Lunar Legends

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In Afrikaans we have a saying – jy is met die maan gepla. Translated it basically means you’re infatuated with the moon. It’s something you say to someone when they’re acting crazy or weird and blames the full moon for their behaviour.
Can human behaviour be influenced by the full moon?
The word lunacy is even derived from lunar. Police officers and medical staff in emergency rooms insists that when the moon is full there is a definite increase in violence, accidents, attacks and people acting mad. Doctors at the Bradford Royal Infirmary in the north of England did a study of patient records for two years. They found that dog, cat and rat bites during that time were twice as much during the full moon.
During a full moon you sleep 15% less. There are a lot of theories explaining this occurrence. One of them is the inner caveman predicament. During a full moon visibility is much better. Predators can easily find their prey. That’s why cavemen needed to sleep with one eye open during a full moon and be alert to protect themselves against wild animals.
That brings us to the full moon affect. During a full moon there is more positive ions in the air than negative ions. The latter has fewer side-effects. Positive ions have an effect on your physical and mental well-being. Too much positive ions cause anxiety, depression, violent behaviour and road rage. Some countries in the Middle East are even more lenient with criminals if the crime was committed during a full moon.
Whether we believe that cursed men changes into werewolves during the full moon or that the Nazi’s had a moon base, one thing is for sure. The moon will always fascinate us and are a convenient scapegoat for acting a little strange.

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5 Terrifyingly Awful Books I Might Have Written In My 20s

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Tara Sparling writes

Bookshop ShelvesThere are very few writers who make it in their 20s. The few who do are endangered creatures; to be lauded, protected, and possibly locked up in a laboratory for serious scientific inquiry.

Many people believe that nobody should be writing about life until they’ve at least lived some. And indeed, many writers in their 20s encounter nothing but rejection, locked doors, and a tendency to gaze in the mirror a little too long as they wonder why the world doesn’t understand them.

However, a few others succeed. And I take my hat off to them (I am not feeling very well today, and am therefore wearing grotty clothing which do not bear description, but there is inexplicable comfort in sometimes wearing a hat indoors), because I would never have been one of them.

Instead, I am one of those long-time scribblers who spent their single-digit years writing cutesy stories, their…

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Ghosts of Prince Albert – Part 2: South African Ghosts

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In 1845 Queen Victoria gave consent that this tiny village in the Karoo be named after her consort, Prince Albert. After all these years the town seems unchanged with a mixture of Karoo and Victorian architecture. Thirteen buildings were declared national monuments. More importantly this town boasts with its own Ghost Walk Tour.

The town is filled with ghosts that seem happy and unwilling to leave this town either due to unfulfilled business or the desire to haunt the descendants of relatives and friends.

Firstly there is the doomed bride. She was killed in a coach accident on the eve of her wedding and now flits around the parlour of the house that is now the Fransie Pienaar Museum.

An elderly gentleman greets pretty ladies from the veranda of a house in Mark Street. When new owners of the house filled the veranda with bookshelves, our ghost showed his disdain by throwing the books on the floor. The owners accommodated him by giving him his own chair. It seemed to do the trick and he now happily guards the house. There is even a story that when they forgot to lock the door they will come home to find it locked with the key still inside the house.

In the old house of Dr. Mearns who treated wounded in the Anglo Boer War is the spirit of a young lady in a white nightie with lace at her throat. She is gleefully bouncing on the bed of Dr. Mearns. There is no record of who she can be.

A British soldier in full regalia marches up and down Bank Street during the midnight hours. It is rumoured that he is still protecting the bank where the money of the soldiers were kept.

There are always several soldiers haunting the tower of an old church in town which had been used as a hideout during the war.

The hotel is also the residence of a poltergeist that likes to fling vases against the wall, but politely removes the flowers first. He also makes scraping noises on the floor.

Between Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn is the Swartbergpass. It is a steep and treacherous road and people used donkey wagons to travel between the towns. Chrisjan Swanepoel travelled this road in 1901 and encountered a constable with a prisoner on his way to the local jail. The constable bragged that the prisoner wouldn’t be able to escape and waved his gun in the air. It went off and the stray bullet killed Chrisjan. To this day he still haunts the pass and many have felt his warm breath in their necks.

