Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gigi visits Stewart and
Linda Mortimer …

I received another welcome e-mail from Gigi this morning. The Chelsea Flower Show is over so now she is free to travel around for a few days before she flies back on Saturday evening, arriving back home on Sunday morning early.

It sounds like she's having fun.
Here are a couple of extracts from her e-mail:

“Another busy day. This morning took the train from Chiswick to Waterloo Station, and from there to Grateley, where Stuart collected me. We had quite a long chat about AWSA matters - he seems sincerely wishing to help us get our act together - but I think we are now on the right track” …… “Stuart and Linda leave for the States tomorrow (Wednesday), and Linda returns on Sunday, while Stuart will stick around for another two weeks or so. Took pics of the pieces he's got ready to pack for his trip - some lovely pieces, and some interesting ones. Linda made us a lovely lunch, then Stuart retired to the workshop to finish a goblet he wishes to take to the States. He then took me back to the Station, and we were stuck outside Waterloo Station for ages, as a result of "industrial action" or something, and congestion in the station. Eventually got in, then I got a ticket to Chiswick and returned to the station.”

Anyway, Sarah has been great. Very generous and hospitable. Tomorrow she'll drop me at Kew” “ Anyway, I'm really looking forward to seeing the great Kew Garden at last. Time permitting, I also would like to go up and visit Wisley again. Linda, one of the horts has invited me, so I'd like to follow up on that. Then on Thursday I'm off to Stratford-upon-Avon.” (To stay with Phil and Christine Irons).

Gigi included a couple of pictures with her latest e-mail:

Bedford House, right on the Thames where she has stayed with Sarah Bailey for the last couple of days

"Gigi's" bedroom

The Thames out of the bathroom window

Some of Stuart's turnings that he is taking to the States

Stuart’s turnings

Another of Stuart’s amazing turnings, ouch!

Stuart's house - "Hope Cottage"

Stuart working at his lathe, with Linda in the background

You can see more of Stuart's turnings on his web site at
Check out his 'Gallery'.

I've just had a lonnnnng Skype chat with Gigi. Bloody wonderful this technology. She did get to both Kew and Wisley gardens today and seems to have had great fun. She sounds much more relaxed now that the show is over. Tomorrow morning she is off to visit Phil and Christine Irons at Stratford.

Previous posts about Gigi's trip here and here

I see that Gigi also updated her own blog late last night. There are a bunch of other pictures. See here

Sunday, May 28, 2006

My new environmental sustainability blog ...

I have spent the day setting up a new blog which will be dedicated to environmental, biodiversity and sustainability issues. I have felt the need to post interesting items that cross my desk at work. Let's see how this idea develops. See the links in the sidepanel to browse the new blog.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

News from Gigi at the Chelsea Flower Show ...

I've just had a nice 'newsy' e-mail from Gigi at Chelsea.

We also had a short skype conversation at about 01h15 last night but both of us were so fast asleep that the conversation wasn't very animated!

You can see some pics of the Chelsea team preparing the South African stand on Monday 22 May on the SANBI web site here

The pic of the team above is from the SANBI web site.

The next day, Tuesday 23, was the official media day at Chelsea.

An extract from Gigi's e-mail reads, "Yesterday's media day was quite fun, with a fair bit of coverage for the exhibit. Our best opportunity was when Emma Thompson (movie star) agreed to come and pose with us. Lots of cameras in our faces. The best about Media day is that by 14:00 most crowds have left and we had the opportunity to see and photograph Chelsea Flower Show with practically no people around.

The pic above showing Emma Thopson chatting to the team
is from the SANBI web site.

Then the evening was the Gala Preview that followed the Royal visit. Basically a MASSIVE cocktail party, with dozens of different corporates hosting events with lekker snacks and champange. David, Ray Hudson, Collette and myself all went. Afterwards we went out for a thank you dinner for all the volunteers.

Today (Tuesday that is), was the first day the Show is open to the public. Huge crowds. We started off the day of course with press photographs for the medal. Then open for business - doing duty at the exhibit to interact with the public. We've essentially got daily 3-hour shifts till the Show closes on Saturday when the flowers are sold. Then Sunday and Monday it's breakdown when the hard landscaping is disassembled and crated to send back to SA, for the next event in Jo'burg when the exhibit goes on display in SA. We finish on Monday, then it's all over."

You can see other pics of the media day on the SANBI website here

Gigi says that from Wednesday she should have some time off each day and be able to catch up on some sleep and visit some of the sights of London.

Anyway, keep poping in and I'll keep you up to date with Gigi's news. She certainly hasn't had any time to update her own blog as it seems that she has been busy until after midnight every day.

See also my previous post about Gigi at Chelsea here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Preaching to the converted …

Today was just run of the mill conference presentations.

