Monday, January 22, 2007

Kirstenbosch Three Tenors Concert ...

The best Kirstenbosch concert of the season so far!

Three Tennors, Matthew Overmeyer of 'Phantom' fame, Italian tenor Nikki Cencherle and Ronnie Theys, joined by special guest artist Beverley Chiat and accompanied by the well-known Michaelis Players

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Comet McNaught - day 2 ...

And this evening it is almost windless here in Plumstead (Cape Town).

Check out the pics of Comet McNaught we took from home this evening

This pic was taken from the driveway

And this one from the street


And another

Gigi took this long exposure

Zoomed in

See the post of pics Gigi and I took last night that includes links to background information about the comet

Comet McNaught - day 1 ...

Yesterday evening Gigi and I drove out to the beach at Table View (Cape Town) to spot comet McNaught.
We had an amazing view of the comet. Sunset was close to 20h00 and we first spotted the comet 20h40.

The comet was discovered by Rob. H. McNaught, at the Siding Spring Observatory, Australia.

The Siding Spring Survey Website is definitely worth visiting! The site contains animations of the original discovery, fantastic visualizations of the comets orbit, images of the telescopes used as well as detailed descriptions of where to look, what to expect and links to many sites dedicated to Comet McNaught.

There was quite a crowd all the way up the beaches on the west coast as the comet had been front page news that morning

The down side was that there was a howling south easter blowing that made photography near impossible

I would have needed to mount my camera on the Stubby lathe to keep it still - maybe!

You may be able to just see the comet half way between the cloud and the top edge of the pic

This is a selection of both Gigi and my pics

Considering the wind we just took lots of pics and chose the best couple to blog

We trashed most of them!

There is the comet just left of the small cloud

Gigi's camera can take long exposures

Gigi hid in the car out of the wind but on the wrong side of the road with it's passing traffic

Gigi got this one later lying on the boardwalk to try and keep the camera still - look at the grass blowing

The sand was also blowing so hard down there it was painful

Standing up out of the wind and you just got blown around

This is a pic by Gigi looking out over Table Bay - the lights of downtown Cape Town, Table Mountain lit up with four banks of huge spotlights for the festive season, Lions head on the right and the comet just to the right of that

This is my best pic of the same view

As it got darker the cameras really couldn't do justice to the comet

Visually the tail was three to four times what the camera showed - totally spectacular

See the post of some better pictures taken the evening afterwards

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Rhodesian Air Force Air Cadet Camp - August 1967

Here is a historical photograph of the Rhodesian Air Force Air Cadet Camp - August 1967.

Prince Edward and Churchill Schools had air cadets. I remember that to become a 'blue job' one had to pass a written test to show ones interest and knowledge of things aeronautical.

This group photograph includes members of both school 'flights' who attended the annual camp at New Sarum, the RRAF airbase outside Salisbury, now Harare, in August 1967.

My oldest friend John Kotze, with whom I'm still in reasonably regular contact, is sitting front right and I am standing next to another friend, going back to Kindergarten years in Rusape, Michael Nel. Michael and I are standing 5th and 4th respectively from the left of the middle row.

I remember being driven out by bus each Friday (I think) afternoon from Prince Edward School to New Sarum. I used to realy enjoy what we learned and did on those great afternoons at Sarum.

I remember a couple of the names but not many.

If any ORAFS or anyone else who reads this know any names please leave a comment or e-mail me and I'll list them on this post.
My e-mail address is: dennislaidler (at)

Any of you from this era will thoroughly enjoy this blog post on The Last of the Rhodesians blog.

See also my blog post with group photos of the RAF Territorial intake of early 1973.

Rhodesian Air Force - Territorials 1973

I have also scanned some historical pics from my album that may be of interest to others so have decided to post them here to make them available.

I've uploaded fairly large pics so that the faces are as clear as possible. So please be patient while they load.

I, like all other youngsters in the then Rhodesia, I was conscripted into the forces for a year or two. I served my time in the security section of the Rhodesian Airforce.

