The Post Office Could Get Nothing Right

For my research, I am always purchasing second-hand books on the internet. As reports had indicated that the service at the Post Office had improved, I took a chance. Instead of paying a courier R100 for a delivery within two days, I would save some money and pay R55 for the Post Office. I might have to wait a few extra days but that was not the end of the world.

Or so I incorrectly thought.

Main picture: Post Office International Mail

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The Phone Call in the Middle of the Night

In reading Helen Zille’s excellent autobiography, she narrates the incident in which she received a phone call in the middle of the night alleging that her spouse was involved in infidelity.  This despicable practice is used as a ploy to intimidate or to extract revenge. 

As I have experienced a similar incident some 20 years ago, there were uncomfortable parallels in my mind. Fortunately, in both cases, no lasting recriminations or suspicions were aroused or damage inflicted on the relationship. Yet it did cast some momentary doubts on the affected spouse in both cases. 

Main picture: Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape

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Incompetence of the Labour Department: A Personal Odyssey

Finally after 45 years working I retired. A new obstacle was in my path: incompetent government departments. First in the queue was an attempt to claim from UIF. As a verdict, I can claim that the Department has no more than a passing acquaintance with organisation efficiency and customer service. As incompetence triggers my pugilistic instincts, would I be able to restrain myself sufficiently and not be frog-marched off the premises?


This is the chronicle of that frustrating odyssey.

Main picture: A series of photographs on the theme “Now they Tell Us”

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A Nesting Crested Barbet

I have only caught sight of the bird fleetingly in the garden but evidence that it has set up home in our yard is obvious. It has been creating a hole in the dead limb of a tree. My best guess at the identity of the freeloader is that it is a Cardinal Woodpecker. By rights, I would have preferred if it had obtained the necessary Planned Permits but the deed has clearly already been perpetrated.

Main picture: The Crested Barbet obtaining free board and lodgings in my tree

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The Sea can be a Dangerous Place as I Learnt

Being brought up by the sea brought us boundless joy as children. From a very early age we all learned to swim proficiently. As my father was brought up at the coast, he took us to the beach every weekend irrespective of what the weather conditions were like. Due to our competence, we were left unsupervised and unattended on the beach from an early age. Instead of the current generation frequenting the malls, we led an active life.

Even as a competent swimmer I twice almost did not see another day. On both occasions it was a spring tide which was the cause of my near fatal mishaps. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt as I did not treat the sea with the caution it deserves.

These are the chronicles of those events still seared in my memory.

Main picture: This is a view of the main sand dune at Maitlands River Mouth  Continue reading

Dare Devil Bike Races down the Third Avenue Newton Park Dip

I cannot recall how old I was, but I must have been in High School because I never owned a bike in Primary School. Either that or I had foolishly borrowed somebody else’s bike. In what can only be described as an act of utter insanity – in retrospect – we would race down one side of the Third Avenue Dip in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth as fast as possible and then up the other side. Then one had to take into consideration the factors which bedevilled this race:  a narrow winding road, fast cars and road hazards in the form of pot holes, rough patches and bumps all in strategic places. Amazingly none of us was killed or even seriously hurt.

This is the story of this mis-adventure.

Main picture: The Third Avenue Dip in Newton Park which the road submerged due to floodingThe bike races were from the top of the hill near the houses. By the time one “hit” the bridge. one could be doing at least 80 kph.

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Of Cars and Tow Truck Drivers

In less exalted circles I might be deemed to be fortunate to drive a BMW but, for the most part, for me a car is merely a mode of transport. It might be classy, it might be comfortable and it might have few peers but when a BMW needs servicing or repairs, one rues purchasing it. In the annuals of motoring, the past month could justifiably be termed my mense horribilis [Latin for horrible month]. First it was my BMW and then Alesha’s Ford Figo. Notwithstanding those “challenges”, it was a tow truck driver who almost ruined the rest of my year to make it an annus horribilis.[Latin for horrible year]

Main picture: My BMW in less than pristine condition

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You cannot live with them nor can one live without them

I am not referring to one’s wife. Perhaps in the not too distant future one will be able to replace them with robots but currently they are indispensable especially if one’s wife works or is invalid. I am referring to one’s maid. This blog exposes that binary condition as it recently applied in the McCleland household.

Pictures: This series of photographs is about garage doors
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Robert Hamilton McCleland: With the Pioneer Column to Rhodesia

In line with my philosophy of using The Casual Observer as a platform to propagate my views concerning the events in the world, I also wish it to become a repository of the articles on the McCleland family. We are fortunate in having a printed family history entitled The Reverend Francis McCleland: Colonial Chaplain to Port Elizabeth 1825 to 1853. Hopefully this is the first of many such articles but for that to materialise, I require information on the family from recipients of this blog.

The first in the series highlights the achievements of Robert Hamilton McCleland who was a member of the Pioneer column which occupied Mashonaland in 1890

Main picture: Robert Hamilton McCleland from the Draaifontein Collection

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