Mr. Bean Finds His Voice

Mr. Bean has no voice.
I don’t know why, maybe it’s because he was thrown away as a new born kitten before being found on a rubbish heap and rescued, but what usually happens when he tries to speak is his mouth opens and no sound comes out, just air. Sometimes he will manage a small, croaky squeak, which can only be heard if you’re listening very carefully.
Last night we were all showered and tucked up in bed and about to turn out the lights when I heard a tiny, distant and plaintive “mew?”. Coming from … somewhere?
“What’s that noise?”
Piet couldn’t hear anything, “perhaps it’s a mouse”.
Although I was not really satisfied with that explanation, I again reached for the light switch and then I heard it again.
That was definitely a cat. I knew it wasn’t Tom – he sounds like a foghorn – could it be Mr. Bean?
Piet buried himself deeper under the covers.
So I got up, found the torch and shone it out into the darkness, while calling “Bean! Beanie Beanie Beanie Bean! Come along Mr Bean!”.
Oh so faint.
I shone the torch up towards where the sound was coming from and there he was. Mr. Bean, precariously perched between two branches in the old dead tree that hangs over our bedroom roof.
By now Piet was fast asleep, so thinking I could do this on my own, I donned my slippers, went outside and tried to coax the frightened little kitten down from the tree.
To no avail. I called, I pleaded, I rattled his favourite toy, I promised a feast of special cat biscuits but nothing would persuade him to come down. He just sat there, staring at me with those huge glowing eyes and occasionally uttering a small “mew?”.

So am I staying up here all night?

The noise from my futile attempts – the dogs had helped a bit too, with some excited barking – had by now woken Piet and spurred him into getting out of bed and joining me under the tree.


And this is how Piet came to be at the top of a ladder rescuing a kitten out of a rotting dead tree in the middle of a cold May night. (I thought it salient to not draw his attention to all the wood-louse spiders that had come out from under the bark to see what all the fuss was about)



Mr. Bean seems none the worse from the ordeal

How Much is that Kitty in the Window?

Hobo was a street cat who adopted my son one day when she walked in off the street and took up residence in his house. She was well known among the locals, and every day while he was at work she would walk about, visiting and greeting old friends along the way.



A few years ago my visit to family in the UK coincided with an ‘Art In The Window’ event, where retailers, restaurants and individuals showcased artwork in shop windows and even the front window of their homes.
My son and his partner, both talented artists, had joined in the fun.

The town became an open air art gallery, and it became impossible to “quickly pop out to the shops” – on any journey outdoors I found myself distracted and delayed as the various and varied displays along the way caught my eye.

One morning I was sitting in my son’s front room when I heard a commotion outside on the street. There was lots of ooing and aahing and laughing and a small crowd had gathered in front of his house.

I snuck outside to join them and to try to eavesdrop on what they were saying about the art.

As well as the art on display, they were also looking at this little poser, and wondering how much she was selling for.

Art in the Window

Throwback Thursday: I Remember …

A few weeks back I read this post written by Anna at The Wandering Introvert and it got me thinking; this would not only be a good writing exercise but also an excellent prompt for a Throwback Thursday post.

Anna’s method goes like this:

“Set a timer for some amount of time, and, without stopping, compose a series of sentences that begin with the phrase “I remember.” If you get stuck, just write the prompt over and over again until something else comes out.”

I set my clock for 10 minutes, then added a few more for touching up and uploading pictures.

I remember one time when I burned my hand on hot coals while playing outside by the wood boiler – I tried to hide the blister from Mum because she’d told me not to go there, but somehow she found out. I remember being relieved (and surprised) because she didn’t get cross and instead gave me a hug and placed a soft kiss on my hand.

I also remember Mum being very cross with me for cutting my doll’s hair.


Sophie the doll, after her hair cut

I remember going with Dad to look for tadpoles in the stream at the end of our garden. Dad kept a thermometer there in the water, I can’t remember why he wanted to record the temperature but I do remember the water was always very cold! I remember that he had to make a cage for the thermometer out of bamboo sticks to keep the otters from destroying it. I remember that we often saw otters there. I remember years later watching a film called Ring of Bright Water, which was about an otter.  Thinking about that story still brings tears to my eyes.

