Still me

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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday, 28 March: Off on vacation

Tomorrow I am off on a week's vacation in Cape Town and environs. Cape Town is where I grew up and has to be the most beautiful city in all the world. You may want to dispute that but wait for the photo's I am going to post on my return! My daughter and son-in-law are kindly housesitting Thatchwick for me while I am gone and will walk the doggos and feed the budgies and the garden birds who are accustomed to regular seed and fruit. Unfortunately Tristram usually chews his leg while I am gone. A bit like a child biting their nails out of anxiety. But all are in good hands!

Here is a bunch of Thatchwick roses picked this morning for you to enjoy during the next week.

I shall be back on 6 April! Keep well and be happy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday, 26 March: An inspiring movie

Tuesday night is half-price at the movies at my local mall. Yesterday evening friends and I were inspired by the unusual French movie: The diving bell and the butterfly. A true story, it relates how a former editor, Jean Dominique, editor of the French fashion mag, Elle, suffered a massive stroke while only in his early forties. It left him totally paralysed except for his left eyelid which he could blink! His speech therapist devised a code for communication using the letters of the alphabet. Watching him carefully, she repeated the letters one by one; he blinked at the letter he wanted to use and literally spelled out his sentences. In this way he dictated a short memoir which was published 10 days before his death from pneumonia. It is a most moving story and proved to me once more the ability of the human spirit to triumph against great odds. The diving bell was a symbol to Jean Dominique of his physical state, trapped in a speechless, seemingly useless body and the butterfly was the ability of his imagination and memory to transcend his suffering and create something beautiful.
We may not have experienced anything as remarkable as this story but I am sure you recognise the 'bounce back' factor! I love what Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians (ch 4 verse 9): "We are struck down but not destroyed." How many times have you felt like that?
And to illustrate my point, I took a quick photo of a patch of common garden flowers, African marigolds. These little flowers grow everywhere in gardens over here. You can treat them badly but they just keep on producing these cheery little orange-gold flowers and they seed themselves everywhere, bringing colour to the most neglected garden. They are a symbol of resilience!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday, 23 March: He is risen!

He is risen indeed! Easter eggs and newborn chicks remind us of our new life in Christ.

This Easter weekend was celebrated in two significant meals with family and friends. On Wednesday evening prior to the weekend, my daughter and son-in-law and friends shared a meal to commemorate the Last Supper. This is an old family tradition and we have shared this meal with the same friends for the last twenty years, skipping a year or two here and there. The meal starts with chicken soup and kneidel. The main course is roast lamb and potatoes and veg and our own butternut pie. We finish the meal with Greek pudding. As the leisurely meal proceeds, turns are taken to read a beautiful liturgy linking the passover as described in Exodus to the Last Supper of the gospels.

After glorious Sunday services at church I rushed home to put the finishing touches to another special meal. My son-in-law's family and his gran shared lunch with us and two close friends. We dined al fresco on the front verandah under the wide thatch eaves of Thatchwick cottage. Here is our table. The menu was cold roast chicken, Martha Stewart's potatoes baked in cream and butter, lentil salad and a green salad with fresh basil. Dessert was my plum tart delicately flavoured with almonds and decorated with nasturiums from the border near the oak tree.

Happy Easter to all bloggers far and wide!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sunday, 16 March: Hi from the guys!

"Hey, Trist! Wake up, pal. She's sneaking around again with that camera trying to get cutso photos of us snoring!"
"Uh, huh! Thought so. Let's put on our best pose! Maybe there's some gals out there in blogo-space interested in two eligible bachelors like us."
"Wag that tail and smile. Way to go, Trist!""
"Shift over, Galahad. It's me they wanna see!"

