The Village Vet, an active member of the Clarendon Community, shares anecdotes with us as they appear in the Natal Witness.

RUDOLF’S RED NOSE

 

I was roused from my slumber on Christmas eve by an urgent voice. “Doc,” it said, “wake up! I have a problem.” Rubbing my eyes, I pulled on my slippers and dressing gown, located the source of the voice and peered up the chimney. There, high above me and silhouetted by the milky way in the starry sky was the florid face of Santa. “What are you doing up there,” I asked, grumpy from my truncated sleep. 

“Why don’t you park in the driveway and come in through the front door like a civilized person?”

“Don’t be daft,” he retorted, equally abrupt. (Jet lag is not the sole preserve of those of us who travel cattle class with S.A.A.)  “I parked on the road outside the Shisanyama in West Street and someone peed on my wheel, then nicked my hub caps and was getting away with a bag of presents when, fortunately, the python that I had got for a downtown stripper; came out of hibernation and gave him a heck of a fright when he peered out from the mouth of the bag. Anyway, please come up here and have a look at Rudolf for me. He is not himself and I am already behind schedule.”

So, I got the ladder from the store-room, donned the powerful head-light that Santa had dropped off for me the previous Christmas and joined him on the roof. It was easy to see his concern. The team of reindeer were all full of vitality and ready to fly. All except Rudolf. His head was down; his tummy was swollen and his nose shone like the light outside a house of ill repute. And when he burped, the fumes nearly knocked me off my feet.

“Hold my ankles,” I instructed Santa. “I’m going to take a good look and I don’t want to slip in forever.” So with Father Christmas gripping my legs, I opened the mouth of the reindeer as far as possible and, holding my breath, I squeezed myself inside. My eyes watered as I gazed down on a mat of crisps and cigarette butts floating on a lake of alcohol. “Pull me out” I shouted before I succumbed to the gasses, my voice echoing around the vast fluid-filled stomach.

“He’s been at it again,” I announced to the rotund figure at my side after I had caught my breath.

“I thought as much,” he informed me.  “You see, being the leader of the group, Rudolf decides where he parks the sleigh and, being a party animal; I guess, he joins in the festivities when I am dropping down the chimneys in the area. It’s been a long haul and we have popped in on some serious parties, starting with the very thirsty Aussies. And to cap it all, we have just come from the verge outside the shebeen in East street, followed by the parking lot of that country club in Boshoff Street and then we landed on the first green of the Maritzburg West bowling club near the bridge. I suppose the temptation has just been too much for poor old Rudi,” he continued with affection, “and the patrons have been liberal with their generosity.”

“Hold on tight  for a moment. I have a plan.” My thinking cap was on.

So I detached the hosepipe from the garden tap; lubricated the end with some extra-virgin olive oil from the kitchen and slid it down Rudolf’s gullet until the aperture was in the middle of the huge pool of alcohol.

“Suck, Santa, suck!” I shouted. “But don’t swallow. You don’t want a mouthful of that poison.”

The ample cheeks and girth of that jolly, round, red fellow were put to work and presently a rush of fluid and debris gushed out of the inebriated deer.

“Not onto the hydrangeas,” I panicked. “My wife will never forgive me if she wakes up and  finds her prize flowers wilted and smelling of a brewery.” So through the gate this fountain of alcohol poured and down the hill, scouring out the brittle tarmac and widening the potholes in its path. And, as we watched, Rudolf visibly relaxed; the light in his nose dimmed to a dull pink and, after he eventually passed Santa’s breathalyzer test, they took off to try to catch up on lost time.

So, folks, you now have the true story of how Rudolf gets his red nose.

And how the Fettes Road potholes have become car-swallowing excavations.

MATERNAL INSTINCTS

We have a couple of kids and a bevy of grandkids. I love them all. So does my wife. But over the years I have come to realise that paternal and maternal love are different beasts, certainly during the early years of the lives of the off-spring. This is when the father and the grand-father has a much more supportive role. We don’t really have the finesse of those purveyors of oestrogen when it comes to the nurture of the very young but we find our niche when wrestling; running; fishing; talking; reading and other more interactive pursuits are required. But that’s later on. In those early days, it’s a girl thing and the mother (and grandmother) will move heaven and earth to protect their young.

