Downside of country living – Part 72 (or whatever)

I never intended this blog to be about the downside of country living and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s ALL bad.  Not at all, there’s the mountain and the birds and … the mountain and birds and sundry other wildlife, including my small feral colony of 14 cats, all healthy, adorable and most importantly sterilised.

Here’s young Cuckoo sitting in a bucket.

Last Sunday a bag of bones vaguely resembling a sick injured cat walked into my kitchen and sat down.  If cats could talk he would have said “please help”.

I knew this cat well, he was not my favourite, for years he had terrorised my cats, chasing and biting them and I suspect he chased my little blue eyed kitten into an enclosure of huskies where she died.  But it would take a heart of stone to pitch this poor creature out into the rain.  He was completely emaciated, his eyes were gummed shut and his entire face, head and ears were a mass of sores and scabs.  I put him in a quiet room with food and water and waited until Monday to speak to the vet.

This is what he looked like in his healthier days. 

On Monday I took him to the vet and she did the kind thing and put him gently to sleep.

A few days later, I met someone who works in the vicinity and asked him if he knew whose cat it was.  At that point, a woman barged into the conversation told me there were a number of stray cats and that she was going to get a trap and take them to the SPCA to be euthanased.  She waved in the general direction of my property.  I said the cats over there were mine and they were very well fed and sterilised.  “Sterilising doesn’t stop them pooping everywhere” said she.

Er…. hello?  Cats that eat on a regular basis are known to poo.  Starved cats are not known to poo because there’s nothing going in.  Our country is in crisis, our town is brimming with sick and starving dogs and cats, our waste dump is overrun with pigs chewing on plastic, but a little cat poo is a the biggest problem we have right now.

I must just point out that my cats do on occasion go into her property to poop, but it’s hardly a garden.  It’s an empty piece of land strewn with bottles and chip packets and polystyrene food containers that end up in my yard whenever the wind blows.  Must also point out that the person standing in the street haranguing me used to be in charge of animal welfare for the town.  Someone in charge of the welfare of the town’s animals has no compassion for them, can walk past a starving sick animal to grab someone’s healthy sterilised ones.  Have I dropped down a rabbit hole without noticing?

Such a hard kitty life.

In all fairness, animal welfare are expected to operate with virtually no money.  They do mass sterilisations and dipping and are authorised to euthenase.  But for some reason absolutely nobody in town saw this poor sick cat and called them to put him out of his misery.  This isn’t the first emaciated cat that has walked through that empty piece of ground.  There was a ginger one that I tried to catch and ended up feeding up until he looked rather handsome.  Yet another cat they failed to see criss-crossing their empty piece of ground, so intent were they on looking for evidence of animal digestion.

So much suffering in this world.

When I objected to my healthy animals being trapped, she said she would call me to collect the ones that were mine.  In other words, I would be “allowed” to rescue my own cats from being put to death and allow them to continue to poop in her empty piece of ground.  In other words, this has nothing to do with poop at all!!!!!

Let me also point out that a year ago I went to the owner of the property behind me and asked them to request animal welfare to trap the numerous kittens there as they were small enough to be adopted out and, if left, would end up joining the starving cats roaming the neighbourhood.  First I was told they were coming, then they weren’t coming, then they didn’t have a trap.  They’re still there, grown up and starving and the mating and kitten production continue unabated.

Poor little feral kitties snoozing on the chair.

It’s raining and right now, ten of my fourteen cats are lying on the warm bed, tummies full and unaware that the people in charge of animal welfare are intent on destroying them.  In the meantime the suffering and starvation continue without end.

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Another reason to avoid sweet country towns

This morning when putting my trash out, I picked up all the random bottles and papers lying around in the driveway and gutter, and one of the items was a used nappy.  A very full, used nappy that was waterlogged from the previous night’s rainstorm.

But that’s not what this blog is about.

This morning, the police arrived and parked in front of my gate.  Not because I buy or sell drugs, or stole something, or broke into someone’s house, or staggered around the town drunk with my pants around my knees, or neglected to feed or take the slightest responsibility for my feral children who go around town menacing the town’s animals with pellet guns.  None of that.  They paid me a visit because I have cats.

My over-the-road-neighbour, in a splendid show of community spirit, called the police because apparently my cats are crossing a road full of great chundering trucks and rooting through her dustbin for food.

