Still me

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

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday, 5 September '11: Kaela update

Kaela has settled in remarkably in just a week. Where she was nervous and skittish (who wouldn’t have been?), she now strolls confidently through the house and has appropriated the rug in my study as her special place. That suits Gal who prefers to flop in the dining room. Instead of being terrified of the world on the pavement, she ventures out of the gate cautiously for a short walk. She socialised in a most elegant fashion with everyone who arrived for Bible Study on Thursday evening, before obediently retiring with Gal to the kitchen.

Galahad? He is experiencing a new lease on life. He gets far more attention simply because he is awake more often to demand yet another tummy rub. Every now and again he wrestles Kaela on the mat, noses his way with her through the jungle of budding spring clivias or enjoys a companionable swim in the pool.

And at last I have someone to do ‘girl’ things with – a dog who observes with concentration when I put on mascara and who agrees to lie still and watch ‘Swan Lake’ on television.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday 30 August 2011: Adopting Kaela

Kaela's adoption took place on Saturday in a flurry of excitement for Galahad, tears for her former owner and with some trepidation on my behalf. All has gone remarkably well. A friend and dog trainer, Erna was at hand to give advice and take control. But in the end it was up to the two dogs to get acquainted.

Kaela is gaining confidence daily and adapting to the rhythms of a new household. Here she is an inside/outside dog; previously she was an outside dog.

And Gal, an nearly 11 year old who likes to snooze the day away has encountered a lively lady friend. Kaela's previous companion dog was a very exuberant 5 year old, who, I am glad to report, has also found a new home.

So we are all in the interesting process of forming a new three-dog life. Gal has discovered new energies; I am firmly using the Sit, Down and Stay commands to endorse good manners; Kaela is happily proving a ready and intelligent pupil.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday, 19 August 2011: Living life backwards

In February I was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Research at my institution. A prestigious prize that I was very surprised to win. Dear friend Leone, Events Co-ordinator of any friendship circle, arranged a celebratory luncheon with book club friends, work friends and just plain old good friends. The Blue Crane Restaurant overlooking the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary was the venue for vegetable quiche, salad and chilled sauvignon blanc.

Jansje regaled us with her story of childbirth in a Spanish village during the 60s. She, lying on an old iron bedstead and accompanied by the village midwife, struggled in the upper room; downstairs the rest of the village gathered to see what an Englishwoman (she’s full-blown Dutch) could do. Each time her moans became audible, the padre fell to his knees and besought Our Lady for aid. Succour duly given, a healthy baby girl entered the world.

What fun a ladies lunch party can be! You guys have just no idea!

Back home the family gave me this bunch of sweet pink roses which would have been the envy of any bride. Mmm, February 2011 had its moments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

17 August 2011: First stop - Wurzburg

Wurzburg on the Main - our first stop on the Romantic Route through southern Germany. We arrived at Frankfurt airport, at 6am on Thursday, 16 August and found the railway station and a fast train to Wurzburg.

What a magical introduction to Germany this peaceful town was to the three of us – with the Mareinberg fortress set high above the vineyards and the River Main winding lazily below.

This is an old unversity town, episcopal see and the former home of the medieval woodcarver par excellence, Tilman Riemenschneider, whose altars topped our To See list during this trip.

A glimpse of St Kilian's Cathedral.

Giant strawberries bought on the marketplace, a warm ham roll and a generous mug of German coffee offered a wholesome antidote to jet lag and a bad 11-hour night flight in cramped economy class.

I felt a new person and map in hand, ready for the day.

Next travel instalment later. If I am to sustain blogging, I realise must aim at frequent modest entries. To come - Rothenburg, Neuschwanstein, Linderhof Palace , Oberammergau & Munich. Then Prague, the beautiful and other Bohemian gems.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday, 11 August 2011: Could this work?

Could this work?
This morning I went to meet Kaela, a 6 year old spayed Labrador bitch, who is looking for a new home. Will Sir Galahad find the lady as sweet as I did? She loves to swim as you can see but has not been walked on a lead.

Will I manage?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

7 August, 2011: Turning sixty

I celebrated my sixtieth birthday with a party two days ahead of the official date, 11 July.
Saturday, 9 July.

Ruth, the toast maker, raises her glass.