We humans are not alone. Docile cows often become raging beasts when they nurse a calf. One can walk amongst a herd of pregnant Aberdeen Angus cows without any aggressive reaction, even with one’s dogs loping at one’s side (don’t use this statement as an excuse to test my theory, though - cattle, like humans, can also have off days). But, certainly, do not try it when they are suckling a calf. Even without dogs, you could still be at risk but with canine company you can bet your bottom dollar that they will charge the dogs, who will rush to your side for protection, and you will suffer the consequences.

 

Robin experienced this first hand. He had just had an op. on his back when he was knocked to the ground by a protective cow. Ironically, he was saved from really serious damage by Daisy the poodle, who distracted the mother.

Lionesses not only have to protect their young from baddies like hyenas; crocodiles; snakes and humans, they also have to contend with the males of their own species who have been known to kill the youngsters, particularly if they are not their own off-spring. We were at the Mountain Zebra National Park last year. A clever lioness had taken her litter up into the mountains and was hiding them away in the ravines from the boys who had an appetite for anything meat but were too lazy for mountain climbing. She had hidden them so well that even seasoned trackers failed to find them.

Birds often go to great lengths to protect their babies, whether they be in the form of eggs or fledglings. Walk near the nest of a Blacksmith’s plover (“lapwing”, for those of you who want to use the more modern term) and you will be dive-bombed. They will also attract you away from the nest by making a racket to lead you in a different direction. Last weekend, I experienced a pair of crowned cranes pulling the same stunt. They nest in reed beds and these birds spent considerable time distracting my dogs by dancing away from the reeds onto the hilly grasslands just in front of the exhausted mutts. Under these circumstances, the dad seems to play an equally active role. No doubt, under instruction from mum!

Even more clever are our common and garden Egyptian geese. I watched my pointer swimming after a brood in a dam. There is never any chance of her catching these water fowl in their environment but she does not know that. At a stage, one of the parents broke away from the family. I saw the dog hesitate and then continue after the goslings and the other parent. The break-away then flapped around on the water as if he had a broken wing. That caught the dog’s attention and she changed direction. While mum led the little ones to safety, the dog was led away by the distraction. The broken wing suddenly healed when the pointer got too close and the gander quickly paddled away, only to resume the charade when the predator was lagging. Before she knew it, Bella was almost at the opposite bank. The bird flew off and the game was over.

Lower down the food chain there is generally an irresistible, instinctive urge to have babies but once the deed is done and the offspring are presented with the greatest chance for success, the lighties are delivered into the ample arms of ma nature. The job of the mother is done.

 

The South African river eel grows fat on the riches of our fertile East Coast rivers and dams. At a time she finds a boy, becomes pregnant, and then heads out to sea. At the Indian Ocean crossroads, she turns left and heads up towards India. At a stage she drops her babies. Millions of them. These little leaf-like larvae are left to their own devices, to float back down with the prevailing currents to the east coast of sunny SA. Those survivors migrate up the rivers and the cycle is repeated. Only a very, very small number make it to adulthood. Sadly for mum, she does not make the return journey, becoming a tasty morsel on the menu of a deep ocean carnivore. Although she does not have an intimate relationship with each little precious offspring, she gives her life for her brood. There is no greater service.

This weekend our family is getting together at the beach. I will spend some quality time with the grand-kids.

Walking; swimming; playing; reading and storytelling.

All under the watchful eye of mum and grand-mum.

LOVE AT LAST

 

Two young; frightened; female, school-kid faces peered around the door of our clinic one fine afternoon some months ago.

It must be understood that for an unaccompanied child, entering a Veterinary clinic must be a daunting prospect. For the uninitiated, uninformed and the youth, the fear of the unknown is significant; particularly if it could feature imposing dogs with large teeth and authority which, in their naive opinion, might be less than benevolent. These two were lucky, though. There were no animals in the waiting room, just the ever-welcoming smile of Elise in the foreground and myself in the surgery at the rear of the building.