But wait, I don’t have cats.  I brought one cat with me when I came here, but he died of leukemia last week.  I don’t have any cats.

Alrighty, there are the number of wild cats in my backyard that I am feeding and conveying to the vet one by one for sterilising at staggering personal cost, but that’s wildlife.  By no stretch of the imagination do I actually “own” any one of the 18 feral cats in my backyard, you must be mad.  And every time I think I “own” them, they soon put me straight.

But look at the logic of this whole ludicrous waste of the time of the police, who should be out there catching real criminals.  Considering the size of the complainant’s husband and son, their diet consists of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Steers burgers, and chips and (god help us) gatsby’s from the takeaway.  My wildlife would not be caught dead rooting through the greasy leavings of their Big Budget Family Value bucket.  My wildlife habitually breakfast on freshly cooked chicken with rice and/or pasta and/or butternut squash and in the afternoon they dine on sardines, or pilchards.  Sometimes ostrich pate and salmon mousse is on the menu.

Makes no sense at all.

But we all have a context.

We have an informal neighbourhood watch in our street, and unfortunately the complainant can no longer rely on me to keep an eye on whether the guy strolling into her yard is legit or not.  She works for a political party I voted for in the last election and can no longer rely on that vote, insignificant as it might be.  And that’s not the only reason the individual who works for that particular political party needs to be nervous for her livelihood.

This week I got a revaluation of my property.  I knew it was coming, I was told to allow the valuer access to my property to do the valuation, but nobody ever arrived to come inside for a cup of tea.  Somehow, this individual stood at the end of the street and decided my property was worth 25% more, resulting in a 25% increase in my rates and taxes.  I’m not the only one, this was across the board for our part of town.

It seems that gouging the middle class has become the new national sport.

The middle class.  We don’t commit crime, don’t march in the streets, don’t burn anything.  We feed feral cats and sterilise them so they don’t breed, pay our rates and taxes on the dot, and keep the gutters and sidewalks free of used nappies and wine bottles.  We’re the very epitome of what a good citizen is and what it should be.  Well, guess what.  Maybe we just won’t bother to stroll up to the church hall and vote either.  Then you know society, such as it is, is doomed.

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Turning a gothic horror into art

I  have a gothic horror of a warehouse looming over my backyard that is slowly (very slowly) being fixed up.  It’s a beautifully designed building that only needs a lick of paint to transform it into something quite lovely.  While three sides of the building have been painted, the side facing me is still in it’s pristine dingy state.

About a year ago, my brother in law artist Mark O’Donovan came for a visit and took a few photographs.  And here’s the result.  Called River Without End, it’s 1200×2400 triptych.

Makes me look at the monstrosity in a completely different way.  Maybe it doesn’t need that paint after all.

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Facebook Groups are a waste of time

I’m not much of a group joiner.  Like Groucho Marx I wouldn’t join any group that would have someone like me as a member, but I can see the use of Facebook Groups.  I like community Facebook pages because you get news you will never see in any other media and up-to-the-minute updates on events on the ground, such as the recent riots in Kleinmond.

I have only joined three groups, but that’s down to one and that one is hanging in the balance.  Not that they care at all, I doubt they even look at the number of people who have left the group when they brag about their numbers.

I left the Watershedding Western Cape  group because it was becoming so incredibly annoying, it was consistently ruining my breakfast.  At first it was a useful place to find water saving strategies, water tank suppliers and installers and new technologies for saving water.  It quickly degenerated into a kind of hysteria about the water situation in the Western Cape that benefits nobody and simply pits people against their neighbours and other people in the community.  Any government initiatives are scoffed at.  If I had a rand for every time I’ve read “too little too late”, I can buy a Porsche.  According to some of the people on the group, the gubmint had inside information into the fact that it wasn’t going to rain more than ten years ago!  Don’t even get me started on the purveyors of fake lawn and (choke) paint your grass green, which is so obscene to me I.  Can’t.  Even.

This week I left the Cat Trapping and Sterilisation Network   Once again, initially this was a lovely group about Trap Neuter Release of feral cats, which is something very close to my heart.  I have received from the universe 7 kittens of various sizes that I am slowly conveying to the vet to be sterilised and releasing into my backyard.  Truth be told, that’s my backyard, my bed and my couch and all sorts of nooks and crannies in my house.