Left to right at the speaker's table, Ms Scholastica Kimaryo, the UNDP Resident Representative, our National Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Martinus van Schalkwyk and at the podium Deputy Director General Biodiversity, Pam Yako

Late in the afternoon our Minister’s PA phoned to ask for some info as the Minister planned to write her budget speech tonight. So instead of enjoying the Kudu ‘spitbraai’ I was sitting at my computer desperately trying to e-mail some info to her using my cellphone as a modem.
Only when I recharged the cell phone and computer batteries back in the guesthouse later that night did I succeed.

And one of the highlights at supper – an Afrikaans colleague when offered a glass of Chardonay says, “Sorry its not to my tongue”. The others, knowing that his favourite drink was brandy and Coke decided, “Not enough Coke”!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Off to Addo Elephant National Park ...

I had an e-mail from Gigi sent at 01h00 and received when I woke at 05h00 this morning - very early. She arrived in London safely and is already working hard to prepare for the Chelsea flower show and sends greetings to all.

Today I left Cape Town at dawn on a very wet and rainy day. Thanks to Chris for getting me to the airport in the predawn dark after a late bar shift the night before. I had to come up to Addo (about an hours drive inland of Port Elisabeth) for a biodiversity strategic planning meeting, hosted by the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, that will be held at a small conference venue, Africanos Lodge, not far from the Addo Elephant National Park

Approaching Port Elisabeth with Shark Rock pier and Hobby beach, which the boys will remember very well, from their 4 years in the city when they were in primary school.

A view over Addo Elephant National Park to the Zuurberg in the distance. Snow is expected tonight on the high ground! There are a couple of hundred elephant hiding in that photograph but nary a one did we spy on our afternoon game drive in an open game viewing vehicle. We nearly froze as a light rain fell and sprayed us as we drove. As the guide, Michael, explained, “The park doesn’t have funds to provide the elephant with warm jackets from ‘Edgars’ so they all have to make do with retreating into the thickest bush! Michael's fund of stories, including local lore, about the animals and plants was 'value for money. He is an asset to the park.

We saw lots of fresh tracks at the waterhole. I’m sure that all the droppings we saw must have been fibreglass replicas! There just can’t be that many droppings and no elephants – can there?

With the Addo bush being so thick and thorny the elephants use the roads when they need to cover distance to the waterholes. Therefore there is a lot of dung, and of course dung beetles, on the roads. And of course there has to be appropriate signage to protect the beetles.

We saw zebras …

… and red hartebeest

And driving to the guest farm outside the park after supper this evening I came across the sign below. Your guess is as good as mine! Yes this area is well known for its elephants … and …?

And with that thought - Goodnight!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Blooming marvelous experience for Gigi ...

Gigi has just left Cape Town to join the SA Team at the Chelsea Flower Show. Here are links to the Royal Horticultural Society, the Chelsea Flower Show and the web cams at Chelsea. See if you can spot Gigi at the South African stand on one of the webcams. If you do, you can download the image and e-mail it to her at She has a notebook with her and will be accessible periodically on Skype as well hopefully. We will see if her hotel room has wireless facilities. Apparently the hotel lounge definitely has wireless so she should be able to make occasional contact in the evenings.

Gigi is also a front page star. Her involvement in the Chelsea event appeared as a full front page spread of the local community newspaper Constantiaberg Bulletin. She received lots of calls from local friends wishing her well on her trip and involvement in the event. Thanks to all of you for your good wishes.

Click on the photo below to enlarge it to readable size.
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I'm hoping that she will put some pics and news on her own blog, to which you will find a link in the links list at the top right of this blog page. Her hotel is just around the corner from the British Science and Natural History Museums. Guess where she will spend much of her free time! I clearly remember when my Dad was on study leave in London, doing Pediatrics at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1958, my favourite place for an outing in London at the age of 7 was the More..seeum!

I'd like to wish the SA Team good luck in their quest for another Gold Medal. Over the past 31 years Team South Africa have won 27 gold and 3 silver medals.

Below is a picture of the model this year's SA Chelsea exhibit. See more at Waterwise Exhibit Heads for Chelsea.

This year's design theme focuses on waterwise gardening and regeneration from fire, and fynbos will be the exhibit's main focus, with burned flowerheads being the main features. Many of the burned flowerheads are from the Stanford area of the Western Cape that experienced a huge fire during the latter part of last summer. The enterprising livelihoods projects in the area that usually employ people in the cut flower business,such as Flower Valley, have turned to decorating burned flowerheads to generate income. See also Conservation International's link to Flower Valley.

Here is a burned protea head attached to a restio stalk decorated with wooden beads and copper wire. Very enterprising.

Some links to fynbos fires and fynbos in general.

Learn how proteas, survive fires here.

See here to see Gordon Richardson's pics of fire in Fynbos in and around the Cape Town.

Learn the basics of Fynbos ecology from the Western Cape Schools Network.

Want to become a volunteer fire fighter in Cape Town see here

Learn how to grow proteas here.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Phil Irons in Kirstenbosh ...

