Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Return of the Forager!

Yeah I'm back...After a five mile trek through the English "wilds" - So here I am, the endorphins are flowing, my feet are killing me but I did get a prize for all that hard slog....Geez, I love the flow of endorphins after a long walk...You should try it...

The results are not what I expected, because I started off looking for my usual August suspects, berries, plums and apples...And yes, there were plenty to be found...but in amongst my ramblings there was actually TOO much to collect...I ended up eating much of the fare on offer, especially wild plums...Man, all colours and sizes: Red, deep purple, yellow, pink, red, greenish, oval, round, small, large....etc. I could have brought back kilos of the stuff. I ate it all instead, as I walked.....

Then I took a wrong turn and ended up on some bloody road again going back home (I hate roads, especially English narrow roads, no shoulder at all!!!) and had to dodge cars on the way back...

And then I stumbled on a road side seller selling tomatoes...Like this:

Beautiful eh?

Only 50p for three....

Now, you need to understand that in Britain this is a usual form of trade. Someone who owns a plot of land will grow his choice of vegetable, and if it is good enough, he will flog it...Not for profit, but to share his success and enjoyment with any passer-by...

As I say, it's not about profit, @ 50p for 3 tomatoes, it's a loss all the way for the seller. But in selling the tomatoes, he will impart a sense of pride in the earth he has cultivated in his own backyard...The buyer, will be similarly enriched.

The transaction is not done face to face...In fact, the seller will display his stock on a wooden stand, with asking price, and typically a bucket of some kind is left for the buyer to place the money in the bucket and take his purchase away, without any contact with the seller....It's based on trust...

This is not something one would witness in South Africa and it makes me happy to have immigrated here five years ago...!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Ferry Trip: Weymouth to Jersey

Whether you live here or are just visiting, your experience of the UK will not be complete without a ferry trip.

We decided on a day trip from Weymouth to Jersey. Weymouth because its the town my wife was born in and we spent several days there on holiday and decided to throw in the ferry trip just for fun. Weymouth itself is a really quaint old sea-side retreat and there is lots to see: from it's lovely harbour (with old fashioned drawbridge) to the castle and of course a little further on, Portland Bill...

(Weymouth is located by the red X and Jersey is the lower island in the circle)

It really is quite cheap...As little as £30 p.p. can get you a trip on the ferry to Jersey (just short of 4 hours) and back to Weymouth again in the same day. Jersey is an island with a strong French/ continental flair and you will love the strong french accent and theme wherever you go...

The trip itself at near on 4 hours each way is quite long, and be prepared for speed. These ferries are a cross between a small liner and a powerboat! If the sea is a little choppy, you can expect some rough and tumble: the whup-whup-whup-whup- as the bow hits the waves you feel with your guts more than hear with your ears - But that's part of the fun...

I was the only one who did not resort to a sick bag but instead spent most of the trip on the deck of the craft lapping up the sea spray and feeling the wind whip past me...The craft really does go fast, upwards of 70 km per hour...

You will enjoy the feel of time slowing once you dock and hear new accents in Jersey and of course, be prepared for their "funny money" which, although equal in value to the Pound, some people inland may not be too happy to accept...

Monday, 27 June 2011

A Visit to Garnet Woods - CM6 1LR


This is worth a separate post on it's own. Garnet Woods: What a lovely, natural wooded area of England. It is so typical of many of these woods dotted around the country. My favourite tree is the Silver Birch, so resplendent in the summer sunshine!

These woods are literally "breathing and eating" at this time, alive with photosynthesis and vibrant bird song in the canopy above and on the floor carpet: quietly alive with tons of ectomycorrhizae mycelium (fungus) and trillions of bacteria. I was treading on a lush carpet up to 6 inches deep in organic matter in some places. Rotting vegetation.

I like to think of the trees as the lungs, and the fungi/bacteria as the bowels, working over and recycling the organic life in the "organism" of the woods.

It does make me pause though to realise that once (just 2000 years ago,) the entirety of this island was covered, wall to wall, with forested areas such as this...How sad that we can only explore a few hundred acres (a postage stamp in comparison to the whole) now in the 21st Century....All the more reason to preserve these beautiful areas for posterity...

Oh yes, look out for the "Watcher of the Woods"

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Out and About in Essex


OK, it's high Summer time now in the South East. Tomorrow is sunny skies and temperatures peaking at 27 Celsius. BBQ for lunch. Of course, lunch is late on a Sunday this time of the year when the sun only starts setting after 9 PM.

So lot's of time to practise my hobby in the early part of the day: Foraging and Exploring.