I remember my first day at school. I wasn’t really afraid until I saw that Mum was crying and trying not to let me see and then I became scared. I remember one day doing something really bad in class – I think I deliberately coloured outside the lines and made a mess of my drawing – and had to sit in the corner with my back to the other children. I remember the shame I felt and I remember worrying that the teacher would tell my parents. She didn’t tell them, but I did. I think they pretended to be cross.

I remember watching films every Friday night at the open-air cinema (we called it the bi-scope). There were short breaks each time the reel had to be changed and a longer one at half-time, when we would buy a coke and a packet of crisps for 10 cents. Before they paved the area, us kids used to sit on the sand at the front while our parents sat in plastic ribbed seats behind us.  I remember some nights, if it was an age-restricted film, I would sleep in that little hole at the very back of my parents’ VW Beetle with Owen, our Welsh Border Collie, to keep me company. I remember one night he stole a cheese and onion crisp out of my hand – it was the biggest crisp I had ever seen.

I remember the first dog I ever owned. Sometimes, after bathing her, I would dye her white coat with food dye. Her name was Fifi. I remember the sound of screeching tyres on the road in front of our house and how devastated I was when I learned that she had been knocked down by a passing car and that I would never see her again.

Fifi in pink

Fifi in pink

Naughty Potomanautes

Yesterday morning I hadn’t yet put on my glasses when I surfaced from the bedroom and went into the lounge.  I glanced across at the fish tanks, as I normally do, and noticed something strange. There appeared to be a mythical, multi-legged beast with two heads writhing around on the floor of the tank.



Glasses on, I peered closer. It seems there was a wedding last night. 1-IMG_3404 I made myself a cup of coffee, pulled up a chair and settled in to watch the show. (I know this might seem like a weird thing to do, but it’s not every day you see a pair of river crabs mating in your living room.) Three hours and a couple more cups of coffee later things had not progressed much, so I turned to Google to find out what I would be missing if I left them alone to carry on their, um, business … What I learned was that crabs usually mate soon after moulting, while their outer shells are still relatively soft and supple. Also that females of many African river crabs species (Potomanautes sp.) ‘give birth’ to live, perfectly formed baby crabs – unlike sea crabs which lay eggs that hatch into a larval stage before metamorphosing into little crabs. Another thing I learned is that the crab mating act can sometimes take many days to finish (!), so I gave up being a voyeur and went to work. In the evening when I got home they were still at it and only finally parted at around 8pm. I leave you with a short video I took. This is pretty much as exciting as it got and I think you will understand why I didn’t stick around to watch more.

Something Fishy

My interest in aquaria was rekindled a couple of years ago when First Born and his delightful English Lass built me a 720 litre fish tank for Christmas.


Building the stand

We collected sand from a beautiful beach on a near-by island on the river. The sand is bleached white and squeaks when you walk on it.

Collecting sand

Collecting sand

Catching stock

Catching stock

5       6


We don’t own a TV – only because we don’t want to, not because there is no service – and it was a novelty to have something to watch in the evenings.


The filters had not yet cleared the water but that didn’t spoil the viewing

Tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) - striped water dog

Tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) – striped water dog

"Pink Happy"

“Pink Happy”

A couple of Squeakers

A couple of Squeakers

A trio of Banded Jewelfish

A trio of Banded Jewelfish

A series of unfortunate events resulted in this tank breaking. We managed to salvage some of the glass and used that to build a smaller tank but we had to release many of the fish back into the Zambezi.

Knowing my passion for fish keeping, this last Christmas Piet had another tank built for me while I was away in the UK visiting family and I returned to the most wonderful surprise.

My next project will be to create a ‘planted tank’, using vegetation that grows here in the Upper Zambezi River.  In the mean time Piet and I love to sit of an evening, sipping on a Mozi Lager and watching our fish live out their lives in our living room.

African Pike

African Pike

Just an Afternoon Walk

The Daily Post Weekly Photo challenge.