They had come across an open man-hole down the road, they explained in urgent isiZulu; and on investigation, they discovered the prone form of a large brown dog in the depths of the excavation. Could we help?

They pointed us in the direction of the scene and departed, glad that someone in authority would relieve them of their responsibility.

There was indeed a dog in the deep depths of the hole, a large and brown feral form far out of reach and only just visible in the beam of my torch. He raised his head in acknowledgement of our voices but moved no further. He was alive but very weak - whether from sickness; starvation or injury, we could not tell. The hole, also, was deep and narrow and would not fit a dog; a step ladder and an intruding human. We also did not know if he would take kindly to said homo-sapiens sharing his already cramped space.

So the decision was made - a loop was fashioned from the end of a long rope with which I pulled cows to the ground and bakkies out of ditches, and this was lowered into the hole. When the rope touched the dog he raised his head and, after many false starts, I managed to slide the loop over it and as quickly as we could, like a gallows in reverse, we hoisted the struggling body out of the hole. Lying prone in the sunshine at our feet, he took a while to recover his breath from the not-so-subtle strangulation but eventually he did and gradually got to his feet. He did not appear to be injured but was old; very weak; smelly; mangy and malnourished from years of living on his wits and we slowly walked him back to the clinic where he was washed; treated and fed. A decision on his future had to be made but we would reserve that for another day. For now, he deserved some pampering and this he got. Elise and Gloria made sure of that.

Fate (and his close relative Karma) has this uncanny ability of arriving at the right time and when Kathryn popped into the clinic the very next morning and was introduced to the old dog, she burst into tears and immediately offered him a home.

And so this gentle; decent; feral street dog joined a family of waifs and strays living in harmony on a farm on the outskirts of a forest.

But his adventure was not yet complete.

On returning to our clinic for a follow-up examination we discovered a lump on a testicle and we removed a sertoli cell tumor - potentially malignant and life threatening. Shortly thereafter, a swelling on his penis revealed another form of cancer (a transmissible venereal tumor-TVT) - a product of a liaison with an infected bitch in his prior life; during a time when he was younger, more virile and better looking.

Chemotherapy over a number of weeks resolved this issue completely. Kathryn would argue that the oil extracted from a cultivated plant with an easily recognizable star shaped, serrated leaf also played a significant role.

She called him Laser and he is now enjoying his dotage in rude health, in a happy, joyous environment and looked after by someone who really, really cares.

 

PS: Like Laser, dear readers, may the New Year bring you compassion; redemption; second chances; luck; love and liberty and the understanding that one is never too old to have hope.

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INNOCENCE
 
Some years ago, we were diving with dolphins off Mozambique. It was an organised dive co-ordinated by knowledgeable people with the animals' well-being at heart. 
We had located a pod who appeared to be interested in us and we tumbled over the side. There must have been 10 of us, the youngest being a pre-teenage kid. Maybe 11 or 12 years old. The pod enveloped us with curious interaction. It was their environment and they initiated contact, hesitant at first until a sub-adult dolphin broke loose and singled out the child. The game was on. They tumbled; twisted; turned and frolicked with absolute freedom, innocence and pure enjoyment, stopping only when the human surfaced to catch his breath through his snorkel and then resuming again with gay abandon. We adults all forgot our own presence and for a brief moment in time, were voyeurs in theirs, revelling in the purity of their expression of adolescent ecstasy. It was a poignant and emotional interaction between youngsters of different species, inconceivable to us adults with acquired reserve and hidden prejudices. It has been a story my wife and I have told over the years at braais, cocktail parties and at family gatherings to anyone bored enough to listen.

