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(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)

You’re probably thinking: Huh? Weird title for a blog post. What’s she on about now? She cleaned out her fridge – join the dots, people, work it out for yourselves. Odd though it may seem, I don’t mind doing housework. It’s not my #1 favourite occupation, but that said, in the spirit of the Zen practitioners, I just do it. I attack tasks in small, bite sized chunks, when the spirit moves me. No timetable. Just as and when either I feel like it, or the task can no longer be ignored. The fridge cleanup fell into the last category. I ruthlessly tossed any item that was past its BB (best before) date. Out went two jars of mayo, and an elderly bottle of chutney. I’m now mayo-less, but hey, its winter. Not salad time. The true horror story was a bottle of green Madagascar peppercorns – 2012 no less, and sporting a spectacular crop of green mould. Pretty colour, though. I recall buying them specially for a new recipe which I tried out. Recipe tried, and the peppercorns languished. I bet you’ve got some fancy ingredients growing whiskers in your fridge too. I double-dare you to ‘fess up!


Filed under FOOD, HUMOUR


Veg curry

Others may note the arrival of winter by the onset of coughs and sneezes, cold fingers and toes or the late rising and early setting of the good old sun, but me?  As soon as the temperatures start to drop, I’m in my kitchen cooking away  like there’s no tomorrow.

I’m a keen concocter of soup.  My style of cooking might be described as ‘rustic’ (to coin an Australian Masterchef term) so Minestrone is a favourite, as is Sweet Potato soup (lots of warming chilli floating around in it). And then there’s a crazy recipe involving tinned tuna, tomatoes, rice and curry powder – you’ve no idea how delicious it is. I have to stop myself from buying additional cookery books on the fascinating topic of Soup. I could eat it, quite cheerfully, every day. Perhaps not at the height of our summer when February temps reach a horrible 35 degrees Centigrade, but other than this : lead me to it!

Today was a cook-fest of note: mutton stew, oven baked rice, oven-stewed guavas, diabetic muffins, and an enormous oven baked vegetable curry.  Apart from the fact that the guavas dripped sticky juice all over the floor of my oven, and the kitchen looks like  the barbarian hordes swept through recently,  the house smells fragrant, a mixture of guava and mutton stew, and I’m leaving the mountain of washing up until tomorrow. Enough for one day

One thing I’ve learnt over the years: washing up is very patient, and will wait a loooonnng  time for me to get around to it. Fortunately I own a lot of crockery and utensils. This mad passion for washing up the minute a crumb falls on a plate – not my style. Quite exhausting.

Furthermore, years ago I invested in a dishwasher, (the mechanical variety, not the two-legged male type) one of the best decisions I ever made. And I have vowed that when the current Bosch beast breaks down, which inevitably  it will do, I shall immediately drive to Makro , at top speed, without passing GO to collect my R200, and buy another one – I don’t care what it costs or how broke I am at the time. For me, a dishwasher is a household essential.

Visitors often express astonishment that I own (and use) a dishwasher. But you’re only one person !  they say, in baffled tones. So? I eat three cooked meals a day, plus there are the innumerable cups of tea and coffee during the day, not to mention frequent visitors who are hospitably fed and watered by yours truly. You bet I need a dishwasher!

But I’ve digressed: what’s your favourite winter food? I recently found a recipe for Aloo Gobi (a.k.a. potato and cauliflower curry) made one batch, and am winding up to making another batch – and the good news is that the Bosch capably removed the brilliant yellow turmeric stains from my casserole dish. It doesn’t get better than this.


Filed under FOOD



(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)


My handbag has me cursing every time I leave the house. Where are my car keys? In which pocket/compartment/ cavity are they hiding? Where has my lipstick tucked itself away? Why has my pen disappeared? The handbag in question is a dull aubergine colour; not a colour I would have chosen, but I inherited the handbag, and being thrifty, I kept it. When I was younger (and therefore much richer) I indulged my passion for handbags – I had a handbag for every occasion, and then some. Snakeskin clutch? Check. Slinky black patent leather clutch? Check. Brushed tan suede carry-all? Check. Tapestry bag with gold chain handle? Check. And so on. You name it, I had one. But my handbag collection is now sadly reduced, and I’m using this sober handbag, which has a surprising number of pockets, both internally and externally. It has 8 zippered cavities, plus 4 non-zippered compartments. Can you believe it, in a bag of these modest dimensions? I measured the wretched thing, and can report it’s only 25cm long x 16cm high. Hardly large, you will agree, but it’s like an Accessories Black Hole: items popped into this handbag vanish. I can only conclude it was designed for female magicians. Now you see it, and now you don’t.

P.S.: I should add that I’m still lusting after a genuine ostrich skin handbag, and should I find one on a sale, I will buy it – if you can’t have one last extravagant fling at my age, when can you?