This week, share an image of symmetry

Piet usually takes the big dogs with him when he goes around the lands every morning. They run in front of the bakkie, occasionally darting off after smells into the long grass on the edge of the fields. Sometimes they come back with an unfortunate field mouse hanging from their smiling, panting jaws.

Yesterday we had to be in town early to collect a parcel at the bus stop, so the dogs missed out.  By evening they were stir crazy, agitating for something to do, for some excitement and fun. So I grabbed my camera and took them for a walk.

IMG_2341Although they have very different personalities the black sisters tend to do things together – here it looked like they were marching, their legs moving in perfect unison as they trotted towards the two tanks (and the water!) up ahead.


Two black dogs, two sets of tracks, two water tanks


The dogs suddenly caught the scent of a field mouse, right in the middle of the groundnut field and then the fun began! Pouncing like foxes they snorted and yapped and dug, their tails waging above the plants like flags. Tikkie was in there too but he is short and I lost sight of him – although I could hear his excited barks and growls.


Tails (almost) symmetrically curved








Yin and Yang in symmetry




When we got back home and I showed my photos to Piet we got into (a little bit of) trouble – Piet doesn’t allow the dogs to dig for mice in the fields because they cause too much damage and he said they should have known better.

However, the look of delight on Spud’s face made it worth while.



Elephant Alley

We pump our irrigation water from the Zambezi River and the clearing where the pump house is situated also serves as our boat launching site. We are not the only ones who use the narrow, winding and bumpy road that makes its way through the forest to the pump house — we also share it with elephants, who make use of it mostly in the evenings, when they need to drink after a thirsty day in the sun. If we happen to both be on the road at the same time we will stop the vehicle and let them pass before proceeding and it is usually a civilised affair.

Late one afternoon Piet received a call from the pump house attendant; one of the motors was making a strange noise and he had to go there to see what was wrong. Sarel was away on leave at the time so we were dog-sitting his Jack Russell puppy Benji, who jumped onto Piet’s shoulders, delighted at the chance to go for a ride.

About half way to the river Piet heard the unmistakable sound of elephants breaking branches and then saw about 20 elephants lumbering along ahead of him, some on the road and a few scattered among the trees. He stopped and waited for a few minutes until thought the road was clear before slowly continuing, Benji trembling with excitement on his shoulders.

As they rounded the next corner Piet realised not all the elephants had moved on; there was a large cow, young calf in tow, standing on the side of the road and she was not pleased with him being so close to her child. It was too late for him to stop and reverse, so his only option was to dash past her and hope for the best. By this time Benji was beside himself with excitement, growling and whimpering, his sharp little claws digging into Piet’s shoulders. As they drew alongside the cow she thrust her trunk out, almost into the open window, and bellowed.

All hell broke loose: Benji scrambled down to the floor between Piet’s feet, howling and sobbing, the elephant continued bellowing and Piet, unable to work the foot pedals, yelled at Benji to move out of the way as the vehicle skidded forward out of reach.

It was only once he reached the relative safety of the pump house, heart racing and hands shaking that Piet noticed the dreadful stench – Benji had lost control of his bodily functions, down the back of Piet’s neck, along the front of his shirt, on the floor, on the pedals, on the seat! Understandably, the pump attendant kept his distance during the repairs.

It was a long time before we could persuade Benji to go for a ride with us again.

Elephant Alley

Elephant Alley

The Cat Gets Spayed

There are a number of feral cats living around our workshop area and about two weeks ago we noticed cat footprints making their way up the road towards our house, up to the gate. We have also caught a few African Wild Cats  in the spotlight while out at night, keeping elephants out of the crops.  Kits (as she is now called) is about 6 months old, so approaching sexual maturity and probably attracting all the toms in the area. We certainly don’t want more cats (where would we re-home them?) so we took the decision to have her spayed.


I booked the appointment for Monday, and she couldn’t believe it when we put her back in the cupboard (where I had kept her when she first arrived, to keep the dogs away from her) on Sunday night. It’s the only room in the house where she cannot escape and we had to make sure she had nothing to eat or drink after 20.00hrs.

