Guest author: Roberta Eaton ~ Beliefs and myths of southern Africa VI: The Sotho-Tswana people

This is the last post in the Myths and beliefs of southern Africa series and is about the Sotho-Tswana speaking people. Thank you, Sue Vincent, for hosting this series, it has been a lot of fun!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Roberta Eaton, aka Robbie Cheadle, shares the final post on the beliefs and myths of her home. Other posts in the series can be found by cicking here: Part One, Part TwoPart Three, Part Four and Part Five.

Myths and beliefs of southern Africa – The Sotho-Tswana people

This is the last post in this myths and beliefs of southern Africa series and is about the Sotho-Tswana people of southern Africa is largely comprised of the South Sotho (Basuto and Sotho), the West Sotho (Tswana) and the North Sotho (Pedi) people.

Most Sotho people were historically herders of cattle, goats and sheep and growers of grains and tobacco. The Sotho people were also recognised for their metal and leather work as well as their wood and ivory carving.

Flat roofed dwelling, built by Basotho farmers near Bloemfontein. Picture from https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/sotho-south-sotho-or-basotho

The Sotho people live largely…

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#Bookreview – Dark Visions, a horror anthology

book reviews

My review

I listened to the audio book version of Dark Visions, an anthology of horror stories from 27 authors, one of which is me. I have two short stories in the collection which I have not commented on in this review.

I must say right up front that I thought Kasi Hollowell did an outstanding job with narrating this book of stories. She has a lovely voice and her pace, pitch and tone were excellent.

I enjoyed all the stories in this book and found them to be vastly different in there themes, subjects and styles. This allowed for an enjoyable and varied reading experience.

A few of the stories were set in New Orleans and it interested me that voodooism plays such a large role in horror and dark literature in the USA. Dan Alatorre‘s story The Corner Shop was an excellent kick off for the book and gave me the creeps with a human skull playing an important part in the tale. Where did it come from and what did it mean? The naivety and lack of respect demonstrated by the characters was well expressed.

The Bloody Dogwood Tree by Dabney Farmer is an insightful look into the mind of a deeply disturbed and guilt-ridden man. His obsession with a dogwood tree and gradual descent into madness are well written and fascinating to read. The ending had an unexpected and clever twist.

Cabin 5 by Heather Kindt was a disturbing read for me. This story involves a young girl who has been sent as a counselor to a summer camp for children. Her parents are attempting to separate her from an unsuitable boyfriend and try and prevent her from getting into trouble. Little do they know how strictly enforced good behaviour by the counselors is enforced at this particular camp.

Other notable stories for me were The Stranger by Allison Maruska, The Storm by JA Allen, Behind the Leather Apron by Alana Turner, What If by Geoff Le Pard and Swimming by Frank Parker. These were stories that stayed with me for a while after I read them but all the stories in this book are well worth reading.

What Amazon says

From the creators of the #1 bestseller The Box Under The Bedhorror anthology comes Dark Visions, 34 horror stories from 27 authors.

Tag along on a con man’s New Orleans vacation where he gets more than he bargained for from a mysterious voodoo shop. A collection of family photos reveals an eerie secret about a beloved grandmother’s true nature. A child’s horrifying memories haunt her into adulthood. A new camp counselor learns that the camp has secrets she might not live to reveal.

Edited and compiled by Amazon bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of horror brings together the minds and pens of more than two dozen amazing authors.

Dark Visions will take you into the realm of the eerie and macabre, with thrills and chills from:

bestselling author Dan Alatorre (The Navigators),
bestselling author Jenifer Ruff (Everett),
bestselling author Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant),
bestselling author J. A. Allen,
award-winning author MD Walker,
award-winning author Juliet Nubel,
award-winning author Dabney Farmer,
award-winning author Sharon E. Cathcart,
award-winning author Heather Kindt,
award-winning author Bonnie Lyons,
award-winning author Sharon Connell,
award-winning author Geoff LePard,
award-winning author Anne Marie Andrus,
award-winning author Christine Valentor,
award-winning author BA Helberg,
Ernesto San Giacomo,
award-winning author Alana Turner,
Nick Vossen,
award-winning author Robbie Cheadle,
Betty Valentine,
award-winning author Frank Parker,
award-winning author Bonnie Lyons,
award-winning author Lori Micken,
Chuck Jackson,
Ellen Best,
Victoria Clapton

Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before spending the night alone, planting a tree in your garden, or even visiting your mother.

CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.

Purchase Dark Visions

#Flashfiction – Sea Mist

I had a bit of trouble thinking of something interesting to write for this week’s Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge.

This is what I got to eventually:

“Come on,” Colin called, moving purposefully into the thick, swirling mist.

Mary hung back. There was something about this mist that disturbed her. She could hear strange and distant noises like an animal feeding. The smacking and slurping sounds upset her.

“Come on,” came his voice again, already sounding some distance away.

Mary took a deep breath and plunged into the whiteness which immediately swallowed her.

“I’m coming,” she yelled loudly. “Wait for me.”

Her ears suddenly filled with terrible screams, followed by a loud crunch. A fine spray of blood splattered across her face and dress.

January 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sea mist. How does it create an environment for a story? It can set the stage or take the stage. Go where the prompt leads.

You can join in with your own, less disturbing thoughts, here: https://carrotranch.com/2019/02/01/january-31-flash-fiction-challenge/

New ghost story – A ghost and his gold part II

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Last week I posted part 1 of my new ghost story. It started life as a short story and is now approaching 9 000 words so it is a long short story. Naturally it has evolved somewhat over the course of this week and I had to re-write the second part of the beginning I shared last week (https://robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com/2019/01/27/the-beginning-of-my-new-ghost-story/)

Here is the redrafted second part and parts three and four.

The sun had crept over the horizon and bright chinks of light squeezed through cracks in the shutters in the main bedroom. The wind had dropped and Pieter opened them to let light into the cave-like room. He took a moment to reflect on how yellow the sun looked in the clear blue sky. It looked so warm and inviting but the layer of frost on the worn-down grass outside the window refuted that lie.

Pulling out his woolen shirt and jacket he quickly dressed. His feet were two unmalleable lumps of ice as he jammed them into his sturdy veldskoene [walking shoes] and tied the laces. The warmth made his toes tingle and he wriggled them to get the blood flowing. He picked up a small metal file lying on the floor just inside the wardrobe and walked over to the bed.

The old iron bedstead slid along the floor easily. Pieter inserted the metal file under a loose floor board and pried it up. Grunting with effort, he lifted a few heavy sacks from their dusty hiding place beneath the sprung wood floor. He dragged the heavy sacks over to the window and peered out. There was no-one about yet but smoke was rising from the direction of the farm workers kraals.  He needed to move fast.

Manhandling the sacks out of the window, he heard them hit the ground outside with heavy thuds.

Smoky clouds from his warm breath plumed in the frigid air as he carried the sacks, one in each hand, to the nearby thicket. Despite the cold, sweat beaded his forehead and dampened his armpits as he pushed his way for a couple of hundred feet through the dense bushes until he reached a wide clearing. He still suffered pain from the broken ribs he had sustained during the fighting in Kimberley in February.

He sighed heavily, the memory of the British defeat of the Boers at Kimberly and Ladysmith still weighed heavily on his morale.

A young tree, mud clinging thickly to its root system, stood next to a freshly dug hole in the centre of the clearing waiting to be planted. Pieter made his way over to the hole and shoved the sacks into it. He then placed the tree in the hole and proceeded to cover up the roots and the sacks with the rich, dark soil.

As he worked he thought about the last conversation he had with Oom Paul [Paul Kruger], President of the South African Republic:

“Take this, Pieter,” Oom Paul said, pointing to the two heavy sacks on the floor. “The farmers in your area will need it to rehabilitate themselves after the war.”

“Thank you, Oom Paul.”

Two days later on 29 May, Oom Paul had left Pretoria, travelling by train to Machadodorp.

Pieter stood up and stretched gently, trying not to escalate the ache in his ribs to an unbearable pain. The 30 000 Kruger pounds he’d been given should be safe until he could come back for them.

