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)

Stooke family of Dawlish

I haven’t posted much in this blog for a while, and so was rather puzzled by a sudden flurry of new visitors yesterday, more than twice the daily average.

The reason I haven’t posted much is that we haven’t made any startling new discoveries in our family history recently, but have just been plodding along. At around this time of the year (December-January) we seem to get back to the Stooke family, and this time around seem to have been adding to the descendants of John Stooke and Mary Barter of Kingskerswell in Devon.

This is a bit peripheral to our interests, because I’m not 100%, or even 90% sure that they are related.

John Stooke of Dawlish married Mary Barter at Kingskerswell in 1808, and they had 10 children (that we have been able to trace), and we have been able to trace at least some descendants of five of those children.

John Stooke was apparently born in Dawlish in 1784, the son of James Stooke and Mary Bargeron or Barjeron or Baragon or Barrigan (there seem to be a number of ways of spelling it), who were married in Dawlish on 28 October 1771.

What is not clear is where this James Stooke came from. Some family trees identify him with James Stooke of Trusham, the son of Edward Stooke and Elizabeth Dingley, who was baptised in Trusham on 28 June 1742. While this is possible, it also seems that there were other Stooke families living in Dawlish at the time of the marriage of James and Mary, so it would be useful if we could see the Dawlish parish registers and do a reconstruction of all the Stooke families there. Unfortunately the Dawlish registers do not appear to be available online, either on FreeReg or anywhere else, nor do they appear to have been filmed by the LDS, so it would mean travelling to the Devon Record Office in Exeter to try to find them.

I’ve also been scanning some old negatives, and came across some photos taken when we lived in Utrecht briefly. When we were living there we travelled actoss to Paulpietrersburg, some 70 km away over gravel roads. I knew that my grandfather, Percy Hayes (whose mother was Mary Barber Stooke) had lived there until he died in 1948, and he is buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery there. He used to be the secretary of the Dumbe colliery, so we had a look at it, though in his day it was at the base of the mountain, and when we visited, nearly 30 years later, it was near the top. So we drove up the mountain, and took some photos of Paulpietersburg from there.

Paulpieterburg, Natal, from Dumbe mountain, 12 April 1977

Paulpieterburg, Natal, from Dumbe mountain, 12 April 1977

 

 

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.

Hannan cousins in Fish Hoek

Nearly 40 years ago we went on holiday to the Western Cape. Val and I had been married for a year, and we had just started our family history research, so we visited whatever relatives we could find and badgered them with questions about the family history.

Alex Hannan, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Alex Hannan, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

My maternal grandmother was Janet Hannan who had married George Growdon, and we visited Growdon relatives in the Eastern Cape and Hannan cousins in the Western Cape. We called to see Alex and Una Hannan in Fish Hoek. Alex was my mother’s first cousin, the son of my mother’s uncle David McFarlane Hannan, who lived in Rhodesia. I had only met Alex once before, about 10 years earlier, when I scarpered to England to avoid a meeting with Detective Sergeant van den Heever of the Security Police, and while I was changing planes at Salisbury airport (now Harare), some of the family came to see me.

This time we found their house in Fish Hoek, and managed to chat for longer, and stayed for tea. Alex’s wife Una was known locally as the Bird Lady — she took in sick and injured birds and nursed them back to health, and they had quite large aviary.

In his youth Alex had been a boxer and represented South Africa in the 1936 Olympic Games. His elder son Clyde has promised to tell us more about that.

While we were having tea there was a huge hail storm, and the whole garden was covered with hailstones about a foot deep, so that it looked almost like snow. Hail seemed to feature quite a lot in visits to Hannan cousins — more of that below.

My beautiful pictureTheir younger son Stanley was also visiting, with his wife Norma and two-year-old daughter Debbie, so we were glad to meet them as well. Stan was thinking of becoming a Baptist minister, and later he did, and I saw him a few times after that in Johannesburg. He and his family later moved to the USA.

