I am lying in bed staring out the window, images swirling in my head, my brain hopping around with a vague goal of getting up but no impetus. Two birds fly past the window, over the patio, heading for the sliding doors. One darts left at the last minute and the other flies straight into the glass door. Thud as it hits the door, another thud as it hits the ground. Silence. Then a whimper. Silence.

In the split second that they attracted my attention, I had noted they were Red-winged Starlings. I do this every time I see a bird; name it in my head. I am four floors up so I live in the birds’ space. Hawks and doves fly past at eye-level. Mousebirds nest in the creeper and mannikins munch my grass. My heart jumps at the thought of a starling killing itself. I don’t understand it as they are always around and this hasn’t happened before, not with a starling.

Questions whirl; is it a young bird? is it dead? why did this have to happen? It is horrible. Much as I love birds I prefer them alive to dead, (unless they are chickens). Now I have to go out there and inspect the situation. I don’t want to. If I didn’t feel like dragging myself out of bed earlier, I’m even less inclined to now.

After berating myself for ages, still staring out of the window into the middle distance, I jump up and go to the kitchen to make coffee, avoiding the sliding door. I dread opening the door and seeing the stiff little body lying there. I dread having to dispose of it. I don’t even know what to use or how I should dispose of it. Surely I can’t just chuck it in to the dustbin?

I peer through the glass. There it lies. Little black body with wings folded hiding the red flashes. Though they aren’t really red, more rusty-coloured. Big breath in and I open the door slowly. Next thing the bird twitches, rolls over and flies away.

My jaw drops and my heart lifts. I feel lighter. I sit down, not only relieved that I don’t have to deal with a dead bird but also happy that its alive. I am amazed because it was lying there for at least an hour. Probably stunned not dead. My opening of the door triggered its action.

I think of all the times in my life when I have been knocked down, stunned, bombarded with life events that seemed insurmountable.

Yet I am here still. I realise that I have never been defeated. Only stunned.


34 years later

When the father of the de Vries triplets turned 34, I said we would never forget his 34th birthday.

Now they are turning 34. The concertina of time tricks my mind.

I wrote this anecdote a few years later.

Lucky I’m such a hoarder. This little gem transports me straight back to that moment and I can have a good laugh at how upsetting it seemed at the time. I can also remember the 29 year old me trying to keep her head above water with no clue of what the future might hold. That future, now elapsed, has been both better and worse than I could have imagined. At that stage, we had not even discovered that Julia (Trip A in hospital) was cerebral palsied.

This is them at around the time of the tipsy tot incident. Michael was not even 3 then; he looks like a giant next to them.

I used to try all sort of things for their birthdays. I had read about triplets when I was pregnant and many said that they had hated the fact that in all birthday pictures, they were all photographed together, that they always had the same cakes and that they were treated as a homogenous lump. I took this to heart and every birthday, I made sure that as well as the group photo, photos were taken of them individually. The joint birthday party was quite hectic so one year, I tried staggering their parties; one from 10 to12, one from 12.30 to 2.30 and one from 3 to 5. What a stupid idea.

The next year, I went for different days; that was also exhausting. In hindsight, I’m not sure any of this mattered. Here’s one of the early ones; notice all the different cakes. That was thanks to my friend, Shelagh who was a whiz at cake making.

Birthdays became easier once they hit their teens; we sometimes did outings instead of parties. This was a picnic at Tala Game reserve.

This was a harbour boat trip.

And this was about a year ago at big brother, Michael’s wedding. They are all big now and grown-up.

It’s a rare occurrence for them to be together on a birthday now, has been rare since they left school. So weddings are when we have the opportunity for group photos.

Despite ups and downs, trials and tribulations, I’ve enjoyed these 34 years more than I ever imagined I would.

Seeds of Tomorrow – KwaMashu Bird Club

Meet Nomusa Mkhungo and her associate, Fi Mntungwa. Nomusa works for an NGO focussing on Leadership as well as Environmental Issues and Biodiversity. She had the idea of starting a bird club for teenagers in KwaMashu with the dual purpose of sharing her love of birds and engendering an interest in young people, hence the name, Seeds of Tomorrow.

IMG_1926 (2)

I began chatting to her at a bird call course that we both attended at Paradise Valley to which she had also brought a whole bunch of keen youngsters. She needed someone to assist her in taking the club on an outing which I was thrilled to be able to do. Initiatives like this need to be supported and encouraged.

We arranged an outing in Springside Nature Reserve, Hillcrest.


Most of these young girls, ranging in age from 13 to 21, attend Nqabakazulu Comprehensive High School in KwaMashu. They were interested and engaged. Very keen. They also knew exactly how to conduct themselves in a nature reserve. This is thanks to Nomusa. I wondered how they knew so many bird names as they haven’t been on many outings. They told me that Nomusa holds workshops and teaches them about birds. It was fun for them to apply their knowledge in the outdoors.