With a sign of relief, Pieter made his way to the barn which housed his covered wagon. His farm workers had arrived and they assisted him with inspanned his oxen in preparation for the two-day trek to his brother’s farm.

Pieter checked the yokes, skeis and strops for each pair of oxen. He did not want his animals to be damaged in any way during journey. Next he checked the trek chain, wooden wheels and spokes and the iron tyres covering the rims of the wheels.

When he was satisfied that the wagon was ready for the journey, Pieter spoke to his workers: “The British soldiers are coming. Mosiko and Mhlopi will come with me. The rest of you must take your women and children and go back to your villages until the danger has passed.”

As he dismissed his workers and told them to travel safely, bitterness burned in his heart like acid.

My farm is lost to me now. It is time for me to assess the future for me and my family.

Pieter and Marta loaded the wagon with farm implements, seeds, kitchen utensils, bedding and clothing. Lastly, their two little girls, Renette and Suné, wearing their button-up boots and carrying their rag dolls climbed into the wagon and Pieter and Marta took their seats on the wakis, or wooden chest, up front. Mosiko and Mhlopi took their places next to the wagon and Pieter cracked his whip. The heavily-loaded wagon lurched down the rutted track that lead away into the bush veld.

He smiled reassuringly at Marta. “Willem and Sannie will be glad to see us. We can help them around the farm until we decide what to do next.”

***

September 1900

“Pieter and my commando will be operating mainly in this area,” Willem told Marta and Sannie one bright and sunny morning in September, just a few days after the British annexed their home country of the South African Republic [Transvaal]. “There are enough farms in this area to easily supply us with our food and other needs.”

The two men were pleased to be operating in this area. It enabled them to make the odd quick visit to the farm to check on their families. They set off in high spirits to re-join their commando, a small military unit of volunteer fighers. They carried with them a supply of coffee, sugar, salt and flour as well as a quantity of Willem’s homemade peach brandy.

Britain might have annexed the Orange Free State and the South African Republic but the war was far from over. The Boer generals, Louis Botha, Koos de la Rey and Christiaan de Wet, had come up with a plan to use hit and run guerrilla tactics to cause as much damage as possible to the British administration. It was a good plan and the commandos were implementing it successfully.

The Boers knew the land which gave them a distinct advantage over the Rooineks. The Boer women were strong and hardy and well able to manage the farms on their own with their farm workers.

As Burghers, or fully entrenched citizens of the South African Republic, Pieter and Willem were obliged to serve in a commando without pay. They were expected to provide their own horse and Mauser rifle as well as thirty rounds of ammunition and their own rations.

They were prepared to continue fighting to defend their farms and status as Burghers and were well aware that it was the refusal by Paul Kruger to give in to the British High Commissioner’s, demand that the Uitlanders receive full voting rights after five years residence that had led to Pretoria announcing the start of the Second Boer War on 11 October 1899.

The problem of the Uitlanders outranged Pieter and Willem. Immigrants, mainly from Britain and given the name of Uitlanders or Outsiders by the Burghers, had flooded into the South African Republic during the Witwatersrand gold rush in 1886. The expectation by the Boer government that the Uitlanders pay taxes despite lacking any civil representation caused tensions between the republic and Britain to rise. The Burghers believed that granting the Uitlanders full voting rights would jeopardise the independence of the republic. Pieter and Willem believed in the principles of the war and were happy to play their part in the on-going fight.

“Oom Paul was most reasonable in his offer to Lord Milner. He was prepared to offer the Uitlanders naturalisation after two years’ residence and full franchise after five more years,” Pieter ranted.

“Yes”, said Willem. “He was also prepared to give them increased representation in government and a new oath.”

“Milner just wants control of the Witwatersrand gold-mining complex in our country,” they agreed.

Why, oh why, did gold have to be discovered on the Witwatersrand?

The words of Piet Joubert, Commandant-General of the South African Republic from 1880 to 1900 repeated in Pieter’s mind: “This gold is going to soak our country in blood.”

***

April 1901

The commando of men were bone tired. It had been a long day. The small group gathered around a small fire in a sunken basin in the veld and were enjoying a mug of their home-made meilie coffee while their meal, a mouth-watering stew made from a buck they had shot, cooked. Their resting spot had been carefully chosen and their fire laid with dry grass and sticks, to ensure the fire smoke could not be easily seen.

