Turning our ruin into a garden

About 12 years ago we thought it would be nice to add a couple of rooms on to our house, but unfortunately the builder we employed (fellow by the name of Lukas Neethling, ID 590713 5146 08 3) was a crook, and scarpered with the money without finishing the job, leaving us with a ruin in the back garden.

Inspired by my second cousin-in-law, Toni Badcock-Walters, Val decided that now she has retired it might be nice to turn the ruin, or at least part of it, into a raised kitchen garden, so today we made a start on it.

Val & Simon preparing to turn the ruin into a kitchen garden

Val & Simon preparing to turn the ruin into a kitchen garden

Toni explains many of the advantages of a raised garden in her blog, but one of the main ones we envisage is that the dogs are less likely to charge through it on the way to bark at the neighbours’ dogs, or to decide that it would be nice to dig up.

Laying the first bricks for the raised kitchen garden.

Laying the first bricks for the raised kitchen garden.

Not being professional bricklayers, it won’t be a model for bricklaying, but it’s for a garden, not a house. It’ll probably take a while before the first bed is finished, and then we’ll see what we can grow in it.

Back to the Dark Ages, or the heat death of the universe?

Val retired on 28th February, but the first couple of weeks of her retirement have not gone too well. We have gradually regressed to the 18th century, or to the Dark Ages, On Sunday 2nd March, which was Cheesefare Sunday it rained solidly for most of the day, and it has rained every day since then.

At first the rain was welcome, The garden needed it, and the country needed it — fill the dams to last through the winter. But it never stopped. Every day was overcast. Solar power is fine but in these conditions there was enough hot water to wash the dishes, but not enough for everyone to have a bath.

The drains were blocked, and I kept putting off going to clean them until the rain stopped, but it never did. I was reminded of Noah’s advice to the Lord: Make it rain for 40 days and 40 nights, and wait for the sewers to back up.

Our back garden has been one big puddle for a week

Our back garden has been one big puddle for a week

On Tuesday 4th March the phone died, and with it our Internet connection. For the previous three weeks it had been giving problems, and we had reported it to Telkom. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But now it was completely dead.

As the song goes, you don’t miss your water till your well runs dry. You don’t realise how dependent you become on the Internet. Information you want to look up, which 25 years ago would have entailed a trip to the library, and a search for the books in which one could possibly search for the information has been instantly available on the Internet, through Wikipedia and other resources. Want to check the spelling of a name, or the date of an event, or when is the best time to plant clivias in Gauteng? It’s there at your fingertips. But suddenly it wasn’t.

So we regressed to the 20th century, pre-Internet.

Through cell phones we still had partial access to services like Twitter and Facebook. It was possible to warn friends not to expect prompt replies to e-mail messages, except that some friends apparently did not see, or did not heed the messages, and began sending messages asking why we did not reply promptly. But typing anything on a minuscule phone keyboard was a pain. People gave links to interesting articles that it wasn’t possible to read, and graphics with trite sentiments urging you to “Like this if you love your sister” became even more annoying. One needs three hands – one to hold the phone, one to type with, and one to hold the magnifying glass so one can read the screen.

While the phone service was intermittent, outgoing e-mail piled up. For urgent business it was easier to print out the e-mail, scrawl a reply on it with a pen, and send it by snail mail. Oh, how dependent we are on technology.

But we were soon to become more aware of how dependent we are on technology.

At about 5 am on Tuesday 11th March the electric power went off. At first we thought that it was Eskom’s load shedding. Because of the rain, the coal for the coal-powered power stations was delivered wet. The slurry blocked the conveyors to the furnaces, and generating capacity dropped. So there were rolling blackouts all around the country to try to reduce the load. These usually lasted a few hours, and the power came back on again. It caused some major problems, such as the Gautrain service being interrupted.

But this power outage lasted all day, and into the night.

Now we were regressing from the 20th century (pre-Internet) to the 18th (pre-electricity). No electricity means no coffee. Val went out to buy some from a takeaway joint. With the rain, the washing wouldn’t dry, so we had to resort to an electric clothes drier, but now that didn’t work either.