When this happens so suddenly, panic can set in.  From “owning” one cat you can very quickly end up with a dozen or more, so I appreciated a place where I could ask for and receive advice.  Somebody even lent me a trapping device that was so terrifying to the cats that I had to return it unused.

I managed ON MY OWN to find a very sympathetic vet and wonderful staff at Overberg Veterinary Hospital who have been so kind and wonderful to me, I never fail to be completely overwhelmed whenever I go there.  After my last visit, I put up a thank you post on the Cat Trapping group about how awesome they were, only to have my post removed.  When I asked why I was told they don’t want “just anybody’s” posts up there.  Now folks, I’m doing my own Trap Neuter Release at my own cost in my small town.  What I am posting is entirely relevant to the groups mandate.  They call themselves a “network”, but they are not.  They’re a one-man-band run by one bossy woman who will delete your post if she “FEELS LIKE IT”.

Fair enough, your page, your rules, but in my opinion, this organisation will never make a dent in the feral cat population without a “network” of people like me, little old crazy cat ladies spending their food money on every cat that appears at the door, opening the last tin of tuna for a momcat feeding six kittens, spending hours driving up and down the N2 to the vet with a yowling cat in a box.

And then there’s my own town’s group, which is quite instructive into the deepest thoughts and feelings of my fellow townspeople, except that now there’s someone who feels she needs to lecture us on the BIBLE on an hourly basis.  Yes indeed, I can really do with a lecture on the BIBLE, especially A LECTURE ON THE BIBLE ALL IN CAPS.  I’ll stay with that group, but I’m not saying a word about the bible lessons because she has stated that anyone who attacks her will cause “fire out of her mouth” and I don’t.  Want.  That.

OK, that’s rant over.  I’m off to cook some chicken for my feral cats.  Sure beats wasting time on Facebook Groups.

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Why I’m a prepper

South Africans don’t prep.  Of all countries in the world that should prep, we don’t.  The reason is simple.  We don’t have many natural disasters like hurricanes and floods, we have the odd earthquake and some devastating fires thanks to the drought, but for the most part, the shops are open, the roads are clear and we can buy virtually anything we need at a moment’s notice.

The other reason we don’t prep is 1994.  When our country made it’s transition to majority rule and apartheid was tossed into the dustbin of history, some people prepped.  There was a run of baked beans and candles and people went overboard, so that when the transition was remarkably peaceful, they felt not only mortified by their lack of faith, but had to deal with all those baked beans!  Years later, baked beans for breakfast … baked beans for lunch … yummy.

Prepping is associated with loony right wing khaki-clad yobs.  We’re the rainbow nation, we all get along just fine.  If the politicians and Bell Pottinger will just butt out of our affairs.

Which is why South Africans don’t prep, but we should.

This week I and many other watched in horror as the small Western Cape town of Kleinmond was invaded by protesters, rioters, whatever term you like to use.  More than a week ago, the main shopping street was trashed.  An uneasy peace lasted for a week or so, but yesterday, pitched battles were fought with the police, the surrounding veld was set on fire and people were trapped in their houses under a barrage of rocks and petrol bombs.  Surely the worst case scenario any of us can ever imagine.  Sweet little touristy fishing village Kleinmond, surely not?  And yet, it happened.

The facts were admirably covered by local newspaper Overstrand Herald who had a reporter on the ground all night and provided regular updates for the people confined to their homes for the duration of the troubles.  I don’t plan to go into the issues at stake here, but never has prepping for a worst case scenario been more important and it was clear that many people were entirely unprepared for what was to come.

With this in mind, I’m offering the following advice for those who believe that incidents of this nature are going to become more common and might well happen in our very own neighbourhoods.

