TREE THERAPY


 

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Readers of my blog will have seen from recent posts, Cape Town is struggling through the worst drought of 100 years. To add to our woes, we’re experiencing a very hot summer. For example, today’s temp is 36 degrees Celsius. Way too hot for me. I positively drool over blogs from the Northern Hemisphere showing snow pics.
Anyway. On Sunday I managed to spend a wonderful five hours in my favourite place, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. KBG have their own water supply from high up on Table Mountain, so the gardens are watered and present a restful oasis of green. There are benches placed under shady trees and shrubs, little secret leafy bowers, wood-chip paved windy paths leading to yet another cool, green shady spot.

 

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And of course, the trees. Magnificent tall trees, in avenues, clumps, groups, pairs, scattered throughout the grounds of the garden, which is large – ‎528 hectares (1,300 acres). Because I live up the coast in a very windy coastal area, trees do not do well up here. Those that do grow are generally stunted and warped by the wind. Consequently, I suffer from tree deprivation. For me, one of the chief attractions of the Garden are the variety and number of trees.

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After soaking my weary body, mind and spirit in Kirstenbosch’s green balm, I drove home relaxed and smiling, healed from my hectic week. If you’re hot and frazzled, I heartily recommend the Kirstenbosch Cure.

 

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THE MIRACLE OF MY HEROIC TOMATO PLANT


 

 

 

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Look at my daily tomato crop ! Amazing! Steady, too. I pick a handful of ripe or nearly ripe little tomatoes every morning. They’re tangy, sweet and flavourful. All this from one heroic tomato plant growing in my bathroom drain. See my previous post on the topic.

The Universe is truly amazing – Thanks, I’m appreciative and grateful.
Whatever your circumstances, why don’t you plant a tomato plant today, whether in a small pot on your windowsill, or in garden soil, and watch what happens. My plant has thrived in a hot, sunny corner which affords it some shelter from our buffeting summer South-Easter wind. So if my plant has performed so splendidly in less than ideal circumstances, I’m sure you’ll be able to grow your own.
Let me know how your garden grows?

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MY HEROIC TOMATO PLANT


 

 

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The drought is frizzling up our gardens, and the pounding South Easter summer winds are finishing off the job. Anything green and leafy is having a very tough time of it. So imagine my surprise on returning home from my Christmas family visit, to discover I have a flourishing tomato plant growing in the bathroom drain. Clearly it is a volunteer plant, and who knows how a tomato seed arrived in the drain. If it had sprung up in the kitchen drain, this would be less remarkable. Waste water exiting my bathroom is minimal because bathing is not happening in my life, only the briefest 2 minute shower every other day. And that waste water is recycled into my lavatory cistern, but somehow there’s enough water leaving my drain to sustain a brave tomato plant.
So there it is, yellow flowers and all, visibly expanding.
The inexplicable growing power of a stray tomato seed reminds me of something I heard from a wise old man, forty years ago. At that time in my life, I was privileged to hear the teachings of Swami Nisreyesananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, based on the island of Mauritius.

Swami was a scholar, a jnana yogi. He was a tall imposing figure, with a magnificent white beard, and very few teeth. His dark brown skin glowed, and his bald head positively shone. Swami spoke a quaint , old-fashioned heavily Indian-accented English, and made frequent reference to notable philosophers of the early 20th Century, like Bertrand Russell , for example.
I’m including a photo which I took of Swami. I had to take a photo of an old photo, so the quality is bad, but you will at least get an idea of the man.

 

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Swami was educated in India, and had a comprehensive knowledge of classical Indian philosophy, in addition to his fascination with Western scientific ideas. He would recite long passages from the Upanishads, in Sanskrit, and then comment at length on the meaning. Listening to him was like being enrolled in a graduate programme on Indian philosophy. I have no idea how old he was, but he was definitely in his 70s, if not older; his mind was a vast, crystal ocean of sublime knowledge, which he loved to share.
One day he pointed to a small weed determinedly pushing up between the paving stones and said, “Mankind with all his cleverness cannot make even one seed grow. That growing power comes only from the One.”
In that moment I realised I’d heard a cosmic truth. His simple statement made a deep impression on me, which I’ve never forgotten.

 

Note: compiled from various sites:
It may not be out of place to tell here of the continuous preaching of Vedanta through classes and lectures for quite a few years now, being carried on by Swami Nihsreyasananda in South Africa, with Salisbury , Rhodesia (35, Rhodes Avenue) as his centre.
From 1959 Swami Nihshreyasananda, stayed in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) moving about the neighbouring countries.

 

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ELECTRONIC BANKING


 

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You are looking at the remains of my Amex credit card. Have I snipped it up because of a New Year Resolution not to use it again? No. On bank instruction, I wielded my scissors. Why? Because some so-and-so hacked into it & fraudulently used it in Pretoria 2 000 kms away from Cape Town.

 
Thank goodness for Nedbank’s SMS warning system that tells you when sales are registered against your card. No sooner did I read the text than I was on the phone to report a fraudulent transaction. Whizz- bang-splat: they blocked my card. So much good it did to the hackers. A curse upon the lot of them!

 
I had to fill out paperwork (the plague of the modern world) but in three working days I fetched my shiny new Amex card, from the nearest branch of the bank. The service up to this point was excellent, but why, oh why, in this digital age do you have to wait a very long time while the bank clerk patiently waits for their lumbering computer system to process your collection? What’s with the PCs in banks? Invariably the clerk apologises “for our slow system” or – even worse – the dreaded words: “sorry, we’re off-line. You’ll have to come back.” I’ve encountered this often in the bank. And, to be fair, elsewhere.

 
Perhaps, in view of South Africa’s staggering crime rate, the clerks have to navigate an obstacle course of security checks before they can process your request. I don’t know. I remain baffled.

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YOUR COUNTRY IN FIVE WORDS?


 

 

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As some of my readers already know, I’m a fan of Postcrossing, the international postcard exchange club. This week I was given an address for Lucy in Taiwan as my next card’s destination. On her profile, Lucy suggested members list 5 words to describe their country, assuming the prospective senders couldn’t think of anything else to write on the back of the card.

 
I thought this was a great idea, pondered for a day or two and this is my list to describe South Africa:

 

1. Beautiful
2. Complex
3. Frustrating
4. Warm hearted
5. Dangerous
Number 1 was easy: we have natural beauty in abundance. Great contrast too, from coastal to bushveld, to semi-desert. Magnificent mountains.

 
Number 2 – complex? We’re an uneasy mix of First and Third World Countries, which leads to a host of problems on every level – social, financial, educational, developmental, ecological – in fact any and all levels you can think of.

 
Number 3 – Frustrating? Very! Try getting anything done. Mundane stuff like repairs, or renewal of licences, or a visit to any public, government institution. Unnecessarily time consuming and un- productive. Maddening.

 
Number 4 – Warm hearted: is there a crisis? Another fire in a shack settlement? The public rallies round for water/food for the fire fighters , and shelter/food for the newly homeless.

 
Number 5 – Dangerous? For sure. We have one of the highest crime rates in the world, sorry to say. Let’s just leave it at that.

 
Which five words would you chose to describe your country?

 

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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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