After a while, the food in the fridge and freezer begins to go off, so you have to eat it quickly. But there’s nowhere to cook it. Just the thing we need in the first month of Val’s retirement, when we have to learn to live on a fifth of our previous monthly income!

We do have a pile of wood in the garden, and we could perhaps have cooked stuff in some cast-iron pots we have, but it’s still raining and the wood is all wet. In the 18th century they could have handled it — they would have had wood-burning stoves, and a place indoors to keep the wood dry. But you can’t make a wood fire in an electric oven.

We had to find some way of making coffee

We had to find some way of making coffee

So we ate takeaway food, and listened to the radio by candlelight. One by one, the cell phones died as the batteries went flat.
Yesterday we decided that as we couldn’t do anything at home, perhaps we could go and do some research in the archives — provided their electricity wasn’t off too. It wasn’t, so we were also able to recharge our laptop computers and cellphones while we were there, and be in communication with the world for another day, at least enough to say that we couldn’t communicate.

When we left the archives at 2:00 pm the sun was shining for the first time in 10 days. When we got home I took advantage of the break to clean the drains, and a huge puddle vanished down the inspection hole. I hoped no municipal inspectors were watching. A few years ago one came to our house to ensure that our drains were constructed in such a way that no storm water could enter the sewer system. Cleaning drains is a dirty job, so afterwards I had a bath — my first hot bath for 10 days — the sun had warmed the water.

But then the water stopped.

No phones, no electricity, no water. Yesterday we couldn’t flush the loo because the drains were full of water; today we can’t flush the loo because there’s no water in the pipes. We were back to the Dark Ages. Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. It is running down both sides of the street, but there’s no way of getting it into the pipes. The vacant land over the road, next to the railway line, turns into a marsh after heavy rain, and the water flows down the street for days afterwards. Perhaps if we caught it in buckets at least we could use it for washing, and it might be safe for making coffee, on the gas plate Val went out to buy. Telkom tell us our phone will be working again on 18th March, but they told us it would be fixed on 4 March (the day it died for good), then the following Sunday, then Thursday…

There's plenty of water, running away down the street. If only there were a way of getting it into the pipes!

There’s plenty of water, running away down the street. If only there were a way of getting it into the pipes!

Though we have suffered a few minor inconveniences, others have suffered a lot more. Some have had their homes washed away. People have been drowned trying to cross swollen rivers.

But the rain has made us aware of how dependent we are on technology, and how ill-equipped we are to live in conditions that people in the 18th century considered normal, and for many people living in rural areas those conditions are still normal. One of the things we heard while listening to the radio by candlelight was a broadcast on different ways in which people see water — access to water is a human right in our constitution, yet increasingly government and business are seeing it as a commodity. After 1994 Kader Asmal did a great deal to see that rural communities had access to clean water, but that seems to have stalled now.

So we have has a small taste of life in the Dark Ages, before the 18th century. Or is it perhaps a taste of the future — climate change, fossil fuels running out, and the heat death of the universe? But for the moment we still have an edge over the Dark Ages — an Internet Cafe, where I’m posting this.

Val Hayes retires

Today my wife Val retired from her job as accountant with the South African Medical Association (SAMA), after a long and varied career. She probably won’t write about it, but I think it’s worth recording as part of our family history, and she can add to it or correct it later.

Val Hayes when I first knew her in 1972/73, and she was working for Stafford Mayer in Durban

Val Hayes when I first knew her in 1972/73, and she was working for Stafford Mayer in Durban

When I first met Val in 1972 she was working as a bookkeeper for the Stafford Mayer company in Durban, mainly looking after their pension fund, so my knowledge of her career before then was hearsay only. She attended high school at Pinetown Convent, and when she left the nuns wanted her to do maths, but she was only interested in accounting (she has the calculating mind in the family) and she went to the Natal Technical College for a year, and then started work. I know she worked for Clover Dairies, and for the distributors of Mercedes Benz cars, but I’m not sure for how long.

After we were married she continued to work at Stafford Mayer, which was taken over by a big company, and then she worked for another subsidiary, SA Board Mills, for a few months, and resigned when we went to live in Utrecht in September 1976.

