Friday, 31 July 2015

After Dark

It is that time again, Matthew’s weekend with me which starts with a two hour dive east after work followed by an hour and a half back home. And we arrive home after dark, tired and exhausted. Only to be repeated on Sunday.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Quarter Century

Happy birthday Ilana, at a quarter of a century, you have your whole life ahead of you. Okay it is not like you have turned sweet 16, 21, 30, 40, or even 50 but you don’t turn a quarter of a century every day. So 25 cameral cupcakes is just what the doctor ordered. Yummy.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Johnny Bravo joins the Village People

And in walks Viandre, into my office, sporting a Johnny Bravo hairstyle with tool belt around his waist that was similar to the construction worker from the disco band Village People. Wow it was like retro pop just walked in. Okay he has the look and the faded jeans, now all Viandre needs is a moustache, sunglasses, a white vest or open shirt, and of course his hard hat then we can all sing YMCA.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


When I was fresh out of the Army, I started working for the Natal Roads Department as a Pupil Industrial Technician, in other words a junior Civil Engineering Technician who still had to qualify. While there I had to work three months each in all the different units of the Natal Roads Department, units such as Survey, Bridge Design, Materials Laboratory, Drawing Room, Construction, and my favourite, the Road Safety Unit.

While in the Materials unit, doing all sorts of tests of different materials, there was a lady a few years older than me, a beautiful plain Jane type of women who intrigued me and made an impression on my young life. Her name for the life of me is gone from my aging mind. But none the less she was a wordsmith who loved words and over the thumping sounds the various soil and concrete tests, she had a new strange word for me every day. Thus the seed was planted and my love for words, grammar, and the source of words, grew even though I am dyslexic. Why oh why would they use a word, like dyslexia that is so difficult for a dyslexic person such as myself to pronounce correctly?

Math is eloquent, but the eloquence of words, well that was another story. Back in those days, my first word I learnt to proudly use in a sentence was Ominous, so with today’s photo taken of gorgeous flowers in the garden at work I would like to give you a Word for the Day: Defenestration, a noun meaning the act of throwing someone out of a window - I can’t wait to try this, maybe I should open the window first.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Brigadier Boshielo

Yes our security mascot, Brigadier Boshielo, is in town. Boshielo is the man, the leader, and the legend, who aims to inspire.

Ouch Jacques must be getting very hot in that padded suit. The Boshielo suit is heading down to Durban for a children’s function this week, well not with Jacque in it. Let’s hope that it isn’t a very humid day which normally the days in Durban are, or else the poor sucker wearing Boshielo is going sweat a lot of weight off.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Cat Flu

Our little Princess has been sick for over a week with vicious strain of Feline Influenza, in other words Cat Flu, and although today Princess seems to have a little spring in her step, she still has a long way to go as she refuses to eat. We have to hand feed her by forcing soft pureed food down her sore throat.

This Cat Flu is terrible and I don’t wish it on my worse enemy. This Cat Flu is airborne and I am hoping that Princess doesn’t become Patient Zero, as cat flu jumps across to humans. I am always looking over my shoulders waiting for the evil people from the CDC dressed in their white biohazard suits to kick our door down and come pouring in. Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) better take note, there is a new Dr Evil in town and that is the Cat Flu.

Saturday, 25 July 2015


We all thought that Gollum died at Mount Doom, when he lunged for his precious ring and fell into the lake of fire along with his Precious.

But today it seems Gollum is back as his old self, Sméagol, driving a white Toyota Auris HSD in Johannesburg. Now who would have thought that this slug of a creature would choose a Hybrid Synergy Drive vehicle as his choice of transport? Maybe with its quiet electric motor, it is all the better for Gollum to be able to sneak up to unrespecting hobbitses and bop them on the heads. We are never alone, are we, precious?

Friday, 24 July 2015

Vrydag is Verkuldag

BOOM! There goes my waistline out of the window. Vrydag is Verkuldag translated means Friday is Cheat Day. Yessirree, Ella arrived with the snacks for our Friday afternoon’s Team Leaders Meeting and this is what she brought, a 70s style snacks, loaded with all the kryptonite any superhero could die for.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Bosasa says No to Xenophobia

Noma’s 702 Walk the Talk kit arrived today and you can see that our company, Bosasa, is walking against Xenophobia. In South Africa we have taken this complex issue of Xenophobia and loaded the word foreigner to mean Africans and Asian immigrants only, Afrophibia. And it doesn’t help when the Statistician-general released a new Statistic report today that confirms that since 2011, 1,067,937 foreign Africans and 40,929 Asians have migrated to South Africa.

And here we are, standing up against Xenophobia in this Sunday’s Walk the Talk, by saying NO TO XENOPHOBIA!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Lanseria Fire

It has been four days since the homestead near Lanseria burnt down. The upstairs is totally gutted with only little remaining downstairs. The main house could have been saved and now fingers are been pointed towards the lack of response from the City of Johannesburg’s EMS (Emergency Management Services) who were on a Go Slow at the time.

