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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday, 27 January '09: This is my world

Here is my world - blesbuck are grazing in the Austen Roberts' Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary which is at walking distance from my house in Pretoria. I loved the way this blesbuck stared at me curiously when I hopped out of the car on my way to a lunch time appointment at the local bank. The Sanctuary is bordered by busy roads, two lovely malls of shops and upmarket eating places.

When my granddaughters are visiting, we always make a visit to Austen Roberts to feed the birds and the giant tortoise.

Actually I find these lovely antelope a driving hazard as I dash past in my car! I always am tempted to take my eyes right off the road to gaze at their calm beauty when they wander near the fence.

Join others throughout the globe who are Show Your World on this Tuesday!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday, 26 January '09: French movie magic from the 60's

Some movie nostalgia on this Monday morning. I can still remember what I was wearing the evening I saw A man and a woman/Un homme et une femme (1966 directed by Claude Lelouch)with my older cousins at a Johannesburg cinema in 1966. A pink coatdress a la Twiggy style, pale pink lipstick, lots of black mascara and tan baby doll shoes!

I suppose this was the most adult movie I (a romantic 15 year old) had seen to date. I still think the simple story of love - old love rememembered, new love emerging and the tug between the two - ranks as the most delicious love story on celluloid. Anouk Aimee (as the widow, Anne) was irresistible as she continually flicked her thick brown hair out of her eyes, cupped her chin in her hands or laughed shyly; Jean-Louis Trignant (as the widowed racing driver, Jean-Louis) was charming, sensitive and manly. The theme music is one that gets stuck in your head for days.

The story (in case you haven't seen this Award winning movie) is about a young widow and a young widower who meet at their children's boarding school in Deauville on the French coast. They begin to fall in love but they are both held back by the poignant recollections of their former loves: her dead husband; his dead wife. Memories of their past are interspersed with shots of the present. Then Anne leaves Jean-Louis unable to break with her past. Now what is a man to do under such circumstances? Take part in the Le Mans race, of course! Jean-Louis goes on to win Le Mans. Exhausted after his victory, throwing his racing helmet aside and suddenly convinced of his love, he leaps into his coupe and races back through a rainy night to Paris to meet Anne's train as it pulls into station. A knight dressed in armour, pennants flying, on a white charger could not have been more romantic than Jean-Louis behind the wheel riding to win his Lady Love.

I know what I'll be doing this evening: it's pizza, Un homme et une femme from my local specialist video rental and a Do Not Disturb message on my phone. Why don't you join me - wherever you are!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday, 25 January '09: 'He made their glowing colours...'

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures bright and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
Brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has done all things well.

Mrs CF Alexander

This was the first hymn I ever remember singing! Still love it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday, 20 January '09: My World - Brenthurst Garden, Johannesburg

Brenthurst Gardens in Parkhurst, Johannesburg is a relatively undiscovered gem. The 48 acre eco-friendly gardens are over a century old and have been owned by the illustrious Oppenheimer family since the turn of the century. Harry Oppenheimer, mining magnate, philanthropist and great son of South Africa, and his wife, Bridget redesigned the magnificent estate in the late 1950's. Today the gardens are the responsiblity of Strilli Oppenheimer, wife of Nicky Oppenheimer, who lives in Little Brenthurst pictured above. I first visited the gardens in November last year and was moved by the tranquillity and beauty of a planting which borders one of the busiest stretches of urban highway in the whole of South Africa!

As our little group proceeded along the majestic avenue, we were met by the tall imposing Strilli elegantly striding along in her gardening togs accompanied by her two dogs. She paused to explain to us her vision of the garden: "Totally free of insecticides, pesticides and manmade fertilizers, I and my head gardener, Dawid Klopper, believe in working with nature rather than fighting it or imposing our 'perfect' picture on it."

I returned home inspired to add more and more indigeneous plants to my own garden at Thatchwick Cottage. To encourage butterflies, insects, frogs and indigeneous birds. To use only natural recipes for controlling plant diseases and pests.

This fantastic garden takes about three hours to explore with a very friendly guide. I returned in mid-December with a posse of friends who were awed and struck with a new gardening vision. There is an admittance fee which all goes to the Little Eden Society for the care of persons with mental handicaps. Tea is served and there are books and indigeneous plants to buy at very low prices. The garden at Brenthurst is also a Quiet Garden, a project sponsored by the Anglican church as a garden open to visitors for meditation and prayer.

If you are visiting Jo'burg, South Africa, why not Brenthurst? This is a lovely part of my dear world! And my debut into Show your world Tuesday. Visit the Show your world page and explore the globe.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday, 19 January '09: Just a little blue-ish

Weekend's over. Monday's here. And I am feeling just a little blue-ish about my 'To do' list. What blue item will cheer me this morning? Granny's willow pattern plate, a photo of my blue-eyed daughters, the blue sky above? No, I think I'll spread the quilt top I made in the hols on the lawn and that will suffice.

Quilting fabrics here are mainly US imports and prices are ever rising. Today the exchange rate is ten ZAR to one US dollar. Ouch! This quilt is made from our own 100%cotton Da Gama fabrics produced in the Eastern Cape and they are half the price of the imports. The range is limited but I thought the blues are pretty.

