"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

an adventure of my own

After not visiting Cape Town city centre for ages, I have recently had reason to spend time there on three separate occasions.  I went to register for UIF unemployment benefits.  Quite a soul-searching exercise.  Standing in various queues, being given instructions and told to "Come back tomorrow, we are offline".  Looking around at the many really needy people sitting and standing around, inside the building and outside, it would have been easy to give up on it but the principle of the matter is that I have contributed to the fund since 1977, collected maternity benefits just once and have never claimed, or needed to claim, again.  So although my new venture is starting taking off, I have not earned a salary for 6 months and am entitled to claim.  In fact if you don't claim within 6 months you lose out.

On my first trip, I parked at the top of town near the Mount Nelson.  The walk down to Plein Street was longer than I thought it would be but I enjoyed finding my way down Long Street, through a couple of narrow alley ways and I was soon on Parade Street.
 I forget what this club/pub/tattoo palour was called but I loved the mosaics

As I turned into Wale Street I walked straight into a demonstration on the steps of the WC Legislature offices where a group of ladies were sitting on portapotties.  I took a wide berth as I did not want to get involved in any mudslinging.

After an hour and a half at the UIF office in the "Help" queue, I was given a form to be filled in by my bank "No mistakes, no corrections accepted".  I left a bit disheartened and decided to find something to eat as it was now nearly 3 o'clock and I was starving.  There are many things that I do and am happy to do on my own.  I go to movies on my own and don't mind taking a seat in a pub on my own and order a drink while waiting for friends.  Eating on my own, unless in a foreign country, I have not done very often (in fact I cannot remember doing it, but surely I must have at some time?).  There is this little cafe / coffee shop near Plein Street called Bread Milk and Honey.  It just looked so inviting and as I was feeling a bit touristy on my own, I went in and dished up a plate of food (one of those R18 for 100g, weigh-your-plate-places) and ordered a pineapple smoothie with ginger.  I did have a bit of that "no feeling" as I sat at a little round table on my own. I tried hard not to play with my phone and look like a total plonker so I took out a pen and made some blog notes (even more of a plonker, I suppose) 
 Chicken breyani, Waldorf salad, roasted beetroot - R32 - delicious
I loved this tweet the other day "People, despite what you think, you can still eat a meal without Instagramming it first"
Sorry Bill Murray!

Okey dokes, this is getting a bit long-winded but not so with my lunch.  It was one of the quickest meals I have ever had.  It is just not the same with no friends, no chats (and no wine).  I decided to buy a take-away, gorgeous looking cupcake for dessert and take a walk back to my car through....

I don't think I had been to the Company Gardens since a Grade 3 outing to the Planetarium many years ago.

I spied Tuinhuis and took a picture through the gate of Helen Zille's beautifully manicured garden......
I found an empty .............................
where I thought I may sit and eat my cupcake and read my book.   However, within 2 minutes of sitting down I had a family of squirrels almost running up my leg and opening my prettily packaged box with my beloved cupcake. Then I spied 3 huge rats running across the path and ducking into a drain.  I remembered the story of a rat biting Helen's toe (not that long ago) when she went down her passage to collect her morning paper and thought "Hells Bells if they went for her toes when she had no bait, what would they do when they saw my beautiful cupcake".    Time to move on, quickly.  I decided to do another thing I never like to do "Eat while Walking in Public".   I remember making my friend Cheryl laugh uncontrollably once about something that I read that "fat people should stay at home and eat and not eat in public".  I think I told her this while she was biting into a Magnum ice cream in Vineyard Road and could not believe that I did not want a bite.  "No Cheryl, overweight people must not eat in public".

So here I was, with my camera and eating my cupcake walking up Government Avenue (a bit like the Pied Piper with squirrels following me for crumbs).  I had been trying to call Gareth because by now I needed a toilet and a cup of tea and he lives not far from the Mount Nelson, which was now in view.  No reply.  So here I am thinking about him and wondering why he was not replying when across my path runs an albino squirrel.