“This meilie coffee isn’t bad,” said Johannes de Swart, smacking his lips. “I prefer it with milk.”

“It is a sore trial for a Boer to live without coffee,” said Stoffel Engelbrecht, stretching out his long legs and showing the sheep skin patches that adorned his trousers.

Pieter took a sip of his meilie coffee and thought about his wife and children. He had seen them yesterday for the first time in weeks. His wife, Marta, had seemed despondent but the girls had rushed into his arms with tears of joy. Marta understood the meaning of the thick columns of black smoke that she and Sannie had seen on the distant horizon.

Thank goodness Marta and Sannie were able to supply our men with some mealies, potatoes and other vegetables, as well as biltong [dried meat], when we went to the farm last night.

Anxiety gnawed at his stomach as he thought of Marta, Sannie and the children alone on the farm. The vastness of the Transvaal veld, with its risks of wild animals and poisonous snakes, worried him, and then there was the threat of the Rooineks.

How long will it be before the farm is discovered by the British? What if they are taken into one of the concentration camps? What will Willem and I do then? What will the commando do when all the farms are burned and the crops and animals destroyed?

Low conversation hummed around him. The younger men were discussing the events of the day. The commando had utilised a successful hit and run style of attack to blow up a section of the railway line. The men were high on the success of the operation.

Pieter and Willem did not join in the excited talk. They ate their meal quietly and lay down to sleep, their heads resting against their hard saddlebags. Sleep was slow in coming. The ground was hard and they were still bothered by numerous insects that were still prolific at the beginning of winter.

Let me know in the comments if there is sufficient information to contextualize this period in South African and British history and if the presentation is natural and interesting.

Have a lovely week.

Roberta

 

#Writephoto – Fragrance

Lavender not forever

The strong fragrance reminded her of her grandmother. The garden overflowed with lavender bushes, their purple flowers surrounded by bees. They moved lithely from one flower head to another, foraging the nectar efficiently to take back to their hives. Nettie had read somewhere that the long-tongued bumble bees preferred lavender flowers to the short-tongued honey bees. The long tubes of the lavender flowers made them less attractive to the honey bees who had to stick their whole head inside the tube in order to extract the nectar. This resulted in unnecessary delays to their nectar gathering process so they preferred other types of flowers.

Lavender was her grandmother’s favourite flower. Nettie hated lavender nearly as much as she hated bees.

She had become the owner of the cottage a few days ago when the transfer finally went through. Her grandmother had left it to her when she had died a few months ago, at the incredible age of ninety six years old.

Of course, Nettie deserved to own the cottage as she had looked after her ailing grandmother for years. Towards the end of her life, her grandmother had become like the old man of the sea.

Her mind liked this analogy. The old man of the sea in the Sinbad tales tricks kind hearted travelers into helping him cross a stream by riding on their shoulders. Once across, the old man would not release his grip and the traveler became his slave. The old man made his victims carry him all over the island, never allowing them to stop and rest. Eventually, the victim would die of this miserable treatment. That is exactly how Nettie had felt. A reluctant and badly treated slave who ran around doing her grandmother’s bidding all day long and sometimes half the night too.

The lavender has got to go, she thought.

In her high heels and short skirt, Nettie leaned forward and started wrenching the lavender out of the ground by its roots. She threw the bushes into a pile on the lawn. She dragged more and more bushes out of the reluctant earth. Red welts marked her palms as the lavender bushes resisted her vigorous tugs but she didn’t care. Each bush seemed to represent some insult or infringement on her personal time and space by the crazy old bat.

Forty-five minutes later, her fine blouse clinging to her sweaty body and her hair lank and dusty, her vengeance inspired spree of destruction ended. She surveyed the damage and a small smile played across her narrow lips. The lavender bushes lay in a few untidy heaps ready to be dragged to the bonfire pile.

Tomorrow she would get the gardener to chop the bushes up into pieces. She would plant something she liked in their place.

Roses, that’s what I’ll plant.

