Another Day, Another Blog

April 5, 2007

A ramble in time saves nine

Filed under: elsewhere, the joy of life — iamza @ 2:41 pm

     Long weekends are usually something I look forward to until right before they happen. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the time away from the office, because I do. But I tend to have such big plans for the weekend that I usually end up exhausting myself just by thinking about all the things I hope to accomplish, and ultimately end up doing nothing at all. What a waste of time!

     This year’s been a bit different. I’ve been so busy in the run-up to Easter that I’ve pretty much exhausted myself with work and family visits and travelling, and now that the weekend is just around the corner, I’m really looking forward to a few days of doing nothing. Which, knowing the way my universe works, means that I’ll probably accomplish heaps. Heh.

     May is a good time for vacation. It’s almost half way through the year, so no need to worry about using all your leave before the year is even part way done. My idea of a nightmare year is getting to the end of March and then realizing that I have no leave left. Stuck in the office every day for the rest of the year, with no time off for good behaviour. Scary, no?

     One of my old bosses used to work pretty much every day for a number of years, and accrue leave. Then he’d take off into the wild blue yonder for six months. When I left, he was dreaming of his next expedition: a trip to the Himalayas, and a chance to climb Mount Everest.

     James was a pretty amazing boss. He’d led the most exciting life, and had an amazing gift to make hours spent on the road pass by as if they were mere seconds. Well, minutes anyway. He spent one entire trip telling me all about his most recent vacation — he and his wife had travelled to Europe, and spent six months exploring the Alps. This included such romantic highlights as climbing ice cliffs and eating in restaurants located in hollowed out glaciers.

     Understand, James was not a young man — he was close to retirement age, but he still worked full time as a field geologist. This included weeks spent camping rough in the bush whilst mapping the surface geology, and periodically climbing down miles of ladders in the company’s small gold mines to map the underground geology, or stopping by the coal mines to have a look at the operations there. Working for James quite frequently left me feeling like I was chasing after a hyperactive two-year-old on a sugar high. I’d come back from a week in the bush, and collapse for a day or two. James, meanwhile, would go out rockhunting in a nearby quarry…

     The other thing that astounded me about James was his capacity to know exactly where he was (in a geologic geographic sense) at any given time. We’d be travelling down to one of the mines, and every once in a while he’d nod at the window. “Ecca Group,” he’d say, waving towards a roadside outcropping. Or, “Beaufort Group.”

     “How can you tell?” I asked once, after he’d gone into some detail as to the geological history of the Formation through which we were currently driving. I couldn’t figure out how he was able to tell so much about the geology without stopping to examine the rocks.

     “Oh,” he said, “didn’t I tell you? I have a photographic memory, and looked at a geological map of South Africa once. It had all the major roads marked.”


     There are times when I wish I could go back to South Africa. I’d love to catch up with James, find out if he and his wife ever did make it to the Himalayas. Go back out into the bush with James. Do some field mapping, and come back at the end of a long hot day to eat one of his famous stews. (I know there’s a term for stews cooked slowly over banked coals in the bush, but for some reason I can only think of the word potjiekos, which is probably wrong. Curse you, brain, for not remembering all the Afrikaans words and phrases I laboured so long and hard to learn).


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