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Showing posts from 2009

in the real world

I've spent this week in Pretoria, meeting and interviewing a group of people who are really doing everything they can to make things happen in South Africa and I have been humbled by the commitment and dedication I have seen.
More than that, I feel that I have a new belief and hope in South Africa. A conviction that the ideals that took us to our miraculous new democracy have not been entirely drowned out in the greed and wabenzi mentality of so many of our new priviledged class.
Not to say that the challenges aren't there. There is still a huge gap between what turns out to be some pretty good, state of the art laws that create a framework for real excellence and the realities on the ground in our municipalities.
The number of people who are toyi toying to protest the lack of service delivery is a clear indication of this gap. But what I discovered this week is that the gap is being recognised on the highest levels, and bridges are being built across it. And those bridges are…

of housing and need

I've been thinking a lot about housing lately.
It all started with the Isandla 10th anniversary celebrations where Tokyo Sexwale, Minister of Human Settlements, spoke about his perception of the housing problems we have in this country. More importantly, he came to listen. Unlike so many of the government ministers, who arrive to drop "pearls of wisdom" and then leave in a hurry, Sexwale was very aware that the development practitioners in the room were the real experts.

“I don’t think it should come as a surprise that we are changing the way we are doing things,” Sexwale said. “We are seeing the end of denialism.

“We are looking at the situation of RDP houses that are dotting the landscape of this country: they are expensive, they take arable land, they’re ugly, they look like barracks. We take responsibility for them. We have provided unos that are worse than the Apartheid-era four roomed houses. We’ve done even less for our people. Our ministry is busy about attending…

where there is a will there is a way

I asked Will King for some tips for entrepreneurs. His answers make inspiring viewing. As you can see, I'm still learning about videoing... don't miss the Adams Family hand that floats over the couch about half way through!

I always find it interesting to meet people who have succeeded in business, and to find out more about their attitudes to their success. In my time as a journalist I have met quite a few successful entrepreneurs and their behaviour has been as varied as their personalities.

Some are brash and loud, the kind of people who would have earned a disdainful sniff from my mother, and a comment of "you can always see new money".

Others, like Will King, the founder of the hugely successful shaving empire the King of Shaves, turn out to be absolute gentlemen, and a pleasure to meet.

When his parents decided to "take me off the payroll," after he finished his degree in Mechanical Engineering, he found a niche for himself in sales and marketing and …

little and large

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This past weekend was the Swartland Agricultural Show.
It's lots of fun to visit, especially if you like farm animals (which I do)



These are some of the prize winning cattle, lined up according to their breeds. I loved the handlers in their red overalls and white boots.



Our friend Christina came to visit because she'd never been to the skou, and it turned out to be a day that was all about transport.



she went for a ride with Greg on the Harley



she got to sit in some really big harvesters



and I mean BIG!





but some were more her size.



Some of the vehicles were more old fashioned. Eight horse power seems much more exciting than the 1800 in our bakkie (pick up truck)



Some were very elegant



And some reminded us that we are all inordinately proud of hosting the world cup soccer next year.



But, when all is said and done, it is always the cute girl that steals the show!

60 squares

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My eldest son, Simon, came to lunch on Saturday with his girlfriend Larissa, and spent some time helping to take out the last of the lapa poles. See how the pole has rotted away in the concrete? We are really so lucky that the whole thing didn't fall down on our heads.



So now that the lapa is down, we are full of plans and ideas about what do do with the space.
(Yes, I know I used that pic in my last post. Yes I know it's my garden and I could go outside and take another (different) one. But I don't want to.)

We're back to square one, but as Seth Godin says, square one is an under rated place. So we need to make sure we enjoy being there.

Do we just cover the space in shadecloth so that we can escape the summer heat more cost effectively?

Do we build a big room onto the house? With an extra bathroom and a fireplace and windows all around? The area we are looking at covering is 12m long and 5m wide. The lapa had the same surface area (but a different shape) but somehow it di…

its gonna be a long, hot summer

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We live in a place where the summers are blisteringly hot and dry. A place where, if you are lucky enough to have a swimming pool, you think twice before dashing outside to cool down.

So we built a lapa... a wonderful thatch construction, built with sturdy bluegum poles and a thick thatch roof. It was close to 60 square metres in size, and winter or summer it became the place where we lived. It was a place to do projects. It was a place to share food and laughter. It was a vital part of our home.

Until, sadly, we realised that it hadn't been built properly and it was beginning to shift away from the house. The first construction company had vanished into the wild blue yonder, so we got another company... a family business with three generations of thatchers... to come and fix the lapa.

Sadly, they were not any better than the first company, and earlier this year when a third roof pole suddenly snapped, we realised something had to be done.
So we did the logical thing, and contacted ou…

Happy 19th anniversary, Brian

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Brian Keenan was an Irishman working in Beirut when he was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad. He was released four years later, on August 24, 1990.

I will never forget his words when he was released. He described being a hostage as like "a man hanging by his fingernails over the edge of chaos, feeling his fingers slowly straightening".