Nettie loved roses, with their delicate coloured petals and beautiful smell. She would plant roses in every colour she could find. Her grandmother hated roses.

The above flash fiction was written for Sue Vincent’s weekly photograph challenge which you can find here: https://scvincent.com/2019/01/31/thursday-photo-prompt-fragrant-writephoto/

I also had some inspirational assistance from fellow author and poet, D Avery, who wrote this post: https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/fragrant-writephoto/. Mine is the antithesis to hers.

Happy Friday.

 

Guest author: Roberta Eaton ~ Beliefs and myths of southern Africa V: The Venda

I am visiting Sue Vincent’s delightful blog with a post about the Venda-speaking people of southern Africa, their myths, beliefs and a fascinating snake dance.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Roberta Eaton, aka Robbie Cheadle, shares the third of her posts on the beliefs and myths of her home. Other posts in the series can be found by cicking here: Part One, Part TwoPart Three, Part Four

Beliefs and myths of southern Africa – The Venda

The Venda-speaking people originated from the Great Lakes of Central Africa. The Venda settled in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa’s northern-most mountain range which takes its name from the salt pans that lie at its based near the western end. The Venda built their first capital, D’zata, meaning a good place, in the Nzhelele Valley. The D’zata ruins still exist today and have been declared a South African national monument. D’zata was important for the Venda people as they buried their chiefs facing it.

Image of the D’zata ruins from https://alchetron.com/Dzata-ruins

God and the afterlife

The Venda people are…

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#Bookreview – The Last Saturday Of October by Douglas Gilbert

book reviews

What Amazon says

How close did we come to nuclear war? Within a word, but most people don’t know the story.Based on the true story…Suffering PTSD and radiation poisoning from the K-19 disaster, Vasili Arkhipov rides the B-59 submarine carrying a nuclear torpedo into the Cuban Missile Crisis that thrusts him between Captain Savitsky and apocalyptic disaster. The Last Saturday of October is the real-life hero’s saga of the Russian sailor who saved the US from a nuclear firestorm on the most dangerous day in human history. It bears witness to the little-known B-59 incident in a scorching portrayal of the military standoff on Black Saturday 1962. It is a submarine thriller, delivered with the intensity of Red October and Das Boot, so detailed and gripping that it’s hard to remember that the wild tale is true. The declassified story of Vasili Arkhipov, the Soviet naval officer who preempted a nuclear strike on America, is told from the claustrophobic confines of the Soviet submarine, B-59 beneath the sweltering sea. It reconstructs the submarine’s journey from Murmansk to the Cuban Missile Crisis in meticulous detail and recounts known events from inside the hull, shedding new light on accepted historical “truths.” The world watched in horror, never knowing that their only hope for survival was a sailor submerged beneath the Sargasso Sea. Declassified documents, US and Soviet, furnish evidentiary artifacts of the B-59’s voyage and provide the factual foundation for the story that reminds us of our tenuous existence in a nuclear world, and how we nearly lost it.

My review

This book is based on a true story and is set during the Cuban crisis of 1962. Prior to reading this book, I was familiar with world events during the Cold War but not all of the detail. The story is told from a Russian perspective and, to me, it highlighted the anxiety for the Russian military leaders working in a regime full of spies, half-truths and entirely lacking in trust. It made me reflect on how difficult it must be, for the men on the ground, to conduct a mission under such difficult circumstances.

This book is incredibly detailed about the life of military personnel on a submarine during this period. It was easy to imagine the cramped space, limited and unexciting food choices, long work hours and, further into the book, the adverse weather conditions and terrible heat. I found some of the descriptions a be overly lengthily and technical for my personal taste. The book was slow moving for the first half, the bulk of the writing being devoted to technical descriptions and scene setting. The action picks up significantly during the last 40% of the book and the story becomes very thrilling and fast paced.

The characters were interesting, especially Starpom and the old man (captain). The author captured their thoughts, emotions and aptly described the heavy burden of responsibility each man carried on this dangerous mission. It is spine-chilling to think that but for the actions of one man, we could be living (or not living) in a post-apocalyptic world.

I would recommend this book for people who are interested in military history and stories about survival under difficult circumstances.

Purchase The Last Saturday Of October