ANOTHER USE FOR THAT FEATHER DUSTER


 

20180112_102042 (2)Whilst pounding away on the treadmill at the gym today, my gaze roaming idly over the car park, I spotted a middle-aged man, dressed in his gym kit, meticulously dusting down his car with a feather duster. Well, I thought, here’s a conscientious citizen who isn‘t wasting precious water during our drought crisis , by washing his car. He’s dusting it instead. Good for him! And let me add, the car was a modest 4-door family sedan, not a fancy Porsche or anything.

Another worthy citizen’s large, white sedan was parked in my neighbour’s driveway this week, and the dust begrimed passenger door was decorated with a finger-drawn large daisy and the words : I’m a water warrior! Yes you are, dear citizen, please keep up the good work.

If you don’t own a feather duster, and you live in the Western Cape, I suggest you dash out and buy one now. Furthermore, they are an excellent tool for trapping large spiders and shaking them away outside the house. Apparently the spiders’ hairy legs (shudder) get all tangled up in the feathers.

You never knew feather dusters were such a multi-purpose tool, did you?

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TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG? THAT IS THE QUESTION


Catching up on my WordPress Reader I found a number of Bloggers reviewing their 2017 blogging year. At one end of the spectrum was the unbelievably dedicated, productive Alec Nevala-Lee who revealed he has written a 1 000 word blog post every day of this year. Respect, Alec! How did he do it? We all know perfectly well how he did it. He single mindedly sat down and applied himself until his daily piece was written. This, mark you in addition to his work as a novelist and freelance writer.

 
At the other end of the spectrum I read a post by 746 Books in which Kathy confesses that 2017 was not a productive blogging year for her. She said it had been difficult to carve out time for writing on her blog, and that her reading (she’s a bookworm, like me) progress had been unsatisfactory. She wondered whether she should stop blogging altogether? These salutary thoughts on her 4th Blogoversary.

 
I know how she feels. Whilst I am not in her league when it comes to compulsive book buying, it is a factor in my life. Let’s face it, I’m more of a reader than I’m a writer. Then I read Ann V Klotz post titled Writing is Everything. Do I feel that way? No, I don’t, but part of me wishes I did. The title is a little misleading, in that she details the myriad events that keep her from the keyboard. I know the feeling well!

 
I am experiencing December fatigue after a busy year. The end of November and beginning of December are always hectic in South Africa. On 16 December the entire country pretty much shuts down – industry, the building trade, anything that is not retail or hospitality related. Try getting anything done between now and 08 January 2018. Fuggedabtoutit, as the Americans say. So the build up to 16 December is frantic. Everyone trying to get projects completed before shut-down. Social clubs and organisations cramming in their year-end staff parties/thank-you ceremonies/ etc. By December 16th the nation is in a soggy heap, ready to go on holiday and start (or continue) partying.

 
Do I feel like blogging? Not really. Hopefully by January 2018 I will have rested and recovered, enjoyed a relaxing Christmas Family Visit in Durban, and be ready to resume my blogging . Meanwhile: Wishing all a peaceful Festive Season with your families and friends, and a happy, healthy New Year.
Over and Out.

 
Oooops, no, not quite. My alter-ego and companion Chocolat has a few scornful final words to add to my post: She says: My Personal Assistant should do as I do . Life really is so simple : find a comfy, sandy spot under the shady karee tree, and relax. Saunter indoors for a cooling sip of water and then continue napping on the PA’s feather duvet. What’s all the fuss about?

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INBOX AT ZERO ?


*(JAP Just a Paragraph: when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph; random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

 

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Inspired by a recent blog post on Medium D, I have been wading through the undergrowth in my Inbox, wielding my machete ruthlessly. I’ve had to Empty Deleted Items twice, and still the contents remain at over 100. Sigh. I wonder if you feel as overwhelmed by the flood of incoming mail as I do? I suppose the answer is to attend to each mail instantly or at least within 8 hours. But because my mail is not routed via my cellphone, this means I must be at home, seated at my desktop PC and prepared to spend time dealing with the InBox. According to the Medium D writer (didn’t note his name – sorry chap!)he had actually reduced his InBox to pristine white zero status. Hmm. Did he have his fingers crossed when he typed this statement? Is it even possible? He probably spends every waking hour glued to his screen. I wonder how long it stayed that way? Any suggestions?

