Early summer lowveld clouds are like ANC politicians. Full of promise, inescapably short on delivery. Every day for the last week I have woken to leaden skies low enough to bang your head on and winds that would make Cape Point jealous. Then, by 11h00 they have gone away and we are left rushing for the shade.
A week ago, I woke at 05h00 to a sky blacker than the inside of a mamba’s mouth. Today! There will be rain today! I rejoiced to myself while donning my rain jacket in anticipation. And rain it did. About 65 drops. Enough to wet the seats of my open Land Rover but not enough to make any self-respecting grass plant sprout a leaf. Meanwhile, the wind continues to cover everything in a fine layer of dust – each week I sweep a bucket full out of my bedroom (along with hundreds of beetles, moths and assorted other insects that commit suicide on my bedside lamp).
Still, we wait with great excitement for the first storm of the summer. The sense of anticipation is heightened by the songs of frogs on the warm nights and the mopane trees which have started to flush beautiful pink, orange and translucent minty green.
– James Hendry
On the 2nd of September, I woke up in a pool of sweat and panicked.
Malaria! What else could possibly explain the sweating?
I flung off the sodden bedclothes and retrieved a malaria test kit. I frantically tore the box open, lacerated my left middle finger and poured a litre of blood into the little tester thingy, applied the solution and sat back gasping.
Five minutes later, only one line. No malaria.
In the lowveld, especially the northern reaches, winter is pleasant. The nights seldom drop below six degrees and the days are a normally a balmy 25ish. At higher latitudes, summer gives you a bit of a warning. This warning is called spring. It allows your body to acclimatise to the increasing temperatures such that when summer is in full force, your body is ok with it.
This is not the case here. There is no warning. There is no spring. There is winter and then one day, the air has gone from balmy to that at the centre of a neutron star. The day summer arrives, the dawn sky is just a bit bleached and, then, once you have checked for dread disease, you know summer is here.
While the midday heat is a shock, the evenings are different – the light softens, the heat eases and the frogs and insects begin their summer songs.
– James Hendry