Monthly Archives: February 2017

Encounters #4 Gary Grasshopper

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Gary Grasshopper or Luke the Locust?

May I introduce you to Gary Grasshopper. This elegant individual belongs to the Acrididae, and there are 356 different species. Some of them are winged and others wingless, but all feed on grass and leaves and are active during the day.

Gary’s antennae have less than thirty segments and are thus relatively short; he belongs to the short-horned grasshoppers, which tend to live solitary lives.

A very close relative of Gary’s is Luke Locust: apparently specific types of short-horned grasshoppers can undergo a personality change and turn into locusts under certain environmental conditions. When population density gets too high and food sources have become scarce, these grasshoppers can experience an increased release of Serotonin in their brain, which causes them to change colour, shape and behaviour. In other words, Gary turns into Luke; grasshopper becomes locust. Suddenly they eat much more, breed more abundantly and instead of each going their separate way, they fall into line and start moving as one.

Locusts are gregarious and often millions of the same species gather together to form threatening, ravenous, often destructive swarms, feared since antiquity. Apparently, a single locust swarm can consist of up to 80 Million individuals, and each one of those can eat its own body weight in plant matter each and every day. They can cover vast distances, cross oceans and deserts, and one particular swarm has been able to reach Great Britain from Northwest Africa in 1954, while another flew from West Africa to the Caribbean. But locusts don’t only eat, they are also eaten; in many cultures they have served as food throughout history and are valued as a protein-rich snack.

After our encounter gorgeous Gary went on wandering his own solitary path. Could he one day turn into Luke Locust?

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Countries: Journey to Portugal

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All things going well, in exactly one month from today, I’ll be saddling up my trusted ‘Steppenwolf’ and start cycling. Viva Portugal, here we come!

What better way to prepare for an upcoming journey, than to read about the destination? Not just travel books – novels, travelogues, short stories, crime fiction, anything goes…

After a quick browse on real life bookshelves I came up with the following pile:

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Monica Ali: Alentejo Blue

Barry Hatton: The Portuguese, A Modern History

José Saramago: El Viaje del Elefante / The Elephant’s Journey

José Saramago: La Caverna / The Cave

Pascal Mercier: Nachtzug nach Lissabon / Nighttrain to Lisbon

Ines Pedrosa: In Deinen Händen / Nas Tuas Mãos / No English translation available?!

Francisco Jose Viegas: O Colecionador de Ervas / No English translation available?!

Cees Nooteboom: Die folgende Geschichte / The Following Story

***

Not bad for a start! On the virtual bookshelves the choice is as usual near limitless…

There are of course the literary giants, Jose Saramago, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Eça de Queiroz and Fernando Pessoa.

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Tell a Story, an awesome little mobile bookshop in Lisbon, recommended a bit of a younger selection:

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Jacinto Lucas Pires: The True Actor

Jose Luis Peixoto: The Piano Cemetery

Afonso Cruz: Jesus Christ Drank Beer

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See you soon, Portugal! More about the travel plans coming soon!

 

Encounters # 3 Bubo, the Cape Eagle Owl

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I met Bubo (Bubo Capensis) during an evening stroll and was happy when I realized he wasn’t scared of me. He didn’t even seem to think of flying away. He sat on his branch, orange eyes taking me in, as well as his surroundings, while the wind was playing in his ear tufts.  He looked straight through me, as if he just knew.

Watching him for a while made me realize (again!) that it is no surprise  that people of all – or at least most – cultures have always been captivated by owls:

Symbol of wisdom for the ancient Greek, wizard’s mate in parts of Africa, harbinger of death in certain areas of the Americas and messenger of the gods and divine ancestors in Asia; ‘Owl’ is Winnie the Pooh’s wise friend, ‘Hedwig’ Harry Potter’s trusted companion, and ‘I heard the Owl call my Name’ by Margaret Craven was a New York Times bestseller.

Cape Eagle Owls are monogamous, call in duet and sometimes like sunbathing in the early morning. They eat mostly small mammals, including bats, but also small lizards, insects and crabs. Like many other species of owl, they are able to fly in effective silence, their unique wing and feather design suppressing all sound that lies within the range humans, and apparently most of their prey, can hear. Recently, scientists have been researching the owl’s flight mechanisms and wing design to improve human-made aerodynamic design.

 

A wise old owl sat in an oak,

The more he heard the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard

Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?

 

Ever since writing “Healing Rhinos and Other Souls”, I’ve been fascinated by owls. Many a night they accompanied my late writing sessions with their calls, some near, some in the distance. And to this day they remind me of Walter, who always maintained that he could chat to them.

Walter had a special relationship with owls all his life, and the night after he died, the eagle owl in the terminalia tree outside his house in Vaalwater called incessantly, until the early hours of the next morning.” Healing Rhinos and Other Souls, p298

Thank you!

 

Adventure #1:The Idea

***Release “Healing Rhinos and Other Souls – The Extraordinary Fortunes of a Bushveld Vet” as Podcast and Audio book. (Just let it go! It’s been ready for a while, but my old friends, Ms Perfectionism and Ms Procrastination interfered… )***

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How are ideas born? Where do they come from? Why do they sometimes linger for a while, before they raise their heads and demand attention? Do they have a life of their own?

Where exactly the idea came from to experiment with audio books and podcasts, I don’t know. However, once that it was there, it seemed obvious that “Healing Rhinos and Other Souls” would be the perfect starting point. But how to go about it?

‘Things will happen when the time is right,’ my magic life-coach friend said and, as usual, she was right. After pondering for a while, things suddenly started to happen. Bokkie Botha, whom we’d later just call ‘The Voice’ kindly volunteered to read the parts of the book written from Walter Eschenburg’s point of view. The narrator’s voice, I felt, I could do myself, for better or for worse.bokkieb-1

The Voice – Bokkie Botha (©James Botha)

But where and how to do the recordings? Turns out that Farai Bloemendal aka ‘Farai the Producer’ has set up shop in town recently and is running a small but very professional recording studio. Wow! When the time is right…

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‘Farai the Producer’

A huge thank you here to Bokkie and Farai!

Things were running smoothly and production was nearly done, when we hit a serious roadblock. I had read the small print of the “Audiobook Creation Exchange” before, or so I’d thought, but somehow it had slipped my eye that in order to use their services, one needed to be a resident with an address and a bank account either in the US or UK. Dismay! How could I have missed that? And now what?

Ms Procrastination was celebrating, while Ms Perfectionism just said, “Perhaps it’s a good thing, after all you are not a professional narrator, and it’s not perfect!”

Ms Pragmatic replied, “Mmm, but what about the time? The money? The effort? The favours?”

I remember lying on the sofa, listening to this conversation in my head. “Hey, what about me, I really like it! And I want it published!”

“Do you? Although it’s not perfect?”

“Yes! It may not be perfect, but we all gave it our best! And after all it’s a memoir, and a personal book and I think people will just love Bokkie’s voice, and…”

More pondering and wondering followed.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea: Why not publish it as a podcast, serialize it, one chapter at a time!”

“Good plan; then people can listen to it for free , and maybe that’s a good thing? Then you don’t have to worry so much about it being perfect!” says Mrs Pragmatic

“Yes, and also remember, what you give is what you get,” I hear my magic life coach friend chip in, “you never know what kind of wonderful magic you are going to release.”

“Ms Pragmatic, now it’s your turn to find out how to go about it! Soundcloud, itunes, youtube…”

“Ok, Ms Procrastination, I’ll do that. Can’t be that difficult, we’ll start in the New Year…”

“And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect… Just give it your best!”

“yaa, but…”



P.S. Progress report to follow soon