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MY CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL STRATEGY


 

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I am re-posting my Survival Strategy as a Public Health Service to my frazzled Readers. ‘Tis the Silly Season, after all. The post originally appeared on 3 January 2017, but in the interim, my readership has changed. Have a laugh, and I hope you find some useful tips

 

I can hear my readers screaming: Gag that woman! Christmas 2017? Noooooo – we’ve just staggered away from December 2016. Please! Enough already!
Keep calm. Don’t panic. Make a nice cuppa tea and when you’re feeling calmer, continue reading. Okay. Everybody take a slow deep breath and we’ll analyze what makes (most) Festive Seasons less than ideal.

 
There’s so much to do isn’t there? The shopping, the decorations, the enormous lunch, the gifts, the hordes of relatives; the washing up; the clean-up; the family rows that sometimes last for decades. And, last but not least, Uncle George. Every family has one. I can see you nodding your heads. The awkward relative your conscience prods you to include. And then you wish you hadn’t.

 
Where to begin? Here’s my #1 tip:

 
1. Shopping: start now in January at the January Sales. I’m pretty sure every country has them. Big money-saver. Bung your bargains into a plazzie bag, write the names of the recipients on the plastic with Magic Marker, and stow in a dedicated, secret carton in your garage.
2. Failing the January Sales, make a big diary note around September to start attending monthly Craft Markets and keep a sharp eye out for Church Bazaars. You will discover unique handmade items, often at very reasonable prices.
3. Immediately after Christmas scoop up markdowns of gift wrap, tags and bags . Pop into that box in the Garage. Ka Ching! Saving money!

 
#2 tip : Decorations. Buy a Christmas wreath, attach to the front door and when somebody moans about the lack of decorations, tell them firmly that if they want more decorations, then they’d better get cracking and provide some, because this is the year you’re on strike. Trust me, the world will keep on turning without tinsel.

 
#3 tip: The Enormous Lunch. Announce around October that this is the last year you will be hosting The Christmas Lunch, and furthermore, this year, it will be a Bring & Share Banquet. Circulate the menu and insist that the diners commit , in writing, to one major item e.g. the turkey. You will provide the venue, crockery, cutlery, one edible item, plus coffee/liqueurs/choccies afterwards.
AND, the cherry on top – once assembled around the festive board, hold a lucky draw , the winner of which will be the host of next year’s Bring & Share Banquet. Propose an enthusiastic toast to the lucky winner.

 
#4 tip: Buy a dishwasher. Yes, you do need one. Don’t listen to anybody telling you they use a colossal amount of water, they don’t. Or that they will ruin the family silver : actually, yes, they will, which is why you will use perfectly good stainless steel cutlery. Ditto the same dire effects on the bone china. Take that heirloom 60 piece Royal Albert dinner service to the nearest antique shop and flog it. You have other crockery, for goodness sake. The proceeds will help pay for the dishwasher.

 
#5 tip: Secret Santa : Hold a draw around October where your Xmas Lunch guests will draw the name of one person, for whom they will bring one gift, to the value of … Fill in the magic number: not more than X. End of story. Your garage trove of gift bargains is for your nearest & dearest, or people like your hairdresser. You cannot live without a good hairdresser. So give him/her a prezzie.

 
#6 tip: Uncle George/Aunty Maud: Using part of your loot from flogging the heirloom silver and the EPNS gravy boat, cunningly book a table for the old fossil for a slap-up Christmas dinner at a local hotel. Naturally you will book taxi transport. You will of course break the good news in the form of a fictitious Raffle prize? Anonymous Benefactor? This way he/she can’t possibly totter through your front door on December 25th. Fingers crossed.

 
#7 tip: Buy a large diary now, yes, on 2 January, and map out your Defence Plan for the next Christmas jollies. Work out your strategy, diarise, execute, and relax. Oh, and a P.S. Don’t think you can get away with running your diary system on your mobile phone. Bad idea. They tend to get lost, stolen, dropped and broken. But your hardcover diary stays safely at home, and the Magic Strategy is preserved.

 
#8 tip: One last essential pointer. At the next mammoth bottle store sale, stock up on a couple of bottles of your favourite relaxant – sherry? (very seasonal), brandy? (warming and cheering) gin? (good for cooling G&Ts for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) . Hide your haul in the Garage Box, and start medicating around 15 November. You should be in a relaxed frame of mind for the upcoming festivities.