  • Don’t ever run down the prepaid electricity meter so far that it starts beeping.  As all the shops were closed, people were unable to recharge their meters.  Buying online was an option, but this presumed people had enough data …  Buy a little bit extra each month … the beeping is very irritating.
  • Don’t ever run of our data.  Much as I hate Facebook, it was the best possible way to find out what was happening and what was being done to save the situation.
  • Keep at least 2 weeks supplies of whatever food and beverages you like, the shops might not be open and the roads blocked or dangerous. Don’t buy trays of baked beans, buy what you will eat.  Cook and freeze ready meals that can be heated up, make sure you have enough treats and snacks.  Don’t do this all at once, it can be expensive, but each time you shop, make sure you buy something extra for your prepping cupboard.  Don’t forget the toilet paper.
  • Don’t forget your pets.  I’m a big culprit in this instance, I feed numerous feral cats and rarely keep more than a 2 day supply of cat food.  I can only imagine their distress if they have to go without for days at a time, let alone weeks.
  • If you don’t have a water tank yet, now is the time to make a plan.  At one point the rioters were marching towards the water treatment plant.  If they had succeeded in sabotaging this, the consequences would have been dire.
  • Keep an adequate supply of gas and gas appliances in case the electrical substation is out of order.
  • If you have a firearm, you may not rush out there and blam blam blam.  While a firearm is useful if they penetrate the four walls of your house, it’s better to use non-lethal methods or face a serious problem once all dies down.  And don’t be tempted to fire through the window into the street.  One resident of Kleinmond who fired off two shots in the street was arrested.  Likewise with paintball guns.
  • Shutters on the inside of your windows are a good idea, but be sure to provide an escape route in the case of fire.
  • Make sure your petrol tank does not go below half.  Although petrol stations in Kleimond are open, they have no staff to man the pumps.
  • It goes without saying that you should not wait until you are down to your last pill if taking chronic medicine.  Keep at least a month’s supply prescription meds, extra oxygen if you rely on it and a well stocked first aid kit.
  • Don’t try and relieve your anxiety by going onto Facebook and slagging off the police or the perpetrators of your distress, no matter how tempting it is.  The police are the only thing standing between you and anarchy, they face peril every day and are obliged to act according to the law, whether you agree with it or not.  The causes of these incidents are many and varied and taunting others electronically is foolish, makes the situation worse and will come back to bite you in the future.

I can hardly believe I’m writing this, but this week’s events were a giant wake up call for all South Africans.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  There are numerous prepping, survival and homesteading sites that will prepare you for a worst case scenario like the one the people of Kleinmond faced this week.  Don’t get hung up on the technology, the fancy torches and knives and guns.  Make plans for the small things, food, power, water, medicine and you won’t be sorry if the unimaginable happens in your town.

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Downside of country life – Part … whatever

As any homeowner knows, when you go and look at a house you wish to buy, although you do thorough research, check on all the stats, scrutinise everything down to the last detail, there is always something you miss.  Never ever fall in love with a house, because you will overlook one or two very important flaws in the surrounds.

And so it came to pass that I bought a house in a lovely little country town, which happened to have a great big chundering factory working 24 hours a day set right in the loveliest part of the town between a large number of houses.  I never saw it at the time and I didn’t hear it because it was switched off on that day my sister and I drove up and down the streets admiring the view.

So anyway, there’s this factory and because I’m a few blocks away and the town needs employment and a tax base, I made my peace with it, and, in fact, the sound seemed to diminish as time went on.  Until the factory was sold to new owners and suddenly the noise began to resemble Gatwick at noon, 24 hours a day.  Actually, that’s incorrect, for some reason it was dead quiet during the day, only starting up at 11 o’clock at night and continuing until morning.

After more than a few sleepless nights, I decided to find out what the deal was by posting an item on our town’s Facebook page, enquiring politely why the factory was working during the night and not during the day and whether it would be possible for noise abatement mechanisms to be put into place.  Mostly I wanted to find out if it was just me, or if other people were being bothered by it.

Weeeeeel, you’d think I’d snatched the sandwich right out of the baby’s mouth, the response I got.  The employees of this factory laid into me to such an extent that crap was raining down on my head, and me without a helpful sombrero to cushion the blow.  Imagine the irony of a city person, not complaining about the rooster waking me up, or the pigs snorting, but the city noise that that has followed me to this sweet little country town.  Apparently I should go back to the city because it’s QUIETER.

Because this is South Africa, the more resentful members of the community instantly turned it into a racial thing, correctly guessing that I was (gasp shudder) an actual white person (although I’m more pinkish-brownish).  I made a valiant attempt to defuse this through humour and keep the subject on track by posting links to factory noise abatement technologies, to no avail.  In a town like this, you’re still a newcomer after 20 years and since I’ve only been here for two, I should shut my filthy mouth.

Must say, the whole saga was very entertaining for the other members of the community, but this morning when it all started up again, I got bored and deleted the whole post.  Boo sucks, what a killjoy.  Got.  Better.  Things to do.

