Where have all our flowers gone?

It doesn’t take much to please our wild flowers.  A little bit of summer rain and a few cooler days and suddenly the fynbos is peppered with little blue flowers to brighten our steps. Determined to get to know their names, I hauled out our best local flower book – Mary Maytham Kidd’s Cape Peninsula South African Wild Flower Guide 3.

The copy looked too clean and new to  be printed in 1983 with a message from the late Dr Anton Rupert, then president of the SA Nature Foundation. Even more surprising was to read that Mary’s original book, with its 814 characteristic species, first appeared in October 1950, although plans started 12 years before in 1938.

The story is worth recalling. With the possibility of WW2  breaking out, Mary Maytham, then 24 and not yet married to Bishops’ headmaster Hubert Kidd, had returned  from England after studying art at the Sorbonne and London’s Royal Academy. She went to Simon’s Town to visit her retired Roedean head mistresses, Miss TL Lawrence, Miss KM Earle and the vice-principal, Miss R Scott.

As all were keenly interested in wild flowers they drove to Cape Point but found identifying the flowers was difficult as there was no popular illustrated publication to consult.

The teachers knew that Mary had won a prize at school for drawing flowers and boldly suggested “Why don’t you illustrate a flower book?” She took up the challenge and a few weeks later in January 1939 her first illustrations were completed and by 1943 the colour plates were ready for publication.

However, between the difficulties of bringing on board an expert botanist to name accurately the flowers and another to write the accompanying text, publication was delayed until 1950.

It is sad to read that by the third edition in 1983 some 30 species of flowers were by then extinct, their demise marked with a a sombre black dot. Makes one wonder how many more have disappeared through the pressure of land and development in the 36 years since our book was published. The Cape’s once so rich floral kingdom is getting poorer all the time.

Life is tough

Even more heart-rending than the increasing number of beggars standing all day at traffic lights hoping motorists will respond to their needs, is the sight of numerous young men and women with their little slips of paper desperately wanting somebody to give them a job.

These people are usually tidily dressed so they look presentable and their notes have either been typed out or carefully printed by hand. They do their best to make a favourable impression to increase their chance of finding somebody who will employ them. Sadly the odds are stacked against them.

The other morning when I was stuck at a traffic light for an unusually long time, I watched a neatly dressed youth of about 20 offer his paper to six motorists of whom only one would accept it. That motorist didn’t even have time to read the note before the lights had changed and he’d moved on.  Most probably to go to his workplace where he was employed and was not an employer.

In addition to the hopefuls on the road, I counted 75 advertisements in the January 17 Bulletin for those wanting jobs – housekeepers, gardeners, domestics and one caregiver. I feared the only few likely to get a favourable response were the two or three whose employers had recommended them.

It’s a tough world for those without work.  

Licence renewal

Several readers whose driving licences need to be renewed have asked what were the “relevant documents” that I took along to renew my licence.

Happily I had to hand the 2018-2019 telephone book where, unlike the previous directory, the first page has a list of the City of Cape Town’s key contacts.  I quickly found the telephone and email address of the driving licence testing centres, respectively 0860 103 089 and traffic.services@capetown.gov.za

One phone call did the trick. I needed my ID, proof of residence (like a utility account in my name,) two photographs, valid driving licence, R140 for the licence and another R45 if you want a temporary driving licence. Those living in an informal settlement needed a letter with an official date stamp from the ward councillor to confirm their residential address.

Everyone must complete and sign the DL1 application form which is available online as well as over the counter at the testing centre. It’s best to do it at home as it’s quite detailed but it probably won’t  cut down your waiting time to have and pay for the eye test. Reading comments online, two hours seem to be the norm … unless of course you get there at sparrow.

Fruits of the harvest

Our Labs are driving us mad. They’ve learnt to stand on their hind legs to pull unripe plums, plus their leaves, from our heavily-laden tree. Even though the fruit must be bitter they eat them anyway, adding unnecessary calories to their diet which we are trying to control since both were neutered a few months ago.

I thought I had foiled their greedy ways of snacking on the tiny windfalls by picking up sometimes as many as 20 each morning, but now the green plums are a decent size, the dogs have decided to harvest them themselves.

They must taste horribly sour but it gives credence to a statement I heard recently that Labs are missing that part of their brain which tells them when to stop eating!

A plateful

Bacon and eggs are a day’s work for a chicken but a lifetime commitment for a pig.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com