Thursday, December 24, 2015

Geseënde Kersfees en 'n Voorspoedige Nuwe Jaar! (Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!)

Michael - Thursday

We have a tradition of spending Christmas and New Year in the bush at Olifants River Game Reserve with our friends Aron and Jenny Frankental. I’ve written about our bungalow before, and how being in the wilderness areas of Africa recharges batteries for me that seem to be running on empty by this time of the year. It’s also time for reflection on the year that is past – the ups and the downs.  There have been downs – some we have all shared in this turbulent world, and a few personal ones as well. But there have been so many ups also.

It’s been a great year for Kubu! Orenda – our great new British publisher which one year into its history is hitting the top selling mystery lists – released the new Kubu mystery in South Africa in July followed by an ebook in November.  Orenda has plans to reissue the complete series in the UK starting with Deadly Harvest in time for Crimesfest in Bristol in May, and A Death in the Family to coincide with the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing festival in Harrogate to which we have been invited in July. In November, A Death in the Family made a splash in the US when Minotaur released it there. Even if we can’t live on our royalties yet, we can at least cover our drinks. If we stick to tap water that is. And the next Kubu book is with both our editors. Of course, we’re awaiting their input with bated breath, but we’re already thinking about the Kubu after that, as well as various other projects. But those are topics for next year.

Back to the bush. Christmas here will have only one traditional aspect: we will cook a turkey, although probably it will be eaten cold in the evening. Some fruit cake and cream will follow or perhaps a cherry flambé. Tuesday was our first cool day which followed a spectacular electric storm all around us on Monday evening, but unfortunately missing our area since we really need the rain. The bush is drying quickly and the river is as low as it was in mid-winter.  These storms can be extremely localized. Last week we had 4 inches of rain – about a quarter of our summer season rainfall – measured at the main office, but hardly any fell outside the reserve – only about a ten mile radius. The bush was transformed after that with grass springing up overnight, and animals, who seem to just know where the rain fell, trekking in.

The days before Tuesday all reached 100 degrees and Monday hit 105 before the said storm. Not really conducive to the standard Christmas day lunch pig-out, so the festivities will be delayed until the evening. No doubt a few glasses of wine will be shared. (An odd phrase that; I’ve never willingly shared my glass with anyone!) And the moon – near full – will be glistening in the water of the river in front of us. Possibly it will light the way for a herd of elephant or buffalo to the water.
As for what we have already seen so far, let me show you through some more of Aron’s pictures. Water is the center of everything here at the moment; most of these pictures were taken along the river that flows in front of our bungalow. (All pictures copyright Aron Frankental.)

Buffalo coming down to drink opposite our bungalow

And heading off
This leopard settled for a pool from the rain
Thirsty herd
Drinking NOT from the river
White rhino bull enjoying the river
Disturbed afternoon nap
Let me finish with a brain teaser. What do you do when on a narrow road with a sheer drop on your left, three elephants walking up behind you, an angry one approaching rapidly from the right and one in the road ahead? This is not a trick question. I had to find the answer yesterday!

I believe that this year all my cowriters on Murderiseverywhere will be celebrating the holidays in the northern hemisphere, so their Christmases will be much more traditional. I wish them all a joyful and white Christmas with family and good friends. Thanks Annamaria, Cara, Jorn, Sujata, Stan, Caro, Jeff, Susan and Zoe for your friendship and your words.

Happy Christmas to all readers wherever you are.  And as this is my last blog for 2015, I want to take the opportunity of wishing all of you everything you would wish for yourselves for 2016.


  1. Glad you found the answer to your brain teaser.
    Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season and thanking all of you for a better perspective on my personal entertainment. It has been a hoot!

  2. Michael, Here are my answers to what I would do in the brain-teaser situation:
    1: "Our Father, which art in heaven..."
    2: Drive forward and as far from as edge as I could, while making as much noise as possible.
    3. Be glad that, even though I have no idea how to handle the situation and am going to die, at least I will be doing it in the sacred African wilderness.

    Christmas Eve is the big celebration in my house. The food is pretty much all prepared and looking scrumptious. I've just had a delicious afternoon coffee and will be welcoming my guests before long. By midnight, my dining room will look pretty much as it does above and I will be happy to have celebrated with my gorgeous family and some wonderful friends.
    My loving greetings to all of you, readers and writers of MIE. You are my kin.

  3. Thanks, Michael (and thanks, Aron, for the lovely pictures!). I hope everyone 'here' has very cheery holidays! Yes, even (and maybe especially) Jeff.

  4. The photos I have of snapping turtles haunting my pond just don't seem as daunting as they once did. Thank you, Michael, for posting photos making me feel more secure. As for your brain-teaser, I'd simply keep pinching myself until I woke up from the nightmare...sort of what I'm doing at the moment trying to see if the good wishes from EvKa are real. :)

    Okay, I'm accepting everything as real today, and sending out Grand Holiday thoughts to all. Much love too.

  5. Obviously, your brain worked! You survived this conundrum. What did you do, short of sprouting wings and flying over the elephants?

  6. The answer is I got lucky. I drove forward with a lot of revving and...the ele walked off the road just in time...