Last week, I heard an animal bleating in the cargo bed of a pick-up in our parking lot and went to investigate. A young goat kid was trussed up like a Christmas turkey. It was easy to see why she had been brought in to our Veterinary hospital – both her front legs were broken, snapped off below the knees. We untied her and carried her inside where we were joined by the owner and his daughter, a sub-adolescent girl with a wide intelligent face, bright eyes and an infectious optimism.
The bellowing goat was put on the table and I commenced my examination. Their herd comprises only 3 goats, the father told me - the mum, the dad and the kid.  They were let out from their enclosure on their small-holding early that morning, and at a time, the three climbed a steep outcrop. He pointed half way to the ceiling.

“That high,” he said. He was joined by his daughter now, indicating much, much, higher. Anyway, at a time, daddy goat jumped down, joined soon by mum and, inevitably, by junior who had still not learned the lesson of moderation, personal limitations and the effect of compression on growing bones. Two snapped legs were the consequence.
It was while I was explaining to the father how I was going to cast the legs to heal the breaks, that I perceived a faint back-ground hum emanating from the girl. And as I listened a tune emerged that grew louder and more intense when I was quiet and concentrating on the job at hand.

“Dum, dum, dum, dum de dum,” Anele sang – a melody that I knew but did not understand.
The goat, however, recognized the tune – or maybe just the voice. The bleating stopped and was replaced with a relaxation and a stoic acceptance of my ministrations. In fact, there was limited reaction even when she was subjected to painful manipulation. No sound now, just the confident metronome.
“Dum, dum, dum, dum de dum,” she continued now with words attached, unknown to me with my rudimentary knowledge of Zulu but with a profound effect on the young goat.
But when I banished my thoughts of science and mechanics, and when I took time to really listen I could eventually make out clear, concise, English diction.
“I love you, little goat, I love you very much” the words clearly said, “and I know you are going to get better soon.”
And she did. 

HAZEL

 

Hazel is a firm favourite in our practice. She is a loyal client, adored by our front office staff and her brood and her are long standing friends of my family. She is extremely creative and theatrical and has a larger-than-life personality and a stentorian voice to match. Her diction is loudly colonial with a scattering of colloquial and socially unacceptable adjectives usually thrown in for effect.

Their family has now flown the nest leaving a clutch of highly spirited and energetic dogs. No outdoor kennels for these pampered pooches and the nuptial chamber, previously co-habited only by Hazel and her husband, Peter; is now the boudoir for their crazy canine crew as well.

To accommodate them, another king sized bed has been forced into the already cluttered room, leaving little room for nocturnal activities of any kind.

Excursions to the bathroom in the dead of night, for example, are a logistical nightmare. There is no room for another living being.

It was early in the morning and I was gathering the equipment and drugs required for a day on the farms. I was already kitted out in my agricultural attire -  gumboots, overalls and a peak cap in place. The doors had just opened and Hazel was in the waiting room as I entered. She was surrounded by three of our receptionists who were making a fuss of Lily, one of her boxers, who was at her side. The dog’s bulging belly confirmed her condition.

“Hello, Hazel,”I greeted her effusively. “What’s up with Lily?”

“She’s in labour,”came the booming reply.

I knew the bitch was pregnant, having had the discussion with Hazel some weeks prior. Neville, the father, was a wonderful dog and we had agreed that a continuation of the bloodline was a good idea. But the news still took me by surprise. So soon!  My mind flashed to their already crowded boudoir. Where would the pups fit in? Another bed would never be squeezed into the already overcrowded room. Maybe Pete-the-husband would be relegated to a kennel. 

My face obviously reflected my amusement at the thought.

The perceptive Hazel registered this look and her response was titanic. It was a put-down of epic proportions, rivaled only by the acerbic tongues of selected historical luminaries. Such was the impact, that I had this flash-back of  Donald Trump criticizing his secretary-of-state in front of the CNN TV cameras. Or perhaps it was Juju Caesar condemning Marcus Brutus at the moment of his assassination. But even “Et tu, Brute,” would have had less impact than Hazel’s outburst which echoed around the walls of the waiting room. The squabbling of the pigeons in the aviary momentarily ceased and there was a frantic flapping of wings as they took flight.

