Leopard toad-friendly art gallery in store

The large structure growing daily between two towering yellow cranes is puzzling motorists heading towards Ou Kaapseweg.
What’s going up on the site of the old Barnyard restaurant? It’s not tall enough for a block of flats nor does it look like a small shopping centre.

The surprising answer is that when completed by next March, Cape Town will have its first leopard-toad-friendly art gallery and sculpture park. It is being built by the Norval Foundation for its founder, the passionate art collector, Louis Norval.

August is the month when these endangered toads have sex on their mind and the adults leave their territory to congregate in water to breed. Unlike women who duck into the spare bedroom when they hear deep snoring (especially every few seconds), female toads are attracted to the noise which, in a chorus, sounds like a tractor or motor cycle engine.

On their journey to and from the water, toads often get flattened by motorists. This is why the architects – taking heed of environmental studies of their wetlands – have built several concrete culverts under the tar so courting toads can cross busy Steenberg Road in safety.

Louis Norval is a former South African amateur golf champion who in his “spare time” is a global investor with fine-art collections. One of his aims is to have them assembled for viewing in one place, hence the gallery and sculpture park which, according to a photo on the architect’s website, shows the handsome finished building standing in beautiful gardens.

It’s expected that John Meyer’s powerful series of 15 large-scale paintings of the 1899 Anglo Boer War, titled Lost in the Dust, will be on show there soon as the canvases are owned jointly by the Norval Foundation and Louis van der Watt.

Meyer is now considered the leading exponent of South African realism, taking up where Pierneef left off. His landscapes are said to be “less romantic and bleaker” and able to capture the vastness of our scorched land.

When the collection was shown recently at the Grahamstown Festival viewers were pleasantly surprised to see the war paintings were from the perspective of the vanquished and not, as more usual, the victors.

Mandela’s Last Days

Don’t be surprised if in a couple of weeks, we find the Sunday newspapers printing extracts of Vejay Ramlakan’s book, Mandela’s Last Days. The book was in the public domain before the publishers halted further sales, so it’s a question of how much money anyone is prepared to pay to get their hands on the text.

Some members of Mandela’s family are unhappy about the circulation of the physician’s book as it may prove embarrassing.
In her autobiography, Good Morning, Mr Mandela, Zelda la Grange writes in detail of the chaos of the funeral arrangements even though some members of the family claimed they’d been planning it for years. She is also frank about the way Graça Machel, Mr Mandela’s widow, was treated during her husband’s final illness and side-lined for the arrangements of his funeral.
“I don’t know of any person alive who has been treated with the amount of disrespect that people have shown towards Mrs Machel.”

Initially Graça Machel was only accredited with five places, including one for herself, to attend her husband’s funeral. That, fortunately, was amended.

La Grange also referred to “the total chaos” in the hospital when President Zuma and senior members of the ANC visited Mr Mandela and flash photography was allowed.

“Even the medical staff responsible for his health, General Dabula and Surgeon General Ramlakan were themselves taking photos rather than protecting Madiba’s eyes and looking out for his well-being. It was like a zoo, and Madiba was the caged animal that the tourists all fawned over.”

Grateful for police vigilance

The highlight of our week was to be reimbursed in full by Standard Bank for the money fraudulently taken out of my husband’s bank account a few weeks ago. When I enquired if it had been paid from insurance, the assistant gave an enigmatic smile and replied, “You reported the illegal transaction quickly.”

That seems to be a key factor to getting reimbursed.

I was in a book shop when a customer told the owner how she had had R14 000 taken off her credit card when she paid for coffee in a coffee shop. Suspecting her card had been cloned, she immediately contacted her bank’s fraud department and they reversed the transaction.

In our case, the bank’s fraud department in Johannesburg picked up one of the two suspect transactions and closed his account even before we were able to report the theft. We are very grateful for their vigilance.

Bottle feeder

I know it’s not exactly a world-changing discovery, but I was really chuffed finally to find a bottle with a neck that would fit the feeding tube of the bird feeder which fell off its hook in a south-easter not long after I received it two Christmases ago.

I kept the wire contraption that held the bottle for the sugar-sweetened water but had almost given up ever resuscitating the feeder when a friend urged me to ask the owner of a local plant nursery where she bought the feeder if he could order me a new bottle.

Feeling a bit of a fool, I eventually did. He replied, “It’s an All Gold tomato sauce bottle…the small size.”

What a simple solution for this simpleton!

Add water

A small boy knocked on the door of his grumpy neighbour to ask for a small donation towards his school’s swimming pool. So he gave a glass of water.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com.