 
Finally:   for mercy’s sakef, do not lose that Diary!

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THE RED BOOK ENGINE


Midway through our Open Garden viewing in Elgin, we stopped at Peregrine Farmstall for lunch. Tramping around gardens left us with an urgent need for refuelling and Peregrine was the perfect place. The Farmstall is renowned for its pies and when I’d finished my big Springbok pie, I could quite see why . It was crammed full of spicy meat, the flaky pastry was light and golden , just like you hope it will be, and seldom is! In short: the perfect pie.
After lunch we wandered into the garden for a smoke break, and to my surprise, this is what I found.

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(Thanks to Nina Ganci for the photos)
Burning books? Oh, the horror! My mind immediately zoomed to Ray Bradbury’s classic SF novel Fahrenheit 451. The curious title refers to the temperature at which paper will burn, and the novel is a dystopian fantasy about a world where books are regarded as dangerous. There’s a special police unit which hunts them down and burns them. *

 

I strolled around the big vehicle , which has been retro fitted to serve as a Book Truck , a shop on wheels, stocked with current popular fiction, a large selection of kids’ books, and a small non-fiction section.

 

I looked around for the stallholder and found Christy . There we are in the header pic. We got chatting and I discovered she loves books, particularly literary fiction and historical fiction.
Christy told me that the mobile Burning Books project is an offshoot of her bookstore in Grabouw: Liberty Books.

 

Would you believe she saw an ad in Gumtree for a classic imported 1955 Green Goddess fire engine – which goes to prove you can buy and sell practically anything on Gumtree! Only snag was it was situated in Dannhauser, a former coal mining town in the Northwest of Kwa Zulu Province. A tad under 1500 kms away from Grabouw. But, where there’s a will etc … Luckily Christy’s husband is a classic car fundi/expert and engineer, who was able to do the conversion of the truck from fire engine to bookstore.  After the refit, at the end of June this year, they parked the truck in the Peregrine Farmstall garden. Due to its success, it hasn’t moved since!

 

I asked Christy about her choice of name for her project. Apart from the fact that she enjoys alliteration, hence the name, she said :
“Because a fire truck is a vehicle designed to rescue people and property from burning I thought it was fitting to name my bookstore, housed in a fire truck, “Burning Books”. Repressive regimes throughout history have been “Burning Books” and destroying them to attempt to contain the spread of dangerous ideas. Obviously, this is antithetical to what I’m doing: buying books from charity shops (thereby saving them from the destruction of pulping), in order to release second hand books back into the world, giving them another chance of life. “
A noble vision, from my book fanatic’s point of view, and a delicious irony in the name, don’t you think?

What booklover doesn’t fantasize about owning their own Bookstore? And then to own a happy red book truck – that’s gotta be the bright red cherry on top!

 

* Footnote: I hesitated before adding the following grim footnote to an upbeat post, but nevertheless, it’s important current issue in our country, regarding the freedom of the Press, and the need to prevent State censorship. Not to forget protecting our citizen’s Right to Freedom of Speech. I need to connect the dots between these ideas and the present uproar in South Africa about the publication of The President’s Keepers – Those Keeping Zuma In Power And Out Of Prison (Paperback) – Jacques Pauw. His expose has rattled the cages of the corrupt and powerful, and Pauw has been threatened by our State Security Agency . Naturally the enormous publicity has caused the book to sell out. More irony. Banning books is a relic of our bad old apartheid past, and must never be tolerated again.
https://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2017-11-11-ive-got-more-dirt-on-ssa-
https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/nzimande-sacp-like-jacques-p

 

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THE WORST THING ABOUT OUR WATER CRISIS (JAP)*


 

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Do you know what I hate most about Cape Town’s water crisis? Not the two-minute-only showers, every other day. Not watching my garden dry up and wither away. Or only flushing the toilet once a day (although this runs a close second). So what else could possibly be the problem ? I hear you ask. I’ll tell you. Dishwashing. Huh? What? Dishwashing?? Yes. You see I own a dishwasher and have done for years, ever since I immigrated nearly 40 years ago. Being a single parent, working all day, maid-less for the first time in my life, and since dishwashers were on the market, it seemed the obvious solution. Which it was. Brilliant solution. But the machines use an awful lot of water, so …. Need I go any further? There! I’ve got that off my chest. I can see you shaking your collective heads as you click CLOSE. We all have our personal stumbling blocks, and this is my current one.
*(Just a Paragraph: when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph; random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