I wonder if he spent time in prison, planning his release soundbite? I'm sure I would have. That's not intended to sound cynical, especially as I read An evil cradling, the book he wrote about his experiences, and was moved by his raw honesty and brutally truthful descriptions of his life as a hostage.

I remember when he said those words as he arrived back in Ireland. It was a crafting of words that felt like a sword, stabbing sharp into my mind. And as a journalist it made me remember all the times I'd asked the inane questions that journalists do, interviewing people who have gone to hell and back: "So, how do you feel, are you happy…

blog connections

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Julie at Moments of Perfect Clarity calls them "blog crushes" and I've had a crush on her blog for a while. It's even developed into a connection. I wanted to say friendship, but although we've sent emails and even gifts, I feel a bit like its still very much a surface friendship... kind of like the connections you make in your first week at a new school (yes, I can remember that far back).

Another of my blog connections is Meri at Meri's Musings. She often comments on my posts, and I on hers and I think our lives have taken some similar paths.

Some of the blogs I read are people whose lives are totally, enviously different to mine, like Chinua with his stunning photography and incredibly beautiful children.

(My children are incredibly beautiful too...)

Others are going through different life stages to me and I feel connected to them and their experiences. Helen is like that.

Others, like Jack, I have "met" on other forums and in other places (all virtu…

the writer formerly known as...

Twenty years after I was born a Brooks, I became a Wilson in one of those happy-ever-after fantasies that didn't quite work out the way I had planned.

But Wilson was a nice name, and eminently preferable to Brooks (which in Afrikaans means underpants or knickers and led to horrible teasing at school) and I quite enjoyed it. It was one of those anonymous names that everyone could spell and I liked the fact that it was totally normal at first look, but had a secret history. The great grandfather of the Mr Wilson I married had emigrated from somewhere near Moscow to the US and like so many others with unpronouncable or "difficult" names (I think it was Tobinofsky) he was given another one. One of the legends is that Wilson was chosen from the phone book, another is that he particularly admired a Wilson (couldn't have been Harold).

So, for the next 25 years or so, I built my name and reputation as the journalist Lynne Wilson ... until I met and married my new happy-ever-a…

talking of trees

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trees in the Kruger Park provide sancturies of relaxation



surprising beauty



examples of tenacity



are attacked by termites



and somehow survive



make us feel small



continue to surprise us by their beauty, even in death



and are destroyed by elephants!

signs on the way

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We saw some fun signs while we were away. Like this one at Letaba Camp in the Kruger Park:


here's what a sausage fruit looks like, in case you were wondering.



and this one at the God's Window lookout at the Blyde River Canyon was my favourite:

predators large and small

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We left Skukuza when the gates opened at 6am, fortified by some strong coffee sold by an enterprising guy at the gate in the predawn chill. It was Greg's first trip to Kruger, and I was really hoping that he'd get to see some lions so I was really pleased when we came across this group, right on the edge of the road. The biggest male (not in this picture) turned and looked right at Greg as he was taking his picture. The resultant shivery hands are the reason that the photo was too much of a blur to publish here! One becomes very aware that the car provides a very false sense of security, and the lions could break their way into them if they realised what tastey morsels were travelling inside!



Less than 100m down the road, we met this group of affectionate giraffe. We noticed during our stay that giraffe tend to travel in threes. Not sure why.




Greg's breakfast toasted sandwich at a picnic spot on the way to Satara was a great attraction to the yellow billed hornbill.




They rem…

boiling frogs

When we returned to Blue Jay after our three days in Kruger, we met a mother and son from Zimbabwe who were staying there too. Two things struck me about them... the first was that the son was incredibly well behaved and the second was that the mother was overwhelmingly positive about life in Bulawayo where she lives and works as an accountant.

"There's just so much going on," she said. "There are businesses opening, big developments happening, and we even have a choice of meat in the butcher!"

I was interested by her enthusiasm, in part because it was so different to anything I'd heard about Zimbabwe in a while. Its also a very different impression to the one that my old boss, Wilmot James, got when he was on a fact-finding mission.

The fact that we parted on bad terms doesn't mean that I don't respect his judgement or his insights, so I found the contrast between her impression and his particularly intersting. His views are here

When we were chatting …

day three, belatedly

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The internet connection was so bad that I decided that work, and my blog, would have to wait until I got back.

Day three saw us up bright and early so that we could be at the Kruger Park gates when they opened at 6am. We actually got there at about 5.45, but there were already 11 cars ahead of us.

The game reserve is a great place to observe human behaviour too... we were amused by the strategies of people who wanted to be first in the queue to check in. Some double-parked right next to the reception hut. Others dropped off the sprinter in their party, who rushed up to the door. We couldn't see the point of all the oneupmanship, so we ended up about 20th in the queue at reception. And it really made no difference at all... it was still dark when we got through the final entrance gate anyway!



We saw lots of elephants, in their natural setting. No chance of checking their teeth!



this is a saddle beaked stork at a waterhole near Skukuza, the camp where we spent our first night in the pa…