“F$%& off and go and play with those cow’s of yours,”she bellowed with bellicose belligerence.

There was a moment’s silence.

Then, prompted, no doubt, by a faint giggle in her throat and a twinkle in her eye; an outpouring of raucous laughter cascaded from all in that room. I even heard uncontrolled chuckling coming from the bookkeeper in an adjoining cubicle and from a colleague on the computer in another room. An older lady with a cat in the corner buried her head in a copy of last year’s farmers weekly, her ears pink with embarrassment.

The birds in the aviary resumed their courtship.

So, I gathered what remained of my tattered dignity and with my tail between my legs I did what I was told.

It will take a lot of hard work to regain respect from the staff.

 

P.S. Andy ( my colleague) delivered seven spectacular pups via Caesarian section

I played with my cows till late.

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THE VILLAGE VET ON VACATION - PART 1

 

Trev-good friend, raconteur, intellectual, lateral-thinker, fisherman, pilot, entertainer, talented architect, and much- loved dad and husband-died some months ago.

 

Years back Trev designed our new garage for us. We are grateful he did; it is a work of art. Not only is it better constructed than those bunkers built for the politicians of yore to withstand terrorist attacks, but it has features that make it unique and personal. To start with, we had fun building it. Most evenings Trevor would rock up to over-see his handiwork, with at least a six pack of Castle Cans tucked under his arm. And as the evening progressed each new suggestion would be heralded with the crack of a new frostie being opened, succeeded by the inevitable "It might cost a little more, but......" The wisdom of his pronouncements is appreciated now.


It has been converted into a studio-come office, is our favourite room, will withstand the eruption of Krakatoa and does not even show a surface crack.

What is even more appealing is that my friend, knowing that insects are my professional hobby, fashioned the facade around the head of an insect. The
door is the mouth, the two lights on either side are the compound eyes and the roof is shaped like the dome of a head. We eventually called it quits
when he suggested that we attach some structures on top resembling antennae-sort of like round suckers on a stick-Trev's signature.

Even without these, the building will stand, with many other colourful memories, as a monument and a legacy to a close friend-talented in the
extreme and fun to be with.

Trevor and his wife-of-many-years, Sharon, had emigrated to the republic of St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape many years prior and, although separated
geographically, he and I had maintained a long-distance friendship. Sharon, too, had kept in contact with my wife and a couple of other Maritzburg ladies and, some weeks ago, Nicky (my wife), Mandy and Shelly-three senior members of the Out-Of-Town Book Club-decided to visit their mourning friend.
A road trip was mooted, which eventually included stayovers at scenic and out-of-the-way places including Rhodes (the village), Hogsback and Kenton-on-Sea. During the planning stage, it became increasingly apparent to me that some form of masculine presence was desirable, and I put up my hand.
I was keen to re-visit some of the haunts of my youth. Security is also a concern, one would understand, and some Midlands beef on the journey would
be a good idea-even if this ox is somewhat past his prime and, truth be told, is a bit of a coward. At least I know how to change a wheel. And, let's face it, I am sure they would be happy to have someone to balance the conversation. We could chuck in the odd comment about fishing and rugby between the specials on at Woolies and the dalliances of Maritzburg socialites.

I took, quite frankly, some abuse from my hunter-gatherer friends who believe that a protracted period in a confined area with bevy of ladies is a poor substitute for a golfing tour or fishing trip. There are, however, benefits, I told them. For starters, I would be pulled into the world of women which might be an intriguing break from drinking beer and re-living the 1974 British Lions rugby tour. At our destinations the girls would also be occupied, leaving me space to do my own thing. They would drink tea at farm stalls and I could read the newspaper. I could go to a sports shop when they were shopping for clothes and I would be allowed the space to swim, jog, walk or do whatever I felt like while they did girl-things. At least, that's the way I saw it. So, with grateful thanks from the other two husbands, we started our journey at 6am on Monday the 12th of October 2020, full of bonhomie and the joys of a fine spring morning. Months
of lockdown and restrictions had fuelled our expectations. 

