"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"

Sunday, 30 March 2014

come fairies, take me out of this dull world...

It is not often that I am at a loss for words and it is has not happened very often that I am lucky enough to find myself in a real, live fairy tale. 

Last night I was at a loss for words and a part of a very special experience.


A wedding that was a surreal experience and had me transported to another place.

"Hells Bells" said my prince as we drove along Albert Road, Woodstock "This is an unusual spot for a wedding".  "Hells Bells" said I as we parked our car and headed towards the crowds assembling on the pavement.  This was just the beginning of the experience.


29 March 2014
 blue skies, warm sun
crystal flutes with perfectly chilled pink bubbles, white cloths, handsome barmen, 
beautiful girls, touches of Gatsby, boaters,
headbands, feathers and pearls
all on a pavement in Woodstock
entering the chapel - the fairy tale begins
swing music playing, gasps and an excitement in the air
"Can this be real?"
The bride knows about making her own fairy tale and how to get the excitement to a fever pitch level
the room was buzzing, programmes became fans, flashes, cameras, phones and iPads taking pictures
and the music was perfect

The music changed.  The crowd stood and the groom led his troop of bestman down the aisle, in single file. They were followed by the bridesmaids, to a different tune, beautiful girls with beautifully styled hair.  

The music stops. The bride and her dad frame the entrance and pause. The music changes yet again. The bride is beautiful, her dad so smart, tall and proud.  She is bold and striking and at the same time, soft and gentle with a fur over her shoulders.  Her dress is magnificent and different and a colour hard to describe - dove grey with soft blue hues and, in some light, silvery. Beads and beautiful lace.  (Sorry, no pictures as I am not sure about the right etiquette)

There is a young and energetic minister who leads the blessing.  We say a prayer or two and he gives a short lesson in love and giving and ends off with this lovely blessing while the couple hold hands:-

Blessing of the Hands

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and 
full of love for you, 
that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.

These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, 
and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.

These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; 
tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.

These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.

These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.

These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.

And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, 
will still be reaching for yours, 
still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

The couple leave the church and bounce down the aisle to the "Happy" song. The bridesmaids follow, dancing. The crowd want to dance (well I wanted to dance).  The bride waves her bouquet in the air.  A glance at the mother of the bride shows glistening eyes and a smile nearly as wide as her lovely second daughter.  

Throughout the time in the chapel I could see activity in the courtyard through the beautiful wrought iron windows. Heads of waitresses buzzing around with trays. Nothing, however prepared me for what awaited us as we stepped out of the chapel. Fairies had been.

 "Always check the cake and dessert table first, Jennifer", 
a fat aunt once told me
"You don't want to eat too much food and miss out on the sweet stuff"
This table needs a whole chapter in the story book 
There was something to see around every corner

The evening was still and grey clouds gathered, not a breath of wind and about three drops of drizzle
The sun started going down and the wine continued to flow
Lights started going on and candles were lit
I could have been in Tuscany or Morocco
the set changed, yet again 

Chairs in the chapel disappeared, like the white rabbit and the music man jumped out of a hat

Alice through the Looking Glass had nothing on this
 and all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer me by

I know you expected me to comment on the wine but the food, too, was incredible.  There was a continual stream of waiters and waitresses bringing food around on big white platters - roulades, fillet on sticks, sushi and Thai chicken, calamari in a cone, small bowls of lamb curry and couscous with tiny silver forks.  Small espresso cups with white and dark chocolate mousse with tiny silver spoons.  At midnight we received a snack box containing a mini hamburger and chips "To eat or to take home", said the waiter.

There was more wine (have I mentioned the wine?) and a cheese table that would win awards at an international food expo
people left their seats to dance
some people never sat
there were flowers (and perfectly chilled wine)
 and what is a fairytale without a fountain?
and what is a wedding without a barman chatting up a pretty girl
(or maybe the other way around?)

It was wonderfully, different and special wedding that I was honoured to be a part of and will never forget.  Lovely new friends made and special time with Gareth, Hayley and her special and warm family.