The event was passed in a happy blur of activity. I had arrived back from Europe just two weeks’ earlier and shopping and preparation for my brother and his wife’s visit and the arrival of Ruth and family was squeezed between the pile-up of work that occurs when one is Out of Office for any length of time.

The winter lunchtime menu was simple: homemade minestrone, garlic ciabattas from Woolworth’s Deli, my and Catherine’s lasagne made according to each’s favourite recipe and open salads.

The dessert, a hybrid between a chocolate truffle and a cupcake, were catered by ‘Nice things’ and were - very nice!

The crowd represented all aspects of my life: family, work, church, book club, embroidery and quilting and those in the category of simply friends. The day was aptly recorded by Rhoda’s quick snaps.

Bookclub gals!

Cath and Jethro

The Ya-Yah sisterhood from Unisa.

Rhoda of the canny camera.

Holding a party for nearly 50 guests ranging from 16 months to 70-odd years is a challenge in the dead of a particularly nasty winter. But the Highveld sun shone, the sky was blue and most guests could gather for at least the first hour on the winter-yellowed front lawn. The veranda was not too chilly to serve the drinks.

My special appreciation was to Graham (on the left) and Di for making the long journey to Pretoria. It is not every day that a Capetonian will brave the ‘lang pad’ (long road) to the interior. Capetonians simply don’t understand why anyone would want to live here anyhow! Gray and Di have been wonderful in keeping up contact with me since our parents, and then Richard, passed away – with phone calls and invitations for holidays and general concern.

So now I am officially a SC – senior citizen. The visits to the Botanical Gardens are free on a Tuesday and I have a SC card for the mall with all its discounts. For the rest, I feel quite ageless at present. And looking forward to the next moment as always.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday, 2 August 2011: Goodbye to an old friend

My faithful companion of 14 years, Tristram, handsome black Labrador, was put to sleep last Monday. His aging had become increasingly apparent since the beginning of this year. His back legs sagged, his eyes and his hearing was dulled and nodules appeared on the leg from which a melanoma was removed last August. But still he nudged me for impatient attention, had the occasional back roll while he grinned happily and constantly begged for his favourite treat, a slice of fresh brown bread. The pace of our early morning walks had grown slower and slower and he sometimes stumbled and fell, leaving me apprehensive as to how I was to get him and Galahad home in the pre-dawn darkness.

When I fetched both dogs from the kennels the morning I returned from Prague, Trist was noticeably weaker, although his large frame remained deceptively solid. Some evenings my heart leapt when I hugged his sleeping form on the mat in front of my bed; other days, his perky spirit made me feel he would live forever. Then the nodules began to produce large weeping sores which would not heal in spite of medication. I noticed that he seldom wagged his tail. The morning we drove to the vet I did not think about it being his last trip. In the reception area he still glanced suspiciously at a large cat in a crate with a notice: ‘Looking for a home’. But his poor condition was obvious.

“I think it’s time. Or would you prefer to take him home for a few days and think about it?”

And so the decision was made. He died with his head on my lap: “Ouboet (old brother), you’re a good boy. You’re my old chap! Tristy-boy!”

Now it’s just Galahad and me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday, 2 February: Who's for a cuppa?

If I was an artist, I would paint a still life of this gorgeous expresso served to Trudie and I in teeny kitchen shop in Nimes, Provence. We actually did not require a cuppa; our needs were more basic and pertained to the use of the Ladies Room. But if we had to down an expresso to clinch the deal, that was fine. And what a work of art our expresso was, accompanied by its chocolate-coated almond. I have never mastered the art of throwing back the contents of a miniscule cup with a cube of sugar clenched between my teeth, but I enjoy an occasional expresso taken straight after a heavy meal.
Alas, my heavy coffee-drinking days are over. I could hold my own with any coffee-holic, consuming cup after cup of black filtered brew every morning. Today, I manage a single daily mug of home made cappucino, half coffee and half frothed 2% milk whipped with my handy Aerolatte. My earliest coffee drinking experiences were cups of milky Nescafe served to my brothers' friends. Coffee was for grown ups and grown up I felt at 16, when instant coffee became part of Mom's shopping list.
A sojourn in the modern day Namibia (then South West Africa) taught Richard and I that life was too short for poor coffee. Coffee beans had to be bought freshly ground from Woermann and Brock and brewed with filtered water. A habit I have never lost.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday, 26 January 2011: Look who's visiting!

