Category Archives: DAILY LIFE IN CAPE TOWN

HANDS UP! YOUR CELLPHONE OR YOUR LIFE !


 

 

 

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You think I’m being overly dramatic?
No I’m not. Ask Eric, one of the gate guards who works at the Complex where I live. He’s finally back at work, after weeks in hospital and three surgical procedures to repair the stab wounds to his abdomen. He was attacked and robbed of his cellphone , en route home from his shift at our gate.

 
Despite the attack, and the ensuing medical dramas, he managed to survive. For which, let us be devoutly thankful.

 
Part of daily life in South Africa, I regret to say. South African crime statistics are jaw droppingly horrendous. I don’t even want to Google them, so I can back up this little piece of writing with solid fact. If my readers are interested they will have to do it themselves.

 
Years ago, driving the familiar route to the office, through a leafy suburb, I spotted a fresh wreath fixed to a street light pole. I was profoundly shocked when I discovered what the wreath was commemorating. A young student, in his late teens, walking home, was stabbed and killed for his cellphone. His family had fixed the wreath to the pole to mark the place where he died. Every time I subsequently saw the wreath, I was saddened. And that incident took place fifteen years ago.

 
In the interim, things have grown significantly more dangerous. Life in South Africa. And yet I continue to live here. I know the alternatives are either : work for change or go live elsewhere. Easier said than done, when you’re elderly

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CAPE TOWN CALLING : OFF WE GO IN JANUARY!


 

 

 

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Table Mountain on the left, from the Silo District, V & A Waterfront

 

Despite the blue skies and sunshine, January is generally a gloomy month. Chiefly because our credit card statements were terrifying, and because our purses were scarily empty. We all know we shouldn’t overspend at Christmas, but guess what? We always do. South Africans are not very good at saving, despite campaigns to encourage us and offers from our major banks to open a savings account.
The Road Death Toll for the 2018 Holiday Season figures are released. As usual, they are staggering. In, the Western Cape Province, the total was 169 fatalities, over the December/January period. And still we continue to drive like maniacs and disregard the rules of the road. Statistics reveal that over 50% of road deaths are alcohol-related. And yet we continue to drink & drive. Arrrggggh. You venture forth at your peril!
Schools re-open. The tiny tots start their School careers on Day One with either floods of tears or wild delight . Mums agonise and helicopter around the kids Other parents wake up and realise they should have booked their kid’s place in the local school last year, around June 2018, so now there’s no place for little  Bongi  or Devan except in a school that’s 20 kms from home and not on a bus route. Pandemonium, threats, panic, (and probably bribery) ensues.
No sooner has the furore over school placements subsided, and the annual tsunami of grumbling over the (admittedly high) cost of school uniforms staggered to an exhausted halt, we are galvanised all over again by reports of rural schools in far flung districts that have not received any textbooks for 2019, never mind the promised water-borne sanitation that was promised at the beginning of 2018. Life in S’Affrica!
Fire Season in Cape Town flares up  every summer. Our famous Signal Hill, part of the Atlantic seaboard/CBD, was ablaze – fanned by 40 kph South-Easter winds. Wuppertal a small historic town in the Cedarberg (350 kms away) is demolished by fire. The Overberg region is ravaged by fires for days.  Apparently the initial fire was caused by some bright spark  letting off a flare on Old Year’s Night. Our noble fire fighters battled the blazes for weeks on end. They all deserve medals.

On the brighter side – yes, there is one. A fire crew discovered a traumatised baby duiker in a fire zone, the little buck had badly burnt feet/hooves. They were able to catch it, and take it to a nearby vet in Somerset West, who treated and saved Bambi. Yes: that’s what the fire crew christened the little survivor, and, even better, the vet rehabilitated the animal free, gratis and for nothing! Us Saffers have big hearts when the chips are down.

 

Some much needed comic relief: in a recent development, the proposed new Gatvol Party* is sulking because the Electoral Commission won’t let them register their party name because “ the name might cause offence to some people.”  *Gatvol is a very vulgar Afrikaans expression, indicating complete disgust – I’m not even going to try to translate this one!