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HEAVENLY GARDENS


Occasionally a much anticipated outing exceeds expectation. For years I’ve wanted to see the annual Elgin Open Gardens event and this past weekend, Nina helped make my dream come true. On Sunday we drove out to Elgin to visit the gardens on show. The weather was perfect. Sunny and hot, with just enough breeze to offset the heat.
After reading the brochure giving a brief description of the 18 show gardens, we decided to limit ourselves to three gardens. As this was our first visit we weren’t sure of the distances involved, and this proved to be a wise move. Not that we traveled a huge distance overall, but driving on gravel farm roads when you don’t really know where you are going is time consuming. Plus half of Cape Town was also in Elgin to see the gardens, so traffic was often congested on the narrow gravel roads.
Elgin is famous for its apple orchards. Other deciduous fruits are grown in the area too, and the views of farms and estates were stunning. Here is a general view of the Elgin area, en route to Highlands Road.

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Another general view, this time from the hilltop area of the Auld Earn garden, with a protea bush (our national flower) in the foreground.

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And a close-up of the protea.

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Jenny Simpson’s plantswoman’s garden at Auld Earn was worth the slog up and down steep hills, along challenging narrow farm roads in our modest saloon car – how we wished for a rugged 4×4, but we got there in the end. And it was worth it for the views, and the riot of mixed plantings on the property.

 

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For me the highlight of our visit to Ridgelands, Elgin Vintners on Appletiser Road, was the charming and unusual Fairy Garden. It was set in a shady corner, planted with brilliant green ground cover and tiny delicate flowers, which formed the backdrop for the miniature figurines of fairies and woodland animals peeking out from the foliage.

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Nina had a ball photographing the many roses at Ridgelands, and to enjoy more of  her pics  see the link below. Here’s a sample

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I’ve left the best until last. Fresh Woods – owners Peter & Barbara Knox-Shaw . Walking through the garden I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! Here’s the description from the brochure:

Rambling, romantic plantsman’s garden with major collection of heritage & species roses; many rare trees & shrubs, some wild-collected, incl. rhododendrons (esp. Maddenias), serrata & wild hydrangeas, deutzias & over 70 Japanese maples; also collections of cyclamen, epimediums & lilies; woodland garden under pine. Bamboo walk. WFRS Award of Garden Excellence 2003. Featured in Remarkable Gardens of SA (2012); Gardens to Inspire (2013), Veld, Vlei & Rose Gardens (2011) and Old Roses: Survival & Revival in SA (2015).

The woodland setting provides enchanting, dappled shade, with twisty little footpaths leading to yet another surprise or treasure. I love azaleas and there were plenty, ranging from the small to the giant:

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Next to the bamboo grove was a tiny pond, guarded by giant leaves – an accurate description, when you see me standing next to the plants, to illustrate the size of the plants. Perhaps one of my readers will know the name of the giant plants ? I’m baffled.

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Who hasn’t dreamed of a leafy fragrant pergola? This one has blue/purple Petrea at the base, another of my favourites, with pink roses higher up, and wisteria as a roof. Gorgeous!

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But my favourite was the Japanese maple tree area. I loved the delicate leaves, that etch themselves so clearly against the background , while the different coloured foliage ranging from vibrant red to pastel spring green is breathtaking.

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I could rave on for hours but will stop here. We’ve already diarised the date in our 2018 diaries and can’t wait to go back next year. If you live in Cape Town, the event will be open for one more weekend only, 4 and 5 November 2017. Do not miss the opportunity!
All photos in this post are by Nina Ganci, and you can see more of her wonderful pics on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nina.ganci. Be sure to visit her page, as I’ve shown only a fraction of her pics .

 

 

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SHONGWENI FARMERS’ MARKET


 

Over the years on my visits to  my Durban Family (eldest daughter Helen & family) I’ve been taken to the nearby Shongweni Farmers’ Market. It was a scant 5 kms down the hill, sited on a rough, grassy hillside, inevitably wet and muddy, packed with people and their excited dogs. For some reason, Durbanites  saw the Market as a great Saturday morning venue to exercise their dogs, and the ensuing tangle of dog leads, frantic barking and  occasional dog fight were  part of the fun. All this amongst families, toddlers, pushchairs,  shopping baskets, vendors unloading their products, lost kids and runaway dogs. Happy family mayhem. I loved it.