For the trip into town I put her into Tikkie’s travelling box – the one he arrived in on the plane from Johannesburg – but her cries of protest were too distracting so a couple of kilometers down the road I pulled over to let her out. Within minutes, after a quick inspection of the entire vehicle, she curled up on my lap, purring for the rest of the journey. I dropped her off at the vet’s, having waited until he had sedated her and she was quite dozy and then went to treat myself with a mocha coffee milkshake at our town’s only café while I waited for his call to come and collect her.

When I collected her she was still completely anaesthetised, her head lolling about and her tongue hanging out. I was a little apprehensive and asked if I shouldn’t wait a bit longer for her to return to consciousness.  The vet assured me she would be fine, so off we went back home, where I laid her out on a few blankets on the floor in the cupboard. She seemed to take hours and hours to wake up and when she finally stood up and tried to walk around she appeared blind! She kept walking into the wall, my legs, anything that was in her way, and when I waved my fingers around in front of her eyes she did not blink or react at all.

I tried to call the vet to ask if this was normal but his phone was off so I turned to Google where I learned that blindness after anaesthetic is quite common in cats and that sometimes it can be permanent. Of course I was distraught and when Piet got home that evening after his day’s work on the farm he found me almost in tears. Being the calm, level-headed person that he is he managed to calm me down (a bit) and suggested we wait until the morning to see how she was then. In my Google research I had also read that cats are more sensitive to anaesthetic than dogs are and that they can take longer to recover, so I took his advice to heart and tried to settle down and wait for the morning.

We woke before dawn to the sound of plaintive mewing coming from the cupboard and when Piet opened the door Kits came bounding out, purring like a diesel engine and set about on her usual morning ritual of pouncing on Tikkie to wake him up, something he hates (he is not a morning dog). What a relief! Although she was still a little shaky and unsteady on her feet, her eyesight was back to normal and that was the end of that drama.

Kits is very hyperactive and it proved very difficult for me to check on the progress of her wound – a couple of furtive glances didn’t really show me much, so on Sunday I decided to hold her down and have a really good look, to try to see how close we were to removing the stitches. I was horrified by what I saw – a great, red, inflamed, gaping hole; all her gymnastic antics must have torn the stitches out some days ago. She had probably also pulled some out, with help from Tikkie who I had to reprimand a few times as he  had shown a lot of interest in her tummy lately. I felt dreadful that I hadn’t noticed sooner.

So first thing Monday morning we were back at the vet. This time he only sedated her and I had to stay to help, his assistant having come down with a bug and unable to work that day.

After the removing uterus and ovaries during a spaying  three layers of stitches are inserted: one layer to close up the abdominal wall, one to close the subcutaneous fat layer and one closing the skin layer. Luckily in Kits’ case the abdominal wall layer had held and healed, so there was no chance of peritonitis, which would have probably killed her. The last two layers of stitches had come out though, so these were re-done. I was impressed at the vet’s skill with the needle, inserting those tiny stitches in such a small space. Towards the end of the procedure the sedation medication had started to wear off so there was a bit of wriggling and crying as the needle went in. My poor little kitty! We bandaged her tummy and placed a cone over her head (which I had fashioned earlier out of a 2 litre Coke bottle – there being no such thing available here); the bandage to keep the wound clean and Tikkie away from it, and the cone to stop her chewing at the stitches again.

I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to walk with the bandage around her middle. Tying anything around a cat’s torso upsets their balance and they usually fall over when they try to walk. Or they just lie there doing nothing until you take it off (I tried it. Once. When I was young and didn’t know better). However, once she had fully recovered from the sedation she was soon back on her feet, albeit a little clumsily. And she has hardly reacted to the cone at all.


Somewhat subdued on the first evening after the second operation

Not too phased by her Coke bottle cone

Not too phased by her Coke bottle cone

Catching a bit of sun in the morning

Catching a bit of sun in the morning

Receiving commiserations from the ever-concerned Tikkie

The ever-concerned Tikkie commiserating

I am keeping her in the cupboard most of the time now. Until she is fully healed I need to stop her tearing around like a mad thing, climbing trees, catching frogs and terrorising the dogs – but I let her out in the evenings when we are at home and can keep a close eye on her.  I had a good look at her wound this morning, it looks like it is healing properly this time, so it shouldn’t be long before she can get back to being a real cat again.