I discovered that they only have 3 pairs of binoculars which they share amongst themselves. There are 28 in the club but they only take 10 at a time in outings, to keep them manageable. I managed to rustle up funds to get them 3 more pairs of binos and an old pair that we no longer use, bringing them to 7 pairs. This meant more of them could get a proper look at the birds. If we could somehow get them another 3 pairs that would be wonderful. The binoculars have been donated to the club so that if people come and go, the binoculars will not go with them.

trying the binos

Trying out the binoculars

miss nyoni on the right

I named Bongiwe (in the red top) Ms Nyoni as she wants to be an ornithologist

We heard a Black-collared Barbet; they had all heard it before without knowing what it was. Then we saw it and it was lovely to see the excitement as they put the bird together with its call.



Girls feeling shy

The club has 3 Sasol Field Guides and every time we saw a bird, they all wanted to see it in the book; Nomusa’s good training paying off again. We had an interesting discussion regarding a Female Amethyst which we originally thought was an Olive Sunbird.


Afterwards we had refreshments and a bird quiz. I played calls from my Roberts app and the first to get a call right, received a Bird of the Year brooch which for 2016 is the Sociable Weaver link below). It was good fun and I look forward to another outing with the Seeds of Tomorrow.




Jelly on a Plate

I write to many

those who know

how they formed me

how each particle of jelly powder

mixed with the boiling water of me

how each whisk stirred this mixture

of solid and liquid

until the hurts and hugs

the heart-aches and happiness

dissolved and dispersed

Now who can tell the ingredients from the mixture?

Then the pouring into the mould

the mixture sets, solidifies though shaky

Who was the stirrer? Who chose the mould?

Who did the pouring?


I have been moulded

now I am firm but still trembling

Jelly on a plate


I am not the paramedic who arrives at the scene and saves your life

after you drove so recklessly

Nor am I the mountain rescue member who risks his own life to save yours when you are trapped on a ledge

after following an unused path

I am not the nurse who wipes your fevered brow bringing the glass of water up to your parched lips

after you neglected to take anti-malaria pills

Nor am I the fire-fighter who bursts through the flames inhaling smoke and hauling you out

after you left candles burning in every room

I am the driftwood that floats past as you struggle to keep afloat

I am the one you stop to ask for directions when you are lost

I am the fire extinguisher you installed in the passage

I am the calm after your storm

I support you

If you want me

Every Little Helps – Build Hope

house in Molweni

Please consider donating a small amount to this wonderful cause. Especially people from outside South Africa as the exchange rate is helpful. For $10 – a mere 2 cups of coffee, you could make a big difference to Thembi and her family’s life. She is a wonderful caring mother. It is easy to donate through PayPal and from little amounts, big amounts grow. So please pause, stop scrolling and click. Thanks for your support for this worthy cause.

Click on this link to donate and read more about Thembi and her family



Blocks collected so far

Thembi and Family

We are hoping to get an inside toilet and another room built before the summer rains

If you are not in a position to give yourself, please share this with your friends.




The racial signs were removed but the monster lives




This is the daily lived reality of too many black people in our country. If I want to be kind, maybe this woman was having a bad day and at least her daughter realised she was out of line. Bad day or not, I believe us white people who have so much to answer for, need to be asking ourselves why our default position is being critical and judgemental of others based on their race. That is, being racist. We who are lucky enough to continue our lives with very little change to our lifestyles. Why are we not more conciliatory, more understanding, more prepared to self-examine than to accuse?

How do black people continue being so patient? The response of Mpumelelo is measured and mature. He is still able to acknowledge that not all whites are like this, that sometime black people give white people an excuse for racism because of incompetence. I do not agree with this last point at all though. Why should black people have to even worry about giving an excuse to white people? yes, we want excellence but for the sake of excellence. Not to prove themselves to white people. No! to prove themselves  to themselves.

If white people encounter incompetence in other whites, do they suddenly became racist towards white people? No! they complain about incompetence.

In my view, if the attitudes of black people do harden towards whites, it will be the fault of the many white people who still behave this way. Even in my morning paper, The Mercury,  they are given too much airtime.

I do not relate to these people but I feel compelled to apologise for their behaviour much as Zuma had to apologise to the Mocambicans for the behaviour of some of our people.

I am sorry.

no guile

14Searching and seeking and wanting, wanting so much, yet not wanting; hiding and creeping and wanting nothing. Sunny but sad, passionately passionless yet hating, hating. Sunny but sinking, swimming and winding, wailing, wishing for what, what, what? Oblivion, release and peace at last. Having fun, being lazy, lazy lurking alone behind the rock; not being the rock. Yet reaching from the fathoms up to the sun. Without effort, without guile, guiltless, groping. No blindness just calm and peace, perfect peace.

Tentacles or tendrils, the fine line between
caressing and crushing
squeezing and strangling
Lurk, lurch, stumble, trip
hide in the corner, off-balance
is this heart true?
is it stuffed with pearls or are those pips
spat out after the flesh is sucked off
is this a heart of gold?
a bleeding heart that argues and breaks but is not broken
is in one piece
but somehow intact