2017: The year water became valuable

In 2018, and possibly even as far as 2028, when we look back at 2017 we will remember it as the year when many of us finally awoke to the value of water.

It was no longer a commodity we took for granted would always be there for us to use and abuse and do things like disappearing into the bathroom with a book, or a Gin and T, and have a long lingering soak until there was a shout for “Supper” or the water ran cold.

Did we ever think we would feel guilty about flushing the loo, washing our hair or piling a load of dishes into the sink with soapy hot water? Or we would risk our dodgy backs scooping into a bucket the grey water from bath to pour on to thirsty plants?

There have been other years of drought when the use of a hose for the garden or washing the car was forbidden. I remember in the 1970s filling a watering can from an outside tap and trudging around watering two big beds of thirsty cannas, but I don’t recall there was a restriction on the personal use of water, including limitations like the two-minute showers we are required to take today.

In the long term, it is a good thing that we now are so water conscious. It is a wake-up call to appreciate that water, like our parents whom we as kids assumed would live forever, may indeed run out on us. Never again must we take for granted H2O, the transparent nearly colourless chemical substance composed of one molecule of oxygen and two hydrogen atoms that is the main constituent of the earth’s streams, lakes, and oceans and is essential for the survival of mankind.

Water also plays an important role in world economy with 70% of fresh water going to agriculture. Fishing in salt and fresh water is a major source of food, and large quantities of water, ice and steam are used for cooling and heating in industry and homes.

It’s something to be treasured, not wasted.

Pups love plants

Our Dianthus’ days are doomed! Peri the pup has been digging them out and chomping the new seedlings to bits, preferably on the white sitting room carpet. Initially I thought the attraction was the smell of my hands on the foliage. So when planting the replacements, I wore gloves and sprayed them lightly with pet deterrent. It did not help.

It was when she selected old plants in preference to new seedlings of marigolds and zinnias that I wondered if the secret of their attraction lay in the common name of this popular herbaceous biennial – Sweet Williams.

For according to Google, Dianthus plants are edible, may have medicinal properties and the sweet spicy smell attracts bees, birds, and butterflies to which I can add with authority, a Labrador puppy.

Many legends exist but none are verified on how the pretty plant acquired its English common name which first appeared in 1596 in botanist John Gerard’s garden catalogue.

One version is that “Sweet William” honoured the 18th century Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, whose brutal slaughter of Scots in quelling the Jacobite Rising at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 made him very popular in England. Naturally the Scots hated him and they named the toxic ragwort “Stinking Billy” in memory of the infamous duke.

Evita’s voice heard

It was worthwhile seeing Evita again – this time in the Artscape Opera House – but I think I preferred the production in Pieter Toerien’s Theatre on the Bay.

The bigger stage does show off the impressive sets, particularly the balcony scene with Peron and Evita (looking stunning in white) being cheered by her adoring public on the ground below. However, I found amplification of the voices sometimes unnecessarily loud.

In fact when opera singers on that same stage are not amplified, why is it considered necessary to boost the singers in a musical? The acoustics in the Opera House are designed for singing as an orchestra should never overpower the voice. I know opera singers, unlike those in musicals, seldom perform night after night so a bit of amplification is probably helpful both for the performers and the audience. But it needs to be done, if possible, so it’s hardly noticeable.

Wood to go

Those piles of inaccessible wood chips in the Lower Tokai Park will be reduced by Friday December 22 thanks to TMO agreeing, at Parkscape’s request, to open for this week only, during working hours, the Orpen Gate (next one after the Ribbon Gate) on Spaanschemacht River Road. This will allow motorists, preferably in 4 x4 vehicles, access to the chips with the request that they drive with care and close the gate on arrival and departure.

Rather than SANParks wasting energy gathering up the remaining piles to avoid a fire hazard, Tokai resident Rosemary Berry suggests that the wood chips be used to identify the fynbos paths.

“They would create mulch, using a natural product; deter cyclists who, according to the signage, are not permitted in the fynbos; prevent water erosion and reduce the sand content.”

Rosemary is well-known for her monthly sales in her Tokai garden raising funds for the Karoo Animal Protection Society. She walks her two dogs regularly in the fynbos which she would like to see beautified by the wood chips.

Take a big bite

“I’m so lucky. I have a bulldog, spaniel and a Dobermann, but the only one in my home that occasionally bites my head off, is my husband.”

fionachisholm@iafrica.com