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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wednesday, 1 October: Oktober, mooiste maand/ October, loveliest of months

Welcome to October, loveliest month of all! An early jakaranda stands in its splendour on Waterkloof Ridge; in Brooklyn below, a mauve mist covers the topmost branches of the stately avenues.

South African poet, playwright, novelist, journalist, chef, botanist and medical doctor, Louis Leipoldt (1880-1947) famously hailed October in his poem: Oktobermaand. Here's my very free translation of two verses from the Afrikaans.

Month of October! Loveliest, loveliest month of all!
The day so clear, so green at twilight,
The sky above, so blue and cloudless,
As vivid as a flower-garden, the ancient grey Karoo,
As vivid as a flower-garden, the ancient grey Karoo.

It's the month of October!
Seems folk here celebrate forever
in a month as heavenly as October!
Who can wish for more than flowers, as bright as day and night?
Who expects better, lovelier, glorious?
Who expects better, lovelier, glorious?
What care I for winter?
Why talk now of May?
What does it matter if dark days re-appear?
I'm now in October, loveliest, loveliest month of all
Each day so clear, so splendid every evening!

In 1902 Louis Leipoldt left Cape Town at 21 years to study for a doctor at Guy's Hospital, London. After qualifying with gold medals in surgery and medicine, he headed across the Atlantic to spend an interlude as medical adviser to Joseph Pulitzer after whom the literary prize is named. He travelled widely in Europe and the East, worked as medical inspector in London and returned to South Africa in 1914. His wide-ranging intellect and presence made a invaluable contribution to South African cultural life. Leipoldt is also well-know for his cooking and his documentation of the earliest and most traditional Cape recipes. Here is his recipe for a 'good curry sauce':

Pound separately in your mortar (which you should wipe out after each pounding with a little coconut milk) green ginger, fennel seed, aniseed, allspice, coriander seed, cardamon seed, a peach kernel and three blanched almonds, green and red chillies, mace, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves and fresh lemon peel. Cut up finely an onion and few cloves of garlic, with some thyme, basil, celery, sage and rosemary; and braise them in a little sheep's fat. When brown, add a few cumin seeds. Take all you have pounded and mix it with powdered tumeric, till it has a fine yellow colour; moisten with tamarind water and stir it into the braised onion and garlic; add more tamarind water to make a thick sauce. This you can use for making any curry, by frying your meat in it. If you think it burns the tongue too much , you may mellow it by adding sugar or by reducing the amount of chillies.'

I decided to skip Leipoldt's recipes for braised tortoise, leguan, lion meat and fried locusts, among others!

PS October 1 is also the grand Willow Manor Ball. I have decided to eschew my first choice of escourt - Mr Edward Ferris of 'Sense & Sensibility'. Although not a great lady's man, I am sure The Right Honourable Louis Leipoldt would have accompanied a countrywoman to do the long-arm foxtrot at such an auspicious Bloglandia occasion. So here we are, dear Willow. I am in a long beaded gown of turquoise shantung, which does such wonders for my complexion in the candlelight on a warm October evening. Much obliged!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday, 29 September: Blue Monday but...

I know it's Blue Monday, but who can feel blue...
when the first spring roses bloom...

and the bees make merry?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday, 26 September: Skywatch Friday & miscellaneous

Skywatch Friday: The midsummer sun sets over the African bushveld at about 19h30. This photo from my album was taken a number of years ago at Dikhololo (a small antelope) Resort just outside Brits in the North West Province, South Africa, about an hour's drive from Pretoria. My family owned a time-share week at the resort and it was a favourite getaway for long walks past grazing giraffe and antelope, bird spotting and close family fun. When our girls left home, I found it hard to stopover; after Richard passed away, I sold it. Some places you just can't visit again!
Today I popped into the office and sought solace concerning a Frustrating Form that I must complete for work purposes. A dear colleague, Cheryl, encouraged me with kind words about my blog which she had visited for the first time this week. She pointed out that, as a keen garden birder, I must surely have omitted two colourful, indigeneous visitors to my garden in the list in my sidebar. To make appropriate amends, I post a pic of the black-collared barbet (Afrikaans: rooikophoutkapper), who is a common caller at the morning fruit table. Not as bold as the crested barbet, its shrill ringing cry is unmistakeable.
The other omission was the olive thrush. This photo (off the Net) belies this little fellow's bossy, inquisitive character as he struts about the damp grass looking for insects or checks out the area around the dogs' feeding bowls for leftover pellets right under their noses.
Galahad wants the last word on the olive thrush:
"These silly birds nest among the twigs on the ground under the jakaranda. So what is a fellow to do now and again? A guy can't help being taken over by primeval urges - the good old hunting instinct and so on! Mom screams frantically and has managed a couple of rescue attempts. But I must confess to all avid birdwatchers, I have to plead guilty to olive thrush homicide on a couple of regrettable occasions. "