Remember this story:-

"Michael and I had just started formally dating.  We had taken Rusty for a walk through RBHS and had seen two baby owls in a tree on the Oakhurst field (next to the swimming pool and the main rugby field).  We arrived home, pretty excited about seeing the baby birds and Michael, after telling the whole story to the boys, asked Gareth (who was probably engrossed in the newspaper and not really listening) if he had seen the baby owls (he had just returned from rugby practice on the next door field and there were plenty of people around, pointing and looking up at the tree while he was practicing).  Gareth, oblivious to the rarity of the sighting and as only Gareth in his deep, gruff voice can do, replied "NO, but I have seen an albino squirrel on that field".  Subject closed.

Perhaps you had to be there but it has become a family joke. 

When Gareth returned earlier this year from a wonderful holiday at Londolozi he had so many stories to tell about lions mating, wild dogs and hyena fights and for Gareth (who is usually brief and to the point) it was an unusually detailed and animated conversation about the experience.  After listening to his tales, Michael, in his unobtrusive, dry way asked "Any albino squirrels?"

Yesterday was another visit to the UIF office.  I was now armed with all the forms, necessary bank stamps and documents required.  This time I parked on Roeland Street.  I stopped at Fruit and Veg and bought myself a bottle of water and two bananas (on a budget and a cupcake for R12 in a fancy box would just look wrong in the UIF building).  The experience, although over 3 hours long, was not too bad.  I was asked to hold a tiny baby while the mother left to find the toilet.  She was gone for at least 20 minutes.  The baby did not stir but I started to get hot and sweaty and worried that she had left forever (and that I would be arrested for kidnapping).  I even had this story going around in my head that she probably thought I looked the "richest in this room and would be best able to look after feed and support her baby".  She eventually returned with another child, to a very relieved me, and had obviously been outside for a cigarette (or two) and chat with her family.

I was finished by 2 o'clock and left the building in the heaviest rainstorm ever.  I had a rain jacket but no umbrella or hood.  By the time I got to the top of Roeland Street I had taken on my new role very seriously.  I totally looked the part of a wet, bedraggled and unemployed person.  I had even been offered a drink out of paper packet by a group of homeless (and unemployed) people taking shelter in a doorway who spied a very wet me hoppipolla-ing along seemily unconcerned about running or taking shelter.

Since then, I have been caught in 3 downpours of rain in the last couple of days.  Crazy - seriously drenched each time.  You see when you wish to use the word hoppipolla, you wishes come true.  

Makes me so grateful for my warm shower, dry home and Old Brown Sherry.

Monday, 24 June 2013

thinking of peonies...

When Michael and I moved into our house (7 years ago this year) a friend arrived with a very beautiful vase as a house warming present.  She apologised for not filling the vase but that she would be back in a couple of weeks with flowers that would suit the vase perfectly.  Peonies.  It is my Peony Vase.  (I hope it is one peony, two peonies).  You only get peonies in South Africa for about two and half weeks at the end of October and early November and even then, they are a mission to find. As true as her word, a couple of weeks later Jen arrived with the promised bunch of peonies.  It was such a special present that whenever I put any other flowers into the PV, they don't look quite right.  That bunch of peonies was the only bunch that I had ever been given and I have only managed to ever buy myself two other bunches (confession, because I always forget which weeks you can get them) but I think of them often, especially on dull days like today and when I walk past my empty vase on the bookshelf in the passage.

They are the most beautiful flowers - right up there with sweet peas for me .  America is full of them at the moment and in this country we really don't know them very well at all.

They are the most popular bridal bouquet flower in the USA.

