Trip down memory lane by train

File photo: African News Agency/ANA

Expressing my growing irritation over Metrorail’s feeble excuse about the sand on the railway tracks resulting in no trains between Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek brought in a letter from a reader pointing out another aspect of the unacceptable state of affairs.

“I think it is just too sad,” she wrote “that our beautiful bay cannot be enjoyed not only by tourists but by regular train users.”

Years ago we would encourage visitors to take a suburban train from Lakeside station to Simon’s Town to spend a morning walking around the town to see the many interesting old buildings and the famous statue of Able Seaman Just Nuisance, the Great Dane which served in the Royal Navy during World War II.

For many years Atlantic Rail ran regular package excursions to Simon’s Town in refurbished vintage steam-powered tourist trains which were a lot posher than the daily service ones.

They offered tourists a step back into a bygone era and an absorbing day.

The outing included a tour of SAS Assegaai, a Daphne class submarine decommissioned in 2003 but kept on by the SA Navy as a floating museum and technology exhibit. There was also a light meal and a visit to the South African Naval Museum.
A review by a journalist mentioned how shocked she’d been to see the impossibly cramped conditions for those serving on a submarine, but she had enjoyed the outing enormously.

Unfortunately Atlantic Rail ceased all operations at the end of last year.
The reasons given were “the severe drought, water restrictions” –and wait for it –“the sand that has drifted across the tracks.”

The good news is that Ceres Rail has taken ownership of Atlantic Rail and has proudly announced on the Internet “that the tracks will be maintained and recycled water will be used for the first train trip to Simon’s Town scheduled for July 1, 2018.”
If Ceres Rail can get the sand off the track, why has Metrorail been incapable? Could nobody harness all those desperate job-seekers at the side of the road and give them shovels?

Music trio

What do music teachers do when they stop teaching? They start playing around of course.
At least that’s what cellist Erika Spilhaus, flautist Megan Ellis-Smith and pianist Val Heard did when their teaching careers ended.

Practising alone had more purpose when they came together to form the Melodic Moments Trio and soon the goal was to rehearse a programme for two concerts a year for invited friends.

Their latest soiree was held on Youth Day, Saturday June 16, at the Lakeside home of Erika and husband Spilly who is their handy in-house stage manager and catering co-ordinator.

Naturally the evening had to end with a bit of a party following the victory of the Boks against England at Bloemfontein and clinching the three-match series.

The programme was a “varied-genre” event, nothing too serious or too long, performed by the trio and sometimes individually. Pianists Margie Cowlin and Ella Pike also added variety.

A big surprise was the change in mood when dance/mime artist Isolde Stegmann gave a breath-taking display of leg, body and synchronisation in her “singing”, with plenty of oomph and suitable actions, of Mein Herr, Goldfinger and An Englishman needs Time.
Her costumes looked as though they came from Paris but she’d made them herself – even the glamorous arm-length gold gloves for Goldfinger.
It’s a dog’s life
Our home is beginning to look abnormal again since the return of Peri the Pup after three weeks in kennels.
While she was away, rugs were no longer askew. Carpets were unadorned with bits of chopped wood, pine cones and a marrow bone. Shoes on the floor were in no danger of being demolished.
Thawing food was safe on top of the stove without risk of disappearing. I learnt that lesson when she wolfed an entire malva pudding bought for a dinner party.
Now she’s back home we are on full “Peri alert” again.
She was to have been spayed on May 2 but that was postponed as our vets won’t operate before or during a bitch’s season as it is more risky for the dog.
Others do, and apparently charge more, saying it is more difficult for them.
What we did learn is that no two people give you the same advice about what can be expected as it also seems to vary according to the breed.
An experienced kennel owner told us that breeders maintain their bitches will only “stand” for four or five days during their cycle, but he had a bitch in his kennels for four weeks which went home and produced a beautiful litter of puppies.
I sincerely hope that won’t happen to us.

Let it flow
One of the lovely things about the recent rains is that when we walk along the paths in Silvermine we can hear water running even when we cannot see it. It’s bubbling away down a stream which is concealed by the vegetation. We walk on a bit further and we can see the water in dark pools next to the boardwalk.
The only uncomfortable thing about having a proper winter for a change is the fear of Eskom instituting another round of load shedding. I’ve started looking critically at the row of paraffin lamps on top of the kitchen cupboards and wondering if I should buy some paraffin. What’s in the lamps is brown with age.

Put your foot down
“My wife told me I had to stop acting like a flamingo. So I had to put my foot down.”

fionachisholm@iafrica.com