Val Hayes in 1978, when we were living in Melmoth, Zululand, and she was running the Diocese of Zululand book store.

Val Hayes in 1978, when we were living in Melmoth, Zululand, and she was running the Diocese of Zululand book store.

In 1977 we went to Melmoth, were I was to be Director of Training for Ministries for the Anglican Diocese of Zululand. There was a part-time bookkeeper-secretary, Edna Cooke, looking after the the books of the Christian Education and Training for Ministries departments, and when Edna moved to Johannesburg Val took over, and developed the diocesan book agency, selling books at most events that took place at the diocesan conference centre at KwaNzimela, 10km away. Most of the clergy bought quite a lot of books, and we hoped to encourage the habit of reading. Val used the profits to buy more stock, so we were able to offer a larger variety of books as time went on.

At the end of 1982 we moved again, this time to Verwoerdburg, which is now Centurion and part of the City of Tshwane. I was to be Director of Mission and Evangelism for the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria. Our children were ready to start school, and were offered places in the local Anglican church schools, where Val drove them to school each day. She was offered a job as assistant to the bookkeeper at St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, where our daughter had just started Grade I. It didn’t pay very much, but not having to travel twice a day to tke the children and fetch them again was a saving in itself. The idea was that when the bookkeeper retired Val would take over.

But then a new headmaster appeared on the scene, darkly muttering the then-fashionable mantra “excellence”, and it seemed that our family did not fit his criteria for “excellence”, and Val left at the end of 1987, and began looking for a full-time job, not sure that it would be too easy to find one after not having worked full time for 12 years, and also with computerised bookkeeping beginning to make its appearance, which Val had no experience of.

But Val got a job with Galvadip, a galvanising firm in Waltloo — a much better-paid and more responsible job than the DSG one. She bought a computer and taught herself to use spreadsheets, and began to computerise the books of the company. After a year, however, there were some ethical problems, and she began to look for another job.

On 2 May 1989 Val started working for Wormald, the fire protection engineers. It was an international company, based in Australia. They used the Accpac accounting system, which Val learned, and became something of a fundi in. But that was also the time when overseas firms were disinvesting in South Africa, and the South African branch of Wormald decided to go it alone, and became Republic Automatic Sprinklers (Rasco), and did not prosper as much as they had hoped. After working there for five years, Val left at the end of September 1994.

Val also used the experience she had gained of running a church book store in Zululand to run an Orthodox book store in Johannesburg for the Orthodox Society of St Nicholas of Japan. She took over the running of it with  R600.00 worth of stock, and by the time we had to close it in 1999 the stock was worth more than R40000.oo.

Her next job was with Levenstein’s, which were an accounting firm, and her job was to travel around to the various clients with a laptop computer, troubleshooting their accounting problems. That entailed buying a new car, and after comparing fuel consumption figures, and testing how well our growing children fitted into the back seat of various models, we bought a Mazda 323 Sting, because Val had to travel to the office in Johannesburg every day. But that proved to be a problem. The new democratic South Africa had nine provinces instead of the old four, and the capital of Gauteng (then called PWV) was moved to Johannesburg. That meant that civil servants who had previously worked at the Transvaal Provincial Administration in Pretoria were now also on the road to Johannesburg at the same time, and the newly enlarged freeway was unable to cope. It was stop-go traffic all the way, 70 km each day, five days a week.

Then a bloke at Applico, who were agents for Accpac software, offered Val a job as a teacher/troubleshooter for Accpac users, and she worked there for a few months, but found it a bit frustrating. She preferred to be in control of her own set of books, and in June 1995 she started working at Echo Prestress Concrete at Cloorkop. It was only half the distance she had had to travel to Levenstein’s in Berea, Johannesburg, but it was still a long drive in heavy traffic, so she began looking for a job closer to home again.