 

The game was on.

 

NEXT: Part 2 - Maritzburg to Rhodes

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THE VILLAGE VET ON VACATION - PART 2 - Maritzburg to Rhodes

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The Village Vet is accompanying three senior Maritzburg book club members on a road trip down to the bottom part of the Eastern Cape and back.

For the record—I love women. I am certainly not a misogynist.

I do however recognise differences between the genders. For example, women have bladders the size of thimbles and, like the robots in Peter Kerchoff or Alan Paton streets, their overflow is certainly not synchronised.

 

It is also well known that caffeine is a diuretic and I am on a road trip with three women coffee addicts. This results in very frequent pit-stops, usually consistent with well-placed farm stalls or coffee shops.

 

I swear, they smell out barristers miles ahead. But once I got my mind around the fact that we were not in a rush (a phenomenon, I concede, that it is the preserve of the bearers of testosterone), the regular stops became quite a pleasant distraction.

First stop was the garage at Boston, well known to my caffeine-freak compatriots for their superior coffee. Underberg flew by with its spectacular backdrop of the Berg mountains: so did Swartberg, Kokstad, Matatielle and Mount Fletcher.

By this stage I realised that no-one was really interested in talking about tying trout flies, splenic tumours in dogs or my exploits on the cricket field during my youth. My ego was  starting to take a bit of a pounding—I prefer being listened to. It was then that I came up with an enlightened plan.

 

We would decide on a theme for each leg of the trip which would sit nicely between boy topics and girl things—more esoteric subjects which would be inoffensive to each party and which would tax our minds. So for the next couple of hours we explored our different opinions on our relationships with God, which prompted robust discussion involving beliefs versus understanding.

We then went off the beaten track via lower Pitseng to join the Naude’s Neck pass and we were now into a discussion on where we eventually wanted our ashes scattered, precipitated, probably, by the topic of our conversation, the beauty of our surrounds, the sheers drops on either side of us and the realisation of the perilous nature of our mortality.

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The village of Rhodes is as we remembered it. Slow, laid back, beautiful and lazily stretching its arms after a couple of months of lockdown sleep. Our
first port of call was the info-centre where we were pointed the way to our digs for the next two days—the quaint Little Leeds cottage.

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By this time we were fresh out of milk—my travel mates consume enough to dehydrate the average Friesland cow. Unfortunately, in Rhodes, the local dairy farmer only delivers once daily and this produce is rapidly consumed by the residents, so we eventually ended up at Walkerbouts Inn. They also could not help but they could offer very cold drinks and the best pizza’s in Rhodes (and, according to them, possibly the whole world). Sitting and watching the sun set over the Berg foothills on the northern banks of the Bell river from chairs in their garden, our suburban prejudice was gradually disarmed by the local charm and by the end of the evening we were positively native. (Incidentally, my brother-in-law  had visited a couple of years prior, and had convinced a grouping of locals (who had emerged from the hills on a Friday evening to indulge in a number of hours of well lubricated social intercourse) that he was a person of considerable means who would organise a taxi load of escorts to converge on the village. For three years now said locals congregate at the same waterhole, still in expectation.Dave, the proprietor, advised us not to mention my boet-in-law’s name lest we cause a riot.)

 

 

The advantage of travel with time on one’s hands and the inclination to experience, is that one tends to meet interesting people. Walkerbouts was full that evening with a posse of cyclists, a group of ecologists and the odd local. The ecologists were representing the W.W.F and Sanparks and they were in town to discuss the intention to create a national park of these high plateaus—to preserve the unique ecosystems. Coming from the real world where news is dominated by the political take-and-break brigade, it is entirely refreshing to be in the company of people who are only interested in preservation and  improvement. It is rewarding to know that there are specialists with the intellect and knowledge to make these esoteric concepts a reality. Even if the majority of us common-and-garden citizens do not understand the details of their motivations, we support with conviction the outcomes.