 

And the cherry on top: The Independent Electoral Commission announces over 240 parties have registered to contest the election in May. We can only hope this is fake news!
All this and it’s only the end of January – sterkte+, as they say in the Afrikaans classics!
+ strength

Dockside, at the V&A Waterfront

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THE GERIATRIC DIY FIEND


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I live in a gated Village for those who are over 50 years old. So far, so good. Consequently we are a mixed community of those who still have jobs or careers; those who are in their mid 60s and upwards, and the very elderly who truly are geriatric.

 
New neighbours moved into the house opposite mine, mid December . So far, so good.  Christmas is over now. All the visiting families have departed, we are into the early days of 2019 and New Neighbour turns out to be a D I Y fan of note. He hammers, bangs, and wields his electric drill with gusto, literally from morning ‘til night. What on earth can he be doing? Re-fitting the entire damn house with new cupboards? I happen to know the house has more than adequate cupboard space.
What’s equally baffling is that he’s over 80 years old, and quite stooped. When I met him in the street he gave me a tortoise grimace and pallidly shook my hand.

 
Sir: you’re supposed to be relaxing on your verandah with your cup of coffee, or snoozing in front of the Sports Channel on TV. I’m told his wife is a sweet lady and from the little I’ve seen she doesn’t fit the profile of domestic tyrant raising hell over the lack of cupboards. For goodness sake, there’s only the two of them,  not a family of ten!

 
Who knows? Meanwhile, I’m gritting my teeth and muttering : live and let live . Trouble is, our houses are jammed very close together. So any noise is shared noise. Yay.

 

Dear previous neighbour: don’t you want to come back to my street? I never really appreciated the excellent qualities of a nice sedate older school teacher until now!

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2 JANUARY 2019 : CRUNCH TIME


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Determined to make good my silent promise to myself about making more of an effort, there I was, on 2 January, briskly walking on the treadmill at the gym. Was this my New Year’s Resolution? No – not exactly; but acting on the need to become fitter, and to stick to regular exercise. I’m a terrific starter. Propose a new activity, and I’m super enthusiastic and get going with gusto. But. And here’s the sticky patch: I’m not a good stayer.

 
In view of my daily – sometimes twice daily! – dog-walking in December , which was quite enjoyable but somewhat leisurely because The Dog just had to sniff, and (usually) christen every tree trunk and pole we encountered, and my Village has a fair number of both. So the Dog Walking got me going again, and I didn’t do too badly on the treadmill. Nothing dramatic you understand, given my age etc etc.

 
I thought the Gym would be packed with people pounding off the Christmas indulgence, and while there were more people than usual., it wasn’t throbbing as I’d expected. Sure – more men sweating on exercise bikes, but I suspect that’s because they’re still on holiday. South Africa doesn’t really get going until the second week in January. Work ethic and productivity are not our strong suit!

 
While I’m all in favour of life reviews at year end, or setting goals in early January, I know from past experience that New Year’s resolutions don’t really work for me.

 
I asked my New Year’s Day lunch guests what they had planned for 2019? One reply was to move up to the Silver category in Ballroom dancing, so that was a firm commitment. Another reply was to make more use of their new gym membership …. That wasn’t me, but another luncher. Another person is launching a new home business venture and possibly moving to the Southern Cape. Somebody else wants to improve their photography skills. Concrete goals, all progress related I note. Oh – one woman said this was the year she wanted to leap out of a plane, attached to a parachute, but I think she’d had too much champagne!

 
How about you? Any New Year’s resolutions? Personal promises and goals?

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A CAPE TOWN DECEMBER 2018 SNAPSHOT


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Our world famous Clifton Fourth Beach

 
Me: nobly dog-sitting the neighbour’s Papillion dog. Virtuous dog-walking to off-set the Christmas fare. Dog returned with relief. Little dogs are demanding. Give me a nice self-sufficient cat any day!

 
Different voices on my local radio station while the regular announcers took a well deserved break after a hectic year. Less hard news – more Christmasy items – where to go for the perfect picnic, how to cook the tenderest turkey – which will be the place to celebrate New Year? Does the annual Cape Minstrels Parade (PC-speak for the traditional Coon Carnival) still have any significance? Reminiscences about Christmases Past, when life was simpler and easier: grand family gatherings. Boxing Day beach picnics. Volunteering at Christmas for the less fortunate; plenty of street people in Cape Town in need of festive cheer, blue skies & sunshine notwithstanding.