These pics were taken in 1973.
I'm not sure what the intake number of the April/May 1973 intake was. Perhaps if any of the ORAFS in that particular intake can let me know I'd much appreciate it. (Rob Posselt, now living in the UK, married to an Umtali girl in 1979 and now having two daughters aged 22 and 19, e-mailed me in late 2007 and let me know we were 81TF April '72 to April '73 - thanks Rob). You can use the e-mail address below to e-mail me. dennislaidler (at)

New Sarum Airbase, Salisbury (now Harare), May 1973

The names below are taken from a sheet of paper I had put under the picture in my album. Please leave a comment and correct any miss-spellings and/or add any of the missing names. These names (all left to right) bring back many memories for me, both good and bad.

Armoured vehicle left, turret:
Tim Coglahn, Mike Weeden, Dave Ballantyne
Armoured vehicle left, driver:
Rob Lieberman
Armoured vehicle left, standing:
Sergent Hill, Dave Jackman

Row 5 (Back Row):
Harry Fowle, Doug Hasson, Marshal Page, Brian Lansden, Pete Dyer, Ed Ely, Mike Kriel, Keith Tozer (slightly behind), Ivor Shwerin
Row 4:
Jan Labuchagne, Barry Garner, Julian Hilton-Barber, WO Ken Salter, Neil McMullen, Sergent Cox, Rob Posselt
Row 3:
Dale Wilcox, Nevil Barnard, Dave Stewart, Angel Mylie, Chris Vos, Ralf Cheesman, George Makings, Kevin Doyle, Trevor Wetmore, Dennis Laidler (myself)
Row 2:
Rob Ovington, Andrew Strange, Howard Parker, Pete Bull, Vince Lamprecht, Paul McCarthur
Row 1 (Front Row):
Tim Harding, Danny McDonald, Bill Britton, Tex Mckenzie, Chris Talbot, Jeff Long

Armoured vehicle right, turret:
Paddy Clift, Pete McDonald, Chris Roberts
Armoured vehicle right, driver:
Richard Tudor-Owen
Armoured vehicle right, standing:
Leon Roussow, Flight Sergent Webster

Here is another picture of the same group taken at the same time.

After the first few weeks of basic training we were allowed an extended weekend off to visit our families. However we were all given some challanges for the weekend. The group that I was in had to arrange a picture of themselves in front of the RAF headquarter's sign at the Gwelo Airforce base.

We had the picture below taken the first evening by a friend of mine, Andrew Nel, the younger brother of Michael Nel who was in kindergarten in Rusape with me. One of the group that lived in Gwelo took a photograph of the sign outside Headquarters.

I don't remember how we got the 'Headquarters' negative to Andrew but suffice to say by the time we returned to New Sarum at the end of the long weekend Andrew had performed some 'magic' in his home darkroom and we returned to New Sarum with the picture below to 'prove' that we had all visited the base in Gwelo during the weekend. Remember that this was way before the days of modern ICT and cell phones! How the hell did we manage?

Irrespective that someone was really not that good with the scissors our 'initiative' satisfied our commanders.

Those in the picture are:
Harry Foule, Chris Talbot, Chris Roberts, Dave Ballantyne, Dennis Laidler,
Chris Vos, Howard Parker, Ed Ely, Pete Bull and Dale Wilcox

The pictures below were taken in December 1973 at the Forward Air Field (FAF) at Wankie near Victoria Falls

Those in the vehicle, a so called Eland 60, are Pete McDonald (gunner, left), yours truly Dennis Laidler (commander, right), and Chris Roberts (driver)

The picture below was taken on the same day at the same time.

Those in this picture are:

Armoured vehicle left, turret:
Danny McDonald, myself Dennis Laidler
Armoured vehicle left, just below:
Howard Parker, Rob Posselt, Al Platt
Pete Bull, Tim Coghlan, Julian Hilton-Barber, Chris Vos, Chris Talbot, Chris Roberts, Dale Wilcox, Kevin Doyle
Armoured vehicle right, sitting:
Pete McDonald

Most of those in the picture signed it on the reverse side for me.

Just out of interest I never got to see any real action. I spent most of my time at forward air fields in a deterrent capacity and also driving up and down the local runway early in the morning to ensure that it was free of landmines before it was used by aircraft. Fun!

