Still me

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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday, 30 June: Prizegiving time

It's prizegiving time and my name has been called. I have been awarded the Arte Y Pico award from dear Theresa . Thank you so much this elegant award.It is just awesome and it orginates in Uruguay. So the world closes in and we are all neighbours!

Gal and Trist are most impressed.
"Hey,Gal, wakey, wakey, we won an award!"
"What's that, Trist? Can we eat it?"
"No, stupid! An award's something, something that makes Mom really happy! Now she's smiling and dashing off dozens of notes to folk faraway. And telling them how cute their dogs are!"

I now must do my share and award some dear bloggers the grand Arte Y Pico! How difficult that is! So difficult, I shall leave the choice for tomorrow. So watch this space.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday, 26 June: Playing tag

Dashing around the garden, swinging around tree trunks, through the dahlias, skipping over the stone edgings to the flowerbeds, hither and thither! Red faced, perspiring foreheads, jerseys torn off and discarded on the grass! Wild screams of excitement!

"You're on, Shannon...Peter...Cathy...Eleanor!"
"Ag no, it's already half past five. Where's your Mom? I have to thank her. I have to go! Mrs Kell, thank you for having me!"
"Mom, can I just walk with Eleanor to the corner, please, please, please?"

I loved playing tag, except we never called it tag. To my best friend, Shannon, her brother and sister, it was "On, On" or "Touch". If touched, it was your turn to chase the others round and round the garden of our homes while they teased and taunted you. Long afternoons of touch, hide and seek, swinging or jumping over sticks laid out the lawn always ended with the obligatory formal thanks to Mother and pleas to be allowed to accompany each other to the corner where we could have a last lingering chat.

Now Rhondi has tagged me and to secure my release, here are five of my many favourite things.

My favourite childhood book: The secret garden. "Oh, the things that happened in that garden! If you have never had a garden, you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden, you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass there. The green things began to show buds, and the buds began to unfurl and show colour, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson."


My Victorian dresser filled with treasures in my bedroom.


This little Spode tea and coffee set just for one, arranged on one of my embroidered traycloths together with my grandmother's birthday book published in 1883.


Since I now live alone in an empty nest, I no longer have to buy bumper packs of economy soap at the supermarket! Instead I can treat myself to Roger Gallet's imported perfumed soaps from Paris. Round in shape, just the right size for your palm and rich and creamy!


I love all my Royal Doulton figurines, especially the little shepherd and the old balloon lady.

Now it's my turn! I shall 'touch':
Tracy at Pink Purl in Norway
Karen Harvey Cox at A scrapbook of inspiration
Dee Dee at Love White Linen
Daisy Chain
And any other dear friends, who are game for a game. Willow, Mary, Alexandra, Fairmaiden, Lavinia?

Let us post three of four of our favourite places in our neighbourhoods.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday, 20 June: A tribute

Today my husband, Richard (1948-2003) would have turned 60 year old. Catherine, my youngest daughter, painted this portrait of her dad and herself. She wanted to communicate the link between them and deliberately painted only a part of her own face in the shadows. Cath really captured something of Richard's personality and his dry sense of humour. Ruth also painted a portrait of her dad which hangs in her home. This evening we are going out for a meal to celebrate his life.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday, 19 June: Snapshots from Bloemfontein

My long weekend in Bloemfontein(Afrikaans/Dutch: fountain of flowers) was far too short! This is my daughter's home, a striking house built in typical Cape Dutch style, which is unusual architecture for this part of the country. Perhaps the original owners were hankering for the lush Cape scenery in this arid part of the country, halfway on the national highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Bloem, as the city is affectionately known, has a modest population of about 370 000. Its Sotho name is Mangaung: place of the cheetahs.

Bloem is also known as the city of the roses due to the abundance of roses grown in the city and the annual rose festival held here. So what better way to spend Saturday morning, but at the well-known rose farm: Roses for you, attending a workshop on rose pruning and enjoying cream scones and tea.

The rose farm, set amidst a dry, frost-bleached countryside, is watered by the spruit (Afrikaans: creek).

One of the formal rose gardens just gives a hint of the splendour which will follow in October. Our roses will only be pruned in late July.

A gazebo shelters under bare trees. Bloem has a harsh winter and the leaves fall leaving the skeletons of the trees.

The weekend was also a culinary feast. Daughter, Ruth, cooks up a storm on Saturday evening...

while my two granddaughters, Joelle and Jaelene, snuggle up in the doggie bed with a very plump Schnaps, their little Staffordshire terrier.

Sunday saw us at a glorious church service at the family's church. The joyous, exuberant congregation is a true reflection of the 'rainbow nation', our multicultural society.

Then we took a stroll on the University of the Free State's campus. Here my husband did his first degree in Greek and Hebrew and Ruth qualified as a medical doctor. So it may be a small university but it has high acacemic standards and an impressive curriculum!

We shared the campus only with the pigeons - it was a long weekend.

Sisters and friends forever!

Bottoms up!

Monday morning we drove about six kilometers to the fringes of the town to visit a most unusual golf course. Unfortunately as it was a public holiday, the tea room was closed. But this will give you some idea of the dry winter grasslands and that big turqoise sky.

This is a pic of the driving range and in the far left (unfortunately my camera does not do a good long shot) are two unconcerned giraffes, munching leaves. If you click on the photo, it enlarges and you will see the giraffes.(Thank you, Dee Dee, for this tip.) Meerkatte (mongeese) scampered across the deserted driving range while buck grazed on its edges.

The Art Museum is a favourite spot during a Bloem visit, but it was also closed. So I had to take a long shot from the gates.