 

 

And then hard news with hard facts about real life kept intervening: the annual carnage on our roads; I don’t even want to think about the numbers.

 

EMS  crews being attacked and robbed when they enter some of the more dangerous townships. Can you believe it? Robbing Ambulance crews!
And of course – 3 drownings. The Western Cape is a coastal province, and most of the locals have never learnt to swim, so predictably, every holiday season, there are beach fatalities despite lifeguards on the beaches, and PRO exercises by the NSRI.  . So sad when fatalities could be prevented if people only listened and swam where indicated or on beaches with lifeguards. But of course, they don’t. People being people. https://www.nsri.org.za/

 
A Rambo type private security firm illegally chasing people off Clifton’s famous 4th beach and the ensuing uproar, the politicising, the protests, the slaughtering of a sheep on the beach to make a point (poor old sheep, I say) and then the fresh uproar about debasing customary Xhosa ritual animal sacrifice for political gains – it wouldn’t be South Africa if we didn’t have at least one issue in December with inflammatory ingredients.

 
Aforementioned Rambo Security Service arbitrarily closing off roads – ‘coning’ they call it, this is not a typo, it refers to the orange traffic cones used by the Traffic Cops in Cape Town They closed roads in an affluent area thus provoking further outrage and uproar, and and and … sigh, whatever happened to the Season of Goodwill? Just asking.

 
In my own tiny little world, there were gatherings, festive meals, modest gifts, laughter, stories, jokes, Christmas crackers that wouldn’t crack (el cheapos don’t) and more hilarity as we read out the terrible terrible puns and jokes spilling out on tiny paper strips. Now we know what Santa’s elves do post-Christmas during those long Arctic nights. I mean, how elf could they be gainfully employed? A feeble pun I know, but indulge me.

 
We drank toasts to a Happy Christmas, and one week later we did it all again and drank a toast to a Happy New Year. Everybody agreed that 2018 was challenging and difficult, so we’re looking forward to an easier year in 2019. There’s an encouraging start on 2 January when the new monthly petrol price comes in, with a ZAR1.00 price reduction per litre. That’s good news!

 
And so I wish all my readers a peaceful and prosperous year ahead.

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YOU CAN BET ON IT !


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Regardless of the venue, be it theatre, cinema or concert hall, there’s ALWAYS that one idiot who doesn’t switch off their cell-phone. And sure enough, at a crucial moment, their phone will merrily chime to announce an incoming call. Despite turned heads, and hostile glares, the culprit often continues to sit happily engrossed in the performance, until a neighbor administers a sharp nudge and hisses: Your phone – turn it OFF!!

 

Despite clear announcements prior to performances, people ignore the polite request. What’s the matter with them? Are they so addicted to their mobiles they can’t bear to be out of communication for an hour? Or so important that such mundane things don’t apply to them? And most deaf people can lip read, so they’re not excused either .

 

And let me tell you, the culprits are not just the elderly technophobes who don’t know how to turn off their phones (and I’ve met them!) but much younger folk too.

 

Here’s a hint: turn your phone off before you enter the venue. Works every time!

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THE LAST BUNCH OF INCA LILIES


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My friend E visited me on Wednesday. She walked in, carrying a generous bunch of Inca Lilies, freshly cut from her garden. As ever, she apologised for the mess they will make, and as ever, I replied “I don’t care, they’re lovely!” Which they are. Deep red, with yellow highlights. En masse the flowers produce a light, frilly effect, but day by day the papery petals fall off, until the tall glass vase is surrounded by a halo of drying petals. I could care less – the flowers are so beautiful, and it takes but a few moments to pick up the fallen petals and bin them.

 

 
I always enjoy her visits. E’s passion in life is to travel. I listen with envy to her planned trips for 2019. Her equal passion is photography, and she take hundreds (and on occasion, literally thousands) of photos on her journeys , which she puts into visual presentations and photo-books, and shares with friends. I’m an armchair traveller, but she is a modern female Marco Polo.

 

 
Two days later she texted me to say she was in hospital, and the prognosis was not good.
I’m looking at my vase of Inca Lilies, and know that this may well be the last bunch of Inca Lilies I will receive from E’s garden.