The next morning the farmers came out of the hills in their droves for the meeting: not a skinny one in sight. The gathering started on an acrimonious note. People are resistant to change and farmers, collectively conservative, are no exception. They are particular sensitive, latterly, because of deteriorating farm security, the threat of land appropriation and the ongoing Senekal debacle that was playing out the other side of the mountains. But it ended, according to the co-ordinators, with a feeling of progress. 

 

The next morning Nicky and Mandy participated in a pottery course at the Clay Pot Café. I have a suspicion that they were not the best students. They are inclined to distraction and bursts of giggling. I wait to see the end result. Apparently their masterpieces will have to be fired, then delivered to Pep Stores in Barclay East (about 60 k’s away) which delivers them to Pep Stores, P.M.B. The marvels of modern couriers. Irene, the instructor was obviously impressed with her students because we bumped into her that evening at the watering hole and over a glass or two of wisdom she gave them collectively an 80% pass rate. Nicky said hers was 90% and Mandy 70%. Mandy maintained the opposite. 

 

Next: Part 3—Rhodes to Hogsback

 

 

THE VILLAGE VET ON VACATION - PART 3 - Rhodes to Hogsback

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The Village Vet is accompanying three senior Maritzburg book club members on a road trip down to the bottom part of the Eastern Cape and back.

We got up early and followed the road less travelled-to Elliot and then, eventually, on to Hogsback. The highlands that we left are mutton territory-appealing for those who like woollen garments and lamb shanks-but as we descended the escarpment so cattle gradually became more plentiful. It is also a land of spectacular cuttings and passes and we followed the Sterkspruit stream, picnicking on the banks at a bridge and attracting
inquisitive young Hereford bulls.

By this stage we had exhausted the conversation of  "Heaven and God" and had
progressed onto "In pursuit of Happiness": and, unlike the previous which highlighted different opinions, this subject elicited agreement.

Agreement! I was gradually coming under the spell of the book-club girls. It is easy to become bewitched, I guess, when the background is so beautiful and the reality of living is far away. In reality, I was quite enjoying being  exposed to the way of thinking of the fairest gender.

 

I concede that I know a bit about cows, sows, and bitches, but human females remain a
mystery. I am, of course, a world expert on the love-of-my-life of close on 40 years. I am also privileged to have had an integral role in the development of our daughter (and, latterly my daughter-in-law), and I am now retracing these distant memories with my grand-daughters. But the greater world of women, like 'SHE' in the Rider Haggard novel, is for me pure fantasy and I am starting to enjoy my excursion into the unknown.

For the record, here are the 5 pillars of happiness agreed upon by the girls and The Village Vet.

1) Gratitude: Just being there in the company of these lovely ladies was a privilege in itself afforded to no others. 

2) Do unto others: If everyone applied their minds to this simple principle, the world would be a better place.

3) You are in control of your emotions: Should someone annoy you, it is your fault for responding negatively and not their fault for being irritating.

4) Surround yourself with people better than you: This takes your ego out of the equation.

5) Banish materialism: Ho, hum-no more shopping! 

 

 

We entered Hogsback from the rear, taking the back road though Seymour. This is not recommended for those driving low slung suburban cruisers, and if one is concerned for the undercarriage of one's chariot then the southern entry via Alice is recommended. Indeed, the streets of Hogsback themselves are
pitted and holed with daunting excavations and present an unexpected adventure for those in a hurry.

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Hogsback is as I remember it. It is an act straight out of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, there is a tenuous historical link with J.R.Tolkein and local lore has been built around the concept that the famous books were inspired by the place. Hobbit Lane, Hobbiton, Lothlorien and Middle Earth are names and signs that remind the visitor of that association.

 

Hogsback is not exactly a village-it is more a fairly extensive cluster of properties hidden behind indigenous trees, azaleas, roses and colourful shrubs. There is a range of accommodation options for visitors, from a clutch of up-market hotels to spartan back-packers and everything in between.

 

We stayed in a cottage attached to The Edge, a most attractive establishment overlooking a vast indigenous gorge and the flats beyond.

 

 

St Patricks on the Hill is a quaint historical chapel which was burnt to the
ground and rebuilt in 2010.