Two people who you may know
(taken before the fairtytale began and before Jennifer turned into a pumpkin)

Thursday, 27 March 2014

good times and nice things

As much as I have enjoyed this long balmy summer, the change of seasons in March and September are my very best.

A short, brisk walk in a blustery north wester and some light drizzle this morning 

and home to a cup of tea and some Grape Nuts

My bestest breakfast cereal ever. Lucky my brother and Lucie travel lots - Grape Nuts are very much cheaper in the UK than on our shelves so they are always on my request list. I got a new box on Sunday so I had a new spring in my step to get home quickly this morning.

My lounge is still filled with flowers and table mats and birthday decorations from Michael's birthday supper on Sunday night

I cannot believe that Proteas were never my favourite until recently
Now I cannot get enough (a similar thing happened to me with peanut butter)

Looking through my pictures from the weekend, there were lots of favourites.

Babysitting Alfie for two nights while the owners were at, yet another, wedding. He is the sweetest and lovely to have him visit (and dig up the garden a bit).

Watching Amy get ready for her first matric dance.  She handled the abuse from her cousins for attending a "Wynberg Boys" matric dance in her usual polite way (she can handle them well).  She also did not mind the fact that a whole crowd of supporters (and Alfie) arrived at the school to watch her arrive on the red carpet. 

Michael and I had special birthday dinner at Myogo at the Vineyard Hotel on Saturday night.  We decided to have the 6 course taster menu. For me it was a real treat as I am an adventurous eater. Michael however likes his food pretty straight forward and without too many frills.  So it was a different birthday experience for him, tasting the likes of Asian pork belly with aubergine jam, seafood veloute, sirloin with marrow and tongue jus, cauliflower cream and broccoli rabe (and the bits of sorbet between courses).
It was a lovely evening, with great service and we were made to feel very special. 

My picture does not do this sirloin dish justice.  
It was the best steak we had ever tasted.

There was to be no birthday party but I managed to wangle in a family birthday dinner on Sunday.  I had a bit of fun as well getting everyone to give a few reasons why they love Michael and put it together to make table mats for the dinner.

Kelly's one was priceless.  "Trust me, at the most you look 60!".  Trust her Michael, she may be the youngest of the lot, but she knows stuff.

After the rains on the weekend, on Sunday afternoon things cleared and we had a perfect autumn evening and beautiful sunset sky for the "non-party" dinner.

A good evening and nice end to the weekend.

So hard to believe that tomorrow is the start of another weekend and the end of March.  It is our turn to go to wedding on Saturday.  I love weddings!!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

20 years in a drawer

It has been a year of sorting out stuff.  From the time Michael's mom died, to Nic moving out of Albion Road, to a burglary and now a change of desks in an office where I no longer work, it seems to have been a non-stop time of "sorting out" for me.  I am getting quite used to it, but not that good at throwing out and still have wooden crates with things that I am not too sure what to do with.

Leaving my office last year was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Mainly because no one was replacing me, my desk and computer would be there for me and I could pop in every couple of days to catch up on any office politics, go through my emails, use the scanner, photocopier and printer if I had to (wonderful when your husband is the boss), so everything was great.

Things change though and last week I was landed with the job of emptying my office desk as they were having a change around.  Long overdue, I suppose.  I came home with a couple of boxes and spent last night going through them.  

There were the notes I had used for Nicky's funeral and notes that Dalene and I made for my grandfather's memorial. There were cards from Nicky, letters from ex-girlfriends and plenty of programmes from all the funerals through the years.

Besides the bottles of diet potions, herbal teas, natural hormonal gels, hand creams, fountain pens, photographs, notes and cards and a sizeable amount of cash, I also came upon a couple of treasures.

The postcard below Matthew had written to my aunt after we had spent a few nights with her in Johannesburg.  It is written on a postcard from the Karoo National Park where we had spent a night on our way back to Cape Town after the 1995 World Cup.