She got a job as a kind of assistant to the financial manager of a security firm, Astron-Bexforce. They installed and monitored burglar alarms and provided security guards and things like that. It seemed that with the coming of the democratic South Africa there was no need for a large standing army, and so lots of ex-soldiers and their dogs set up security firms, which worked fine until they had more clients than they could handle and the administration got too much for them. So they began to amalgamate, and Val’s job was to integrate the books and accounting systems of the smaller firms that were taken over. Then Astron-Bexforce was itself taken over by Sentry Security (which had itself started as a small neighbourhood security operation called Sandton Sentry). The financial manager of the Pretoria branch left, and Val applied for, and got, his job. That meant working long hours, and running the whole Pretoria accounting office, and it continued growing.

Then Sentry Security was itself taken over by an overseas firm, Tyco, which was the British arm of an American company, ADT. The work load increased even more, because the American headquarters wanted timely reporting, which meant that the British branch had a deadline, and the South Africans had an even tighter deadline  to meet the British deadline. But they were reluctant to employ new staff to meet these requirements. Eventually they decided to centralise things at the head office in Johannesburg, and Val had to move there, and travel 50km each way again — the very thing that she had hoped to avoid by taking the job in the first place.

Val Hayes, on her 65th birthday (25 Nov 2013). She planned to retire at the end of the month, but SAMA asked her to stay on until the financial year end.

Val Hayes, on her 65th birthday (25 Nov 2013). She planned to retire at the end of the month, but SAMA asked her to stay on until the financial year end.

So Val left ADT at the end of July 2006 and found another job, closer to home, with a start-up company called Telezero. It was at much lower pay, but Val reckoned that if she carried on with ADT until she retired she would have spent a year of her life sitting in traffic jams. Telezero sold international telephone cards, and it had grown so rapidly that the guy who ran it had lost track of who owed him money, and wanted Val to set up the books for him properly. She did, but she not only gave him the welcome news of how much money people owed him, but also the unwelcome news of how much he owed to the tax people, in VAT, employees tax and more. So she left after barely six months, as did most of the rest of the staff.

And so in April 2007 she started working at the South African Medical Association, as her last full-time job, and retires from there today. We’re looking forward to having more time together.

Val Hayes in her office at the South African Medical Association (SAMA)

Val Hayes in her office at the South African Medical Association (SAMA)

2013 in review

The 2013 annual report for our family history blog. Many thanks to those who commented and helped with our family history research.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A new home for our family web pages

Our family web pages, which have been inaccessible for more than a year, are now back on line, and you can see our main family history page at:

http://www.khanya.org.za/famhist1.htm

We have had some family web pages since 1996, long before we started this blog, At first they were hosted by Geocities, but then Geocities was taken over by Yahoo! and killed off. We moved the pages to Bravenet, but that died about a year ago, and when it was clear that there was no hope of it’s being  rescuscitated, we’ve moved the pages to this site.

So if you had links to any of our pages are one of the old sites, please move them to this one!

It will take some time before we get everything working again, and some links are still broken, but the main family history page seems to be working OK for now.

 

Visiting cousins and old haunts

This morning I left home before 5:00 am to go to Johannesburg for the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration, It starts at 6:00 to give people enough time to get to work afterwards. And, as I sometimes do on such occasions, I had breakfast at the Wimpy in Killarney Mall (they do hake with chips and salad). And then I planned to go and do some family history research in the Mormon family history centre in Parktown, but when I got there it was closed.

I didn’t feel like facing the freeway at the tail-end of the rush hour, so I took a leisurely drive through some of the haunts of my youth — a block of flats we had lived at in Sandringham, and St Nicholas Anglican Church down the road, where on Thursday mornings (rather like today) I used to go to be an altar server with old Canon Sharman and millions of angels. Canon Sharman seemed very old then, though he was probably no older than I am now. But he is long gone, The church was still there, though, but it has been converted into a private residence.

St Nicholas Anglican Church, Sandringham, Johannesburg -- now converted into a private house

St Nicholas Anglican Church, Sandringham, Johannesburg — now converted into a private house

Then I thought, having been deprived of the opportunity of looking at the names of long-dead relatives in microfilm readers, why not go and see a living one. So I went to see my cousin Peter Maxwell, whom I hadn’t seen for over 50 years, and met his wife Mellony for the first time. The last time I met him, I recalled, we had spent most of the time talking about cars, and he said he is still a car nut, and in the past drove in races and rallies. Nowadays it has become specialised and professionalised, and only the very rich could do it, but back then, he said, if you went to Castol and showed them your rally registration, they would sponsor you by providing a few litres of oil.