That's what I do most days here in summer time. Essex is plenty big with tons of space to explore.

So welcome to my neck 'o the Woods!

The Notleys, Rayne, Flitch Way, John Raye....Miles and miles of public walkways stretching, turning and curving all over the area, mostly rural farmland but interspersed all along by the ubiquitous hedge ways of old England and also of course, some pristine old woodlands such as Bushy Wood and Garnet Forest. I have barely begun to scratch the surface.

Of course, it's the foraging part that excites me the most (no, the austerity measures in the UK have not reduced me to scavenge for my food yet!) I'm talking about the abundance of wild plants, berries, fruits and mushrooms that will start occurring from now right through until the end of September...

It's a real garden of Eden, elderberries (my favourite), wild cherries, wild gooseberries, blackberries, wild apples, sloe berries, wild plums (to name a few) and at least a half dozen or so edible mushrooms such as the field mushroom, ink cap, parasol, puffball etc (sadly we missed the seasonal fruiting of morels and St George's mushrooms which only occur early in Spring. The Spring drought has all but obliterated the mycelium from fruiting. But, as we've had some rain the last two weeks, I'm hoping to catch a few lazy St Georges making a late appearances tomorrow morning!)

So, here are a few images from my "backyard"

Enjoy them and feel free to return over the next few months when I'll be posting more "as and when" discoveries from my explorations.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Why I Left South Africa (Part 3)


Actually, I have forgotten part 3. It's over five years ago and you know what? I'm happy where I am living now in the South East of England. Yes, of course I do keep in touch with South Africa and her demise is ever present in my mind.

But I hope that my previous two posts convince you that I am not a rabid right wing nut.

I did not even mention crime as one of the factors that motivated me to leave (although South Africa is undoubtedly one of the most crime ridden countries in the world) I was simply not a victim of violent crime...Perhaps just by luck?

I don't know...What I do know is that I left for two main reasons:

1) BEE (Affirmative Action) that would have strangulated my (and especially my daughter's) future employment prospects and well being.

2) The NEW SA is based on a lie. The "Rainbow Nation" does not exist. There is no such thing as a "South African". There are whites, blacks, coloureds, Indians, Afrikaners, Boers, Zulus, Xhosa's, Sothos, etc etc etc...Too many to mention, none of which are united or ever will be. It is a shattered, schizophrenic land....We are and always will be separate races and cultures...

I love me separate-ness, my "apart-ness"

So I have returned to the birth land of my Maternal Grandfather, William-John Foley.

Here I will live out the rest of my days.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Why I Left South Africa (Part 2)


The disease of White Moderates (indifference)

This post goes straight to my positivism about ZA as I recall it, especially as a result of the leadership of Mandela. All of us in SA were influenced by his leadership and vision. Of course it rubbed off, and of course we were all ready to do our bit. And of course I still have bit of that old “Madiba Magic” in me today, as jaded as it may be…

As a consequence of the 1994 elections I embraced transformation (More than most whites as will become apparent)

I worked in the centre of JHB and it was convenient for me to experience the New SA first hand during my lunch breaks…I trod the streets of JHB: Sauer street, Commissioner street, President street, Library gardens.

I lost count of the times I walked past Luthuli house.

I mingled with the street hawkers and bought roasted peanuts from the "Magog" (old black lady attendant) in summer.

In winter I bought her fresh vetkoek (fat cake) roasted in hot oil.

I bought 2nd hand clothes from the salvation army store as well as numerous other collectibles (mostly moth ball smelling stuff but it was for a good cause!)

I ate freshly grilled chicken licken (KFC) with my fingers together with the local blacks at lunch time.

I decided to adopt a charity which represented the poorest of the poor.

Called “Door-of-Hope”

This is the most desperate of all charities on the planet. It came about because of the ubiquitous practise of drug addicted and aids infected mothers who had just given birth, to abandon their babies…Literally to dump them in garbage cans and walk away.

This charity in Berea was set up in response by literally creating a “hole-in-the-wall” surrounding the property, which was basically a swing door with a nestled alarm that would alert staff when a new abandoned baby had arrived.

They would then collect the new born and attend to their needs, caring for them over the coming months, and eventually these babies would have a hope for a future life as adoptees elsewhere in the world.

I raised upwards of R10,000 for that charity and yes, I got the kudos, but when I really began to look around me, I realised I was alone…. I had immersed myself in the daily life of blacks fully, but had not been joined by any other fellow whites.

No, I don’t blame whites for their “moderation”, their indifference and their unwillingness to really grasp the nettle of transformation. It just that moderation was not for me. It was either/ or….