Then – oh no! the market moved. The land lease expired, and another venue had to be found. Which it was, close to the nearby Shongweni Dam.  This, however, is 12 kms from Helen’s house, so I was heaved briskly out of  bed at 0530 on Saturday morning  and told departure was in 25 minutes. Apparently the parking situation, plus the  inevitable traffic tailback on a skinny country road, has to be avoided at all costs. Fair enough.

And so it was I stood at 0630 on a damp, drizzly hillside, peering at rows of  corrugated iron roofs, and neat  cement walkways. Clearly no more mud at the new, bigger, smarter market. To my relief, plenty of families, toddlers, and dogs in evidence :

I must admit the new market is orderly, clean, vast,  and offers a huge variety of merchandise. For example – huge mushrooms, being sold by an elegant vendor. Note the funky guineafowl table covering.

I do love the colourful Zulu beadwork, but it’s a hell of a price nowadays. I cherish my antique strings of beads bought for virtually nothing, twenty years ago. The baskets are not beaded, as you might suppose. They are made from thin wire. Originally weavers used to gather scraps of electric cable left behind by Telkom or Eskom. They would strip off the external plastic covering to get at the 4/5/6 strands of fine wire within, which would be colour coded. Whether the baskets are still made this way I don’t know, but it may partly account for the enormous amount of  of telephone cable  theft ….   Roll on the introduction of fibre optic cable!  The downside will be less – or no – beautiful woven baskets.

There’s food of course. What would a country market be without food?  Locally made cheeses; locally grown coffee; and the ethnic bakers – Greek, German and of course, Indian, this being Kwa-Zulu Natal  which has one of the biggest Indian populations outside of the Indian continent.  I had my heart set on samoosas and a few Pakora*but alas! the market was so big I never managed to find my way back to the Indian food stalls.

I couldn’t take pics of the foodstalls due to the crush around them. But  I’m including a bad pic of the man selling pesto. Unfortunately his colourful pots of pesto didn’t come out well in the pic, but you can clearly see the smart new roofing. Which was welcome on such a drizzly, misty morning.

Me & my cellphone  will never win any prizes for photography.  But I did catch one pic of these fun dog biscuits!

I enjoyed my visit, and would love to go back another time. But the old country atmosphere has gone. The new version may well be out in the country, but now its much more organised and businesslike.On the plus side,  the public loos are a great deal better.  Ah well. Things change. But luckily the  vendor’s smiles stay the same.   Howzit, Barry!

 

*deep fried potato cake – beyond delicious finger food and death by cholesterol, but when you eat one you really don’t care. Actually, stopping at one requires superhuman willpower.

 

 

 

 

 

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SUN ‘n SUSHI


A beautiful day so I drove up to Melkbosstrand for an ad hoc al fresco lunch : sushi by the sea.

 

 

I stopped off at my local supermarket and bought sushi. And you Sushi Snobs can stop raising your eyebrows. Their sushi is delicious. I stood and watched them make it – fresher than that you don’t get.

 

 

And of course there was an opportunistic gull, beadily looking out for a dropped crumb. Sorry bird: no crumbs associated with this lunch.

I reminded myself I should do this more often. Just 11 kms up the road is a pretty little town with a superb stretch of coast. I’ll be taking more picnics to Melkies beach.

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IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD


FLOWERS

Sometimes everything works in your favour. Just for once!  Such was the case when Nina & I visited the Postberg Flower Reserve within the West Coast National Park  last  week. The Reserve is only open during Flower Season, in August and September, when our fabulous Spring wildflowers pop out. So I thought I’d share our lovely day with my readers. And also to show the more positive side of South Africa instead of the usual drama and disasters that blights our country.

Firstly here is a  pic of my faithful photographers standing in a field of flowers.  As I have said before  we’re the perfect combo – she likes to take pics and I  like to go on outings

.I couldn’t resist this pic – the carpet of purple flowers was gorgeous. Thanks to the strangers who provided perspective for Nina’s pic.

 

This was the one and only patch  of cerise flowers we saw – a genuine shocking pink!

Not so dramatic, but still beautiful.  If you look carefully at the two close-ups you will notice more tiny flowers in the pics. The white background is a mixture of sand and pulverised shells.

 

What a glorious day we had!

 

 

 

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