Take a look here. (Look a bit further on this lovely site and spy the beautiful hydrangeas)

So on this pretty dark and miserable mid-winter Cape Town evening, think of peonies and please remind me when you see them around that it is peony season.  I have promised myself that the vase will be filled for the full season this year.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


My boys were tired of the music I was playing in my car.  Over the last couple of months I have been doing plenty of driving and was finding myself getting very uptight with the discussion topics on Cape Talk - two whole weeks of the Gupta wedding had made me defiant.  I felt empowered when I pushed the CD button just when Africa Molani was warming up into his loquacious (nice word hey?) babble.  Suddenly I had 4 new CD's - mixed stuff with many artists that I had not heard of (I now know the songs and most of the artists).  Quite funny the friendly "competition" between Gareth and Nic as to whether the CD currently being played in my car meant that that particular CD (and therefore) that particular child (at that particular moment) had to be my favourite (you have some work to do when you get back Matt).

Now I know most of the songs - one of the songs which features in both of their choices for me is Hoppipolla - by one of  Matthew's favourite bands, Sigur Ross (so it has been played a lot in this house and usually left on when Matt has his afternoon naps). Pretty weird Icelandic sound but once you hear it a couple of times you can't help but love it.  I had to find out what they were singing about - Hoppipolla

Awesome hey?  One word for jumping.in.puddles.  You can listen to it here (don't think you will like it Mom, but the video is fun - don't get any ideas though).

dripping wet
completely soaked
no rubberboots
running inside of us
wants to burst out of the shell

wind in
and the smell of your hair
i hit as hard as i can
with my nose
jumping into a puddle
wearing no boots
completely soaked (dripping wet)

wearing no boots

So while writing this and thinking of how good it would be to "Hoppipolla" right now I found this on Youtube.  Sums up things perfectly.

Are the cows in Holland really so happy Siobhan?  Best I get moving and do my Happy Cow Hoppipolling before this beautiful day slips away.

Friday, 14 June 2013

"this season is about becoming..."

The past couple of months I have had the very unusual opportunity of spending a lot of time on my own.   If I think about it, it is probably the first period in my life that I have had time to myself and on my own.  Never lonely but often alone.  Sometimes I even feel that I am becoming a bit reclusive, but I am happy on my own.  I am trying hard to get rid of the guilt feelings around having all this time to myself (and not having any money of my own (but that will come)).  The things I have to do, I spread evenly through the day to make the days seem busier and fuller than they really are (confession).  For the first time, in a long time, I am taking time for myself and exercising regularly.  My morning walks with Fay are now a pretty fast quick-step through the suburbs (some days, more leisurely than others and we chat-up builders to persuade them to let us have a look around the new renovations they are working on).  We are out for nearly an hour and a half and the improvement in my fitness is noticeable, especially when we throw in a couple of hills.

I have worked for most of my life - I had a couple of years off when the boys were born and little.  I then worked a couple of mornings a week when they were at pre-school, then the couple of mornings gradually increased to every morning as the boys needed me less and then the hours increased when when I needed money.

I have the support of my husband, family and friends in my new venture and I am in a really good space at the moment and loving what I am doing (or not doing).  What then is this guilty feeling that keeps tugging at me?  Why the slightly empty feeling inside me? It does not bother me, but it is there.  The feeling that something is missing and that I have done something wrong, or forgotten to do something and that I may be about to get into trouble. Perhaps I think too much and analyse things too deeply.  Fay said something to me while walking the other day (we talk a lot) and it has been ticking over in my head.  Her boys are both older than my oldest.  She said something along these lines "...then one day you will suddenly realise that your children have grown up, have their own lives and are not dependant on you anymore".  She was talking about it in a financial way as well (and with one student son, I am not perhaps there yet) but it has rung a chord.  It has made me realise that I am in the next phase of my life. 

It is hard to cook for two and thank goodness Nic is still around (not this month, but he usually is) to clear out the leftovers. I am learning to enjoy the fact that the washing only needs to be done once or twice a week and not every day and that the house is orderly (mostly of the time). Could this be the dreaded "ENS"? (I cannot bring myself to say that overused, cliched word).  The feeling is there though, that the one job in my life that fulfilled me, that I felt I was good at and kept me very busy, has now made me redundant.