 

There is a real sense of peace and spiritual connection both inside the church and in the extensive garden. I recognised some names on the wall of remembrance and said silent prayers for the lost and departed.

 

 

On the second morning, Mandy and I got up early and went for a jog. It was
my chance to express my masculine self but I found myself being left behind
from the first uphill.

 

I think, perhaps, that high altitude affects the male gender more than the female. What do you think? Once Mandy realised that she ad to adjust her pace to accommodate the gasping geriatric, we had a most beautiful jog through cultivated plantations and indigenous forests at the base of the Kettlespout and on to the Madonna and Child waterfalls.

 

We were accompanied by the constant chatter of the endangered Cape Parrot and we saw these colourful birds on occasions. Too soon our stay was finished and we departed for St Francis Bay.

Next: Part 4-Hogsback to St Francis Bay ... coming soon

ST PATRICS ON THE HILL.jpg

The Dribble

There is a fundamental rule of living - we take in nutrients which is used by the body for maintenance, growth, and performance, while the excess is voided. Most animals view this elimination of waste as a normal function and will let loose without embarrassment where and whenever they feel the urge.
Some domesticated animals become house-proud and are selective about where they go but it is only members of the Homo sapiens species who design and build structures to dispose of body waste-and then create social rules and regulations on how to use these. In our home, my wife is the self-appointed custodian of the law of the loo, a duty she performs with diligence.

To be fair to her, she has a defective product to work with. I have made the point in the past that toilet bowls were obviously designed for sitting, but men, in their wisdom, usually in their haste, and with typical masculine bravado, prefer to stand.  It is an inherited right, the carriers of testosterone will argue. It is obvious, then, that because of the distance between the appendage and the receptacle, some spillage is likely to occur
twixt lip and cup. 

 

So, I installed a much more practical urinal for the use of the masculine persuasion when we built an en suite bathroom many years ago. This, unfortunately, became a slight to the sensitivity of my wife. It was an eye-sore, she maintained, and it always had a pervasive odour of masculine hormones and urine-a fact that I could not deny. So, after a period during which I put up token resistance, a plumber was called in and I returned home from work one day to find the urinal consigned to the scrap heap.

The shit-house sheriff was again in control.

​​

 

The Privy Philosopher.jpg

An era of lavatorial conflict followed before I eventually had to tuck the masculine pride between my legs and, under pressure from the pee-police, I learnt that sitting was obligatory.

I have endured this indignity for many years now and have suffered considerable abuse from my hunter-gatherer mates who cannot believe that anyone with any social standing could stoop so low.

On occasion, however, a slightly musty smell still originates from the area around the base of the pot in our bathroom. My wife is convinced that I still assume the standing position when she is not around to notice and that the smell is the consequence of the dribble that results. I assure her that this is not the case but, I must concede to you, dear readers, that at times masculine pride overrules my fear of the law. During these rare occasions, it must be noted, I assume the posture of a giraffe at a water hole and I am content that I am not the culprit.

An event happened recently which supported my stance. The crapper cop made a subtle mistake.

She procured a toilet disinfectant from Pick and Pay which is put into the cistern and which turns the flush a dark green. Darker than emerald-it is a forest-green, as dark as those glades deep in the woods where very little light gets through, a colour that is easily contrasted against the slate-grey of our floor.

Last Friday I awoke early and in the bright morning sunlight I noticed a dark green stain on the floor under the frayed rubber connector of the toilet-bowl outlet pipe. To make sure, I flushed and put my hand underneath it. Some drops of the tell-tale fluid stained my palm.

Hallelujah!-I had discovered the culprit. My days of sitting were about to come to an end. I could now call in the plumber and reclaim my place within the cadre of proper men-those privy philosophers who stand and solve the world's problems. My wife is less than enthusiastic. 
She is not prepared to absolve me, yet. She insists that I drink something that stains my piddle so that I can prove that I don't at least contribute to the spill.

Does anyone know what Toilet Duck tastes like?