The Kitchen

Family Room

What does this Go Slow mean? Joburg’s EMS normally work a 12 hour shift for example 7am to 7 pm but because their grievances have been ignored for the last 14 years they decided on Friday to work only from 8am to 4pm. On Saturday the fire broke out about 5:30 and we started phoning EMS from about 6pm not knowing that no-body was going pick up the phones until the next shift came into work. This is so wrong on all fronts with the call centre’s phones and the fire stations not manned. All the staff had gone home with the next shift expected at 8pm.

Downstairs Guest Bathroom

Eyewitness News phoned on Tuesday for the story and you can read it here at “Firefighters protest resulted in Lanseria house burning down”. Yesterday I had Africa News Network (ANN7) contact me for a follow up story. They then sent a television crew to the house to interview Abie.

Abie and his family are left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of this Go Slow protest. Neighbours and some of my online friends have rallied around to help this family in need and have started organising collections such as curtains, bedding, kitchenware, clothing, and food.

Abie told me that they hopefully will have power restored by tomorrow to one of the out buildings where they are now staying in although still no water.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Ella’s Minion Extraordinaire

Ella has usually only pink items on her desk but somehow a minion appeared below her monitor. Uhmm has this tiny yellow minion dressed in dungarees managed to do what no one else has managed to do? And will we see many more minions joining this minion extraordinaire?

For those that heard the radio reports about me and a house that burnt down due to the City of Johannesburg’s EMS being on a Go Slow, yes it was me that they were quoting and no it wasn’t my house. Read the full story here about the Lanseria Fire that happened on Saturday.

To answer the questions, firstly we are all right, except for our neighbour who has lost everything. There are lots of “Why God, why?” and “What ifs”. Now I am not pertaining to be an expert in fires but in my humbly opinion, YES the main house could have been saved; IF the City of Johannesburg’s EMS wasn’t on a Go Slow; IF the City of Johannesburg Emergency Call Centre answered the calls sooner and when they did answer, didn’t put us on hold; IF the property’s top gate wasn’t locked and allowed the first responders, the Lanseria Fire Department, in sooner; IF the fire units arriving had enough water and the right equipment to deal a large house fire; IF only if.

Okay let me get this straight, I believe that we should pay all essential services well, that includes policemen, medics, nurses, teachers, and firemen/women. They are not minions of corrupt city officials, they are there to protect and serve the people so pay them a decent salary. And on the other hand they not allowed to go on strike or even a Go-Slow protest which resulted in a house burning down. Someone said our Emergency Medical Services are “kak stadig”. Oh dear, this is not how things are supposed to be. I remember a time when nurses, policemen, firemen were the heroes. What has happened to us?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Not Cooking with Gas

Not the best photo but you can see the homestead that caught on fire on Saturday is still smouldering. The photo is taken from my patio towards the left and the river. On Sunday when leaving to take Matthew home, I noticed another large fire towards the tree line on the horizon. The black smoke looked like another homestead was on fire. Today I found out that there are a couples of houses from where the smoke was originating from and the likelihood it was another home going up in smoke.

Thankfully, the traumatic weekend is over and Abie and his family are busy picking up the pieces of what little is left.

Another thing happened which I didn’t mention in my post about the fire because it was insignificant compared to the rest of the evening but I think I should now as Abie has now given me more information.

While the fire was still small and after we abandoned the car to its fate, Matthew mentioned what about any gas in the kitchen as most homesteads in this area have gas in the kitchen. I asked Abie if he had any gas bottles in or near the kitchen as these can explode and without a care or thought, Abie rushed off back into the smoke filled house.

It probably wasn’t but it felt like a long time that Abie was away, and I was upset at myself for not stopping him going back in and I didn’t want to go into a house that was filling with thick toxic smoke while not knowing the layout or which direction Abie went. As I was psyching myself up and preparing to wrap my jacket around my head, Gerhardus started calling for Abie to get out of the house.

Next thing Abie emerged dragging behind him two small blue 4.5kg gas bottles with one still attached to a skottle. What, did he just risk his life for those small things, there I was thinking of something bigger than 9kgs. Anyway Abie bumped the bottles on the grass where we were standing and we sternly warned him not to go back into the house.

So why am I telling you this? Well this evening Abie was telling me that the gas bottles were stolen on the night of the fire. WHAT? Now because the main electricity distribution board was near the garage which was burnt down, they have no electricity, along with no water, and now no gas to cook with.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Empty Firepool

After yesterday, we now have proof the Firepools and thatch roofs don’t work. Okay I give that it wasn’t an R4million fire pool and it was empty. Our Zuma presidency has invented a new word, and that is "Firepool". Nkandla’s Firepool was thought to be the only one in existence, but walking around the ashes of yesterday’s devastating fire I nearly walked into one and so did Abie.