It’s just that I had developed a conscience, whilst my fellow whites who barricaded themselves in their gated palaces, with satellite TV, electrified fences, 4X4 Toureg, BMW or Mercedes, quietly quaffing beers and roaring whilst they watched the latest rugby games, had not.

The time had come for change, I was ready for that, it turned out that my fellow white South Africans were not. The "Rainbow Nation" was a lie. A crass, useless piece of TRC propaganda that I had bought heart and soul and later discovered with "buyer's remorse" was bankrupt. Perhaps my fellow whites were wiser than me, perhaps I was just a naif...

I grasped an even thornier nettle and emigrated. I had realised that ZA had remained polarised despite the so called "end of apartheid" in 1994. It was polarised five years ago when I left, and it continues to remain so as I write today.

(Please read my other posts entitled “Why I left SA” for a more holistic view of all my reasons for leaving SA.)

PS: Photos are all personal...

Make donations to Hole-in-the-Wall

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Why I Left South Africa (Part 1)


...and why I can never come back again...

Put it another way...I left for different reasons then, than the reasons I can never go back again, now.

I'll deal with the reasons how my negativity about South Africa caused me to abandon ship five years ago, but also how I started out incredibly positive following the 1994 elections, and how that positivity soured and continued to do so until I had had enough.

I'll start with the most immediate reason that I left which goes back to the period six or seven years ago when Thabo Mbeki was still president of ZA.

Large scale socio-economic restructuring in the country including the private sector company I had been loyal to for fifteen years:

This affected me (and my family) personally. I'm talking about Black Economic Empowerment (Affirmative Action) that was being applied in a Top Down, Autocratic manner (is there any other way to do it?)

This was rather like a game of draughts (checkers) rather than a well thought out game of chess. In my daily life and work it became difficult to read in between the lines. There were tangible "reverse discrimination" issues (believe me, if you think the State has a ham-fisted approach to it, you have no idea what the fat-cat industry leaders had in mind and how ruthlessly they wished to attain their various sector BEE targets)

Many not so "grey beards" were being enticed to take packages to make way for "early twenties" black (esp female) graduates.

I'm talking of retirement for white grey beards as young as 55...This has been reduced even more over the intervening period since 2005, to age 50 in the company I used to work for in ZA...

I was aged 39 then. Think about that, a near middle aged "tweeny" LOL

Which "list" was I on? The "grey beard list" or the "black skin (pref black female - list"?

Was there any place in between???

I could not read between the lines but I saw what was coming.

I decided to jump before I was pushed.

Malema Takes the Lead (Again) - Cry Baby Cry


What's that old Chinese proverb/ curse? May you live in interesting times! That is the way of the world and that is the way of South Africa, although in the case of the latter the pace is somewhat accelerated.

The question you need to be asking yourself now (if you live in ZA it is a burning question) is how serious is Malema about his rhetoric to nationalise the wealth of the country? Is he serious, or is this just verbal grease for him on his next step to higher power which, when he attains it, will be discarded like so much junk just like all the Gucci Commies in the ANC.

Only time will tell, all we can definitively state right now is that ZA is a shit place to be

Saturday, 11 June 2011

London Train Travel Serendipity

To be honest, I am not a London type "booitjie" - I hate London with it's facades, it's multi-culti homogeneity, it's squalid expensive high rises, it's nasty river and even nastier weather...

But I do like (or maybe respect is a better word) it's underground infrastructure!

It always awes and amazes me to travel on the tubes...Not that I do it often, I am a bit of an Essex red-neck, living in a village about 80 miles from London. But when I do travel there, I always feel like a real Beast; A conqueror and explorer of note...

Of course, I'm just the son of a Fitter & Turner from the East Rand of SA...

But it is respect and awe of the engineering ability and sheer achievement of the underground that somehow my father, as a hands on tradesman, imparted to me as a child, and which I recognise now when I ride on tubes in London, that gobsmacks me...

The efficiency is amazing, although many complain about that. I suppose they need to spend a day or two in downtown Johannesburg to realise how majestic the London Underground achievement really is.

As an engineer and tradesman, my father not only loved milling machines but also the Great Ships of war: U-Boats, Battleships, Destroyers. He knew that milling machines made those ships.

He came to the UK 8 years ago on a visit and of course he did a trip to London. He made sure to visit the HMS Belfast at London Bridge.

Of course he loved it...So much of it is still very real, the iron work, the cannons, even some of the original plastic wiring is remarkably well preserved. And he told me about it when he came back to SA.