Now what is the good of teaching your kids good manners, having them write a card and then never posting it because it "got lost" in a pile on your desk before you could find the box number?  Sorry Matt.  Thanks for "haveing us" Aunty Revonica.

I have a wonderful pile of emails from my friend Cheryl in New Zealand. Pages and pages of the two of us pouring our hearts out to each other.  She was settling into a new life in New Zealand with her husband and two young boys while my life with my three young boys was being split apart.  I felt quite sad because that was such a big part of our lives and we don't email much anymore.  We have Facebook to keep in touch and every couple of months we have a mammoth telephone session.  I miss her so much, she has visited a couple of times and we know that our bond is secure but those emails were really a lifeline at the time for both of us.  We can use the "no time, so busy" excuse on not being good about keeping in touch, but that is no excuse.  We managed to find the time before and perhaps it was because we were both needy at the time and the emails were a form of therapy.  There is a book for me in those emails so they could not be put into the paper waste pile.

This is the pencil holder from my desk which her youngest son Daniel had made for me.

This is the "tongue in cheek" reference letter which I wrote for her before she left. For once she was at a loss for words:-

Those were the days.  Wouldn't you love to have her working with you?

There is a file of emails from Gareth when he did his 2 years working in London.  He wrote under the name Poncey Malherbe and those emails started a cult following in Cape Town and led him on the path of journalism.  Some brilliant stuff there and so many events and funny stories that I had forgotten about.  There is a book in those emails for him as well.

Nic's email file from his gap year is less full.  Most of the emails seem to be me having to change flights or connections and help him and his mate get out of America before their visa's expired.  His general emails from London tell of revelry, music concerts, furniture removals and camping on couches.

Then there is a hard covered journal that Gareth had made up to list the family's CD collection.  At the back of the journal are words for certain songs - so much time to spare instead of doing homework!!  I do however notice, on investigation, that there is an X next to my Van Morrison CD and that it could perhaps still be in the possession of Paul Swanson!!

So once again, an evening of memories rekindled by the contents of a desk drawer.

Some stuff has to be kept, other stuff read for the last time and turfed away, expired potions, tablets and creams thrown away.  I now have another crate labelled "Coulters" for my collection. Anybody need a box of tampons? 

Friday, 14 March 2014

no great loss, perhaps

Sometimes a traffic jam, a wrong turn and a change of plan can lead to unexpected pleasures and another life lesson.

A walk with Annie on the Green Belt in Constantia instead of Kirstenbosch on a clear, fresh March morning left us both with a good feeling about growing older.

Perhaps a Thursday morning is the day that the older (very old), retired men of Cape Town have off.  

The first man we spotted was some way up ahead and we commented on his slow and deliberate pace.  Can you see him?
We overtook him, said a friendly "hello" and commented on the lovely morning.  Then we left him for dust (or thought we did).  We walked a bit further, climbed some steps before we reached the road where we could admire the view and take some pictures.  As we turned around after our short stop, the deliberate, slow and friendly walker overtook us.  He told us (without slowing down) that he was continuing up the mountain.  My mind boggled because my legs were feeling it, how did he catch up to us so quickly and how was he going to climb the mountain? Then I remembered the story of the tortoise and the hare.  He told us that had left home early, Annie, in her motherly way, checked that he had enough water and he carried on, with his backpack, smart long pants and floppy hat, in his now distinctive, slow and deliberate way.  I am sure he had a wonderful day and made it to his destination (and safely back).  This is probably what he does every Thursday morning and has done every Thursday since he retired 22 years ago.

We made our way back.

On the same bridge we met a whole brigade of older men (OK, actually only four). 

All had proper walking sticks, backpacks and the required floppy hat. They were a sprightly bunch and managed a bit of flirting as they passed us by. The one chap stopped, told us that they had just had an "apple break" and that they had left home at 6.30. He was planning on bringing his wife for a walk when the flowers were blooming. "It is so beautiful then". Annie agreed and gave him a quick botany lesson, he thanked her and continued on at speed trying to catch up with his mates.