Steve Hayes & Peter Maxwell, 6 August 2013

Steve Hayes & Peter Maxwell, 6 August 2013

It’s more fun to meet one living relative than to pore over microfilm records to find a few facts about a dozen dead ones.

Peter Maxwell is the son of my father’s sister, Doreen Wynn Maxwell, born Hayes.

Tracking down elusive Namibian families

Yesterday (Monday 13 May 2013) we had a busy day, and at last managed to track down some of our elusive Namibian families, and found more information than we had time to record.

We started off going to the Lutheran Church archives, and stopped on the way at a viewing place over the city to take some photos of the changed Windhoek skyline. It was a place I had come to in 1971 with Marge Schmidt, Bishop Colin Winter’s secretary, to take photos for a brochure we were preparing for a project for a new Anglican cathedral, with ecumenical centre attached. The brochure was intended to show potential overseas donors the need for such a centre, and the city it would serve. It worked too, and several of them promised money that would have started the project, but the new dean, who was appointed especially to oversee the project, killed it, and the new cathedral was never built, so St George’s Cathedral (the green roof in the upper right-hand corner of the picture) remains the smallest Anglican cathedral in the world.

Windhoek city centre, with St George's Anglican Catrhedral, 13 May 2013

Windhoek city centre, with St George’s Anglican Cathedral, 13 May 2013

We managed, with some difficulty, to find the Lutheran Church office, with the archives, but the archivist was away on leave, and a retired former archivist, Pastor Pauli, came over to help us.

What we were looking for was baptism, marriage and burial records for the period of 1840-1920 in Rooibank, and Otjimbingue, as Rhenish missionaries were the only Christian clergy in those places at that period. Pastor Pauli was unable to find the records we were looking for, and said, rather ominously, that people tended to steal such records, and he didn’t know if they had them.

But though we came away empty-handed, Pastor Pauli was himself an archive of sorts, full of fascinating anecdotes, and it was worth going there just to meet him.

Pastor Pauli, retired Lutheran archivist in Windhoek, 13 May 2013

Pastor Pauli, retired Lutheran archivist in Windhoek, 13 May 2013

He said he was 96 years old, and was born in Silesia. His grandmother insisted that only German be spoken in the house as he and his brother were growing up, but she was a bit hard of hearing, so they spoke German to her very loudly, and spoke quietly to the maid in Polish, as she knew no German.

His brother, however, died young (at the age of 90), so he was now alone in the world. His brother had been fascinated by aviation, and had been a fighter pilot in the Second World War.

Pastor Pauli himself had come to Africa in 1937, as a missionary in Tanganyika. He said that more than 60 languages were spoken in Tanganyika, so people communicated with the common medium of Swahili, and lived on good terms with each other. He was struck by the contrast with Namibia, with three little languages, and if people who spoke one language found you had been talking to someone who spoke another language, they didn’t want to know you — at least that was his experience.

We went shopping and had lunch at one of the city shopping malls, and there too much change was in evidence.

A Windhoek shopping mall sdeen from across the car park of another. It was all over builders doing additions to it.

A Windhoek shopping mall seen from across the car park of another. It was all over builders doing additions to it.

When I lived in Windhoek in 1970, there was only one supermarket in town, the Model Supermarket in Kaiserstrasse (now Independence Avenue). Back then one could fill a trolley (American English = shopping cart) with groceries for R15.00. Now it would cost 100 times as much. Namibian dollars and South African Rand are the same value, and South African Rand notes are accepted everywhere in Namibia, it seems, though the coins are different sizes. A notable difference from South Africa was that one does not have to pay to park at the supermarket.

Herero fashions in 1969: Magdalena Bahuurua (housekeeper to Biship Mize) outside St George's Anglican cathedral in Windhoek (the priest in the picture is George Pierce).