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday, 23 September: Catch the bus to Camps Bay

Unlike David Copperfield or Frank McCourt, I did not have an unhappy childhood. I grew up in one of the world's most scenic spots - Camps Bay, a suburb of Cape Town, which sprawls at the feet of the mountain range called the Twelve Apostles. Camps Bay beach is long and white with fine sand fringed by palm trees. Most of the year the cold Atlantic waters are deep blue and the surf continuous. Summers were spent on that beach: all I needed was a transitor radio to listen to the Top Twenty, a large beach towel, a library book and small change for an ice cream. How could life be better?

Our house, 'Min-for', the Welsh for 'end of the road' was at one time the last house in Hove Road, no 30. My parents lived there for over forty years. The view of the house in the pic below faced the sea; the other side, the mountains. From my bedroom window (top right) I could look into the neighbour's yards, watch the steamers and oil tankers moving around the coast to Table Bay Harbour or follow the twinkling lights of cars on the coastal road to Llandudno or Hout Bay. Studying on summer afternoons I could hear the sound of the crashing on the rocks and the tempting noise of beachgoers on the beach..

Not only was 3o Hove Road a beloved home to my brother and I but it was loved by our children. In the picture below, Ruth and Cath (aged about 12 and 10 years) pose grinning at the front gate. They spent every Christmas holiday for over fifteen years at 30 Hove Road. Its rooms and its rituals - early morning tea served in bed by Grandpa, the table laid with linen napkins where good manners counted, Christmas feasts of ham and salads, pillow cases left at the fireplace as receptacles for the midnight bounty of Father Christmas - are indelible childhood memories.

Which bus to catch? In my childhood we caught the Bakoven bus which departed at the top of Adderley Street, Cape Town. The swaying doubledecker wound through the city before taking the main road through Green Point, Sea Point, Bantry Bay and Clifton to Camps Bay. Up the hill to Houghton road where we rang the bell and hopped off to walk along Hove Road to No 30. As a homesick exchange student in the US, I would sometimes squeeze my eyes shut until I could see the stone wall, the little wooden gate and the plain staid solidity of my childhood home.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

20 September, 2008: An afternoon at the movies and prizes

An afternoon at the movies. No better way to while away a Saturday afternoon. Today Erna and I met in Brooklyn Mall for a long, chatty lunch. As dessert, we chose 'Caramel', a beautifully made Lebanese film set in Beirut. This movie was released at Cannes in 2007 and is a debut by Lebanese director, Nadine Labaki. A girlie movie? Well, being girls, we just loved the the tales of five women who meet regularly in a rather battered and cluttered hair salon and support one another as they face young love, old love, conflicting family loyalties and the fears of old age. The caramel, sweet and sticky, actually features as a depilatory in the beauty salon to remove anything from leg hair to moustaches. Eina! (Tr. from Afrikaans: Ouch!) It becomes a metaphor for the pain that is part of love, beauty and pleasure.

Saturday afternoons at the movies with my schoolfriends was always a great outing. First, the dressing up part. Should I look 'hip' in a white polo neck with brown corduroy bell bottoms or smart in nylons, low heels and a suit? A matching handbag, a touch of pale pink lipstick and lots of mascara completes the outfit. I dreaded a southeast wind blowing which would tear at my teased hair and flipups on the way to the bustop. As I lived the furthest from town, Sally and Susan had to synchronise bus times to make sure we all caught the same doubledecker bus. Armed with a Kitkat or a Cadbury's Milkbar, we were ushered by a white gloved usher brandishing a torch to our seats to watch: Dr Zhivago; Ryan's daugher; My Fair Lady; Zorba's Dance, to mention some of those great 60's movies. The best part was Seriously Discussing the Movie over iced coffee, topped with real calorie rich dairy cream afloat the dark bitter coffee. Cholestrol? We had never heard of it. Then the 30 minute bus ride home, a slow return to reality.

