Sam Basch

Sam Basch
Sam Basch

From Magersfontein to Matjiesfontein

It might seem curious that a high-ranking Scottish soldier who fell in battle at Magersfontein near Kimberley during the South African War should be buried 700 kilometres away at Matjiesfontein. Perhaps it was a matter of honour for a fellow Scot, the owner of the tiny Karoo village. For the other fallen, a poignant memorial was erected on the battlefield. This brings to mind what Benjamin Franklin once said: There never was a good war, or a bad peace.

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Sam Basch
Sam Basch

Brilliant minds

“… errors are notoriously hard to kill, but an error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat.”

This was the wry comment from Hertha Ayrton, British engineer, mathematician, physicist, inventor and activist, on learning that her friend Marie Curie’s work was credited to Curie’s husband. Why, for all she achieved by dint of hard work and a brilliant mind – and others like her – is Hertha Ayrton’s name not among the ‘Great Britons’ – like that of her compatriot Isambard Kingdom Brunel? Denial of women’s talent?

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Sam Basch
Sam Basch

Time travel

Hidden away in the Cathkin Valley near Champagne Castle in the central Drakensberg is a country store – more correctly the ‘Negosie Museum’. It is designed to take one through a nostalgic time warp into your childhood years of the 1960s, with household goods and foodstuffs of that period, still in original packaging.

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Sam Basch
Sam Basch

All that glitters

Humankind has always had a penchant for gold. It’s actually a fever, gold fever, striking down all those with the indescribable urge for quick riches. Up north in the Limpopo province are the remains of South Africa’s first gold-mining company.

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Sam Basch
Sam Basch

Birds and the bees

Delicate white blossoms tell us that spring is here. Not taking particular note of insects, flowers and birds in our gardens at other times, we now see the bees, tirelessly working their magic, and exult in the art of nature

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Sam Basch
Sam Basch

Pillars of Tower Hamlets

Four black metal pillars in a half circle, about three or four metres high, standing between two blocks of flats in London’s East End. To what purpose? Play things for kids? A work of art?

Actually the London Borough of Tower Hamlets was where the Stepney Gas Works produced coal gas for more than a century. Coal was conveyed by barge on the Regent’s Canal and converted here to gas for households, industry and the city’s streetlights. It made it a target for aerial bombardment in World War II. This now becomes an interesting story…

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Sam Basch
Sam Basch

Take a long view

Britain has the allure of timelessness and tradition, and a language that is spoken widely. The age-old traditions the Brits so jealously guard have their roots elsewhere. Even their English language was a Germanic import, brought there by Angles, Saxons and Jutes.

As the Danes invaded in the 9th century, and even settled in places, the Wessex king Alfred kept them at bay. He is credited with saving the English language. But William the Conqueror’s invasion from Normandy in 1066 almost killed English. Fortunately three centuries of French at court introduced a lexicon that massively enriched modern English.

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Opinion
Sam Basch

Flatten the flight curve

Mass air travel for all and everyone got millions flying to all corners of the earth. They clogged up tourist sites everywhere…

Though safe and reliable, aircraft are also noisy and pollute. Yet aviation is inextricably woven into the fabric of the global economy. Millions earn their living from it. Can we deny those the right to a livelihood? Can we deprive hundreds of thousands of tourist sites and businesses the income they have come to rely on since mass tourism started?

Covid-19 has bought us time to reflect on why we fly. We’ve got to flatten the flight curve.

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