Times change, people move on.

I came to the UK 5 years ago and have been to London at least a dozen times (yeah, I'm a red-neck, I told you so) but never went to visit the HMS Belfast...

Except for a business obligation yesterday, I may not have done so for a long time.

So yesterday I found myself right by the London Bridge with this MASSIVE War Ship sitting there in the Thames and what else could I do?

Business obligations lasted a few hours, and then I was all over that ship like a mad thing...This Ship has more nooks and crannies than a loaf of old Swiss cheese. Two hours on Her is like Nothing. She is beautiful. A few weeks is what you need.

I plan to go back there very soon. This time, with my wife and daughter...I only hope that this time I can meet up with John Wills again and shake his hand...Before it's too late.

To get to HMS Belfast, I recommend the following route...From wherever, get into Stratford Station...(Line starts at top of the map, please click for better resolution)...From there, hop onto the Jubilee line which goes straight to London Bridge Station under the Thames...

Parts of England Officially Facing Drought Conditions

This image is typical of the local grassy areas around where I live, and also becoming increasingly common wherever I drive in the South East: Dead, yellow grass, cracked ground that is as hard as a rock and only the weeds seem to be thriving.

I posted a little while ago on the driest, hottest Spring in UK for a Century, and since then, it has not rained much at all. In fact, it now appears that parts of the UK (S.E amongst them) are
Officially facing drought conditions.

This is not what you would have expected in England. It makes me chortle a bit to myself when I remember some spiteful people who have said to me "We don't need you lot here, fuck off and have a miserable time on that wet sponge"

Wet Sponge?

More like BBQ Summer is wot it looks like to me!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Tribute to HMS Belfast: London Bridge


This post is dedicated to my two [late] Grandfathers, Arnold and William-John (Jack) both of whom fought in WW2 and my father, Brian, who sadly, recently passed away on 02.11.2010.

Dad, I know you visited HMS Belfast eight years ago on a trip to England. I was not with you then. But eventually I got to see her too...Today.

That's eight years too late and I wish we had been together, then, or now, either would have been great...

It can never be, but I do remember we watched the movie "Das Boot" in 1981 together.

That will have to be enough.

And thanks to John Wills, your anecdotes were wonderful today, and thanks to
St Margaret's Community Website for the narrative below.

H.M.S Belfast is a Second World War light cruiser preserved for the nation on the Thames at Tower Bridge. She is an eleven thousand ton, nine decked, four turreted lean, mean fighting machine.

In her war time ‘Dazzle’ camouflage, from the outside H.M.S Belfast looks exactly like what she is - an aggressive weapon of war that helped sink the German battle-cruiser ‘Scharnhorst’, protected the Arctic convoys, fired its massive guns at D. Day and saw action during the Korean War.

Step inside and you find yourself in a confusing warren of narrow corridors and companionways lined not only with all the accoutrement's of war but also with everything that you might expect to find in a small town - a dentist, a potato store, a butcher, a carpentry shop, a bakery, a chapel, a Welfare Office, a NAAFI selling long forgotten items like Capstan Full Strength cigarettes, Spangles and sherbet fountains and a Provision Room that supplied the sailors daily tot of rum

Expected to be disposed of as scrap, in 1967 efforts were initiated to preserve Belfast as a museum ship. A joint committee of the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the Ministry of Defence was established, and reported in June 1968 that preservation was practical. In 1971 the government decided against keeping the ship, prompting the formation of the private HMS Belfast Trust to campaign for her preservation. The Trust was successful in its efforts, and the government transferred the ship to the Trust in July 1971. Brought to London, she was moored on the River Thames near Tower Bridge in the Pool of London. Opened to the public in October 1971 Belfast became a branch of the Imperial War Museum in 1978. A popular tourist attraction, Belfast receives around a quarter of a million visitors per year. As a branch of a national museum, Belfast is supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, by admissions income, and by the museum’s commercial activities.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

All Weather Day Out: Tropical Wings

A great place (and reasonably priced!) to take visiting relatives to is the Tropical Wings Zoo in South Woodham Ferrers, which is a stones throw away from Chelmsford.

The zoo sports all the usual smaller suspects: kangaroos, reptiles, birds, primates, rodents, meercats etc but it is the indoor heated environment (from which the Zoo derives its name) that is truly unique. It is a self-contained tropical environment housing extremely exotic fauna and flora, the most dazzling of which is the dozens of species of butterfly, which are free to fly, eat and procreate as they would in their natural environment.

We loved it and still think of it as our "secret zoo" but I guess I have just spilled the beans with this post!