Filed under HUMOUR

WINTER WOES  – from Chocolat


Chocolat the Literary Critic

It’s been terribly cold this winter. With my short coat, I feel the cold dreadfully. Fortunately my house catches the winter afternoon sun, so when possible I sunbathe on the bed in the spare bedroom. As you can see from the photo, its fairly comfortable.


In the mornings, if the weather is dry and the sun comes out, I relax on the patio table, soaking up the rays. Its sheltered from the wind, always a good thing on a Cape winter day.

My attendant has been quite good this year, heating up my personal hot-cushion and putting it into my Cat House (why are you sniggering? It’s a standard blue foam igloo. Hah! Humans!)She also provides under-cat-heating, in the evenings, while she watches her moving pictures. She has her uses.

At night I make a beeline for our winter feather duvet, which is lovely, if my attendant remembers to switch on the electric blanket. Life can be hard for a cat.






I’m still shaking my head.   Chiefly in bemused bafflement. Why?

Last night I watched a BBC programme entitled The Naked Village. The title says it all. The documentary dealt with a 12 acre Village called Spiel Platz . I watched – drop-jawed, initially, I must admit, but it was amazing how soon I got over my initial – what? astonishment? shock? distaste? Believe me, elderly wrinkled genitalia are much better of hidden behind clothing!

The tone of the programme was matter-of-fact and not a hint of innuendo, humour, bias, or anything whatsoever other than straightforward reporting on a small group of villagers going about their daily round – painting fascia boards, gardening, sunbathing, swimming, working in their kitchens, reading the paper over a pint in the pub. Except that everybody is stark naked.

Spiel Platz village in Hertfordshire is the home of Britain’s oldest naturist colony. Situated a few miles outside St Albans, and is a permanent home to the owners of 34 of the little bungalows. There are another 24 houses ­available to rent to summer visitors.

The mainly two-bed bungalows come with all mod cons, including mains ­electricity, water and sewage.

Splashing in the swimming pool, mowing the lawn, even enjoying a pint in the local, its inhabitants are always stripped for action. The village was founded by Charles Macaskie, who bought the leafy 12-acre site for £500 in 1929.

The heart of the village is its club house where the residents get together in the altogether for discos, karaoke sessions, quiz nights and pool tournaments.

Firstly I’m amazed that the famously changeable British climate hasn’t put off the naturists. They all had nice tans, and the documentary showed gorgeously sunny scenes – all well and good in summer, but what about the remainder of the year, I wondered? Visitors to the village may remain clothed, and the villagers refer to them as ‘Textiles’.  However, when the  Villagers venture into the outside world which they do periodically (shopping, dentists’ visits and the like) they turn into Textiles, like the rest of us. Mercifully. Imagine geriatric shoppers in their birthday suits in Tesco?

Secondly, Spiel Platz needs to recruit new members. The current community in middled-aged to very elderly. As part of their recruitment drive they hosted a Naked Yoga Day and about half the participants appeared to be in the 20 – 40 age group, but whether any of them signed up as residents, wasn’t revealed. One of the residents was of the opinion that today’s youngsters were so influenced by peer pressure that they were not inclined to even give Naturism a try.

When Spiel Platz was started way back in the late 1920s, Naturism was seen as a fad, or a daring declaration of rebellion. But nowadays? I think its time has passed, what with the proliferation of Nudist Beaches, topless beaches, and scanty revealing clothing. Not to mention the relaxed attitude to nudity in Art, cinema and so on. I remember back in the 1960s a gentleman called Beau Brummel started a Naturist resort in South Africa, which was (mainly) seen as sinful, sexual and/or disgusting at the time. The apartheid government closed it down, but it resurfaced years later. Definitely under the heading of nudge-nudge, wink-wink, har-har.

Times have changed, and it seems Naturism is alive and well in our country : http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/2014/03/03/south-africas-five-favourite-naturist-hangouts .

While I’ve enjoyed skinny dipping on the odd occasion (swimming nude is a delicious sensation) but going about your household chores, or gardening, or DIY, well, I can see practical difficulties arising.

So: to each his own, but on this topic, not for me.










I learnt a marvellous new word early this morning: petaflop. Do a Miranda and repeat out aloud several times: petaflop. Petaflop. Isn’t it a satisfying word? I picked it up in a BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-33506479) on Shaheen II the new Saudi supercomputer – snappily named KAUST – King Abdullah University of Science and Technology   – for short, which crunches data in petaflops i.e.  “A petaflop is equal to about one quadrillion calculations per second. One estimate suggests it would take a human about 32,000,000 years to complete the same task “ . So how about that? Petaflop .

P.S. Miranda – a hilarious BBC sitcom featuring the tall, ungainly Miranda, who is quirkiness personified, and revels in the repetition of odd words.