We then went up the hill, still in Fish Hoek, to see Chris and Ivy Vlok. Ivy Sharp was the daughter of my mother’s auntie Em, and I knew them somewhat better. I’d first met them when I was about four years old, and they were living in Berea in Johannesburg. My mother and I went up from Durban on the train, and it was my first long-distance train journey, or at least the first one that I could recall. Ivy and Chris had two sons, Arthur and Terence. Arthur was about my age, and Terence was younger, and I don’t think he was born on that first visit.  Arthur is now a grandfather, living in Fish Hoek, and we visited him and his wife Jean, and their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren a couple of years ago — picture here.

On that first visit Ivy’s half sister Nellie was also there, and she took me into the centre of Joburg on the tram one day. I can’t remember why, or what we did in town, but I do recall that on the way back there was the father and mother of all hail storms while the tram was climbing up Twist Street. The hailstones jammed the points where the tram had to turn into Kotze Street and the conductor had to get out in the downpour and clear it with a metal lever before the tram could turn. My mother later told me that Nellie was a kleptomaniac, and rather strange and mysterious. She married twice and divorced twice, and had no children, and nobody seems to know what happened to her. Her first marriage was to Edward “Scotty” Davis, and her second was to Ernest Edward Turner, but she was divorced from him when I met her.

Chris Vlok was in the army, and it was war time on that visit. Later we visited them again in Lyttelton, it must have been soon after the war, where they lived in long bungalows in the barracks. I would then have been about 5 or 6 years old, and my memory was that the Sunday newspapers were different, and had different comics. In the Sunday Tribune in Natal we had Brick Bradford, who travelled around in a “time top” that looked a bit like the rubber bulbs that mens’ hairdressers used to squirt talcum powder down the necks of their customers — a kind of predecessor of Dr Who, perhaps. There was also Rusty Riley, who lived on a ranch with lots of horses. But the Transvaal papers had the Katzenjammer Kids and Moon Mullins and Kitty Higgins and Jiggs and Maggie. One of the neighbours in the bungalow was a girl called Bridget, and she had a bicycle, and that was where I first learned to ride a bicycle.

Ivy and Chris Vlok, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Ivy and Chris Vlok, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Later the Vloks moved to Roberts Heights, later known as Voortrekkerhoogte, and now as Thaba Tshwane. Chris Vlok was an electronics fundi and taught people in the military about radar and such things. We used to visit them quite a lot there when we lived at Sunningdale, just outside Johannesburg. In the 1960s they were transferred to Simonstown, where Chris Vlok did the same with the navy, and when we visited them in 1975 he was semi retired, but still looked after the library of books on electronics.

Ivy & Chris Vlok

Ivy & Chris Vlok

Ancestors of Marie Payard

For some years now we have been uncertain about the ancestors of Marie Payard (b. 1785 in Briest, Brandenburg, Prussia). Her parents are given as Isaac Payard and Elisabeth Bettac, but the problem is that there were two Isaac Payards and two Elisabeth Bettacs. See our earlier post on the Payard-Bettac marriage.

Now we have come across a web site that indicates a more likely set of ancestors, and shows the older, rather than the younger Isaac Payard and Elisabeth Bettac as the parents of Marie Payard. This means that we would lose the Berthe, Devantier and Gombert ancestors that we thought were in the family tree.

The Ückermark Huguenot familties were so intertwined that it would probably turn out that many of the Devantier descendants are still related, but the relationships would have to be recalculated. The older Elisabeth Bettac was an aunt of the younger one, and the older Isaac Payard a cousin of the younger one, so they have many of the same ancestors. The younger Elisabeth’s grandparents were Jean Micheè Berthe (1695-1748) and Judith Devantier (1701-1748) while the older one’s parents were Jacob (or Jacques) Bettac (1710-1779) and Elisabeth Veillard (1716-1793). If anyone reading this has any of these in their family tree, please get in touch with us.

 

 

 

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.

 

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