Monday lunchtime, it was off to the airport and goodbyes. And here is a waterbok (water buck) mounted on the wall at the golf course to bid youfarewell!

This extract describes the winter Free State landscape so aptly I had to share it with you, my friends in foreign lands.

Vroegherfs by NP van Wyk Louw

...die eerste blare val
so stilweg in die rook-vaal bos en laan,
dat die takke van die lang populiere al
teen elke ligte more witter staan.

Translation from Afrikaans -my own.

...the first leaves fall
so silently in the smoke-grey bush and track
that the branches of the tall populars already
appear whiter each morn...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday: 12 June 2008: Off to the ballet (and Bloemfontein)

Off to the ballet this cold and frosty evening with friends! It's a performance by our local Youth Ballet Corps and should showcase some budding Fonteyns! Speaking of Giselle, I have seen several productions of that tragic story over the years but one stands out in my mind - that wonderful movie production of Giselle which featured the partnership of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev made in 1962. I remember viewing it at the Monte Carlo Cinema in Cape Town when I was a teenager. The electricity between the 42 year old ballerina and the youthful Nureyev (aged 22) was tangible and so romantic! Who remembers it? Margot (1919-1991) was over 60 when she retired from ballet and she and Nureyev had a lifelong friendship. Margot was born Peggy Hookham to an English mother and Irish father in Surrey, England. Her stage name is much more exciting, isn't it? Nureyev defected to the West in 1961 and was a huge asset to Western ballet.

Then, tomorrow I am off to Bloemfontein to spend the weekend with my daughter and two little granddaughters. Now I guess not all of you have done a drive by through Bloemfontein recently!! Except perhaps for Denise Truesdale who spent some of her growing up in the landlocked little Kingdom of Lesotho, some distance from Bloem. Bloemfontein is about 450 km from Pretoria and the capital city of the Free State. It has the reputation of being South Africa's Hicksville. But that is only to those who do not know its charm, hidden assets (Art Museum and historical buildings, to name a few) and its warm, hospitable people. So more of Bloemfontein next week. And I think I should post a map of South Africa too so you can all orientate yourselves! Have fun this weekend!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday, 6 June: Thatching in process

I am gratified that visitors, old and new, like my new Thatchwick banner. Yes, this is dear Thatchwick Cottage, my haven, with the summer sunlight streaming over that dear old roof. At the moment Thatchwick is getting a new layer of thatch over two-thirds of the roof. Thatching is in process! And what a messy,dusty job it is! Enoch of Thatching Construction Co (a very pleasant and professional young African man who is justly proud of his own thatching company) and his happy team are dressing the roof. These men are keeping alive a dying art and they sing, joke and laugh as they do the job. I know - I work from home and hear them all day.

Oh, dear the mess!

The roof over the guest room. Four rooms in Thatchwick: the Guest Room, the Grandchildrens' Room and my bedroom are rondavels. So is the dining room. A rondavel is a round room with a conical thatched roof. Afrikaans: rondawel. Arranging furniture in a round room is a challenge which will even have Kari & Kisja scratching their heads!

A pile of thatch grass - golden like the veld from which it was harvested (veld is the high broad grassland in southern Africa), sweet smelling and so typical of Africa! I love it!Thatching is also a very English tradition. But my dear Thatchwick home is definitely out of Africa.

N'kosi Sikelele - God bless Africa, and all her children and bring her peace!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday, 5 June: Quickie verandah pic just to join the party

This is a quick pic I happened to have of the table on my verandah under the thatch eaves. The scene of many a festive meal, solitary dinner or early morning cuppa. And it is a quick post so that I can join the jolly porch party as hosted by Rose Coloured Glasses. Thank you, Rhondi! Other words for porches? We also call them stoeps.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wednesday, 4 June: Celebrating fathers

A Father's Day salute to my wonderful dad! I really had the best dad in the world(except for yours, of course!) - honourable, steadfast, loving, slow to anger and true. A privilege for which I remain deeply grateful. How much easier to trust a heavenly Father when the earthly one was a good role model!

Doesn't Dad just look spiffing in this photo? Leslie Alfred Hammond (1915-1994) was 26 years old in 1941 when the camera clicked. Here he is a second lieutenant, no. 110438, of Prince Alfred Guards, a mounted regiment. Dad almost never spoke about the war although my brother and I begged for gory, heroic tales. He volunteered as part of the South African army under General Jan Smuts and did his training as a newly married man at Robert Heights, Pretoria. He was sent to Egypt as part of the Allied thrust against Rommel, in an armoured car division. He did duty behind the enemy lines in the Quattar Depression. After the Allies defeated Rommel, Dad's regiment joined the 6th Tank Division in the invasion of Italy and fought in the battle of Monte Cassino.

After that he was involved in mopping up operations in Italy and spend the remainder of the war there. He only returned home in late '45 or early '46. What he did convey of the war was a deep love of Italy and Italian opera. In 1972 he took my mom to see the places he loved - Rome, Florence, Venice, Bellargia, Naples, Lake Como and Sorrento. He did, however, describe the dirt, heat and flies in Egypt, the doggedness of the German defences and the occasion when he and his mates left a troop train in Italy, stripped and took an impromptu shower under the pumps at the railroad station in full view of the locals!

Mom and Dad married in East London, South Africa on 4 August, 1941.

Every generation has its challenges - my parents' challenge was a World War, anxiety and separation and then a rapidly changing and confusing post-war society in which they had to establish a family on a good foundation. But they managed.

Finally, a poem by my favourite war poet, Wilfred Owen.

Anthem for doomed youth

What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
and each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.