. However, in his later years he really preferred regular hours, and would snooze the night through tucked into his owners shoulder or hip or wherever his new favourite spot was. He used to enjoy joining everybody outside when the sun was hot and there was a handy blanket for him to stretch out on. Although the blanket usually came out especially for him. 
  
Like many cats he had an innate ability to decide to sleep wherever he could create the biggest obstacle or inconvenience, and often would turn up at the right moment to catch a nap on your chest or keyboard or foot. And once ensconced would rarely be disturbed. It was just how things were. 
 
When I left South Africa in 2013, he was already thin and sleeping much more than before, and when I arrived in May 2014 for a visit I was shocked at how thin he was, and it was obvious that he did have very little time left.  He passed on 20 days after I returned to the UK. I am glad I got to say my goodbyes to him. 
 
The problem with a pet is that they are more than just pets. They are the part that gives unconditional love, and who listens patiently when you tell them all your troubles, although they often drift off for a snack in the middle of your woes. But they are always there when you need them. And when they leave us they leave a void in our lives. We expect to see them, to feel them, and to hear them. But they are no longer there. Your life is been enriched by them, and now it is saddened by their going. 
 
I come from the school of thought that says somewhere out there your pets are waiting for you to come home to them, I do not subscribe to the notion that pets have no souls, they certainly have feelings and a personality, and often have a sense of fun. I like to think that if there is a place where they go to, I would like to go there too. 
 
It’s difficult to write something like this, a kind of eulogy to a cat that belongs to a friend, even though  I expected the news I was heartbroken when I heard it. I knew Dokes too, he sat on my lap many times, and rubbed himself on my legs, and ducked and dived when I wanted to take pics of him. I laughed at his antics on many occasions, and was amazed at how he could balance a straw on his head. He was the alpha male cat in the household, and whichever cat becomes dominant now will have a hard act to follow. I believe the other cats are lost without him, just as his human family is. 
 
He is buried in the garden that he enjoyed. He may no longer be with us in body, but will always live on in our memories.
 
Rest in peace you old streetfighter, may all your days be full of sunshine and comfortable laps. Thank you for being with us for so long, we will miss you. 
 
 
© DRW 2014-2017. Created 26/06/2014, images recreated 17/04/2016
Updated: 13/12/2016 — 20:12

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

At the end of June I posted an entry about my first snow, little expecting that the 7th of August would bring snow and icy conditions to South Africa.  I live out on the West Rand and generally the wind just blows like mad, but yesterday was to prove to be an interesting day. 
Suddenly everybody was talking about heavy snowfalls in Vereeniging and the Free State, but all I could see out of my window was a layer of dirty clouds and birds trying to fly while being blown backwards. I was secretly hoping that my nemesis, the mad pigeon, would head South too and never return. I kept watch for most of the morning and not a flurry was to be seen until about 1 pm when flurries started. Grabbing my camera I dashed outside and nearly blew away. Light puffs that could also have been severe dandruff, were flying haphazardly through the air, but there was no real coverage at all.
 
But by 1.30 it was a different story altogether as the flurries became much more than the occasional puff or 2. 
 
The wind was still howling though and it was seriously cold. I went down to our parking and everything was turning white. The usual view across Kloofendal was of a large white lake, although that was mostly mist. Our “lawn” was looking good though, rapidly disappearing underneath a blanket of snow.

 

The wind was still screaming and it was decidedly unpleasant to be outside and  I was about ready to pack it all up and head indoors again and mutter sweet nothings to my heater.

 

This whole escapade had taken the grand total of 10 minutes! That was the end, and probably in 20 years time we may hit snow once again. But, it was fun and when I ventured out just after 3pm there were only small patches of ice in corners and on objects, but no sign of any more forthcoming snow.

 

 

 

What fun! but the real drama was still to come as our power went phut! and from then on we were on and off until I gave up later that night. Even my UPS quit on me and this fine morning I was unable to make my usual excursion to Pretoria. A visit to Westgate revealed large puddles inside the hyper, and teams with mops working themselves into a sweat. 

The weather person assured us that no more snow was forecast, which was a pity because it was a great seeing those white flakes hurtling downwards once again after so many years I believe in some areas snowmen were being built and traffic was standing still on some of the main roads, (although that is the usual state of traffic), and I am just grateful I was not on the roads yesterday,  it’s hard enough driving on our roads when it isn’t raining.
 
© DRW 2012-2017. Images recreated 25/03/2016
Updated: 15/04/2017 — 13:28

The Jewish Cemetery.

When I originally photographed the CWGC graves in Brixton, Braamfontein and Westpark, it was inevitable that I would end up having to photograph graves in the Jewish section of these 3 cemeteries. Unfortunately, accessing the first two was problematic as they were always locked and well cared for.
 
In 2011 things changed. The buildings in both of these cemeteries were demolished and suddenly the gates were gone. Unfortunately that also meant that the random vandals, squatters and metal thieves had access to everything inside these formerly closed off areas, and deterioration is the result. 
Brixton Jewish Cemetery Feb 2012.