I encourage any of the ORAFS in these pictures to please leave a comment, telling us where they are (or others in the picture), what they're doing and perhaps their contact details. Also feel free to e-mail me and let me know your news. I lead a pretty hectic life but will respond when I have a chance and I'd enjoy hearing from you.

See also my blog post with pictures of the Air Force Air Cadets Camp at New Sarum, Salisbury (Harare) in August 1967

Friday, January 12, 2007

Arthropod Action ...

Today Gigi and I photographed a few interesting arthropods as we set out for our regular Friday afternoon walk in Kirstenbosch.

There were a whole bunch of impressive stick insects hanging around the Pearson House verandah

I spy a stick insect eye!

The larva of a common local moth which I'll identify later

This time of the year they crawl up the walls of Pearson House in significant numbers where they pupate

And pupa of the same moth hanging under the windowsill

Who is Gigi photographing up there, sitting on the ceiling?

Mr cool hunting spider (about 3 inches long, toe to toe)

And here is a spider wasp who paralyses hunting spiders with her sting and carries them off to a hole

There she buries them there alive but paralysed and lays her eggs in them

When her eggs hatch her larvae have an instant meal available!

I suspect Mr hunting spider around the corner was a tad big for her to tackle so she is hunting in the wall vents for a slightly smaller victim

The last rays of the summer sun on Fernwood buttress at about 8pm that evening

A family of Cape Francolin (or Cape Spurfowl as they are now known) soaking up the last warmth from the tar road

They were so casual that the hen allowed the youngsters to sit down and soak up the warmth right in front of us

They only moved off slowly once we shuffled right up close

And here growing in the garden is my favourite flower

The Flame Lilly (Gloriosa superba), the national flower of the, now, cyberstate Rhodesia where I spent my youth

I see that it is still the national flower of the basket state Zimbabwe.

What a come down - ag shame!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Crime in South Africa ..

Crime in South Africa is getting absolutely out of hand of late.

My wife and I have been the victims of crime three times since New Year's day 2007 (8 days ago).
Gigi and I are generally very security conscious, both having been born and raised in Southern Africa. In fact I would venture to say that we are both paranoid about security.

First we had the rocks thrown through our lounge window by some New Year 'revellers';
Secondly Gigi had her handbag rifled in the cinema, loosing her cash and ZEN MP3 player; and
Thirdly I had the right hand side triangular side panel stolen off the side of my 1979 Kawasaki KZ400 parked outside work today. (my bike is virtually identical to the one in the hyperlink).

Gigi visited the cinema management today. We were sitting in the row against the back wall of the cinema. It appears that someone crawled down the space under and between the seats and the back wall and got to her zipped up handbag that she had between her feet. The MP3 player was stolen, the cash was removed from the wallet and the wallet and credit cards replaced in the bag, a small folder of unimportant cards was removed and found later by the cleaners and a number of other small unimportant items were also removed. Gigi commented that it would be quite easy for a child to crawl along under there and the cinema management admitted that they had actually caught an adult who did it, thereby admitting that it had happened before! Gigi says they were putting in place some 'moveable' side panels at the ends of the back row to 'discourage' further thefts. 'Ya well no fine'!

Yesterday I used my grand old Kawasaki KZ400 motorcycle for the first time in a year to try and set an example of commitment to reducing personal carbon emissions. As the project manager for the provincial climate change programme I was feeling really good about this - until ... If anyone can help me to obtain a replacement, preferably red, right hand side panel for the old bike please let me know at:

It makes one soooooo angry that people in South Africa just don't have the moral character not to steal anything that isn't bolted down! Either they don't know what damage this does to the credibility of South Africa's image as a tourism destination, among other aspects, or they just don't give a sh...t! I've bought myself a new helmet and will be commuting much more regularly on the bike again. I know of a more secure place (I hope) to park it. I'm lucky enough not to have to use it on those cold wet winter days.

In addition, over the past 4 or 5 years I have had a car 're-distributed' and a digital camera, the gold watch I inherited from my father and Gigi's handbag stolen from our home.