PS: There is a great little restaurant and ice-cream parlor as well.

Tropical Wings - Wickford Road, South Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 5QZ
Phone / Fax: 01245 425394


South Africa Will Never be a Normal Country: Top Economist Predicts

Not now, not in 50 years, not 1000 years, not even until Jesus comes back.

Mike Schussler, a top man in economics (and always positive) has said as much as my headline, just in another way - It's not OK today to be Afro-pessimistic, one must couch one's true meaning in a delicate manner down South these days, but read the full article and see if I am biasing his intent.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

South Africa needs to create 10 million jobs in the next 10 years to become a normal country, economist Mike Schussler said on Thursday.

"That would mean 83,000 jobs a month," (im-fucking-possible!) he said in Johannesburg at the release of trade union UASA's 10th employment report.

Only about 350,000 new jobs had been created in South Africa over the last 11 years (need I say more?) but there had been a massive drop in those self-employed, Schussler said. In 2001 there were 2.2 million self-employed and in 2010 it was 1.1 million.

And guess where those 1 million are today mmmmm?

Read here for more depressing stats.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Visiting the Oldest Town in England

Most people if asked which is the oldest town in England will respond "London"

Totally wrong, it's actually a little "dorpie" in the South East called Colchester. Now Colchester is not the most glamorous town but it does have a lot of history, and this makes it a premium place to visit on a weekend.

The greatest attraction of course, is the old castle museum. A visit there takes you through 2000 years of some of the most important events in British history. Once capital of Roman Britain, Colchester Castle is undeniably one of the most important historic buildings in the country.

Colchester was the first capital of Roman Britain and beneath the Castle are the remains of the most famous Roman buildings, the Temple of Claudius.

But it is the gardens that are so incredibly spectacular, especially this time of the year with early summer spreading good vibrations. You can dawdle the entire day, the gardens are so enormous. I urge you to make a plan to visit there soon and make memories to cherish for a long time...Don't miss out!

My wife and daughter simply loved it and hogged the camera as the pics below reveal!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

South Africa's Chances are 50/50 Says Former SA President De Klerk

"The country is balanced between success and failure and the fulcrum on which South Africa's future will pivot is our Constitution. If the forces of history come down on the side of constitutional values we can all look forward to a positive future. However, if the balance tips in the other direction, the consequences for all South Africans could be very dire."

Not the most re-assuring words one would wish to hear from a former president of SA...50/50?....Is that our best bet?

If you were in SA in the late eighties and nineties, this rhetoric will be very familiar...We have always been poised on a fulcrum...Codesa 1 - Codesa 2 - Chris Hani assassinated - Referendum 1992 Yes or No -

De Klerk promised the white minority that if we gave him a mandate YES in 1992, he would ensure that protection of minority white rights would be built into the new constitution...He talked then of "Checks and Balances"

We believed him.

It was a landslide result, whites overwhelmingly voted YES....

We were ready to move on....We were ready to end the chapter of apartheid, and start a new one...


It was a lie.

This chapter is one that is probably where 99% of whites are still stuck at today, frustrated and unable to move on...

You see, we were negotiating with the ANC. Blacks were not ready in the same way we were to say goodbye to the past...For them, the General Election that followed in 1994 was little more than a beach-head...Important ground to claim in the way forward to a much bigger prize. The National Democratic Revolution.

It is my opinion that following the gains of 1994 the ANC has been perpetuating a war of attrition against whites, not necessarily based on race, but on demography. It's a Class War and takes the form of the following:

- Laisses-faire attitude to low grade genocide against rural whites (soft target farmers) and rampant crime in general (jokingly referred to as "affirmative shopping")
- State sanctioned affirmative action (BEE)
- Punitive taxing of the predominantly white middle class (new National health scheme, toll road taxes etc)
- ANC Cadre employment in all spheres of public enterprise
- Diversion of legitimate funds into failed enterprises (Crony "investment and development")
- Beyond Laisses-faire - A "Devil-may-care" attitude to corruption at Presidential level
- Corruption of rule of law
- Actively enabling corrosion of the prosecuting authority
- Glorification of left lunatic fringe elements
- Protection of information bill and censoring of media (Media Tribunal)
- Add your own here....

Whites may still kindle some hope for the future in ZA, having been duped into agreement to abandon race based policies. They thought the blacks had acceded to that. We thought we had a contract in place. Perhaps we were fools, the real revolution, the NDR is now only beginning.

De Klerk got it wrong then, he's getting it wrong now. It's not a 50/50 chance, it's a dead certainty...

The NDR will Triumph.