Look who's visiting Thatchwick at present? A grey hornbill pair and their rather large chick. The grey hornbill is a resident of the thornveld and is a common in the northern part of southern Africa. A nesting pair of hornbills is uncommon in a suburban garden in Pretoria.

I have encountered hornbills passing by during the last two or three years - stopping usually for a scratch around my compost heap. But this time, they are here to stay and doing very nicely on a diet of Hills omega enriched pellets for elderly dogs! A bag of Hills JD diet for Tristram costs me a sizeable amount each month and now the expensive treat is being shared by my honoured guests.

Early mornings after our walk, I am summoned by the loud: "Phee Pheeoo Phee" and the pellets are placed on the wall at the kitchen door, much to the chagrin of the 0live thrush pre- invasion was sole privy to this treat. On this wet summer's day, a morning snack was required and the birds were remarkably tame, allowing me to approach the wall and take photos of Junior feeding just behind the bay tree.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday 14 January 2010: What's your working style?

Today I enjoyed the unaccustomed treat of an early morning breakfast meeting at Bugatti's with colleagues eager to describe a recent fact-finding tour of US campuses. In contrast, my usual journey to work is to cross the dining room from my bedroom to my study. I flick the start up button on my PC , throw open the study doors onto the veranda and allow the fountain's babble of water drown out rush hour traffic rumbling past the walls of Thatchwick.

At 6.30 am this morning, pleasantly expelled from my insular workaday world , I was amazed at the individual 'offices' rapidly set up on nearly every table. Waiters took orders for bacon and eggs, waffles and juice, coffee and croissants while laptops flickered to life, Blackberries appeared, diaries opened and briefcases overflowed with papers and files. Then the 'offices' filled up as a companion or two arrived, similarly equipped for that 6.45 am meeting.

Where does everyone come from? Are conventional offices too quiet, too sterile, too much like routine? Is it the bacon and eggs over a latte, so much more attractive than a quick bite in one's home kitchen? Do ideas sprout more effectively in the anonymous buzz created by just-as-busy strangers? Being alone in the crowd?

I am fascinated by idiosyncratic working habits. Churchill wrote or dictated a couple of thousand words a week sitting up in bed. Marx was more conventional and worked in tomb-like silence (I would imagine) in the British Musem from opening to closing. Alice Munro wrote in 'slivers of time' while she did loads of washing and watched over toddlers. And your working habits?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

6 January 2011: End of the summer holidays

The long summer break has come to an end, at least for me. I returned from holiday to my home office - just a step a way - on Monday, 3 January. There were no exotic locations this year; but as you can see, a good time was had by all, right here at home in Pretoria.

Two dogs, a boy and lots of crystal clear water are a recipe for success. Catherine's best school friend, Natasha, and hubby, Egmont, and children travelled from Jo'burg for a day of good food and renewed friendship here at Thatchwick. Natasha was like a 'third' daughter to us when our own girls were growing. How nice that she still wants to spend time at her second home.

Jethro had a chance to try out his spiffy floral swimming trunks within the careful shelter of Mom's arms.

Galahad is an avid swimmer, with or without company. But the presence of two small friends made him grin with special pleasure. Trist prefers to keep a safe distance from the splashes. As a puppy, he was taught, of necessity, to swim in a chilly pool during winter. The experience put him off for life.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

4 January 2011: Midsummer Christmas

Our forebears bequeathed us in Africa the images of Christmas amongst snowdrifts, with holly bedecked halls, Yule tide logs and heavy, rich Christmas cuisine. At last we are developing our own style of midsummer Christmas suitable for a hot Highveld day with late afternoon thunderstorms to cool down the air.

Surrounded by the palms on my sister-in-law's patio, sunlight played on the table as we waited for the starter. Turkey and cold gammon were served with old-fashioned favourites: Ouma Ray's potato salad, Carla's choice of carrot salad and bowls of tossed greens. Dessert was cherry trifle and it was washed down with a crisp savignon blanc, merlot, juice and jugs of ice water.

Jethro made Cath and Carla smile.

And the two cousins struck a formal pose for Jethro's first Christmas ever.
Carla and Reinhart sorted the presents just to be sure that the piles were accurate.