Herero fashions in 1969: Magdalena Bahuurua (housekeeper to Biship Mize) outside St George’s Anglican cathedral in Windhoek (the priest in the picture is George Pierce).

The old Model Supermarket is still there, only it is now trading under the Shoprite label, the downmarket partner of the Shoprite-Checkers chain. In 1970 you could see Herero ladies in traditional dress standing in queues at the checkout counters, some with the shopping baskets on their heads. A British visitor once remarked, “Where else can in the world can you see women wearing Victorian crinolines doing their shopping in a supermarket?”

Herero ladies in traditional dress seem to be a less common sight nowadays, and the “traditional” dress is changing too. The headgear is growing wider and wider. We showed Hiskia Uanivi and Kaire Mbuende some of our old photos from 40 years ago, and even then the older women wore narrower headdresses, such as that worn by Magdalena Bahuurua in the picture on the right, while the younger ones more much wider ones. But those are nothing compared to the ones you see nowadays.

Herero fashions in 1970: Younger women after an Oruuano Church service in Gobabis old location.

Herero fashions in 1970: Younger women after an Oruuano Church service in Gobabis old location.

After lunch we went to the Namibian Scientific Society, where we wanted to buy a couple of books by early Swedish traders and travellers in Namibia, which had been translated into English and published, in case they mentioned some family members.

They also had photocopies of the Omaruru church registers, and that was where we struck paydirt. We found more in those registers in two hours than we had in two days at the state archives looking at deceased estate files and the like. There was more than we could possibly write down in the time we had left to us, and Gunter von Schumann, the historian there, said we could come to his house the next morning, where he had more copies of old church registers.

Agnes Dorothea Dixon, daughter of Daniel Esma Dixon and Annie Charlotte Gunning,  was born on 29 April 1906, and baptised on 30 May at Omaruru, and there was the Dixon- Gunning link we had been looking for. There were several other children born to that couple. The deceased estate files simply showed Daniel Esma Dixon (Junior) as having disappeared into Angola with no issue. Someone must have been lying! We took lots of photos of the registers, and hope to be able to transcribe the relevant entries and link them when we get home.

Then we switched from deceased relatives to the living. We had arranged to meet Mburumba Kerina at the Kalahari Sands Hotel, so we packed up and rushed over there, and had a pleasant dinner and a three-hour chat.

Val Hayes and Mburumba Kerina, 13 May 2013. Second cousins once removed.

Val Hayes and Mburumba Kerina, 13 May 2013. Second cousins once removed.

We are not sure of the exact relationship, but we think Mburumba Kerina is Val’s half-second cousin once removed. Both are descended from Fred Green (“Kerina” is the old Herero pronunciation of Green), Mburumba from Fred’s second wife Sarah Kaipukire, and Val from his third wife, Kate Stewardson.

Mburumba Kerina

Mburumba Kerina

Like Pastor Pauli, Mburumba Kerina was full of fascinating anecdotes, including how he devised the name of Namibia for the country. When he was in exile, he was visiting President Sukarno of Indonesia, who asked him the name of his country. He said it was “South West Africa”, and President Sukarno said he had never heard of it. He said that Angola was in South West Africa, and that a country must have a proper name.

Shortly afterwards, the Revd Michael Scott, the Anglican priest who had raised the question of South West Africa at the United Nations at the request of the Herero Chiefs’ Council, showed Mburumba Kerina an article about a Texas mining magnate who wanted to make his fortune by mining diamonds  in the Namib desert, and wanted to separate it from the rest of Namibia. So Mburumba came up with the name Namibia, to give the country a name, and also to emphasis that the Namib desert was an integral part of the county.

____________

This is part of our Namibian travelogue. The previous episode was Sunday in Windhoek: Quaker meeting and walking the dogs | Khanya, and, if you are interested, it begins at Kang: ver in die ou Kalahari | Notes from underground

While we have been staying with Enid and Justin Ellis in Windhoek we have taken advantage of their WiFi to access the Internet. Today we are leaving for Outjo, and then the Etosha National Park and Ovamboland, and the next instalment is at North to Outjo | Notes from underground

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