Here are two pics of Phil Irons visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Gigi took Phil, his wife Cristina, friend Barbara and Barbara's baby, 'TJ' on a tour of the garden, in the rain, a week after the conference.

Phil hanging on to the limb of a Sneezewood tree (Ptaeroxylon obliquum). Sneezewood is a favourite species for turning. Use of a face-mask when turning this wood is highly recommended as its self explanitory name implies. The wood was used extensively by the early settlers, particularly in the Eastern Cape Province, for building and fencing because of its weather and termite resistance. A couple of years ago, at the Durban AWSA Conference, I successfully bid on a lovely walking stick turned by Collin Merry of Port Elizabeth. He told me later that the stick was turned from a verandah post from one of the old 1820 Settler homes at Salem. I was very pleased to be able to tell him that my maternal ancestors were one of the settler families that settled at Salem in 1820!

This year Phil was the successful bidder on another of Colin's sticks which Colin had specifically turned for him.

Phil with 'TJ' in the conservatory at Kirstenbosch. This was the best place to be in Kirstenbosch as the rain increased steadily during their visit.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Some pics from AWSA 2006 Woodturning Conference ...

Here are some photographs taken at the Association of Woodturners of South Africa 2006 Conference in Stellenbosch, 29 April to 1 May 2006

All photographs are taken by myself unless otherwise credited.
All photographs are copyright of the photographers.
Please contact the photographers at the following e-mail addresses if you would like copies of the photographs for commercial or related purposes:
Stuart Mortimer -
Dennis Laidler -
Gigi Laidler -

A CD containing a full set of photographs of all the pieces submitted to the instant gallery will shortly be available from Ken Turner at . Price still to be announced.

Turners are encouraged to provide me with missing or additional information for the captions. Please refer to the photograph/s by number when doing so.

Gigi Laidler at the registration desk

Stuart Mortimer demonstrating

Some of Stuart's magnificent pieces

Phil Irons demonstrating in his trademark wooden hat

Some of Phil Irons coloured pieces

General view of the instant gallery, set up in the zoology lab.

Another general view of the instant gallery. Note the interesting 'works of art' in the background of some of the following pictures

Piece in African blackwood(rim) and red ivory (bowl), with pewter work, by John Wessels of Sedgefield. This piece was considered by the judges as the best on show. Congratulations John. (Who celebrated a very happy birthday on the last day of the event)

View of the underside of John's piece

Large plaque with lizard in pewter also by John Wessels
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Tall vase by Wally Rossini

Assegaai by Jez Rowe of Port Elizabeth

Piece in African Paudauk, with resin inlay in the rim, by Ashwin Ramhith of Alice in the Eastern Cape, who generously donated the piece to the charity auction

Large red ivory bowl by XXX

Minature hats and blue piece by Phil Irons
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Large Araucaria vase by myself

Drozda style box in Red Ivory and African Blackwood by myself
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Platter by Gert Ferreira. This piece received a very positive crit from the judges. Congratulations Gert.
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Piece in XXX, pierced and guilded by Peter Nicolle
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Piece in Jacaranda, pierced and carved by Peter Nicolle
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Piece in XXX and ironwood by Ken Turner
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Piece by XXX showing interesting decorative seeds of XXX
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Piece in Bubinga by Ashwin Ramhith of Alice in the Eastern Cape, decorated with porcupine quills in resin. The subtle use of the quills received positive comment from the judges.
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Pyrographed piece in XXX by Allan Ferguson
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Piece in yellowwood by Thys Carstens
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Mopane roots in resin by Thys Carstens
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

Piece by Thys Carstens
(Photo: Stuart Mortimer)

The 'Crit Team'
Left to right: Graeme Hill, Eric Thornton, Ralph Johnson, Marilyn Martin, Stuart Mortimer and Mike Richards
(Photo: Gigi Laidler)

The 'Crit Team'. The guests who were invited to critique individual pieces included Stuart Mortimer, Marilyn Martin (Director of the SA National Gallery) and Dr Ralph Johnson (Chairperson of the Western Cape Region of Ceramics South Africa). The AWSA were extremely lucky to have such a distinguished panel to critique the selection of pieces this year.
(Photo: Gigi Laidler)

Stuart Mortimer

Ralph Johnson

Marilyn Martin criting the piece by John Wessels that was eventually chosen by the judges as best on show. Congradulations John.

Phil Irons being his normal self critting one of Stuart's pieces at the end of the critique session

The Johannesburg club use a piece turned by Phil Irons at a demo a few years ago as an annual floating trophy for the best turner in the club. Here is Phil presenting it to this year's winner, Jack Munting, in person.

Izak Cronje, our inimitable auctioneer. The auction raised just under R16 000 for charity

Final discussion session at the end of the conference

Stuart photographs cycad cones at Kirstenbosch

Left to right, Stuart and Linda Mortimer, Schalk van Niekerk, Gigi Laidler and Jaco van Niekerk at Kirstenbosch