Friday, September 17, 2010

Obsessed with the Boer War

I can't write blog posts or even watch TV.  I am obsessed with the Boer War - a war between the British Empire and the Dutch/Afrikaner 'Boers' at the end of the 19th C.   More particularly, I am obsessed with transcribing a diary kept by my Great Grandfather during his service among British forces in the Boer War.

The diary starts in September 1899 and I am now transcribing entries from mid December where he has just been placed in a unit manning a very big naval gun.

A page from the diary. 
It is exciting stuff but written in cursive with some quaint spelling and a distinctly old fashioned punctuation (they don't use many full stops or comma's, preferring dashes everywhere).  To further complicate my task, the diary was written in a carbon copy order book (probably from the book shop in Durban).  Each page is numbered (good) but in some areas only the carbon copies remain - the originals having been, perhaps, mailed or shared with others.  The remaining carbon has faded to the point of near illegibility and sometimes I puzzle for many minutes over a word or line.

To cover up my lack of blogging (nobody is complaining because my most loyal reader, my mother, is away at their beach cottage and my brother - according to Facebook - has LOST IT)  I shall offer up a few pictures to console you before returning to life with Wren and Frost (which is really fine, Wren doing okay at preschool but looking a tad "forlorn" according to Fred.)  I am not forlorn while he is at preschool so it kind of makes up for him being a tad sad.

Hluhluwe Game Reserve - September 5th 2010

Entering the park, you are warned about the dangers
of Elephants and ordered to remain entirely in the car
without arms poking out windows etc.

We liked the warning about elephants crossing
which they did at times.
Of course, pretty soon the Americans
had their heads out the window.
We watched this elephant for about 10 minutes while it ate most of this tree.
Elephants are very hungry (aka destructive) and tear down trees for practice (aka fun) even when
not that hungry.
This is a very cute baby zebra
until you realize it is peeing.  We started to say
that Wren was like a laxative for animals.
Whenever he was looking they would pee or poop
causing him a great deal of amusement.
This giraffe did not pee so Wren found it boring.
The first (white) rhino we saw.  These rhino were walking through
the burnt veldt which still had embers and small fires.

Wren has a odd expression because he is eating sweeties (candy)
He was often bribed with candy because he had to sit aroudn
for long trips in the car.  He also liked riding in the boot (trunk) and
not having to wear a seat belt!  God, I love seat belts.  Unbelted
children are a lot more of a nuisance!
This buffalo is pooping. Yes, really.
I just thought this was a really nice photograph.  My best pictures are of zebra because they are relatively
unconcerned by people and quite common.
The View from somewhere over something but no animals.  It was more often like this than the other pictures.
At picnic spots you can get out of the car and use the bathroom.
We saw nyala coming down to drink in the early
morning when we stopped at this river side picnic site.
.... and surprised some baboons eating seed pods on a tree.
We all love warthog.  When alarmed, their tails stick straight up like


hschinske said...

I have some experience with transcribing letters from that period, if you want any help. Sounds like a fascinating project!


Shannon said...

I am ploughing ahead (neglecting the blog). I have found a reference chart of cursive capitals - realized that the number 7 was in fact capital F which helped a lot. I only learned italic at school so its like decoding kanji.

My big question is whether I should remain entirely true to the handwritten original or add modern punctuation it is very hard to make sense of the Long Sentences when about 5 or 6 may ramble without a full stop - indeed an entire page may be Utterly without modern punctuation making comprehension a struggle I started off putting in punctuation - but now have stopped - Need to decide what to do