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday, 9 March 2008: "There is no frigate like a book... take us to lands away", said Emily Dickinson. I am a great fan of Emily. She can express the profound in so few words, which is a rare gift. Talking of books, my 'sister' who lives in St Paul-Minneapolis reminded me in an email that I had failed to post the list of books my bookclub had chosen in February and which I had promised in a previous blog post. We have now had our March get-together and I am reminded again to share our latest reading. In February we chose: Ghost by Robert Harris; Homecomings by Bernard Mendel and The book thief by Martin Zusak. This month it was the latest Ian McEwan novel (who wrote Atonement). I am currently reading The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg (who wrote Miss Smilla's Sense of Snow). It is rather a strange read so I am being seriously challenged. And this week my finds from the university library's New Books shelf were: The book of lost things (Don't you love that title!) by John Connolly; The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davis and The song before it is sung (That title!!) by Justin Cartwright. The beauty of being university staff is that our loans only have to be returned by September, unless someone else requests them. So these treasures can remain on my To be read shelf until I am ready.
My favourite recent read was Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates, who seems to produce another amazing book every year. Books about mothers and daughers and the complexities of their relationships resonate with me. Most of us vacillate between wanting to be like our mothers or wanting to be the exact opposite. I love the way the narrator in the novel came to appreciate her mother and her quirky ways after her death and how she discovered that the most ordinary mom has actually had the most extraordinary life.

Saturday 8 March, 2008: Sunflowers after the snow

After the snow, sunflowers bloom. Here is a very mature sunflower against a bright blue African sky to cheer your day. Today three friends and I paid a visit to the Margaret Roberts Herbal Centre about 35 km outside Pretoria, in a range of hills called the Magalies Moutains. Margaret Roberts is a household name in South Africa. She is a feisty enviromentalist, a sought after public speaker, an author, a successful businesswoman and a proud grandmother. A CV to be proud of.

Behind the bench blooms a bed of blue plectranthus. This is a genus belonging to the mint family, 350 species in the world and 53 of these in South Africa. The name means spur flower and I collect the plants of the species, mostly because they grow happily in the shade under my big trees.
Here is part of the herb nursery at the Centre. I bought another kind of plectranthus and a bay laurel to plant in a pot outside the kitchen door.
Margaret Roberts is a herbalist of note who writes and lectures about the medicinal value of herbs. My current favourite is basil. It grows prolifically in my herb garden under the oak and I eat handfuls in a salad, with tomatoes doused in olive oil for suppers. I have just checked again on its herbal value: good for stomach ailments and an anti-depressant.

Below flourish the lavender beds. Can you see the white butterflies?
An indigenous blue waterlily. Wish I had a pond with goldfish in my garden but it is hard enough cleaning up after Galahad's daily swim in the pool.
Isn't that the most stunning pink bougainvillea! It's the colour a diva should pick for a pink boa to wear at La Scala.
We had lunch under the trees and then on to the book launch of Magaret Roberts' latest book: The forest fairies and the great battle. It's a children's book, beautifullly illustrated and tells the story of the brave forest fairies who take up the cudgels against developers determined to ruin the countryside for the sake of the big bucks to be made from another luxury housing estate. Ironically, we saw so many new developments of exactly that kind on our drive to the Herbal Centre. This area still has small widelife like jackals, duikers (a small mountain buck about the size of a terrier), tortoises and a myriad of birds and insects; all ofwhich are driven out or destroyed by the bulldozers. I guess we do need the forest fairies to do battle all over the world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wednesday, 5 March: Is it spring in North Dakota?

Is it spring yet in North Dakota? I don't suppose so. Winter comes early; spring late. The pic above is the street in front of 'my' house taken in March, 1970 when I spent a memorable year as an American Field Student from sunny South Africa in Rugby, North Dakota. I attended Rugby High School, had an adopted mom and dad (the bestest), an adopted sister and kid brother. Did I have a jolly good time!

I delighted in my first snow just before Christmas, which swirled like white butterflies through the air. With only experience of hail storms, I expected snow to fall in solid lumps, something like a mini-snowball fight. The snow was magical but by March the magic had worn a little thin. I had a serious case of cabin fever. My daily walks to the local library through knee deep snow and 40F below temperatures were no longer fun. The librarian, a lovely lady called Florence, used to comfort me with her stories of nostalgia for poinsettias and bougainvillea blossoms. She hailed from California. My 'mum' tried to encourage me to cope by fantasizing about my favourite novel and all time favourite movie, 'Dr Zhivago'. At first imagining myself to be Lara-a-la-Julie Christie, wrapped in furs and waiting to meet her destiny in a white wonderland worked. By early May when the big melt down began, I didn't want to hear a word about Dr Zhivago and the Siberian steppes.

Here at Thatchwick it is the beginning of autumn. But more about that in another blog. In the meantime, if there are any North Dakotan bloggers out there: is it spring yet?