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THE JOY OF SIMPLE PLEASURES


 

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My picture tells the story beautifully.
Gently steamed fat spears of fresh asparagus, doused with butter, and eaten with brown bread.
Nothing nicer. You can keep your gourmet highlights like caviar.
I’m very satisfied with my simple supper of fresh asparagus.
Not only satisfied, but content and delighted!

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WINTER COMFORT FOOD


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Cold winter weather always drives my Inner Cook into action. Chiefly because I’m constantly hungry, as opposed to hot summer weather, when I wilt, along with the salad leaves. So its time to make Chai tea – Ceylon tea with a mixture of spices. I’ve grown lazy and buy the tea bags instead of making my own, but its hot and warming; all that ginger, no doubt.
At a recent Village function the good ladies of our Village Catering team produced Sago pudding, which was to die for. I thought: the hell with it, and had seconds! My, it was good. Two of my fellow diners screeched: Urrrggghhh – NOT SAGO! And flatly refused to have anything to do with it. Turns out they were the victims of Boarding School cooks, and I know exactly where their phobia originated. I also have grisly memories of leathery rice puddings, slimy tapioca, and worst of all, baked egg custard. Shudder.
However, moving on to happier times and rosier memories. I managed to find a copy of a much-wanted cookbook ‘Retreat’ by Daniel Jardim, a noted South African vegetarian cook. And within its pages I found a recipe for Boeboer. I can hear you saying “Huh? What’s that?”

 
It’s a Malay dessert, made by the local Muslim community, on special occasions. Cape Town has a rich cultural heritage stemming from the early days of its history, when the Dutch East India Company imported slaves from Indonesia and Java. Their descendants form an essential part of our city’s mixed community, and their cuisine reflects their traditional Asian heritage.
Here’s a Boeber recipe from the web:http://boekatreats.com/recipe/boeber . If you decide to try the recipe, please note the cup measurements are British standard cup measures, (250 ml) not American.  I can never remember whether the US version is bigger or smaller; the point is, there’s a difference!  And, by the way, the mixture needs to be stirred constantly.
Enjoy!

 

 

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CREOSOTE


 

 

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My garage smells of creosote. The clean, tarry odour is wafting off the bundle of five metal fencing posts I bought this afternoon at my local Builders’ Warehouse. I need the posts to stake up my collapsing Cup of Gold creeper. It’s grown too heavy for the original wooden trellis that provided support when I originally planted the creeper.
Finding the fencing posts in the cavernous warehouse was a mission, and fitting them into my small car was another challenge. I know, with certainty, that the creosote has rubbed off onto the floor mats in the back, but you know what? creosote is black and so are the floor mats. Isn’t that fortunate? And I’m no petrol-head so I won’t be diligently scrubbing the mats to remove the traces of creosote, always assuming I could actually find the stained bits on the black flooring. I love the smell of creosote, so if I’m now driving a creosote-scented car, I shall sit back and enjoy the odour.

 
Just in case you’re puzzled by the red and white tape wrapped round the posts, that was the bright idea of the young man who carried the posts from the vast warehouse to my car. Understandably, he wasn’t keen to be covered in sticky creosote. And as a bonus point, the red and white provides a nice visual contrast to the black metal.
I suppose the manufacturers coat the posts with creosote to deter rusting. Fat chance, living three kms away from the coast. The salty air is not kind to metal or paintwork.
The smell of creosote manages to be both clean and slightly antiseptic, as well as tarry and aromatic. In bygone days wooden poles were always creosoted to prevent the termites from chomping through the timber. I remember from my Central African childhood how determined those hungry little ants can be. Seemingly solid door frames would suddenly crumble and disappear, the interior long since devoured by the white ants. So creosote was liberally applied.

 
Today’s creosote reminds me of another tarry odour : that of Lapsang Souchong tea. I enjoy Lapsang Souchong, with its smoky, tarry flavour. Not everyone’s favourite , for sure, but I like it. I was introduced to Lapsang Souchong years ago by a very exotic lady, who’d grown up in the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. Quite why or how she’d come across it I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a 1920’s fad? Or maybe her mother enjoyed it? I shall never know, but the sticky metal poles in my garage certainly have evoked memories for me.

 

 

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