The most gruesome of all is the tale of the inn situated in the pass. Lonely travellers checked in, but never checked out. They were all murdered. A ghost took it upon himself to save travellers by taking the reins of their wagons and turning them around, trying to prevent them from going to the inn. This continued until the innkeeper was caught and tried for murder.

This may be a small town in the arid landscape of the Karoo, but the residents are colourful and full of otherworldly surprises.

Ghosts of Matjiesfontein – Part 1: South African ghosts

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Call it morbid fascination if you want, but ghosts have intrigued me since I was a child. To think there is a world filled with spiritual entities and we are totally oblivious to their existence except for the few of us that are gifted with the ability to see them and even communicate with the spirits. Sometimes these spirits do cross over into our world and we catch glimpses of the unexplained. It’s then when ghost stories arise and are passed on through generations. South Africa is abundant with tales of ghosts. Today I will start with one of the most notorious of these towns – Matjiesfontein.

Matjiesfontein is a small town in the Karoo. James Logan, an official of the Cape Government Railway, arrived in Matjiesfontein in 1890 and due to health problems decided to stay. He built the infamous Milner Hotel which is unofficially the hub of ghostly activities in the town. Most of the ghosts roaming the hotel and the town originate from Anglo-boer war.

Let’s start with the joyful ghost, Kate. She was a 19-year old Boer War nurse who loved playing cards with her patients. Unfortunately she passed away under mysterious circumstances. Sometimes she can be seen standing from the hotel’s top turrets. Other days the shuffling of cards can be heard from a small room on the second floor aptly called ‘Kate’s Card Room’.

Lucy is another resident of the hotel that never checked out. She drifts through the corridors in a negligee. Some say she is sobbing after a lover’s tiff.

Then there’s Olive Schreiner who wrote ‘The story of an African Farm’ that lived nearby. According to local residents her ghost can be seen either wandering the hotel or in the garden of her home.

Even James Logan himself is rumoured to roam the town, preferring the back lounge of the hotel.

At the turn-off to Memorial Cemetery stands a British soldier with a bloodied bandage around his head and his arm in a sling. When people stop to help him, he disappears.

The fields near the hotel were the campsite for British soldiers during the war and the hotel was a hospital. Residents swore you can still hear the pounding of hoofs in the still of night from the soldier’s horses.

Of course no town should be without its headless ghost. Along the railway line wanders a headless soldier. Then there’s also a legless woman wafting through the streets.

Whether these sightings are mere figments of the imagination or the real deal is up for debate. The best advice I can give is visit Matjiesfontein and do some ghost hunting.

My husband drowned his phone

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Now I can laugh about it. A couple of nights ago it seemed far less funny. First you have to understand my husband is addicted to his phone. It is an extension of his arm. If God gave you an option of having a hand or a phone he would choose a phone. He goes nowhere without it – and I mean absolutely nowhere.

The other night we went to bed. It was past ten and I was exhausted like all mothers out there. I crept under the sheets, closed my eyes and there it was – the scream of terror. The love of my life was in the bathroom with the look of utmost horror on his face. I did the logical thing and asked what was going on. He did look like a crocodile had attacked from the depths of the toilet bowl. He didn’t answer, pushed past me and removed the battery and sim card from his phone.

I will give you the simplified and censored explanation. Our toilet has a leak. For months it has been dripping water. I won’t go into any technical detail as I have no clue when it comes to diy. The problem is my wonderful partner hasn’t fixed it yet, so the only practical solution was for me to put a bowl beneath it. I wasn’t wasting water and neither can you hear the dripping.

That night my husband went to the bathroom and as usual took his precious phone with him. You guessed it, he dropped the phone into the bowl of water.

For the next forty minutes he diligently performed CPR on the phone which consisted of wiping and blowing with a hair dryer. I even suggested placing it in rice. I read it somewhere on the internet that rice absorbs moisture. Finally the phone returned to life.