It was way after midnight when the last two fire units left and this morning smoke was still spiralling upwards. Around noon, we took a walk down see the devastation aftermath and to ask Abie and his family what can be done to alleviate some suffering. Abie’s head was bandaged up, not from last night but from falling and hitting his chin on the concrete floor this morning near the pool area when he was rummaging through the wreckage trying to salvage the few things that was spared from the flames.

As you can see in one of the photos, the fire didn’t even touch one of the son’s rooms. Downstairs in the middle section there was mostly smoke and water damage.

So with the few things they managed to salvage, Abie, his wife, two sons, and daughter moved into a one and a half bedroom cottage that is also on the property.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

I Got the Spider

I saw a spider, don’t worry, I got it.

Jokes aside, the weekend just got serious. Our nearest neighbour is about 500m away down by the river and towards the end of the day I went out to call for our cat, Minky, who loves to wonder into the veldt.

It was then that I saw a flame on the garage side of our neighbour's large thatch house. There was also white smoke from a veldt fire coming from behind the house. At first I thought it was the veldt fire behind the house but after pointing it out to another neighbour Gerhardus, we confirmed it wasn’t the veldt but the house itself. And by this time we started hearing screams coming up from the burning house.

After screaming for Lynda and Gerdardus’ wife to phone for help, we jumped into Gerdardus' SUV and rushed across but found that their top gate was padlocked but I knew where there was a gap in the fence between our plot and theirs so we rushed over to the gap and crawled through. Rushing down to the burning house armed only with two small fire extinguishers, we found the care-taker Abie running up towards up in such a panic.

We asked Abie for the keys for the top gate so that help which should be on the way can get closer but Abie said his son has the only key and he is in town. The owner of the homestead I believe is a widow who works for the UN, [Correction: Abie corrected me and said the owner works in Vienna, Austria] Abie is the caretaker of the property and he, his wife, and three children say in the house. The two older boys were in town when a veldt fire set the thatch on the garage side alight. Abie, his wife and young 7 year old daughter were in the house when it started.

When we arrived at the homestead, the fire was still relatively small and would have been controllable but found that the bore hole was out of order and Abie and his wife were using buckets of water to try put the fire out.

Not shortly after we arrived, the young girl, Abie’s daughter, saw my son Matthew, she ran up to him and grabbed him. She was terrified and shaking with fear. Gerdhardus got one of his chaps to take the wife and daughter up to the safety of his place. After making sure that everyone was out of the house, we saw a car in the garage parked sideways, I got the car keys from Abie and tried to start it but it wouldn’t start, we then tried to pull it out but the heat from above started burning my bald head and the smoke was getting very thick, so we had to abandoned the car.

Now at a safe distance, I got my cell phone out and started taking photos. It was about this time that I got feedback from Gerdhardis that the ladies had tried to phone the nearest Fire Department at Lanseria Airport which is only 2km away from us but they responded that it is out of their jurisdiction and are only allowed to handle the airport fires. I also was told that the Randburg and Johannesburg Fire Departments were on a go slow and only the Centurion Fire Department which is 30km away was sending out a unit.

It was getting dark now and none of the Fire Departments would get here in time to save the homestead but about 15mins after the main house started to catch on fire, a number of fire units arrived at the top gate and what seemed like forever, they could not get through the top gate. We just had to helplessly watch the fire spread through the main house while the fire trucks battled to get onto the property. Also it seemed that a large crowd started to gather at the top gate. Just cut the darn lock would you, or drive through the fence as firemen in the movies do, but just get here now!

Finally the fire units started making their way down the driveway towards the doomed homestead and I saw that the fire units were from Lanseria. With the top gate now open more fire units poured in and so did the spectators. I then heard from another neighbour who lives at the end of our street and works at Lanseria that when she saw the fire, she phoned them and ordered them to respond. She said that Lanseria's response time from her call was 8mins.

After a while the local firemen from Lanseria started asking for water to drink as it was getting very hot. The message was sent out to the neighbours to bring drinking water. In the meanwhile the medics had sedated Abie’s wife as she was in severe shock. As the evening continued more fire units started to arrive from other Fire Departments, even a very large ladder unit arrived at the top gate but it was simply way too big to get down to the house and I am sure even tempted to drive through the fields.

I believe the main house itself could have been saved if the fire units arrived earlier and of course if they could have gotten onto the property sooner. Thank goodness Abie and his family are safe although they have lost everything in the devastating fire including the spider. As for the firemen's go slow or not, my heart is wrenched in two for Abie and his family as I can never forget seeing Abie, a black man, in his 50’s, silhouetted against this fire with his hands to the sky, tears streaming down his face, crying out “Oh my God, oh my God!”

(Please note that Abie, his wife, 2 sons 24 and 15 years old, and a daughter 6 years old, have lost nearly everything and has to start all over. They need help. And just a reminder that all my photographs on my blog are copyright)

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