Brixton Jewish Cemetery Feb 2012.

To exacerbate matters, the fence around Brixton has literally been stolen, there are huge gaps where before a well maintained fence used to be, now access is through anywhere, including the front gate. Granted, grass is being cut by those responsible for it, but it is very worrying to see the many toppled stones, where before there never were any.
Braamfontein is still “fenced”, but the gate is gone. Of the two cemeteries Braamfontein is historically the more important of the two and as such should be protected. 

Braamfontein Jewish Cemetery June 2008

There are a lot of pre-1900 headstones in Braamfontein, and an extensive children’s plot, sadly numbering and names  have been lost so finding a specific grave in these large children’s plots could be a matter of guesswork. 
Children's plot. Braamfontein Jewish cemetery.

Children’s plot. Braamfontein Jewish cemetery.

The balance of the cemetery is still in a reasonable condition, although it is one of those places where you have to watch where you are going or you will fall over something. The headstones are spaced very closely and getting any distance from them for photography is difficult. The one side closest to the fence is heavily treed and some graves cannot even be seen amongst the trees and bushes. There is also evidence of squatters making their home here, and litter is a problem.
 
Yet, in spite of their sparseness I found these two cemeteries very interesting, unlike the general areas of the cemetery which is a hodge podge of people, these are the visible history of a community with its own customs and traditions. The demolishing of the two buildings was the beginning of the end for the sanctuary of these two places, and unless something gets done quickly we could find they decline so rapidly that reversing it will be impossible.  
Already the office at the small Roodepoort Jewish plot has been vandalised to the point where it will fall down without any outside help, or get carted off piece by piece.  However, that cemetery is already in a poor condition, and nobody really seems to care anymore.

Roodepoort old cemetery Jewish Plot

It is sad that this history just doesn’t seem to be relevant any longer, it is all fine and well preserving these places, but who do we preserve them for? Realistically the only people with an interest, are those who have families buried within the confines of the cemeteries, or genealogists, or people like me who find solace and history amongst the legions who rest all around them.

Postscript. October 2012.
I was contacted by somebody that I had done some photography in Brixton for, he asked that I go check the cemetery as there were reports that it had been heavily vandalised. He was correct.
Roughly 100 headstones had been toppled, either as an anti-Semitic attack, or random vandals who had too much to drink. There was no way to know. Unfortunately, the grave of his family member was amongst those that had been toppled. I reported back on my findings, and by the time I left South Africa the fence had been renewed and access to the Jewish Cemetery was no longer possible. It was a little bit too late for those toppled graves.

 
© DRW 2012-2017. Images recreated 24/03/2016
Updated: 08/12/2016 — 20:42

Stuck in the mud!

It was one of those days. My gut instinct was telling me “don’t go to Reefsteamers today”, while my gut was telling me “you need exercise!” . The reason for heading out to Germiston was the Easter Train operated by Reefsteamers that was due to depart at 10.30 on a round trip. Not much else was going on because it was a public holiday so off I went.

Everything went well until I came to the abysmal track that is used by RS as a road to access the depot.  In rainy season this track is a quagmire. We hadn’t had rain in yonks so the assumption was that that the road was passable. The first giant puddle should have served as a warning, but I didn’t really have any problems with it. The next puddle was a different puddle altogether, it was more like a bog and I ended up bogged down to running board level halfway through.

Now people may scoff at my strange car, but the yellow peril and I have been to many odd places where cars like mine should not go. The situation was bad, this road is literally in the middle of nowhere, with a squatter camp close by and nothing between it and the depot. I tried a few movements to try gauge how badly I was stuck, but the mud was very deep and I was soon up to my ankles in it. Fortunately I was wearing boots or my shoes would still be in Germiston. 
 
I decided to lock up and try for help from RS, but they were busy trying to get the train underway and there was no help forthcoming from them. I never really had a good relationship with RS, the days when I was working at the depot I kind of did my own thing and nobody really took  much notice of me. Back to the car I trudged, noting an even bigger puddle a few bends further on. There was no way I would have gotten through that one either! What worried me was the type of puddle I was in, that yellow mud was mine sand, so it was probable that the water was upwelling acid mine drainage, after all, we hadn’t had rain here in ages. 
 
I tried packing stones and bricks and rubble behind the wheels but to no avail, and eventually I decided to call my insurance company for help. Fortunately they had a roadside assistance that would send out a tow truck to yank me out. While I was waiting, a train of 6E’s came howling along and I was able to capture them with my video camera, and, while I was filming, my cellphone rang. What amazed me was that over the noise of 4 electric units at 25 metres, the camera was able to record my ringtone, even with my phone in my pocket! The mike on that camera is a very selective one. Shortly thereafter, the tow truck arrived and dragged me out. Thank you MiWay Insurance and Easyway Towing for your help.
 
