Learning to read

Lyle Krahn is an awesome wildlife photographer. He is not, however, a very sensible man. How do I know this? Well, the other day he set off into the frozen Canadian wilderness, on his own, on foot, to follow the trails of some animals because I told him it would be easy.

Lyle Krahn following some bad advice

Lyle Krahn off to follow some bad advice

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Here be dragons

I have spent the last few weeks helping my wife package products for her new business. She’s not thinking small. When we fold boxes, we fold several hundred boxes. Pinch, fold, tuck. Pinch, fold, tuck. Pinch, fold, tuck. When we stick labels on room fresheners, we stick several hundred labels on room fresheners. Peel, stick, peel, stick, peel, stick. Right now we’re busy with several thousand cloth shopping bags. We’re folding them into squares and tying them up with ribbons. This is much more interesting. Fold, fold, fold, fold, tuck, wrap, tie.  Fold, fold, fold, fold, tuck, wrap, tie. Sigh. Fold, fold, fold, fold, tuck, wrap, tie.

It’s not exactly riveting, but eventually, your brain and hands click over into autopilot. I could fold boxes or tie ribbons while operating heavy machinery. It’s become like breathing. Which got me thinking about lizards. Of course. Not that the lizards round here are particularly good at folding or tying; it just reminded me that those who feel the need to talk about such things talk about the most primitive part of your brain as the lizard brain. Continue reading

Ribbit.

I can’t remember if there was ever a single moment when I realised that my family was not quite the same as other peoples’. I suspect it was rather a series of moments, and one of these had to do with a visit to the botanical garden in Pretoria.

The garden is huge, set into the side of a low hill. There are small patches of forest, beds of flowers, pockets of wetland, and large, rolling lawns. On the day of our visit, the garden was filled with people. There were young couples, wrapped up in each other and blind to the rest of the world; there were the plant-lovers, meandering slowly around the network of paths, stopping to examine the rarities in the garden’s collection; there were the birdwatchers, weighed down by cameras and binoculars, peering up into the trees.

But mostly there were families. Some had come to enjoy a picnic, others just a day in the sun. Everyone seemed to have brought something along: cooler-boxes full of snacks and drinks, bats and balls, Frisbees, even a kite or two. Not us. We brought along an umbrella and a handful of clear plastic packets. Obviously. Continue reading

My first Photoblog! A walk in the park.

Since starting this whole blogging thing a couple of months ago, a whole new world has opened up to me. I’m not a technophobe, but the whole idea of social networking is horrifying to me. The only reason I ever signed up for Facebook was that you had to in order to get onto WordPress, and my wife was having too much fun with her blog for me not to give it a try. It’s fun. But I’ve been missing out.

I used to think a blog was just a place where you could ramble on and pretend that someone was listening. It turns out that you can also put pictures up and pretend that someone is looking. Photo blogs! I have to give this a whirl. Continue reading

Serpents in the Garden of Eden

I am going to have to start this post off with an apology. If you followed this blog in the hope of watching the slow but inevitable collapse of civilization at the hands of my family, you will have to wait until the next post. I’m trying to write a book. As part of my research, I am plagiarising an entire ecosystem (yes, I’m afraid it’s sci-fi. It’s going to be about a planet of mutes, because I can’t write dialogue). The ecosystem I am stealing is that of the Lowveld. For those of you who are not from South Africa, that’s where we keep all the proper animals.

Anyone from South Africa who has spent any time outdoors while growing up will have some experience of snakes. For those of you not from here, whose idea of Africa comes from wildlife documentaries with names like “Africa’s Twelve Most Murderous Death-Beasts”, it’s not like that at all. Put anything you have learned about Africa from the Discovery Channel out of your mind (after calling the producers and telling them to stop being such dicks.) Continue reading

It’s the small things that count (part 4)

My quick post on the small, many legged creatures of the South African bush has turned into a four part monster, and I’m only scratching the surface! I had hoped to get the little things out of the way quickly, so I could move on to cooler things with much bigger teeth, but in doing so discovered that I am actually rather fond of the creepy crawlies. The thing with cool, big toothed creatures is that you have to go out and find them. To get to the little stuff, all you have to do is step outside. Sometimes, they come inside to find you! Continue reading

This is the third part of what was supposed to be a quick post on the creepy crawlies of the lowveld in South Africa. I need to create an ecosystem for a book I am writing, and in the absence of any genuine creative talent, I’m plagiarising one that I already know. In my first two posts, I covered the “cute and cuddly” (https://23thorns.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/226/) and the “terrifying but harmless” (https://23thorns.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/this-is-the-sec-9/) categories. Now we can move on to the really fun stuff; the tiny little creatures that can hurt or even kill you. Continue reading

It’s the small things that count (part 3)

This is the second half (or even third) of an article I was doing on the creepy crawlies of the South African lowveld. A wise man once told me that no-one likes to read long posts. Apparently I can only write long posts. Cutting them up into pieces is the best solution I can come up with. If you’re interested, you can find part 1 here https://23thorns.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/226/.

In part 1, I looked at some of the nice creepy crawlies. Yes, there really are such things. Now that we’ve got all the cute stuff out of the way, though, we can get on to more exciting things.

Reputable scientists have divided the arthropods into several distinct groups. We’ve already covered the “cute and cuddly” group. I’m going to start this post with the “You will soil yourself and never sleep again” group. These are the creatures which will terrify you, but won’t actually hurt you (unless you classify inducing a stroke as hurting you). Continue reading

It’s the small things that count. (Part 2)

It’s the small things that count. (part 1)

I’ve got it! I’ve finally worked out why I haven’t been able to settle down to writing about the denizens of the bush (I’m trying to write a book. In the absence of genuine creative talent, I’ve decided to plagiarise an entire ecosystem. They’re not copyrighted. I checked.) I’ve been trying to start in the middle. Today, I’m going to start with the little things. The insignificant things. Bugs. Continue reading

David Attenborough doesn’t have what it takes.

I’ve really been battling to get started on a post I wanted to do about wildlife the other day. Every time I sit down and start writing, I get bogged down in drifts of facts and figures that anyone can look up on Wikipedia. By the time I get to the interesting parts, I’m two pages in, and the only person still reading would be the one you don’t want to end up next to at dinner parties. You know the one; after waiting just long enough to build up a truly awkward silence, he will turn, look you not-quite-straight in the eye, fix you with a panicked grin and ask “Do you know how many teeth an otter has got?” I’ve forgotten how to say anything about something that really interests me. I blame television. Continue reading