You are now probably wondering where I am going with this.  I spent quite a bit of time this week re-reading the start of what was going to be my book (it is pretty awful and most of it has been deleted) and I am now on a new path.  I read lots of stuff on the internet, in magazines and on blogs and most of the writings are by people much younger than me, and some younger than my children.  It makes me realise just how much bolder, cleverer, braver and more honest they are than me (not wiser though - actually, maybe wiser too).  My children and their contemporaries are so smart.  They know things and remember everything.  I wonder whether my Gran thought that I was smart?  Maybe she did, maybe it is a generation thing.  She never told me though but then again, I never asked. 

OK, you are still wondering where I am going with this.   Today I read the piece below, written by a 25 year old - I presume she (I found it here) must be 25"ish".  How smart, how wise.  How can she feel at 25 exactly what I am feeling now?  

"11 Things to Know at 25(ish) →

Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal…Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe God is good and life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep travelling honestly along life’s path."

Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep travelling honestly along life’s path.

Beautiful - Could not have said it better myself and exactly what I needed to read :)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

hello my luvvie

My Granny had a best friend who we called Granny Jonas.  She claimed us as her own and was never very far from my Gran's side.  They were neighbours for many years and, at the end, ended up in a Rondebosch old age home together.  They were never far apart.  In later years their friendship was often tested, mainly because my Gran became less tolerant of Granny Jonas's bossy and interfering ways.  She was a part of our family though, a part of our holidays, our celebrations and our saddnesses.

Why I got thinking of these two colourful old ladies today was because we had got talking the other evening about the things that we were told when we were young (mainly old wives tales) and which we believed.  Most of these superstitions came from my Gran, some of these are well known and others, I do not know where she got them from and I now know that she added her own little bits to the end.  "Don't swallow bubble gum because it will live in your intestines for 7 years and rot",  "Never crack your knuckles, they will get big and bulbous and no man will be able to get a wedding ring on your finger",  "Don't go to sleep with wet hair, you will wake up with a horrible smell coming out of your nose (weird)" "Never put a hat on your bed or your shoes on the table - bad, bad luck", "Don't eat bananas before bedtime, you will have nightmares", "Put a slice of wedding cake under your pillow and you will dream of your future husband",  "Don't rinse your hair under the cold tap because you will get meningitis", "Don't tickle a babies feet.  It will make them stutter."

Granny Jonas was sharp.  She could rattle off the birth dates of virtually everyone she had ever met and was always the first one to call you on your birthday.  Her opening line "Hello, My Luvvie..." (in her broad English accent) at 6 on the morning of your birthday has become a joke in our family.  Gareth, who remembers her (and her phone calls) well, nicknamed my sister "My Luvvie" after catching Dalene out with a "Hello My Luvvie" phone call, bright and early on her birthday (the year after Granny Jonas had left us).

Granny Jonas was the family soothsayer and, until I came along she had never given a wrong prediction about the sex of a baby. People came from all over the city for a consultation with her. From the time my stomach started protruding she would tell me that it was "definitely a girl".  She could tell by the way I was carrying (high and all in the front) and the fact that she thought I had "lost my looks" - "When you carry a boy, you get prettier but a girl takes your good looks for herself" (She never was big on tact).  To prove her point she one day plucked a hair from my head, removed my wedding ring and told me to lie down.  She then tied the strand of hair around my wedding ring and held the ring over my naked stomach.  The ring swung up and down like a pendulum - more proof of a girl (a boy makes circles).

When Gareth arrived she was, for the first time in her life, speechless.  She knitted beautifully and arrived at the nursing home with my Gran, hours after his birth to double check that she was not wrong, with a cardboard box filled with her beautiful knitting.  Thank goodness I had asked for everything to be in white.  Every year for the next 14 years, she called him on his birthday at 6 in the morning with the same story "Hello my Luvvie - 14 (13, 12, 11 etc.) years ago today you were born.  I still cannot believe that you are a boy.  All in the front, your mother carried you know and she really did not look very pretty either.  Do you know that when you were born, it was the first time that I had ever been wrong?"

