Classic books never lose their charm

Peri, our four-month-old puppy, is into books.

She showed good taste pinching from the lowest shelves Winston Churchill’s Their Finest Hour (which I rescued before it looked as though it had been hit by one of Jerry’s flying bombs) and David Lodge’s novel Author, Author.

This is based on the life of the American-born writer Henry James, considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language but was my bête noir when studying the English novel at UCT.

Among our set works was The Golden Bowl, which I found unreadable and peppered with commas. Yet later this 1904 novel, along with The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, came to be regarded as his masterpieces and the foundation stones of the modern psychological novel. Our lecturer’s enthusiasm was not matched by his students as most could not get to first base with James’s complex study on the consciousness of the central characters, a father, daughter and their respective spouses, caught in a study of marriage and adultery.

However I found the sketch of James on the cover of Lodge’s novel Author Author intriguing. It showed the balding, grim-faced author in evening dress being pelted with rotten apples and red roses. The scene referred to the “most horrible hours of his life” on January 5, 1895 when he was loudly booed and hissed by the gallery when he came to take a bow at the end of his new play Guy Domville, which had opened London’s newly-renovated St James’s Theatre.

Lodge’s soo-readable novel proved an absorbing story, the core of which was this make-or-break production of Guy Domville by which James hoped to regain fame and fortune as a playwright since his books were no longer selling.

Instead he was deeply humiliated and took a long time to recover before he had another prolonged surge of creative power to produce his three final novels (including The Golden Bowl) which were mostly received by “respectful bafflement or blank indifference”.

He died a disappointed man. Future generations recognised his abilities and immortalised his name in the phrase “Jamesian”, meaning “the ambiguous, subjective characteristics of the fiction of Henry James”.

Adopt a sapling

When next you walk, ride, run or push a pram around the cycle path in the Lower Tokai Park you are likely to notice that some of those struggling trees planted in 2011 are sporting a ribbon. It means this sapling has been adopted in a community-based watering project initiated by Parkscape’s chairperson Nicky Schmidt, at the request of the Tokai Ratepayers’ Association.

I know most of us are struggling to keep our own gardens watered, but there is still room for people with strong backs and stout hearts to make an effort to help keep alive about 300 root-bound and neglected trees.

The Tokai Pony Club will keep their trough in their arena topped up with free borehole water for people to use on the trees.

The “Adopt a Sapling” campaign started at the beginning of November but already 145 trees have been adopted, on average five trees per person. One family has undertaken to water 18, bringing the water from their home borehole and distributing it from the pony club to the trees in their wheelbarrow.

For most people it will entail carrying water, either from the trough, from one’s car, or from the river as long as it is flowing. Some residents are looking to supply water directly from their boreholes, while others are bringing grey water from their homes.

Nicky has suggested that 10 litres (one bucket) a week per tree would make a difference, though ideally a bit more would be better.

But don’t undertake more than you can sustain. If you want to get involved – watering, mulching with material found in the forest, or building “dams” around each tree – contact Parkscape at

Little bead, big concern

I found a small pink bead in the road, which I first thought was a nurdle, like those which last month landed in their thousands on the KZN coastline after a container was blown off a ship in that intense storm. However, the two little holes showed that it was a real bead from a necklace and not a nurdle, which is a pellet-sized plastic ball used to make plastic products, such as bottles.

Millions are washed up annually on UK beaches and are harmful to sea creatures which may eat them. Volunteers usually offer to pick them up in Britain, as they did along our coastline.

Some years ago, two of the world’s biggest toothpaste makers went to court to settle which had the right to depict “the iconic nurdle device” – a wave-shaped toothpaste blob on top of a toothbrush head – in their advertisements – in their ads.
They reached a confidential settlement.

The word nurdle also has a cricketing connection. It happens when a batsman nudges the ball into vacant areas of the field.

Butter is a luxury

We had a pleasant surprise to read on our latest Brand Match slip that we would have R25 off our next purchases. Seldom have we felt so rich.

Scanning the shopping list, I thought we had been overcharged on the price of 2 x 500g of butter at R139.98. A phone call to the supermarket shocked us. That is now the price of Mooi River butter! Wow! I felt slightly better when a friend told me that she had to buy imported butter at R100. Bread and butter issues be blowed! Butter is becoming a luxury.

Forgetful husbands

Anniversaries were invented to give husbands a day to forget other than their wives’ birthdays – Craig Hansen.