This was however not the end. He has a Blackberry. The little troublesome device wanted an email and password to activate the phone. Email was no problem, but his highness couldn’t remember the password. It was past eleven now and I wasn’t happy. I counted the hours I had left to sleep in my head.

Hubby was now in full panic mode and I was grumpy. I knew had to save him. I switched on the computer and did a password reset for him. Another half hour had passed. I had enough. I got in bed and went to sleep while he cradled his phone and whispered something that sounded suspiciously like ‘my precious’…

My husband drowned his phone

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Now I can laugh about it. A couple of nights ago it seemed far less funny. First you have to understand my husband is addicted to his phone. It is an extension of his arm. If God gave you an option of having a hand or a phone he would choose a phone. He goes nowhere without it – and I mean absolutely nowhere.

The other night we went to bed. It was past ten and I was exhausted like all mothers out there. I crept under the sheets, closed my eyes and there it was – the scream of terror. The love of my life was in the bathroom with the look of utmost horror on his face. I did the logical thing and asked what was going on. He did look like a crocodile had attacked from the depths of the toilet bowl. He didn’t answer, pushed past me and removed the battery and sim card from his phone.

I will give you the simplified and censored explanation. Our toilet has a leak. For months it has been dripping water. I won’t go into any technical detail as I have no clue when it comes to diy. The problem is my wonderful partner hasn’t fixed it yet, so the only practical solution was for me to put a bowl beneath it. I wasn’t wasting water and neither can you hear the dripping.

That night my husband went to the bathroom and as usual took his precious phone with him. You guessed it, he dropped the phone into the bowl of water.

For the next forty minutes he diligently performed CPR on the phone which consisted of wiping and blowing with a hair dryer. I even suggested placing it in rice. I read it somewhere on the internet that rice absorbs moisture. Finally the phone returned to life.

This was however not the end. He has a Blackberry. The little troublesome device wanted an email and password to activate the phone. Email was no problem, but his highness couldn’t remember the password. It was past eleven now and I wasn’t happy. I counted the hours I had left to sleep in my head.

Hubby was now in full panic mode and I was grumpy. I knew had to save him. I switched on the computer and did a password reset for him. Another half hour had passed. I had enough. I got in bed and went to sleep while he cradled his phone and whispered something that sounded suspiciously like my precious…

A violent blue Monday

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This morning started out as any other. Perfect blue skies with the promise of spring in the air. Another day in sunny South-Africa.
If I could only hear myself think over the roar of the police helicopter circling above. A couple of blocks from my house a Nigerian drug dealer were killed in the early morning hours. It’s still unknown who killed him and what the motive was. The problem is that suddenly a mob of Nigerians appeared, all armed to the teeth, and are blocking streets and attacking passerby’s and traffic in retaliation for their fallen comrade. Houses were evacuated as this is a suburban area. Police had to flock to the primary school amidst the violence to protect the innocent children.
My house is still far enough away from all of this, but close enough to feel restless (and hear the gunshots). If that isn’t enough excitement for the day, workers at a platinum mine close by decided that today was also the perfect day for an impromptu strike. Roads are closed and police riot vehicles are speeding up and down to contain the situation that could turn into a full scale riot at any second.
I know it’s just another day in South-Africa with the scales balanced precariously between peace and violence.
To make my day even better, we don’t have electricity. Another power outage… Yesterday there was no water…
Service delivery protests have increased from 162 in 2008 to 470 in 2012. I don’t agree with any kind of violence, but I cannot blame people with getting frustrated and tired. I’ve considered dropping my dirty washing and dishes on the steps of the municipality and toi-toi in the streets.
It’s become a way of life here to be without either water or electricity. The masses are tired of poor or no service delivery and the ongoing corruption in our local municipalities. The sad fact is that most of these protests turn violent, with already 7 people killed during these protests this year alone.
Today is a bitter-sweet day for me. A perfect day in one of the most picturesque towns marred by violence and frustration.