Pictures:  Pinterest
Good memories of two special ladies.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

voyeurism at it's best

I have mentioned Letters of Note before.  It seems to be a site I go to when the voyeur in me comes strongly to the fore and I feel the need to indulge in the things people write to each other.  Letters are so special and we don't write to each other enough.  The saddest part about upgrading from my old Nokia cellphone was losing those special messages from special people that were treasured and never deleted.  The saddest part about having my beautiful leather bag stolen (quite a while ago) was saying goodbye to my purse in which there were many crumpled notes all of which were special to me - OK and my very special bag, a 50th birthday present from the family, as well but the letters were irreplaceable (and Cheryl in New Zealand would never remember what she wrote in the note she pressed into my hand as she left South Africa for her new life in a new country).

I have been reading one of Michael's mother's diaries which has been copied for the family.  This lady kept amazing records of her life in her diaries and notes.  This particular diary is over the period when her husband had been recently banned, shots had been fired through the front door of their home in Claremont and she was making plans to get to the UK for the birth of her only daughter's first child.  In between the personal stuff were also records of who visited her over the Christmas period, of what gifts they bought and of what meals she prepared.  At that time she also had no idea of the fact that an escape from South Africa was being planned for Theo (Michael's dad).  There is definitely in book in this diary (hint, hint Janet (the first child of the only daughter)).

But I digress....back to Letters of Note.  Below is a letter that John Steinbeck wrote to his son, Thom who was at boarding school.  Thom had written to his father telling him that he had fallen  in love with a girl called Susan.  This was his father's reply:-

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Isn't that just awesome?

Then I looked a bit deeper and found this letter which he had written to Adlai Stephenson.  Quite an odd letter but so true and also showing so many wonderful values.

Wise man, John Steinbeck.

Monday, 3 June 2013

story in pictures

A cold and stormy weekend in Cape Town but with a bit of everything to make it great.  Entertaining friends, a fire and a curry on Friday night, an early morning hockey match in the freezing cold on Saturday morning - I was about to announce that hockey, like soccer is ridiculous because you watch for an hour and there is no score and before the words were out 3 goals were scored in 5 minutes, the final one with 5 seconds to go, instrumented by Kelly and making Rustenburg 2-1 winners over their main rivals, Herschel.

A Saturday girls lunch - with two honorary girls Kris and Nic - who eventually both grabbed a sofa, the remote, pretended to watch rugby but slept.  Kathy is about to leave for greener shores this week for 6 weeks so the farewell parties had to start.  Mexican food and drinks, wine and old brown sherry, 

decadent desserts and too much laughter - Mexican food does that to a person.  We tried, very hard to drag her off to our next engagement, but she needed to rest up.  Off we went, with our newly appointed sober driver, Michael (who was pretty sad about not being able to play 18 holes of golf).  This time another farewell family get together at my brother and Lucie's home.  Dave and Lucie are off to the UK again for a month.  A potjie was on the boil, the fires were burning bright and we sat snugly around their big dining room table, telling stories while the thunder and lightning raged above us.  There was gluwein, wine and 

It was quite a storm - and quite a party.

Sunday was still stormy and dark.   Michael and I decided on a drive to Sea Point and a walk along the promenade to see the stormy ocean.  The sea was not that stormy, we were the only two crazy ones out on the promenade in the howling wind and rain.  We must have missed the hail storm by minutes but it was home for a late lunch, to the fire and

While the sport channels ruled supreme with golf and cricket and tennis, I found a perch at the table in front of the fire with my artists pencils and sketch books. 

The tools
The subject and the source of inspiration

Now let me fill you in a bit.  I have a bit of problem with drawing to scale.  Others in the class always managed to fit their project onto the page, but I struggled.  My shoe filled the entire page and would have been a perfect fit for Gulliver (never mind belonging to petite Annie's size 3 foot).  So my teacher gave me a present at the end of the course (I think I could maybe have been her "pet").  It was a really huge sketch pad, so I may have met my match.
Top half
bottom half
Ooops - Maybe it is directly in proportion to the size of the sherry glass??