PS Blue Monday is , of course, the brainchild of Smiling Sal. Do visit her and her contributors for other shades of blue!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday, 15 January: Comfortable chats with CS Lewis

What do I do for 'last minute 'nite time reading' when I am feeling a little overwhelmed by my responsiblities as I have during the past week? I trot over to the booklined guest room and take down a slim volume or two of CS Lewis. It may be Mere Christianity (which is not mere at all to Lewis or to me) or The Problem of Pain. It may be to journey with Clive Stapleton along the path of beauty and joy to finally find God on top of a London bus in Surprised by Joy. It may be to chuckle and squirm a little while reading The Screwtape Letters (am I really as mean and small-minded as that?) or to shed a silent tear reading once again, A grief observed.

Now I admire many great authors - their powers of imagination, dialogue, description and plot - but they don't make me feel like settling in a comfy wingback chair and saying, 'Oh, Sir, do you know I just feel the same as you!" Or "Could you explain the Trinity or predestination again to me, just using easy, everyday words?" Or " Won't you tell me once again what happened when Aslan sang creation into being or when the wardrobe door opened that very first time?"

Most of you, I am sure, have seen the bittersweet movie, Shadowlands, with Anthony Hopkins playing the slightly awkward English bachelor and Oxbridge don transformed by unexpected love. Or Debra Winger playing the ascerbic Joy Davidman, the doomed heroine. I have seen it twice, wept and decided that the love of that unlikely pair far surpasses that of Iseault and Tristran, Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine. But I sometimes wonder what CS would have said about the saccharine subtitle on this movie poster and his great love reduced to a blockbuster celluloid? Probably he would have chuckled, sucked on his pipe and made a dry and witty comment.

The scene in which Aslan is put to death, offering himself up of his own accord, bound and tied down in his majesty by the screeching denizens of the White Witch never fails to move me. And of course, his wonderful resurrection and great leap of triumph. And all this without irreverance or trivialising biblical truths!

Did you know that it was the character of Aslan, the imaginative type of the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:),that persuaded Joy Davidman, a self-declared atheistic communist of Jewish extraction, to become a Christian? Joy wrote: "God had been stalking me for a very long time...All my defences...went down. And God came in. When it was over, I found myself on my knees, praying. I think I must have been the world's most astonished atheist."

Now, if you will excuse me, I had a really hectic day. So I am going to settle down with CS and "The Four Loves" and just dip in here and there...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday, 9 December: Painters, alert! African skies at dawn

I popped the camera into one pocket and the dogs' ball into another before leaving for my walk at 4.45am this morning. These shell-pink and pale turquoise skies on the corner of Marais and Roper Streets are an invitation to be painted. And the dogs' had fun with the ball.

Chasing an extra-bouncy rubber ball was warm work.

Have a good day watching skies with Skywatch.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thursday, 8 January, '09: 'Hello' in eleven official languages

Maria, who lives in Poland and is a veteran blogger in more ways than one, suggested that I add a Translator to my blog. Which I am process, as they say!

With that, the idea was sparked of chatting to you about the language policy of South Africa. In 1994, when the first democratic elections were held and the nation shifted, without bloodshed, to an entirely new Government of National Unity, the language issue was a thorny one, fraught with past bitterness and injustice. Previously we had a bilingual policy with two official languages: English and Afrikaans. This priviledged mainly white South Africans and excluded all other South African languages and their speakers. With reform came the entrenchment of language rights in the new Constitution of South Africa (1996). It was decided to give official status to all eleven South African languages. This development brought with it the usual hot public debate ranging from praise, optimism and hope to anger, cynicism and disparagement.

What has happened since?

Well, in my view, English has largely become the lingua franca of public discourse - certainly, the language of the formal workplace, education, government and commerce. But the multilingual policy, its intentions and the spirit thereof, are conciliatory and of merit.

Often our colloquial language is a mixture. I love to listen to South Africans chatting animatedly: moving from one language to another, peppering conversation with an approving 'Yebo!' (Yes!)

On my morning walk I am regularly hailed with: 'Morning, Mama' (Mother). Or more likely: 'Morning, Gogo' (Granny). Or on really 'bad hair' days, with 'Morning, MaGogo' (Old Granny)!

So, Hi there! in eleven languages:

Sanibonani (isiZulu)
Molo (isiXhosa)
Hallo (Afrikaans)
Thobela (Sepedi)
Lumela (Sesotho)
Abusheni (Xitsonga)
Sanibona (siSwati)
Salibonani (isiNdebele)
Hello (English)

7 January, '09: Back to work

Suddenly it is 7 January and (Oh, panic, panic!) I haven't managed a blog. On Monday I went back to work. The lines have been humming ever since. I have seen students, submitted an abstract for an international conference, checked chapters of theses and collected draft chapters for a new book which I am editing. But fortunately, I work from home and only visit the campus once or twice a week. In such balmy summer weather I have moved my laptop from the study onto the table on the verandah. I challenge anyone to equal such an idllyic workplace.

However, today I was on campus and stopped by the main hall to take a quick pic of the Van Wijk Building with the inspiring banner calling students to change the world through education.

Here is a close up with the Great Man, our own Nelson Mandela, role model of endurance and of reconciliation.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

1 January 2009: Voorspoedige Nuwe Jaar/Prosperous New Year !

'C'mon, Gal! One, Two Three!'

'We wish all bloggers (and their dogs and any other furry or feathered friends) a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!'

And? It's our blog birthday here at the Cottage too. We loved meeting every one of you and look forward with anticipation to sharing in 2009.