Looking back at it all now, I shouldn’t even have tried traversing that puddle/swamp/quagmire, but there is no real way of knowing the depth of these things until you are in them. Once I was back on the road I went around to the diesel depot gate and went to RS depot, passing by the one building that may have housed the DB for the telecom cables in that area. I was a regular visitor to these parts when I worked for the railways in Germiston.
 
At the depot there was no sign of the train. And nobody could tell me how long it would be before she arrived. I walked up and down, taking pics while I idled the time away.
 
I enjoy walking through the depot with its silent steam engines and empty coaches, its a place of reflection and wonder. When I used to come here in 1985 to do faults the depot was in full swing, with a busy coal stage,  bustling workshops and steam engines galore. Today it is like a ghost town. I stopped to visit “Susan”, the former station pilot from Germiston, she was in the workshop with her smoke box agape. This class 12AR is the only one left in the country, and amongst the 3 oldest working steam locomotives in South Africa. She is being prepped for her boiler inspection and we are all holding thumbs for her.
 
The one bright part of my wait was the arrival of two 6E1’s who made all the right noises. Part of the fascination with these units is the resistance blowers that makes their noise very distinctive. These units are destined for extinction as they slowly get withdrawn or rebuilt into 18E’s. These units, as well as my ringtone enhanced ones are available to see on my youtube channel
Some passing diesels helped entertain me until eventually I heard the distinctive steam whistle in the distance. Janine the 15F was in charge, but she was running tender so first photography wasn’t great. There isnt really much to see when the front of the loco is buried into the coupling of the first coach of the train. But I grabbed some video anyway.  Finally, after navigating the maze of points in the yard, Janine and train were safely inside the depot,
 
and I was able to film her as she was moved to another line inside the depot.  The train was 2 hours late due to a late departure and a delay at New Canada. That I am afraid is something outside of the control of anybody. 
 
Then it was time to head off home. My car was in dire need of a bath both inside and out. So was it’s owner. My jeans were destined for the dustbin and I was headed for the bath. I had aches and pains in place I forgot I had, and the photography had not been as good as I would have liked. Phew, what a day! 
© DRW 2012-2017. Images recreated 24/03/2016 
 
Updated: 08/12/2016 — 20:43

Kromdraai and its people

Yesterday I tackled Kromdraai. For those that are unaware of where it is, it’s about 10 kilos past Krugersdorp heading towards Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng. There were 4 cemeteries on my list, 3 of which probably were part of the same farm, and which were now situated on different farms. It is a sad state of affairs though because the location of many of these farm cemeteries is not known, and they eventually get lost completely.
 
As usual, GPS and I headed out to the area and GPS took me on the wrong road. However, that wrong road may provide a clue to my missing Trooper Black from the Jameson Raid, as I found yet another mine in that area, as well as the gurgling Blaauwbank stream. Its worth returning there though, I am sure I may just find something. 
 
First on my list was Kromdraai 1 which is really only 3 headstones, one of which is toppled. They are visible from the road, but access is impossible as the property where they are is locked. Surnames associated with these graves are Redelinghuys and Bean.
Kromdraai 2 was about 5 kilos away and sat on the edge of a ploughed field. I thought it ironic that this small cem with 5 headstones in it was now really an intrusion on the current work on the farm. In its day it was probably a different thing altogether, the cemetery would have been apart from the main house but not quite “in the lands”
There were a further 2 graves with toppled headstones in an adjacent field. Were they part of the original family? did a subdivision create this anomaly? the only clue I got was that one headstone base had “Henning” on it. Maybe we will find the answer one day. Unless we can get these stones righted the identities of these people may be lost forever.
 
 
Just 2 farms down was a Grobler family plot, with 8 headstones in it. This was one of the better maintained farm cemeteries that I have seen in my travels, often they are just a few markers in a patch of grass. 
Last on my list was a place called Danieelrus which is really a game farm not too far from where I was. Unfortunately I could not find anybody to assist me in my quest, and after 2 kilos of sand roads I really wanted to find these graves. There is no real satisfaction in going to a spot and not being able to find anything. Lady luck was with me though, as I was reversing I spotted the cemetery and was able to record it. Most of the markers were those lovely grey slate ones with their very small intricate writing. 30 names are supposedly associated with this cem, and the dominant surname was Oosthuizen.
 
Then it was time to head home. It had been a productive day, and I had found most of what I was after as well as found one two graves we didn’t know about before. It is just a pity that none of the history of this area was recorded so that I could see how these graves tie into the dominant families in this area. The Olwazini graves are not that far off either, although the surnames there were mostly Louw. Neighbours? probably.
 
On my way home I shot two vanity shots just for fun… This is the area adjacent to where I was.  
 
 
 
That was my first bit of gravehunting since I finished with the refrigeration course. And it was very satisfying.
© DRW 2012-2017. Images recreated 24/03/2016
Updated: 08/12/2016 — 07:38
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