I have been the honoured winner of two blog awards. And I shall soon be awarded a 'Tardy' if I do not post them. Isn't this cute? Thank you, Carrie at Oak Rise Cottage. Carrie keeps up an interesting and ever-changing blog, showcasing many wonderful collections of collectables and vintage ware. The rules of this prize are:

1 Paste the logo on your blog (not on your fridge door! Doesn't it just look like a kiddies' love note?) with a link to the person who has awarded it to you.
2 Nominate 7 other blogs with their links.
3 Leave notes on their blogs (not on their fridges!).

So here goes. :

Now for the distinguished You make my day Award specially designed for Willow at Willow Manor, who has passed it on to me.
Willow, you often make my day! And so does:

2 Sreddy, my teenage student of English, who writes with skill and sensitivity and can chat about Shakespeare, William Golding, Robert Frost and Jane Austen (among others) with an unusual appreciation. He has his own little blog at Say you, Say me

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday, 19 September: Skywatch Friday

The Telkom tower on Muckleneuck Hill, Pretoria at midday is my contribution to this week's Skywatch Friday. In the foreground the Monkey Thorn (Afrikaans: apiesdoring) is in its own bushveld spring dress - russet leaves and blossoms which resemble furry caterpillars.
Now this has been quite a week, hasn't it? Banks in trouble and stock markets falling. I suggest that if you are feeling a little low, shattered or shaken, go outside, lift your eyes and gaze at the sky.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday, 15 September: Blue Monday ecetera

A ground cover in the garden welcomes Monday with its little blue flowers. The air is heady with perfume - flowering trees and shrubs are everywhere. Here on the Highveld, it is dry, dry, dry. We are more or less entirely dependent on rain to fill the dams and provide water. Yet the dusty landscape has just come alive, more or less, without a drop of rain since April.
First the syringas blossom - the lilac blooms enchant and give the allergy-prone folk the most awful hayfever.

Marais Street a block away from Thatchwick and part of my dogwalk route. The bare jakarandas touch branches. In just a week or two this grey canopy of twigs will be purple-mauve blossoms.

Ever seen buttercups growing on a tree? The tippuana tipu at Uncle Tim's. All these trees are non-indigeneous, unfortunately.

Thank you to all the great bloggers who visited me in the last week. I am hopelessly behind in answering blog comments. Will get there! But now for the poems promised. For Willow and Lavinia who confessed their quirks, two fun poems by Ogden Nash.

The porcupine

Any hound a porcupine nudges
Can't be blamed for harbouring grudges
I know one hound that laughed all winter
At a porcupine that sat on a splinter.

The shark
How many scientists have written
The shark is as gentle as a kitten!
Yet I know about the shark:
His bite is worser than his bark.

For Pamela and her princely Edward, Robert Louis Stevenson on invisible friends:

The unseen playmate
When children are playing alone on the green
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the children comes out of the woood.
Nobody heard him and nobody saw,
His is a picture you never could draw,
But he's sure to be present, abroad or at home,
When children are happy and playing alone.

He loves to be little, he hates to be big,
Tis he that inhabits the caves that you dig;
'Tis he when you play with your soldiers of tin
That sides with the Frenchmen and never can win.

Tis he, when at night you go off to your bed
Bids you do to your sleep and not trouble your head
For wherever they're lying in cupboard or shelf,
'Tis he will take care of your playthings himself!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday, 12 September: Skywatch Friday

The sun seems to set right at the end of McKenzie Street, Brooklyn, Pretoria in South Africa. The black tracery of branches are made by the leafless jacaranda trees soon to burst into mauve splendour. Myh first attempt to join Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday, 11 September: The SA National Quilters' Festival and remembering others

Before I tell you about our day at the South African National Quilters' Festival, do know that I join you in remembering those who lost their lives on September 11. I am also standing still for a moment or two in today's busy-ness to remember everyone suffering violence across the globe, especially those in 'small', so-called 'unimportant' countries, people whose pain seldom makes international headlines. I think particularly of our neighbours in Zimbabwe.

Does a report on a quilt festival combined with solemn remembrance make for insensitivity? I don't think so. Quiltmaking is the antithesis of destruction; quilts speak of warmth, nurture, love and the value of keepsakes. Quilts are a metaphor for the creation of beauty out of life's bits and pieces. Jagged edges are fitted into neat geometrics in quilts; patterns form out of pain; colour out of drab, mundane lives; cherished memories out of worn out clothing; something of value out of otherwise discarded leftovers.