Filed under FOOD



(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)

Recently I found a till-slip doing duty as a bookmark inside a second-hand book. The slip was written in Portuguese and told me the book had been sold by the Sodiler Livraria on the 23rd June, 2003. Presumably in Brazil, because that’s where the website led me – to a Brazilian bookstore. How about that, for a well travelled book? I would love to know how this particular book landed up in a box of donated books, in Cape Town, South Africa. Seeing the book in which it was lodged was The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, I suppose I should not be unduly surprised – Mr Ripley being a man of surprises, mystery, illusion and delusions.


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Just a Paragraph; these short snippets appear on my blog when I’m pushed for time and/or inspiration.)

There I was, en route to the shops, driving slowly through the entrance to the parking area, when I almost collected a mascot for my front bumper. Fortunately for the young guy using at the raised pedestrian crossing, I’m a slow, old lady driver, and I gave a tootle on my hootle, otherwise it would have been my Toyota Yaris v.s. Kid. And the score would have been Kid – 0, Yaris – goal! The kid had his head down, utterly absorbed with the screen on his mobile, totally oblivious to his surroundings. I mean – really! Hello? Earth to kid: there are cars on the roads & pedestrians need to keep their wits about them. While you’re crossing a street in a high-density traffic area it’s a brilliant idea to put your mobile in your pocket, and watch the traffic. Revolutionary plan, I know, but as a Survival Tip, it can’t be beat.






In early February I realised I kept coming across articles dealing with facets of the same theme : living frugally. For example, in a most unlikely local publication, the YOU Magazine, there was a feature article on Living Frugally. Somewhat ironic considering the desperate poverty afflicting many of South Africa’s citizens, but not everyone in SA is living on the brink. We have a nice thick layer of fat cats, purring contentedly, insulated by corruption; but that’s another story.

The article  featured an American woman, who is famous in the US for promoting thrifty living. I didn’t note her name, but she’s married, lives in Utah, and has four kids. Seems she‘s often on American TV explaining the principles. I read  her suggestions and didn’t find any hints that were new to me – I’ve been living frugally for years and could teach her a thing or two! But that’s by the by. The point is: thrift is headline news.

De-cluttering is another current buzzword. I’ve seen blog posts and print articles, as well as TV programmes urging us to either Keep it if its precious, Donate if its excess, or Turf it out if it’s well and truly finished.

 I had an interesting conversation with a German friend  on this topic, and she said that as a ‘War Baby’ i.e. born in the early to mid 1940’s, she tended to hoard possessions, because “I might need it one day”.  She attributes this mind-set to early childhood when everything had to be kept, ‘just in case’, because of war-time rationing and shortages.

I can relate to this, as I was also a War Baby. We were living in Central/East Africa, and suddenly there were no imported goods, due to war-time disruption of shipping. Our mothers had to haul out their sewing machines and knitting needles and get busy, making clothing for the entire family. Our Clarke’s sandals had the toes carefully cut out, so that our growing toes could spill over the edge of the sole. Going barefoot wasn’t an option, due to the dreaded jiggers in the sand.

Another minor trend, has been blog posts on Minimalism for Writers. When I consider some popular blockbusters like the Game of Thrones series, or the Ken Follett novels, or gigantic novels like the Goldfinch, this might not be such a bad idea!

A  book-related de-cluttering tip is this one: every time you acquire a new book you must donate or sell a book from your shelves. Hmm. I’m not quite so sure about this one. I love my books, and enjoy their presence in my home. I loan them out and share them, but they need to come home to Mama at some point. I’m prepared to re-cycle, live on lentils, wear hand-me-down clothes, but this book-turfing idea fills me with horror! Not for me.









59c5c304fa6265ce88b15e0e6d7e1497Book Review 

Tim Winton is one of my favourite Australian writers. He writes strong, muscular prose – his writing is very physical – and because his writing is pared down, it works at a straightforward and powerful level.

Breath is about two boys who catch the surfing bug. Winton captures the breathless rough and tumble of 12 year olds, living in a small, boring Australian town near the coast – you’re THERE, with every page you turn. It’s a coming of age novel that moves from surfing Nirvana, into sexual adventure, the repercussions of which morph into a lifetime of adult struggle.

I’m forever reading respectful praise of Hemingway’s writing – how unadorned it is. I’m no Hemingway fan, all that macho posturing leaves me stone cold, whereas Winton, equally unadorned, delivers breathtaking novels, every time. To me he’s the Australian colossus – telling it like it is, with memorable characters, and landscapes that dance before your very eyes.

I wish I could write like Winton does! If you’ve never tried his books, do yourself a favour and read Breath. I’ve read it twice, and am quite sure I shall read it again in a year or two.



Filed under BOOK REVIEWS