Sing a Song

The cockatiel is much better, pretty much back to his old self. He whistles to go out, but the weather is getting cooler and I don’t want him to get sick again. He’s no youngster.

I was hoping to get a video of him singing ‘Jan Pierewiet’, but he spots the phone immediately and hides behind his slice of brown bread, peering out suspiciously. I was hoping he would become an internet sensation – Cranky Cockatiel, more famous than Grumpy Cat. Maybe next time.

It’s such a pity that so few of my students are willing to sing. I don’t know if it’s just a local thing, but most of them won’t open their mouths. Singing has fallen away at the schools, which may be part of the problem. We used to sing everything from nursery rhymes to folk songs and whatever was a hit at the time. Also so often people laugh at a child’s first attempts to sing. It takes practice, okay! It’s not surprising that many don’t try again.

In my last post I mentioned the Anthem Project. The South African Anthem is something of a patchwork. Five languages (Afrikaans‚ English‚ Xhosa‚ Zulu and Sesotho) and two different tunes. There is a clear change in the middle when it shifts from one to the other and changes key as well.

The first tune is a hymn, previously banned as it was used as an act of defiance by the ‘revolutionaries’. The second is parts of the original anthem in English and Afrikaans. And remember Afrikaans was the language of the oppressors. Yet it is in there. Musical unity indeed. We sometimes forget how far we have come, problems or not.

They are judging the finalists at the moment. Here are links to a couple of my favourites.

One of the finalists – Wonderful voices!

A cappella – unaccompanied singing.

And Marimba Jam

Another finalist

And the last finalist.

A Baroque version.

And opera.

We have elections today.

Nkosi sikelel’ Afrika – God bless Africa


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April 30, 1900 Two Minutes Late

The heroes are out there.

Today in History

Acts of heroism have a way of popping up, in the most unexpected places. Ordinary people rising to the occasion, in anything but ordinary circumstances.

Just recently, two teenage boys chased down a kidnapper on their bicycles, freeing a little girl from captivity.  The Poway, California Rabbi grabs hold of a gun in the hands of a demented killer, losing a finger and saving untold numbers of congregants, in the process.  An eight-month’s pregnant mother-to-be dives into the Australian surf, to save two drowning boys.

This is one of those stories.


Jonathon Luther Jones lived near Cayce Kentucky as a boy, and the nickname stuck. For reasons which remain unclear, he preferred to spell it, “Casey”.

Casey Jones was a train man, working on the I.C.R.R., the Illinois Central Railroad.

CaseyJonesPortrait Jonathon Luther “Casey” Jones

One example of the man’s character comes to us from 1895, when Jones was thirty two…

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Feeling Chirpy

The cockatiel has been on antibiotics for eight days and doesn’t look quite so much like a reject feather duster.

I wanted to get a video of his showstopper version of Jan Pierewiet, and discovered he is shy. Bring up the camera and he scurries off to the back of the cage. But he is looking, and sounding, much better. He wants to go outside, but we are going into autumn, and it’s getting cold. Enjoy your spring, northern hemisphere.

Thanks for all the good wishes for the little bird brain. Much appreciated.

This post is being written on my phone. There is thunder and lightning out there, and I don’t want my desktop zapped. We do pretty hectic thunderstorms up here on the highveld.

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Amazingly intricate art


Steeven Salvat

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A Cantankerous Cockatiel

The other day I went to take the cockatiel’s cage down to feed him and he had a go at biting my thumb. Now that’s not like him at all. He’s not used to being handled, but we have evolved a working relationship where he shrieks when he want to be fed/go out/be covered up or make a noise. I feed him/put the cage outside/cover him or tell him to shut up. When he is in the mood, he clings to the corner of the cage and sings Jan Pierewiet

So I took him to the vet and found out I have a Cockatiel with pneumonia. I didn’t even know that was possible! Poor little soul had a temperature of over 40°. He is on antibiotics and looks like a reject yellow feather duster.

Sick Cockatiel

He’s not a young bird, which may be part of the reason he got sick. Here’s hoping he makes it.

We had a week of load shedding recently – rotational power cuts if you want another term. Level 4, which means the power is off for two and a half hours and on for an hour and a half. All day and most of the night. Not fun. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores. I don’t really do politics here. Someone I heard of lit candles when the power went off and her three year old sang Happy Birthday and blew them out…

I am going to break my ‘no politics’ rule (that didn’t last long…) and provide a link to the Anthem Project. All South Africans are invited to submit their version of our national anthem and I will include links every now and then to particular versions.We are having elections on the 8th May and need all the unity we can get.

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I’m a Tiger, I’m a Tiger!

I’m a Tiger!

Some may recognize this as the title of a song by Lulu. (Released in 1968 – yes, I’m showing my age) This is Titch, enjoying the last of the long grass before it is cut.

My husband has been working on getting the grass under control. He was busy this morning when we spotted Titch doing her Fierce Jungle Predator impression. He smiled and softly sang ‘I’m a tiger, I’m a tiger’. He doesn’t smile often – it’s part of the Parkinson’s package. I laughed. It was an instant of crystal clear communication, and such a poignant moment. If you haven’t dealt with dementia, it can be hard to understand just how difficult communication can be. He struggles to find words, slurs and mumbles as well. He pursues his own line of thought, and then comes out with something that I can’t follow because I have no context.

We went up to the neurologist on Monday. One of the major freeways across Johannesburg is closed so I had to find another route. This was less successful than I hoped… At least we got there in one piece. Much swearing, I got hooted at a few times (I’m surprised it wasn’t more) and I rode over a traffic island. Look, I was watching the traffic, trying to read road signs and keep an eye on the GPS. I ran out of eyes. We were also late for the first time ever.

My husband has been having more problems lately, struggling to find the right keys, sometimes putting seed in the birds’ water dishes. He doesn’t know what year it is and misspells his own name. All the specialist would say was that his movement is not worse (how he walks, stiffness in his hands), but that the other problems are ‘the progression of the disease’. That’s not a happy phrase. He has been put onto an extra medication to help his memory. We will see.

We go to painting class once a week. it was suggested as therapy and he enjoys it. He produces some interesting work too – very much in his own style. Our teacher was talking about copyright a while ago (and emailed us copies of magazine articles to illustrate her point. Irony rules…) He would never have to worry about copyright, what he produces is so completely different from the reference image. Here is one of his paintings.


We have a coffee break in the middle of class. The other week conversation wandered onto dementia and out came all the stupid old jokes about confused elderly people with one woman saying if she developed it she would swallow a handful of pills. I sat there wanting to disembowel someone with one of the teaspoons. What do you do? I’m perfectly capable of creating a massive scene and have a great line in sarcastic comebacks. But it would embarrass my husband and undoubtedly spoil his enjoyment of the class.


A drawing of my husband dozing over a book. Not very clear, I’m afraid. My husband refuses to go without me and I’ve got to do something. Apart from disemboweling fantasies.

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Dirty Girl

And she paints with her fingers!


Iris Scott

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