It's got to the point now in South Africa where 'if it isn't bolted down it will be stolen and if it is bolted down it will just be vandalised'. It was mentioned to me last week that even the Mountain Club huts have being broken into, stripped and vandalised recently. We have also had attacks on locals and tourists on Table Mountain in Cape Town recently. Over the Christmas period SA National Parks were not allowing people to walk on Table Mountain in groups of less than five. This level of crime is an outrageous insult to all South Africans.

Until the government actually ADMITS we have a crime problem it's just not going to get any better. As for myself I refuse to continue pretending that it's 'just part of normal life in South Africa'. I'm now just plain 'gatvol' and I'm not going to be quiet about it anymore!

I will remove this post if I notice any improvement in the crime situation. Until then ...

PS: 16 January 2006 - 8 days later

The rant above helped me to let off steam and reduce the pressure.
I'm still going to ride my motorcycle to work each day (when it's not raining) in an effort to reduce my personal carbon emissions.

I have found out that I may even be able to import a second hand side cover for my motorcycle from the USA. Apparently they are sometimes advertised on e-Bay. (Pitty the thief didn't know this. I'm sure he would have left my bike alone had he known this - don't you agree?)

But I must definitely not dispair about crime. This morning's news reliably reports that President Mbeki says that we mustn't believe that crime is out of control in South Africa. He says that it's apparently just a perception caused by the way people write about crime!
So, notwithstanding what I wrote 8 days ago, please be assured that crime in South Africa is definitely not out of control (Psst - just like aids in South Africa is not out of control.) We have no less than the President's assurance on this!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A suspended bowl ...

Here are some pics of a bowl I started yesterday

Ingredients: one large wild olive log

As it is difficult and dangerous to attack a log like that with a bowl gouge

It wastes an inordinate amount of time slowly chipping away at the whirring log so I did some initial shaping with an arbortech (with the log stationary in the lathe!)

Basically shaped the piece with the arbourtech

Starting to turn the base and the 'wings'

Finished the wing, both sides, and cut it through to separate it from the central 'vessel'

Left a small 'saturn' ring around the central 'vessel'

Turning the large 'wing' took serious tool control and expended quite a lot of adrenalin!

The personal tension is inversely proportional to the thickness of the wing

Turned a fairly standard hollow form from the central piece

Inset a pink ivory ring around the opening (see next picture)

I got very adventureous and turned the 'saturn' ring around the middle into a small captive ring

The hollow vessel with its captive ring will be suspended from the main 'wing' by three small loops of thread

You can see the 1mm holes, both in the captive ring and the 'wing', that I have drilled to accomodate the threads

Note the grain match throughout the whole piece - cool hey?

Excuse the picture quality - I just photographed the piece quickly on the coffee table

The 'wing' was ballanced on two of Gigi's little coffee cups!

A close up view

Now we need a lid - something African probably

... and the wing will be set on three tall 'legs' probably in the form of assegaais

We will see how this piece develops!

Contour path says hi to Andi ...

The countour path says, "Hi to Andi!"

There is a little water on the small waterfall but no red disas flowering yet.

Perhaps next month

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dr M.J. Abdalla ...

I noticed the consulting rooms of one Dr M.J. Abdalla on the way home today; Astrologer, Herbalist & Healer

Perhaps I should have consulted him before New Year's eve to have avoided the rock throwing incident

But then again even he seems to have a contract with Chubb Armed Response

Makes one wonder ...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy new year in South Africa ...

This is what I just love about living in South Africa!

Four am on New Year's eve we recieived two 'rocks' through our front lounge window, apparently thrown by a group of three local youths, according to the Security company who followed up on the matter.

They were seen by the sons of the family living in the double story house opposite who were sitting on the upper floor balcony.

I slept soundly through the whole thing. Gigi woke up to answer a call of nature but didn't know what had woken her.

We only noticed the rocks and all the glass in the lounge and right through to the kitchen when we got up in the morning.

The rocks must have been thrown incredibly hard as they smashed through the window pane, the venetian blinds and the heavy curtains.

Windows were also broken in the single story house opposite, the house next door and a large mansion down the street

Here is one of the 'rocks' that ended up in front of the fire place

Here is the other that ended up on my newly turned bowls lying just in front of the window

Luckily no damage to the bowls

Anyway now we have no excuse for not getting the window frames painted and to buy new wooden venetian blinds that we have been discussing for some time