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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The Rand Athletic Club 10km Race on 15th May 2016

In his heyday, I recall Bruce Fordyce declaring in his non-dilettantish almost boyish way that once the cosmos appeared, winter was nigh and it was time to peak for Comrades. His fragile figure belied his steely determination, his steadfast conviction and his obsessive focus on the minutia of winning the Comrades. Moreover with his urbane charm, he bewitched the South African public and seduced a nation with his self-deprecatory charm.

 On the other hand, for me it was not the sudden emergence of this herbaceous perennial plant which made an impression but rather it was the annual RAC 10km run a week before Comrades. Almost like a cathartic release, it signalled the end of the Comrades taper but more importantly, a heightened awareness of the daunting task shortly at hand.

Main picture: Instead of the usual field of 3000 runners, it was a field in the hundreds which pitched courtesy of the inclement weather Continue reading

Assessment of the Cradle of Humankind 21km race on 27th April 2016

Since the Krugersdorp Road Runners Club relocated their race from Central Krugersdorp to the Kromdraai / Sterkfontein Caves area over a decade ago, this race has definitely been one my favourite races. It is a genuine country run without the traffic flashing past at great speed. The undulating hills interspersed with game farms including a well-known lion farm provide an additional incentive to participate in this race. Again we were not disappointed as a liger was visible.

Main picture: Prior to the start, a hot air balloon silently floated over. All pictures by Margie Asprey Continue reading

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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The 52km Rhodes Mountain Race – Saturday 12th July 1997

The Rhodes Mountain Race has to be amongst the toughest and most unusual races in South Africa. Restricted to 80 entrants, the one aspect that makes it unique is that this is known for its snow. Run from the hamlet of Rhodes on the Eastern Cape side of the Drakensberg Mountains, at the 32km mark it passes Tiffendal, South Africa’s only ski resort. The selection of the date was deliberately made to co-incide with the likelihood of snow.

On my first attempt, I was not to be disappointed as the snow was at least a metre deep at the top.

This is the story of that odyssey together with John Mostert

Main picture: Between Mavis Bank and Tiffendal. Underfoot it was mushy with melting snow and slippery mud

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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 Draaifontein Collection

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My Rocket Scientist Brother and the Remotely Controlled Gun

Blaine might have been an Engineer but he has always been a designer at heart. Who wouldn’t want to be? But it requires a special temperament, a conflation of technical understanding and practical ability. Blaine possessed both in abundance. Probably because this was a tiny project, it would have been more satisfying than most as every decision was his instead of being split between a multitude of other engineers.

Main picture: US riverine naval boat of the type that was captured by Iran

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