So anyway, all I can say to people wanting to move to a lovely little quiet Western Cape town, put down that Country Life instantly.  It’s not like that at all.

Must just make a comment on the unemployment situation here.  There’s plenty of work, plenty of work, but as I’ve mentioned before, hy wil werk maar hy willie (he wants to work, but he doesn’t really want to work).  Since we’re in the middle of a hectic drought, I bought a new water tank and needed someone to connect the downpipe for me.  The “plumber” duly arrived, having heard through the grapevine that I was in need.  I showed him what I needed and made it clear to him that I wanted to work with him direct and not through a middleman and that I would rather he collect the entire fee than have someone telling him what to do and taking a cut of his wages.  All fine, and since he was a bit short of money, he borrowed a small amount in advance and promised to return on Monday after the tank arrived.  On Monday, there was no sign of him.  Or Tuesday.  A week later, he arrived outside my house, climbing out of a very nice brand new BMW driven by his “new boss”, a smooth looking dude in shades.  I asked him if he’d come to do the job and he said no.  No, he said, but he wanted to know if I could help him with some more money for NOT doing the job.

Needless to say, I will do the job myself.  And painting my wall and mowing my own lawn, because unlike others, I actually turn up and on time, I can do as crap a job of painting as any man in this town, and best of all I’m completely free.  A win-win for all concerned.

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Charlie Klopjag strikes again

My mother was a regular Charlie Klopjag (a fictional detective from a satirical column in the Sunday Times Passing Show, written by editor Joel Mervis) by which I mean an armchair detective.  There was not a crime or misdemeanour my mother could not solve from the Lazi-Boy with the newspaper clutched firmly in her hands.

Although my mother was pretty good at armchair detectoring, she fell into the trap of all armchair detectives in jumping to conclusions, flying off the bat and making suppositions based on the very little information provided in the paper media of the time.  And naturally, real detectives paid little attention to their armchair counterparts, positively discouraging them from calling up the police station with their expert observations.  More’s the pity, quite a few crimes might have been solved due to the intervention of curtain-twitchers and sundry other busybodies.

So this story is about a dog, a fictional dog to be sure, a dog that might have been but fortunately wasn’t due to the channelling of Charlie Klopjag.

This weekend, somebody posted a request on the town’s Facebook page for a dog to protect her family.  Not just any dog mind, a pedigree puppy that would grow up to be a large dog.  Unfortunately she did not have the money to buy said dog and was hoping one of the townspeople would take pity and provide aforesaid large pedigreed dog.  Inevitably someone asked how she planned to feed the dog if she was not in possession of the money to buy a dog.  The person immediately replied that she had the money to feed the dog, but was reluctant to buy a dog as she had done so before and it had died the next day.

Hmmmm, Charlie Klopjag’s ears started twitching.  A pedigreed dog with all it’s special dietary requirements and expensive veterinary needs?  Surely a good pavement special would be a far better choice.  So he did what anybody would do and had a look at the Facebook page of the dog requester.  And there it was.  Another begging post, this time for information on how one would borrow money against a SASSA card.

OK so this is getting into sensitive territory now.  A SASSA card is the card parents use to draw their children’s monthly social grants.  It is illegal to lend money against a SASSA card, although this doesn’t stop unscrupulous lenders who invariably hold the SASSA card hostage until the money is returned.  Pretty morally wrong if you ask me, but we mustn’t judge must we?

So Charlie Klopjag (ie, me) posted a comment that she should perhaps think twice about getting a large dog, as the dog would eat up the children’s entire social grant and most probably chew up the card itself.

This helpful advice resulted in a diatribe that would curdle milk, to whit “keep your nose out of my business”, “you’re not my mother” (shoo, dodged a bullet there). and …. and “stay out of my Facebook”.

Charlie Klopjag had no knowledge of Facebook, but as everyone knows, you can see other people’s Facebooks if they leave them on the Interweb-tube thingy for everyone to see.  Unfortunately the encounter then degenerated into random allsorts of accusations and insults until the owner of the page took the entire sorry mess down.

Sorry not sorry.  I don’t get involved in arguments with people I’ve never met on social media but I hope, with the assistance of the inimitable Charlie Klopjag, I have prevented a dog from ending up as a meal or a puppy manufacturing enterprise, or chained up in a backyard chewing it’s tail off in frustration.

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