Fun and games last night

Fun and games last night


Lost in Translation


OK, I know that this isn’t Facebook but it is the internet (and we all know that pictures of cats are compulsory on the internet) so while we’re biding our time waiting for the elephant onslaught I thought I would share some pictures and stories of my cat (and a few of my dog too).

A few kilometers from the farm is a quirky little bar/restaurant/motel/campsite owned by a couple who originate from East Germany. No visit to that place is compete without a greeting from their friendly bar cat and just before Christmas I noticed that she was pregnant. I commented on this to the owner and then remarked toPiet how a cat would complete our family. However, we own 5 dogs and we both agreed that a cat would probably not be welcomed by them, nor could we expect her to have a very long life-span – dogs being notorious for their hatred of cats. Besides, Piet is a self-declared ‘non cat person’ – the only cat he had ever owned being a rescued serval kitten many years ago, but that is a different story . As far as we were concerned that was the end of that little dream of mine and subsequent events can be attributed a language breakdown.

Fast forward to mid-March. I was out of the country for the week when Piet received a phone call from the camp: “Your kitten is ready. Come and collect her now!” was the terse instruction. He was horrified but had the presence of mind to request a few day’s grace in which to consult with me. I had a vague recollection of the discussion about pregnant cats but none of promises to give one of the kittens a home.  To avoid upsetting our neighbours we decided we would take her and install her in the office where she would have limited contact with our dogs, rats having taken up permanent residence in my filing cabinet.

At daybreak on the day after I returned to the farm I drove to the camp to collect our new office cat. This in itself turned into quite an exercise. Any ideas I had of an adorable, cuddly bundle of fun soon evaporated when I first encountered this growling, hissing, spitting, fiendish witch. Despite being born in the bar and having had almost constant contact with people this little kitten was wild, she was terrified of humans and behaved like a feral cat.  The camp owner placed a pile of bones on the floor in the bar to entice her from behind the fridge, where she had retreated, loudly voicing her displeasure at our presence, while we removed ourselves to the other side of the counter to wait. Two hours (and three beers for the camp owner – I guess it goes with the job) later I was on my way home, somewhat battered and bloody, the cat thrashing about in her box, obviously very upset.

Sneaking her into the house past the dogs was no easy task but I managed and soon had her safely hidden in the walk-in cupboard that adjoins our bedroom – the plan being to keep her there overnight and then move her down to the office block the next day once she had settled.

Settled? Hah! Had I known how vicious and vexatious this cute looking (how deceptive appearances can be!) little ball of fur was going to be I would have taken the easy (cowards?) way out and used the relative safety of a phone call from thousands of kilometers away to tell the camp owners we would not be taking her. It took more than a week before I could even touch her without suffering serious bodily harm.


The Face of Innocence?

After 10 days it was time to start introducing her to the rest of the family and I decided Tikkie, being the smallest, would be the least likely to cause her any harm. He was delighted. She was not. He was unaware such swear words existed.


Such rude language!




He couldn’t believe how nasty she was to him

However, being the charming fellow that he is it only took Tikkie a couple of days to win her over – he is far more diplomatic than I am – and they have now become firm friends. They are  inseparable and love each other dearly.


Cuddling up on a cold evening


Did you Have to wake us up?

We don’t have a TV but watching their antics in the evenings provides us with all the entertainment we need:


Teaching Tikkie how to catch mice

Peek-a Boo!


Come on! I know your food’s up there. Let’s share it

Contrary to our predictions, the other dogs have (grudgingly) accepted her into the family and after the initial swearing – on her part – and snapping – on theirs – a sort of truce has been declared, even when there is food about:


All plans to have an office cat have gone out of the window. She has firmly wormed her way into our lives and apart from the odd trip down to the office to keep Tikkie company while I work she is now, very definitely, our house cat.

So much for being a 'Non Cat Person'!

So much for not being a ‘Cat Person’!