My friends, Elisabeth and Noleen, and I took a day's leave to travel in heavy traffic on the Eastern Bypass past Alexandra, Linksfield, Bedfordview, Germiston to name a few sprawling Jo'burg suburbs, to Alberton where the National Festival was held in the Civic Centre. Don't you love this pic of ladies at the serious business of shopping for their stash? We don't have the kind of quilting resources you may take for granted in the US so the vendor stalls were a treat.
We did, however, first view the impressive exhibition. It took us nearly three hours to admire all the amazing quilts. Elisabeth led the way...
There were children's quilts...
Abstract and traditional...
Lots of wonderful African designs.

A traditional quilt made from Shweshwe cloth - traditional indigo dyed African cloth.

An African alphabet quilt - W is for Warthog; H for Hut; N for Ndebele and X for Xhosa!

The theme of the Festival was Shosholoza, the Zulu word meaning "to go forward." Certainly quilting in South Africa is doing just that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday, 8 September 2008: Blue Monday

Wisteria at twilight. I know wisteria are really mauve not blue, but their Afrikaans garden name is bloureen, which tranlates blue rain. The photo was taken on Friday evening at my friend, Elisabeth's driveway, at the end of our late afternoon walk.

PS Blue Monday is a blog theme introduced by Smiling Sal. Why don't you join in? I still have to work out the Mr Linky bit!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thursday, 4 September 2008: A fig for Mary

Mary at Across the Pond is making some delicious fig jam and preserves. Take a look! To celebrate her culinary endeavours, I have posted an extract from DH Lawrence's very sensuous poem about figs. It is a long poem so this is just an extract to whet your appetite.

Figs by DH Lawrence

The proper way to eat a fig, in society
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist,
honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.
Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom with your lips.

But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.

Every fruit has its secret.

The fig is a very secretive fruit
As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic:
ant it seems male.
But when you come to know it better , you agree with the Romans, it is female....

It was always a secret.
That's how it should be, the female should always be secret.

There is a wonderful reading of this poem in the movie Women in love (1969) by Alan Bates. Willow, take a look!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wednesday, 3 September: Exploring the art of happiness

Miss Daisy has graciously awarded me the Kreative Blogger Award. I am honoured and humbled, dear Daisy Chain! The condition attached to the Award is to list six things that make one happy. So I had to muse on this intimidating topic. The 'pursuit of happiness', one of the unalienable rights of the American people stated in the Declaration of Independence,is a lofty and admirable ideal. But guaranteeing the pursuit for one's citizens is one thing; grasping the goal successfully is another.

So with a little help from Roget's Thesaurus, I came up with...

1 Contentment - my life in cosy Thatchwick Cottage. My home is my castle!
2 Pleasure - a plate of pasta with plenty of garlic and herbs enjoyed with an ice cold glass of South Africa's best white wine (savignon blanc or chenin blanc will do). So dry and fruity, you taste the sunshine in every sip.
3 Delight - opening presents!
4 Satisfaction - a task well-done: the last stitch quilted, the last word written, the finishing touch to a great meal.
5 Bliss - snuggling down between freshly laundered white linen, the day lived productively - not a jot to add or subtract.
6 Exhilaration - animated discussions about books, movies, cabbages and kings over a cuppa with my best friends.
7 Joy - singing worship songs on Sunday mornings in unity with a congregation as diverse as only can be found in the rainbow nation.

Ok, I know I cheated! That is seven and the synonyms could go on and on.

Now it is your turn. I won't make a formal award but I open it to any interested blogger who wants to philosophise about the art of happiness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesday, 2 September, 2008: I did it!


Hey, there! I actually made a collage with the help of Picasa and our dear host, Blogger! This is fun!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 1, 2008

Monday, 1 September 2008: Lord of the dance

Late Sunday afternoons usually pass by slowly and lazily at Thatchwick. So making a 45 kilometre trip from Pretoria to Monte Casino, busy entertainment complex in Johannesburg, to watch Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance with friends was out of the ordinary. The Teatro vibrated at the sound of the fiddlers and those nimble feet tapping out the story of the struggle between the evil Don Dorcha (we discovered a sweet-faced young man after his mask came off in the curtain call) and the attractive, tall and blonde Lord of the Dance assisted by a wee bit 'o magic from a little flute-playing spirit. Stage lights changed in perfect precision, pyrotechnics startled and the audience clapped, cheered and coaxed several encores from the dancers. I loved the haunting Gaelic singing best.