OUT TO LUNCH
On a warm winter’s day with a clear blue sky I often hear fish eagles calling above my house. I rush outdoors with a pair of binoculars and scan the sky and the fish eagles turn out to be two distant dots gliding gracefully on the thermals. Weather permitting, this happens two or three times a week and apparently we have three breeding pairs living fairly close to us. Last week we had three flying above the house and, for once, they weren’t just dots in the sky but were flying low enough to photograph.
When we moved into our house eight years ago we decided to get rid of all the grass and all the formal flowerbeds and to plant fynbos and mostly indigenous plants in addition to olive trees and lavender bushes in the front. I mistakenly thought that this would save me the bother of having to mow the lawn during summer and dispose of grass cuttings and would also be more water wise. This was well before the threat of a water day zero in Cape Town.
Water-wise it may be but cutting back fynbos produces far more bags of garden refuse than mowing the lawn would ever have done. Our torch aloe was a single plant originally and now it takes up a large chunk of space despite some regular cutting back.
But it earns its keep because it attracts sunbirds all year round and particularly when the orange flowers are blooming. Recently there were two malachite sunbirds sipping nectar from the flowers as I sat quietly outside with my morning coffee.
While we don’t have the variety of garden birds we had in Johannesburg we do have a resident pin-tailed whydah that comes courting in spring and a cape robin that sits every evening just before sunset and chirps happily away.
Plus the usual sprinkle of mousebirds, white-eyes, sparrows, red bishops, weavers and cape canaries. At sunset squadrons of Egyptian geese fly over in formation to their night-time nesting places and down at the dam we have a decent collection of water birds including grey herons, darters, and hamerkops.
I also recently discovered dwarf chameleons in the garden and one night when I went out with a torch I counted four of them on the restio stems. Add to this lot gekkos, mice, the odd Cape Cobra and the occasional sighting of a parrot beaked tortoise (probably an escaped pet) and, judging by the number of bees, I’m reasonably convinced that we are running an ecologically friendly garden.
So what with the nature ramble you ask? Well, to be perfectly honest I was so depressed about the state of the world last week that I had to try and balance my gloom with a personal blessings count and sitting in the garden and watching fish eagles helped a lot.
Particularly distressing was the news coming out of Kabul and the most appalling shots of people trying to get out of Afghanistan. On one piece of news footage there was an obviously European woman sitting cross legged on the ground with thousands of others outside the airport and holding up her EU passport.
Clearly she has a legitimate claim to be on a flight out of Afghanistan but the queue wasn’t moving and the US and UK military who had been drafted in to cope with the evacuation were obviously doing their best to cope with the utter chaos but appeared to be fighting a losing battle.
Other TV footage showed desperate families with young children waiting for news as to whether they would be allowed out of the country. Many were translators who had worked for the US and UK military over the years and were now prime targets for the Taliban.
One seasoned war zone TV reporter, visibly moved by what he was witnessing, said he hoped that the children were too young to understand what was happening.
Sadly I rather doubt whether that could be true and the memories of sitting outside in the heat for days with limited access to toilet facilities, no food and no water and even less hope of escape are going to give those children nightmares for life. What we have seen on our TV screens this past week is a vision of hell on earth.
While those who had already made it to Kabul airport had no alternative but to sit and hope for some good news others were still trying to make their way to the airport while Taliban ‘security’ hit them with canes, pieces of hose or rifle butts.
Those who have decided that the journey is far too risky are apparently hiding out in basements while the Taliban ‘security’ conduct house to house searches looking for evidence of western decadence. Things like books, records, degree certificates and pay slips from the imperialist enemy seem to particularly upset them.
Meanwhile, some of the pundits are saying that the Taliban are now media savvy and are claiming that Afghanistanis have absolutely nothing to fear. Soon life will return to normal and the only difference will be a new flag and a country under new management. Women will be welcome to participate in public life (subject to Sharia law obviously) and girls will be able to be educated up to university standard. Whether that includes university nobody has made quite clear.
Not surprisingly, most people are hugely sceptical of these claims and one look at the humourless faces of the bunch of bearded neanderthals gathered around the presidential desk last week should dispel any notion that things will be any better this time round.
Any Taliban claims to be putting the FUN back into ‘fundamentalism’ are highly suspect, mostly because the weapon toting Taliban fighters know no other life than violence. Are they really going to sit by while Western educated Afghanistanis grab all the good jobs?
According to press reports the Taliban army was around 75 000 strong and all those fighters will want to be rewarded for serving the caliphate. I’m guessing that the majority don’t have many skills apart from terrorism and beheading infidels so their place in a new thriving Afghanistan is likely to be limited to making sure women don’t go outdoors without a man to accompany them and chucking gays off tall buildings.
The future of many countries (ours included) is difficult to predict because circumstances can change. For example, we could have a squeaky clean administration with no cadre deployment one fine day but at the moment that doesn’t suit the ANC.
However, the future of Afghanistan based on what we are seeing today is very easy to predict. It will be a launching pad for international terrorism, human rights will be trampled on, cruelty will be the order of the day and all sorts of dodgy deals will be concluded with other nations hostile to the West.
Far from putting the FUN back into fundamentalism it will be more a case of putting the MENTAL back. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and sit in the garden. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
The official pro-vaccine message was noticeably ramped up last week with both News24 and Primedia devoting an enormous amount of space and time to the topic. On Cape Talk three shows in a row talked of nothing else and the new official label for what used to be known as an ‘anti-vaxxer’ is now a ‘science denier’.
Those who know a bit of history will remember that Galileo was a science denier when he told the mighty Catholic church that the sun didn’t revolve around planet earth but it was the other way round. Fortunately there was no social media around back then but cancel culture had already reared its ugly head and Galileo was confined to house arrest to prevent him spreading his poisonous heresy.
News24’s task was to seek out unvaccinated people who had recently died of COVID with bonus points being offered to any journalist who could find someone who was due to be vaccinated a few days after they died. Not that this would have helped them much.
Predictably much was made of the 18-34 years olds from gathering in large groups for the COVID vaccine….. something they would be forbidden from doing under different circumstances such as a religious gathering.
Obviously it’s a no-brainer that there would be a massive vaccine uptake by the 18-34 cohort. The poor buggers have been deprived of one another’s company for a year and a half, they have had to attend school and university classes on Zoom, they haven’t been able to travel anywhere and they haven’t been able to party and make the beast with two backs. If I were 18 I would also be elbowing my way to the front of the queue on the promise of a return to normal…whatever that may mean.