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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday, 30 December '09: Waiting for my American 'sister' on her first time visit

I am waiting for the arrival of my AFS 'sister' and her daughter travelling all the way from St Paul-Minneapolis on their first-ever visit to Africa. A last minute re-routeing due to bad weather means they will arrive much later than expected. So as I while away the time, let me post a few holiday pics to show that our Christmas break at Wyndford Holiday Farm in the Eastern Free State was a blast!

The pool gave relief from temperatures in the early 30s C.
The food was scrumptious.

Ryan and Cath left the stress of 2009 far behind.

I was unashamedly lazy. And a very good time was had by all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday, 19 December 2009: Wishing you a happy Christmas

A very happy Christmas to you all! My Bible study group celebrated Christmas with a lively bring and share party. Our ages range from twenty to seventy and so do our backgrounds. We really are the United Nations!

I leave tomorrow to spend Christmas with both my daughters and their families (Catherine's family is to be - a son in April 2010) at our family favourite, Wyndford Holiday Farm in the Eastern Free State, 17 km from Fouriesburg and overlooking the distant Maluti's of Lesotho.

It's a fully catered old fashioned holiday farm where the kids can run wild, grown-ups can chat, read, hike, play tennis or bowls and swim. May God richly bless you this Christmas! See you in 2010 (0r almost)!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday, 13 December '09: 'Departures'

Last Saturday a friend and I indulged in a little matinee movie-going at the local arts movie cinema in Brooklyn Mall. Our choice was Okuribito or Departures, the 2009 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film. The unusual subject matter of this movie - a wonderful mix of human interest, black comedy, cultural enlightenment (for me) and beautiful visuals and cello playing - centres around the ceremonial Japanese custom of encoffinment in which the 'departed', the dead, are respectfully and artistically prepared before an intimate circle of mourning family and friends before being placed in a coffin and ultimately cremated.

'Could that topic make for entertainment?' you may well ask. Oh, yes, profound, funny, interesting and heartwarming is the story of young Daigo, a cellist, who loses his job in an 0rchestra and moves back to his hometown, far from the glitz 0f Tokyo, with his delightful wife. Here he apparently takes a job at a travel agent, only to find that the 'departures' referred to in the job ad refer to the departures of the deceased. Against his better judgement and eventually incurring the censure of his wife and friend, he learns to carry out the highly ritualised procedures of encoffinment and to appreciate the reconciliation that often takes place among the mourning family members. When his own estranged father dies, his involvement with 'departures' becomes personal. It affords him a moving opportunity for forgiveness and healing.

The movie took ten years to make and its producer initially doubted its reception in Japan where the subject of death is taboo. Well, now isn't the subject of death taboo in most cultures, including Western society? My personal experience is that death is just only manageable to most people if it is sanitised, sentimentalised or kept at a firm arm's length.

Rent this movie for an evening's worthwhile viewing. It may be sad at times, but it is hardly morbid.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday, 7 December '09: Circles in the forest

Dalene Mathee (1938-2005) , South African authoress, lies buried at the foot of the great tree on the fringes of her beloved Knysna forest. A fitting resting place for someone whose most acclaimed 1984 novel, Circles in the forest (cited on an international publisher's list of the 100 Must Read books) deals so poetically and poignantly with the exploration of the indigenous forests, the extermination of the Knysna elephants and the humble lives of the forest folk, the woodcutters.

"Like a mighty king it stood towering above the white alder and mountain saffron, the stinkwood, assegai and hard pear. As if God had planted it long before the others, its giant root anchored it to the ground like giant arms." These lyrical words have been translated from Afrikaans into fourteen other languages. Mathee's forest novels: Circles in the forest; Fiela's child and The Mulberry Forest, have thus reached around the world, even to Iceland.

But what of Big Foot, the doomed bull elephant of Circles in the Forest? Could he have ripped out this tree with his enormous trunk, leaving its carcass across our path? Sadly Big Foot has disappeared along with the rest of the elephants who roamed the the forest and fynbos areas in the southern Cape in the late nineteenth century. The elephant population declined rapidly as increasing numbers of woodcutters and hunters settled in the area. By 1908 the population status was estimated at 20 individuals, dwindling further to an estimated 11 by 1970. By 1980 a mere 3 individuals were believed to still roam the area.

In 1994, three young female elephants where introduced from the Kruger National Park in an attempt to sustain the presence of elephants in the Knysna forest area. The translocated elephants did not remain within the largely forested conservation area but progressively chose to range in more open habitat on private land, and were eventually relocated to the Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

So Graham, Di and I walked the magic circles without any sounds of distant trumpeting or crashing feet. All we heard was the cry of the Knysna lourie and glimpsed the flashing of brightly coloured wings among the treetops.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

3 December '09: Holy Trinity Church, Belvidere

"Anything special you would like to see?" asked by my brother on the first day of the holiday. "Oh, yes! That little Anglican church on the lake somewhere just before Knysna," was my quick response. When we were children, my mother's favourite detour on our journey to her sister's farm, Assegai Bush, outside Grahamstown, was the Holy Trinity Church on the Belvidere Estate, on the banks of the Knysna River.

As children we would peek into its dark depths with its jewel-like stained glass windows, admire the handstitched kneelers and read aloud the gravestones under the oaks, wondering what adventures had brought the deceased parishoners from the English shires to the then wilderness during the mid-nineteeth century. The miniature church built in the Norman style of the 11th and 12th centuries looks quite at home in the lush landscape of the south-eastern coast of Africa. It was built by Thomas Henry Duthie, founder of the Belividere Estate from 1833-1857.

It is good to know that the little stone church is still a place of active worship for local residents and many visitors and the centre of a parish comprised of foresters and sawmill operators who work in the Knysna forests. The little white rectory with its English country garden delighted my sister-in-law and I.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday,1 December '09: The beaches of the Garden Route were My World for a short break

Mid-November saw me take an unusual pre-Christmas break with my brother, Graham, and his vivacious wife, Di at Sedgefield on the south-eastern coast of the Cape Province.

This area stretching from Mossel Bay to Knysna and beyond is known as the Garden Route of South Africa, named for its spectacular beauty.

Graham is a keen fisherman. He tolerated our sallies into the little coastal towns and the indigenous forests of Knysna as long as he was granted his fishing: early morning and late afternoon. Sadly this area with a climate so temperate and its vegetation so green is now 'Water stressed', a euphemism for drought-stricken that I have not encountered before.

But the beaches with their pink sand and the never-ending rows of breakers are unsurpassed -some of the most magnificant stretches of coastline in the world.

What do the other folk at My World think?