Checking the floats

In the late afternoon, when the tide was high, and the wind was starting to drop, we would catch mullet in the shallows of the river. My bother and I would carry a throw net over our shoulders, walking the river bank, looking for the silvery glint and shadows of mullet. The hardest part was hauling the water-filled bait bucket, so the bucket was close by if we hit pay dirt with a good throw. 

After a long walk in the soft sand with a heavy bucket full of fish, we rigged up the rods and baited up the mullet. The mullet became the live bait. We’d use a fishing needle to thread the fishing line down the back of the mullet and then weigh it down with a sinker on the one end and float on the other. Once the mullet was hooked up, I’d hop into a paddle ski and paddle to the middle of the river to drop the float, mullet, and sinker. My brother would stand on the bank holding the rod with the drag off slowly releasing the line. Once I was back on the bank, we would look out to the middle of the river and watching the float bobbing up and down. The live bait would attract a larger fish, the fish would eat the mullet and swallow the hook. Once hooked, it would try to swim away, but the float prevented the fish from diving and escaping.

The sun would set, and we’d head back up to the house for dinner. After dinner at around 8 pm, we’d bundle back into the car and head back down to the river to see if we’d caught anything. The first thing we checked was the position of the rods. Had they moved or been knocked down? The next thing we checked was the floats. If a float had moved or was under water, then it was game on. But had we hooked a catfish or was it a Leervis or a Kabeljou? Leervis or a Kabeljou meant we were eating fish for breakfast. Reeling in a large fish could take hours, but at that point, it was just adrenalin and patience. Reel in too fast and the line snaps. Reel in too slow and the fish never sees the bank or gets tired.

It was a long day. We’d caught the live bait, lugged around the bait bucket, rigged up the rods and reels and paddled out the floats. Looking back, the best part of the whole day was bundling into the car on a cold night and driving down to the river in the dark, not knowing what to expect. 

The reward of checking the floats at night is very much like laying the groundwork for most things in life. The joy is in the doing, and then the anticipation of waiting to see what comes after the sun goes down.

Foretelling the heat of the day

Christmas Beatles and cooing doves. The sounds of a South African summer morning foretelling a hot day to come. The kind of day where the pine cones crack and snap like popcorn as the heat peaks after lunch. Everyone in the bush has an afternoon siesta until the temperature starts dropping in early evening as a sea breeze breaks through.

The young and the old

My school in South Africa has a gray stone war memorial that is full of engraved names of the old boys who died in the First and Second World War. 

The war memorial guards a grassy quad where the school gathers every year for the November 11th Memorial Service.  

At the end of the service, the headmaster reads the famous and sad verse from Laurence Binyon’s The Fallen:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Everyone then repeats the final line: We will remember them.

Then there is silence. Nobody speaks, nobody moves. It’s an eerie feeling and a stark contrast to the energy and noise of a busy all boys school. Then deep down from within the hallways one of the senior pupils plays the last post and reveille. The long corridors and empty classrooms with wooden desks make it seem like the music is coming from the walls and rafters.

There’s something about a quad full of young boys speaking in unison and recognizing their fellow students from another era that hits home. I think it’s a reminder that so many young men, just like the boys standing in the quad, answered the call and left the safety of countries like South Africa, the United States, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, and Canada to fight and die in a war thousands of miles away. The ceremony moves old veterans who are present and young boys who have no idea what is to come. 

Curiosity won’t kill you, it’ll make you smarter

“Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. I think a lot of what people call intelligence boils down to curiosity.” – Aaron Swartz

Today was a good reminder to me that I’m only as smart as the people I talk to. Part of a daily ritual means making time to meet new people and explore new places.

Don’t rewatch the same film, branch out, explore new genres, new directors, etc.

Break out of the bubble and learn new things.

The practice of dying

If today was your last day to live what would your honesty and kindness settings be?

I’ve read that when people know they’re going to die, they dial up the honesty and kindness settings. What have they got to lose? It’s now or never.

Start the practice of dying now. Be honest and be kind now. Turn it up.