This time they left us for dust and ventured off the pathway and into the fields (maybe to have another "apple break").  I could imagine them, finishing their walk at around 11 that morning and heading to the Alphen Hotel for a few "toots".

Bantering with these old guys had me thinking of my grandad, the stories he used to tell and how in my twenties, I did not make enough time to spend with him and to really listen to him. Now I can listen to and make conversation with unknown, old men for ages and I really enjoy it and it makes me feel a bit sad.

How wonderful to be in your eighties and still be able to take mountain walks? How wonderful to still have friends to do it with?

I have family and friends facing health issues at the moment, I have friends who are having to adapt to retirement and relocation.  Michael is also at a crossroads and having to make and adapt to changes and all of these "next stages" in your life seem to bring new stresses.  I feel these stresses for them.

Then, early one fresh March Thursday morning, you see four old friends rambling through the Green Belt and it makes you realise that if you have friends, a certain level of fitness and an appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you, life is pretty awesome, no matter what your age (the carrot of the "toots" at 11 at the Alphen gave me a new spring in my step.  I have never been one for an "apple break"). 

“but one loses, as one grows older, something of the lightness of one's dreams; 
one begins to take life up in both hands, 
and to care more for the fruit than the flower, 
and that is no great loss 

W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore

Thursday, 6 March 2014

I like this feeling

Don't know why I am sharing, but I feel like sharing. I could get messages from my sons and nieces saying "TMI"* but here goes.

I am sharing because it is an unusual feeling at 55 (and one month) to feel so overcome with love (that feeling that you are so happy you could burst). Yesterday while driving over Constantia Nek on a most perfect morning in Cape Town, listening to music and just generally deep in thought, I had to pull the car over to the side of the road and send Michael a message.

"I love you so much, I could pop!"

Michael has had a rough couple of months with having to make certain important work related decisions. These decisions have led to negotiations and some conflict which has been stressful for everybody involved. No-one enjoys conflict but especially not Michael.  So with this recently behind him there is a new lightness about him. We had a stunning dinner the previous night and then a very early walk together in the morning, when the light was just right, the mountain clear and crisp, the neighbourhood slowly waking up and starting to make a noise.

The realisation that I had come to after reading this a few days ago was also still fresh in my mind.

Wouldn't it be great, I had thought, and then I realised that besides sitting by the window reading books when it rains (which I could do, if I had time to do it and I could make time, if I really wanted to), my life is pretty boundless and infinite.

So driving up Constantia Nek on a perfect day I realised where this popping feeling was coming from.  Michael is letting me live my dream, he never complains and just loves me, completely.

And while I am all mushy and romantic (please excuse me), my all time favourite quote from a favourite book, which seems so apt today:-

“He smiled understandingly - much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Not four or five times in life - Everyday!

Another realisation that has come to me at 55 (and one month).  When I was a romantic 19 year old, reading Gatsby for the first time, I read and re-read that paragraph, hoping that someone would smile at me "much more than understandingly".

I am blessed.  

Excuse me while I pop.

*Too Much Information (for Mom)

Saturday, 1 March 2014

some stuff to share

Every boy should have a dog.  

Blogger, Jessica Shyba has taken these wonderful pictures of her toddler sleeping with their new puppy. Gareth's new puppy is coming to visit this afternoon.  I will try to get him to have a quick nap with Alfie and I will sneak a few shots.

This poem touched the right button.

A beautiful book by Mark Twain - Advice to Little Girls

And how awesome is this - Outfits made from paper

Take a look at this article and more amazing pictures.  This mom must have a serious amount of time to spare.

This was my Wine Time office last week

Pretty well stocked, some space to work and a bathroom to use

This week

The new wine has arrived (and there is more to come). The cases piled to the roof on your right block the toilet door.  Lucky the wine is flying out of the door but there is quite a bit of the Chenin / Viognier to sell before I can use the bathroom.

This is such a cool song
Enjoy your weekend, enjoy the cricket, drink lots of wine so that I can replace your stocks (I may need to use the bathroom next week).